Trayvon Martin And Perspective

On February 26 in a suburb of Orlando, a Hispanic man, George Zimmerman, shot to death an unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch, carrying a pistol. “Zimmerman spotted Martin as he was patrolling his neighborhood on a rainy evening and called 911 to report a suspicious person. Against the advice of the 911 dispatcher, Zimmerman then followed Martin, who was walking home from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles in his pocket.” To date, Zimmerman has not been arrested, but after a media outcry, local and federal grand jury investigations have been opened. Zimmerman contends that he shot Martin in self-defense; there are no eyewitnesses and the details are murky, but at least one witness overheard a confrontation. Presumably, further investigation will be needed before prosecutors can build a case that does not leave the claim of self-defense surrounded by a cloud of reasonable doubt, ending with a Casey Anthony type verdict. There’s been some discussion about Florida’s particularly strong self-defense law, but in any state in the Union, if a jury believes there is a real possibility that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, he’d be acquitted, and if the jury doesn’t, he’d be convicted.

The Martin case is a legitimate local news story, of the type that crops up now and then – in major cities like New York, where I live, we have multiple crime stories a year that involve sensational or particularly tragic facts and – at least at the outset – a significant possibility that injustice will be done either to the victim, the defendant, or both. Such cases test public confidence in the competence and fairness of local law enforcement, and sometimes find both to be wanting.
But the media feeding frenzy over this particular story – one out of the thousands of homicides in this country – in apparent response to a left-wing campaign to keep it in the national news, reflects at best a loss of perspective and at worst a cynical effort to inflame racial division in an election year.

Politico, in a story on pressure by the Congressional Black Caucus on the case, notes the scale of the campaign to nationalize the story:

A petition asking for Zimmerman’s prosecution has drawn more than 420,000 signatures and an attorney for the Martin family has asked for an FBI investigation.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Trayvon Martin’s family. But obviously we’re not going to wade into a local law-enforcement matter,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said when he was asked about Martin’s death at today’s briefing.

On the scene is a man with his own rap sheet of inciting murderous rioting:

Later Tuesday, civil rights activist Al Sharpton is expected to join Sanford city leaders in an evening town hall meeting to discuss with residents how the investigation is being handled. On Monday, students held rallies on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, where prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine if charges should be filed.

ThinkProgress, leading a chorus of “progressive” bloggers, complains that the media feeding frenzy has not been unanimous:

Martin has merited coverage by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today. The story has been covered by all three broadcast networks and extensively on cable. But there is one outlet that has barely mentioned Trayvon Martin – Fox News.

Now bear in mind that the very people pushing a “national conversation” on George Zimmerman are not always so concerned that the media give a full and fair accounting of our criminal justice system’s fairness to victims of crimes. They are still complaining, a quarter century later, that the Massachusetts prison furlough program became an issue in the 1988 presidential election, and that a few obscure local ads even mentioned one particular graphic crime, committed by an inmate named Willie Horton. Somehow, even though it directly involved the judgment of a presidential candidate, that was not deemed fit for discussion.
Or turning to the present day, if the point is to use crime stories to dramatize real world concerns, what about a story that affects a lot more people than the fairness and competence of the Sanford, Florida police department: incursions into the U.S. by Mexican drug cartels? You can easily find dramatic individual stories written up in the local and sometimes national print media – a quick Google search turned up these examples:

March 14, 2012: “An alleged lieutenant of the Sinaloa cartel has been indicted in the U.S. for conspiracy in the kidnappings and deaths of a West Texas man and three New Mexico men.”

March 3, 2012, a story Erick wrote up on RedState: “A Mexican drug leader. Oscar ‘El Apache’ Castillo Flores, was released by the United States back to Mexico and immediately set about reacquiring power and killing people. He eventually is gunned down himself. His death happened this past week.

In September of 2011, Oscar’s brother Omar was gunned down in Texas. About the same time, someone kidnapped his wife from a Walmart in Brownsville, TX.”
February 16, 2012: In a NY Times story on a Texas state government website compiling stories of Texans terrorized by the drug gangs: “Col. Steve McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state’s top law enforcement agency, told a Congressional subcommittee in May that the agency had identified 22 homicides, 24 assaults, 15 shootings and 5 kidnappings in Texas since January 2010 that were directly related to the Mexican cartels.”

December 16, 2011: “[A] new federal court case outlines how Mexican drug cartels have teamed up with violent street gangs to operate inside the United States.

