Watch Joe Scarborough Get Ferguson Disastrously Wrong, From Start To Finish

If there's one things that's become pretty obvious, it's that everyone's got an opinion on Ferguson. After a St. Louis grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown earlier this month, various personalities in both written and on-screen media have given their takes on the high-profile controversy, some with more success and eloquence than others. For example, take MSNBC host Joe Scarborough's awful Ferguson rant Sunday, which has provoked some pretty outraged reactions.

Of course, that's what Scarborough was gunning for. To dish out this kind of diatribe abut such a sensitive issue — particularly, it must be said, as a middle-aged white man of unique financial and social privilege — is to invite exactly the kind of fervent criticism that's now coming his way. In short, Scarborough seemed incensed by Sunday's "hands up, don't shoot" gesture by five players for the NFL's St. Louis Rams. He's not alone in this anger, joining St. Louis Police Officers Association chief and former Darren Wilson fundraiser Jeff Roorda, who condemned the show of solidarity in strident and tone-deaf terms. But Roorda's barbs came in the form of a prickly press release, while the eponymous Morning Joe host blasted his displeasure out on the airwaves for all to hear.

Scaroborugh described the Rams protest over the weekend as a tipping point for him (you can view the video here), and set about lambasting various outlets for reporting what he considers irresponsible narratives about Ferguson. He started off by invoking the shooting death of Cleveland 12-year-old Tamir Rice, basically stripping away all context from the incident in service of his own troubling narratives.

I just got to a tipping point this weekend. There's another story in Cleveland about a boy who was tragically shot dead. Police officers got a call that he was waving a gun, scaring the blank out of everybody in this public park. Police officers came up, stopped, shot the young boy, he was 12 years old, but they'd taken off the markings to make it look like a toy gun, it was an actual gun — do you know what The New York Times put in the caption of the video? "Police officers shoot child with toy." I don't know who puts those, who attaches those, but we are doing such a grave disservice to police officers in this country by pushing a narrative that they're just going around looking to shoot black people.

Of course, if all you knew about Rice's death was Scarborough telling of it — on top of everything else, he mistakenly verbalizes that the boy had a real gun, which is false — you might come to the same conclusion he did. A few points in response.

  • The police officers did indeed "come up" — in fact, their car tore right up to within feet of Rice, before they got out and shot him literally in a matter of seconds. Even the Cleveland Plain-Dealer editorial board has questioned this, wondering why they didn't park further away and take cover, decreasing the odds of such a tragic encounter.
  • Airsoft guns are fake yet realistic-looking guns, designed purely for non-lethal recreation. If you want to quibble over the use of the word "toy" in a headline, fair enough, but the real distortion in all this is Scarborough's implication that the police of the CPD have been done the grave disservice. Their actions are under heavy, justifiable scrutiny — why was Rice not given first aid for four whole minutes after being shot, on top of everything else? — and the two officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave.
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Of course, Scarborough wasn't done there. His main point is that the grand jury's non-indictment of Wilson renders all the conflicting accounts of the Brown shooting — conflicting accounts which are common in actual jury trials, and in a staggering majority of cases would've yielded and indictment — means that what WIlson said in his testimony was objectively, undeniably true.

He's mainly talking about the question of whether or not Brown had his hands up when he was shot — a claim which was subject to conflicting eyewitness testimony and an autopsy report — but his credulity actually goes far beyond that. It's clear from his words that he takes Wilson's account of the incident, inconsistencies and all, as the truth of what transpired that afternoon. So much so that he's comfortable condemning Brown as a "thug," and suggesting his life isn't worthy of all this brouhaha.

There are so many great people to embrace as heroes in the black community that deciding you're going to embrace a guy who knocked over a convenience store, and then according to grand jury testimony, acted in ways that would get my children shot … that's your hero? That's the reason you want to burn down black businesses?
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This is a dilemma which advocates for black victims of police violence know all too well — the perfect victim syndrome, you might call it. Because Michael Brown may not have been the perfect icon for a protest movement, and may have done things in his teenage years (like countless teens of all colors) that shouldn't have, his death shouldn't be inciting this much outrage of attention. The problem is that few people look perfect when you've got a counter-movement dedicated to combing over their lives and denigrating them — as whitewashed as his legacy is often taught nowadays, don't forget how reviled even Martin Luther King, Jr. was in his day.

In a way, that's why Brown is actually the ideal candidate to be the focus of a movement like this — because the message central to the Ferguson protests, that #BlackLivesMatter, is true regardless of what petty crimes or past transgressions a person may have committed. It's a statement that all human life, but particularly the lives of the historically most oppressed among us, are valuable and sacred regardless of whether they meet some idyllic image of achievement, or fit into a framework of respectability politics.

Scarborough concluded with this gem, claiming that if anyone has a problem, it's them, not him.

If I've offended anybody offended anybody by saying what I've said, trust me, 95% of America thinks just like me. Just because there are cowards that won't say that on TV — that's your problem, it's not mine.

If it were actually true that 95 percent of America agreed with Scarborough, when even a layman with a basic inkling about statistical improbability would conclude otherwise, that would certainly be a problem. But considering how damn wrong Scarborough decided to be about everything else he said on Sunday, I'm personally not inclined to sweat it.

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