How the Mainstream Media Helped Kill Michael Brown

Community members gather outside the Ferguson Police Department to protest the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri, August 11, 2014. The FBI said on Monday that it had opened an inquiry into the weekend shooting of Brown. (Photo: Whitney Curtis / The New York Times)

The day after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot to death by an unnamed cop in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, local outlet Riverfront Times ran a blog postwith details of Brown’s character and life.

He was a big, shy kid. He was a homebody who spent much of his adolescence playing PlayStation 3 at his mom’s house. He was planning to study music and engineering at Vatterott College, where classes began two days after his murder. He recorded rap songs in his grandmother’s basement and, like so many other young black men with a dearth of role models in popular culture on whom to model their lives, he wanted to be a rapper.

This profile doesn’t describe a kid who would snatch a gun from a cop’s hand while walking home to his grandmother’s. Yet that is precisely the absurd claim that Ferguson police are putting forth. Given a long history in American policing of covering up police misconduct – and the readiness of a public to believe the worst about black men – it’s not surprising they’re making the claim. More problematic is when media outlets parrot Ferguson PD’s absurd version of events.

The New York Times printed the officer’s account in a report the day after Brown’s murder:

At a news conference on Sunday morning, the St. Louis County police chief, Jon Belmar, said that a man had been shot and killed after he had assaulted a police officer and the two had struggled over the officer’s gun inside his patrol car. At least one shot was fired from inside the car, Chief Belmar said.

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