With the release of tape today by the Ferguson Police Department of a man who appears to be Michael Brown allegedly physically assaulting a much smaller clerk while stealing Swisher Sweet cigars, the media’s narrative has collapsed. The media – and top-level politicians across the political spectrum – portrayed Michael Brown in saintlike fashion. That narrative no longer holds.
The report from the police department states:
Brown grabbed a box of Swisher Sweet cigars and handed them to Johnson. [REDACTED] witnessed [REDACTED] tell Brown that he had to pay for those cigars first. That is when Brown reached across the counter and grabbed numerous packs of Swisher Sweets and turned to leave the store.
Brown then reportedly “grabbed [an intervening bystander] by the shirt and forcefully pushed him back into a display rack.”
We still don’t know the details of what happened between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown that led to Brown’s shooting death. Perhaps Wilson is a racist; we have no evidence of that as of yet. Perhaps Wilson used excessive force; we have no evidence of that as of yet, since we don’t have full evidence of the situation leading to the shooting. If Officer Wilson killed Brown without justification, he should obviously be punished to the full extent of the law.
We do know, however, that the media’s description of Michael Brown as the “gentle giant” doesn’t match up with images of Brown allegedly physically confronting a much smaller man while stealing merchandise.
And make no mistake: the “gentle giant” narrative was the media’s narrative. In order to gin up a racial controversy, it wasn’t enough to simply claim excessive force or even racism. Instead, the media went further, canonizing Brown in order to make the larger claim that even the most innocent black men are in severe danger from rogue white cops.
The race-obsessed media brought this racial conflagration to the world with their overblown “gentle giant” reporting. And that was the reporting for the last week regarding Brown:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. On Monday, the newspaper ran a lengthy piece titled “Michael Brown remembered as a ‘gentle giant.'” The piece, by Elisa Crouch, stated, “Teachers described Brown as a ‘gentle giant,’ a student who loomed large and didn’t cause trouble.” Crouch then dropped the hammer: “Some joined the crowds of mourners and protesters who had gathered there since the shooting in protest of how Brown had died: black, unarmed and from multiple gunshots.” Crouch’s piece was syndicated to multiple other publications, including the Chicago Tribune.
Al Sharpton. Sharpton, who jetted onto the scene in Ferguson, Missouri, as quickly as humanly possible, described Brown as a “gentle giant.” He then used the death of the “gentle giant” to proclaim to Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, “We’ve got to solve the problem, and we’ve got to make the criminal justice system work for people like Michael Brown, otherwise we’re not the country that we claim to be.”
Daily Kos. Over at the left-wing site, a writer described Brown thus:
Mike was a big guy who his family called their “Gentle Giant.” He was built to be a high school football player – direct from central casting – but Mike was too timid for the sport. According to friends and family, he had never been in a fight in his life. And, of course, it logically follows that Mike Brown had never had a criminal record or a single run-in with the police. He lived with his parents and threatened and intimidated no one.
The Daily Mail. On Wednesday, Daniel Bates of the UK paper wrote, “He was a ‘gentle giant’ – timid and quiet yet 6ft 4 tall and 300lbs – raising the possibility that the cop who killed him may have been intimidated by his size… Eric Davis, Michael’s cousin, described him as a ‘big gentle soul’.” Bates also quoted Michael’s aunt, who stated, “He wasn’t a violent person. He was peaceful. He was a gentle giant. He looked like he could really do something but he wouldn’t.” Bates concluded by implying that the police department was racist: “It is overwhelmingly African-American, but all save three of the 53 police officers in the town’s force are white, including the chief.”
The Washington Post. On Tuesday, Wesley Lowery and Todd Frankel of the Post reported on the “gentle giant,” using the phrase as a subheading in a larger piece about Brown’s graduation from high school:
“We called him the gentle giant. He was a gentle giant,” said Charles Ewing, Brown’s uncle. His family tried to get him to play football. Brown was too timid for the sport, Ewing said. “He had never gotten into a fight in his entire life,” said Duane Finnie, a family friend… It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Not for Mike Brown.
CNN. CNN ran the headline “Michael Brown, teen shot by police, days before college.” That piece, by Catherine Sholchet, painted a glowing, pacifistic picture of Brown: “Family members nicknamed him the ‘gentle giant’… And he was proud to be setting an example for his younger siblings.”
Again, we still don’t know what happened during the shooting incident. We do know that the new tape is humiliating for the press – which is why MSNBC ran pictures from the tape describing the alleged strong-arm robbery as a “scuffle.” Brown’s family said that the police department’s release of the tape was “intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight.” Tape of strong-arm robberies does tend to reflect poorly on the character of those doing the robbing.
The media and Brown’s family have every right to question the circumstances of Brown’s death – as, indeed, we all should. But their wild overreach in painting a Manichean narrative about Brown has done him and the public no service and has instead widened racial rifts.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.