Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ferguson Authorites Charge Journalists Because They Want Us All To Shut Up Already

Police square off against demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri
last August, with the McDonald's where the journalists were
arrested in the background. 
I was mystified earlier this week when St. Louis County, Missouri decided to proceed with criminal charges against reporters Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post.

In what had been up until now a pretty much forgotten incident, the two journalists were in a Ferguson Missouri McDonald's restaurant during the unrest last August following the police shooting of Michael Brown.

Police fairly violently detained the pair that night for "trespassing" and "interfering with law enforcement."  Those charges were quickly dropped and the journalists were let go.

But what mystified me is that this weekt St. Louis County, Missouri prosecutors resurrected the charges against Lowery and Reilly from that night last August in the Ferguson McDonald's.

I'm usually skeptical of conspiracy theories, but the one proposed in Salon, a leftish news and commentary site, makes sense to me.

The fact that it does make sense is chilling.

Salon notes that Lowery and Reilly have high powered news organizations with an army of lawyers behind them, so they'll get off scot free eventually.  Plus, the criminal charges really seem to be trumped up, and possibly a violation of First Amendment rights.

St. Louis County prosecutors must know all this, so why bother pursuing the journalists.

That's because a lot of news we get comes from small scale "citizen journalists,"especially when new stuff breaks out in Ferguson or anywhere else.

These citizen journalists are usually bystanders with cell phone cameras that take in what's going on.

Salon theorizes - and I agree - is that the charges against Lowery and Reilly are really a message to these citizen journalists. Which is tell the world what we do, especially if it's not necessarily kosher, and we'll come after you.

Citizen journalists don't have legal teams to back them up like the Washington Post and Huffington Post.. What St. Louis County prosecutors are saying to citizen journalists is, "Shut up!

Or as Salon puts it, St. Louis prosecutors are saying:

"This is what happens if you cross us. It wants to make sure than any journalist who comes to Ferguson in the future will do what they're told. It wants them to remember what happens when you step out of line. If media elites howl in protest, well, that's OK. If the case against Lowery and Reilly falls apart, that's fine too. The message will have been sent."

I'm just hoping that St. Louis County's response to bad PR is criminal charges against those spreading the bad PR, to somehow comes back to bite them.

It would also be nice if St. Louis County officials someday realize they're not dictators in some backwater third world country.

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