Do We Really Need A More Compliant Press?

by Dish Staff

That’s apparently Joe Scarborough’s position. Chris Caesar recaps the Morning Joe host’s back-and-forth with the WaPo’s Wesley Lowery, who (as you may recall) was recently arrested while reporting from Ferguson:

Scarborough sounded off on the Wednesday evening arrests of Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly while the two worked in a McDonald’s near the scene of protests in Ferguson, Missouri. “If I saw that video and my son was the one that the police arrested after that episode, I’d say ‘Joey, here’s a clue: when the cops tell you – for like the 30th time – ‘let’s go,’ you know what that means son? It means, ‘let’s go.’ I’m sorry,’” Scarborough said. “I’ve been in places where police officers said, ‘Alright, you know what? This is cordoned off. You guys need to move along,’” Scarborough added. “And you know what I do? I go, ‘yes, sir,’ or ‘yes, ma’am’ – I don’t sit there and have a debate and film the police officer unless I want to get on TV and have people talk about me the next day.”

Because as Jon Chait puts it, “Nothing says ‘journalism’ like following orders from authorities, however questionable, self-interested, or illegal they may be.” Dylan Byers is left cold by the whole debate:

Lowery and Reilly deserve recognition for their reporting efforts, but getting arrested at a McDonald’s does not a great reporter make. Video of the arrest shows that Lowery didn’t exactly move with great haste when the officer told him to vacate (though that doesn’t make the officer’s actions forgivable). MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough criticized Lowery for that on Thursday morning, and Lowery responded by telling CNN that Scarborough should “come down to Ferguson and get out of 30 Rock where he’s sitting, sipping his Starbucks smugly.” Many sided with Lowery, a few may have sided with Scarborough. One hopes that the majority chafed at how a story about race and police brutality turned, for a moment too long, into a pissing match between two members of the media.

That analysis prompts a facepalm from P.M. Carpenter:

Byers says “Ferguson is not Fallujah” – a negative comparison that certainly holds true in many ways. But in our two Iraq wars, you may recall, the American press was “handled” and often sidelined by a Defense Department worried about bad press. As a result, the American public received an often skewed view of those wars. Are police departments to be allowed the same freedom of First Amendment-nullification at home? Whenever law enforcement bungles the job of crisis management, are reporters covering the bungle expected to cringe and bow and “move with great haste” in the face of incompetent authority? And are the likes of a law-and-order politicking Joe Scarborough to assume some sort of journalistic respectability? Byers is correct; this is “a story about race and police brutality” – and Lowery’s story is but an extension of the latter, with heavy First Amendment overtones.

Meanwhile, Ed Morrissey zooms out:

I’ve been puzzled about some reactions to the video of police arresting Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly at a McDonalds and the teargas attack on an Al Jazeera news crew for just standing on the sidewalk with their cameras. Some have suggested that these journalists didn’t respond to police orders to disperse, and were therefore subject to detention and counter-riot tactics. However, that’s only a legitimate argument when an emergency decree is in effect that explicitly authorizes police to act in such a manner. I’m unaware of any such declaration by Nixon, and if one does not exist, the police don’t have the authority to impose it themselves. Our whole system of civil rights is based on police being servants of the law, not on citizens being servants of the police based on their assessment of when we can and cannot exercise those rights. That includes pointing cameras at the police, and sitting in a public restaurant in a lawful manner.

More on Michael Brown and Ferguson here.