It takes a special kind of “fair and balanced” to exploit the reactions of the grieving stepfather of Michael Brown over the news that the man who shot and killed his stepson would not be charged. But Fox News is up to the task. Indeed, they seem to relish it.
In one of several discussions on Fox, The O’Reilly Factor played the sensational clip of Brown’s stepfather saying, “Burn this mother****** down,” “Burn this b**** down” and more. I’m certainly not going to defend such behavior. But to hold a debate over the “issue” of whether or not he should be charged is not just mean spirited, its only real goal can be to inflame the racial tensions and divisions that already exist in this case.
Otherwise, Fox would have hosted a Ferguson official to discuss the matter, rather than a local talk show host and a New York lawyer.
To what should be his shame, the host for last night’s Factor was Juan Williams. Rather than challenge the intent behind this latest episode in Fox’s ongoing Blacks Behaving Badly series, Williams went with the meme wholeheartedly.
Williams introduced the segment by saying, “Some suggest his words incited the crowd. So, can he be charged over his words?” As if to answer his own question, Williams later said he thought it a “prima facie case” against the stepfather, Louis Head. Williams further opined that Head had “prior convictions, felonies, so I would build the case that this guy was intending to incite.”
Attorney Stacy Schneider contended otherwise. She argued that there was little evidence Head was actually advocating violence rather than meaning, “I’ve had enough with the criminal justice system… Get rid of the whole thing.”
Frankly, I find that dubious. Head was obviously infuriated. Whether he intended to be taken literally or not, the words speak for themselves.
But that’s really not the point. The point is that there’s no indication Head caused any rioting, which everyone expected to happen anyway. And while Head’s behavior certainly did nothing to make Michael Brown a more sympathetic figure to rally around, Head’s outburst had nothing to do with the issues that the community is enraged over.
In other words, holding a debate about whether or not to charge Head was little more than a pretext to demonize him and, by extension, Michael Brown.
Talk show host McGraw Milhaven certainly understood the game. He just happened to mention that Head may be charged with assault because “a few weeks ago, he beat up Brown’s grandmother.” Milhaven continued, “He has a violent past.”
Milhaven has probably never said a word to the Brown family. But that didn’t stop him from jumping to conclusions about their behavior Monday night: “They probably already knew the decision. So when the decision came out, all of a sudden he’s outraged. But why are you outraged? You already knew the decision.”
I guess Head didn’t get the memo that his time for outrage had expired. Nor that his wife’s distress was not grounds for an extension. That is, assuming Head did know in advance, which Milhaven merely speculated.
Then there’s the behavior of prosecutor Robert McCullogh. In a scathing editorial, the New York Times explained how he “made matters infinitely worse by handling this sensitive investigation in the worst possible way.” That included McCullogh’s announcement in which he “sounded more like a defense of Officer Wilson than a neutral summary of the facts that had led the grand jury to its conclusion.”
Whatever the Brown family knew, they could not have known in advance just how insensitively McCullogh would add insult to injury that night.
But Schneider, albeit certainly well intentioned, didn’t seem to realize she was playing right into Fox’s agenda by arguing the merits of a prosecution, rather than throwing the whole premise back in their face.
Which is exactly what they deserved.
Of course, they leave out the fact that there is video evidence from Utah officer Bron Cruz’s body cam, which shows Taylor appearing to reach for a weapon while two different officers repeatedly told him to put his hands up. Taylor then shouts “No, fool!” and turns toward Cruz, pulling his hands out of his waistband. Cruz, thinking Taylor was pulling a weapon, fired immediately. Turns out Taylor was both quite drunk and disturbed, and didn’t actually have anything on him. But the officers thought he did, and were in fact on an alert lookout for a man matching Taylor’s description who DID have a gun.
