Is the press in Ferguson behaving irresponsibly?

posted at 8:41 am on August 19, 2014 by Noah Rothman

Since two reporters were detained by a heavy-handed Ferguson police last week, the media has been a part of the story of frustration, violence, and racial tension in Missouri. Most journalists and media professionals were, however, able to craft and observe moiety between themselves and the protesters they were covering. The distinction between reporter and subject has begun to blur.

This is a complex subject. The media has both a right and a responsibility to report from the ground in Ferguson. The press is correct to challenge authority, to broadcast images that the local police do not want seen, and to serve as a check on the power of law enforcement and the military. The media’s presence may have already acted as a fail-safe and prevented acts of excessive policing which would have only exacerbated an already tense situation and cast the entire crowd control effort in a negative light.

With that said, it is also clear that the press is no longer serving as objective chroniclers of the proceedings. In many ways, the media appears to believe that it is an active participant in the events in Missouri. What’s more, the press appears to be relishing this role.

On Monday, CNN’s Don Lemon, occupying a position on the front of a line of protesters which was being pushed back by police, adopted the incredulous tone of one of the protesters with whom he clearly identified when he, too, was physically removed by officers.

“You can see what’s happening,” he said as he was being cautiously moved. “We’ve been standing here all day. They told us to come here. I can’t move. I’m not going to resist a police officer.”

As night fell and the violence in Ferguson again erupted, police understandably – if not regrettably – began to allow the distinction between peaceful demonstrator and rioter to become confused. While this is a lamentable condition, and one that was far less excusable earlier in these protests, the escalating violence against police justifies it today.

During the cable news networks’ live broadcast of events in Ferguson last night, in which reporters filled the hours with increasingly frenetic prognoses about the worsening situation in Ferguson, it was impossible for the media to not become part of – if not central to – the story in Missouri.

“People are angry man, they are real angry,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes after he was hit with a rock thrown by protesters.

“I have a pit in my stomach over where this is headed if something doesn’t change,” he later tweeted ominously.

Some of the media disagree. During the protests last night, the police asked the press to separate from the protesters. Many did not comply.

Even CNN’s Jake Tapper, a true professional and a consummate reporter, could not help but be swept up in the moment.

“These are armed police, with — not machine guns — semi-automatic rifles, with batons, with shields, many of them dressed for combat. Now why they’re doing this? I don’t know. Because there is no threat going on here. None that merits this,” Tapper observed. “Absolutely there have been looters, absolutely over the last nine days there’s been violence, but there is nothing going on on this street right now that merits this scene out of Bagram.”

“What is this?” He asked. “This doesn’t make any sense.”

Yes, the police and National Guard called in to quell what has been a situation characterized by coordinated violence against police officers did mount a display of overwhelming force, even before columns of peaceful protesters, in order to serve as a deterrent. Was this tactic called for last week? That is debatable, but most – including myself – would have said no. Is it justified this week? Without a doubt, it is.

“Our officers came under heavy gunfire,” said Police Capt. Ron Johnson, reporting that two people suffered gunshot wounds and four officers were wounded from projectiles hurled at them by protesters. “These are not acts of protesters, but acts of violent criminals.” He asks that protesters demonstrate during the day, because agitators use the night to execute attacks on police.

ABC’s Steven Portnoy reported that the protests have become a beacon for individuals looking to start violence, with many coming from as far as California and New York. The press cannot expect to be treated in a way that acknowledges their distinct status while the police are in fear for their lives.

None of this is to say that the police have comported themselves well throughout this ordeal, and few seem to have learned from their mistakes. In the same way that the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery were detained without reason in by law enforcement, a Getty photographer was arrested because, as he said, “the media is required to be in a certain area.”

Crowd control requires managing the press just as it does for protesters, and it is the height of irresponsibility for reporters to create the conditions, as some have, which would force police to view them as a threat proportionate to that of the protesters. While police would be well-advised to avoid making martyrs of journalists, even if some appear to welcome that condition, there is only so much leeway law enforcement can provide.

What is going on in Ferguson is complicated, but the press may no longer be playing a helpful role. In fact, they could be inflaming a tense situation even further. While that is debatable, what is indisputable is what the media has become: part of the story.

UPDATE: It is worth noting that, later on Monday night, Tapper and his crew traveled to a less peaceful part of the city where he and the rest of the crowd were exposed to tear gas. He did not express any reservation about the police tactics in this instance, suggesting that he was not supportive of the protesters’ methods.


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To answer the question in the immortal words of Quick draw McGraw, “Does a swim duck?”.

The press hasn’t behaved responsibly since ’68.

