Last week, NBC aired an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit titled “Nightmares in Drill City,” a drill-rap-based episode that’s as sensational as the title suggests.
The episode synopsis states, “[Assistant District Attorney] Carisi asks the SVU for help with a murder investigation when one of the witnesses shows signs of abuse.” But that neat summation downplays the hyperbole of what actually takes place. The episode follows the fallout of a murder that took place after one rapper (David “G” Graham) robbed another rapper (Milly2K) for drugs they saw in their music video. If that’s not enough propaganda, the guilty rapper turns out to also be a sex trafficker abusing a harem of women, including Victoria Warshofsky, a 17-year-old white girl who becomes the star of the episode.
The 31-year-running franchise is known for pulling from pop culture headlines. There have been episodes based on Chris Brown and Rihanna’s fight, the Jay-Z-Solange elevator incident, and Michael Jackson’s child abuse allegations, among others. Last year, show producer Dick Wolf stated that the show has “always adapted to current events in a nonpolitical way and our viewers can expect us to keep doing so.” But there was nothing apolitical about this racist, tone-deaf depiction of rap.
That quote from Wolf is from a Forbes article questioning how the show would operate during a nationwide defund the police movement. The Emmy-winning franchise, which has spawned numerous offshoots, is one of TV’s chief examples of copaganda, or romanticized dramatizations of law and order that serve to shape public opinion in favor of law enforcement. A 2020 study by Color of Change and USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center found that television like Law & Order “glorifies, justifies and normalizes the systematic violence and injustice meted out by police, making heroes out of police and prosecutors.” This episode is a quintessential example of copaganda and anti-rap propaganda.
All the broad strokes of politician-stoked fears and stereotypes around rap are checked off: a rapper gets killed because they had drugs in their video (and gets their chain snatched). The offender then brags about doing it in a music video (while aiming the murder weapon at the stolen chain in his hand). The murderer also happens to be a pimp who’s enslaving an underage white girl. And for good measure, the writers got the terms “drillers” and “clout chasing” in the script. It’s as if Law & Order producers employed Breitbart writers to have at it for an episode.