The Eric Garner case and the grand jury decision around it has brought about a rarity in cable news and even fake cable news today:
Seemingly everyone agrees the grand jury got it wrong.
Didn’t matter what cable news network you were watching: CNN, Fox, MSNBC…seemingly every pundit and personality felt the same way: How can anyone watch that tape, and more importantly, how can you listen to it…particularly the part when Eric Garner says he can’t breathe before dying…and not indict at least as a case of criminally negligent homicide, as concluded by Fox’s Judge Andrew Napolitano last night? Either way, the consensus pales in comparison to the debate following the grand jury decision out of Ferguson, which had no videotape evidence to cut through the ambiguity and conjecture.
What is striking was the difference in hype (for lack of a better word) leading up the Garner decision. As you may recall, the weeks leading up to the Ferguson verdict saw almost non-stop coverage (See: speculation) in many circles and segments of/on cable news. Media throngs converged on the town. The powder keg was lit. Protests erupted resulting in two dozen buildings–many of them businesses owned by African-Americans–being burned to the ground.
In the end, most conservative pundits argued that Officer Darren Wilson was correct in defending himself after Michael Brown punched him inside his police car, went for his gun and eventually charged back at him outside the vehicle moments later. On the flipside, most members of liberal media say Brown was surrendering with his hands up and was executed in broad daylight. You know what happened from here: Both sides dug in. The noise somehow turned up. Not one mind changed. And in the process, the country’s race relations was set back years in what was supposed to be a post-racial era after the country’s first black president was elected six years ago.
But with the Garner case, the coverage–at least until last night–had been largely muted nationally. Example: Ask anyone who Darren Wilson is–and a majority can probably get the answer right. Ask anyone who Daniel Pantaleo is (the NYPD officer charged in the Garner case)–and you’ll likely get blank stares from all unless you happen to live on Staten Island. On the major media front, it’s doubtful network anchors like Stephanopoulos or Pelley or Lauer are meeting with Officer Pantaleo privately to land a big interview as they did with Officer Wilson…at least that hasn’t been reported yet. And that’s the thing: Given the video evidence, which lends so much to telling the true story around what happened, why did Ferguson get so much more coverage? Was it more potential for unrest? Probably. Because a gun was involved? Maybe.
Protests were mostly peaceful last night in New York. It was an odd contrast as you walked from 5th Ave to Times Square: A mix of holiday cheer for the lighting of the Rock Center Christmas tree–a majority made up of mothers and fathers bringing their young children for the annual spectacle–and protesters in Times Square rightfully dismayed and disillusioned that Garner’s death will likely (a federal investigation still looms) go unpunished despite that tape everyone points to as the only evidence needed to indict.
A rare consensus occurred in cable news last night. It also seems to be happening across the country if social media is indication.
Conservative, libertarian, independent, liberal: Almost all seem to agree that the grand jury in the Eric Garner case got it disturbingly wrong.
>> Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.