On the tube or the net, the distraction I choose
Is to sample a bit of the national news
I look for the stories that tug at my brain—
The ones that are tricky, or hard to explain
But the story today? Well, we’ve seen it before;
Just another sad death in a long, bloody war;
A conflict that seemingly never will stop…
Just another black kid who’s been killed by a cop.
That’s practically nothing! A guaranteed flop—
Yet another black kid who’s been killed by a cop
But… cops are the good guys! They help us! They care!
So I looked to the comments, to see what was there—
Though it’s pure speculation, some swear that they know
The real truth of the story—that’s how these things go.
The truth is, the kid—well, he’s really a man—
Was harassing the cop, all according to plan,
A distraction, allowing his friends to buy drugs
Cos that’s how it goes with these Ferguson thugs
Yes, drugs are a story that no one can top
When it comes to a kid who’s been killed by a cop.
And drugs are a story that simply can’t lose
When I say that I saw it on national news.
But more comment-writers are claiming, as well,
That there’s more to the story—oh, much more to tell!
They say he was shot by the cop on the beat
Cos he jaywalked, right there in the Ferguson street
And jaywalking there is a capital crime—
So that’s what they say is what happened this time
A jaywalking kid, just refusing to stop
When he’s asked, all polite, by a Ferguson cop
It’s rather far-fetched, but it gleaned lots of views
And I guess that I saw it on national news.
As news stories go, that one’s rather mundane
I can dig a bit deeper, and try to explain—
Some know that the kid is a hoodlum, who hangs
With the worst sort of thugs in the Ferguson gangs
The cop must have known this, and thus was alarmed
(So it must be a trick, that the kid was unarmed)
Yes, gangs are a reason that cannot be beat
To explain how a kid can be shot in the street
A story that surely grabs smashing reviews
When I say that I saw it on national news
The comments, of course, are all hogwash and lies—
It’s the internet, though, so that’s no great surprise
The truth is a story we don’t want to hear
It’s a sickening tale, to be perfectly clear—
We don’t like the story, and so we refuse
To believe what we hear on the national news
We make up a new one, with fear as our muse,
To replace what we hear on the national news
The victim we’ll blame, and the cop we’ll excuse
Cos a person was killed… on the national news
I’m choosing not to link to the comments that inspired this one. It’s enough to note that mainstream sources from all the various three-letter sources to local papers have all (well, all the ones I have sampled) attracted … odious comments. It is enough that the eyewitness accounts and the police story disagree with one another. That is not unexpected, and it does not prove intentional dishonesty on the part of either.
But when a cop shoots someone, there is a second killing in the comments–character assassination of the worst sort. With no evidence at all from the actual news story, commenters have made allegations of theft, of gang activity, of drugs, of “that’s the way these people are”. I have literally seen the argument made that jaywalking is grounds for killing (with the caveat that only black people jaywalk, which everybody knows). I have seen arguments phrased in just one word, all caps, beginning with N (I hope the sites where I read them had the decency to take them down).
I have no idea how this story will proceed. I have guesses, which I hope are wrong, but that’s it. I do know that the vast majority of the claims cannot possibly be true (in part because they disagree with one another; in part because they already disagree with what is known); it may well be that all of the wild speculation of commenters will be shown to be false.
Did the commenters know them to be false when they wrote their comments? Or was the simple, probable story so horrible that they grasped for some excuse? Impossible to say.
Lastly… my apologies to Dr Seuss, and an admission that I very nearly chose not to post this at all.