The Corner

Law & the Courts

Sad, Misleading, and Meaningless Revisionism in Ferguson

Over the weekend, the left-wing Twitterverse was set abuzz by the revelation that a documentary filmmaker had uncovered evidence that altered the narrative of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The news was this – according to the filmmaker, Brown did not in fact commit a strong-arm robbery in a convenience store before he was killed. Instead, he was merely completing a drug deal. Here’s the New York Times describing newly-uncovered convenience store footage:

The footage shows Mr. Brown entering the store, Ferguson Market and Liquor, shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over an item that appears to be a small bag and takes a shopping sack filled with cigarillos. Mr. Brown is shown walking toward the door with the sack, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting.

Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new tape, says the footage challenges the police narrative that Mr. Brown committed a strong-armed robbery when he returned to the store around noon that day. Instead, Mr. Pollock believes that the new video shows Mr. Brown giving a small bag of marijuana to store employees and receiving cigarillos in return as part of a negotiated deal. Mr. Pollock said Mr. Brown left the cigarillos behind the counter for safekeeping.

In other words, Brown didn’t rob the store, he was merely collecting an items he’d left essentially on layaway – paid for with weed.

If you’re wondering what on earth this has to do with the vital question of why Brown went on to attack a police officer, you’re not alone. This new footage sheds no light on the actual fatal encounter that launched the “hands up, don’t shoot” lie of the year that has done so much damage to our social fabric.

But wait, it turns out that this meaningless video could be yet another hoax. Here’s the New York Times again, with a follow-up report on yet more found footage:

The latest video showed the clerks taking the cigarillos out of a shopping bag and returning them to the shelf after Mr. Brown left the store, which Mr. Kanzler said indicated that there was no layaway arrangement.

“What I think the video really shows is that interaction between Michael Brown and especially the clerk working the register was heated,” said Mr. Kanzler, who believes that the extended video shows Mr. Brown leaving the store with the marijuana.

In other words, there was more video footage that revised the revisionism.

It’s remarkable the extent to which activists cling to a particular Ferguson storyline – of Michael Brown, the “gentle giant,” gunned down in the prime of his life by a rogue, racist cop. Never mind all the contrary evidence, the original story just has to be true.

But it’s not. The Ferguson story is one of tragedy compounded. It’s a sad and puzzling that Brown chose to fight a cop and reach for his gun rather than comply with simple and reasonable commands. It’s sad and destructive that activists chose to turn him into a martyr for a misguided crusade. This new video does nothing but intentionally and deceptively aggravate an open national wound. That’s not “woke.” It’s just reckless.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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