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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy, and not necessarily a melodrama pitting good against evil. No heroes, no villains, just a terrible misfortune and a damned shame. We accept that when people are killed by tornadoes. Otherwise, however, many prefer the illusory comforts of a well-told tale — particularly one that reflects favorably upon their own ethnic tribe or political cohort and unfavorably upon others.

So it’s been in the infinitely sad death of Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson. Tragic not only because of one young life snuffed out and another ruined, but because of a veritable avalanche of racial and political accusations that have millions fighting bitterly over who’s to blame.

Whether on Fox News, CNN or MSNBC, marketing racial discord has become a profitable niche industry. There’s a well-known cast of ex-prosecutors, defense attorneys and professors who appear to spend more time in TV studios than courthouses or campuses.

Even professional athletes have joined in, with five St. Louis Rams receivers striking the now iconic hands-up, don’t-shoot pose, and the policemen’s union demanding an apology from the NFL.

Well, they’re not going to get one. Political symbolism is a big part of professional sporting events; cops can’t expect to be lionized as heroes all the time. Athletes have free speech too.

Never mind that the hands-up gesture may be pure urban myth to begin with. Yes, as you’ll hear nightly on MSNBC, more witnesses told the grand jury they saw Brown make a gesture of surrender than described him charging Officer Wilson. However, several of the same witnesses also claimed they saw Wilson shoot Brown in the back or murder him execution-style, which both autopsy and ballistic evidence proved impossible.

Some admitted they tailored their stories to what they heard in the street or saw on TV.

Having previously written that a nationally-televised murder trial might have cleared the air, I now doubt that’s possible. As a friend commented on Facebook , the Ferguson case looks like the left’s Benghazi — an endlessly evolving conspiracy theory that morphs into new forms as evidence contradicts its premises.

People committed to the thrilling tale have conjured a white racist plot out of a bad John Grisham movie. Before encountering Mike Brown, it’s worth noticing, Darren Wilson had never so much as drawn his weapon, much less shot anybody dead in broad daylight.

Media mind-readers like Georgetown University’s Michael Eric Dyson have no difficulty explaining a total stranger’s motives. “To the police officer…” Dyson wrote in the New York Times, “Michael Brown was the black menace writ large, the terrorizing phantom that stalks the white imagination.”

What rubbish. Thinkers like Dyson apply the methods of bad literary criticism to reality, with pernicious results. Everything’s a symbol, and only experts like themselves can interpret them.

Converting poor Mike Brown into an abstraction also prevents anybody from asking why such a peaceable young man acted so bizarrely that terrible morning — assaulting an armed cop for no sane reason. It’s the left-wing equivalent of calling him a “300 lb. black thug.”

In my experience, people who see visions of Satan and God battling in the clouds, as Brown’s father told the New York Times he did weeks before his death, and who send cellphone photos of the sky documenting those illusions, are in dire need of psychiatric intervention he never got.

According to the AP, Brown had made dramatic pronouncements to his great uncle, Pastor Charles Ewing. “He said, ‘One day the whole world is going to know my name.’ Isn’t that something? Not knowing that this was going to happen, and that’s what touched me, ‘the whole world will know my name.’”

It’s apt to touch anybody familiar with the messianic delusions of schizophrenia rather differently.

Yes, Wilson depicted Brown’s face as looking like a “demon.” His account of Brown’s actions, however, will sound sadly familiar to anybody who’s ever dealt with an enraged person suffering from psychosis: “He was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there…Just coming straight at me like he was going to run right through me.”

One horrified witness told jurors, “the only thing I kept saying was is he crazy? Why don’t he just stop instead of running because if somebody is pulling a gun on you, first thing I would think is to drop down on the ground and not try to look like I’m going to attack ’em.”

Another woman testified, “Michael turned around and started charging towards the officer and the officer [was] still yelling stop. He did have his firearm drawn, but he was yelling stop, stop, stop.”

Beyond race, beyond politics, the question is: Could Michael Brown even hear him?

