Everything that went wrong in Ferguson

policecar3That the grand jury in Missouri hearing evidence in the shooting death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown decided not to return an indictment against police officer Darren Wilson was no surprise. Sadly, neither was what went down in the aftermath of that news getting out.

The breakdown of all that went wrong:

Going public in the middle of the night: The grand jury apparently came to its decision around 2 p.m. local time. For some reason, authorities waited until after 8 p.m. local time to share the news with the general public, we can presume thinking that doing so would allow them to mobilize safety resources. Except that we’d been told for several days that a decision from the grand jury was imminent, meaning that authorities had at least that long to get their resources in place.

So they wait until the middle of the night. Brilliant move. Predictably, all went well as a result.

Seriously, it’s as if the plan was to stoke the firestorm that resulted, to cloak the injustice of the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson for the shooting death in the news coverage of the aftermath.

The tone-deaf press conference by the DA: Prosecutor Robert McCulloch came across more as the advocate for Wilson than the man who was on paper responsible for prosecuting the police officer in the shooting. McCulloch spent the first several minutes of his review of facts in the case excoriating the news media for fanning the flames with regard to the story in the first place, making it sound like he wouldn’t have even bothered to go to the grand jury at all if it weren’t for the media badgering, then spending the remainder of the odd press conference alternatively boosting eyewitness testimony that corroborated Wilson’s account and dismissing testimony from witnesses that threw Wilson’s actions into question.

Forgive yourself if you mistook McCuilloch for being Wilson’s lead defense counsel.

The idiots who took advantage of the opportunity presented to commit crimes: Michael Brown is dead. No amount of setting fires to buildings in the vicinity of the shooting scene and looting liquor stores in full view of the entirety of the U.S. news media is going to bring him back or bring about the cause of justice for his absence.

Wilson and McCulloch are on the wrong side of history; as are their fellow criminals who should be prosecuted for their acts of arson, vandalism and burglary.

The media: So much of the media coverage was about what the members of the media were doing and not about what they were there to report on. Dramatic shots of reporters putting on gas masks, breathlessly speculating about whether or not they were hearing gunshots in the distance and interviewing each other about what they did and didn’t see took the place of efforts to provide context to what was transpiring, and in the process, you just have to wonder how much of the nonsense that we saw Monday night, and a few months back in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, may have been egged on by the sensational media coverage.

But context, as we all know, doesn’t move the meter; that’s why pbs and npr get such low ratings, right?

– Column by Chris Graham


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