Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Ferguson Postmortem

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJMedia

Photo via PJMedia

Photo via PJMedia

The backstory of Ferguson was that out of the millions of arrests each year only about 100 African-American suspects are shot fatally by white police. And yet we were falsely and ad nauseam told that Michael Brown was proof of an epidemic. There may well be an epidemic of blacks killing blacks, of African-Americans engaging in the knock-out game against non-blacks or flash-mobbing stores. But as far as rare interracial gun violence goes, in 2014 it is more commonly black on white. Ferguson is an anomaly that did not warrant hundreds of reporters who gladly skipped the real dramas of a world on the verge of blowing apart as it had in 1939.

In short, the only reason Ferguson erupted was because the police officer in question was white; had he been black and shot either a white or black suspect, there would have been no civil unrest, no visit by Eric Holder, but instead, liberal calls to ensure due process and not to rush to judgment.

Almost no one believes the myths concocted at the beginning of the Ferguson controversy. That is not to say that we know what happened, only that we most certainly know that what we were told did not happen.

Michael Brown, the “young boy” and “gentle giant” and shy college-bound student, tragically was not simply minding his own business on his way to granny’s as we were told. As in the case of Tawana Brawley, as in the case of the Duke stripper, as in the case of Trayvon Martin, the mythographies finally were unsustainable: Brown had just committed a strong-armed robbery and was lucky that he was not shot by an armed guard or clerk. He appears on the video as a brutal thug, who uses his size to intimidate and, in cowardly fashion, to bully a much smaller clerk. The world of Michael Brown in that store is the world of barbarism, where there is no law and the strong dictate without mercy to the weak as they see fit. And for that matter, the star eyewitness of the street Mr. Johnson, with a criminal past, should have been arrested as an accomplice in strong-arm robbery when he accompanied Mr. Brown into the store — as well as arrested for deliberately filing (another) false witness report.

Brown was walking down the middle of the street under the influence of marijuana and so he was lucky that he was not hit by a car. He struck an officer — no one denies that — which in itself is another felony. He was not shot in the back as the community insisted and still dreams. All that suggests many of the eyewitnesses fabricated stories, the media misled the public, and the race industry likewise serially lied. We are back to the doctored videos, altered transcripts, and fabricated vocabulary of the treatment accorded George Zimmerman or the mythologies at Duke or of the O.J. trial.

It was a hard call whether Missouri Gov. Nixon or Attorney General Eric Holder proved the greater disgrace in their efforts to prejudge the case. The latter of “cowards” and “my people” infamy almost immediately talked up his racial fidesamong African-Americans while all but damning the police, while the former proved our version of a hapless Ray Nagin, in his jabbering about prosecuting Officer Wilson without an indictment.

So what is left? The predetermined indictment, prosecution, and conviction of Officer Wilson are apparently a necessary sacrifice to ensure calm on the streets and pacify the mob. To further that goal, after the initial myths vanished, community anger will now focus on the fact that the battered cop shot too many times at a charging 6’4” robbery suspect (are six shots too many for someone that large?) and the unfortunate fact that the body of Mr. Brown was left on the street too long. But as in the other myths, these narratives too may soon change.

Americans who watch all this know enough to suspend judgment about guilt or innocence until all the facts have been gathered and adjudicated. But for the time being they have been told to believe, by both activists and media, something that in their own lives they know is quite impossible: namely, that entering a store while under the influence of marijuana,strong-arming the clerkstealing merchandise, walking down the center of a street, and, when stopped, striking a police officer in the face all should not necessarily illicit a quite dangerous response from an officer.  Every American at one time or another has encountered an obnoxious police officer who gratuitously emphasized his authority; and most Americans know enough to keep quiet and take their medicine until the ticket or warning process is over.

The assorted media soon outnumbered the shrinking groups of demonstrators, and prowled the streets desperately looking for some sort of newsworthy incident to confirm their own predetermined narratives. Each time they interviewed a participant in the demonstrations to capture the personal anguish side of the story, they seemed to cut short the dialogue once it became clear that the interviewee had no intention of allowing due process for the officer.

Another strange note: largely white reporters blend into largely African-American crowds, turn on their cameras and sound, often with eyes darting about on those around them, and then try to present a story that is supposedly balanced but also does not bring them physical harm. (Cf. the hasty retreat of the two white protestors who had signs calling for a suspension of judgment until the facts were in). When behind police lines, journalists’ narratives often markedly veered from those when on the barricades.  Fairly or not, viewers receive the impression that if reporters were to question the premises of the demonstrations while among the demonstrators, they then would get a quite different reaction from that of questioning police tactics among the police. Their reporting reminds me of journalists in Gaza spinning therapeutic narratives on the understanding that Hamas treats unfavorable news quite differently from the fashion of the Israelis.