The key with the Taylor shooting is, again, the video evidence, which shows Taylor’s belligerence and threatening manner. There isn’t a debate over what he was doing, since everyone can see it. This was also not a situation with a police officer chasing a guy, firing at him in multiple places. You could argue that Cruz should have tased Taylor – but the clear indication from the video evidence was that everyone thought Taylor was about to open fire, which would have meant the taser would be firing after Taylor had fired bullets. Michael Brown on the other hand had no weapons and could easily have been stopped with a taser or another non-lethal choice.
The point here: Beware of false right wing arguments intended to muddy up a discussion. Whether the situation be the Dillon Taylor incident or the nonsensical comparison to Roderick Scott, the right wing seems to have no shortage of bizarre equivalences they wish to present when they can’t make a coherent argument.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is the obvious glee Fox News has been demonstrating about this situation. Given the way the locals had been treated by the police all the way back to August, it was inevitable that the community was going to react very badly to this dismissal of their concerns. The fact that Officer Wilson wasn’t even charged, when he ignored multiple options of non-lethal force, was bound to generate an angry reaction. And it has.
Sadly, the role of right wing media like Fox News has been to fan these flames and pretend to some kind of moral high ground while clearly enjoying the sight of a black community’s distress. As I noted before, this was a win-win-win for people like Hannity. For the community in Ferguson, it’s been a sad and regrettable day, particularly as seen in those comments by Brown’s stepfather.
At the same time, we should respect that this man isn’t speaking for most of the protestors in and out of Ferguson. Most people who have been demonstrating have been doing so peacefully. Loudly, but peacefully.
And FoxNoise needs to be damned thankful that precedent is established. Otherwise more than a few of the FoxNoise talking heads would be behind bars for their inflammatory words. (Looking especially hard at Bill O’Reilly.)
The community outrage was exactly what the right wing was hoping to see, although they didn’t get the extended play that happened during the Rodney King situation in the early 90s. But what did happen played right into the right wing narrative that the black community was supposedly so gullible, misled and emotional over this matter that they’d just lose control and riot everywhere. Never mind that the community had repeatedly been attacked by the police from the moment that they began to protest this situation. Never mind that many locals and Michael Brown’s parents and even President Obama were publicly urging calm. (And in fact those very statements have been used by the right wing as some kind of justification for further personal attacks) Never mind the simplest part of this story, which is what outraged the community – that a young, unarmed black man, was shot multiple times and killed by a police officer, when there were multiple other ways that the police officer could have handled the situation.
As it is, we know that a confrontation happened between Officer Wilson and Michael Brown. We know that Brown was fighting with Wilson while Wilson was still in his car. We know that Wilson fired two shots inside the vehicle, one of which struck Wilson. We are hearing from Wilson that Brown was trying to grab his gun, but I haven’t heard any actual corroboration of that idea. We know that Wilson chased Brown, and that when Brown turned back to him and ran toward him again, Wilson killed him. We have not heard about Wilson’s other options in this situation, including using his taser, his baton, or any other choices he would have had as part of his training. We do know that Wilson chose the fatal one, and that Brown is dead. Had Wilson chosen any of the other options, Brown would simply be behind bars and the story never would have blown up. The right wing conveniently forgets this part of the story in its drive to tell the story of a black “thug” who deserved to be killed and a black community that the right wing wishes to tsk tsk over its outrage in this situation.
All of that would be bad enough if it weren’t for the palpable enthusiasm we can see from Hannity, Limbaugh and others to celebrate this story. One wonders where this enthusiasm for law and order was when O.J. Simpson wasn’t convicted, or when right wing darling Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Campean were.
Why, thank you, Assme — its always nice to hear from someone who knows the intimate details of this family’s life and is qualified to judge how Head should and should not grieve . . .
“Some suggest his words incited the crowd. So, can he be charged over his words?”
“Some people say” — Fox News’ favorite “source.”
I love how Fox “just wonders” if someone can be charged for exercising his freedom of speech, but thinks shooting an unarmed man is a-ok . . .
Let’s hope that AG Holder steps in and does the right thing.