Moral Injury as Propaganda Device

The headline of this article flagged by google alerts as containing the term “moral injury” is this:

It is time to empty the prisons.

In a marketing disconnect, the web URL of really doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the SF or Bay area, but rather is a site devoted to:

Exciting, thought-provoking stories and commentary on the full range of Black trials and triumphs – covering the Black economy, politics, arts, education, history, current events, health, religion – and those of other communities, along with stunning color photography, fill the website and the pages of each paper,  a paper so popular that it disappears within hours of hitting the stands.

However, a cursory review of the top stories shows that it appears to be primarily a website devoted to dismantling the criminal justice system (as this article suggests: empty the prisons). So I was curious as to where the term “moral injury” might appear. Curiously, it appears in the 4th paragraph in reference to prison guards:

Guards are working class people, mostly from poor communities. They, too, spend their daily lives inside prisons, and they too suffer daily degradation and moral injury from their sustained contact with the carceral state.

As this site is about moral injury, I don’t want to dwell on the falsity that guards are “working class people, mostly from poor communities.” That’s certainly not true for federal corrections officers and can be more or less true depending on the state (for instance, the most sought after jobs in and around Leavenworth, KS are the highly competitive corrections officer positions at the 5 prisons scattered in the area. Again, I don’t want to devolve into the merits of criminal justice, criminal justice reform, etc. What I’m interested in is the context in which moral injury is being raised in.

First, given the newspaper’s purported focus, I thought that moral injury would appear in the context of “Black trials and triumphs” not in the context of prison guards. Thus, the article’s placement of the term in the context of the prison guards struck me as a blatant propaganda use of the term: an attempt to get the law and order types to focus on the guards rather than the incarcerated. I certainly think there are groups that have suffered moral injuries, American Blacks being among them. Thus, I was disappointed that they didn’t take the opportunity to highlight moral injuries suffered by their community, rather than as a propaganda head fake.

Co-opting terms and definitions seems to have become a blood sport in the US as of late, twisting terms to fit a tortured agenda (and to be clear, I’m not saying only one “side” does this, it seems to be universal). I wish instead, we could engage with the idea of moral injury in a dialogue free of hidden agendas.

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