If You Can’t See Both Sides Of The Ferguson Mess, Then You Are Too Biased To Be Anything But A Part Of The Problem

two sides

Unfortunately, the group that fits the description in the title appears to be “almost everyone.”

I. The Michael Brown Side.

  • Brown was young. He had his life ahead of him. It is tragic that he died.
  •  Whatever he did, it would not warrant a death sentence in the justice system.
  • He was shot dead, and he did not have a gun or a weapon on him.
  • He was black, shot by a white officer, in a town where African-Americans, for a variety of reasons, do not feel respected, believe they are often harassed, and feel subject to racial discrimination.
  • Brown was shot at multiple times. The average individual can see no reason why that would be necessary.
  • Eyewitnesses report that at the time of the fatal shooting, Brown posed no threat to the officer that would justify the use of deadly force.
  • Important, powerful, respected African-American officials and leaders trusted by the majority of black Americans have stated that that racism is rampant in U.S. society generally, and the justice system specifically.
  • Brown’s body was left lying in the street for hours, in what seemed to be a gesture of disrespect.

The items above do not include the many cynical, dishonesty, manipulative interpretations of the event and false or deceitful assertions that have been used by activists, journalists, advocates and politicians to distort public perception. Bill Maher, for example, flatly says that Brown was murdered. That is not a fact, and no one who didn’t witness the shooting is justified in stating that it is a fact.

Charleston Daily Mail columnist Don Surber wrote on his personal blog, describing various violent episodes that took the lives of police officers, that Officer Wilson shooting Brown was necessary to “put this animal down.” Later, he added a correction that said that he erred in calling Brown an animal, and that he was, instead, a brutal man whose killing was a justifiable homicide. Surber has been fired. Good. The only way either version of his column could be written is if Surber was handicapped by such bias that a fair evaluation of the circumstances was impossible for him, He also referred to the Ferguson demonstrators and rioters as “racists.” Some may indeed be racists; many of the race-baiting activists—Cornel West, Al Sharpton, many others—  who believe that any time a white person shoots a black man, racism is to be the presumed motive are racists. There are many legitimate reasons for someone who thinks about the list of factors above to be angry and believe that protest is called for. If you can’t empathize with them, frankly, something is the matter with you.

II. The Police Side

  • Police have a dangerous and essential job. They are traditionally derided and disrespected by large segments of the public, pundits and journalists.
  • Michael Brown resisted arrest, and may have tried to take the officer’s gun from him.
  • Since he did that, and since Brown was huge, much larger than officer Wilson, the fact that he had no weapon did not make the officer’s fear of imminent and perhaps life-threatening harm unreasonable.
  • Assuming that Wilson was racist because he shot a black man resisting arrest is unfair and unreasonable.
  • Many activists believe that any use of force by police is “brutality,” and will make this claim even when it is completely unjustified.
  • Wilson was performing his job, and the situation spun out of control. Non-police have no concept of the stresses, difficult choices and complicating factors officers must deal with in such situations.
  • Law enforcement has no margin for error, and officers deserve the benefit of any reasonable doubt.
  • Witnesses are notoriously unreliable. Brown’s companion, the primary source of the account claiming that Brown did nothing to provoke Wilson’s use of his weapon, is presumptively partisan.
  • There is no evidence or personal history made public so far that suggests that Wilson held or holds racial animus towards African Americans

Several news sources online, usually implying high irony and sarcasm, linked to this story, headlined “Cops Who Fired 22 Times at Man Weren’t Excessive.” After all, firing 22 times at one man must be excessive, right? This is just more proof of bias against the police, and the kind of pervasive attitude that bolsters the infamous “blue line.”  A man, obviously ill, was tasered twice without apparent effect, stabbed one officer with a knife, and when he refused to drop his weapon, was shot by two officers simultaneously, receiving 22 bullets in an estimated two seconds. Yet the police were sued for wrongful death, with the suit claiming that the victim was unarmed, even though it acknowledged that he had stabbed the police officer. The law suit was dismissed.

This tragedy is another example of the Roshomon effcet, where there can be no objective truth until more facts are known and proven. The only way to be constructive and fair at this point is to acknowledge that both sides have good cause to see the event the way they do. Those who can’t acknowledge that have only one responsible course, and that is to shut up.

9 thoughts on “If You Can’t See Both Sides Of The Ferguson Mess, Then You Are Too Biased To Be Anything But A Part Of The Problem

  1. It’s always been my understanding that standard police training was that, once you made the choice to pull the trigger, you emptied the magazine. Between adrenaline-fueled accuracy (I’ve heard of as low as 10% accuracy rates while under fire), and the fact that it often takes multiple shots to disable a target, the safest course of action is to empty the gun, and if the target is still not down, reload and do it again.

    • Much of that comes from the fact that handguns aren’t quickly lethal. People have received multiple fatal upper torso shots and continued to fight for as long as several minutes.

  2. I can see both sides of the Ferguson matter. I understand that there is anger in the Black community that existed prior to the Brown incident. However, I also see that the officer may have use reasonable force when he shot Brown. I will not be surprised either way by the Grand Jury’s decision. If they don’t indict him, I know there will be further unrest. If they do indict him I will expect to hear that the indictment was capitulation to the threats of further violence and that the Grand Jury kicked the decision down the road.

    jvb

    • And John, I will guarantee you, be3fore the grand jury even meets that if it does indeed indict the officer, it will be because of threats of further violence. As Jack, and MANY others have pointed out many times, there simply is not sufficient evidence to indict.

      • I think there is more than enough evidence to indict. The standard is much lower. The question is whether there is enough evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, which requires weighing differing eyewitness testimony, ballistic evidence, timelines, photographs etc.

        Since the prosecution is in charge of the indictment, and decides which evidence and testimony the jury sees, if there is not an indictment, it is almost certainly because the prosecution does not wish for there to be one.

        • I don’t see how anyone can conclude that without knowing what evidence there is. If the evidence is convincing that Brown was moving toward Wilson in a threatening manner when he shot, then a decision not to indict would be defensible. But you are right: if the prosecutor wants an indictment, he could get one regardless. That is not to say that he should get one regardless.

  3. What seems to be talked about less is the police reaction to the shooting and subsequent protests. Yes, there were looters that needed to be responded to. What the Ferguson police did was far too much overkill. Officers sitting on top of armored personnel carriers with machine guns pointed at the crowd made for terrible visuals. There is NO excuse for this.

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