We are back to an O.J./Duke Lacrosse/Trayvon landscape, in which larger and mostly unsolvable issues loom — and yet cannot be discussed: the one side silently seethes: “Please, do not commit 50% of the violent crime in America at rates four times your demographic, and, please, stop shooting nearly 7,000 fellow African-Americans a year, to ensure that there is less likelihood to encounter the police — in other words, restore the family, cease the violent and misogynist hero worship, and be wary of government dependence.” And the other side simmers: “Create for us the economic and social conditions in which we have equal opportunity without prejudice and stop the police from inordinately harassing us.” Amid that growing divide, which is now some 60 years old, all the trillions of dollars of the Great SocietyJesse JacksonAl Sharpton, and an array of “activists,” all the latest criminological and sociopolitical theories, and trillions of man-hours of social work have come apparently to naught.

Another irony is a sort of Sidwell Friends liberalism: the elite censors in politics and the media who with frowns and creased brows lament the lack of diversity and de facto segregation that frame this controversy usually give no evidence that in their own lives that they are committed to living among those of a quite different economic status, sometimes checkered criminal backgrounds, and a different race — as evidenced by where they choose to live, school their children, or recreate.

Yet if our power brokers chose to live in the inner city, to enroll their children in public schools, and to visit local neighborhood establishments, perhaps they could marry their often loud abstract anguish with quiet concrete experience. Instead, we get the impressions that the Michael Browns and Trayvon Martins of America are the sort of fodder that the race industry elite and the white liberal grandees devour for their own respective careerist and psychological purposes. Because of inner-city pathologies and disparities, affirmative action is now perpetual and yet largely benefits those elites who have little in common with those who commit 50% of the nation’s homicides, while privileged liberals understand that if they don’t transmogrify Ferguson, Missouri, into Bull Connor and Lester Maddox, then their own apartheid existence and abstract anguish are called into question.

In the end, our censors in the media and politics find psychological redemption for their own separateness by loudly denouncing in the abstract racism, police excess, and the supposed illiberal nature of whites less sophisticated than themselves.

Amid such mythologies and fantasies, a sense of ennui sets in, a sort of boredom from the acknowledgment that nothing much changes, and nothing much will change, as people continue to self-segregate. In about a year or two we will see another Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, another set of mythologies, and another Eric Holder intervention.

This is not going to end well, as long as the Sharptons, Jacksons, Shabbazes, and white media magnificoes do not ask self-introspective questions.

The problem is not just that white America is tiring of all this, but that Asian and Hispanic America is too, and will sadly and quietly make the necessary adjustments in their own lives to reflect that dissatisfaction.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

12 Thoughts on “Ferguson Postmortem

  1. An unfortunate incident that the media has taken too far. A bullying incident that has become a racial indication of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Had the peace office been shot the media would have stopped there. More peace officers are killed in the line of duty due to store robberies than any in the United States. Both parties were at fault in this duel. Violence and guns bring outrage, as do those who sometimes go overboard when wearing the badge, but not all officers can be the Marshall Dillion’s of Gunsmoke or the Gary Copper of High noon. On the streets of Chicago it is like the Old West. The media made this a crime of race. Luckily another officer was not also down in this tragedy. O.J. Simpson destroyed the integrity of the LA PD, this isolated incident that has become a media circus has caused many to hate those who keep order and keep the peace. Despite such monstrosities it is never wise to Kill your local Marshal Dillion. The gun smoke will clear as time passes.
    Jwc

  2. Mark Gray on August 25, 2014 at 9:28 am said:

    The officer acted in a reasonable manner, more so than most would in the same circumstances. After literally having his face punched in by a 300 lb man, and apparently after there also being a struggle for his firearm which ended in a shot being fired, when the assailant turned to leave the officer drew his firearm and ordered the attacker to stop. When the attacker turned and came at him again, that is when he fired the six shots.

    He did not fire as the attacker was walking away. He had full intention of making the arrest. When the robber on a marijuana high did not comply and moved in a threatening manner, he was left with no choice but to defend himself from further injury.

  3. Proudly Unaffiliated on August 25, 2014 at 10:00 am said:

    VDH nails it again. But I think Chris Rock needs to have the last word on the subject–

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=575727099190133

    Enjoy!

  4. George Tobin on August 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm said:

    For those of us old enough to remember the 1960s, there is a kind of sick satire at play. My father spent months as a DOJ civil rights atty in northern Mississippi in ’65-66. I recall getting pounded for expressing a distinct lack of enthusiasm for a George Wallace speech in Durham in ’68. And lots people of both races took real risks and made sacrifices in a tough time against real oppostion for a genuinely moral goal. And won.
    Now I listen to a black president, black attorney general, black media figures, black congressmen and tenured black academics desperately trying to pretend it is still 1963 with no sense of irony or awareness of the self-satire they are performing. The civil rights “paradigm” does not work in current space-time so like with climate change we keep trying to apply a model we know does not work. It’s weird.
    We are not allowed to point to LBJ’s escape-proof ghetto design or any needed behavioral changes. We must instead pretend that aggressive dependence on the good will of white people made manifest in government is the only solution. Questions for which that is not the answer are impermissable. And so poor black Americans must remain in a cultural time-warp.

