Patterico's Pontifications

8/26/2014

NYT: It Was Wrong of Us to Say Michael Brown Was “No Angel”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:36 am

In a recent profile of Michael Brown, a New York Times piece describes an anecdote in which Brown claimed to have seen an angel in the clouds. He told his dad that “he saw Satan chasing the angel and the angel running into the face of God” — and said that the experience had made him a believer.

In the fifth paragraph, after describing the anecdote about the angel in the clouds, the reporter, John Eligon, goes on to say:

Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.

At the same time, he regularly flashed a broad smile that endeared those around him. He overcame early struggles in school to graduate on time. He was pointed toward a trade college and a career and, his parents hoped, toward a successful life.

Now the reporter and the New York Times are taking grief for using the phrase “no angel” to describe Brown. They are pushing back, explaining that the phrase is a reference to the angel story at the head of the piece — and anyway, they add, he’s on tape committing a robbery, which is hardly angelic.

Ah, who am I kidding? The last sentence of the previous paragraph is fictional. Actually, the Times is in full backpedal mode. Here’s their public editor:

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: That choice of words was a regrettable mistake. In saying that the 18-year-old Michael Brown was “no angel” in the fifth paragraph of Monday’s front-page profile, The Times seems to suggest that this was, altogether, a bad kid.

Some people take their protests further; they say that The Times is suggesting a truly repellent idea — that Mr. Brown deserved to die because he acted like many a normal teenager.

What’s “obvious” to the public editor is not obvious to me, but an intense Twitter backlash has apparently moved the Overton window on what phrases are acceptable to describe Brown. The Twitter mob has even managed to get the reporter, a black man who wrote a balanced piece about Brown, to express regret over his choice of words:

Mr. Eligon told me in a phone conversation that he proposed the idea of a profile of Mr. Brown — an in-depth article that would give readers insight into his life. . . . As a 31-year-old black man himself, Mr. Eligon told me, he is attentive to many of the issues in the Ferguson case.

. . . .

“I understand the concerns, and I get it,” Mr. Eligon said. He agreed that “no angel” was not a good choice of words and explained that they were meant to play off the opening anecdote of the article in which Mr. Brown saw an angelic vision. That anecdote “is about as positive as you can get,” Mr. Eligon said, and noted that a better way to segue into the rest of the article might have been to use a phrase like “wasn’t perfect.”

“Hindsight is 20/20. I wish I would have changed that,” he said.

In general, he said, the profile was a “full, mostly positive picture” of the young man.

Reading the full profile, I don’t get the impression that Brown was an altogether bad kid. He had some positives going for him: a dad in the picture and a diploma from high school. But it is true he was no angel; most people caught on video committing a robbery aren’t. For that matter, most people aren’t, period. There are very few angels out there. But I think it’s safe to say that the Venn diagram of “angels” and “robbers” doesn’t really intersect.

Apparently it’s no longer allowed to tell the truth, even if the truth is told with sensitivity and balance.

Eligon deals with words on a daily basis. I guarantee you he thought about whether to use the phrase “no angel” — and consciously decided to go forward with that wording because it provided an artful and truthful transition from the story about the angel in the clouds to the grittier story of Brown’s actual life.

The most irritating thing about this is that of the horde of whiners on Twitter, my guess is that not one in 100 has read the whole piece. They just take a phrase out of context and run with it, because OUTRAGE!!!!

So, you have your marching orders, folks. Michael Brown was an angel after all, and don’t you dare say otherwise.

P.S. The story also says:

Mr. Brown’s uncle Bernard Ewing remembers talking to his nephew about how to interact with police officers.

“I let him know like, if the police ever get on you, I don’t care what you doing, give it up,” Mr. Ewing said. “Because if you do one wrong move, they’ll shoot you. They’ll kill you.”

Good to advice. Is it wrong of me to say it’s a shame Michael Brown didn’t take it?

