Ferguson: Maybe the other guy had a point

Courageous “I was wrong” column by Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post on having prejudged the Brown-Wilson confrontation in Ferguson, Mo.:

But this month, the Justice Department released two must-read investigations connected to the killing of Brown that filled in blanks, corrected the record and brought sunlight to dark places by revealing ugly practices that institutionalized racism and hardship. They have also forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown. …

…it is imperative that we continue marching for and giving voice to those killed in racially charged incidents at the hands of police and others. But we must never allow ourselves to march under the banner of a false narrative on behalf of someone who would otherwise offend our sense of right and wrong. And when we discover that we have, we must acknowledge it, admit our error and keep on marching. That’s what I’ve done here.

Meanwhile, in recent days, writers at National Review and Red State have taken a look at DoJ’s Ferguson report (our earlier post on it) and say conservatives should be in the forefront of criticizing and calling for reform of the police and municipal-court abuses it exposes. [summarized by Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic; see also Charles Cooke, National Review, on race and conservatives]

Left and right admitting that the other side had a point on some aspects of Ferguson? It seems as unlikely yet welcome as the sun coming out to shine after this past Northeastern winter.


  • I guess now that people are just straight-up shooting police officers, certain pundits who took a Strong Principled Stance on the matter now have an excuse to moderate their positions a bit.

  • People believed the worst because the police acted like there was something to cover up. Withholding information, arresting reporters, and getting the FAA to ban news helicopters means that people aren’t going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

    The also believed the worst because of the previous bad behavior of the department. Charging a man with bleeding on an officer’s uniform after beating him bloody, after arresting the wrong guy in the first place? If your department is capable of that, it stands to reason that people would believe it’s capable of this.

  • He’s not really taking it back. Because he tries to make the point that it was never really about “hands up” anyway and the truth doesn’t matter.

    Still, I’m glad he feels a little bit bad that his words got 2 policemen assassinated and several others shot.

  • “his words got 2 policemen assassinated and several others shot.”

    No, that’s not true. If such attribution of supposedly murderous effects to routine controversial speech become commonplace, we all stand to lose.

    • Au contraire, Mr. Olson. It is almost undeniable that speech can and does set things in motion, some of which are very lamentable. Those two NYC cops would probably be alive had different people (in a position of influence) had said different things. But there’s a difference between moral responsibility, and Capehart has a good deal of moral responsibility for peddling what he should have known was a false narrative, and basing policy on reaction to routine controversial speech. I understand your point about our very freedoms being challenged by those who wish to censor based on the attribution of bad outcomes to protected speech, but that’s not license to deny the obvious. The narrative, largely due to people who knew better, created a bit of an anti-police frenzy. Capehart obviously doesn’t believe the “put wings on pigs” nastiness, but he participated in a false narrative that foreseeably metastasized.

      I hate the impulse to censor, but that doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge the societal price for our freedoms.

      • Did Mr. Capehart also make the New York shooter attempt to murder his black girlfriend?

    • I wouldn’t propose to legislate against inflammatory speech. But he is culpable.

      (Also, he and others have called Darren Wilson a liar, and accused him of lying under oath. Everyone who maintains Officer Wilson shot Mr. Brown only because he was Black, shot him in the back, and while he had his hands up saying “Don’t Shoot” may have made speech that one can legally be held accountable for using very established laws against slander.)

  • So much of the Ferguson uproar was due to ratings seeking hype from the media. Cop gets out of car and executes a black kid who was walking in the street made sense to too many people. Yes, there are tragedies related to policing, the death of a young man being one. But being widely reported does not mean the incidence is particularly worrisome. For example, some of our brightest children still overdose on Heroin in Westchester county, which tragedies outnumber the country wide homicides by police…

    There is a basic problemi in having stories consistent in construction is taken as true just because they sound right. No, no, no, evidence and context are relavent, which attributes are short shifted by our professional reporters. The same problem in a different contex is having our President tell us how rich fossil fuel interests buy the souls of skeptics, and those skeptics have to be fought. When one accusation was looked into it turned out that oil company support went to a skeptic as a match to a charitable contributions from some employees of the oil company. Had the employees donated to United Way, the oil company would have sent money there.

    The report on the Ferguson Police Department is bullying crap laded out to placate mob impulses. It and our DOJ are disgusting.

  • Frankly, I don’t see how anyone could ever have accepted in good faith the Left’s narrative that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. The autopsy disproved that, and we all knew about it early on. It’s clear that Brown, like Trayvon Martin, attacked his opponent first and forced them to kill him.

    (None of which should be taken as a broader statement about other killings by police. In my opinion Eric Garner was murdered and all four of his killers need to face a jury.)

    The biggest wrong committed by police in Ferguson was not too much force but too little. Any time a mob is looting stores or burning cars, the police ought to be shooting to kill every single person doing those things. Or at least looking the other way when victims do so.

    • When I saw the video on TV of the Garner incident, I saw the police neutralizing a potential menace quickly. Nothing indicated that Mr. Garner was being chocked ala Desdemona by Othello. When an ambulance arrived, the medical team did nothing to restore Mr. Garner’s breathing as that was not a problem then.. The medical examiner, and that office is corrupt in New York City, made a finding that makes no sense at all. Recall that there were so many police at Mr. Garner’s corner because he was involved in a nearby altercation. Could the ruckus there have set entrain an eventual heart attack? I would like to know, but our esteemed media is interest in boosting ratings through incitement of racial mayhem. Calling the police killers is beyond the pale.

  • The entire Liberal narrative was feckless, sensational, and narrowly focused. There are numerous problems and contradictions, with not just that department, but with our entire system. The focus on officer wilson was clearly on purpose, to protect the system as it exists today.

    Meaning Wilson should have never been the addressable concern, there is three serious issues that lead to ferguson, the media just took it where they benefited most.

    1. The drug war inherently destroys community police relations, you cannot build good relations based on punishing people for voluntary choices that don’t infringe the liberties of other people. With the amount of problems we have, this is not only a hundred billion dollars of waste, it actively eliminates any ethical or moral justification for law itself. Believe me this contradiction isn’t lost on anyone who recognizes it, and it is even deeply understood at a subconscious level.. .we know what justice looks like, and we know what an unnecessary nanny police state looks like… those communities live in that hell everyday, this is just a fact. SO when you say, screw it we must continue prohibition, your also saying to those communities… “we dont care if this means we get less help on violent crimes, we don’t care about your priorities, because we simply don’t care about you” In the 80’s they had a lot of faux-community outreach style efforts, none successful, and for good reason…. drug prohibition, or any prohibition for that matter, is inherently incompatible with justice and liberty itself.

    2. Many years of this status removed all reasonable ability to withhold judgement, meaning that since nobody cared for all those years… it became more difficult to not assume the same old reality. This is the fruits of that bad policy, this is what a destroyed relation feel like, and is the inherent result of bad policy.

    3. The focus should not be on the department, or wilson, but on the corporatist military/prison industrial complex (sometimes referred to as Crony capitalism). The way money and influence works means nobody can ever actually fix this problem, the system is too corrupt to actually make things better on it’s own. Changing that policy would cost billions to the private contractor industry, and they lobby as hard as wall street.

    AS for where race fits in, simply put structural objective inequality leads to racist narratives. this is a historical fact. Even the thought police admit that slavery created racism, racism didn’t create slavery. What that means is the only way to fix it is by changing the systems, not the “racist” people, but they themselves are unwilling to do it…. because *surprise* they are NOT actually Marxists, you just read what an actual Marxist believes…. and I hate Liberals.