Unpopular facts

Posted on December 1, 2014. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

One of the unique aspects of the American Revolution is that the separation of the colonies from England was not only born of logical and practical objections to the Crown’s rule, but also eloquently expressed for the world to understand.

So many revolts are little more than exercises in discontent: a mishmash of rebels with diverse axes to grind, who are united only against a perceived common enemy—not for any real common cause.

Little wonder so many revolutions wind up creating change, but not progress.

The successful results of our own revolution then are not a product of tactics (armed rebellion) but rather of objectives, conceived by highly educated men and built on self-evident truths.

The representatives of the United States in 1776 openly declared the reasons behind their political dissolution from Great Britain, proving their arguments by letting “facts be submitted to a candid world.”

Those facts, detailing 28 separate examples of governmental oppression from the British monarchy, make up the majority of the Declaration of Independence.

The role of truths and facts cannot be overestimated in their contribution to our achievement of independence and creation of the world’s longest surviving and leading democratic republic.

That’s why it’s puzzling that in all the news coverage surrounding the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., facts get pushed to the back seat while protests ride shotgun next to some “feeling” of injustice driving the whole circus.

Facts aren’t always popular, but they’re still facts.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a cogent, well-written “Declaration of Injustice” rebutting the grand jury’s decision on the merits to emanate from the mobs of protesters taking to the streets.

Several television reporters remarked on the difficulty in getting protesters to speak on camera at all. In the rare instance someone walking with the groups has spoken up, it hasn’t been to bring forth any recitation of facts.

“Our voice will be heard,” one protester said.

It’s perhaps not surprising in this day and age of ubiquitous communication that volume seems more important than content, but that doesn’t change the reality that being heard doesn’t matter if one has nothing to say.

Self-evident truths from Ferguson are being ignored that must be addressed before any real progress is possible.

First of all, no protester Monday night could have read even a tiny percentage of the grand jury evidence released supporting its decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Protesting from a point of total ignorance is unlikely to be effective.

“Hands up, don’t shoot!” protesters chanted, even though the facts are clear that Brown did not have his hands up when shot and refused to obey the officer’s commands to get on the ground.

Rumors that Brown was shot in the back still circulate, even though three autopsies revealed that all bullet wounds were to the front of his body.

Brown is represented as an “innocent” teen even though video evidence shows him robbing a market just minutes before his encounter with Officer Wilson, and the toxicology report indicated possible impairment from recent marijuana use.

For all the hyped-up media coverage, journalism has earned a black eye this week for not seeking out the facts, much less reporting them.

At the press conference, three different journalists (so-called) asked Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch how the grand jury voted, even though a rudimentary Google search of Missouri law would have enlightened them to the fact that such votes are statutorily secret.

Hardly any reporting has correctly identified Brown as a suspect, which created an entirely different relationship between he and the police officer. Police have a duty to detain and pursue suspects that does not exist for random encounters with regular citizens.

Brown’s parents’ expressed disappointment that his killer would face “no consequences for his actions” was headlined on every TV channel. Yet the same channels and reporters have been church-mouse quiet about the bad, often tragic, consequences that arise from strong-arm stealing from a store manager and assaulting a police officer.

Brown’s close-range hand wound is consistent with the officer’s contention that there was a struggle for his service weapon. The fact is that any time a criminal manages to take a gun away from a police officer, that officer’s life is in instant danger.

Protesters claim “injustice” because the grand jury didn’t find “probable cause” to charge the police officer with a crime.

Of all the things worth protesting today, the protection of liberty that says the government must present facts and evidence before putting people on trial seems an odd target.

Hostility toward or disbelief of facts will sabotage discussions on the important issue of restoring a respectful relationship between communities of color and police.

As it stands now, the most intellectually honest people taking to Ferguson’s streets were the looters and arsonists. They behaved like the criminals of opportunity they are.

Real respect must originate with a reverence for facts.

The murder rate in St. Louis is seven times the national average, with a victim about every three days (many of them black).

How about a protest march about that?

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Great read Dana!


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