P.P.S. There is now unconfirmed audio of the gunshots. Apparently some guy was chatting it up with his girl and recording the conversation on his computer, as you do, and in the background can be heard what CNN claims may be the shots that killed Brown. If these are the shots, it sounds like a cluster of six, a short pause, and a cluster of four. Bear in mind: Brown was hit six times. If he was advancing on the officer during the shots, the cop probably missed him more in the first cluster than the second, meaning Brown might have been hit only twice in the first cluster. Was he really still coming at the cop after the first cluster and the pause? If so, why? And another question: was the recording on during the first gunshot — the one that went off when Brown was struggling with the officer in the car? Why didn’t we hear that one?

47 Responses to “NYT: It Was Wrong of Us to Say Michael Brown Was “No Angel””

  1. So many questions.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. Patterico: And another question: was the recording on during the first gunshot — the one that went off when Brown was struggling with the officer in the car? Why didn’t we hear that one?

    we have to be careful about that whether or not it is the shots. If someone is less anonymous, we could tell. You could certainly get abetter fix on the time and place of the recording.

    A reason for not including the first shot could be because they didn’t choose to do so, because the source, or the intermediary, wants to support Michael Brown, and it may have occured enouggh seconds earlier so it doesn’t look like something is omitted.

    Other reports hasve bene that people heasrd something like 2 shots and then approxiimately 5.

    Sammy Finkelman (7d0d47)

  3. we have to be careful about that whether or not it is the shots.

    That’s why I said it was unconfirmed and preceded the whole discussion with the caveat: “If these are the shots.”

    Sammy, I have noticed that sometimes you don’t read everything I write, but comment on it as if you did. Like, sometimes you come on here and inform us of a fact that you learned somewhere, as if you learned it independently from the post and are correcting my omission — and then it turns out to be a fact I already talked about in the post.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  4. Sage advice. Always read thoroughly and trust content from Patterico.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  5. This is one of those issues where the previous behavior of the Ferguson police is going to hurt the police officer if this was a legitimate shooting. If the police had dash cameras, or automatic audio recordings of their encounters, or any other sort of way of capturing events in a normal encounter with citizens, this would be an open and shut case. But the Ferguson police apparently harass blacks in their community routinely, subjecting them to harsh mistreatment at times, and do not want any evidence of those crimes.

    Also “video chat”…umm….I’m just glad there wasn’t anything else on that recording. If there was an earlier shot, there may have been something else going on in the audio when the first shot occurred. Note that the CNN audio has 10 shots, the lawyer says “11″ in the interview. There may have been another shot that happened earlier in the video.

    Xmas (f65ded)

  6. Xmas : You have solid information about this? I wonder why, if these alligations were true, the local branches of the NAACP and ACLU have not acted prior to this shooting. As there are known remedies for investigations of police miscounduct as well as for the practice of not hiring qualified African-Americans by the local police, the lack of any prior activity by either organization is puzzling. Of course, Sherlock Holmes would point out that the “dog” did not bark. No prior Civil Rights activities because no prior Civil Rights violations.

    Michael M. Keohane (e5725f)

  7. Funny, i don’t remember the MSM freaking out when the exonerated Duke lacrosse players were described as ‘no angels’ when the hoax/frame-up fell apart.

    Oh, that’s right. The “no angels” meme was the preferred response by the MSM and the Gang of 88 after their scheme fell apart

    craig henry (adc5b2)

  8. Man, that audio clip sounded pretty creepy. I’m not talking about the gunshots either.

    Dejectedhead (a094a6)

  9. the Ferguson police apparently harass blacks in their community routinely, subjecting them to harsh mistreatment at times, and do not want any evidence of those crimes.

    Do you have evidence of this?

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  10. I, too, would like to hear/see evidence of routine harrasment. But I think it likely, under the known circumstances.

