Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A quick take on Ferguson, MO

I've paid little attention to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, where protests are ongoing over the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teen. However, having seen some of the coverage today, I am longing to ask the town's authorities a question.

Do you guys have any idea what's happening to you?

I don't mean, "Do you know why people are protesting?" You're clearly aware of that. No, the question is, "Do you know how you're coming across to the rest of the country?"

It's dicey to reach conclusions based on national media coverage of local stories. Reporters parachuted in from heaven knows where, who have little or no knowledge of local conditions, often do embarrassingly bad jobs of delivering accurate information. But when the events involve the reporters, as they do in the case of a Huffington Post reporter arrested by police, I feel confident the reporter got it right.

Here's what this non-local, more or less disinterested passing stranger thinks of the situation.

You, the authorities (police and civil) in Ferguson, look like you're straight out of Andy Griffith's Mayberry, only without the laugh track, gentleness or common sense.

Most police forces aren't ready to handle a story that catches the national eye, it's true. But even the most insular one should know that moving in on, and roughing up, the national media is a dumb idea, a spectacularly dumb idea.

And any elected official has to know how dumb it is to antagonize the media.

So why are you, the authorities in Ferguson, MO, acting like you live in the nineteenth century, when nobody more than ten miles outside town would ever hear about the heavyhanded "justice" the sheriff was administering? Why don't you understand that everything you do is being scrutinized under a microscope, and what the rest of the country sees is not pretty?

And now you're using tear gas. Ho boy.

Here's the message you're sending: "We don't give a shit about answering your questions about the death of an unarmed teenager."

You're in over your heads — way over. You've lost the public relations war and you're at risk of losing all control over your town.

Do something different. Your current strategy isn't working.

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