The case involves dozens of members of the Barrio Azteca gang charged with operating a massive drug-trafficking and money-laundering enterprise. A handful of members have already been convicted and were sentenced in Texas this week, while others face trial next spring for racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

Information released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) this week says Barrio Azteca is also responsible for the March 2010 murders in Juarez of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband and another associate.”

September 25, 2011: “Mexican police are investigating whether the death of a woman found decapitated at the Texan border is the third killing made in retribution for posts about drug cartels on social networking websites.
The woman, identified by local officials as Marisol Macias Castaneda, a newsroom manager for the Primera Hora newspaper, was found in Nuevo Laredo next to a handwritten note claiming she was murdered for posts about the Zetas cartel, which is believed to dominate the area’s drug trade to Laredo, Texas.”

March 3, 2011: “A man who stole drugs from a Mexican cartel was bludgeoned, stabbed and then decapitated in a suburban Phoenix apartment — a gruesome killing that police say was meant to send a message that anyone who betrays the traffickers will get the same treatment.”

December 8, 2009: NY Times story on a San Diego trial of a Mexican drug cartel; “authorities in Kansas City, Mo., and Miami are also investigating the Mr. Rojas-Lopez’s squad for drug trafficking and killings in their cities.”

December 4, 2009: “he raging drug war among cartels in Mexico and their push to expand operations in the United States has led to a wave of kidnappings, shootings and home invasions in Arizona, state and federal officials said at a legislative hearing.”

This is even before we get to the matter of the Obama Administration’s direct implication in the cartels’ crimes via Operation Fast and Furious, the misguided gun-running scheme that ended up putting weapons in the hands of the cartels that killed, among others, a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

As you can see, the cartel story has not, of course, been completely ignored; the New York Times has reported on it, federal hearings have been held, indictments handed down, and the state governments of Texas and Arizona are concerned. It is legitimately a major story, and should be covered as one. But the relevant point here is that no individual case has been given the kind of maudlin saturation coverage of the 41 CNN stories in less than a month on the Zimmerman/Martin case cited by ThinkProgress, nor are left-wing organizations pressing for justice for the cartels’ many victims. (To the contrary, ThinkProgress has blasted the Texas government website as a ‘Border Vigilante Website’ and characterized discussions of violence at the border as “Fear-Mongering.”)

The reality is that the Trayvon Martin case is being pushed by left-wing organizations eager to provide a backdrop of racial strife to this year’s elections – a dangerous tactic, given how frequently popular agitation over these kinds of racially divisive stories have led to riots that leave people dead or homeless and local businesses and jobs destroyed. And that while activists on both sides of the aisle often try to get big media to focus on particular crime stories that advance some national political or cultural narrative, the media is much more apt to be receptive to such campaigns by the left than the right. That’s not to deny that the media sometimes goes crazy over cases with no particular political significance, like the Casey Anthony and Natalee Holloway cases, but those cases didn’t damage any of the left’s narratives.

Serious news organizations always have to make choices in what they cover, and even news consumers who understand the media’s biases are subject to the pervasive influence of decisions to allocate coverage. As I’ve noted before, for example, the media often puts a face to death penalty stories and tends to lump the death penalty and abortion issues together, while ignoring the fact that there are as many abortions every day as there have been executions in the past 80 years. When one local story is magnified many times over and personally dramatized, in the process consuming vast news resources, while stories affecting many more people are reduced to dry recitations of numbers with no followup and no coherent narrative, the viewing public is given a false picture of the world. That’s no service to anyone but the activists of the left.

37 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin And Perspective”

  1. Once again you are embarrassing yourself as a shill and joke. You are muddling the facts to make a bogus argument of the issue at hand. The first issue with this case and the families push in the media is the conduct of the Sanford police department and the “Stand Your Ground” law not lefties. If your child was killed in this manner you would sit down and be quiet or demand answers? But when you have an agenda of calling every one lefties even in the case of a child be killed to further you political point speaks volumes of your character. This Zimmerman guy called police 46 times only as a watch captain not a police officer. Also, he followed the kid even after police told him not to then complained “These assholes always get away”. But even knowing these facts the police did not perform a sobriety and advised a witness on what they should say they saw. But in you circle of friends it is far easier to mix in a bunch a BS to excuse your silence when a person is killed by a guy who was only suspicious of black kids. Nothing to see here move along just one dead teenager, a bag of skittles, and some Arizona Ice Tea

  2. What I have not heard, and what you do not provide, is some factual theory of how Zimmerman would be innocent under the Stand Your Ground law but guilty under the laws of other states. That part of this whole flap seems to be a red herring.

