Comment of the Day: “The Ferguson Riots: Of Course.”

I know this is a departure: this is my own comment. After I posted it in a fevered state, I decided that it warranted wider exposure.

It comes in response to a jaw-dropping post by one of the most articulate and analytical regulars on Ethics Alarms, who wrote in response to the original essay, this, beginning with a quote from it:

“the activists don’t care, literally don’t care, about [what really happened and why] For them, the issue is simple. A white cop in a racist police department shot an unarmed black teen to death, and that means that there will be riots if he’s not indicted.”

“As there should be.

The moral is – if you don’t want riots, regardless of whether the shooting was justified (if I were on the Grand Jury, then on the scraps of evidence I’ve seen, I’d indict to let it go to trial – just as if I were on the jury of the trial, I’d acquit barring more evidence) – anyway, the moral is – don’t run a racist police department.

Such civil disturbance is the natural countermeasure to tyranny.

I consider such civil disturbance to be a really, really, REALLY bad thing. I think anyone rational does. That means we have a responsibility to make sure that Law Enforcement is not so manifestly, systemically unjust that regardless of the facts in an individual case, riots are inevitable.

What should be is that there’s a justice system that, even though imperfect, is not so horrible that rational people become irrational and desperate. While there will always be some who are “professional rioters”, without a groundswell of popular sentiment behind them, they’re a small bunch of crims easily dealt with.”

After I carefully picked my jaw off the floor, I wrote this, the Comment of the Day, in response… Continue reading

The Ferguson Riots: Of Course.

A car burns on the street after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri

From Ethics Alarms, August 17, 2014:

IF the evidence supports the conclusion that Brown charged at Wilson, neither the family of the slain teen, nor the African American community in Ferguson, nor the protesters, the race-hustlers, the black and progressive politicians who benefit by preserving racial tension and distrust,  much of the news media and many, many pundits and political bloggers, will change their rhetoric, accusations or the prevailing Ferguson narrative one bit. They need for the narrative as it stands to be true, and want it to be true. Massive confirmation bias will ensure that the death of Mike Brown will be talked about, protested and regarded as an example of racist police oppression of young black men, and the truth, in the end, will be irrelevant.

I hope my prediction is wrong.

But it was not wrong. Everything that has happened since the announcement that the grand jury returned no indictment against Darren Wilson has been inevitable for months, and more so since no responsible steps were taken by the Obama administration to prevent it all. The desultory, disgusted, support-of-the-rule-of-law-by-rote speech by the President tonight, calling for calm while signaling to all by tone, expression and body language that his personal opinion was in conflict with his words, couldn’t have helped.

So now the race-baiters, dividers, bigots, rioters, looters, and hustlers, as well as the rest who have waited for so long to exploit this tragedy for partisan and ideological objectives, have what they want.

My thoughts on the matter from an ethics point of view were stated here a month ago. The riots, lootings and burnings hadn’t happened yet, but otherwise everything is as it was when I wrote…

At this point, confirmation bias has completely taken over the Ferguson story, meaning that a combination of factors—police incompetence; a toxic racial culture in the city and region;  the racial distrust carefully nurtured by Democrats, the Obama Administration, and an irresponsible news media; anger and cynicism by non-black, non-race-baiters over the disgraceful George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin tragedy;  the slanted reporting of Brown’s shooting from the outset, and especially the full commitment of the civil rights establishment to make this incident the centerpiece of an attack on racial profiling and police violence against blacks regardless of whether the facts of the case justify it—now make any fair resolution of the incident impossible. They also guarantee that whatever occurs, the end result will be police anger, more racial division and distrust, and activists continuing to promote a false or misleading narrative as truth, just as in the Zimmerman-Martin debacle. It is hopeless….

….the activists don’t care, literally don’t care, about [what really happened and why] For them, the issue is simple. A white cop in a racist police department shot an unarmed black teen to death, and that means that it was a racially motivated murder.

The police and their mostly conservative defenders also don’t care about the details. Once again, a dedicated public servant who put his life on the line was forced to use deadly force against a dangerous thug who attacked him, and because the cop is white, is being persecuted and unjustly maligned.

Everyone is poised to see what they want to see, believe what supports their biases and agendas, and shout loudly about injustice regardless of what occurs, fertilizing the ground for the next incident they can exploit, along with cynical politicians.

Good job, everybody.

_______________________

UPDATE: The grand jury documents are beginning to trickle out. Here is Officer Wilson’s testimony.

 

So Soon? The Bill Maher Ethical Condundrum Strikes Again…In Ferguson!

It's baaaack!

It’s baaaack!

No sooner did I announce the Bill Maher Ethical Conundrum than a perfect example of it—not involving Bill Maher—hit the news…and joined the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck.

