I (Don’t) Wanna be Like Mike: Ferguson and the Media

Before a mother had time to grieve, before a friend had time to breathe, and before the blood had time to leak into the streets, the death of one young man morphed into a cold, politicized battlefield. In the undignified four hours it took for Brown’s slain body to be remove from sight, in the same time, if not less, the media with every bit of urgency decided what this 18 year old’s legacy would be. Quick to create platforms of race, justice, representation, and image, news outlets painted Brown as a political martyr without taking into account a sense of who he might actually be.

Mourners at the site of the shooting.

Mourners at the site of the shooting.

 

Not long after the fatal shots were fired, the story of Brown turned into a much different tale of racial prejudice. Sources like the Huffington Post and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People immediately began highlighting the racial aspects of the story, and another main focus of the media’s coverage were the communal rallies, calling for a greater response from the liberal community to rise up and see justice through to end the perceived perpetual discrimination.

 

Michael Brown and his own untold story fell out of ideologies of mere humanity and into the fogged lens of politics. No longer was he an 18 year old, but rather, he was an African American, the only label given for the cause. The media disintegrated into a war of weak arguments and loud voices, each trying to force their own angle on the events into the spotlight.

 

Bill O’Reilly, reigning from the Fox News Channel, appeared appalled and distraught over the death, noting, “What happened to Michael Brown should never happen to any American.” O’Reilly went on to remark that 18 year olds make mistakes but that should not lead to their deaths; soon, all talk of the situation seamlessly segued into politics and technicalities. Though O’Reilly framed his opening statements with an apologetic tone, he abruptly shifted focus to Brown’s alleged robbing of the convenience store and his alleged scuffles with the officers before he was shot.

 

Fox News twisted and fabricated the image of Brown to be nothing more than a provocative criminal. In an effort to justify his selective news coverage, O’Reilly reflected, “You don’t suppress an important piece of information in a case like this when only one side of the story is being reported by the media which is generally terrified of any racial situation.”

Bill O’Reilly on Fox News

Bill O’Reilly on Fox News

 

Following O’Reilly’s one-sided analysis of Brown’s death, Fox News continued to deliver a plethora of articles and commentaries on Brown, now under titles like “Ferguson Shooting.” No longer did the events entail a victim and a perpetrator, but rather, an entire community. Anger has since been adopted and transcended to the people, forgetting that it was about the single person who lost their life, and in place, embracing the assumed sense of responsibility and justice that drives people into the streets.

 

Eager to take their own stand, many heralded the officer who shot Brown as a hero. As a backlash to what they saw as falsely assumed prejudice, supporters of officer Darren Wilson testify that he was acting in defense and doing what he was called for as a protector of the community. Conservative news sources lace their words carefully but all the while still bluntly state that the death of Brown was more or less justified by his aggressive actions, which may or may not have taken place.

 

Scrambling to support a widely criticized claim, conservatives demanded their audience’s attention to what could have been unrelated events leading up to the shooting. The same sources declare that they are not making it into a race issue yet still describe and categorize the actors and actions of the events by color of skin.

 

A reporter from the conservative newspaper Townhall retorted, “a human life is a human life, and the number of black Americans killed unjustly by the police pales in comparison with the number of blacks killed by other blacks.” It becomes difficult to see the falsely claimed unbiased perspective when skewed statements like these are used to support such arguments.

 

Jon Stewart went on to do a spoof of O’Reilly’s reaction on his satirical news show, The Daily Show. Pointing out the blatant flaws of the conservatives’ commentary that typically incorporated the notion that race was not a factor in what had occurred, Stewart argued, “This isn’t all about just one man killed in one town. It is about how people of color, no matter their socioeconomic standing, face obstacles in this country with surprising grace.”

 

Though Stewart’s points did maintain validity, an over-arching trend overshadowed such banter between the various networks. All media sources eased into a state in which emotions of sorrow and sympathy were used to selfish ends with an aim towards glorifying the reporter.

 

Every last one of these media sources can and did speak, cry, and yell on what Michael Brown’s death symbolized for their cause, but the question remains as to whether or not any of these institutions actually know what kind of legacy Brown himself hoped to create. Brown was a person before he was puppet, but everyone seems to pay no heed to this simple fact.

 

Death is neither a liberal nor conservative issue. It is not a means to trumpet your own frustrations. It will never be a reason to facilitate mass protest only to casually forget the matter in a few weeks. But death is a characteristic of humanity; an event that should warrant commiserating in sympathy rather than violence.

by HOLLY CRAMER / contributing writer

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