After forty-eight-hours, this is what I’ve learned about humans from the immense number of postings in social media:
They have the ability to lose their fucking marbles even if they have no evidence as to why.
The damage done has nothing to do with all the facts of the case. The loss of property and harm to people was the direct result of actions on less than all the evidence. The rampaging outcome of white cop kills black youth in Ferguson, Missouri that’s been, pun intended, all the rage, is what you get when you don’t fact check, when you think you know what happened and don’t. It’s the very reason why I am so adamant in defending the notion that all the evidence matters – in every area of life and inquiry.
Christopher Hitchens said, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” And that’s where it should be left, to piddle away on the floor of lost causes. Or, at best, continue to do some research and see if you can support your claim. Instead, in Ferguson, we’re being treated to another episode of As the World Burns.
Here are some things I’ve seen in the past couple of days on social media:
“Cops lie just as much as ‘witnesses’. Why did they dismiss witnesses that conflicted with Officer Darren Wilson’s side of the story?”
“Imagine being in a town of people without power.”
“Imagine a Grand Jury not made of your peers determining if it should even go to trial.”
“The police officer’s job is harder now because of Darren Wilson’s actions.”
“The cops are the ones with the guns.”
“You can’t understand because of your White Privilege.”
“If it were my child, I’d wanna burn the world down too.”
And on and on. These examples are enough to make my case without addressing every bit of nonsense running a muck. These seven examples are examples of not knowing all the evidence yet taking a side, drawing a conclusion. And the conclusions are causing unnecessary losses.
First, do some research on how badly our five senses are in relaying accurate information. People see (and don’t see) things all the time. Take a look at the Monkey Business Illusion.
Take a look at every magic trick. Magicians have spent a lot of time taking advantage of our poor attention and sight abilities. On the subject of attention, note that in stressful situations, even as a spectator, the senses are jarred even more than in a normal, restive state. Those who claimed Michael Brown had his hands up and was surrendering may be mistaken. Yet when you’re not a spectator but the target of the threat, your focus is entirely on that threat. You tune out almost everything except for that rushing train (metaphor). When Darren Wilson claimed Mr. Brown had a hand in his pocket and the other made into a fist, and to have never raised them indicating a wish to give up, it’s more believable. It’s more believable because of the tunnel vision one goes into when your direct focus is on the threat. Note I said more believable. I admit, I don’t know what actually happened. You don’t either.
Incidentally, have you noticed how many innocent people are getting released from years of prison because of DNA testing and it was eye-witnesses testimony that put them there? Yay science!
Secondly, asking your audience to imagine being in a position of no power is rather silly. The people in Ferguson are not in a concentration camp or prison. No one is stopping any of them from taking advantage of free education into the twelfth grade and applying for student loans to get into college or a trade school. No one is stopping any residents from doing none of the above, but trying a new business model and being creative. No one is stopping teenagers from actively entering the work force at minimum wage and working their way up to a better position. Last I checked, Ferguson is not run by a Feudal Government.
You’re assuming everyone in the town has no power. How do you know? And aren’t you stereotyping everyone in the town, patronizing them? Shameful. You’re assisting in the reinforcing of the victim mentality. I admit, I don’t know the exact demographics or specifics of all the people there. You don’t either. You could easily find a bit out. In fact, here’s the Wikipedia article. Take a look at the list of the educational institutions that are available, see the notable people?
Thirdly, asking your audience to imagine a Grand Jury not of your peers. Again, how do you know who was on the Grand Jury? You’re making things up. I haven’t seen their names, ages, origins or anything at all published on them. Stop muddying the waters by insinuating. Read the Sixth Amendment. It says you have the right to an “Impartial Jury”. This means someone who is not involved in the alleged charge, someone who doesn’t know the defendant and victim, someone who has no investment at all. So even if the Grand Jury came from outside of the jurisdiction, who gives a shit? Did they meet the definition? I don’t know. You don’t know. I’m the only one willing to admit I don’t know.
