The attorney general offered one explanation for the willingness of the protesters to accept the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” narrative that the Justice Department report refutes. His explanation was that the blatantly unconstitutional policing and municipal court practices were so racist that they created a powder keg that exploded on the August afternoon that Wilson killed Michael Brown.
But those in the media – traditional, new and social – might also take a look in the mirror.
Ron Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund that supports cops accused of crimes while on duty, put it this way in the New York Times: “The lie got repeated over and over again. It was the headline in major newspapers and other major media publications all summer, all fall. And the subtext was: Racist rogue cop kills innocent black teen. And it was a lie.”
The Times, in quoting Hosko, seems almost surprised that the hand’s up mantra was not supported by facts. But there shouldn’t be any surprise. It’s been clear for months that there was little evidence to support it and other details in initial media accounts.
In fact, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said it himself in his press conference in November announcing the grand jury’s decision not to indict. He said then:
“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, following closely behind with the non-stop rumors on social media.“
The liberal online media echo chamber led by Huffington Post blasted the claim as “bizarre,” commenting that, “Media figures and social media users lashed out at the notion that cable news and Twitter were to blame for the tension in the months following Brown’s death, rather than the death itself.”
What changed with the Justice Department’s report this week is that career prosecutors went witness by witness showing how the original media accounts of unreliable witnesses were refuted by either physical evidence or inconsistencies with later accounts.
In the end, the department’s investigators concluded that all credible witnesses, physical evidence and forensic analysis either supported Wilson’s account of shooting in self-defense or failed to refute his account.
In the long run, the most important story this week was the grossly unconstitutional way in which Ferguson ran its police department and municipal courts in tandem as an ATM for the city budget, brutalizing African-Americans along the way. But hopefully the media will take some time for reflection before rushing off with a false narrative on the next national media storm.