Within ten days of Trayvon Martin’s death on February 26, 2012, the national media discovered the story on CBS’s This Morning. Immediately, news outlets began spinning the tragedy as a “white” on black crime fueled by racial animus and met without legal prosecution.
Enter the George Zimmerman trial. A trial which, by the standards of legal precedent, follows a relatively unremarkable tragedy. A combination of actions of two parties led to fight which turned fatal for one of the individuals. Zimmerman, the defendant, claimed self defense. The prosecution and defense both had the same evidence and presented it to a jury, within the rules of evidence. The jury unanimously agreed to acquit Zimmerman due to the inability of the prosecution to demonstrate anything besides self-defense. There is no police video, there is no ‘black glove,’ and there are no semen samples.
But where the signature evidence lacked, the collective media saw an opportunity in the tragedy — just like Eric Holder did a few days ago — for a hit story with plenty of controversy-rich undertones.
True to form, the media began its barrage of misinformation about what happened, stoking its own sensationalist flames. The misinformation included MSNBC claiming that Zimmerman was not injured by the conflict, the New York Times splicing audio from the police call making it sound like Zimmerman emphasized that Martin was black, CNN claiming that Zimmerman called Martin “a f**king coon”, and, even after figuring out that Zimmerman was in fact Peruvian, multiple outlets referring to Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic”.
Less than a month after his death, professional racialist Al Sharpton held a rally in Florida for Martin, sponsored by the Department of Justice, urging Florida to “lock him up.” Coincidentally, Obama, who was coincidentally campaigning for reelection in an extremely tight race, repeated Sharpton’s message in an address the very next day. The speech, highlighting his Nobel-prize-winning compassion, said that Martin resembled his unborn son, and that “we” should all do “some soul searching” (with Obama’s prolific record of raining death on Middle Eastern villagers and children, this quote sounds more like a punch line in a dark comedy).
More importantly, after Obama effectively took sides in the Zimmerman trial, the media immediately mutated the story to fit the off-shoot political issues that were no longer concerned with finding truth and justice in the case. Instead, it became yet another divisive issue for “clan” loyalty: liberals vs. conservatives, whites vs. blacks, rich vs. poor. The facts of the case no longer mattered.
The media circus culminated in the arrest of Zimmerman in April 2012. More than a year before the trail would even begin, the media had already drawn a line in the sand and told America to take a side. And they did, including — half the jury. Even now, after the conclusion of the 20-day trial and thorough explanations explaining how the prosecution failed miserably to provide any evidence to show Zimmerman was guilty of anything but self-defense, people continue to cry “racism in the system.” We still have a “hundred city protest” to look forward to, which will inevitably devolve into more acts of violence, simply because the jury decided to uphold the rule of law and acquit Zimmerman.
This is because, despite whatever facts may be attached to the case, once the media brands an issue with the “R-word,” the stigma takes on a life of its own — independent of the truth. The “racist” students involved in the 2006 Duke Lacrosse case were still the targets of hatred long after their 15 month legal battle exonerated them. Once the moral supremacists apply the scarlet letter of “bigot” to someone, that person is instantly an irredeemable enemy of goodness — even if they fostered black children. So despite the local police and the FBI stating that “racial bias was not a motivating factor” in the shooting of Trayvon, somehow, “racism killed Trayvon.”
Some of you will say that I’m missing the point, that Zimmerman was only acquitted because the system doesn’t value the lives of blacks. Once again, you’d be missing the point.
The problem is simple — I don’t know what really happened, and neither do you. Our reality about the case is shaped by a media that has repeatedly proven to be irresponsible and downright conniving. Making uninformed and sweeping assessments of entire systems based on a single, sensationalized event is simply irresponsible and anti-productive to exposing true acts of injustice. It’s actually amazing to me that people are so upset that the burden of proof is so high for the prosecution in a criminal defense case.
Of course, the flood of outcries in response to the Zimmerman verdict on social networks calling for “system-wide reform” and “a reevaluation of justice” have been conspicuously absent during the flood of federal scandals over the last several months, and the controversies involving Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. The fighter jets and billions of dollars sent to aid murderers in Egypt, the arming of Syrian cannibals, the drone strikes that continue to happen in an increasing number of countries on a daily basis, the four children gunned down during the Zimmerman trial in Chicago alone — these unmarketable acts of violence are far less worthy of a media frenzy. They simply don’t fit the media script.
The real culprits of the Zimmerman fiasco should be far more disturbing to people than Zimmerman or his case itself — those who profit from whipping people into racially and politically charged mobs and the establishment that will gladly capitalize on a tragedy as a smoke screen for much larger issues. The Zimmerman trial was a trap; don’t take the bait.
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