Why Lots Of People Think The Media Is Wrong About The Trayvon Martin Case
Let's just air it out now.
Increasingly the outrage over the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida is turning into a debate about what really happened.
A lot of people think there is something (or many things) wrong with the conventional story of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager who was shot in Florida by a man named George Zimmerman, and the national drama that has followed it.
Some people don't believe the original telling of the story in which Martin was innocently strolling home from a 7-11 back to his father's house, when a paranoid racist neighborhood watchman profiled him, called the cops on him, and chased him before shooting and killing him, only to be let go by bumbling or racist cops.
Why don't they believe it?
They remember the outrage about the Duke Lacrosse rape story, in which white students were accused of raping a black woman, turned into a feeding frenzy, and indicted in the public mind of heinous racism and abuse when they weren't guilty of much other than being pigs.
They are suspicious of any story that attracts the moralizing of Al Sharpton, owing to his association with things like the Tawana Brawley case, in which a New York girl claimed to have been sexually assaulted and abused and then was later found to have been lying.
The Trayvon skeptics notice that liberal commentators are blaming conservatives like former Florida Jeb Bush, for signing a "Stand Your Ground" Law that seems sensible to them. Suddenly conservatives are being cast by liberals as on the opposite side of "the debate" about Trayvon Martin, and many are playing the role.
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin has pushed back against certain parts of the media story on Trayvon Martin.
They are outraged at the scorn heaped on Zimmerman, who, according to Reuters, has been receiving death threats, and calls for a bounty on his head. Spike Lee even tweeted out Zimmerman's home address.
And the skeptics have a point.
There are reports that Zimmerman was seriously hurt during this confrontation, including his broken nose, and the blood on the back of his head after his confrontation with Martin. Maybe Zimmerman had a reason to fear for his life. ABC Reports that Zimmerman's friends claim that in fact it was Zimmerman, not Martin, screaming for help in the background of the infamous 911 call.
Julian Sanchez wrote a very compelling scenario (based on the publicly available facts) in which Zimmerman and Martin both acted under the assumption that they needed to defend themselves from one another.
And the Trayvon skeptics have a point that the role of race in this story might be more complicated than previously told. George Zimmerman, was characterized as "white" in reports, when he seems to come from a mix-raced family of whites, Hispanics, and other races. Further, a non-white friend of Zimmerman's has come to his defense.
And, it has happened before. The Duke Lacrosse case was a textbook example of how a crime seemed to fit a pre-determined narrative. The nation was put through an enormous drama, and urged to do deep soul-searching ... over nothing.
Some of the skeptics are just the normal race-obsessed and racist people on the internet.
This writer at VDare.com, has taken the occasion of this national discussion to bring up crime rates between races. Others on that site think that the crime-rate of blacks is very relevant to the discussion. And that by giving a public voice to this issue, the President of the United States is condoning the "lynching of George Zimmerman."
UPDATES: There are images circulating online that are supposedly other pictures of Trayvon Martin. We saw one on Stormfront a racist message board. It was embedded with another picture purporting to be Trayvon that the Miami News Times points out is NOT Trayvon Martin. One conservative website has already apologized for publishing it. (We originally published the entire image found on Stormfront, which included two photos, but we took the second down after finding out it wasn't Trayvon Martin). And now there is also question as to whether the other image is of Trayvon. We have now removed both.)
But how would the story have been received by the public if this was the image of Trayvon Martin in your newspaper, rather than the earlier ones we've seen everywhere else?
But let's get real.
No one knows what really happened.
The Trayvon Martin story is just a distressing collection of disconnected facts. The media and social justice activists have told one story with them: of a murder motivated by racism that was covered up by the cops. Now people are pushing back on it.
But we don't have definitive answers to all the questions.
Was Zimmerman chasing Martin as seemed to be the case during his 911 phone call? Or did Zimmerman retreat toward his vehicle only to be attacked from behind by Martin? Who really started this? Why didn't police test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol? How serious were Zimmerman's injuries? Did Martin know Zimmerman had a gun?
We still don't know much about the two participants. Why was Martin suspended from school? What are the details of Zimmerman's previous arrests for resisting arrest? How many of his 911 calls were good tips or just paranoia-fueled rambling?
State and federal charges against Zimmerman are being considered. If they are filed, we're going to hear a lot more testimony, and see a lot more physical evidence. And in the meantime there is a lot more reporting to do.
But for now, most people are taking the small number of public facts, and telling the story they find most convincing.
Everyone could still be wrong.