I realized that I needed to hold a contest after I heard two CNN experts discuss the relevance of Michael Brown’s marijuana use to the grand jury deliberations. One of them concluded that this was “disrespectful to Brown’s parents.” Of course, ensuring that grand jury proceedings embody proper respect for a victim’s parents, the accused’s parents, or anyone’s parents is not a legitimate concern for a prosecutor or a grand jury: the commentary was utter, incompetent, irresponsible, misleading and sentimental nonsense.
We are now being barraged by nonsense and worse as ideological pundits, journalists and bloggers desperately try to construct an argument that the decision not to indict Darren Wilson for murder was a blatant miscarriage of justice, proof of a rotten criminal justice system and persistent white racism. I don’t have either the time or the resistant vomit reflex to examine all of them, so let’s try to find the very worst through collective action.
Make your submission to this thread, and include a link, the source, the author, a representative quote, the ethical breaches you detect, which are likely to be from the group including honesty, fairness, responsibility, competence, and independent judgment. The only restriction is that posts from “The Daily Kos” and “Chimpmania” are not eligible for submission. I have seen a few awful posts from supporters of the grand jury’s decisions: send them in as well.
I’m almost afraid to see what we will end up with. For my first submissions, I offer two:
The first one is a jaw-dropping Washington Post op-ed by academic Carol Anderson, who is an associate professor of African-American studies and history at Emory University. I suppose it is responsible for the Post to publish something like this; it is informative, in a frightening way. For example, if you ever wondered what kind of toxic ideas are nurtured in black studies programs, this should give you a taste.
The column is titled “Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress,” which is a racist headline on its face. Yes, Prof. Anderson believes that whites are just furious that African-Americans are advancing in American society. Her reasoning is a text-book example of how rigid ideological constructs can make even the most distorted perception of reality seem obviously and reasonable. Is she intellectually dishonest? Well, she says that “the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African-American voting strength,” as if she doesn’t know that African-American officials often encourage and support such gerrymandering to ensure predominantly black voting populations in neighboring precincts and districts, guaranteeing the election of African-American candidates. She apparently really believes that conservatives oppose bloated government because that’s where otherwise unemployed African-Americans get jobs, and not because a huge government is expensive, inefficient, oppressive, corrupt, and doesn’t work. She appears to believe that the foreclosure crisis that sparked the economic collapse in 2008 was all about hurting blacks more than whites.
The most unethical part of this essay is that the author never connects the police shooting to white rage in any coherent arguments at all. She doesn’t prove her thesis; she doesn’t come close to proving it. This woman is educating students who are paying tuition at Emory. That’s something to be enraged about.
I knew the contest would not be dominated by standard-issue academic black bigots like Anderson, however, when I read the weekend column by regular Post op-ed writer Eugene Robinson. This man has a Pulitzer, for some reason, yet he only rarely breaks out of the knee-jerk partisan hackery best exemplified by E. J. Dionne. His op-ed, “De-humanizing Ferguson,” is arguably worse than Anderson’s, considering that Robinson is an op-ed writer by trade. Is he being dishonest, or just inexcusably ignorant to write such statements as…
- “Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch led the grand jury in a manner that seemed designed to indict the unarmed Brown rather than the man who shot him dead.” Since the question of whether Officer Wilson should be indicted for murder or was engaged in lawful self-defense was core to the proceedings, Brown’s conduct was obviously the key question at hand. Describing the teen as “the unarmed Brown” is deceit, as well as part of the false narrative pushed by activists from the beginning: he should be accurately described as “the 300 pound, arrest-resisting Brown who had attacked an officer once and may have been preparing to do so again.” The repeated use of this misleading description is designed to make the public more ignorant. Police do not regard the lack of a weapon as disposition of the issue of whether a subject poses a deadly threat. If Robinson knows this and is intentionally ignoring it to win his point—the fact that Brown was unarmed is really the entire basis for his argument—he’s dishonest. If he doesn’t know it and is still basing his conclusions on his own ignorance, then he is reckless and irresponsible.
- “No one should have been surprised that police officer Darren Wilson was not charged in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. I’ve written before, and likely will have to write again, about the tragically low value our society places on the lives of young black men.” This is really despicable from Robinson. The justice system is not some kind of barter system where punishment is allocated according to the “value” of a victim’s life.The only question is whether Brown was shot legally or not. That’s all. His “value” has nothing to do with it. Nothing in the grand jury proceedings suggests that there wasn’t an indictment because Brown’s life lacked “value.” If evidence strongly suggested it was self-defense, and Wilson had been indicted anyway because his victim was regarded as especially “valuable,” that would constitute a travesty of law and ethics. Does Robinson really believe that those who shoot victims who really do lack “value,” such as child-molesting, sociopathic and flatulent drug dealers who are in league with ISIS in their spare time, should be treated more leniently by the justice system than the murderer who strangles a philanthropist?
- “On Aug. 9, Wilson was in his patrol car when he saw Brown and Dorian Johnson walking in the street. Wilson’s account of what he said to them — “Why don’t you guys walk on the sidewalk?” — went unchallenged at the grand jury hearing. In context, Johnson’s version of what Wilson said sounds more credible to me: “Get the [expletive] on the sidewalk.” It sounds more credible to Robinson because he is biased, and because he is judging Wilson’s character by behavior and attitudes he attributes to others. That’s called prejudice. He knows nothing about Wilson’s professionalism or attitudes toward the community, but he assumes that Johnson’s account of an officer saying “Get the fuck on the sidewalk” must be credible despite the fact that Johnson’s account has already been shown to be a fabrication in other respects and that he has a history of lying to police. Why? Well, Johnson is black, Robinson is black, the police officer is white and the column is proof that objectivity and fairness have been tossed out of Robinson’s office window.
These are just two execrable examples out of many. I’d like to identify the worst. Let’s see what you can find, and keep the Pepto Bismol handy.
You’ll need it.