  5. Black cop kills white youth, media hide race on 8/11/14 two days after Brown shooting.
    Ever heard of a kid named Dillon Taylor?
    He was a white unarmed kid, 20 years old, who was killed by a black policeman on August 11, in Salt Lake city , Utah. This happened two days after Michael Brown was killed.

    Dillon Taylor was a young man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    He was leaving a 7-11 convenience store. Officers were in the area because there was a report of a man with a gun. Taylor had headphones on and did not hear the police when they asked him to lay down on the ground.
    Taylor, unfortunately, reached into his pocket, for a cell phone, and that was the last thing he ever did. He had no gun. He did not rob any stores. He did not assault a police officer. He was killed by a black policeman. Have you heard about the protests and looting. No! Have you heard about this from the media, No! Because they are morally bankrupt.

    As for Brown, his shooting was justified. His actions prove that. His MO attacks and then comes back,, using his size to influence or attack again. This time he did to police officer with his gun drawn. bad drugged induced idea. No shots to the back and even Baden’s post mortem revealed that. However, I do find fault in Baden’s answer when questioned did the post mortem reveal Browns hands were up or down when shot. He states ,m he couldn’t tell . I don’t believe him. If Brown’s hands are UP the shots push the flesh from back to front and down from front to back. you can tell by the movement of the flesh on impact. Baden was concealing the this fact.
    Finally, the on true witness was the black whose cell phone was taken. it revealed he saw Brown turn and charge the officer in a truthful statement to a friend. That’s a s good as you get all the other witnesses LIED.

  6. Joan Sands on August 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm said:

    As usual, one of the best writings I have read on the events in Ferguson. Should be required reading.

  7. Les Davaz on August 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm said:

    A broader airing of “skip(ping) the real dramas…” is in order. That’s the real story, isn’t it? Instead we get the likes of Marie Harf and Ben Rhodes holding forth on the stopping and containment of bloodthirsty Muslims. I think Ferguson was an attempt at stopping and containing.

  8. I’d take issue with a couple things here. Not all the witnesses say Brown was shot in the back; as far as I recall, that was only Johnson. We have not heard from the witnesses who allegedly exist who say Brown was rushing at the officer instead of allegedly standing with his hands up. It is certainly not true that “no one disputes” that Brown hit the officer, though most witnesses agree there was some kind of struggle. If you read liberal sites, you’ll find a lot of people who believe that Wilson wasn’t injured at all, or that if he was it was because he yanked Brown into the car. Not everyone even agrees that Brown robbed the store (though it seems pretty evident to me); many who do argue that’s irrelevant. So…in sum, WE DON’T KNOW ANYTHING FOR SURE. As I, an unreconstructed center-leftist, have been saying on the liberal websites, let’s all stop prejudging what really happened here and wait for all the evidence and all the witness statements to come forward. Then, and only then, are we going to be able to determine, MAYBE, whether this was a case of excess force or a justifiable killing. It is simply pathetic that this episode has been used by both sides as a political expedient to pushing their own agendas. What ever happened to the idea of innocent till proven guilty — for both Wilson and Brown?

  9. ray ilchene on August 25, 2014 at 8:44 pm said:

    as the little league championship game was being played[the kids from Chicago being all black and from high crime neighborhoods] a 14 year old boy was shot in the back and killed in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Another black on black crime which is all too common and heartbreaking where is the national outrage,the civil rights leaders, and the press demanding answers?

  10. The ways of our dear beloved leader has “transformed” our country, they must “refocus” on something else and the perpetuation of a very sad narrative- we’re poor because of racism, we’re committing too many crimes because of racism, we’re having too many children out of wedlock because of racism, we’re not getting ahead in the socioeconomic strata, even though the opportunities are wider, because of racism, almost 70% of the households are headed by single mother versus less than 20% in the 50s because of racism, we can’t compete in education because of racism, we depend too much on the government because of racism, 1/2 of Detroit residents, predominantly blacks, can’t or do not pay their water bills because of racism. So it is all about ISM, those heartless white people. It will not change until there is fundamental shift within the sub-culture. I am not holding my breath.

  11. Jeff Stanley on September 1, 2014 at 2:29 pm said:

    The dysfunctions of black culture not only aren’t new, they are remarkably static. And as riots go — compared with the Watts riot in ’65, the King riots in ’68, the Los Angeles riot in ’92, etc. — Ferguson will barely rate a footnote. What was striking about the unrest was how it put America’s newly-militarized police force on full display.

    Watching the paramilitaries-cum-police officers training the muzzles of their assault rifles and squad automatic weapons on the civilian crowds from atop and around their armored vehicles, one had to wonder, what theory of crowd control — if any — were they following? What were their “rules of engagement”? And what would have happened if some nut-case in the crowd had brandished, or worse, discharged a pistol?

    The way the police were armed and deployed, it seems to me that one or two overreacting officers could have turned the scene into a bloodbath. I’d say we all lucked out this time, and most especially, the protesters and police of Ferguson.

  12. Pingback: Ferguson riots… | Time for Thorns

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