Officer Darren Wilson’s Online Support Group Is As Classy As You’d Expect

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 19 2014 12:07 PM

Officer Darren Wilson’s Online Support Group Is As Classy As You’d Expect

One of the stranger subcultures of the #Ferguson moment is the spontaneous support group that's collected to support Officer Darren Wilson. Gideon Resnick reports on the most prominent GoFundMe page and T-shirt campaign and Facebook group of the movement, and got a few comments from organizers. (I've requested some comments, too, because I am absolutely terrible at book leave.) They say what you might expect: They wish this situation weren't racialized. "Al and Jesse would never come out from cowardly hiding if it were a black cop and white offender," says one organizer, very un-racist-ly.

I say this is strange because Wilson has not been arrested. The GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $21,000 (and was started in St. Charles, the conservative county outside St. Louis), explains that "all proceeds will be sent directly to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees." The legal fees, currently, would pay for nothing. That's sort of why protesters keep taking over the streets. (By contrast, the George Zimmerman defense fund only started going after Zimmerman was arrested.)

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Who would be so moved by Wilson's legal non-plight to organize for him? We Support Officer Darren Wilson, the Facebook group, greets visitors with this message: "We do NOT SUPPORT RACISM OF ANY KIND. HATRED, RACISM AND NEGGATIVE COMMENTS OR POSTS WILL RESULT IN YOUR REMOVAL OF THE GROUP." One of the group admins is Ryder Wingrath, who on Aug. 16 changed his Facebook avatar to a meme of solidarity. The change was celebrated on his Facebook wall.

A day before, Wingrath shared a meme (using the "Kermit the Frog sipping tea" format) that... well, it's pretty self-explanatory.

Wingrath appears to be the outlier among the admins, at least in what he's willing to bleat about in public. And the joiners are not all white people. But you wouldn't be wrong to assume that the recruits to the Darren Wilson movement are pretty conservative. Jessie Rhys, whose avatar is the icon of the conservative Oath Keepers, frequently shares memes about (ironically) the free-speech crackdowns of the Obama regime, and stuff like this:

Ryan Lord, another member of the group, has the same Wilson support badge as Wingrath, but a slightly busier churn of comments and memes. For example:

And this criticism of Capt. Ron Johnson:

Where does this sentiment come from? Lots of sources, and lots of resentments. There is the sense that Mike Brown (like Trayvon Martin) was sold by a pliant media as a sweet kid, when the evidence they're seeing is that he wasn't. (As Jonathan Capehart points out, the leaks about Brown's history from police to reporters have been ... selective.) Brown, like Martin, has been the subject of fake viral photos meant to prove his thuggishness—although I think only Brown's fake photo was shared by a Missouri cop who pointed out that white people didn't riot after O.J. was acquitted. In Missouri, as in Florida, the Obama administration (Eric Holder's DOJ, specifically) has been intervening, and to some this seems like a race-baiting administration stoking racial tension, not responding to it. 

The crisis in Ferguson has the potential to change the way conservatives view crime, and policing, and the relationship between civilians and the state they're allegedly the masters of. And to some people, change is terrifying in a way that a midnight formation of police in riot gear is not.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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