I strongly believe twitter is a platform which is every bit a part of "real life" in that things said there can have huge consequences (see Anthony Weiner for example). And while I also believe Michelle Malkin is correct that social media "democratizes influence," I'm of the opinion that there is a bubble of sorts in which some with less influence are treated as though they have more influence even though, for the most part, it's only within the aforementioned twitter bubble that that's true.
For the last few days, I've been one of those less influential people who have been puffed up for the narratives of others. It all started with this tweet:
Give me a gun. Put me in Darren Wilson’s shoes. I’d have shot Mike Brown right in his face.
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) November 26, 2014
The normal outrage ensued, but once it was retweeted by Slate writer Jamelle Bouie, the outrage began to really take off. Of course there were countless charges of racism, most of those making the charge describing my tweet as "fantasizing about murdering an unarmed black teenager."
@BenHowe you're a racist asshole
— Brian Patton (@brianpatton614) November 28, 2014
Yeah you're definitely not racist for fantasizing about shooting that black kid in the face, Martin Luther King. @BenHowe
— Jesse Berney (@jesseberney) November 26, 2014
Those 4 are some of the cleanest examples I could provide but the sheer number of racist accusations are legion. The last person on that short list, Jesse Berney, writes for a website called Blue Nation Review where he wrote about my tweet offering gems of insight such as:
Conservative writer Ben Howe lays bare the racism behind the right’s worshipful defense of Darren Wilson. Not only does Howe think Wilson is justified, but he fantasizes himself about shooting an unarmed teenager in the face. If you don’t think that has anything to do with the color of his skin, then you’re just willfully blind to what’s wrong in this country.
It could've died there but apparently someone at Talking Points Memo reads his blog, and that's when things really got interesting. Blasted all over twitter was the headline: RedState Editor: I’d Have Shot Mike Brown Right In His Face. I do always find it interesting when a national online publication writes an article that essentially amounts to a retweet, but hey, you have to clicks somehow. They also strangely included a tweet unconnected to these events and from 6 months earlier, which has since been corrected. I had to recruit other tweeters to get them to correct that since TPM's Editor in Chief bravely has me blocked. But the straw that seems to have broken the camel's back and really burst the dam open on criticism of my tweet was this one from known race-baiter, Max Blumenthal.
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 29, 2014
And while I appreciate Blumenthal promoting me to "leading blogger" I think the reports of my influence have been greatly exaggerated. And if you understand the left, you know exactly why. It serves their narrative to use my tweet which is admittedly incendiary, as a poster for the way "the right" views the situation in Ferguson
And predictably, I now have folks from yet more left-leaning publications like Buzzfeed and Vox retweeting both my tweets as well as tweets made towards me in what I can only assume is designed to create more outrage which will eventually culminate in demands for an apology under threat that people who don't read RedState will continue to not read RedState.
Once they get my scalp, they'll use it as a constant admission of racist guilt to broadly paint everyone else on the right with the same brush.
Well, allow me to end any speculation: I'll not be apologizing for anything, I stand by what I said.
I am however, willing to discuss what I said. But before I do, I have a question for the folks that have been writing about it, especially the fellow at TPM that pulled up my unrelated tweet from 6 months ago.
Since he was apparently perusing my tweets for more fodder, did this one escape his attention?
Yeah two journalists were arrested that's fascinating. A MAN WAS SHOT TO DEATH BY POLICE WHILE HIS HANDS WERE IN THE AIR. #Ferguson
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) August 14, 2014
Or any of these?
I know we don't have all the facts yet. I should probably calm my outrage. But damn. #Ferguson looks like a police state right now.
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) August 14, 2014
Having a legitimate reason to suspect Brown or to be cautious is still far away from settling this. 8 bullets. Dead kid. #Ferguson
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) August 15, 2014
It’s still not time for us to trial by twitter here. Should be very high standard for shooting someone to death. Need to show. #Ferguson
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) August 15, 2014
Why yes, that is me being very much on the side of "why was a young man with his hands up executed in the street?" There were many more tweets from around that time with roughly the same take.
And were you to continue through my tweets, you'd see a slow evolution of my position which was based on something that Brown supporters seem to want to do everything they can to ignore: evidence.
Yes, evidence, not racism, motivated me to become of the position that Michael Brown's death was his own decision.
Amidst all of the claims that my tweet was intended to be a "internet tough guy" act, people seem very lost on the motivation. Understandably I suppose given its brevity and bluntness.
Far from being a "tough guy act" I'm actually indicating that I would have feared for my life if Wilson's version of events are accurate. I would like to believe (though can't be sure having never been in the position) that my basic instinct for self preservation would've permitted me the ability to take Brown down with my weapon. I specifically said in the face because I had seen so many tweets from people angry that Wilson had said his conscience was clean. They took offense at that idea. I said I'd shoot him in the face because if I did it, if I were in Wilson's shoes, and if everything Wilson described is what happened which I and the Grand Jury believe it was, then I would be remorseless about saving my own life. It seems that this is the most offensive part. Ironic considering that at first it was the claim that he was shot in the back that created outrage.
My tweet was not a "fantasy about murdering black children." It was completely and entirely based on putting myself in someone else's shoes. Something which those on the other side of this debate are constantly asking me to do in regards to Brown.
For the record, I have put myself in Brown's shoes as well. I've asked myself why a man (And make no mistake, a 300 lbs, 6 ft 4, 18 year old that we would happily send to defend our country overseas is a man, not a child) would've acted the way he did. Is it unrealistic to think that someone who just committed a mild robbery but who likely intended to continue living as a free man would attack an officer who could potentially arrest him?
Having been a horrible teenager, I've put myself in Brown's shoes and believe the same thing that motivated Wilson motivated Brown: self-preservation.
When a person who desperately wants to escape is backed into a corner, they can panic, and attempt to punch down the problem long enough to get away. I believe that that was why Brown acted as he did. I believe that's why he continued to charge the officer even under threat of gunfire. By the time he was charging at him he was already looking at serious jail time. He had to know this. His only chance was to get the gun from the officer and escape. He may very well have not intended to kill Wilson but unfortunately there is no way for Wilson to have known that which is why I wholeheartedly support his decision to fire.
I do believe Wilson should've waited for backup. But I also believe that was his call to make and i don't think it at all changes the situation that occurred outside of the vehicle. Once the chase had begun and "stop or I'll shoot" turned into Brown charging back at Wilson, I believe Wilson only had one set of options available to him and the result is a guy with his whole life ahead of him is dead.
I would hate to have been in Wilson's shoes. I would hate to have shot Brown in the head. But, as I said in the tweet, even if he was looking me straight in the eyes, I believe I would've acted to save my own life.
And with a wife and four children who depend on me, I'll not apologize for the clean conscience I'd have afterwards.