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Competing media narratives of Darren Wilson and Michael Brown

Competing media narratives of Darren Wilson and Michael Brown

The press is treating Darren Wilson and Michael Brown very differently

On Saturday the WaPo featured a wordy piece devoted to Darren Wilson’s dysfunctional family of origin, and the racial and other problems in the police force he used to work for, difficulties that seem to have had nothing whatsoever to do with him. As William A. Jacobson has written, it’s an attempt at guilt by association.

That effort seems even more biased when it is contrasted with a lengthy AP article published the very next day in the Sunday WaPo that tells us what a great guy Michael Brown was.

From Saturday’s article about Wilson, Darren Wilson’s first job was on a troubled police force disbanded by authorities:

…[E]veryone leaves a record, and Darren Dean Wilson is no exception.

People who know him describe him as someone who grew up in a home marked by multiple divorces and tangles with the law…

Wilson has had some recent personal turmoil: Last year, he petitioned the court seeking a divorce from his wife…

His parents divorced in 1989, when he was 2 or 3 years old…

In 2001, when Wilson was a freshman in high school, his mother pleaded guilty to forgery and stealing. She was sentenced to five years in prison, although records suggest the court agreed to let her serve her sentence on probation.

She died of natural causes in November 2002, when Wilson was 16…

As Professor Jacobson has described, the article also details the racial tension in the Jennings police department where Wilson previously worked, although they could find nothing to implicate him.

But when the writers deal with the Ferguson incident itself, they somehow fail to mention Brown’s robbery of the convenience store, his getting physical with the clerk there, or the fact that star witness Dorian Johnson was present at the robbery, has a previous record (including a history of lying to the police about an earlier alleged offense) and therefore had a strong motivation to lie in his tale of what happened when Brown was shot. WaPo reporters Carol D. Leonnig, Kimberly Kindy and Joel Achenbach merely describe Johnson’s version versus the police version as “competing narratives.”

In contrast, here are excerpts from the AP article on Brown, written by Sharon Cohen, Jim Suhr, Alex Sanz, and Ryan J. Foley, that the WaPo published on Sunday, Michael Brown called ‘little kid in big body’:

Family and friends recall a young man built like a lineman — 6-foot-3, nearly 300 pounds — with a gentle, joking manner. An aspiring rapper who dubbed himself “Big Mike.” A fan of computer games, Lil Wayne, Drake, the movie, “Grown Ups 2” and the TV show “Family Guy.” A kid who was good at fixing things. A struggling student who buckled down to finish his courses, don his green graduation gown with red sash and cross the stage in August to pick up his diploma…

Kennedy became acquainted with Brown while running a credit recovery program the young man was enrolled in that allowed him to catch up so he could graduate with his class. Brown, he says, could be led astray by kids who were bad influences but by spring, he became focused on getting his degree.

Kennedy also would bring in recording equipment Brown could use for rapping — he wanted to perform and learn a trade to help support himself. “His biggest goal was to be part of something,” the teacher adds. “He didn’t like not knowing where to fit in life. … He was kind-hearted, a little kid in a big body. He was intimidating looking, but I don’t think he ever was disrespectful to me.”

Brown loved music even as a young child. Ophelia Troupe, his art teacher for five years in elementary school, remembers a reserved, polite little boy — he’d always respond “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am.” He kept to himself but lit up when she’d play her son’s beats — which make up the backbone of hip-hop and rap songs — in class as a reward if the students behaved.

Unlike the piece on Wilson, the profile of Brown at least manages to mention the convenience store robbery. This is the way it is described:

Ferguson police identified Wilson at the same time they released a video of an alleged theft showing Brown snatch some cigars in a convenience store just minutes before he was killed. In the video, Brown is shown grabbing a clerk by the shirt and forcefully pushing him into a display rack.

Brown’s family angrily denounced that video as character assassination.

They’ve portrayed Brown as “a gentle giant,” who liked to post photos on his Facebook page of himself with young relatives, a kid who tried football his sophomore year but abandoned the idea before his first game, fearing he might hurt someone.

“He was funny, silly,” his father, Michael Brown Sr., recently said. “Any problems that were going on or any situation — there wasn’t nothing he couldn’t solve. He’d bring people together.”

Tim Sneed, a 23-year-old neighbor of Brown’s grandmother, says the young man was so low-key he seemed almost invisible. “When he came to my house you wouldn’t even notice he was there,” he says. “That’s how quiet he was.”

Brown had been staying at the apartment of his grandmother, Desuirea Harris, this summer. She said Brown was excited about his future.