Fourth, insinuating it’s only the police who have the guns is just stupid. You have no idea how many Ferguson citizens are armed, legally or not. And since you’re making the generalization that it’s only the police everywhere who have guns, you don’t understand the millions of private gun owners in America. I invite you to come to the Detroit area where I live and work if you want to dispel that. We have a huge gun in front of a high school! See!
Fifth, the job of the police didn’t change much after the Rodney King riots. Hasn’t changed much after anything. Sure, there has been a tendency to somewhat militarize the police. But this doesn’t mean they’re hanging outside of society and at the ready (and willing) to play with their new toys. Their training and action is based on best practices. Do you think police officers get into the job because they want to shoot people? Do you really believe that? Do you think they go around hoping some punk lets them sling some bullets in their direction? Ask any one of them and they’ll tell you they hope to never have to draw their firearm over the course of their career. (And I’m not going to entertain the notion that yes, there are some cowboys. However, their career doesn’t last long, they get weeded out or they shape up. Fellow officers, peer pressure at least, is there because at the end of their shift, an officer simply wishes to get back to her family and if another officer is putting her in danger of doing that, they’ll act).
Sixth, you told me I have White Privilege. Just as stupid as assuming everyone in Ferguson is incapable of being self-sufficient. But more importantly, the same people using such remarks are the same ones telling me I need to take the time to do some reading, listening and be more understanding. Well which is it? If I can’t understand because of a birth right privilege, why should I try? You’re asking me not to when you use language like that.
Seventh, and the greatest deadly sin, you admit that you’d too burn property to the ground. You admit, if someone killed your kid, you’d riot and burn and shoot too. Amazing. Absolutely amazing that you foresee having the capability of being so angry you’ll destroy the property and possible lives of impartial parties. I’d respect you greater if, at the very most, you admitted you’d go all vigilante and assault the person who killed your kid. That, at least, I can understand. And only if it was clear murder and not out of self-defense. In this Ferguson case, since we don’t know all the evidence, any attacks on Officer Darren Wilson would be unjustified.
Which leads me to the reason I write this…
I don’t pound out these words in an attempt to demonstrate Officer Wilson’s story is perfect and accurate. I don’t offer my thoughts and rebuttals in an attempt to justify the failed indictment. I say these things because there are things to consider, like all the evidence, before you make a decision, any decision about anything at all in life.
What I have yet to see (other than the few times I bothered to get into the mix of it and say it) was someone saying, “Well, we weren’t there. We didn’t get to see all the evidence. We didn’t see the medical reports, or witness reports, or photos of the crime scene, or everything in the case.” In other words, everyone had made up their minds before their failed wish for an indictment. At best, all of us were able to see and read news reports or Tweets or social media comments. And most of us made up our mind (indictment or not) based on slim evidence.
You were not there, you were not a witness, you are not an invested member that was on the scene. You did not see any detailed medical reports, all the pictures, the entire crime scene, the entire body of evidence. The Grand Jury did. If scientists worked like this, we wouldn’t know anything at all about the world and make zero progress. We’d be guessing our way through medical treatments, possibly still bloodletting. The lack of all the information is why some people fear vaccinations. And now we have measles outbreaks.
We’d be building cars that might not be safe in an accident. We’d be teaching children subject matter that might be right. We’d never know anything. You know what we’d be living like? We’d be living like two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s best for dinner. Someone is going to die.
So next time, and with every issue that comes before you, do some homework. Do all the homework, the best you can. Evaluate every claim before judgement. And in every case, if all you can get are scarce pieces, admit that you don’t know. Admit you can’t draw a conclusion. Continue to investigate but admit what you don’t know. Science works like this and it’s why we’re living in the best of times – really.
Admit you don’t know when you don’t, and leave your anger at the door. Because all I’ve seen the past few days are folks, many who should know better, abandoning the power of three billion years of evolution. Use some brains.