August 2023

The “Dog Whistle” Manifestation Pipeline Of “Seasoning Police”

And Why “Smoke Alarm Beeping” Memes Are Unfortunately Next In Line

What Is The “Seasoning Police” Meme?

The video is deleted now. Scrubbed from the internet. Zoe Barrie wanted to make a point about seasoning. She does that, when she’s cooking, but not in the way that a commenter thought was enough. For Barrie, powdered seasoning just doesn't do it. Instead, she uses “fresh” seasoning—fresh onions, fresh garlic, fresh bell pepper. “Is it automatically not seasoning?” she asked the so-called “seasoning police.”

When she was Twitter’s main character for a day, Barrie saying “seasoning police” was criticized—analyzed. It turned her into a villain. It didn’t sit right with people. It mixed with the aggressively passive-aggressive tone of her video overall, which felt like she edited it in a blind fury, fuming at who she thought were her enemies and who the world thought meant “Black people.”

That’s in part why the video is deleted now. Barrie became a racist dog whistle. Her awkward, hands-on-hips pout became a symbol of anti-Blackness and it’s hard to pinpoint who’s to blame.

First of all, let’s blame Barrie. In this scenario, where it’s all her fault, the only explanation is that she’s a covert racist. When she said “seasoning police,” she totally meant Black people and possibly didn’t even know it. She no doubt emitted Karen vibes; a component of all “Karen freak out” videos is covert racism. It’s actually the reason why a groupthink of feed-scrollers can get so angry at the same Karen. “It’s justified. She’s racist,” is the motto.

Regardless of whether or not she’s closeted with prejudice, the groupthink still heard what it heard—”seasoning police”—reading between the lines of what Barrie thought was her best quip ever, and uncovering the coded messaging of her hatred towards “seasoning.”

With the riddle—the microaggression—it was people of color who decoded it. They were the ones who felt seen. They commented, “This feels racist” or “Did she just call me the n word ?” Their jokes kept coming, confiding in each other, making a common enemy, who, kind of hilariously, was an over-the-top millennial, who, to them, didn’t know how to cook and was also racist. There was just so much to ridicule in one video. Adding the “covert racist” angle just solidified it as a Karen video—all Karens are racist in the eye of the average meme-knowledgeable person. It’s something that’s universally understood. And then, to enlighten others, who might not have heard the possible code in “seasoning police,” prompting them to listen to it a second time and have their own “Aha!” moment. They’d quietly laugh to themselves about the oddly unexpected depth of the whole discourse. 

For a couple of hours, “seasoning police” was a genuinely okay joke, made by Black people for Black people at the expense of a hyper-aggressive weirdo on their phones. By hour two, however, on the fateful day of her negative attention, Barrie’s “seasoning police” literally became a code for the n-word rather than the humorous speculation that ensued prior.

Viral posts and 4chan threads quickly became commonplace, in which right-wingers adopted “seasoning police” as a new slur. It was one that could pass any word filter. They started Photoshopping Barrie next to Papa John and the JetBlue Burger King, among other cryptic symbols of irony-coded racism. Even the dreaded Jack Posobiec (sometimes described as a poor man’s Tucker Carlson) chimed in, saying, “She spoke only truths,” roughly three days after the original joke passed its prime.

What started as a natural (and somewhat inevitable) comical progression of Black internet discourse turned into the exact dog whistle that the original posters were then-hypothetically criticizing.

What Do The “Smoke Alarm Beeping” Memes Mean?

The strange manifestation pipeline that “seasoning police” followed is actually becoming more prevalent online. Black people joking about the tendencies of other Black people is an easy way for non-creative racists to adopt a new criticism and meme about it. It’s both interesting and alarming, like a smoke detector beeping, a.k.a. the other main example of the phenomenon in question.

The stereotype is that Black people don’t change the batteries in their smoke detectors, stereotypically due to poverty and laziness. Despite sounding problematic, the joke was popularized by Black people, predominantly going viral on Twitter starting around the year 2020. It was a joke by Black people for Black people, however, in accordance with the trajectory of “seasoning police” (but at a slower pace), the “beeping” joke is shifting audiences.

Objectively racist “smoke alarm” memes are now surfacing, seeping out of the depths of iFunny and making others lean in and wonder what it means. The covert racism of them has become strategically covert and, of course, Jack Posobiec has also reared his ugly head into the trend, trying to milk the teet of yet another naughty inside joke that he can use to gaslight people into thinking he’s “based.”

What’s ultimately tricky is the question of how to prevent this emerging “dog whistle” pipeline. In a way, if it continues into another meme (which it likely will), the whole process will feel inevitable and impossible to truly prevent. Who is anyone to tell anyone what they can and cannot joke about, especially when the joke is self-effacing for one’s people. The problem occurs when self-effacing humor becomes the fuel for someone else’s hatred.

a special thanks to my fellow Know Your Meme writer Phillipp Kachalin for the research and image archiving on these memes
read the entry on Seasoning Police here read the entry on Smoke Detector Beeping here