The aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict has been predictably sad. Not quite as sad as some had predicted, but sad nonetheless — blocked interstates, rubber bullets, American flags aflame, celebrity Twitter feeds devoid of meaning or sense, and at least one random Hispanic beaten up. In the midst of this pathetic epilogue, there is at least one silver lining: the recent announcement that Zimmerman and his attorneys are planning to immediately resume their defamation lawsuit against NBC for what will hopefully be a grotesque sum of money. George Zimmerman will require a great deal of cash to keep himself and his family safe for the rest of his life, and I can think of no better entity to provide those resources than the media organization most guilty of trying to stack the deck against him.
Though, to be fair, the entire media is guilty of malpractice, the George Zimmerman trial being just the most recent example. The late Andrew Breitbart, whom I had the distinct privilege of following and filming during the closing years of his life, was something of an aficionado when it came to media malpractice. Indeed, Andrew’s life’s work was documenting and countering media bias and malfeasance — the film that resulted from our adventures together, “Hating Breitbart,” captures his mission in a unique and intimate way. It’s times like these that I miss him so much — not only as a friend, but as someone who could really put the tragic aftermath of the Zimmerman trial in its proper perspective.
The fact is that Trayvon Martin died needlessly – not because a racist George Zimmerman shot him in cold blood out of racial animus, but because Trayvon Martin broke the nose and split the head of an armed man who was prepared to defend himself. The real lesson here is that unchecked aggression can lead to tragedy, but what might have been a useful cautionary tale for all people of all races has, unfortunately, been lost in the highly politicized media coverage of this story. In doing so, the media has compounded the tragedy – by denying the public an honest discussion about the incident, and by denying Trayvon Martin’s family the possibility of seeing something genuinely positive come out of his death.
Instead, the mainstream media from the very start callously appropriated Martin’s death to push a narrative that didn’t actually exist, recklessly inflaming racial tensions. Zimmerman was initially identified as “white,” but when photographs of Zimmerman emerged that challenged that description, they switched to “white Hispanic.” Eventually, some media outlets even resorted to saying that Zimmerman “identifies as Hispanic,” as if his Hispanic heritage were somehow imaginary. Imagine the outrage if Fox News were to describe President Obama as a “white black who identifies as black.” The outrage would be justified because the description is, as it is with Zimmerman, ridiculous.
Progressives, despite their claim to want to unite people under the banner of progress, tend to actually – reflexively, even – divide people into various subgroups. They do not, as a rule, take people as they come – they must first identify them by type: by race, by biological sex, by gender identification, by sexual orientation, by religion, by politics, by geographical region, by etc. And so the life-or-death struggle between Martin and Zimmerman wasn’t a struggle between two human beings; rather, it became a struggle between two racial types, a narrative tortured into a kind of sick false metaphor for some larger, imagined struggle between Blacks and white Hispanics in greater society.
The media’s goal was a Zimmerman conviction, and so, to that end, they attempted to taint the jury pool from the onset. The first photo we saw of Zimmerman on the television and internet was a mug shot. The first photo we saw of Martin was one of him at the age of 12, smiling innocently. MSNBC went so far as to deceptively edit 911 tapes to portray Zimmerman as a racial profiler, a choice that may very well cost them dearly. We have been told, repeatedly, that Martin was unarmed – yet Zimmerman’s broken nose and bleeding head, images kept from the public eye for weeks, attest to the fact that hands alone are capable of inflicting significant injury. We were told that Zimmerman was wrong for following Martin – that he ought to have waited for police to arrive, the same police that were unable to stem the tide of robberies in Zimmerman’s neighborhood. Nobody, however, has ever suggested that Trayvon ought to have called 911 to report that he was being followed – instead, he called his friend, Rachel Jeantel, and told her that a “creepy-ass cracker” was following him. Later, we learned from the press that “creepy-ass cracker” is not, in fact, a racist term.
The media malfeasance continues even after the verdict. Nancy Grace continues to push the long-discredited story that Zimmerman uttered “f*cking coons” to a 911 operator, ignoring entirely Zimmerman’s own African ancestry, not to mention his Black prom date. Hollywood stars and starlets are practically falling over themselves on Twitter to announce just how disappointed they are in America – when in reality, were they genuine liberals, they ought to be celebrating the fact that an innocent man wasn’t successfully railroaded by an overzealous and politically motivated prosecutor.
The media’s approach to the story, cynical in every conceivable way, has impoverished us all. Lost is the valuable lesson that maintaining civility is important in civilized society. Lost is the valuable lesson that life is not a video game – that real-life aggression begets real-life aggression with real-life consequences. We are instead treated to a series of false lessons that are not at all supported by the evidence: that the struggle between Martin and Zimmerman was racially motivated, that Martin was an innocent victim of bigotry who played no role in his own demise, and that Zimmerman was freed because of a racist judicial system and a racist jury. Evidence be damned, truth be damned, justice be damned, the natural right to defend oneself from harm be damned, the media will tell you whatever story it wants to – and, in the process, manufacture racial tensions that would otherwise not exist.
It is not enough to ignore them. We must hold them in utter contempt.