As you would expect, the media has been covering this sad story of a 17 year-old Florida teenager who was followed, and then shot by, a neighborhood watch "supervisor." There are myriad aspects to the case -- involving the actual incident and the media coverage of it.
--- Based on the facts we know at present, it appears that the neighborhood watch guy, one George Zimmerman, acted inappropriately. He not only violated the tenets of his Neighborhood Watch manual (which states, “it should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers, and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles”), but also the instructions of the 911 operator whom he called. Martin is also a habitual caller to 911, having contacted them 46 times in the last fifteen months.
--- The police acted questionably in the case initially. They failed to administer a drug and alcohol test on Zimmerman. They also did not run a background check on him. And, they missed an apparent racial epithet uttered under Zimmerman's breath during the 911 call. Philly's Michael Smerconish on WPHT 1210 AM a few days ago played that portion of the call and it indeed does seem like Zimmerman says "f***ing coon" as he's chasing Martin. Smerconish had to filter the sound and up the volume substantially for it to be heard; nevertheless, if he could do it, the cops couldn't?? But the reason Zimmerman may have remained free that fateful day is that a witness has stated that Martin attacked Zimmerman and was beating the crap out of him. But ... if Zimmerman had followed the 911 operator's instructions at the onset, there would have been no confrontation in the first place, right?
--- The left-leaning media predictably has dissected the race aspect of all this immeasurably. This is not to say there isn't such an aspect, of course; what it does, though -- for them, at least -- is confirm everything they believe about race and how it affects life in these United States. Which, of course, is mostly so much nonsense. We now see articles like this asking if black males wearing hoodies is a "recipe for disaster." (Geraldo Rivera takes a slightly different tack in that hoodies are associated with "gangsta" life and do indeed invite suspicion.) What this fails to note is 1) how many other cases are out there like the Martin-Zimmerman case (wouldn't we have heard about them, especially given the quick furor over this one?), and 2) even noted civil rights individuals like Jesse Jackson have come right out and stated that he fears a group of black men walking down the street. What could possibly give Jackson that trepidation?
--- Why has the mainstream media been referring to Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic?" Would they have referred to him thusly if his last name was "Rodríguez?" What if he was a black Hispanic? Either this is to further sensationalize the racial angle of the case, or the media is obtuse in thinking that someone with the last name "Zimmerman" could not possibly be Latino.
--- The conservative media has been reporting this fairly; however, too many commenters at various right-leaning news sites and blogs are making ridiculous points and statements which belittle the tragedy of this case. I read one yesterday at The Blaze which questioned why the media constantly uses images of Trayvon which show him to be quite a bit younger than 17 ... as if all 17 year-olds "look older." While this may be the case (these photos of Martin have since surfaced; he still doesn't look much older than in the photos the MSM have used, though these are certainly more "sinister"), ultimately, as one conservative commenter rebutted, such complaints are unproductive. He said he's against fake racism complaints and racial huckstery as much as the next guy, but when there's a fairly clear cut case of wrong, people have to be willing to say that's what it is.
--- But, then again, the main media figure in all this now is Al Sharpton. Not only is Sharpton one of most racially polarizing figures in the country, he was the ringleader of one of the biggest racial hoaxes of all-time -- the Tawana Brawley case. Once he's involved, immediately [mostly white] suspicion ensues. Sharpton's involvement, among others', brings to light the issue of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Aside from the Brawley (and other) hoaxes, with Barack Obama's election in 2008 accusations of racism have become so commonplace that it's causing people to yawn and say "Yeah, right." Then there's Louis Farrakhan chiming in and the Black Panthers have now offered a bounty on Zimmerman.
--- Ace [rightly] points out that the Duke lacrosse team scandal, among other things, shouldn't be forgotten.
Mark Steyn's article at The Corner a couple days back dealing with how the media reacts to [obvious] radical Islamic terror actions can be similarly applied to the Martin case ... and incidents of politically-oriented violence in general. Stage One involves blaming right wing conservative "extremists." Conservative lawmakers in Florida were quickly culpable for the state's "stand your ground" law, as was the NRA for supporting such laws. Others, like MSNBC's Karen Finney, made connections to voter ID laws and blamed Rush Limbaugh for the shooting. The same network's Mika Brzezinski also blamed Limbaugh.
Stage Two would work in the opposite manner of Steyn's thesis. With Islamic terrorists, the media quickly goes into "it's a lone wolf" mode, wanting to downplay the radical Islamist angle. With the Martin case, George Zimmerman is not just one overzealous individual with a wannabe cop fetish. The "real" issue is continued, systemic racism which is still "endemic" in contemporary America.
Steyn then posits that Stage Three has the media grudgingly admitting that it really wasn't a "lone wolf" scenario, but radical Islam still has nothing to do with a terrorist incident. In the Martin case, the elite media and its "progressive" allies generate criticism towards those whom they feel traditionally downplay or ignore the "epidemic" of racism in America which, of course, is the "actual" culprit behind Trayvon Martin's death. The liberal Daily Beast blasted Fox News for its "delay" in covering the story. Buzzfeed produced a graphic which supposedly depicts Fox only airing one story on the Martin through March 19 ... despite the fact that up until that point the story wasn't very widespread at all. The underlying message to these criticisms is, of course, that Fox News is "anti-black" and/or "racist." It's sort of understandable that these "progressive" outlets have to resort to this type of nonsense, because at present no major right-leaning media outlet has in any way defended Zimmerman or his actions. That's what really grates at them.
Lastly, there's Stage Four -- the "backlash that never happens." With reporting on radical Islam, it's the fear that Muslim communities will suffer retribution from the community-at-large after a terrorist attack. With the Martin case, you won't hear about media fears of a [black] backlash against the white (or should I say "white Hispanic") community.
I'd offer the advice to allow the authorities (state and federal) to do their jobs and [hopefully] bring about the right -- and just -- remedy. But I doubt that will make much of a difference.
UPDATE 2: A commenter at Legal Insurrection points out that the second of the more "sinister" Martin photos noted in the fifth bullet point paragraph above was referenced on its original Twitter posting as not being Trayvon. (The Twitter photo is now listed as "unavailable.")
UPDATE 3: It seems Zimmerman did not call 911 forty-six times in fifteen months. He called 46 times since 2004. Big difference, that.
UPDATE 4: Leonard Pitts is here to remind us that George Zimmerman is white, dammit. Just don't try to point out that Barack Obama is, though. Or something.
UPDATE 5: Heather Mac Donald has an excellent column on the case today.Posted by Hube at March 25, 2012 08:31 AM | TrackBack