After new reporting on Michael Brown’s death, Ambinder asks, “did the media get Ferguson wrong?”
Police militarization and an unequal justice system are real problems that deserve sustained scrutiny. These problems are more insidious than a rush to judgment against one particular officer, presumption of innocence be damned. So maybe the best thing to do would be to say, well, in this particular case, it turns out that the police officer might not have acted as wantonly as we thought. But it really doesn’t matter, because the response to the shooting called attention to police abuse and discrimination in a way that resonated across the world. They had tanks! They threatened to killed reporters! The truth here is less important than Truth.
For the news media, though, the “injustice is the story, not Darren Wilson” story won’t wash.
… The journey for racial justice rejects the notion that truth is an effect of power. It is based on the notion that truth transcends power. The media wants to be on the right side of history when it comes to race. Accepting truth wherever we find it, no matter how painful it is to our sensibilities, is even more important when fundamental issues of justice are at stake.
Alex Altman, on the other hand, focuses on what the leaks don’t say:
They don’t explain the origin of the skirmish, which seems to have escalated abruptly. In describing the toxicology report, the Post’s sources say “the levels in Brown’s body may have been high enough to trigger hallucinations,” but there is no scientific link between marijuana and violent behavior.
Most importantly, the leaks do not provide new forensic information about the sequence of fatal shots. “What we want to know is why Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown multiple times and killed him even though he was more than 20 feet away from his patrol car,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, said in a statement. “This is the crux of the matter!” The autopsy does not offer any answers.
Bouie makes related points:
[W]e’re stuck with the facts we’ve had since August, none of which gives a conclusive answer to the key question in the case: Who started it? And even if it did—and even if Brown was at fault for the whole encounter—we’re still left with the other important question: Why did Wilson keep firing after Brown moved away?
At this point, any answer is tied tightly to your sympathies. Side with Michael Brown and the Ferguson protesters, and you’re likely to think Wilson overreacted or—at worst—actively abused his power. And if you support Darren Wilson, you’re just as likely to see an honest cop just defending himself from a dangerous aggressor.