“My grandson never even got into a fight,” she says. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”

I do not fault Brown’s grieving family for speaking well of him, although the description of a video as “character assassination” is a case of “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

I do fault all the reporters for presenting such carefully-selected “narratives,’ digging up every bit of dirt possible on Wilson (and since they can hardly find any, on his family instead) and every bit of good possible on Brown.

No one seems to have thought to look into the marital (or any other) history of Brown’s family, or whether any of his relatives have arrest records. And rightly so, because it really doesn’t matter; what is relevant is Brown’s own history.

But why, then, is the divorce of Wilson’s parents and their other history considered fair game by the press, and not that of Brown’s parents or relatives? After all, Brown had a mother and stepfather, and a biological father whose name is Michael Brown Sr., so we can conclude that some sort of divorce/separation and upheaval occurred. But it is virtually never mentioned, either in the AP article or in any other article I’ve been able to locate after doing some quick Googling. Nor is the history of any other family member of Brown discussed. Although there is some mention that the 18-year-old Brown was living with his grandmother for the summer, we don’t really know why and reporters don’t seem to be the least bit curious.

The contrast in press coverage of the two families is stark, and purposeful. “Competing narratives” indeed.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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That was as bad as I expected. Who got Brown’s juvi record? There are reports he had one. There are even reports that FICA requests have been made to get it.

How ’bout mamma and daddy? They went there with Wilson. Why not Brown?

Not only did they not pick through the chicken entrails like they did with Wilson, they gave him a tongue bath.

Spot on. Another thing that often gets missed is that the video was requested under a freedom of information act request, the same as the officer’s name. They released them at the same time. The media often implys that the police released the video out of spite or something.

The press is treating Darren Wilson and Michael Brown very differently.

Similar to the way Legal Insurrection treated Joseph Walker and Joseph Harvey very differently.

Part of the racist campaign to attack whites and blame them for all the behavior of blacks.

Thank you for the excellent article. I suggest that there are only two possibilities for the authors of the AP story:
1) They are clueless when it comes to basic investigation skills; or,
2) They know they are distorting (read lying) about the event. They know they are. So, Why?

What is the larger agenda of the WaPo and the AP? Perhaps they want to get us lost in the weeds with the details of this story while they drive their larger agenda. That seems to be a core activity of the Administration. What should we be watching besides the details?

As the wife of a police officer I find this hugely upsetting. This could have easily been us in this situation. What the press and others are doing is criminal. It is terrifying to think that if a police officer protects himself that his life is over. If he doesn’t his life is literally over.

    NavyMustang in reply to ESH. | August 26, 2014 at 3:04 am

    Not trying to be flippant. I’m an ex cop myself. Your comment reminds of something my academy sarge would tell us. “It’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

    As long as there is life, there’s hope. Wilson May not be a cop in Ferguson anymore, but he’s young and should come out okay. I sincerely hope so.

    We cops always know that people will obfuscate and play to stereotypes and outright lie. We just had to accept that as part of the game. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

    abrock in reply to ESH. | August 26, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Bless your heart, I cannot even imagine the Wilson family’s anguish but you have an idea being an officer’s wife.
    It scares me to know that our government could be so vindictive. I wish Darren Wilson would take the donations and run to a country with no US extradition treaty. It would not be illegal at this point. Holder will try, I believe, to make him an example just as Officer Wilson said he feared.

If you want information on Brown’s family, you will have to go to the British press.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Stu707. | August 25, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Interesting piece all right. Adds a fair number of details about his life. It doesn’t touch on any legal / police record he might have had at all, and touches only on his academic record to note his graduation from high school and his admission to a college (which one? The article doesn’t say).

      Ragspierre in reply to stevewhitemd. | August 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      He was apparently going to a vo-tec school to learn A/C and refrigeration, which is a good field.

        DINORightMarie in reply to Ragspierre. | August 28, 2014 at 8:52 am

        That is a good field, and a very needed skill in our society – a good paying job and a future.

        However, it is NOT what the press has been presenting him. Michael Brown was NOT “going off to college in the fall” like the press and his parents repeatedly stated. The image of a young person being bundled off and moved into a freshman college dorm, at some implied lofty academic institution of higher learning is a false impression, a myth – just as the “gentle giant” “Big Mike” moniker (subtly alluding to the sympathetic “Big Mike” Oher, the main character (and Ravens football player), from the Oscar-winning film The Blind Side) is a play on people’s sympathies.

        It’s all a propaganda narrative, a fabricated story.