    C. S. P. Schofield (f7a48a)

  11. Doin’ the job ravens and crows are unwilling to do.

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  12. Why would we believe this tape is genuine, considering previous history, how they further their narrative,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  13. What tape,

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  14. #8 is correct. Media hand-wringing is a one-way street.

    AZ Bob (e38181)

  15. Man, that audio clip sounded pretty creepy.

    What he was saying did sound contrived.

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  16. recall William Cohen’s snarkworthy retelling, via Nifong and Mangum, dismissing the Lacross players
    acquittal entirely,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  17. Why would we believe this tape is genuine, considering previous history, how they further their narrative,

    The forensic examiners may be able to verify that it is. If genuine, the new information would be specifiying the number of shots and their sequencing. IIRC previous reports, other witnesses heard two shots, a pause, then five shots. Here there are two shots, a short pause, four shots in rapid succession, a long pause, then four shots on a more distended rhythm.

    Where Michael Brown was hit on his hand suggests either that he was in motion (and the hand was in a backswing) or that he had his hands up. Of course, if he’d been capped in the arm, his arm and hand motions may have been eccentric…

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  18. ecall William Cohen’s snarkworthy retelling

    Why was our retired Secretary of Defense / Senator from Maine / problem New England Republican writing about a court case in North Carolina?

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  19. Cohan, he’s a former Wall Street banker, who ignored Nifong’s witchhunt,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  20. All this walking on eggshells nonsense! The dismal situation will never improve if people don’t stick to the sad facts that are plaguing the black community and impeding progress. All the swaying to gospel songs in the church pews, lionizing troubled youth, and viewing Great Society-facilitated disasters through rose-tinted glasses in the world won’t ameliorate it.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  21. http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/search/label/Cohan%20book%3B%20Nifong%20apologists

    Here’s KC Johnson on this fellow Cohan’s work. I’d wager Cohan is a self-conscious fraud. What’s in it for him?

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  22. michael brown was no angel kinda like how this ferguson dealio is not endlessly fascinating

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  23. NYT: “We apologize for saying something that is so patently true on it’s face that it is obvious from the moon. We will endeavor to never do that again.”

    MJN1957 (6f981a)

  24. Why didn’t we hear that one?

    Maybe because it didn’t happen?

    The Cops first story said that Brown was shot when he was inside the car going for the gun – no mention of any further confrontation outside the car. That story changed when the autopsy came out. Then the story was that suddenly and violently attacked Wilson and went for the gun, then inexplicably stopped and just walked (NOT ran) away as though he hadn’t just committed a serious felony, and then – when confronted by a cop with his gun out and pointed right at him – decided to commit suicide and charge into a hail of bullets.

    Now that this evidence is out, I suspect we will hear a new story from them in a day or two with more details changed to match the new evidence.

    Color me skeptical.

    libarbarian (fbdba3)

  25. Would this be different if the writer had written, “Like virtually all teenage boys, Michael Brown was no angel”? Eighteen year-old boys who can be described as “angelic” in behavior are certainly few and far between. One side spreads the story that the late Mr. Brown was some sort of sweet and cuddly 300-pound teddy bear, while the other side pushes the narrative that he was a street thug with a penchant for lawlessness. The truth, as it so often does, falls somewhere in-between.

    But I love the fact that Mr. Eligon, the author, is himself a black man who claims to have experienced racial profiling. Here’s one macro-aggression that the racial grievance industry can’t pin on Whitey, though Google images suggests that the editor, Alison Mitchell, is indeed of the Ice People.

    JVW (638245)

  26. Yes, the MSM made a big thing of the 100% innocent of rape Duke Lacrosse players being “no angels.”

    DN (fda50e)

  27. libarbarian (fbdba3) — 8/26/2014 @ 11:03 am

    The Cops first story said that Brown was shot when he was inside the car going for the gun – no mention of any further confrontation outside the car.

    I don’t think that was the story – and this was never any kind of an official story. What Officer darren Wilsoin had to say, even his name, was being kept secret while other people were saying whatever they wanted to.

