My Attempt To Bring About Rational Discourse Concerning The Chaos Going On In Ferguson

Image credit: Robert Cohen / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

Image credit: Robert Cohen / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri has simply gotten completely out of hand.  In fact, I’ve spent the better part of the last two days trying to have reasonable debates with people about the entire situation, but it’s not been easy.  To call this situation a “powder keg” would be an understatement.

Let me first start out by stating my position on the entire thing.  As of now very few people know exactly what happened Saturday that led to unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown being killed.  Because, quite honestly, the officer’s story doesn’t make much sense and I’ve read too much “eyewitness testimony” that’s hasn’t been consistent and some that’s just been completely unbelievable.

I want to know more facts before I form an opinion on what happened.  That’s been my stance from the start.  Let’s let the investigation unfold, see what evidence comes to light, then go from there.

If this cop did murder this young man, I hope he faces the full brunt of the law.  Also, I don’t believe that local law enforcement should be left to investigate this case on their own.  I absolutely do not trust them to handle this investigation themselves.

But this entire situation has become unbelievably outrageous.

First, let me address the notion of a “peaceful protest.”  Are many of these protesters peaceful?  Absolutely.  Though I’m not completely sure exactly what’s being protested.  No decision has been made on the case, so are they protesting the shooting itself?  Okay.  But what if next week the officer who shot Mike Brown gets charged with murder?

You see where I’m going with this?  The act of protesting is often to address an injustice.  As of now, we’re not exactly sure what happened, so “injustice” is completely subjective.  It all depends on which side you want to believe, the officer’s or those who say they saw what happened (many of whom contradict each other).

And what happens if evidence shows that the officer was assaulted, and they did indeed go for his gun, then hasn’t all of this been for nothing?  Now, I’m not saying that’s what happened.  What I’m saying – and what I’ve emphasized repeatedly – is that we don’t yet know exactly what happened.

While some of the videos from the past few days of the police presence have been “shocking,” I also wouldn’t call all of these protesters “peaceful.”  What I’ve seen in many of these videos are people blocking streets, shouting profanities at police officers and antagonizing the officers until tear gas was fired after multiple warnings.  I even heard one individual tell the police to “shoot the motherf**ker” in reference to the tear gas.

Now, am I on the side of law enforcement?  No.  I’m sure some of them have behaved in unethical ways and I’m almost certain they’ve gone overboard on several occasions.

That’s what I mean when I say this entire situation has gotten completely out of hand.  I commend the father of Mike Brown and those who continue to urge people to protest peacefully.  Like this report from Al-Jazeera America:

Several hundred protesters appeared to heed the calls for non-violence late on Tuesday evening, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice, no peace” during a tense but ultimately peaceful standoff with police clad in riot gear and flanked by armored vehicles near the site of Brown’s death.

The protesters, some of whom waved signs as the group was led in chants by megaphone, had dwindled to a handful before midnight.

It’s amazing how very few, if any, media sites reported that this protest went on peacefully without tear gas or rubber bullets.

But I’ll get to my issues with the media’s coverage of all of this in just a minute.

Someone actually asked me what “side” I was on.  The question didn’t make sense to me.  There are “sides”?  I’m on the side of wanting to see more facts. I want to see what the investigation turns up.  Then I’ll develop an opinion about what I think happened.

As for the looting, it’s embarrassing.  What’s even more embarrassing is that people are defending it.  There’s never any reason to loot or destroy private property.  People have tried to rationalize the looting to me and it just honestly makes me laugh.

“But you don’t understand how frustrated people are!”  

No, I get it.  Our country is littered with injustice against the African-American community.  Horrible, inexcusable injustices.  Heck, the election of President Obama proved two things:

  1. We’ve come a long way in improving race relations.
  2. We still have a long way to go.

But none of that excuses the looting and vandalism of private businesses and property.  If you think it does, you’re out of your mind.

Now there’s been plenty of media coverage of these events.  Some of it’s been really good.  Some of it’s been ridiculous.

Let me explain how the media works, especially the “blogging media.”  You see, there’s a lot of money to be made in fear.  It sells better.  The more outrageous the story, the more “hits” it gets and the more money they make.  So that’s what they’ll focus on more than a real scope of truth and common sense.  To see what I’m talking about, I’d encourage everyone to check this out.

