After the shooting of Tyrone Harris in Ferguson; a riot still rages, not on the streets, but on Social Media; as Maciej Radny explains.
As you are reading this, the crowds in Ferguson have been mostly dispersed, and the heat of the demonstrations mostly extinguished, guns again snug in holsters, knives behind backs, bunched fists back in pockets. But the fight for Ferguson still rages, on the shapeless streets of social media. An African-American shot by police on the anniversary of an African-American being shot by police is pretext. The conflict that continues today is the war of opinion.
In an age where an alternate view of events has never been so easy to envision, what we all seek is one unifying image, to align our views to one particular version.
With regards to the 18-Year-Old victim/suspect Tyrone Harris, there are two.
Be it the shaky, smartphone recording of the scene, a chain-link fence, there, lit by headlights, lay Tyrone Harris. Face-down, bleeding, cuffed and prostrate as two St. Louis County PD Officers stand nearby, ignoring the anguished pleas from the videographer (Twitter user @search4swag) hoarsely screaming “Get him some help”. The camera tumbles to the ground as he is restrained by the St. Louis County PD. The footage shows no medical personnel present, and the scene itself has an air of casual indifference.
That’s one image, and a tableau potentially taken out of context.
The other image paints Tyrone Harris as a criminal, and the actions of St. Louis County PD, one of duty in self-defence. They returned fire on social media, tweeting a picture of a bullet-ridden patrol vehicle, apparently as result of Tyrone Harris. He was later charged with four counts of assault of law enforcement in the first degree, five counts of armed criminal action and one count of discharging or a firearm at a motor vehicle. Harris remains hospitalised in a critical condition.
The St Louis police saw Harris as a criminal and approached the situation as thus. One unsavoury individual who caused a flashpoint that motivated a demonstration to violence, bringing unresolved hurt to the surface. In the clashes that raged in the aftermath of the Tyrone Harris shooting, the St. Louis County PD twitter account furiously counter-pointed each claim that cropped up on social media:
The collection of those moments, plus the residual hate reaching from the Michael Brown tragedy has further muddied the opposing banks of the river Opinion.
A quick search turned up:
Attorney General Loretta Lynch (@LorettaLynch), who tweeted: “I strongly condemn the violence against the community, including police officers, in Ferguson, Missouri”
Tyrone Harris’ father, later purportedly stated Tyrone was “close” to 2014 shooting victim Michael Brown. He further added that his son didn’t own a firearm.
St Louis Police have apparently since barred The Harris family from entering the hospital where Tyrone is being held.
Even to the point where four heavily armed (white) men, calling themselves the “Oath Protectors” strolled down the streets of Ferguson touting constitutional protection of themselves and an obscure journalist, by virtue of automatic rifles.
Unlike Michael Brown, Tyrone Harris was armed. Or was he? I can easily find claims supporting and refuting both.
All this slanted, biased information is so easily accessible; it’s cheap. And it’s why we seek narratives and images to sway us. This is why evidence is unimportant; we’re swayed by the individual prejudices of the many. Each image, snapshot or informational snippet can be warped to our own personal use.
Facts versus Image versus Context.
So which is the real Tyrone Harris? There is no absolute answer. It doesn’t exist on a piece of paper somewhere, even if it did, it would be refuted. It doesn’t need to exist, we get both sides of the argument and ignore one. In the Court of Social Media Public Opinion, we all sit on the jury and we all hold the gavel.
So, Crimimal or Victim? #BlackLivesMatter or To Serve & Protect?