Photo: Curtis Minter, right, of Akron, Ohio, at the memorial to Michael Brown in the Canfield Apartment complex in Ferguson, MO, on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. “This case has too many unanswered questions not to deserve a trial,” Minter said. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • Dominick Vila

    A tragedy becomes just a tragedy when society, our government institutions, our justice system, and a complicit media allow it to be.

    • mike

      “Complicit” Really!!

    • itsfun

      It was a terrible event. Politicians and so called leaders have made it even worse. A police officer was convicted by some in the media, and some government leaders. Making this tragedy a racism issue helps no one, except for some that are making money on the tragedy. If we each put ourselves in the officers shoes, what would we do? Like the author says, sometimes a tragedy is just that. Or as some I know would say sh__ happens.

      • beulahmo

        That’s why this situation required and deserved a transparent trial by jury. We have a system of justice in this country. Access to it was blocked.

      • bunnie jatkowski

        As a retired Police Officer retreat is always an option! I am not talking about running away, I talking about day in and day out Police training that says wait for your backup, that says pull back from a situation better handled with re-enforcements. When you put yourself as an Officer in a situation where you have only one option, you have failed your training, yourself and the public you are supposed to be servicing. Pull back and with backup, this person could have been safely taken into custody. No lives lost and although Wilson says he has no regrets (extremely hard to believe, no matter what he tells himself) everyone’s day would have gone on as before. Detain and Arrest not kill should be every Police Officer’s goal

  • holyreality

    It does appear that young Michael had a wild hair up his backside. The cigar incident was unusual even to his companion who offered to roll a spliff necessitating a trip to the store for the smokes.

    Talking back to a cop and punching him in the cruiser is not normal behavior for an 18 year old kid.

    It could be a mental illness episode, but we will never know because a wimp in a uniform killed a boy when he could have just driven away.

    • pm1

      “he could have just driven away.”

      Remember that, if you are ever being mugged or are the victim of a home invasion, and you manage to call the police. Just tell them to show up and then drive away. lol.unreal.

      • holyreality

        He testified that he was behind the wheel, if you cannot hit the skinny pedal on the left you have no business sitting in the seat.

        • pm1

          Maybe you should learn your right from left. Start with that.

          • holyreality

            Not taking goofing off seriously, my bad.

            Far easier to drive away.

          • whodatbob

            He was attacked be fore drive ” just drive away became an option.

        • tdm3624

          He maybe could have handled the situation differently, but I’m not sure about driving away being an option. If there is a fight, the police shouldn’t be driving away. They are supposed to be involved. If he had driven away how would he have explained that to his co-workers? “Guys, this dude was attacking me so I drove away as fast as I could…”

          • holyreality

            THAT would be MUCH easier to explain than “feeling like a five year old in Hulk Hogan’s grip” so I shot him.

    • whodatbob

      Name calling is unnecessary. The officer is no more a wimp then Brown is this shy innocent young boy you want him to be.

  • beulahmo

    Lyons’ hand-wringing strikes me as an attempt to muddy the waters about public anger, not only regarding the events in Ferguson, but also regarding the increasing number of incidents where police use lethal force against unarmed people of all races, and disproportionately against unarmed black men. And the alarming rate of these police killings escapes public scrutiny and outrage because — in large part — mainstream journalists and analysts (like Gene Lyons) apparently can’t bother themselves to do deeper investigations and analyses of them.

    But after we allow Lyons’ mud-stirring to settle, the unacceptable truth remains clear. Access to truth and justice in the case of Michael Brown’s death was blocked, and therefore many of us see the system as being “rigged”. And no amount of browbeating or shaming from the likes of Lyons or St. Louis County Police will obscure what we clearly see.

    In Darren Wilson’s shooting of Mike Brown, there was more than ample probable cause to justify having a jury trial; the only reason there wasn’t one is because Bob McCulloch’s office intended to avoid prosecuting Wilson. So he went the pretense of letting a grand jury declare that there would be no jury trial. However this case needed a fair jury trial to give moral authority to a verdict. The grand jury process was not a substitute for a jury trial; their decision was not a verdict, and the outcome couldn’t produce the moral authority that would have abated riotous anger.