    If the stiry had been that Michael Brown was shot while going for the gun, that would not look too good for the police officer, since Michael Brown was shot 6 times, although that wasn’t known. That many shots were fired was said by many accounts, and really if he was shot once and disabled, it would be a crime to shoot him again.

    We are now at the stage where the initial single shot has not yet been confirmed by any kind of official source. We only have rumnors, anonymous reports and “Josie” (friend of Officer wilson;s sigbnificant other – he’s divorced from his wife)

    I suspect Al Sharpton et al don’t want that initial shot to be known because it makes Michael Brown dangerous if he was not wounded by that shot.

    The way I always heard that story there was struggle for the gun, a shot went off, and Michael Brown began running away.

    That story changed when the autopsy came out. Then the story was that suddenly and violently attacked Wilson and went for the gun, then inexplicably stopped and just walked (NOT ran) away

    There was no change. That was the story all along (except that nobody official has confirmed the initial shot. Nor was there a claim that he had merely walked and not ran.

    as though he hadn’t just committed a serious felony, and then – when confronted by a cop with his gun out and pointed right at him – decided to commit suicide and charge into a hail of bullets.

    That’s where we don’t have a clear account. It’s like he thought he could knock the cop down before he could aim his gun right.

    Now that this evidence is out, I suspect we will hear a new story from them in a day or two with more details changed to match the new evidence.

    What we will eventually here is whatever story Darren Wilson told pretty early on.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  28. 11. C. S. P. Schofield (f7a48a) — 8/26/2014 @ 9:34 am

    I, too, would like to hear/see evidence of routine harrasment. But I think it likely, under the known circumstances

    I read that resisting arrest (or would it be claims of resisting arrest?) has become much more common than elsewhere in that section of Missouri.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  29. All this says if true is that the officer fired, paused to see an effect, then seeing a continuing threat, fired again. It should be no surprise that someone other than a full-time professional competative shooter missed more than he hit. It could be that Brown charged Wilson, Wilson fired given Brown’s previous assault and attempt to take Wilson’s pistol, fired, saw no effect, then fired again. The probative value is very low. It certainly proves that Brown’s accomplice in the strong-armed robbery was lying.

    Federale (@Federale86) (f295b8)

  30. I’ll bet off the top, the audio stays unconfirmed, forever.

    Anyone say how many bullets were in Wilson’s clip, before and after?

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  31. The Cops first story said that Brown was shot when he was inside the car going for the gun – no mention of any further confrontation outside the car. That story changed when the autopsy came out.

    No, it did not. Various witness accounts were under discussion before the autopsy came out, and these included Brown charging Wilson on the street. The autopsy demonstrated the falsity of one meme: that Wilson shot Brown in the back.

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  32. If Officer Wilson could make out the blurry approach of the 6’4″ tall 300 pound assailant who’d already broken his eye socket now charging back to resume the attack, then unable to see clearly, resorting to spray and pray is probably his best option.

    ropelight (1ad39d)

  33. Ice, ice baby duh duh duh da-da duh duh… Ice, ice baby…

    Colonel Haiku (9298f8)

  34. I somewhat object to the fifth paragraph, as it implies that “lived in a community that had rough patches” and “taken to rapping in recent months” are evidence that someone isn’t an angel.

    So my problem isn’t with the ‘not an angel’ designation, it’s for *some* of the evidence used to support the designation.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  35. yes, he was foolhardy first to try to rob the store, second for confronting the cop:

    http://minx.cc:1080/?post=351395

    narciso (ee1f88)

  36. ” There are three things that black people need to tell the truth about.

    Number one: Rodney King should’ve gotten his ass beat for being drunk in a Honda in a white part of Los Angeles. Number two: O.J. did it! And number three: Rosa Parks didn’t do nuthin’ but sit her black ass down!”

