Why am I still writing about the murder of an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown by the thug cop Darren Wilson?
The problem of police brutality, militarization, and the violation of the American people's human rights is an ongoing problem. The black community in Ferguson still lives under under the boot of a herrenvolk gestapo. Michael Brown's family, friends, and people remain traumatized by his murder. Most importantly, the police and the prison industrial complex are the brass knuckles on the fist of white supremacy and white privilege in the United States and the West. As such, the murder of Michael Brown is one example of a centuries-long institutional process in practice.
There is a diminishing amount of interest by the mass public in the Michael Brown murder. This is a result of the following dynamics.
The 24/7 corporate news media creates a public hysteria which then reaches a crescendo. The now fully misinformed public is made to feel exhausted. The media and the public then transport their manufactured outrage to another issue. In a modern corporateocracy, the media serves an "agenda setting" function in which they help to frame issues and set boundaries on what issues are considered "important" matters of public concern. The 24/7 news media is also a type of spectacular entertainment that overwhelms the viewer with sound, noise, fury, and "information". However, the same media--because they serve elite interests and not those of a radical, liberated, or forward thinking democratic populism--is not interested in substantive social or political change.
The corporate news media serves Power; it does not contradict or subvert it.
The occasional public criticism of some branch of elite authority by the corporate media is just in-fighting within the same clique.
Social media such as Twitter is one of the new technologies that Power can use to monitor, manipulate, and maintain control over the mass public. As the Arab Spring and other people's uprisings have demonstrated, social media and the Internet can be powerful tools to fight power and create social change. However, social media by itself is not a stand-in for substantive and meaningful political behavior in the public sphere. "Twitter" or "hashtag" activism can be symbolic and emotional politics in the worst sense as people pursue low cost, minimal risk, performative politics that are ego gratifying and soothing, but that ultimately do nothing to effect real social change. Individuals can find a virtual community online; this virtual community does not necessarily translate into activism which challenges, subverts, or reorients Power via institutional politics or other means in the public sphere.
Social media is a complement or auxiliary to political change and social movement behavior; it is not a substitute for it.
A more crude and raw analysis would reduce politics down to "are you willing to die for your cause?" Alternatively, "politics is about who gets what, when, how, and why". Are you willing to commit blood, money, and resources to get the outcomes and resources which you desire? Anything short of that is just conversation, bloviating, and mouth-breathing.
One of my repeated complaints about the news media's coverage of the events in Ferguson, Missouri has been focused on the way that it framed the murder of Michael Brown--and the righteous anger of the residents of that community--as constituting some type of mystery or surprise. There are serious people who have spent their professional careers researching, writing about, and documenting the causes of social unrest and civil disorder. There are many more people who can put Ferguson within a broader context of race, the color line, and policing in the United States.
The civil rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri was not some type of "unknown, unknown".
There has been some great commentary and analysis on the murder of Michael Brown by the coward thug cop Darren Wilson. Henry Giroux's recent essay is essential. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Nation's interview with professional wrestler "MVP"--yes, a professional wrestler--who went to Ferguson and shared his thoughts on the murder of Brown here. Historian Christopher Hayes smartly put the police riot in Ferguson within a historical context that he grounded in the 1964 Harlem uprising.
As a social scientist by training, I am drawn to empirical data. The Black Youth Project has issued a new report on young people's attitudes towards the police. Alas, the divides along the color line are a depressing portrait of how young people of color have very different experiences of citizenship and justice as compared to their white peers. Robert Jones, writing for the The Atlantic also tried to explain the racial divides in public opinion about the events in Ferguson (and police violence more broadly) by drilling down to how social networks and segregation create different life worlds for whites and non-whites in America.
The murder of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson is one event within a system of power relationships known as the prison industrial complex. The over-policing of black and brown (and poor/working class communities) is a social policy that rests upon an assumption that African-Americans are a unique criminal class, one which is inherently "suspicious" and dangerous.
The notion of what constitutes legitimate police "suspicion" is a foundational assumption that has not been directly engaged in most of the news coverage of the murder of Michael Brown. Of course, it is talked around by a news media that has "niggerized" Michael Brown specifically, and black people, more generally with the language of how "big", "tall", "strong", and "intimidating" the victim of Darren Wilson's many bullets was in life. White racial logic defends the murder of Michael Brown by offering up a type of common sense that is nothing more than the white racial frame in action, with the empty question, "who wouldn't be scared of Michael Brown?"
I recently discovered that there is research on the concept of "suspicion", and how police use it as a tool to decide who to harass/investigate. The paper "Police Officer's Decision Making and Discretion" can be found here. It is part of a large body of research in criminology and policing. Of course, there are problems with the findings (in my opinion they are much to sympathetic to the police; and apparently race has nothing to do with how police decide who is "suspicious"...this finding is so bizarre as to be unbelievable) and the methodology.
["Police Officer's Decision Making and Discretion" is worth reading. I am curious as to your take on its findings.]
But the broader point remains: there are serious people who study psychology, race, and policing. Yet, they were noticeably absent in the news media's 24/7 feast on the spectacle that was and is the murder of Michael Brown by the coward cop Darren Wilson.
The American people make poor decisions because they are not given the necessary information and context to make better ones. The events in Ferguson, and the mass (white) public's passing interest in them is proof of that fact.