    Darren Wilson’s story needed to be subjected to scrutiny because, apparently, his “need” to use lethal force wasn’t so clear to quite a few eyewitnesses who happened to give spontaneous accounts (i.e., they didn’t have time to collaborate or receive coaching) of the interactions leading to Brown’s death.

    Darren Wilson’s story deserved to be subjected to scrutiny because being a law enforcement officer should not require society to simply presume that officers’ statements are afforded benefit of doubt. Police officers, like any other official who is elected or appointed to serve the public, have motive for lying, so there should be no police outrage if society requires their stories to stand up to scrutiny.

    Darren Wilson’s story deserved to be subjected to scrutiny because Americans believe in their right to challenge authority — that principle is what undergirds all of the moral authority and confidence we attribute to our legal and governmental institutions. Without having an absolute right to challenge the people who populate our institutions, the confidence we have in them degrades. And when our confidence in law enforcement’s moral authority degrades enough, we put our civil order in jeopardy.

    From the time Michael Brown fell dead, every action and statement made by local law enforcement and its spokespersons (i.e., Jeff Roorda of the SLPOA and Christine Byers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch), as well as the prosecutor’s office and Governor Jay Nixon, has made it clear that there would be no sincere consideration given to earning the public’s confidence or trust, and there would be no rigorous scrutiny of Darren Wilson’s potential culpability in the death of Michael Brown.

    That is what all the fuss is about, Mr. Gene Lyons. As it happens, I don’t give a damn about what Michael Eric Dyson said because nothing he could say would change what so many Americans see that is obviously wrong about this situation.

    In Ferguson, Darren Wilson’s story needed to stand the scrutiny of cross-examination in a fairly prosecuted jury trial.

    In the rest of the country, police need to be held accountable by something other than the public prosecuting officers who are their natural, understandable allies. The public needs access to a fair and effective way of “policing the police”. Until that happens, rioting and protest gestures made by those “trouble-making” black celebrities and athletes will continue.

    • pm1

      I guess you missed the GJ hearing? And the vast amount of evidence? And the witness statements from six different African Americans that matched the officer’s account and all the evidence? And the minutes prior strong-arm robbery? And the fact Brown was making irrational statements based on delusions? smh.

      Mr. Lyons nailed it when he said that even a full trial and not-guilty verdict would do anything to dissuade people like you who are convinced, by their own grandiose sense of elitist superiority, that they just know better than everyone else, including the Grand Jury.

      • beulahmo

        I guess you missed my comment? A grand jury does not function as a jury trial. Wilson’s account was not scrutinized or we would have answers to the inconsistencies between his statements to investigators and his testimony to the grand jurors. We would have the opportunity to see some of his story put to the adversarial type of challenge by a cross-examination conducted by a good-faith prosecution team.

        People like me? I’m not convinced of anything except the prosecuting attorney’s determination to keep this case from going to a real jury trial.

        You and ol’ Gene can pretend the grand jury was a sufficient substitute for a jury trial all you want, but it won’t convince rational people (grandiose, elitist, or otherwise — and boy, are you good at projecting or what?) who avoid simply satisfying confirmation biases by subjecting testimony and evidence to scrutiny and logical tests for validity. A jury trial is the process that performs those functions, not a grand jury hearing.

        No matter how much condescension you try to heap on me, I can clearly see that the grand jury hearing and evidence/testimony “dump” was no substitute for a jury trial. Period.

        • pm1

          I’ve seen your cop-hater tweets. Try to let up on the histrionics. Go free mumia.

          • beulahmo

            Cop hater? You do love your biases, don’t you? I have family and friends who are cops, dumbass. And they hate bad cops just as much as I do. Now buzz off.

      • WhutHeSaid

        I guess you missed it too. Grand juries like this one are unheard of, and that opinion is shared by every attorney in the country. You obviously don’t know what a grand jury proceeding is for, so go back inside your trailer where nobody can see you wearing your hood and your won’t appear so idiotic and clueless.

