“Antigone In Ferguson”: Embedding The Lie

Mike Brown’s father during a discussion after the performance.

“Antigone in Ferguson”  premiered at Normandy High School, Michael Brown’s alma mater, in September of 2016. Now the Harlem Stage is presenting it in New York City, Off-Broadway. A play is a play and art is art; artists are going to enable juvenile, half-baked and even destructive political ideas and themes, and playwrights will turn their perceptions of reality into stagecraft that they often are far more qualified to execute than the task of making sense out of the world. This drama was conceived and directed by the activist playwright Bryan Doerries in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri four years ago,  overlays the structure of the ancient Sophocles Greek tragedy with a distorted version of Brown’s death and its aftermath. The goal, says the sympathetic—complicit may be a better word—New York Times, is “to open the door on the thoughts and feelings aroused by the shooting of the 18-year-old Mr. Brown by a white police officer, and by the protests that followed. ”

The play is championed by the Brown family, which means that in part it exists to perpetuate a politically useful lie and the  apparently invulnerable narrative that Brown was the innocent, sweet-natured victim of a racist cop who murdered the teen in the streets of Ferguson, and then got away with his deed because the white justice system is bent on killing young black men.

This quite simply is not what happened. The racialist Obama Justice Department was eager to be able to show that the officer was a killer, but in the end, despite the sympathetic spinning of the news media for months, the evidence did not support that conclusion, and no charges could be brought. Mike Brown, stoned and freshly off roughing up a storekeeper, resisted a lawful arrest, tried to grab a police officer’s gun, and then, when he focused his imposing 300 pound mass on charging the smaller cop who arrested him, got himself shot—stupidly, needlessly. His friend on the scene, however, quickly concocted the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” exchange that never happened, and as that false version slowly twisted its way from slogan to protest to debunked myth, the facts of Brown’s case were neatly discarded for a narrative that advances the cause of division, anti-police bias, racial hatred, and more.

All of the issues that were raised by the protests in Brown’s death are valid and important ones, but that does not justify laying a demonstrably false and divisive narrative on stage. The “Antigone in Ferguson” company has visited military bases and hospitals, prisons and schools, essentially spreading propaganda and misinforming audiences. There is police brutality, and there are problems between law enforcement and the black community, and we struggle as a nation with  a seemingly unsolvable cycle of poverty, crime and death in poor urban communities. Mike Brown, however, was the victim of his own fatal mistakes.

Writes the New York Times in part, “[W]hat lingers most poignantly are the softly intoned concluding words…

And may we
Never forget
What happened here.

Except that the version of “what happened” being portrayed didn’t happen. The lines accurately state the sinister purpose of the adaptation and plays like it: to intentionally warp history, memory and reality for political advantage. In this the fake Mike Brown saga—the lessons of the real incident are don’t smoke weed in public, don’t resist arrest, and when a police officer says “stop,” STOP, particularly if you are running at him and built like a Mack truck—is a close cousin to the Tawana Brawley scam that inflicted Al Sharpton on the nation. After using the lies of a frightened teen to spark racial unrest(Brawley falsely claimed to have been snatched by white men, raped, and smeared with feces), Al eventually conceded that it never happened, but argued that because it could have, Brawley’s lie was a wake-up call to the black community. From the looks of things, the Mike Brown myth, enshrined on the Black Lives Matter website and in activist rhetoric, will be hardier than Tawana’s and Sharpton’s scam, and infinitely more damaging.

Good and ethical theater engages minds, challenges ideas, and sparks emotional catharsis. Good and ethical theater can not be built on toxic lies.

_____________________

Sources: The Daily Beast; NYT

29 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

29 responses to ““Antigone In Ferguson”: Embedding The Lie

  1. AC

    A very thoughtful post, thank you.

    I sometimes get worried that you, like many, will fall down the hate well that being lied to about incidents this shooting creates. I myself get quite angry if I sit down and think about the motives for pushing this narrative, and it almost makes me want to wash my hands of the movement altogether, but what you say here is important

    >There is police brutality, and there are problems between law enforcement >and the black community, and we struggle as a nation with a seemingly >unsolvable cycle of poverty, crime and death in poor urban communities

    Yes, we are being lied to all too much by the people that are trying to get us to take action on this problem, but it does not mean the problem either A: doesn’t exist or B: should be thrown out because some advocates are using dishonest means of convincing us of it.

    I feel like lots of conservatives get jaded and throw in the towel because of all the lies and deception, but it’s so important not to.

    Again, thank you for keeping your head on and your compassion alive.

