As a resident of Florida, I had the strange experience of hearing fairly accurate, or at least un-embellished, reports of the Trayvon Martin incident for a day or two before the national media B.S. steamroller got moving – transforming George Zimmerman into a white (later “white Hispanic”) gun nut from a posh “gated community” who hunted down an apple-cheeked 12-year-old black boy and murdered him for sport. There’s no big mystery behind why the national media got so much of this story wrong. They tend to reflexively believe stories that fit into their pre-fabricated narratives, and they accept reports from certain accredited left-leaning “activists” without question.
Once Trayvon mythology was well-established, the story got huge, and national political figures became involved, the more egregious media bungles were deliberate efforts to protect and advance what they had already created. Later, I suspect many national media figures grew reluctant to take that Trayvon mythology away from activists they sympathized with. The press doesn’t want to spend a lot of time telling celebrated civil-rights leaders they’re all wet. A few fudged facts are a small sacrifice to offer the gods of Greater Truth.
The aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal on all charges was supposed to include a federal civil rights prosecution, copiously promised by Attorney General Eric Holder, coupled with a surge of political energy against Stand Your Ground laws. There’s not much to say about the former… which is rather odd, isn’t it? Remember all that sturm und drang about federal prosecution, complete with a tip line every man, woman, and child in America could access to submit evidence of George Zimmerman’s racism? How’s that coming along, AG Holder?
As for the anti-Stand Your Ground movement, it’s not doing well, either. The “Dream Defenders” who were camped out at Florida’s capitol for the past 31 days gave up the ghost and went home last week, after gathering less than half the support they would have needed to force a special session in the legislature. Their presence cost the state of Florida $153,630 in overtime for police officers.
Stand Your Ground laws never had anything but the most tenuous connection to the Zimmerman trial. He didn’t invoke them in his defense. But once again, facts didn’t matter to the grand political narrative. They matter even less when the gun-control crowd grows desperate, as this nauseating “public service announcement” from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence illustrates. The actual facts of the case are extremely inconvenient to the creators of this propaganda, so they just remixed reality to create a little drama in which Zimmerman hunted down and executed a screaming Trayvon Martin:
In a similar vein, the Florida capitol displayed a mural that portrayed Zimmerman as a “Death Wish”-style vigilante terminator, pumping a round into Trayvon’s hoodie-wreathed head while the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. hovers in the background. (That’s a mirror you see in place of Trayvon’s face, because you’re supposed to see yourself in his place – “we are all Trayvon,” you see.)
The trick to sculpturing unreality is to lie about a few details here and there, shaping the story that “everyone knows” until the actual truth becomes a trivia question… the subject of books twenty years hence that will tell “the unknown story” and reveal “what really happened” to readers who grew up on a diet of heavily edited false histories. The mirror-face mural is a bit too obviously dishonest. George Zimmerman wasn’t standing up when he fired the shot; he was lying on the ground after Trayvon Martin knocked him down and beat the hell out of him. Martin wasn’t shot in the head. But the truth would have made a less provocative mural, wouldn’t it?
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence propagandists did a better job, falsely implying that Zimmerman got his shootin’ iron ready the moment he laid eyes on poor, confused, helpless Trayvon. Then they carefully excised everything that would have interfered with their message – not least the fact that Stand Your Ground laws have nothing to do with what actually happened, and even less to do with the dark fantasy they’ve created.
Unreality is sculptured constantly, often with assistance from the master artisans of Hollywood. The new movie called “The Butler,” for example, is not a true story; it’s “based on a true story.” That means the filmmakers could tweak various details to suit their political inclinations, from slandering Ronald Reagan to conveniently omitting the Republican role in passage of the Civil Rights Act. Maybe they thought their audience is so heavily dosed with revisionist history that they wouldn’t believe the real story of how the Civil Rights Act was passed.
One of the stars of “The Butler” is Oprah Winfrey. She rather inconveniently got in trouble for fabricating a racist anecdote right before the movie came out, concocting a story about a clerk at a Swiss boutique who refused to show her a $38,000 crocodile-skin handbag because Oprah is black, which supposedly makes racist white people assume she cannot afford such luxuries. Oprah began walking back her story after the clerk challenged it. This was not a minor misunderstanding. Oprah’s sculptured unreality, doctored to make a political point and encourage interest in her movie, became a huge global news story.
When the story fell apart, consumers of celebrity culture were so dumbfounded that it took the animal-rights movement a couple of days to ask, Hey, what the heck were you doing looking at a a crocodile handbag, anyway? At around the same time, class warriors realized they had just watched a billionaire use the deadliest insult in the Western cultural arsenal to destroy a humble boutique employee… and they were expected to root for the billionaire. “I don’t know why she is making these accusations,” wailed the clerk. “She is so powerful, and I am just a shop girl. I didn’t hurt anyone. I don’t know why someone as great as her must cannibalize me on TV.”
It’s simple, dear saleslady. Actual reality was not useful, so as a high-ranking member of the dominant liberal culture, Winfrey felt free to revise the details as needed, apparently unconcerned about the consequences if she got caught. (And she’s not wrong, is she? Does anyone imagine Oprah Winfrey will be destroyed, or even significantly inconvenienced, over any of this? Her movie is doing quite well at the box office.)
Unreality is tailored on a constant basis, to shore up narratives for countless issues. These recent examples have a racial dimension, but you can find little chips of extraneous fact chiseled away from numerous non-racial issues as well. The thing is, we’re constantly told we must hold a “national discussion” on race… and it’s the last thing in the world anyone seems capable of being honest or candid about, at least when it comes to the painful topics most in need of frank discussion.
Also, race is often blended into issues that shouldn’t have a racial dimension, from voter identification to Stand Your Ground laws. SYG laws, both in theory and practice, benefit black citizens forced to defend themselves, as well as whites. Contrary to Trayvon hysteria, law-abiding black youths have no reason to count neighborhood watch volunteers and nervous homeowners among the deadliest threats they face. But when unreality is politically useful, you can bet it will trump reality every single time. At this point, we’re doing better than average if we can keep it out of school textbooks, let alone the “conventional wisdom” of popular culture.