Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Warning Labels - Thin Blue Line Punisher

I've seen this sticker numerous times over the past several years - almost always on black SUVs or really big pickup trucks.  I can only hope those who choose to display this just haven't thought through all the connotations and aren't really horrible people.

This is a combination of two different symbols: the logo of the Punisher (a Marvel Comics sort of anti-hero), and the "Thin Blue Line" flag.  Each of these symbols is problematic on their own, but taken together they add a context that is very disturbing.

The Punisher 

Like many of the anti-heroes that are popular in American culture, the Punisher operates outside of the law.  This is usually justified as being necessary because of incompetence, incapacity, or corruption in law enforcement.
The character is depicted as an Italian-American vigilante who employs murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture in his campaign against crime. Driven by the deaths of his wife and two children, who were killed by the mob for witnessing a killing in New York City's Central Park, the Punisher wages a one-man war on crime using various weapons. - Wikipedia

The Thin Blue Line

This symbol came to prominence sometime around 2014 in connection to the "Blue Lives Matter" response to the "Black Lives Matter" movement.  It encourages a viewpoint in which the police are somehow separate from the rest of society, and they have an elevated status because they are the only thing standing between law abiding citizens and criminals.


It should be pretty easy to see why the juxtaposition of these two is problematic.  Encouraging law enforcement officers to see themselves as a separate and elite group, while holding up an ideal of doing whatever it takes regardless of legality, is a recipe for an authoritarian police force that answers to no one.  It is the very antithesis of the basic principles of justice.

Of note is how the comics have actually addressed this head-on.

This controversy was addressed in Punisher Vol. 12 #13 written by Matthew Rosenberg in July 2019. In the issue, Frank comes across two police officers who are fans of his. They take a selfie with him and show they have a sticker of his logo on their car before comparing their work to his. Unimpressed, the Punisher tears up the sticker and tells them, "I'll say this once, we're not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave that up a long time ago. You don't do what I do. Nobody does. You boys need a role model? His name's Captain America, and he'd be happy to have you.... If I find out you are trying to do what I do, I'll come for you next." In 2020, Marvel said this was their official opinion on the use of the image. - Wikipedia

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