    • AC

      Mind you I’m not trying to call you a conservative here, I probably shouldn’t have used the word at all as I’d hope _everyone_ would resent being lied and deceived (arguments of “well it’s still a real problem and we’re making people aware of it with this lie!” aside).

    • dragin_dragon

      AC, the problems of the Black Community are largely being generated by the black community. There is an ongoing and determined movement in that community to blame someone else…ANYONE else for their problems. The easiest way to solve a problem is to own it, make it yours, take responsibility for it and SOLVE the damned thing. Consistently blaming someone else for it means you’re looking for somebody else to solve YOUR problem. And I can guarantee you that “white folks” are never going to solve the problems of the Black Community.

      • dragin_dragon wrote, “AC, the problems of the Black Community are largely being generated by the black community. There is an ongoing and determined movement in that community to blame someone else…ANYONE else for their problems. The easiest way to solve a problem is to own it, make it yours, take responsibility for it and SOLVE the damned thing. Consistently blaming someone else for it means you’re looking for somebody else to solve YOUR problem. And I can guarantee you that “white folks” are never going to solve the problems of the Black Community.”

        The only reason that white folks are not going to help solve the problems in the black community is because the people in the black community don’t want help from white folks, it’s not because the white folks don’t want to help. The only thing the black community wants from USA society is money and services. There is open prejudice, bigotry, and racism towards white people in the black community, it’s their #1 problem and until they directly address this there is no fixing what’s wrong.

        The very soul of the modern day black community is based on these things:
        1. Black people are victims.

        2. Everything in USA society is steered towards victimizing black people.

        3. Any black person that blames the black community or black individuals for their own problems is a traitor to their race.

        4. If a white person tries to help in the black community it’s because they are a racist and think the black community can’t do it themselves.

        5. Any white person that disagrees with a black person or the black community is a racist.

        There is a clear dividing line that the black community has built between the black community and the rest of society and it’s all about race, they have intentionally separated themselves. These things are instilled into by the black community and into their community from the day a child is born into their community. I’ve seen these things first hand.

      • joseph difusco

        “AC, the problems of the Black Community are largely being generated by the black community. ”
        Yup, full-stop.
        I’ve seen far too much evidence of this, with my own eyes, to come to any other conclusion.

  2. The Boy and I were walking through Home Depot and he asked what had happened in Ferguson. I told him what happened. He asked what the meaning of the incident was. I told him the following sage advice:

    “Son, if Ferguson teaches us anything it is this: If you fight a police officer to take away his/her gun, you expect really bad things are going to happen to you.”

    jvb

  3. Other Bill

    Jack, given the state of contemporary theater, the likelihood of it developing any ethical or valid theater is virtually nil. Theater and most of the arts are dominated by raving lefties. The horse has been out of the barn for decades.

  4. “The racialist Obama Justice Department…”

    The Oxford English Dictionary on line equates “racialism” with “another term for racism.”

    So, Jack, what do YOU mean when you use “racialist” as you did?

    An inquiring mind in a (male) body with “white” skin wants to know.

    (Meantime, praying for a “progressive” government to heal me of my government-defined Identity-Driven Dysfunction Disorder. /sarcasm)

  5. JutGory

    Jack: Good and ethical theater engages minds, challenges ideas, and sparks emotional catharsis. Good and ethical theater can not be built on toxic lies.

    Counterpoint Exhibit A: Richard III, by William Shakespeare.

    I am of mixed feelings on this topic.

    Shakespeare wrote many plays with historical roots: King John, Richard II, Henry IV, V, and VI ( in all their parts), Julius Caesar, Coriolanus,, Troilus and Cressida (a bit of a stretch from the historical perspective), King Lear (whom I believe was real, but that era is murky).

    Nietzsche complained about the development of Greek tragedy. The grandeur (that is the wrong word) of The plays of Aeschylus devolved Into the pedestrian depictions in Euripides.

    I have often thought that a playwright should do the plays of the American presidents; sort of a cross between Shakespeare and Plutarch. There are stories to be told. Lincoln and Nixon could both be tragic figures. But, their tragic nature only works if you can ignore history. The flaw in people these days is that, with historical tales, there is no room for artistic license. Accuracy trumps message.

    Nixon could be a tragic figure on par with Richard III, (or MacBeth) except that it would require you to depict Nixon as inaccurately as Richard III was portrayed.

    Basically, modern sentiments does not allow for much artistic license. (You are guilty of that to some extent, Jack; see commentary on the Titanic films). The Greeks milked Oedipus, and all of the Trojan war stories for all they could. It was fine. The stories varied, they all had their message, and they were all different.

    The figures were larger than life. Imagine a larger than life Nixon…Trump….Carter. If you were to tell the story of Coolidge, Hoover, or Garfield, what is the lesson each teaches. What do you include? What do you ignore?

