Presumption of innocence -- A hallowed principle of criminal law to the effect that the government has the burden of proving every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt and that the defendant has no burden to prove his innocence. (As defined by Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition). Presumption of guilt -- The strongly held and default opinion of MSNBC political analysts toward a white police officer involved in a violent altercation with a black youth.
MSNBC's coverage of civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., since the shooting death of Michael Brown by a local police officer veered into Alice-in-Wonderland territory Friday night. (Video after the jump)
It was a given that the network's marquee evening host, Rachel Maddow, would join the chorus of those condemning "militarization" of police. But after Maddow vilified what she considers police overreaction in Ferguson, she made a startling claim --
The initial crisis in Ferguson was the police shooting this past weekend of that unarmed 18-year-old, Mike Brown. That crisis was created by that police shooting. Police behavior then also created the following crisis, which was the war-zone-style, incompetent, extreme use of force police rioting, right? That secondary crisis took a major turn for the better in the last 24 hours because somebody else was put in charge and the county was taken out of charge because of their failure.
Hmm, is it just me or did Maddow miss a crisis in her recollection here? Agreed, the shooting death of Brown is the catalyst that sets everything in motion and reasonable people can disagree on whether Ferguson police overreacted, which Maddow describes as the "following" and "secondary" crisis. What Maddow neglects to mention is what they were reacting to, which was looting and rioting in the community where many of the police officers and their families live. Goes a long way toward explaining the rationale for riot gear and armored personnel carriers. Generally speaking, rampaging mobs are not amenable to reason.
Of course, it's not surprising that Maddow glided past the mayhem with nary a glance. Liberals are inclined to shrug off looting, seeing it as just another form of redistribution.
As for the alleged police "rioting," alas, Maddow could provide no evidence beyond dramatic photos of smoking tear gases canisters and police pointing their guns at protesters-- certainly nothing along the lines of Chicago police busting heads during the Democratic convention in 1968. (Now that could be described as a police riot).
Whether police have become akin to paramilitary forces over the last decade was debated long before tensions flared in Ferguson, and from both sides of the aisle. But in fairness to Ferguson police, their initial allegedly brutish reaction to the chaos in their city was to contain the damage to a small area. After police released the video showing a young man bearing a remarkable resemblance to Brown involved in a thuggish convenience store robbery, violence erupted again -- and the damage was far worse despite a local police officer of color being put in charge, and with police now keeping their distance from looters and not responding to emergency calls.
Maddow, who could barely conceal her indignation that police released the video (in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from the media), complained that "nobody has confirmed that the young man in that surveillance video is in fact Michael Brown, but Ferguson police today said they think it's him."
Yet Maddow herself had a golden opportunity to establish whether Brown is seen in the video. Her next guest was Anthony Gray, an attorney for the Brown family and -- you guessed it -- Maddow steered clear of asking him this elephant-in-the-room question, despite speaking with Gray for several minutes.
Would Maddow have been so circumspect had a tea partier been involved in comparable circumstances? Hardly -- it would have been her breathless first question out of the gate. Then again, it's a stretch to imagine a tea partier in remotely comparable circumstances.