Daily Archives: November 25th, 2014

#Ferguson Prism

fergusonI will be brief. I apologize for being late. We’ll start with a factual paragraph which will immediately be followed by my opinions. Viewer discretion is advised. Let me make sure I have my bottled water. My voice gets a little shaky if I talk for more than three minutes. Ah, there it is. I’m good to go. –Ed.

Last night, 107 days after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that a grand jury had decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson on any charges.

The press conference to announce the decision took place shortly after 8pm Missouri time. Some critics described this as “unusual timing.”

In a “bizarre” and “whining” preamble to announcing the decision, McCulloch opted to use his special time in the limelight to espouse some opinions. Yeah, that sounds like a really good idea.

Here’s part of what he said:

“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.”

–Robert McCulloch, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney

There you have it. Problems #1 and #2 regarding the City of Ferguson and the killing of Michael Brown are, respectively, the 24-hour news cycle and social media.

I think he just called us a society of lookie-loos. And, by the way, what a stroke of genius to seize the opportunity to editorialize, right? Everything has its time and place.

More telling, however, is the prism McCulloch just gave us on this whole ball of wax.

What sort of things were not challenges in the investigation? Presumably things like finding out what really happened. Determining witness credibility. And other various and sundry minutia of the sort presumably ranked #3 in importance/priority (and lower).

Basically what sticks most in McCulloch’s craw is the attack of transparency. No, not a lack of transparency. It’s that we have too damn much of it. McCulloch longs for the good old days where police departments and the various arms of the justice system could operate behind closed doors with impunity. Now all these nosy citizens with their gadgets and opinions and stuff really throw a monkey wrench into the way things are supposed to work. The way they’ve always worked in the past.

Before the shooting and every step taken since this has been a story of control. We’ve all seen the demographics and statistics on how the City of Ferguson works. The racial makeup of the citizenry vs. the power structure, the arrest statistics, the makeup of the police force, etc. That’s the before.

The after includes things like the handling of the scene. If it was a police officer who had been shot an emergency response would have been summoned with all deliberate haste. But it was just a black guy. A suspected “criminal.” Sure, theoretically, he’s innocent until proven guilty in a court of law (and not by Ofc. Darren Wilson) but it’s okay. He’s obviously dead. Nothing to see here. Move along. And it happened at high noon in the light of day and the body was allowed to remain on the street for four hours. The department says there’s nothing unusual about that.

Then came the control and contain phase of the operation. The police were tip-lipped. Very few details were released. They exerted as much control as they possibly could over every little thing. They didn’t release the name of the officer for an amazing amount of time. The chief of police stood his ground and played it out to the bitter end. Adhere to the code. Never admit to anything. Never let them see you sweat.

The press conference last night was just the sprinkles on top of rigid system that refuses to admit it’s fallible. And the thing they care about most is blaming journalists and how they’ve been maligned on social media. Those are the takeaways? Sad.