Someone will agree with Grandpa Simpson.
Earlier today it was announced that the Gran Jury has reached a decision on whether or not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. I am writing this about 3 and a half hours before the decision will be made public.
I don't have a strong opinion on what their decision should be, because I haven't paid as close attention to the evidence as the grand jurors (presumably) have. Whether or not a crime was committed comes down to whether the cop's judgment was merely poor with disastrous consequences or either reckless or negligent to a really high degree.
Because of this ambiguity, I will not have an emotional reaction to the decision itself. I might develop one on further reflection and consideration of the evidence, but as of today, I don't have an opinion and I don't think there are many people outside of Ferguson, Missouri who have sufficient knowledge to support either opinion definitively.
The reason I'm writing this is because I get the feeling from my social media feeds that there is no shortage of opinions or certainty on this complex subject. And I don't think most of them are based on the evidence. This case has become a culture war and people are lining up with their team rather than relying on the evidence.
A Conflict of Interests
The worst aspect of this rush to judgment is what I suspect is going on at the board rooms of major media outlets right now. Those rooms are (rightly) preparing for either outcome. But the really cynical part of me thinks that on some level, they are rooting for an outcome. And that outcome does not necessarily align with what their viewers are rooting for. I expect that the interests of the cable networks and their viewers are somewhat misaligned.
No matter what the grand jury decides, the focus of our media will immediately shift to covering the reaction to that decision. The best result for a cable news network is a result that will please their viewers, immediately followed by some degree of chaos. MSNBC's dream night would be to have wants an indictment, followed by rednecks saying it's the end of the country as we know it. An impromptu Klan march or cross burning would be really great for them. Fox News wants Officer Wilson to not be indicted but not so much because they care about the facts of that case or are worried about the truth of the matter. They want no indictment to come down because they think it will lead to civil unrest that will scare (and enthrall) their viewers.