We are seeing the herd mentality of the media at work in coverage of Ferguson, Missouri, and even some conservatives have joined the pack. Jonathan V. Last wrote in The Weekly Standard newsletter that arrived in my inbox on Wednesday that “a TV news crew was assaulted by police officers” in Ferguson. That claim is false.
He linked to a story from The Wrap headlined, “Al Jazeera Accuses Ferguson Police of ‘Egregious Assault on Freedom of the Press.’” But the story itself includes an update noting that the police say they did not fire any tear gas at the news crew and actually “aided the Al Jazeera reporters” when they were dispersed.
This confirms what we reported on August 18 that “The film footage supplied by Al Jazeera only showed one of the correspondents being ‘caught in the crossfire’ when a tear gas canister was shown near the news crew. It was not clear where it came from or who threw it.”
So a tear gas canister being discovered near a news crew and thrown by someone has become an “assault” by the police. This is absurd. The film footage actually showed an Al Jazeera reporter walking into the tear gas, rather than away from it. The incident seemed staged, probably to generate ratings for a propaganda channel that is desperately seeking viewers.
The update from the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department goes into more detail about the false story of the assault. The Wrap quoted department spokesman Lt. David Tiefenbrunn as saying that it was not the agency that fired the tear gas, but that it took down lighting equipment that Al Jazeera had installed on the street “because it made it difficult for officers to see.” The spokesman said “the SWAT team later helped the reporters out of the area, and reunited them with their equipment.” The Wrap added that “He said he did not know which of the police departments in the area fired the gas, but that he did not believe the reporters were targeted.”
The Weekly Standard’s treatment of the alleged assault is another unfortunate example of journalists making serious errors in judgment about events they did not witness. But the fact that an influential publication such as this would fall for the propaganda shows how the narrative about alleged police misbehavior has taken hold in the media. “When you have Kevin Williamson, Mark Steyn, and Ross Douthat all lined up to criticize the police in Ferguson, Missouri, you know that something is happening,” wrote Jonathan Last. “Part of the reason some conservatives are turning on law enforcement is the militarization of the police.”
But perhaps they have overreacted to a liberal version of events promoted by “news” organizations that want to find the police guilty of being prepared for the worst.
In the Al Jazeera case, it appears that the “news” channel contributed to its own reporters getting gassed because of their bright camera lights on the street that caused confusion. As indicated in our previous report on this incident, the tear gas was probably thrown at the outside agitators and demonstrators, but was falsely interpreted by the propaganda channel to have been directed at them. That enabled Al Jazeera reporters to pose as the victims of law enforcement.