An unarmed black teen,Michael Brown, is shot to death by a white police officer named Darren Wilson..
Although only a few people know the facts--and even then only partially--everyone spreads the "word on the street." Or words--because of the competing versions of what happened. Wilson shot Brown in the back while running away. Wilson shot Brown in the back four times and then walked up to put put four more bullets in him while he lay prostrate on the ground. Wilson shot Brown as he tried to surrender with his arms raised.
Whatever the version of events, the people who hear the stories experience confirmation bias--they accept only that information that confirms their worst suspicions. And this is reinforced by a phenomenon known as social proof or group think--bringing one's beliefs in conformity with those around you.
Then the manipulation of (or by?) the mainstream media begins. Supporters of Brown provide a flattering photo of Brown as a high school graduate and future college student.
He is remembered as a "Gentle Giant."
Local residents organize protests calling for justice. They create a symbol for the event--in this case, hands raised. Others outside Ferguson embrace the narrative--and the symbol.
Howard University Students: We are Michael Brown
Meanwhile, other residents of Ferguson seek justice of another sort. (H/T Conservative Treehouse)
Suspecting that the local QuikTrip called the police about an alleged theft by Brown, they loot and burn it.
They spray paint a message on the side of the QuikTrip.
Then when they learn--oops--that Ferguson's Market called the police, they loot and burn it.
The police department, of course, will say nothing. It will be conducting an internal investigation. It will interview the police officer, review any security video, and interview any witnesses. It will brush aside media requests for information because they are in the process of conducting that investigation.
Without any competing narrative, too many people in Ferguson (and elsewhere) remained convinced that their version of events it true. The demand for
And then it will happen all over in another town after another shooting.