PS Um, doesn’t the fact Mr Brown was whacked out on marijuana kill the Lefty narrative about how mellow it makes you?

formwiz on August 19, 2014 at 10:55 AM

What happens if the cop is exonerated? Will the press report that as justice having been served or will it seek to ferment more violence for its own ratings and victim agenda? Will anyone in the media accept responsibility for reacting before the facts were learned once again?

Ellis on August 19, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Sadly, there is NO good outcome here.

If no charges are pressed against the officer, rioting, rhetoric and violence will continue. The Media will manipulate and lie to serve their “America is a racist country” agenda.

If charges are filed, there are two outcomes.

1. “Guilty”…followed by rioting, violence and continued racial rhetoric of “SEE! THE PIGS ARE FASCIST, RACIST,….AMERICA IS RACIST!”

2. “Not Guilty”…followed by rioting, violence and continued racial rhetoric of “NO JUSTICE! THE PIGS ARE FASCIST, RACIST,….AMERICA IS RACIST!”

BierManVA on August 19, 2014 at 10:56 AM

having watched a Tapper/Lemmon interview with the SHP guy I can only conclude that the press tends to be juvenile and infantile. Asking stupid questions about whether tear gas was the appropriate reponse to bottle throwing, some being Molotov cocktails. The SHP gentry answered their moron question

part of the problem may be that the ‘reporters’ are too young to remember previous riots…so it is all new to them…Wow, man, this sis real, man

Sadly, the previous night had had looting with the police looking on. This was an attempt on the part of he SHP guy to teach the children of the press the basics of law and order. the criminal class will loot if not stopped.

now whether this is just infantile leftism…or just plain stupidity, i don’t know….but having a left wing press make the job harder for adults.

and the same is true for the ‘libertarians’ in crowd

r keller on August 19, 2014 at 11:00 AM

That the WaPo and HuffPo reporters were ‘arrested’ six days ago, and this headline suddenly appears–Yup.

socalcon on August 19, 2014 at 11:07 AM

“Absolutely there have been looters, absolutely over the last nine days there’s been violence, but there is nothing going on on this street right now that merits this scene out of Bagram.”

They don’t call it Fergadishu for nothing.

quax1 on August 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

here’s an acct of the presser in the middle of the night with the leftist press…they’re out of control…recreate 68!

http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2014/08/19/capt-johnson-delivers-a-stern-lecture-to-the-media-in-ferguson/

r keller on August 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

The wages of sin.

The msm and the truth of the lies.

William Ayers,, “Free as s bird, guilty as sin.”

Total enabled by the paid whore liars of the msm/MSM.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on August 19, 2014 at 11:13 AM

When I see Jake Tapper and Don Lemon on the streets of Chicago on a Saturday night covering the violence there, I’ll start paying them more attention.

d1carter on August 19, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Going into harms way, returning with video showing them getting pelted/thumped/robbed/arrested or standing next to someone with a superficial scalp wound that coats their face in blood is how professional-haircut-microphone holders make their bones in the business.

Plus, it’s funny when they get hurt.

Tard on August 19, 2014 at 11:16 AM

So the NEW talking point from Liberals is that we can’t trust LOCAL and STATE officials but we can trust OBAMA AND GOLDER and other LIBERAL FEDERAL OFFICIALS and THE MEDIA????

BWAHahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Realdemocrat1 on August 19, 2014 at 11:20 AM

The hooligans once again pillaged over night, destroyed and looted stores, and the media are all in Holder’s racist azz.

Faux showed a 16 year old white teen, killed by 3 black thugs, silence.

Chicago, over 23 killed and hurt over the weekend, silence.

The Australian student, killed by black thugs, for the heck of it, silence.

All you hear from Holder “the looting video was released against my wishes”. Go to Hell, you fool and thug.

I hope the media all die of Ebola in Holder’s Ebola azz. Suffocate in there, for good.

There is NO animal thuggish enough to compare the thugs and Holder to.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2014 at 11:21 AM

PS Um, doesn’t the fact Mr Brown was whacked out on marijuana kill the Lefty narrative about how mellow it makes you?

[formwiz on August 19, 2014 at 10:55 AM]

There’s no indication Brown was “whacked out” on marijuana. I’ve not see reports explaining the degree to which Brown was influenced by the marijuana. If you have, then please link it.

Neither does the fact you cite show that the “mellow” ‘narrative’ has been killed. It seems to me, if anything, that the narrative has suffered a flesh wound.

Dusty on August 19, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Loved the picture a few days ago of the impromptu memorial featuring a prominently displayed bottle of Mad Dog 20/20!

Galtian on August 19, 2014 at 11:22 AM

They don’t call it Fergadishu for nothing.

quax1 on August 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Fergaza. Next thing you know they’ll start digging tunnels.

