Ed Driscoll

The Bonfire of the Ferguson Kabuki

“Darren Wilson has been meeting with network anchors: What the heck?”, asks the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple:

Credit CNN’s Brian Stelter with a very big scoop. On today’s “Reliable Sources” media-news program, Stelter reported that “high-profile news anchors” have spoken in “secret locations” with Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The sessions have been off-the-record and, the way Stelter tells it, they’ve been auditions for one of the biggest exclusives of this century — namely, the sit-down talk with the elusive officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9.

Some details exist. NBC News’s Matt Lauer, ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, CBS News’s Scott Pelley and Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon of CNN have met with Wilson, according to Stelter.

I’m not at all sure why Wemple seems so surprised or outraged by this development, given that from the start, Ferguson has been a form of video kabuki, to the point where NBC sent Al Sharpton out to gin up the protestors, and then recorded awesome video of those protestors pelting Sharpton’s fellow MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes with rocks. (Mission accomplished, Al.)

In 1988, when he was promoting the Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe told PBS’s Bill Moyers, “a good bit of the book has to do with this curious phenomenon of how demonstrations, which are a great part of racial and ethnic politics, exist only for the media:”

Well, one of the things is what I would call “media ricochet”, which is the way real life and life as portrayed by television, by journalists like myself and others, begin ricocheting off of one another. That’s why to me, in Bonfire of the Vanities, it was so important to show exactly how this occurs when television and newspaper coverage become a factor in something like racial politics. And a good bit of the book has to do with this curious phenomenon of how demonstrations, which are a great part of racial and ethnic politics, exist only for the media. In the last days when I was working on The New York Herald-Tribune, I’ll never forget the number of demonstrations I went to and announced that to all the people with the placards, “I’m from The New York Herald-Tribune,” and the attitude was really a yawn, and then, “Get lost”. They were waiting for Channel 2 and Channel 4 and Channel 5, and suddenly the truck would appear and these people would become galvanized. On one occasion I even saw a group of demonstrators down in Union Square, marching across the Square, and Channel 2 arrived, a couple of vans, and the head of the demonstration walked up to what looked like the head man of the TV crew and said, “What do you want us to do?” He says, “Golly, I don’t know. What were you going to do?” He says, “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. You tell us.”

NBC, in the form of network spokesman Al Sharpton (let those last four words percolate for a few moments) simply took that strategy to its logical conclusion. Why shouldn’t their fellow Democrat operatives with bylines get in on the other half of the equation as well by coordinating with Wilson as well?

It’s as if the networks, having been happy to beam back staged “Pallywood” productions from the Palestinian media propaganda assembly line for years, decided to get in on the fun of staging domestic riots from top to bottom themselves:

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