        It actually reminds me of the horrid press coverage of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and how the press tried and convicted the accused in the newspapers back in the 1930’s. After that, people tore the press up so badly that they stopped most of that, out of shame and rational remorse. (Note in the first link how “Time” and the “NYT” are the “historical records” used; this is the reason it matters so much what the press does – and does not – print, and how they frame and present the facts, the news. They are the recorders of history…..and they know it. But I digress.)

        None of that remorse or self-restraint is, or will be, present in today’s MSM. Certainly not in the STORY of Michael Brown.

    Phillep Harding in reply to Stu707. | August 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Even that is highly sympathetic toward “Big Mike”.

    the story was a lot of pap with little of the reality regarding Michael Brown.

Humphrey's Executor | August 25, 2014 at 2:24 pm

The NYT published a piece today describing Brown as “no angel” and providing some more details about him and his family. I’m probably being cynical, but it reads like a piece designed to draw the sting of worse details to come.

    I have seen reports of an enormous outpouring of disgust and anger at the writer of that NY Times piece urging him to recant and repent.

      HamiltonNJ in reply to JBourque. | August 26, 2014 at 9:15 am

      The NYT has already apologized or the “no angel” remark.
      You can’t go against the narrative. Little boy Brown was skipping home to his Grandma’s house when he was slaughtered by an evil white cop who cane from a broken home and was probably mentally unhinged because he was divorced.

When the narrative fits the collectivist’s agenda, reporters of Progressive inclination will cling to the sentimental and romantic notion that children can do no wrong.

It is of no consequence to them how many step fathers are involved/not involved with a child. And, the state of the natural nuclear family is never a consideration for the sexually liberated elite except as it makes their case that someone must be blamed, just not the black kid. It certainly must not be the 6’4” ~300# black kid. That would expose too much of the underbelly of the morally bereft leviathan called “government welfare programs,” welfare (e.g., PUSH) programs that always need more money to support single parent homes and abortions in equal measure. (BTW: Food stamps are being sold via the internet for all kinds of ‘goodies.’)

For the Charmin reporters, kids with multiple ‘parents’ are just impoverished beings under the thumb of the “man” – the man with the broken eye socket.

The rabid public sermonizing by the “Rev’ Al Sharpton is a TV/YouTube telethon meant to bring in more money for better “resti-insti-tutions.”

And, the slimy media giving Michael Brown the benefit of the doubt but denying the police officer Wilson due process is not “being your brother’s keeper.” It is prejudice. It is a purposeful transfer of the pathogen of evil. It is not circumspect. It is both conjecture and lawless rage unleashed. It is unjust.

Couple the paper thin narrative about who’s to blame with the ever droning ‘professional’ race industry narrative and you create two-layer collective denial that sends our culture down a slippery slope right into…the nights of Ferguson.

yet they never say much about browns parents not living together or him living with his older grandmother.
funny huh…

Henry Hawkins | August 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm

The word ‘narrative’ ought to be banned from journalism until it regains its traditional meaning. These aren’t competing naaratives, these are opposing guesses at what the truth is and nothing more. At least one or both is certainly wrong.

The lib press regards ‘competing narratives’ as an actual contest and a test of their own powers. To the postmodern, all-truth-is-relative liberals in the media, if a given narrative tops the polling of public sentiment then that narrative has ‘won’ and becomes the truth.

The journalistic quest for truth has devolved into a cynical test of media’s propaganda skills, up for hire to any approved liberal politician or organization.

    Insufficiently Sensitive in reply to Henry Hawkins. | August 25, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    These aren’t competing naaratives, these are opposing guesses at what the truth is and nothing more.

    They’re not guesses in any way. They’re Exhibit “A” in an indictment of media for selective fact-gathering and fact-excluding in the media’s self-appointed mission of ‘making a difference’ in the forming of public opinion.

    Another detail of that tinkering of public opinion is the formation of a wave supporting a prosecution of Officer Wilson, first in the court of public opinion, then in the organization of political processes to put the police – and the law – on trial, rather than the mere participants in the Ferguson shooting.

    We who subscribe to newspapers and watch TV news have only ourselves to blame for supporting such corrupt organizations with our subscription money and our responses to ads. But until we do a little of our own community organizing, for the benefit of the consumers of ‘news’, the media will continue down its happy path of all-Narrative, all-the-time ‘journalism’.

That’s interesting. You have fresh agitators coming in from around the country.

One, from Broklyn, boasts of coming in on a one-way ticket and planning to stay…

so she can yell in people’s faces, apparently.