  3. Crank, pretty simple not a red herring you tried to make political hay off of a kids death by calling the family a bunch of lefties for pushing for more details and transparencies in the media from police. Read the all the initial comments from the police chief plenty of stuff there to make your post pretty much a hit piece. But like when the guy in Salon took you down you will simply say I have a day job as an excuse.

  4. The case should be reviewed. Zimmermans actions seem to show some an elevated zeal to protect oneself. Once it is realized by that George Zimmerman is Hispanic, the furor will die down.
    Also, I did not realize that Al Sharpton had bandwidth to be involved in this situation. Thought he was still investigating the Duke lacrosse incident.

  5. javaman: Crank didn’t call the victims family anything. Did you even read the article?

  6. I think the fact that the post concerned the issue of media coverage rather than any family or local matters just went right over javaman’s head.
    Lefties do this a lot. A lone young black kid appears to have been killed needlessly. There is nothing more to be discussed as far as they are concerned. Everybody and everything they don’t like is responsible for his death.

  7. Once again spongeworthy nails it (no pun intended). Why should we care about a trigger-happy vigilante killing when Crank can concoct a case against the [Insert Jaws music here] the MEDIA?

  8. For someone who has posted more than once, “if you want something written about get your own damn blog” this immense catty bitchfest about Mexican drug cartels and abortion not getting enough coverage vis a vis the story of a black youth being shot for no reason seems hypocritical and self-serving. Way to go Crank. Take a true tragedy that has several facets and turn it into a screed on how woefully the media treats your point of view. Boo fucking hoo. You should really have thought twice before hitting the SUBMIT button this time because this is an embarrassing piece of work.

  9. The “stand your ground” law will not protect Zimmerman if he actually went after the kid as the initial reports suggest. Under Florida, and most states’, law, a person who is the initial agressor in a confrontation cannot invoke the self defense doctrine. If Zimmerman went looking for a confrontation, which it appears that he did, he will not be protected. I do not know why he has not been arrested yet, except that it is fairly common in deaths where there is no eyewitness for the police and DA to build a case before filing charges.

  10. The “stand your ground” law will not protect Zimmerman if he actually went after the kid as the initial reports suggest. Under Florida, and most states’, law, a person who is the initial agressor in a confrontation cannot invoke the self defense doctrine. If Zimmerman went looking for a confrontation, which it appears that he did, he will not be protected. I do not know why he has not been arrested yet, except that it is fairly common in deaths where there is no eyewitness for the police and DA to build a case before filing charges.

  11. Uh, Crank, have you lost your mind on this one? You are outraged over a kid being killed in what is more and more appearing to be a racially motivated murder and you hate the coverage? I’ve followed and contributed to your site for years, and whenever some white girl or woman goes missing or something sensational that gets enormous coverage (generally by Fox but by CNN also) you utter nary a peep. But this?

  12. I’m not really surprised by the difference in coverage. The media loves controversial stories that elicit strong differences of opinion and pull emotional heartstrings – you have young teenager shot dead with strong evidence of being stalked, allegations of racism (which do not seem unsubstantiated in this case) and possible police corruption. It’s a perfect storm that would resonate in just about any regional market.
    The Mexican drug cartel cases, while no less tragic and heartbreaking, are largely a regional issue. It’s not going to resonate as well in areas not directly affected – Chicago, NYC, etc. And as you note, it’s not like they haven’t been covered in those markets.
    As for the liberal activists, well, there is no surprise there. My chief complaint is that they lack credibility, as they seem willing to believe any allegation – or hint of allegation – about racism in any story. In this particular case, given what has been released in the telephone transcripts, they have a point.

  13. Since you’re such a movie buff perhaps you should pop a DVD of Murder on a Sunday Morning in. Won an Oscar in 2000 (which I’m sure you confer with some unacceptable liberal status) for Best Documentary. It’s about the case of a black teenage boy wrongly accused of killing a white man in Florida and it covers the explicit incompetence and overt racism of the police and judicial system handling the case. You just keep brushing shit like this off and wringing your hands over all the abortions in the world all the while blithely ignoring the realities of the world.