Immolate on August 19, 2014 at 11:23 AM

ABC stated that only a tiny minority of lawbreakers are causing all the trouble in Ferguson. Bull—t! Take a look at those rampaging crowds and tell me it’s only a tiny minority. That lying, pandering media scum are despicable

rplat on August 19, 2014 at 11:24 AM

How do the families of all the other kids, black, white, Latino, feel, by obama/Holder giving all the attention to one black thug?

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2014 at 11:24 AM

How do the families of all the other (dead) kids, black, white, Latino, feel, by obama/Holder giving all the attention to one black thug?

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2014 at 11:24 AM

How do the families of all the other (dead) kids, black, white, Latino, feel, by obama/Holder giving all the attention to one black thug?

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2014 at 11:24 AM

You never know who is going to win the victim Lotto. You can only know that there will be another drawing next week.

Immolate on August 19, 2014 at 11:26 AM

The problem is not that some cops are bad. …

oscarwilde on August 19, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Point[s] taken and, to a degree, I agree. But like it or not, cops can have “bad” members just like any other group.

As one example of several experiences I can point to – I recall that at one point when I was in basic training, a previously graduated airman from another flight and had been assigned to military police, wormed his way into “helping” out with our basic trainee flight. He was an evil little monster martinet, who, after some clever “avoidances” staged by my bunker mates and myself, got deservedly kicked out for taking out his anger on another, less courageous basic trainees, injuring one in the process. He was a bad apple, proved it on multiple occasions, and my bunker mates and I did everyone a service by exposing him.

As far as I’m concerned, police aren’t simply good and bad, but can exhibit the traits from one extreme to the other. A good cop will behave on principal and reject bad orders. Germans [and I'm married to one I consider incomparable] exhibit the cultural traits which can be bent in one extreme or the other. ALL people[s] may be influenced by cultural mass movements, as can individual groups of people, but that doesn’t excuse the moral obligation of individuals to arm themselves with the ethics to fight mass hysteria. Cops are no different, and I think we can be thankful that they aren’t in some way, “better”: That gets too close to the Master Race crap that the stinking little Austrian with the ugly mustache used to con an entire people into being the opposite of what they could and should have been.

RL on August 19, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Russia Today:

The police are conducting military operations against peaceful protesters and news reporters.

A 97 year old Holocaust survivor was brutalized and arrested by police thugs, they say.

The funny thing is, according to their edited videos, 99% white people are protesting.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Let me mix the LIBERAL AMERICAN ISIS PARTY technique here with this thread:

“The way Obama and Holder have conducted themselves with a lack of transparency concerning Benghazi, IRS SCANDAL, ObamaCare, Fast and Furious, New Black Panther Voter Intimidation, Immigration Law Enforcement, Suing Arizona, etc., DOES NOT INSTILL CONFIDENCE IN FERGUSON”. There, how’s that?

Realdemocrat1 on August 19, 2014 at 11:30 AM

I’m sure Obama and Holder have the officer’s best interest and well being at heart……

Realdemocrat1 on August 19, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Did the sun rise in the East?

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2014 at 11:32 AM

This will not end well for the media, nor for obama.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Nov. will be opposite from what they assume.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2014 at 11:32 AM

I’m sure Obama and Holder are concerned about that officer’s family and their well-being at heart……

Realdemocrat1 on August 19, 2014 at 11:33 AM

good cop will behave on principal

“principal” should be “principle”
Sorry, folks.

RL on August 19, 2014 at 11:37 AM

d1carter on August 19, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Will never happen – it doesn’t fit their agenda.

And that’s the problem with today’s media. They are no longer reporting facts or recording the first draft of history – they see their role as influencing change, setting a narrative, and effectively ensuring ‘social justice’ as they see it.

For supposedly smart people, it’s stunning that they can’t correlate the collapse of their ratings, the collapse of their subscriptions, and the financial challenges of their organizations with the crap product that they now produce. They still think they’re important because they get invited to the ‘right’ parties in the bloody Hampton’s.

Athos on August 19, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Any reporter on the ground in Ferguson or Gaza has to report favorably biased towards the urban terrorists and Islamic terrorists respectively.

These reporters’ network needs to likewise report with a pro terrorist bias to keep their reporters safe and to ensure that the network will be allowed to continue reporting from there. It diminishes the network when they can’t field reporters at the hot spot.

With that being the reality, the good guys need to target the media first and foremost. You’ll actually get a fairer shake from the media once you kick them out of there because they won’t need to protect their skin by promoting the terrorists’ position.

Buddahpundit on August 19, 2014 at 11:44 AM

What is your qualifications for wording the statement in the way that you did?