Here’s a great example of what I mean.  I just saw a post from a large liberal blog where they did a side by side image of tear gas smoke in Ferguson and a bomb going off in Afghanistan suggesting that it’s hard to tell the difference.


Trying to compare a bomb explosion in Afghanistan to smoke from a tear gas canister?  That’s absurd.

I’ve seen some sites try to compare what’s going on in Ferguson with Gaza.  I’ll admit, that nearly made my head explode.  That’s a level of ignorance I can’t even wrap my mind around.

Let me say it emphatically: No, what’s going on in Ferguson is not the same as what’s going on in Gaza.  

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the media fear mongers.

During my time watching one of the live feeds a reporter didn’t get quite the soundbite I think he had been hoping for.  Throughout his feed he kept emphasizing “peaceful protests.”  Even though what I saw was a group of 50-75 people shouting, cursing and antagonizing police officers.  Mind you, they weren’t all doing that, but enough of them were.  Well, he turned to a gentleman to ask his opinion about what was going on and the young man said, “I’m not trying to do all this belligerent sh*t with these people, I just want to go home.”  Apparently his path home was blocked due to the police trying to get these protesters to disperse.

The reporter quickly panned away, trying to find someone a little more suited to his agenda from which to get a soundbite.

This was a young black male, from the area, calling these “peaceful” protesters “belligerent.”  So, at least I wasn’t the only one seeing what was going on who didn’t think some of these people were acting “peacefully.”

That being said, I think some of the images and footage from this situation have been incredible.  The situation where police arrested several reporters definitely needs to be answered for.  Hell, some of the behavior in general by law enforcement officials needs to be explained.  Even if they were in the “right,” they still owe the public an explanation as to what their thought process was behind some of these tear gas attacks and firing of rubber bullets.

It’s clear that many law enforcement officials haven’t done themselves a lot of favors in this situation.

But I’ve seen far too many “reports” from websites who are out looking for something they’ve already predetermined is “truth.”  That’s the dangerous aspect to modern journalism.  A lot of journalists aren’t out objectively looking for truth.  They’re out trying to find evidence of what they already believe is fact.  And that’s very dangerous.  Journalism without rules can make any story seem real, no matter how absurd.

Now, am I saying that’s every report from this situation?  Of course not.  But when I see certain sites producing multiple articles within hours of each other, where the general summary is “cops bad, protesters good,” I do believe that they’re willfully shaping the news to fit their agenda.

As for me, I believe there’s fault on both sides.  That’s why I said this has gotten completely out of hand.  We’ve gone from trying to find out what happened to cause a cop to kill an unarmed 18-year-old, and spiraled into riots and tear gas.

As if any of this is going to bring this young man back.

Then there are those demanding the name of the cop be released.  That’s probably not a good thing either.  Personally, the cop isn’t my concern.  But if he has a family, they are.  Because once his name is out, his address will assuredly be found, and his home will become a target.  And if that happens, it’s not good for anybody.

My belief is that the only solution to this is for level heads to prevail.  I think it’s clear this entire situation needs to be handled outside of local authorities.  I also think these protests need to be done with more reason than emotion.  Because when emotion gets involved, it often spins out of control, and that’s usually never a good thing.

But most of all, I just want to know the truth.  I want more information.  And that’s something nobody really has.  Right now we have claims by the police officer and accounts told by a few witnesses.  That’s about it.

Now I’m sure many will probably slam me for some of the things I’ve said here, because most people have their minds already made up.  Which is fine, that’s everyone’s right to do so.  But far too many are assuming the truth in this situation based on other instances where young black males have been shot by police officers.

And they might very well be right.  My point is, we just don’t know yet because hardly anyone knows many of the facts.  Right now we have the officer’s account of what happened and a few witnesses who are telling a different story.  And that’s about it.

While I understand that there’s a lot of underlying emotional aspects to this situation, I think people just need to take a step back, let more facts present themselves and allow the investigation unfold.

Because what’s been going on these last few days isn’t doing anyone any good.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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