Bret Stephens: Ferguson, Lies and StatisticsPosted: March 10, 2015 | |
Here’s a story for the media: a community in which honest people are afraid to tell the truth
“…honest people can’t tell the truth for fear of running afoul local thugs enforcing ‘the narrative reported by the media.’ Or is that more of a story about the media?”
It won’t be. The story line has failed, so the statistics have been put to work.
“At least half that fable was put to rest last week by an exhaustive Justice Department report. It demolishes the lie that Brown was shot in the back, along with the lie that he was surrendering to Mr. Wilson, hands in the air, when he was shot. It confirms that Brown physically assaulted the officer, who had good grounds to fear for his life.”
That the claims made against Mr. Wilson were doubtful should have been clear within days of Brown’s death, and again in November after a grand jury, having heard from some 60 witnesses, declined to indict the officer—an outcome one outraged commentator denounced as having “openly and shamelessly mocked our criminal justice system and laid bare the inequality of our criminal jurisprudence.”
“Is this racism? The Missouri Statistical Analysis Center notes that in 2012 African-Americans, about 12% of the state’s population, constituted 65% of murder arrests and 62% of murder victims. To suggest that the glaring statistical disproportion between relative population size and murder rate is somehow a function of race would be erroneous and offensive…”
Yet if anyone was openly and shamelessly mocking the criminal-justice system, it was so much of the media itself, credulously accepting or sanctimoniously promoting the double fable of Ferguson: that a “gentle giant” had been capriciously slain by a trigger-happy cop; and that a racist justice system stood behind that cop.
“…Yet tarring a police force as racist for far smaller statistical discrepancies is now one of the privileged “truths” of 21st century America.”
At least half that fable was put to rest last week by an exhaustive Justice Department report. It demolishes the lie that Brown was shot in the back, along with the lie that he was surrendering to Mr. Wilson, hands in the air, when he was shot. It confirms that Brown physically assaulted the officer, who had good grounds to fear for his life.
And it confirms that eyewitnesses either lied to investigators or refused to be interviewed out of fear of local vigilantes.
“Witness 109 claimed to have witnessed the shooting, stated that it was justified, and repeatedly refused to give formal statements to law enforcement for fear of reprisal should the Canfield Drive neighborhood find out that his account corroborated Wilson.”
Witness 113 “gave an account that generally corroborated Wilson, but only after she was confronted with statements she initially made in an effort to avoid neighborhood backlash. . . . She explained to the FBI that ‘You’ve gotta live the life to know it,’ and stated that she feared offering an account contrary to the narrative reported by the media that Brown held his hands up in surrender.”
“This isn’t to say that the report doesn’t uncover more serious problems, including a number of racist emails in the department, policing that seems needlessly obnoxious or aggressive, and a municipal government desperate to prosecute every minor violation of the law in order to maximize city revenues—in effect, using cops as taxmen.”
Now there’s a story for the media: A community in which honest people can’t tell the truth for fear of running afoul local thugs enforcing “the narrative reported by the media.” Or is that more of a story about the media?
But let’s move to the other Ferguson fable, which is the Justice Department’s allegation, in an unfortunate second report, of systemic racism in the Ferguson police department.
For a flavor of this claim…(read more)
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