PZ Myers Says It Was ‘Nice of Robin Williams to Create Such A Spectacular Distraction’

And another prominent media personality totally misses the narrative. Writing for his popular Pharyngula blog, Myers posted a rather crass and tone-deaf article in which he pitted the news about Robin Williams against the news about the shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent tensions in Ferguson, Missouri.

[Robin Williams’] sacrifice has been a great boon to the the news cycle and the electoral machinery — thank God that we have a tragedy involving a wealthy white man to drag us away from the depressing news about brown people. I mean, really: young 18 year old black man gunned down for walking in the street vs. 63 year old white comedian killing himself? Which of those two stories gives you an excuse to play heart-warming and funny video clips non-stop on your 24 hour news channel? […]

Boy, I hate to say it, but it sure was nice of Robin Williams to create such a spectacular distraction. No one wants to think the police might be untrustworthy.

And think of the politicians! Midterm elections are coming up. Those are important! So people like Barack Obama need to be able to show their human side and connect with the real concerns of the American people by immediately issuing a safe, kind statement about Robin Williams, while navigating the dangerous shoals of police brutality and black oppression by avoiding them.

Myers went on to include a racist Facebook post about Ferguson and suggested that the poster is probably a fan of Mork & Mindy and Williams’ film What Dreams May Come.

How the hell is it Robin Williams’ fault that the news media covered his suicide perhaps with more attention than the terrible events in Ferguson? More importantly, in what twisted universe can a suicide precipitated by depression and perhaps addiction be described as a “distraction?”

Of course it isn’t, but to even partially blame such a thing on Williams is deliberately caustic for the sake of being caustic. There’s no evidence that the news media gave preferential treatment to the Williams story due to any racial bias or for the sake of distracting from Ferguson, any more than, say, President Obama ordered airstrikes in Iraq to distract from Benghazi. Speaking of which, to attack Obama of all people for issuing a statement about Williams before a statement Brown due to political expedience is shockingly ignorant. Inserting a media conspiracy theory into the mix is even worse. It dishonors both the mourning of Williams and the mourning of Brown, transforming the dual events into a personal hobby horse — a distraction in and of itself.

I’m not aware of any serious voices other than Myers who have so crudely shoehorned the coverage of these events into a one-on-one competition. In fact, the only post on Myers’ blog about Ferguson is this one, and a considerable chunk of it is dedicated to the face and words of an otherwise anonymous white bigot.

Ultimately, the more appropriate debate here — the more critical disparity — is the difference between how law enforcement badly overreacted to Brown and the unarmed residents of Ferguson versus how similar officials retreated in the face of, say, the armed and militant Bundy Ranch crowd.

And here I was silly enough to believe Rush Limbaugh would corner the market on inappropriate comments about all of this.

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Salon.com. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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