    You can make a single 2 hour play about Andrew Jackson: sum up his presidency and what do you miss (or ignore)? Where does artistic license end (yes, he may beat the crap out of John Calhoun or flog alg the entire Supreme Court single-handedly (it’s called artistic license people!).

    We need to take imperfect examples of life and make them archetypes of life that can teach us from the stage. Very few black lives matters typed do that, because their story arc is so short. But many civil rights leaders provide stories that can teach those lessons.

    Primarily, and, especially, if we can let go of factual accuracy in favor of lessons about the human condition.

    -Jut

    • I think your discourse is inapt. Richard the Third had not been the subject of a definitive investigation, and the Bard’s plays were understood a popular entertainment only. While “Titanic” smeared and misled about some of the key figures, it was hardly a current issue.

      The “Antigone” asserts that a proven falsity and an inflammatory one actually occurred, and that has tangible and damaging consequences. This isn’t ancient history.

      • JimHodgson

        Jack’s reply focused my thoughts on my own issue with “artistic license:” it is one thing to interpret a legend or myth artistically to make a point, and it is quite another to create or perpetuate a factual lie about historic events and people. My touchstone on this is Oliver Stone’s “JFK'” which some folks assume to be a documentary rather than a mélange of conspiracy theories woven into a story. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw a so-called “historian” on television actually state that “the end of Reconstruction in the South gave rise to the KKK” when exactly the opposite is true. With the population growing more and more ignorant of history and more reliant on popular media and culture for their “knowledge,” the danger of creating or perpetuating these lies grows exponentially. Making people more ignorant is never admirable.

  6. Mrs. Q

    Inherit the Wind suffered from the same spin job. Edward Larson noted the play wasn’t accurate but “was brilliant theater – and all but replaced the actual trial in the nation’s memory.” This play about Brown is a same song different dance scenario.

    Until blacks stop listening to race pimps like Sharpton, Waters, Obama, etc. and realize the most serious problems for them (us) are not white cops or rural bigots but rampant fatherlessness and self defeating attitudes, nothing will change.

    “I saw the basic source of my discontent was my mind, the attitudes I had chosen, and not what other people had done to me. I saw that I was free to decide for myself the kind of person I was going to be, and that I did not have to accept the script of rage written for me by the ‘black leaders’ of the day. I saw they were leading me nowhere but unto dependence on them and the state, and offering me nothing in return but some angry sound-bites by which to organize my life.” -Jesse Lee Peterson

    • Yes, but at least ITW had the decency to use different names for all of the characters, making it clear that this was a work of fiction.

      You do know that I compiled and edited a book with Ed, right? “The Essential Words and Writings of Clarence Darrow.” paperback, about 10 bucks at Amazon.

      • Mrs. Q

        Unfortunately my high school introductory science class didn’t present it as just fiction. The teacher never mentioned the results of the real trial either. I’m guessing my school wasn’t the only one to do this.

        • JimHodgson

          You are correct, Mrs. Q! The one exception was my sixth-grade teacher (in 1965) who was a graduate of Rhea County High School where John T. Scopes allegedly taught evolution in 1925. My teacher disliked the play and the movie specifically because of their “license” with the facts of the case and their portrayal of the residents of the area as backward and venal. He predicted that people would eventually come to believe the movie was factual. He explained to our class the origins of the actual court case as a combination “chamber of commerce” publicity stunt and ACLU test case. Over the years I heard several other teachers tout the fictional version uncritically, without explaining how it differed from the facts. I don’t live very far from the 1891 courthouse where this case was heard. Faulkner’s “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” always comes to mind when I recall people of this area discussing this case.

      • joed68

        Just bought it !

  7. Antigone in Ferguson is cultural appropriation.

  8. Michael R.

    It used to be said that if you repeat a lie long enough, people will believe it. Now, we are told that if enough people believe the lie, it makes it true.

    A Coast Guard officer was removed from duty for making what could be construed as an ‘OK’ gesture. Now, everyone knows this symbol is not a hate symbol, this was started as a hoax by 4chan to show how deranged the left has become. All media outlets acknowledge that this is not a symbol of hate. However, the consensus is that because so many people believed the lie, that makes it true. Lately on 4chan, the ‘peace’ or ‘victory’ symbol has been held up as a symbol of transgender denial (there are only 2 genders).

  9. Everything related to social justice in our society is proving that segments of our society are irretrievably separated from reality and that that separation is being promoted by truly ignorant people.

  10. …that separation is being promoted by truly ignorant people.

    “..that separation is being promoted by manipulative scheming villains.”

    Fixed it for ya

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