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    Ferguson Tag

    The fatal shooting of the Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson has raised a hue and cry about a wide variety of social issues, among them the increasingly vitriolic nature of American race relations, the astonishing militarization of the police (or, perhaps more accurately, their equipment), and the curious (to me, at least) degree to which the rioting, looting, and arson that followed the shooting was rationalized as “wrong, but understandable.” [caption id="attachment_96650" align="alignnone" width="450"]Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson[/caption]

    A Too-Familiar Misinformation Cascade

    This most recent high-profile shooting has also seen the deployment of a too-familiar misinformation cascade in cases where there is a real or perceived racial element.  This misinformation cascade achieves its purpose by taking what few “facts” are typically available in the immediate aftermath of such an event, and passing them through a rhetorical filter to construct two defining narrative elements:

    The pure victim: An image of the victim as an innocent, nearly saint-like, young child of such tender years as to suggest that the very notion of him committing an act of malice is preposterous.

    The monstrous aggressor: An image of the shooter as an angry, hateful, racist monster with a hunger for shooting young black children dead in circumstances totally absent of legal justification.

    The Misinformation Cascade in the Zimmerman/Trayvon Case

    In the case of the shooting of Trayvon Martin by the "White Hispanic" George Zimmerman, these dual goals were accomplished in several ways.

    According to the preliminary report from the autopsy requested by the Michael Brown family, Brown was shot six times, four in the right arm and two in the head, the last head shot killing him. All of the shots entered from the front. These findings could end up being revised, but so far the forensic evidence contradicts the reports of several eyewitnesses who reported that at least some shots were fired from behind as Brown was fleeing. One of those witnesses, Dorian Johnson, had reason to lie, since he was Brown's friend and it was later revealed that he had been present at the time of the convenience store robbery that preceded the confrontation with Officer Wilson. Eyewitness testimony is prized by the public but is often extremely flawed. It is unnecessary to allege eyewitness bias in this case in order to doubt the reliability of the eyewitnesses: study upon study has demonstrated how poor eyewitness testimony often tends to be. Here's an interesting point about focus that's relevant to the Brown shooting:
    The weapon focus effect suggests that the presence of a weapon narrows a person's attention, thus affects eyewitness memory. A person focuses on the central detail (for example, the weapon) and loses focus on the peripheral details (for example, the perpetrator's characteristics). While the weapon is remembered clearly, the memories of the other details of the scene suffer...Another hypothesis is that seeing a weapon might cause an aroused state. In an aroused state, people focus on central details instead of peripheral ones.
    That's not the only focus problem. There's more:

    Things have moved so fast in the shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent riots, that it's hard to keep pace. Andrew likely will have a post later with some legal analysis, but for now I'm just going to post some links, and readers can update in the comments. Does this make it more likely Brown was charging at or engaging the police officer at the time of the shooting? Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Was Struck at Least 6 Times:
    Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by a police officer, sparking protests around the nation, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy performed on Sunday found. One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said. Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front.
    Chaos, violence in Ferguson; National Guard called in:

    Almost a week later, it looks we finally know what happened in Ferguson, Missouri last Saturday. At a press conference this morning, police identified the Darren Wilson as the officer who fatally shot unarmed teen, Michael Brown: What police revealed today is different from the account given by Dorin Johnson who claimed he was present at the time Brown was shot. Johnson indicated he and Brown were minding their own business when Officer Wilson rolled up and began to harass them. Officer Wilson has no disciplinary record in the six years he's been on the force. According to St. Louis police, Brown and Johnson were suspects in a convenience store robbery that happened moments before Officer Wilson encountered the two. NBC News reports:

    What a nightmare Ferguson has become. Five days after the fatal shooting of unarmed teen, Michael Brown, and there's still no consensus as to what actually happened. If you're just jumping into this story, check out previous posts here and here.

    Dorin Johnson's Attorney

    Yesterday I mentioned that the St. Louis Police who are handling the Ferguson cluster, have not yet interviewed Dorin Johnson, who claims he was with Michael Brown when Brown was gunned down by law enforcement Saturday. Johnson appeared on MSNBC in an interview with Chris Hayes, accompanied by his lawyer, Freeman Bosley, Jr. Bosley is an interesting character himself. The former St. Louis mayer seems to have a checkered past, with "ethics violations" being a reoccurring theme. Last year, Bosley sent fundraising letters soliciting donations to cover his daughter's college tuition. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, "Bosley said his daughter worked hard to finish in the top two percent of her graduating class at St. Elizabeth Academy. He said she deserves to go to a private school." When the odd fundraising request was brought to light, Bosley vowed to return any donations received. Earlier this year, the board governing Missouri lawyers moved to suspend Bosley's law license for two years. The list is a pretty great read. Misuse of client funds and malpractice make appearances more than once.

    St. Louis Police Department Hacked by Anonymous 

    Originally, the St. Louis Police Department planned to release the name of the law enforcement officer who shot and killed Brown. As violence escalated, SLPD opted not to release the identity of the officer in order to protect him. So Anonymous, the infamous hacking conglom got involved and called for a "Day of Rage," because that's helpful. According to CNN, Anonymous has the name of the officer, but CNN refused to announce the officer's name on air.

    Should The Public be Privy to the Officer's Name?

    Kevin Williamson at National Review has an interesting take on this question:

    The situation in Ferguson, Missouri has gone from bad to worse following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen Saturday afternoon. Protests and riots persist, cops dressed in full riot gear are working to curb the violence, community leaders are encouraging peaceful protests, and there's still no clear picture of what actually transpired Saturday when Michael Brown was shot and killed. There appear to be conflicting reports from law enforcement and supposed eye witnesses regarding what actually happened. Law enforcement claim Brown assaulted the cop that took his life. Dorin Johnson who claims he was with Brown at the time he was shot has a very different story. Johnson says he and Brown were minding their own business when a cop rolled up, told them to get on the sidewalk, then proceeded to assault Brown and eventually kill him. Johnson's story seems to corroborate with another supposed eye witness, Piaget Crenshaw. Even more curious is that Johnson claims he, by way of his attorney, has reached out to local law enforcement to provide his account of the story, and Ferguson police are refusing to interview him. Chris Hayes interviewed Johnson and has a great summation of the various accounts:

    All hell broke loose in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer killed an unarmed teen. Michael Brown got into an altercation with local law enforcement, and was shot and killed by one of the police officers. According to ABC News:
    The struggle began when the officer encountered two men, one of whom was Brown, in the street outside of an apartment complex, and one of the men pushed the office [sic] back toward his squad car, according to police. A shot was fired inside the squad car and then multiple shots were fired at Brown outside the car, killing him, authorities said.
    The identification of the officer responsible for the shooting will be released tomorrow at 2:00 in a press conference, ABC News reports. A vigil held Sunday night in Brown's memory turned violent as attendees began looting and destroying local businesses:
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