Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Trayvon Martin Story

There are a limited number of story formulas for movie plots. We need a hero. We need a villain. We need plot twists. If we don't have all that, we're likely to find the movie unsatisfying. Maybe that's why so many people thought a rewrite was in order after the first draft of the Martin-Zimmerman story was submitted.

George Zimmerman's story was that he had been attacked and beaten by someone he was watching as a suspicious character, and that he had shot his attacker in self-defense. Too straightforward. And the villain is a kid. That's not very satisfying. There's got to be a hidden after-school-special to be teased out here.

How about this? "White racist predator hunts and kills black teen. Police assist in cover-up."

Oh, I can smell ratings, baby! That's a narrative that will get an emotional response. Let's run with it. Get some photos of Martin as a smiling little boy, and Zimmerman as a hulking inmate. Push the idea that Zimmerman outweighed Martin by 100 pounds. Mention "Skittles" a lot.

President Obama weighed in, suggesting that what Trayvon looked like is relevant to his status as victim. Good, good.

The storyline hit a small hitch when it turned out Zimmerman wasn't white. No problem, we'll call him a "white Hispanic" and roll with it. The media were on board. They have space to fill and a need to attract attention from the public to get money from advertisers. ABC pushed the notion that George Zimmerman "seemed" uninjured in the police station video. To help that along, they obscured the portion of the video where his head was most clearly visible.

Emotions got ginned up. People got beat up in Trayvon's name. An unrelated Zimmerman family got harrassed thanks to Spike Lee's tweet of their address. The New Black Panther Party called for a race war. And all the people who were wringing their hands over the potential violence of the Tea Party were completely silent.

To help things along further, MSNBC edited both the 911 audio and the associated transcript to make it appear that Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin. Actually, that was so easily exposed, their motivation may have been simply to become more like Fox News rather than to actually push the narrative. Nevertheless, it does suggest what narrative they favored. Those who criticize Fox News for such shenanigans were silent.

The New Black Panther Party helpfully put up "Dead or Alive" bounty posters offering $10,000 for the capture (or, it seems, killing) of a man who hasn't been charged with anything. The Tea Party phobics (including the Department of Justice) found this not at all disturbing.

While public pressure mounted for the Florida special prosecutor to charge Zimmerman, the Martin family's attorney (why do they have an attorney?) expressed their fear of his being a flight risk and asked for increased bail. He was in hiding, after all. It turns out there was no need: the prosecutor quickly came back with a murder 2 charge, and Zimmerman immediately turned himself in. At the press conference, the prosecutor promised that new information would be released about the case, but nothing new seems to have come from there.

More recently, new information did come out. It wasn't particularly helpful to the narrative. On the same day the the coroner announced that the only injuries to Martin were the gunshot wound and lacerations to his knucklesGawker asserted that Martin "was chased, beaten and shot by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman," in what was apparently the least successful beating ever. The speculation that Zimmerman initiated contact with Martin is continually asserted as fact despite there being zero evidence of it. Alan Dershowitz says the case has no merit and "The prosecution has already admitted that it has no evidence that Zimmerman started the actual fight."

Meanwhile, Mansfield Frazier wrote in the Daily Beast in favor of appeasing those who threaten violent responses.
"America can only dodge so many racial bullets, and a not-guilty verdict in this case could very easily turn the racial cold war into a very hot one."
He then goes on to argue for Zimmerman's lawyers to go for a plea deal, purely to prevent a violent response. Brilliant! "Justice" by expedience! Don't arrest the people promising violence, just give them what they want. They're not a problem, they're entertaining! Frazier dubs them "The Three Stooges." You don't arrest the Three Stooges! (Note: Ironically, a month later, he argues that the case must go to trial. He takes the opportunity to assert that Zimmerman initiated contact, but "Even if Zimmerman is found not guilty, if those dangerous laws are changed, society will have won a victory."  I guess he evolved.)

Thomas Sowell notes that we're not even reporting on race war activities as they happen. It appears the terrorists really have won, but they aren't the ones we were fighting.

Every bit of evidence says that the police handled this case fine initially. It is possible that some heretofore unknown facts will surface, justifying a murder two conviction, but it sure doesn't look likely. What looks likely to me is an acquittal, followed by violence. And far too many people see the former as the more problematic of the two. That is certainly the position of our Justice Department. Plot twist indeed.