  14. Crank, you define as the “reality” the following: “the Trayvon Martin case is being pushed by left-wing organizations eager to provide a backdrop of racial strife to this year’s elections.”
    That would indeed be damning if you had any proof whatsoever that any “left-wing organizations” are “providing a backdrop of racial strife, let alone that they are doing this “eager[ly].” But, of course, all you have is an example of a different set of criminal activities and the exasperated “see, the left is not complaining about this.”
    The Florida law is a public policy abomination and would seem to make a prosecution of Zimmerman (by the way many Hispanics are Caucasian) difficult. The law provides: “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” The prosecutors will have to investigate the reasonableness of any belief Zimmerman may have had about the risk to him personally, or a belief that a “forcible” felony would be committed.
    Evidence published to date, including the caution from 911 not to pursue, the relative size of the two, and his being unarmed suggest, at the very least, an investigation.

  15. its just fascinating listening to people talk about what happened and the evidence. None of us know really anything about what happened that night. We weren’t there, we didn’t see what happened, who said what to who? When? Who did what to who? The area, the lighting, the tone of voice of each of the participants, they both could have acted perfectly reasonably and this still could have happened. I could easily create scenarios where Dickerson did nothing wrong and scenarios where he would be guilty of manslaughter or worse. Thats why we allow, you know cops and prosecutors to investigate and make determinations and we don’t jump to conclusions and try cases with online petitions. All that said, can we stop using this dead kid as a prop to gin up racial tensions, attack gun ownership laws, and the Florida law which is so “radical” that other states have passed similar laws.

  16. “Thats why we allow, you know cops and prosecutors to investigate and make determinations and we don’t jump to conclusions and try cases with online petitions. ”
    Oh, yes, I remember this exact argument when they wanted to try alleged terrorists in non-military courts.

  17. javaman – I’ve said nothing about the family. I wouldn’t blame the family if they wanted the Earth to stop on its axis and nobody to discuss anything else for a year. Grief does that to people. Which is also why we shouldn’t uncritically let the grieving set our terms of debate.
    Mr O’Puckerman – The staff of Freddy’s Fashion Mart was unavailable for comment.
    jim – If you are telling me to get my own damn national cable TV news channel, well, I’m a little short on cash for that right now.
    Daryl – As I said, the cable networks have wasted plenty of time on other cases for less political reasons. But my reason for writing this was seeing the heavy activity by the left-wing activist groups pushing for still more coverage, which nobody does in the case of the usual Nancy Grace nonsense. And people trying to fabricate a “national conversation”, like this USA Today front page story today. The sources of that pressure immediately suggest that this is intended to stoke racial division, which helps the Democrats.
    We do not have an endless supply of public attention. 49 people were shot this weekend in Chicago, including the murder of a 6 year old girl. The people pushing this story will just drain attention away from stories like that.
    Magrooder – I have never suggested there shouldn’t be an investigation, or even that this shouldn’t be a local news story. In fact, my point to javaman is that while the evidence may have looked pretty ambiguous when this first happened, what’s come out since suggests that Zimmerman would probably not have a leg to stand on regardless of the particulars of Florida law.
    dch – Nobody knows for sure, but that’s why the factual particulars matter, in this or any case.

  18. Wasn’t implying you get your own cable network but you could just switch the station to Fox or any of the hundreds of hours/week of conservative talk radio that you can listen to live, podcast or stream through your computer. There is no doubt the media will take ANY story and totally overplay it. It’s hardly excuse for your 5th grade level, insanely long, “what you say bounces me off rubber and sticks to you like glue.” Embarrassing.

  19. Wow, think you touched a nerve here, Crank? Respectful disagreement is too good for you, sir, nay thou art a shill, a racist and a fool!
    Look, guys, just because the post went over your heads doesn’t mean you have to be assholes about it.

  20. You can always count on one of the dittoheads to come to the rescue. Wowan such an amazing reply Linus. Hope you printed that out for the Wall of Fame you have going in your mom’s basement.

  21. The post didn’t go over anyone’s heads Linus. We disagree. Crank’s main point was that the “so called” liberal media made this a national case on racism; I gently pointed out that Fox has done the same over and over, generally when it’s some young hot blonde gone missing or killed.
    I think that this case really should be national, and I don’t think it’s because one kid was killed, as opposed to someone else’s. It’s the way this kid seemed to have been almost legally executed in a state with a nebulous stand and kill law pushed through by the NRA. If a legal execution (and I am for the death penalty) is supposed to be difficult, then it should be really really hard to gun someone down, and not just because you are a little scared. Zimmerman had a gun, the kid had a phone. Doesn’t sound fair to me.

  22. What in the sweet blue blazes does the Martin case have to do with Mexican drug gangs? Instead of a baseball your site logo should be a red herring.

