The death of Trayvon Martin was surely a tragedy, no matter what the facts are. Nonetheless, the media coverage of and political response to the killing have been absolutely disgraceful – exploitative, cynical, and counterproductive in the extreme.
Let’s begin with the media. The initial narrative they seized upon was one of George Zimmerman, a “white Hispanic,” targeting Martin for wearing a hoodie, tracking him down, beginning a fight with him, and murdering him. Afterward, the narrative goes, Martin was not arrested by the police because either the police were racist, or they completely misconstrued Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
To make this narrative work, the media had to paint Martin as a saint, and George Zimmerman as a devil. If they had cared about accuracy, they would have realized that the character of both the supposed victim and perpetrator was irrelevant – only the events of the night in question matter. Instead, they decided to tell the American public that Zimmerman was a racist pig, while Martin was a clean-cut young man with no history of suspicious behavior.
So they released a picture of Martin that was several years old and emphasizing his youthful innocence rather than a more recent picture showing his gold chains and tatts. They suggested that Martin was a model student, rather than a troubled young man suspended from school for carrying an empty marijuana baggy.
Meanwhile, Zimmerman was portrayed as a latent member of the Ku Klux Klan, even though he was a mentor to two teenage kids of a black woman in Florida, and helped in a fundraiser for a black church.
So what’s the real story? According to police, Martin attacked Zimmerman by punching him and knocking him down; he then began slamming his head into the sidewalk. Witnesses corroborated this account. Zimmerman then shot Martin in the chest. Zimmerman was found with bloody lacerations to the back of his head and a swollen lip, consistent with his story.
Did the media do anything good by pumping it as a racial narrative without clear evidence? Of course not. But they made hay, turning a local killing into a national issue.
Pages: 1 2