On Sunday in Ferguson several hundred gathered peacefully around a pile of flowers and stuffed animals and heard Michael Brown’s father, and some religious leaders and some artists and poets make memorial speeches about what happened in the St. Louis suburb a year ago.
Late in the day there was some violence perpetrated by a small group not connected in any way to those protests but if you watched Fox News on Monday night you would be led to believe something quite different.
First, lets recap what we know and what Fox, of course, did not emphasize: The peaceful protesters gathered early Sunday not far from where Brown’s body lay on a paved street for four and a half hours and they gathered where, after that, protests took place for days. It was the same place where a year earlier police swept in atop armored cars and others walked through with leashed dogs as they lobbed canisters of tear gas. The peaceful protesters gathered Sunday not far from where a grand jury found police officer Darren Wilson justified in the shooting of Brown.
Black Lives Matter grew up in response to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and spread across the nation. The movement grew even as the killings continued in places like Cleveland, Charleston, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Arlington and Waller County.
After dark on Sunday night violence involving the exchange of gunfire between police and an 18-year-old, Tyrone Harris, broke out. Harris was critically wounded, according to the official police reports, after he fired shots at a police SUV. Family and some friends are reported to have said he fired to protect himself from the police. At this writing Harris is in critical condition.
Some people in Ferguson are telling the press that things have changed there since last year, noting that police stops are not as frequent or arbitrary as they were before. Others say they are still disrespected by the police.
The old city manager, police chief and judge have resigned. There are two newly elected black council members in Ferguson who have told news reporters that police fines are down as much as 60 percent in the town this year.
Gov. Jay Nixon has signed a new bill that says revenue from traffic fines for St. Louis municipalities can’t exceed 12.5 percent. The new law limits the fines and costs of traffic tickets to $300 and ends the practice of jailing people unable to pay.
Many reform efforts have failed, however, according to the Associated Press. The failures include bills to make Missouri laws regarding use of force comply with a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court order, a bill to require body cameras on police and another to require appointment of special prosecutors.
The governor has convened a 16-member commission scheduled to release a report next month that will make recommendations to tackle structural inequality.
None of this erases the horror or injustice of what happened in Ferguson last year or in any of the other cities since then. But it does show that people have tried hard to cope with things through peaceful protest and that at least some progress has been made.
Not according to Fox News , however, which would have the nation believe nothing can change.
Not only did Fox News coverage of this week’s events fail to place anything in context but the coverage, instead, amounted to full-fledged attempt to stoke the flames of racism and violence. “A year later, despite the election of African Americans to office in Ferguson, everything is the same,” said Megyn Kelly, the Fox commentator last night. She said it four times, each time ten minutes after the previous time.
The only documented gunfire exchange was between one man and the police. Fox showed the pictures of one man running around, ducking behind the same car, over and over again. In a two-hour period they ran the same clip at least 16 times, along with the sound of the same few gunshots, over and over. The impression was a night, not minutes, of pandemonium and a night, not less than the actual minute, of gunshots that actually were fired.
Megyn Kelly, host of the Fox Kelly File, also showed a picture of a roasted pig donning a policeman’s cap. She said someone made the display to comment on the officer who shot Michael Brown last year. She never identified the source of the picture, who had taken it or who even to whom the roasted pig display belonged. It was, in short, sensationalized garbage, not journalism, that she was churning out.
Were it not for Fox millions would never have seen that picture. Yet over and over again (12 times in an hour) she showed the picture, ranting about how “disgusting” it was that someone would make such a commentary about an officer who was exonerated by “Obama’s own Justice Department.” Again, she never mentioned who had designed the display or even where it was displayed.
Many were heartsick watching the pictures of violence in Ferguson. The naked attempts by Fox, though, to exploit those events and to stir up anger and racism based on sensationalism and half-truths at best were the height of irresponsibility. The sensational and racist garbage put forward by this network , we hope and pray, will not result in further violence or injury to human life. If it does, Fox will have some of the blood on its hands.
The right-wing network’s hate mongering was too much last night even for Carly Fiorina, the ultra-conservative CEO running for the GOP’s presidential nomination. She said that there were indeed injustices that have to be corrected including the y unwarranted murder of a young African American in South Carolina. She pointed out how the black community in Charleston reacted to the vicious church murders there by reaching out for unity and peace.
The events this week in Ferguson and the way in which Fox has covered them involve much more than just a right-wing news outlet offering a particular slant on the news.
The network insults people of good will everywhere and is , itself, a major threat to progress and peace in America.
Photo: Family, friends and supporters pause for a moment of silence at a memorial to Michael Brown, Aug. 9, in Ferguson, Mo. Sunday marked one year since Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)