Media distortions that pander to black victemhood
A week after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin, the backlash continues, with nationwide protests and calls to boycott Florida. President Obama spoke some undeniable truths when he noted that the African-American community’s reaction must be seen in the context of a long, terrible history of racism. But there is another context too: that of an ideology-based, media-driven false narrative that has distorted a tragedy into a racist outrage.Young does a good job of unpacking much of the false narrative that the left has constructed in their attacks on Zimmerman and the verdict. They are making up "facts" and ignoring facts. Their slanders of Zimmerman are such that he probably should have a cause of action against some of them, since they appear to be issued in bad faith.
This narrative has transformed Zimmerman, a man of racially mixed heritage that included white, Hispanic and black roots (a grandmother who helped raise him had an Afro-Peruvian father), into an honorary white male steeped in white privilege. It has cast him as a virulent racist even though he once had a black business partner, mentored African-American kids, lived in a neighborhood about 20 percent black, and participated in complaints about a white police lieutenant’s son getting away with beating a homeless black man.
This narrative has perpetuated the lie that Zimmerman’s history of calls to the police indicates obsessive racial paranoia. Thus, discussing the verdict on the PBS NewsHour, University of Connecticut professor and New Yorker contributor Jelani Cobb asserted that “Zimmerman had called the police 46 times in previous six years, only for African-Americans, only for African-American men.” Actually, only six calls—two of them about Trayvon Martin—had to do with African-American men. At least three involved complaints about whites; others were about such issues as a fire alarm going off, a reckless driver of unknown race, or an aggressive dog.
In this narrative, even Zimmerman’s concern for a black child—a 2011 call to report a young African-American boy walking unsupervised on a busy street, on which the police record notes, “compl[ainant] concerned for well-being”—has been twisted into crazed racism. Writing on the website of The New Republic, Stanford University law professor Richard Thompson Ford describes Zimmerman as “an edgy basket case” who called 911 about “the suspicious activities of a seven year old black boy.” This slander turns up in other left-of-center sources, such as ThinkProgress.org.
Accounts of the incident itself have also been wrapped in false narrative—including such egregious distortions as NBC’s edited audio of Zimmerman’s 911 call which made him appear to say that Martin was “up to no good” because “he looks black.” (In fact, Zimmerman explained that Martin was “walking around and looking about” in the rain, and mentioned his race—of which he initially seemed unsure—only in response to the dispatcher’s question.)
While this falsehood was retracted and cost several NBC employees their jobs, other fake facts still circulate unchecked: most notably, that Zimmerman disobeyed police orders not to follow Martin (or even, as Cobb and another guest asserted on the NewsHour, not to get out of his car). In fact, there was no such order. The dispatcher asked if Zimmerman was following the teenager; Zimmerman said yes, the dispatcher said, “We don’t need you to do that,” and Zimmerman replied, “Okay.” (Just before this, the dispatcher had made comments that could be construed as asking him to watch Martin, such as, “Just let us know if he does anything else.”)