Honk if you're a fascist
How to spot an "unofficial" cop car
Hey all! Oh, sorry, I actually just got a text, my Uber is he—
Just joshing—but as you can maybe tell by the ancient (SS21) joke, I’ve been spending a little less time online lately. In fact, I just got back from a vacation where I spent a lot of time hiking and thank god almost zero time Scrolling. But like Lana said, everywhere you go you take yourself, which brings us to this week’s newsletter, which I’m thinking of as a mini field report on some pro-cop iconography I spotted on the road.
Over the week I spent in northern Arizona (mostly Sedona, a little Phoenix), I saw more vanity license plates than I have ever seen in my entire life, and I grew up in the vanity plate capital of the U.S., per the most recent data (which, in fairness, is from 2007). Hiking-themed plates, religious plates, pet-lover plates, plates repping various sports teams, plates about being a truck-owner attached to—you guessed it—trucks, plates galore!
But, obviously, the ones that stuck out the most to me were the ones revealing pro-cop sentiment, namely this bad boy:
I, to be honest, am not totally sure what “zero cap” would mean in this context—my best interpretation is that the driver wants to convey that he is not lying, that yes, thine eyes dost not deceive, you are in fact driving behind a cop lover in a black Audi. What a world!
This specimen, on the other hand?
Maybe this car owner was born in 1988. Maybe their favorite number is 88. Or, you know, they could have something else in mind.
Liberal bubble alert, but before spotting these two (and a bunch of other non-custom “PUBLIC SAFETY” AZ plates) I had never seen a state-issued Thin Blue Line Flag license plate before. I didn’t even know they existed!
It turns out Arizona isn’t the only state that offers Back the Blue-style plates for anyone who wants one—Missouri, Florida, West Virginia, Indiana, Georgia, and Montana do too (and even more states have police union-specific tags, but membership seems to be a requirement). Upon review, these plates range from limply patriotic to implicitly fascist in affect. On the lighter side, Indiana’s honors cops alongside the whole rainbow of first responders and Florida’s commemorates dead police officers. Missouri, West Virginia, and Georgia all combine the American flag, the Thin Blue Line, and the outline of their state into a busy plate that says “I shared my thoughts about the 2020 presidential election on Facebook.” And then on the more sinister end of the scale Arizona’s single plate and the three separate pro-cop specialty plates available for purchase in Montana menace drivers with the fake-weathered, black and blue look that right wing retailers love.
I’m no expert, but my read (gleaned via some light Googling) is that car sloganeering is a distinctly American phenomenon. While the license plate itself was invented in France in the late 1800s, the first catchphrase to adorn a plate was “Idaho Potatoes” in 1901 and the bumper sticker was born in Kansas City in the mid-40s. Today, we Americans have with a whole slew of ways to turn a personal vehicle into a mission statement, including vanity plates, specialty plates, vinyl decals, magnets, quasi-permanent wraps, and the kind of homemade, pro-conspiracy work that goes viral on Twitter.
And, speaking of, drivers in all 50 states and 16 U.S. territories don’t need state-sanctioned specialty plates to put out the Bat Signal to their fellow boys in blue! Exhibit A:
This car is mixing standard “Calvin pissing on DemocRATS!” fare with Far Right iconography hits, including:
American flag Punisher Skull
“Shoot your local pedophile” decal (left rear window)
Gadsden snake (also left rear)
QAnon logo with what I think is a rabbit
BLM → Biden Loves Minors
Arizona-shaped Thin Blue Line flag
(Did I miss any? Let me know.)
But the big tip-off that the driver casually advocating for extrajudicial murder is a police officer is on the upper left corner of the rear windshield—the “IGY6,” short for “I got your six,” which real heads know is an expression cops lifted from military vernacular meaning “I’ve got your back.” The kicker? The “6,” in that special shade of Cop Blue.
Now that I’m back in my liberal bastion (Central Brooklyn…) I probably won’t be seeing any more of these for a while. But if you live somewhere where you see these kinds of rides on the reg and you feel comfortable snapping a picture, please shoot me an email at email@example.com (or just DM me on Twitter if it’s not that deep) and help me expand this gallery of who not to cut off in traffic.
Aaaaand here’s a goofy one to finish:
Questions, comments, corrections? (“You don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer” is not a correction.) Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, send “business” “inquiries” to email@example.com, or DM me on Twitter.