        • beulahmo

          @pm1 can’t help viewing everything from a bigot’s perspective. I checked pm1’s comment history, and pm1 apparently thinks we’re getting hoodwinked by information broadcast by a “jew-controlled media” (isn’t that cute?); yet simultaneously, pm1 has no skepticism about the credibility and likelihood of FPD and “jew-controlled” media narrative that Michael Brown was a drug-crazed “thug” who decided to (1) reach through the window of a police cruiser to assault an armed officer and grab for his gun, (2) then for some inexplicable reason the “crazed thug” turned and run away from the police officer, and (3) then the “crazed thug” inexplicably turned back around and charged toward the officer as the officer continued firing bullets at him. None of that story raised pm1’s suspicion enough to arouse a curiosity that would only be satisfied by a skeptical cross examination in a jury trial. It was a completely believable story to pm1 because black thug.

          And pm1 smugly believes you are the one whose thinking is warped by bias. What a clown.

      • bunnie jatkowski

        There was ample evidence that a crime had been committed and that the person committing that crime was Wilson. That my friend was all the Grand Jury is impaneled to do. They are not a Trial Jury; there to weigh all the facts presented and find “beyond a reasonable” doubt. Just “probably this happened and He or She did it or caused it to happen, Simple!

    • tdm3624

      Do you know of a site that tracks the “increasing number of incidents where police use lethal force against unarmed people of all races…”? I suspect that the public’s perception of police brutality could be warped by the media’s portrayal of it; much like a majority of Americans think gun violence has increased when, statistically, it has not. The media chooses which stories to put up on the websites. I have noticed that the most comments seem to come from race/politics articles.

      • beulahmo

        National record-keeping of police brutality is relatively new (Cato Institute is the only organization running such a project. See link below.).

        However, data gathered on settlements paid out for misconduct lawsuits show indisputable upward trends, putting incredible burdens on city budgets over the last decade. If you want to attribute public discussion about rising police misconduct to overblown media hype, I’m sure you’ll continue to do so, and you’ll find convenient ways to dismiss any proof I might provide.

        Believe it or don’t; check it out or don’t. I really don’t care. We’re going to move forward on reform with or without you. Period.

        • tdm3624

          If my first impulse was to attribute the rise in police brutality to media hype I beg your understanding and forgiveness. Look at the overblown media coverage of the non-issue Ebola. Or Benghazi. Or anything Obama does that someone doesn’t like.
          Thank you for the link. I read it and I am pro-transparency for not only government agencies but businesses as well. I do think that the states should compile the statistics though, not the federal government.

  • pm1

    Thank you Gene Lyons. Very well stated.

  • Todd Anderson

    Let’s be honest – today’s democrat party is a 100% anti-white, anti-Christian, racist, marxist political party.

    • CripesAmighty

      Your Mom’s calling. She wants her sheets back, and it’s time for you to brush your tooth and go to bed.

  • bunnie jatkowski

    Mr Lyons unfortunately all too many White people see Black men and boys as super humans. The White race as a hold has perpetuated this myth since the days of slavery. The Black suspect is always “charging” always “looking demonic” always has “superhuman” strength. I am pretty sure from this article you don’t believe Brown and his friend were called to the police car and God-forbid thinking this Officer would have the temerity to call him out of his name or lay hands on him at that car door! I also think you think Black people;men and boys in particular have an innate death wish, because that is what you have to believe to think this young boy went to that patrol car with the intent to physically harm an Armed White Man /Police Officer in a marked unit in broad daylight. How fast do you think Brown Jr was running away from the car after being shot? How fast do you think He could run with his pants mid thigh? How much charging back to the Officer do you think he could do with his pants even further down and at least four gunshot wounds? Like Rodney King before him, he was “charging” at the Officers as he looked for a way to just get away from the blows being rained down on him! Michael Brown Jr (as would any human being) just wanted the bullets to stop hurting him.