In August, the Federal Aviation Administration agreed to a request by the St. Louis County police to restrict about 37 square miles of airspace over Ferguson, Missouri, then engulfed in the most violent of the protests and rioting sparked by the shooting of Michael Brown. The restriction lasted for 12 days, and the reason given for it was safety concerns. Shots had been fired at a helicopter at one point during the violence in the city.

Safety is surely a valid concern, and since there were legitimate reasons to believe that the no-flight restrictions were prudent in the interests of safety, the measure was ethical. Or was it? The Bill Maher Ethical Conundrum, for those who missed the recent post:

Is the ethical nature of an act defined by its intent, or by an objective assessment of the act alone without reference to motive?

The Associated Press obtained tapes of the FAA’s air traffic managers discussing how to redefine the flight ban to allow commercial flights to operate at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and to permit police helicopters to fly through the area while meeting the goals of the ban. On the ban, they heard an administration manager say, about the St. Louis County Police Department, “They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out. But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.” A manager at the administration’s center in Kansas City said the police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this T.F.R. all day long. They didn’t want media in there.” Acknowledging that a ban that said “…you know, ‘OK, everybody but the media is OK,’ ”  the FAA managers then developed wording that they felt would keep news helicopters out of the controlled zone but not impede other air traffic.

Bingo! A flight ban in the interest of safety, serving the interests of safety, but motivated primarily by the illegal, unconstitutional, unstated motive of interfering with the public’s right to know through exercise of the Freedom of the Press.

Ethical or unethical?

The Bill Maher Ethical Conundrum strikes again!

___________________

Facts: New York Times

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. Continue reading

Unethical Website of the Month: Million Hoodies Movement for Justice

Different hoodies, different races, same ethics...

Different hoodies, different races, same ethics…

Million Hoodies Movement for Justice is, in its own way, as racist as “Chimpmania,” and, I would argue, far more harmful.

The Chimpmania racists live on the margins of respectable civilization. They are the direct ideological descendants of those who wore hoods and lynched blacks in the South, but they operate in the shadows. Their hateful words and beliefs are almost universally recognized for what they are, the product of ignorance. The vast majority of Americans of any race or creed would be mortified to be associated with the site, or with anyone who read it.

In contrast, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice projects the sheen of respectability, and aims to advance legitimate, if debatable causes: the elimination of police militarization, and the banning of profiling. It is, however, as racist in its assumptions about whites as Chimpmania is regarding African-Americans, just more subtle. Continue reading

From Ferguson To Fairness, Truth And Justice: Can’t Get There From Here

Cant get there

Hopeless.

The New York Times has leaked details of the forensic evidence and police officer Darren Wilson’s account in the shooting of Michael Brown. This came from that paragon of professionalism, the Justice Department, which wants to make sure that those seeking to burn down Ferguson and lynch Wilson have time to process the fact that a civil rights violation charge against Wilson just isn’t going to happen. Why is this important? Maybe the leak is to cushion the blow and reduce the likelihood of violence. That would be the motive of a non-partisan, race-neutral agency. Maybe Justice wants to make sure African-Americans are angry before the mid-term elections, so they will vote. (Democratic pollsters are telling the party that if blacks stay home, the Republicans are going to win big.)  That. of course, would be unethical.

But so are leaks of federal investigations.

What the leaked information reveals is that there was a scuffle in the car, and Michael Brown, the 300 lb. teen who is always described as unarmed as if this means he was harmless, tried to grab Wilson’s pistol. He was shot in the arm as a result, and his blood was in the car and on Wilson’s gun. This prelude to Brown’s fatal shooting makes any conclusion that he was out to harm Brown because of his race impossible. Of course, it doesn’t prove he wasn’t out to kill a black kid either.

At this point, confirmation bias has completely taken over the Ferguson story, meaning that a combination of factors—police incompetence; a toxic racial culture in the city and region;  the racial distrust carefully nurtured by Democrats, the Obama Administration, and an irresponsible news media; anger and cynicism by non-black, non-race-baiters over the disgraceful George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin tragedy;  the slanted reporting of Brown’s shooting from the outset, and especially the full commitment of the civil rights establishment to make this incident the centerpiece of an attack on racial profiling and police violence against blacks regardless of whether the facts of the case justify it—now make any fair resolution of the incident impossible. They also guarantee that whatever occurs, the end result will be police anger, more racial division and distrust, and activists continuing to promote a false or misleading narrative as truth, just as in the Zimmerman-Martin debacle. It is hopeless.