Inquiring minds want to know. And don’t try to tap dance me, I do what you do for a living.

Walter L. Newton on August 19, 2014 at 9:46 AM

If you want to know what Noah’s “job” is, look up Josh Trevino, David Weigel, and Benny Johnson. They are all friends of Noah.

sauldalinsky on August 19, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Take a look at those rampaging crowds and tell me it’s only a tiny minority.

rplat on August 19, 2014 at 11:24 AM

You think those are “rampaging crowds” and that it’s a goodly chunk of the suburb of Ferguson? I’m not sure you’ve ever seen a real crowd. o.O

GWB on August 19, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Advocate Journalism

Google it if you don’t understand… It took over “journalism” decades ago.

CrazyGene on August 19, 2014 at 12:02 PM

I was a little turned-off by Fox News’ coverage last night with Shep Smith at the controls. They were mostly alright with Mike Tobin reporting, but then they brought in Steve Harrigan, who called police tactics “Ameteur Hour”. They were very critical of police tactics, and it seems that they nothing about the police strategy. Even Fox News reporting has gone beyond reporting the news to commentating upon it as it happens.

Techster64 on August 19, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Who cares any more?

It’s the usual narrative and ordinary people know it by heart, so why watch?

That’s why reporters are inserting themselves: to up the ratings.

PattyJ on August 19, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Since two reporters were detained by a heavy-handed Ferguson police last week, the media has been a part of the story of frustration, violence, and racial tension in Missouri.

At least keep your narrative straight, Noah: Riley and Lowery were TRESPASSING–they didn’t leave when the McD’s manager asked them to, so the police were called in. To make matters worse, instead of leaving the first time they were asked, they told the police they were working there! The McD’s manager didn’t want his restaurant turned into a media center, yet these two yahoos believed their “freedom of the press” trumped the manager’s wishes.

Feckin’ prima donnas…

Newtie and the Beauty on August 19, 2014 at 12:05 PM

“He pulled up ahead of them. And then he got a call-in that there was a strong-arm robbery. And, they gave a description. And, he’s looking at them and they got something in their hands and it looks like it could be what, you know those cigars or whatever. So he goes in reverse back to them. Tries to get out of his car. They slam his door shut violently. I think he said Michael did. And, then he opened the car again. He tried to get out. He stands up.

And then Michael just bum-rushes him and shoves him back into his car. Punches him in the face and then Darren grabs for his gun. Michael grabbed for the gun. At one point he got the gun entirely turned against his hip. And he shoves it away. And the gun goes off.

Well, then Michael takes off and gets to be about 35 feet away. And, Darren’s first protocol is to pursue. So, he stands up and yells, “Freeze!” Michael and his friend turn around. And Michael taunts him… And then all the sudden he just started bumrushing him. He just started coming at him full speed. And, so he just started shooting. And, he just kept coming. And, so he really thinks he was on something.”

Realdemocrat1 on August 19, 2014 at 12:09 PM

“These are armed police, with — not machine guns — semi-automatic rifles, with batons, with shields, many of them dressed for combat. Now why they’re doing this? I don’t know. Because there is no threat going on here. None that merits this,” Tapper observed. “Absolutely there have been looters, absolutely over the last nine days there’s been violence, but there is nothing going on on this street right now that merits this scene out of Bagram.”

Tapper gets it. This is progress.

earlgrey on August 19, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Is this a trick question?? When doesn’t the press act irresponsibly? Especially the slobbering sycophants in the lame stream media.

DebraChicago on August 19, 2014 at 1:41 PM

There has been an HISTORIC suppression of comments on CNN. EVERYONE is talking about it. If HotAir stands for anything, I would think it would be freedom of the press. My god – it is everyhwre in the Internet but here. Hot air has forgotten what it means to be the people

AmericaDS1234 on August 19, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Really. What I have seen on CNN is unprecendented in over ten years. If you don’t report on this, you are complicit

AmericaDS1234 on August 19, 2014 at 2:04 PM

If America were a civilized country under the rule of law most of the media would be executed for treason, at the very least behind bars with Billions (not millions) in penalties. No danger of that here.

russedav on August 19, 2014 at 7:02 PM

Since two reporters were detained by a heavy-handed Ferguson police last week,

Just keeping them safe.

This is a complex subject.

*snort*

. He did not express any reservation about the police tactics in this instance, suggesting that he was not supportive of the protesters’ methods.

Whata guy!! Is this about him?

“People are angry man, they are real angry,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes after he was hit with a rock thrown by protesters.

Swiped from Ace “Protesters Throw Rocks at MSNBC’s Chris Hayes
As Drew said: Second look at rioting?”

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 7:29 PM

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