We are seeing the herd mentality of the media at work in coverage of Ferguson, Missouri, and even some conservatives have joined the pack. Jonathan V. Last wrote in The Weekly Standard newsletter that arrived in my inbox on Wednesday that “a TV news crew was assaulted by police officers” in Ferguson. That claim is false.
....we reported on August 18 that “The film footage supplied by Al Jazeera only showed one of the correspondents being ‘caught in the crossfire’ when a tear gas canister was shown near the news crew. It was not clear where it came from or who threw it.”
So a tear gas canister being discovered near a news crew and thrown by someone has become an “assault” by the police. This is absurd. The film footage actually showed an Al Jazeera reporter walking into the tear gas, rather than away from it. The incident seemed staged, probably to generate ratings for a propaganda channel that is desperately seeking viewers..
The Weekly Standard’s treatment of the alleged assault is another unfortunate example of journalists making serious errors in judgment about events they did not witness. But the fact that an influential publication such as this would fall for the propaganda shows how the narrative about alleged police misbehavior has taken hold in the media. “When you have Kevin Williamson, Mark Steyn, and Ross Douthat all lined up to criticize the police in Ferguson, Missouri, you know that something is happening,” wrote Jonathan Last. “Part of the reason some conservatives are turning on law enforcement is the militarization of the police.”
But perhaps they have overreacted to a liberal version of events promoted by “news” organizations that want to find the police guilty of being prepared for the worst.
In the Al Jazeera case, it appears that the “news” channel contributed to its own reporters getting gassed because of their bright camera lights on the street that caused confusion. As indicated in our previous report on this incident, the tear gas was probably thrown at the outside agitators and demonstrators, but was falsely interpreted by the propaganda channel to have been directed at them. That enabled Al Jazeera reporters to pose as the victims of law enforcement. This generated some publicity for the ratings-starved channel.
Fortunately, some writers and commentators are starting to set the record straight about the police response.
Daniel Greenfield at FrontPageMag writes that “The militarization of the police was a response to left-wing violence and terror.” In a devastating article, he notesthat:
In the case of Ferguson, he writes, “Stripping away the rioting and looting from the police in riot gear made the law enforcement response seem deranged and insane. It’s only when we see the rioting, the looting and the arson, the shots fired and Molotov cocktails thrown that the heavy gear suddenly has a context.”
In his piece, “Reject the ‘Militarized’ Police Screed,” William R. Hawkins writes, “Perhaps the irresponsible hyperbole about the ‘militarized police’ will fade now that the mob violence in Ferguson has required the calling out of an element of the real military, the Missouri National Guard.” He hopes that “the dangerous flirtation too many supposedly conservative pundits had with left-wing rhetoric will now be seen as an embarrassing episode not to be repeated.”
Alfred S. Regnery writes at Breitbart that “A Google search for militarization of police would make an innocent think that cops in battle gear and AR-15s, riding around in tanks and armored personnel carriers, are on every corner in every town and city in the United States.” He goes on to say that the misuses of military equipment by police in some cases “are far outweighed by the effective demonstration and use of ‘militarization’ by law enforcement” in many others. “To condemn the practice overall because of a handful of misuses makes no more sense than to ban the purchase and ownership of handguns, rifles, and shotguns because a few people misuse them.”
Yet, the reaction by many in the liberal and conservative media to seeing police in military gear and with military equipment was one of horror. That is why the term “militarization” took off in acceptance. It took on a new and more ominous tone in the work of a libertarian writer named Radley Balko, whose articles have been characterized by gross exaggerations and inaccuracies.
It is a legitimate area of inquiry, but the media have mostly fallen for Balko’s distortions.
Jim Simpson wrote about this topic in an AIM special report, “Police Militarization, Abuses of Power, and the Road to Impeachment.” But as veteran crime blogger Tina Trent points out, Simpson focused almost exclusively on federal agency interventions, and he did not carelessly conflate federal behavior with that of state and local police entities. “He does not exaggerate the incidence or significance of events,” Trent noted. “Nor does he deny or minimize the criminal conditions that demand police response.”
Trent commented about Simpson’s work for AIM: “He offers balanced reporting, acknowledging that while select excessive actions can be identified after the fact, they are extremely rare, and state and local agencies are responsible and responsive while performing legitimate, high-danger, high-stress jobs and have excellent records of efficiently protecting the public from real threats.”
By contrast, she says, “Knee-jerk anti-cop activists like Radley Balko and his peers behave as if police are simply sadists who attack innocent people with no provocation.”