We are at this horrible, irredeemable point because…

  • The team of the media, irresponsible black politicians, an unethical prosecutor, despicable grandstanding celebrities and President Obama made a national racial issue out Trayvon Martin’s death, where there were none, and another flash point was deemed to be just what the flagging Democratic election prospects needed.
  • The narrative of a black, young, college-bound, unarmed, “gentle giant” being “executed” in the street merely for “walking while black” by a white cop was widely publicized before facts that complicated the issues arose.
  • The police department in Ferguson, and the region generally, has a well-established record of harassing black citizens, and an environment of mistrust already existed.
  • The department waited an unconscionable amount of time before releasing any facts related to the shooting.
  • The department’s decision to leave Brown’s body lying in the street looked like deliberate disrespect and insensitivity, which it probably was.
  • Demonstrations began based on hearsay accounts of how Brown was killed, representing as fact what were third party accounts, some of which, like those of Brown’s companion, were far from unbiased.
  • The Ferguson police acted like the Chinese government in Tiananmen Square in handling the demonstrations, and gave the media a panorama of images showing white cops abusing black protesters, a la Selma, Alabama,
  • If a white cop shoots a black man, it is presumptively an act of racism in the eyes of many civil rights activists,
  • Attorney General Holder appeared to pick sides in an incident where he was duty-bound to be neutral (but, as he has said, he is a black man first),
  • The Justice Department agreed to investigate the incident for civil rights violations based solely on political expediency, knowing full well that it would not have sufficient evidence for an indictment.

Add to all of the above the fact that  the incident itself was messy and ambiguous, as police shootings often are:

  • Did Brown deserve to be stopped and arrested? Maybe.
  • Was he the angelic, harmful snowflake portrayed by his parents and the media? No.
  • Was he a legitimate threat to Wilson, at least when they struggled in the car? Yes.
  • Did Wilson have reason to fear for his well-being? Well, would you, if a 300 pound guy was trying to get control of a gun in close quarters? Of course.
  • If he had fatally shot Brown in the act of protecting himself in the car, would Wilson be in the clear legally, logically and ethically? Yes.
  • Since Brown’s attempt failed, did he deserve to be shot after he left the car? No.
  • Is it likely that Wilson was upset by the struggle in the car, angry, frightened, and not thinking clearly? Yes.
  • Would that excuse his killing Brown, if Brown were indeed in a surrender pose as some witnesses claim? No.
  • Would it mitigate his guilt? Yes.
  • If Brown, unarmed or not, charged Wilson after the car incident, would Wilson be justified in using deadly force? Probably.

But the activists don’t care, literally don’t care, about any of this. For them, the issue is simple. A white cop in a racist police department shot an unarmed black teen to death, and that means that it was a racially motivated murder.

The police and their mostly conservative defenders also don’t care about the details. Once again, a dedicated public servant who put his life on the line was forced to use deadly force against a dangerous thug who attacked him, and because the cop is white, is being persecuted and unjustly maligned.

Everyone is poised to see what they want to see, believe what supports their biases and agendas, and shout loudly about injustice regardless of what occurs, fertilizing the ground for the next incident they can exploit, along with cynical politicians.

Good job, everybody.

And how exactly does all this make society better?

______________________

Sources: New York Times 1, 2; Fox News

Unethical Quote of the Month, Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck Division: Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California Law School

"Hey! If we riot, the Dean says The Supreme Court will have to see it our way!"
“Hey! If we riot, the Dean says The Supreme Court will have to see it our way!”

“Taken together, these rulings have a powerful effect. They mean that the officer who shot Michael Brown and the City of Ferguson will most likely never be held accountable in court. How many more deaths and how many more riots will it take before the Supreme Court changes course?”

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine, in an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times titled, “How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops.”

The passengers on board the relentless Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck were recently honored by the addition to their number of distinguished legal scholar and law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who, it mist be said, apparently accepted his ticket in exchange for getting publicity in the Times for his new book,“The Case Against the Supreme Court.” If his op-ed is typical of his approach to that topic, I think I’ll pass.

Each of the three sentences in the quote above is ethically offensive, and, I think, well beneath what the public should be able to expect from the dean of a major laws school, and what the Times should tolerate from one.

Let’s take the last two first:

2. “They mean that the officer who shot Michael Brown and the City of Ferguson will most likely never be held accountable in court. “ The statement assumes that Officer Wilson ought to be held accountable in court, which immediately aligns the dean with the lynch mob demanding “justice” before they have any idea what justice is in this case. Chemerinsky is a political liberal, as one would expect in his position at that institution, but he has an ethical obligation to use his knowledge, erudition, influence and reputation to clarify a difficult situation for the public, not make it worse. Nowhere is his op-ed does he allow for the possibility that Wilson might be innocent of wrong doing in Brown’s death. In my view, he, like Eric Holder and so many others, is now pandering to the anti-police, race-grievance Democratic base, also known as “California.” His opening paragraph is carefully crafted—Chemerinsky has published a lot of papers, treatises, law journal articles, opinion pieces and book—to make it clear that he thinks the officer should be indicted. He begins: Continue reading