“The lesson of Darren Wilson is that there is no truth in narrative. And the lesson of Ferguson is that there is no truth in statistics. There is truth in fact. There is truth in reason. There is truth in truthfulness. Nothing less…

…if anyone was openly and shamelessly mocking the criminal-justice system, it was so much of the media itself, credulously accepting or sanctimoniously promoting the double fable of Ferguson: that a “gentle giant” had been capriciously slain by a trigger-happy cop; and that a racist justice system stood behind that cop. At least half that fable was put to rest last week by an exhaustive Justice Department report. It demolishes the lie that Brown was shot in the back, along with the lie that he was surrendering to Mr. Wilson, hands in the air, when he was shot. It confirms that Brown physically assaulted the officer, who had good grounds to fear for his life. And it confirms that eyewitnesses either lied to investigators or refused to be interviewed out of fear of local vigilantes., Bret Stephens, “Ferguson, Lies, and Statistics”, The Wall Street Journal

“This is similar to the incorrect populist narrative about the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. This blog is dedicated to revealing the truth about this major event.”, Mike Perry, former Chairman and CEO, IndyMac Bank

GLOBAL VIEW

Ferguson, Lies and Statistics

Here’s a story for the media: a community in which honest people are afraid to tell the truth.

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks about the Justice Department’s findings in the Ferguson investigations, March 4, in Washington, D.C.

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks about the Justice Department’s findings in the Ferguson investigations, March 4, in Washington, D.C. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

By BRET STEPHENS

Darren Wilson has been exonerated, again, in last August’s shooting death of Michael Brown, and that ought to be as much a vindication for the onetime Ferguson, Mo., police officer as it is a teachable moment for the rest of America.

It won’t be. The story line has failed, so the statistics have been put to work.

That the claims made against Mr. Wilson were doubtful should have been clear within days of Brown’s death, and again in November after a grand jury, having heard from some 60 witnesses, declined to indict the officer—an outcome one outraged commentator denounced as having “openly and shamelessly mocked our criminal justice system and laid bare the inequality of our criminal jurisprudence.”

Yet if anyone was openly and shamelessly mocking the criminal-justice system, it was so much of the media itself, credulously accepting or sanctimoniously promoting the double fable of Ferguson: that a “gentle giant” had been capriciously slain by a trigger-happy cop; and that a racist justice system stood behind that cop.

At least half that fable was put to rest last week by an exhaustive Justice Department report. It demolishes the lie that Brown was shot in the back, along with the lie that he was surrendering to Mr. Wilson, hands in the air, when he was shot. It confirms that Brown physically assaulted the officer, who had good grounds to fear for his life.

And it confirms that eyewitnesses either lied to investigators or refused to be interviewed out of fear of local vigilantes.

“Witness 109 claimed to have witnessed the shooting, stated that it was justified, and repeatedly refused to give formal statements to law enforcement for fear of reprisal should the Canfield Drive neighborhood find out that his account corroborated Wilson.”

Witness 113 “gave an account that generally corroborated Wilson, but only after she was confronted with statements she initially made in an effort to avoid neighborhood backlash. . . . She explained to the FBI that ‘You’ve gotta live the life to know it,’ and stated that she feared offering an account contrary to the narrative reported by the media that Brown held his hands up in surrender.”

Now there’s a story for the media: A community in which honest people can’t tell the truth for fear of running afoul local thugs enforcing “the narrative reported by the media.” Or is that more of a story about the media?

But let’s move to the other Ferguson fable, which is the Justice Department’s allegation, in an unfortunate second report, of systemic racism in the Ferguson police department.

For a flavor of this claim, it’s worth noting an incident recounted in the report, in which a Ferguson man was killed “after he had an ECW [Taser] deployed against him three times for allegedly running toward an officer swinging his fist.” The man “had been running naked through the streets and pounding on cars that morning while yelling ‘I am Jesus.’ ”

According to the Justice Department, this incident is an example of “overreliance on force when interacting with more vulnerable populations.”

This isn’t to say that the report doesn’t uncover more serious problems, including a number of racist emails in the department, policing that seems needlessly obnoxious or aggressive, and a municipal government desperate to prosecute every minor violation of the law in order to maximize city revenues—in effect, using cops as taxmen.

But this only demonstrates the journalistic truism that you can always find the “story” you’re looking for. Using ticket revenue and other fines to raise revenues is one of the oldest municipal tricks in the book, so much so that the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis even published a paper about it in 2006. “As local tax bases have been exhausted and public opposition to increases in local tax rates have increased over time, local governments face increased pressure to find alternative sources of revenue,” noted economists Thomas Garrett and Gary Wagner.

That turns out to be as true in Milwaukee, Nashville and Washington, D.C., as it is in Ferguson. So are we talking about institutional racism or just the usual government bloodsucking?

Then there’s the report’s abuse of statistics, notably of the fact that African-Americans are 67% of Ferguson’s population but are disproportionately arrested for crime.

Is this racism? The Missouri Statistical Analysis Center notes that in 2012 African-Americans, about 12% of the state’s population, constituted 65% of murder arrests and 62% of murder victims. To suggest that the glaring statistical disproportion between relative population size and murder rate is somehow a function of race would be erroneous and offensive. Yet tarring a police force as racist for far smaller statistical discrepancies is now one of the privileged “truths” of 21st century America.

The lesson of Darren Wilson is that there is no truth in narrative. And the lesson of Ferguson is that there is no truth in statistics. There is truth in fact. There is truth in reason. There is truth in truthfulness. Nothing less.

Posted on March 10, 2015, in Postings. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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