Subsequent to robbing a convenience store and pushing one of its employees though a products rack, focus on a few simple, ya know, post-mortum ideas: A.)Follow police orders immediately and without challenge. B.)DON’T attack policemen in-or-out of their cars. C.)Rest in Peace,’Yo.

It’s a virtual mirror of the Trayvon Martin case, except for
Wilson being law enforcement so they can’t deride him as a “wannabe.”

Violent thug commits crime, attempts to put a beat-down on someone, pays the price.

Martin’s past and social media records were also whitewashed by Big Media, who accepted the family story of a gentle little kid.

Crump even put out a four year old picture of Brown, just like he did Martin, and media ate it up.

The only reasonable explanation is the MSM thinks this could help gin up black turnout for Democrats in November.

Even though governor jay nixon wants Wilson prosecuted. And, Eric Holder brought in the FBI. Where at least 40 FBI agents are looking for Wilson. He cannot be found!

Yes, Wilson was injured. He probably had a black eye, which lasts for weeks. Besides a broken eye socket. Make fun of the local cops all you want, they managed to get Wilson away from all the headlights. While I don’t think the press went looking into anything about the life of Mike Brown, I think there were plenty of rumors underfoot. Which is why CNN was able to expose the house where Wilson lives. Even the street number of the address.

And, the other thing that’s missing? Who did “big” Mike take to the prom? He thought enough of dressing up in the graduation wardrobe. He posed for the picture that’s been used. Was he the only graduate in school this August?

Where’s everybody? When the interviews were done, with cameras set up in Ferguson, not one person is interviewed who even knew this guy?

The storekeeper who got intimidated in the released video of the shoplifting episode has said he’s terrified that one of his customers would kill him. Is that fear “typical?” How long does it take to grow?

Is anyone taking odds that Wilson will never be found? If this is true, then “outside of civil rights” we’ve grown a very big base of white folk who belong to some sort of organization that can keep him hidden? (Back in the 1700’s, it was the Masons.) Journalists have no way of uncovering this story!

And, Ferguson? Maybe, it turns into a bookend for Watts. (Watts, circa 1965, never recovered.) Ferguson? It’s only been a black community with 70% of the population arriving within the past 5 years.

The other interesting fact? I did not know that St. Louis was a black city. I also did not know that 91 counties surround St. Louis. Every few blocks the neighbors got together and “incorporated.”

Not one single step forward has been made in Ferguson. And, IF no journalism occurs from out of their depths? Then those people have no talent.

Big Mike was involved in drugs! He stole the Sweet Swichers to use their casing to re-roll marijuana. Not just for personal use. There’s a photo on the Internet, where he’s mouth is stuffed with money. And, he’s using a gun with the gun pointed at whomever was taking the picture. Just “Google” photos for Michael Ferguson.

Seeing Rev. Tawana Sharpton & Rev. Jesse up there on stage with the cameras’ eyes attentive makes me want to sart throwing old white guy punches. Grifters, Snake Oilers, malignant narcissists, bottomless appetites…

LOATHSOME Moral Midgets.

Joseph Goebbels would be jealous of the American ‘media.’

It takes a crappy village of idiots to raise such a stupid violent punk as Michael Brown.

Unknown is why Dorian Johnson is walking around, unwounded and apparently not even shot at. If the narrative is that the cop wanted to shot a black guy, why would he not also shoot the other one? The witness? Hard to fit that into the narrative.

…..wanted to “shoot” a black guy.

Excellent article by 20 year police veteran and National Guardsman, taking apart the ‘unarmed teenager’ meme –

Char Char Binks | August 27, 2014 at 1:32 pm

A 6′ 4” 292 pound football play had never been in a fight? Of course not, he just used his size and strength to intimidate and bully anyone he wanted.


    DINORightMarie in reply to mzwilliams. | August 28, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Please present links that are EVIDENCE of Officer Wilson’s supposed “RACIAST” behavior, actions, etc.

    And I don’t mean the AP and other narrative concoctions, guilt by association, or other irrelevancies this “press” has printed, to their shame.

    Evidence – SOLID evidence – tying Wilson DIRECTLY, by HIS actions, by HIS record, to substantiate your vile accusation that he is “RACIAST.”

    Otherwise, troll, stop shouting and open your mind. There are two sides to everything. Facts and truth are needed to discover what happened that fateful night. Let’s get them as they are verified, accept them for what they are (not explained away or discarded as not “fitting the narrative” etc.), and let blind justice prevail.

    Innocent until proven guilty. For ALL.