On Monday night, the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri freed Officer Darren Wilson from the possibility of indictment over his shooting of 18-year-old black man Michael Brown. The prosecutor before the grand jury, Robert McCulloch, explained why the indictment had been rejected: the evidence, both physical and eyewitness, supported Wilson’s case that he had acted in self-defense.
McCulloch added pointed criticism of the media that drove the case in the first place, ripping the “insatiable appetite” of social media and “non-stop rumors” driven by it. The initial accounts pushed by social media, McCulloch said, were “filled with speculation and little, if any, solid or accurate evidence.” But he saved his harshest criticism for the media machine itself: “The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything, to talk about, followed closely behind with the non-stop rumors on social media.” McCulloch finished by stating that evidence mattered, and that no one’s life should be decided based on “public outcry or for political expediency.”
The lecture was well-deserved.
Just as the media did during the George Zimmerman trial and in the aftermath of Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin, the media attempted to cram the square peg of the Wilson-Brown shooting into the round hole of white police racism. That meant portraying Brown as the latest sainted racial victim; this time, rather than the Trayvon Martin narrative of hoodies, Skittles, and iced tea, the media hit upon the notion that Brown was a “gentle giant.” The Brown family, Al Sharpton, MSNBC, CNN, The Washington Post, and other major media outlets ran with the story that Brown was a “gentle giant” who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Then, it turned out that Brown had robbed a convenience store minutes before his altercation with Wilson.
Similarly, the media trotted out the story of Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend, who said that Brown held his hands up in surrender after being shot in the back, and that Wilson executed Brown. The entire media ran with that one originally; the lie spawned an entire “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement. Of course, it later turned out that Johnson had helped Brown rob the store, and that all available autopsy evidence contradicted Johnson’s story.
But never mind: the media had somehow turned the true story of Michael Brown – the story of a 6’5”, 289-lb. 18-year-old strong-arm-robbing a convenience store, confronting a police officer and attempting to take his gun, running away, turning back to charge that officer, and being shot multiple times – into the story of Emmett Till. Never mind that there was not a single shred of evidence suggesting that Wilson targeted Brown based on race; never mind that Brown matched the description of the robbery suspect because he was the robbery suspect; never mind that Brown attacked an officer twice. No, this was a pre-ordained narrative for the media: white racist police officer strikes down young black unarmed man. The result of that overwrought and outright false media-generated controversy: extended riots in Ferguson.
The story beat the facts. So the media ran with the story.
So did President Obama. In 2013, Obama told America that Trayvon Martin could have been his son; in this case, Obama told the United Nations that riots in Ferguson represented America’s nasty racial legacy.
As the grand jury verdict neared release, the media built up the story. We were warned of riots if Wilson escaped indictment; Erin Burnett of CNN said that such a verdict would be the “nuclear option.” Nancy Grace of Court TV helpfully added that Michael Brown’s height did not “mean he was a violent teen.” And the Brown family attorney, Benjamin Crump, openly stated that the grand jury was corrupt, long before the verdict.
Predictably enough, the Michael Brown case fell apart the moment it hit the legal system. It turns out, as Robert McCulloch said, that evidence still trumps media hype in the legal system – at least sometimes.
Now the media, humiliated yet again, riot. Ezra Klein of Vox.com asked, with the legal insight of a mentally malfunctioning goldfish, whether Michael Brown had an advocate in the grand jury hearing (the answer: that’s not how grand juries work). Fellow non-lawyer Chris Hayes of MSNBC lamented that the grand jury procedure was “so far removed from normal criminal procedure it’s unrecognizable.” The New York Daily News considered this obscene first mock-up headline: “Killer Cop Goes Free.”
With the media breathlessly covering the riots they helped to stoke in Ferguson, rioters set the city aflame. Shots were fired; protesters threw batteries, rocks and bottles; stores were looted. The media feigned head-shaking rue. Meanwhile, President Obama explained that Americans who ignored all the evidence to convict Wilson were reacting in “understandable” fashion – because, as always, evidence means nothing the left when in conflict with feelings and perception of victimhood.
Truthfully, the angry and sullen reactions of those who wanted Wilson tried are understandable. They’re understandable because most Americans live in the evidence-free narrative created by malicious media liars, and the politicians they enable. They live in the evidence-free world of the political left, which maintains that America remains deeply racist, that every white cop is Bull Connor, and that every black man shot by police is a Selma marcher. So long as they live in that world, racial reconciliation will remain a dream, and racial polarization will remain a tool of the political and media elite to sell papers, raise cash, and drive votes.