  23. I forgot to commend you you Crank on breaking the conservative embargo on this story. But to claim it is just a local issue is well Ostrich like. It seems the entire state of Florida was already wary and tiring of this law and how it was being used by the courts. Once again in saying this issue was being pushed by the lefty media is sad, since we all KNOW the family pushed this issue hard to all media (you conservatives just ignored them) that is why in your obscure way you are calling the family lefties. Nice way of blaming Sharpton, funny thing is if you look at the protest it is nationwide and the town council meeting in Sanford Fl ALL residents are outraged. Much bigger than anything Sharpton could have done, but keep the jokes coming. This case is about profiling of black males and a complete white wash an incompetence by the police. I wonder what conservatives said when Emmit Till was murdered? Paging Hannity and Rivera

  24. Regardless of how any Zimmerman prosecution turns out (and there are plenty of people pointing out that Zimmerman’s conduct was likely not protected under the “Stand Your Ground” law, lefty gun grabber hysterics notwithstanding), it’s pretty clear that the media’s interest in this case is as a vehicle for pushing back against increased recognition of Second Amendment rights in this country. The fact that they’re piling on so transparently is a testament to the fact that permit carriers are, as a class, almost ridiculously law-abiding, making opportunities to trump up a case for one bad apple leading to the rights of millions being taken away rather hard to find.

  25. Given the shoddy/negligent/willfully absent case work Zimmerman will almost assuredly never be convicted provided he has any sorr of attorney who knows up from down. There is basically no forensic evidence worth a plug nickel connected to this case and the only true eye-witness is dead. Zimmerman’s attorney can use the police conduct to his defense and this will be a case in which the most notable evidence will likely be a 911 call recording.

  26. I think you are right about the left pushing the story Crank.
    Apparently Zimmerman was on the ground getting sh*t beat out of him when he shot Martin, a young man with a history of beating people up. What was he supposed to do? Just lay there and let Martin beat him senseless?
    Funny the Left doesn’t want to push this story:
    “Teens set kid on fire for being ‘white boy’ ”

  27. Where is Lifetime NRA Member to tell us Martin should have been packing, and that would have kept him alive?
    Just kidding. Can you imagine how quick the NRA would lose their political power if they pushed for minority gun ownership?

  28. feeblemind – Yeah, I had just seen those earlier reports…again, we’re not really in a position from here to judge the credibility of that, or of the rest of the evidence. If you’re interested in this as a criminal case, details like whether or not Zimmerman was on the ground getting beaten up are significant. If you’re mainly interested in making a political point, they’re just inconvenient,

  29. “If you’re mainly interested in making a political point, they’re just inconvenient,”
    A statement which would be much more powerful, if it wasn’t coming from a guy who’s team has been running the Southern Strategy as an election strategy for the past 40+ years.

  30. Most people who operate an intelligent and thoughtful blog have mostly thoughtful and intelligent commenters. You got the short end of that stick, Crank.
    This story is of local interest. No one but Mr. Zimmerman and possibly the police know exactly what happened.
    A young man is dead, and another man’s life just went into the toilet. Absent anything but the barest of facts a great many people are pontificating and apparently insisting that others join them in judging this tragedy.
    This story means very little to me. I do not know any of the people involved, even remotely. And yet a large portion of the national media seem to think that I should care deeply about this. And bringing this up is some sort of faux pas at best.
    This is a conversation I have had with my mother on numerous occasions, how the media pick stories mainly for their prurient characteristics and then talk about little else for days or even weeks on end. This is a Florida story. I have plenty of tragedy here in Illinois to concern me.

  31. “Yeah, I had just seen those earlier reports…again, we’re not really in a position from here to judge the credibility of that, or of the rest of the evidence.”
    Normally, I’d agree with you, but any fight that took place is really academic given that the 911 tape states that he profiled him as a young, black male and sought him out after the police asked him not to, combine with the failure to arrest and you have a big story. The 911 tape is the key to this story being big.

  32. “I do not know any of the people involved, even remotely. And yet a large portion of the national media seem to think that I should care deeply about this.”
    Let’s hope it has a shorter shelf life than that incessant (and irrelevant) 9/11 story the media hyped for a decade.

  33. I was amazed when I went through my conceal class it did include/require me to learn first aid/CPR. Zimmerman watched another other human die after he shot him without performing any first aid. Sure enough, the police officers did though.
    Make First Aid/CPR part of conceal classes.

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