    - Eddie

    Colonel Haiku (b5bc8f)

  37. #38, -Eddie want’s some truth, well here’s some:

    On the night of March 3rd, 1991, before George Holiday took the famous videotape of the LAPD subduing Rodney King near the corner of Foothill and Osborne, adjacent to the 210 Freeway in Lake View Terrace, (which is a small suburb between Pacoima and Tujunga) King had led a merry chase. It started when he’d been spotted speeding West on the 210 by the California Highway Patrol.

    Prior to heading home, King and his 2 passengers, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, had been watching TV and drinking at a friend’s house in LA. At 12:30 am, CHP officers noticed King’s speeding car and gave chase. King later admitted he attempted to outrun the police at dangerously high speeds because a charge of driving under the influence would violate his parole for a previous robbery conviction.

    In an attempt to evade the CHP, King exited the freeway and the pursuit continued along residential surface streets, with speeds up to 80 mph. Now, off the Freeway, local police also became involved. Several police cars and an LAPD helicopter joined the pursuit. When officers finally cornered King near the corner of Foothill and Osborne, his passengers readily complied with instructions to exit the vehicle and spread-eagle on the ground. They were taken into custody without incident.

    King refused to comply, he began a bizarre series of gestures and resisted all attempts to get him on the ground and into handcuffs. George Holliday, who lived close by, noticed the commotion just outside his apartment and decided to videotape the incident.

    Two days later Holliday contacted the police about his videotape, then took it to KTLA TV where repeated showings caused a nationwide sensation. The beating was seen as evidence of the extreme violence and brutality police were eager to inflict on Blacks and proof of institutionalized racial prejudice. The videotape was an instant sensation, repeated over and over ad nauseaum accompanied by holier than thou pronouncements and all the hand wringing legions of talking heads could muster.

    Yet, what the viewing public wasn’t told, and still by and large doesn’t know, was that KTLA edited the tape to take out ten seconds of video showing King charging the officers. Sound familiar?

    The jury that heard the case against the officers saw the missing footage, they said it was essential to their decision to acquit.

    KTLA took Holliday’s videotape and edited it to misrepresent what would have been an understandable albeit violent encounter between LAPD officers and a resisting repeat offender to portray it as an unprovoked and racially motivated brutal assault under color of authority. And, that was over 13 years ago, and the national media that got away with trying to conceal George Zimmerman’s head wounds is now trying to railroad Officer Wilson, and they’ll do it to you too if they can.

    ropelight (036f73)

  38. 23 years ago… I remember seeing the unedited version once or twice and the edited version played on a seemingly endless loop

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  39. and they’ll do it to you too if they can.

    What’s disgusting about such members of the media, if not the left-leaning elite in general, is that at the end of the day they joyfully run off to their residences in the part of town that’s probably miles and miles away from the Rodney Kings, Trayvon Martins or Michael Browns of US society.

    Such two-faced phony baloneys certainly will not allow their own precious children to attend schools where the student body is full of the Rodney Kings, Trayvon Martins or Michael Browns of US society.

    The epitome of gall is when these people of the left love to accuse others of not being tolerant enough, or being out-and-out racist or bigoted. Moreover, they continue to fawn over liberal figureheads like Bill Clinton (America’s “first black president”), even if they’re notorious for sputtering a variety of crude, coarse, bigoted words — the “n” word in particular — when miffed at non-white humans.

    Mark (14a4db)

  40. Michael Brown = Rodney King.

    PCD (39058b)

  41. So, now thugs cannot be described as “not angelic?” Does that make a thug angelic?

    Jim (145e10)

  42. 43-
    We’ll have to see how this plays out, but I have to think that Rodney will still be the winner in the lawsuit compensation sweepstakes – after all, he lived.

    askeptic (efcf22)

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  44. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/27/opinion/how-the-supreme-court-protects-bad-cops.html?ref=opinion&_r=1

    I also heard on CBS that there’s Missouri law which says that deadly force can be used to arrest a felon. (How can he be arrested if he is dead?)

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)


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