Jonah Goldberg

The events in Ferguson, Missouri, have launched a familiar spectacle: the race to be wrong first.

Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American man, was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The Washington Post had more on the story about what one witness called an "execution-style slaying": "Lawyer Freeman Bosley Jr. said Dorian Johnson, a friend of Brown's, has told the FBI that Officer Darren Wilson confronted the two because they were walking in the middle of the street.

"Wilson cursed at the pair and ordered them onto the sidewalk, Bosley told The Washington Post. When they refused to comply, he said, the officer grabbed Brown's throat through the window of his cruiser, pulled out a pistol and shot him. Wilson then chased Brown, shot him in the back and shot him five to six more times as Brown's hands were raised, Bosley said." An autopsy commissioned by the Brown family suggests that account is not true, at least in regard to the most incendiary charge. None of the bullets fired at Johnson entered his body through his back. That hardly means Wilson was justified in shooting Brown even once. Nor does it necessarily mean Wilson is a murderer. The simple fact is we don't know.

The rush to condemn Wilson's conduct and the gallop to martyr Brown may have set land speed records. The New Yorker, like numerous outlets, reported that Brown was walking to his grandmother's home when confronted by Wilson. A video released from the by turns hapless and devious Ferguson Police Department alleges that he was actually walking from a thuggish and brazen shoplifting of a box of cigars from a convenience store. That video is almost surely irrelevant to Wilson's state of mind, since the police said he didn't know about the shoplifting incident. It is, however, inconvenient from the martyrdom angle.

But don't tell that to the legions of too-often-interchangeable activists, commentators and reporters who have convinced themselves that we know exactly what happened, or at least all we need to know.

Al Sharpton, with decades of racial ambulance chasing under his belt, insists that "America is on trial" in Ferguson. Of course he does. The New Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam claim that their groups control the situation in Ferguson. And the Ku Klux Klan is dipping its pillowcase-covered beak into this mess now, rounding out the whole legion of doom.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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