I would like to take a moment to reflect on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, where earlier this week riots erupted in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white officer who shot and killed a black teenager.
This is certainly the most well-documented incident of the week and I have no desire to recount in detail everything that has happened. What I do wish to do is, much in the way I did for Ray Rice, bring into question the media’s portrayal of this event, which I feel is unfair and misleading.
The event to me is clear: a black teen robbed cigarellos from a convenience store, then was caught and nearly apprehended by the officer. Recognizing the situation, the teen, prompted by motives which we do not know but which may be hypothesized with some degree of accuracy, attacked the officer, like a common idiot, whereupon the officer attempted to stave off this man before finally recognizing that he had no choice but to shoot and kill the threatening teenager. For most of us, I believe this scenario does not present any ambiguity: none of us would attack a cop, and anyone who does risks this result. There is nothing particularly difficult to understand about it.
The problems with the media portrayal are as follows:
1) The constant reference to race obscures and belies the fact that this is a simple case of citizen attacking law enforcement and suffering the penalties associated with that course of action. Were this a white citizen nobody would bat an eye; but a black one raises eyebrows. (It is, however, far more common for black citizens–who are a distinct minority in this country–to engage in this kind of reckless behavior.) And yet the subject of race has led many to question the officer’s credibility; a credibility which I think is confirmed by his interview with George Stephanopoulos this evening. Moreover, the constant references to the teen as ‘unarmed’ obscure the fact that at his size his body is itself a weapon. This teen was not unarmed and never could be.
2) The media portrayal of the teen as ‘heading to college’ portrays an image of innocence and naivete that are long since irrelevant. I personally was privy to several serious crimes committed on college campuses, and was well aware of students who were threatening and dangerous–and the first place I saw this was the University of California, Berkeley, one of the top colleges in the United States. This man would have been attending a tech school, not a four-year liberal arts college, and was of a background that precludes any presumption of innocence, as I will denote later.
3) The media has consistently portrayed the mother as a grieving parent and showed her outbursts on camera with what appears to be an aim to generate sympathy for the family. Yet the mother’s tears carry with them a demand for attention, and are not the simple, honest tears of a parent whose heart and soul have been lost. These are not the tears of a civilized woman; they are, by appearances, the tears of a savage who is unacquainted with the common probabilities of life. They carry no recognition of truth. They are ignorant of the conception that the boy did wrong. And they do not, in my eyes, make the woman likable; if anything I despise the gnome.
4) On that note, civilization is a term with variable meaning, but the behavior of the stepfather of this boy does not in any way fall under its auspices. And the protesters last night in Ferguson–whether following his importunate demands to ‘burn the bitch down’ or not–are the fruit of a poisoned tree of violence and disrespect for property which date back to Brown’s robbery itself. And so the big issue here is the acceptance and encouragement of uncivilized, even savage behavior–the same savage behavior that, as exemplified by both his mother and stepfather, was clearly a part of this teen’s upbringing and, hence, no doubt a contributor to the incident in the first place.
For it is not now an issue of whether the officer was right or wrong to shoot and kill this man. It is a question of whether the responses to the incident are in keeping with the order demanded for the upkeep of civilized society. The demands for ‘justice’ only in the form of an indictment smack of the witch hunts of less civilized ages and of the bloodlust of ancient pagans in pre-civilized Greece. The ruining of one’s own community is the work of outright, unambiguous savagery; the rallying cries and rabblerousers all evoke the image of something unspeakably inappropriate for the long-civilized United States.
All of which leads to 5) the media’s refusal to recognize the simple nature of this situation–the teenage thug/criminal who attacks a cop and meets his fate, something straight out of Elvis Presley’s ‘In the Ghetto’–fosters and perpetuates this behavior, legitimizing it by calling into question the wrongness of the teen’s action. And the continuing emphasis on race provides further cover for it. The media itself, in the name of liberalism, is eroding the limits which civilization demands that we impose upon ourselves for the upkeep of our social fabric.
Some questions the media has asked include whether cigarellos are really that important, whether the officer should have shot to wound rather than to kill, and whether the situation could have been defused by the officer without this incident escalating as it did. The answer to all three questions is no. The cigarellos aren’t that important, but disrespect for an officer of the peace is; the officer was acting in self-defense, so what happened happened; and given the behavior of the criminal, the officer was incapable of deescalating it. It is too easy to assume that a rational person would have stopped when wounded, surrendered and asked for medical attention; Brown was not rational and did not do so, and by not surrendering left himself open to what ensued.
More to the point, the witnesses cited by the media are given perverse recognition. Dorian Johnson’s testimony is placed on an equal footing with the officer’s; and yet any common man with a half of a wit can see that the officer’s testimony is vastly more credible than Johnson’s, clearer, more articulate, very rational. Johnson’s account did not make sense–it literally appeared as though an ape were speaking. Wilson’s account made perfect sense. But because it took longer for witnesses to come forward in Wilson’s defense–largely a product of the culture of intimidation existing then as now and which I am describing as being fostered by this same media–they are now acting as though Johnson’s testimony is more credible, that Wilson’s was merely rehearsed. Speed has come to replace quality as the primary source of credibility for these people–a clear, overt example of a savage value replacing a civilized one.
When we look at the Mike Brown situation, the big question to ask is this: are we spending our energy the right way? And the answer is again clear: no. All of the anger, the outcry, the investigative nonsense could be better spent in trying to create a more peaceful black community than the one resulting from Malcolm X, which is the one we have now. Active steps could be taken to prevent these problems from happening in the future; to eliminate reverse racism; to ensure that proper values are brought into the inner-city; and to promote a civilized, honest social order.
Instead I sit, and I watch–and I’m angry. Angry at both whites and blacks who do not get it, angry at a system that has few clear voices, angry at a society that lets its media behave in this way and does not demand better. I’m angry at a society that does not value its own strengths, that does not seek to perpetuate them, and that is rapidly declining.
Who wants to change the world with me? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be nobody.