Two presidential candidates did a very bad thing last weekend:
They are promulgating a false narrative — a narrative that was comprehensively debunked by the investigation and report of the Obama Justice Department in 2015. The report is readily available online. Brown’s killing may have been tragic — nobody wants to see a young man’s life snuffed out — but calling it murder is inflammatory. Warren’s tweet amounts to race baiting, as bad or worse than the rhetoric she condemns from Donald Trump.
Harris and Warren are intelligent, highly articulate women; they know better. They know exactly what their words mean and the effect they are seeking to create with them. They know the narrative is false, they know they are creating propaganda, they know they are stoking a fire and they are doing it strictly for their own political gain.
The persistent narrative that Brown was “murdered” — as some persist in claiming, shot in the back while running away or with his hands up (“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”) — is clearly debunked by the forensics and witness testimony. The report states:
“The physical evidence establishes that (Officer Darren) Wilson shot Brown once in the hand, at close range, while Wilson sat in his police SUV, struggling with Brown for control of Wilson’s gun. Wilson then shot Brown several more times from a distance of at least two feet after Brown ran away from Wilson and then turned and faced him. There are no witness accounts that federal prosecutors, and likewise a jury, would credit to support the conclusion that Wilson fired at Brown from behind. With the two exceptions of the wounds to Brown’s right arm which indicate neither bullet trajectory nor the direction in which Brown was moving when he was struck, the medical examiners’ reports are in agreement that the entry wounds from the latter gunshots were to the front of Brown’s body, establishing that Brown was facing Wilson when those shots were fired. This includes the fatal shot to the top of Brown’s head. The physical evidence also establishes that Brown moved forward toward Wilson after he turned around to face him. The physical evidence is corroborated by multiple eyewitnesses.”
Those who — rightly — criticize President Donald Trump for his lies and inflammatory rhetoric must hold “progressive” candidates to the same standard. Apologists for Warren and Harris may wave off their use of the word “murder” as mere semantics — but they know better, too. At least they should. Condemning the rhetoric of “their guy” while giving a pass for the same kind of rhetoric from “our guy” is part of the reason we’re in the divided, hyper-partisan state of affairs we’re in. Those who are promoting “civil discourse” will never get to goal unless they’re willing to hold everyone in the arena to the same standard.
I won’t hold my breath. When I posted on this episode on Facebook, I got comments from several people who insisted that Brown’s killing was unjust and regurgitating the myth that he was shot in the back. I posted a link to the report and asked them each if they had read it. No response. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to infer that they’d rather maintain their false narrative intact than engage with evidence. They’re quick to call out the lies, distortions and inflammatory rhetoric of those with whom they disagree, but if the politics and the cultural narrative suit, lies, distortions and inflammatory rhetoric get a pass. Hypocrisy seems to be the coin of the realm.
Bad police shootings happen. Racism exists. A cop in Charleston, South Carolina, who really did shoot an unarmed black man in the back while he was running away is sitting right where he belongs — in prison for 20 years.
Facts matter. The rule of law is a precious gift the founders of the republic gave us. It is the final protection of the smallest minority — the individual — from the tyranny of the majority. That we have failed to truly apply the concept of “liberty and justice for all” through our history brings us shame — but you cannot fix that by abrogating the concept in the present.
Each case must be judged on its individual merits and on the facts as best they can be determined — not on what people want to believe or, worse, what is politically expedient for them to believe.