the LAPD explosion

the refusal of media to report critically on police fuckups is it’s own violence

the lapd is no stranger to fucking up enough to make the national news. in fact, cops across the country are constantly doing damage with impunity. this time, when the lapd made an oopsie, everyone saw what happened immediately because media were on site. what was would’ve been a fun PR blotter story exploded (sorry) into a bigger discussion. why won’t the media hold police accountable for their damage?

on june 30th, the lapd investigated a tip about a large cache of fireworks in south los angeles. they arrested arturo ceja III for the thousands of pounds of commercial-grade and homemade explosives.

our fearless protectors deemed some of these explosives too unstable to transport elsewhere. lapd decided to detonate them inside the total containment vessel, a bomb squad vehicle meant to absorb explosions like these without incident.

but wouldn’t you know it, the lapd fucked up. the tcv exploded, despite the police insisting they put only a couple pounds of material in it!

professionals on a closed course, do not attempt. 🙃

this was no little blip of an explosion. 17 people injured, windows blasted out, businesses closed, psychological trauma endured. the damn lid of the tcv flew two blocks away from the force of the blast. residents are demanding answers and reparations and are receiving very little in return.

despite the love of illegal fireworks all across los angeles, this decision to detonate explosives in a dense residential neighborhood would never, ever occur in beverly hills. and if it ever did, you know there’d be HOURS of knocking on mansion doors, making every effort to clear the streets of Teslas and BMWs before shouting fire in the hole.

yet in south los angeles, a neighborhood with a long history of police trauma, the cops would rather victim blame and explain that, well, they tried to warn people but goshdarnit, these people are just so scared to answer their doors, we simply couldn’t properly inform them! if this hadn’t gotten fucked up somehow, people wouldn’t even know we did a poor job of notifying neighbors!

the police implying the burden of safety is on the residents of the neighborhood is one of the first upsetting parts of this whole story. but don’t worry, there’s more upsetting parts!

the media’s response to this story is predictable, especially for anyone familiar with the “police say” journalism trope. master media critic adam johnson [1]if this essay is the kinda stuff you dig, citations needed is a must-listen for critiques and thoughtful discussion of how important issues are framed by mainstream media has a lot of important thoughts on the coverage:

it is important to note that lapd arrested arturo ceja and brought him in hours before this detonation. for some reason, headlines cut out the middleman of lapd entirely; creating the narrative that ceja set off this explosion. this is especially egregious because MEDIA WERE INVITED to witness this spectacular use of LAPD funds go boom. how can you write as if you didn’t just see it with your own eyes??

sorry, i know i am linking to a lot of tweets here! but adam and sahra make such important points. it would be silly to write an essay about this without referencing their work, which sparked this essay into happening. look at some of this garbage:

copaganda like this has been manufactured for decades. writing headlines and ledes without mentioning the real cause of the explosion is manufacturing consent for the police. nothing i type should be particularly new or shocking to anyone with a critical eye. i had already been wanting to write a more general essay around the concept of ‘police say’ journalism, and how it helps police avoid consequences. this incident has been screaming at me since it happened.

it’s like a magic eye puzzle or something – once you see the implicit bias in media reporting, you can never unsee it. the same phrasing in every headline. vagueness and passive voice, a clear choice to be vague. bad things just seem to happen with cops around. journalists include quotes from the cops as if they will be transparent about their fuckup.

in the case of arturo ceja and the curiously exploded tcv, the media makes multiple rookie-ass mistakes:

  • eliminate the police’s responsibility
  • no transparency about the media being invited
  • blame victims for not answering the door so they’d know to evacuate

the cops intended on showing their toy off. puffing up their chests, saying ‘u gonna defund us now??’ and smirking. mainstream media showed up to this bad-faith setup and were happy to cover it uncritically.

originally, arturo ceja was arrested and booked on state charges. he is now looking at federal charges and up to 10 years in prison.

america’s number one manufacturing export is consent!

me, while writing this essay

trying to dig into more details of this traumatic event has been difficult thus far, as most articles i’ve read are nearly identical. i know its mostly the ap getting recycled. and i shouldn’t expect a ton of answers when the heart of the story involves police incompetence. the lack of answers is upsetting.

as i draft this, sahra is covering the LAPD press conference addressing community concerns. it is going about as well as you would expect.

police, hand in hand with the media, perpetuate violence. who is holding them accountable? transcribing their press conferences, with the vague promises of ‘we’ll get to the bottom of this, these mistakes will never be repeated’ etc, never results in solutions or change. police handwave away community concerns with meaningless platitudes. the public deserves news, not lukewarm copaganda.

it is clear that the lapd are hoping this story will die down and they can ignore continued calls for their defunding. they would enjoy nothing more than to continue doing whatever they want without scrutiny. let’s brush this aside until the next explosion, huh?

i am not the media. but i can use this website to demand accountability. lapd has not adequately addressed their damage. i still have questions, and the less the lapd says, the more i wonder about what exactly went down.


1 if this essay is the kinda stuff you dig, citations needed is a must-listen for critiques and thoughtful discussion of how important issues are framed by mainstream media