How badly has the media mis-reported the Trayvon Martin shooting? Just look at how rapidly the story is mutating, now that George Zimmerman is up on charges – thanks to a ridiculously over-reaching affadavit, for which some observers, including legendary liberal lawyer Alan Dershowitz, think the prosecutor should be up on charges.
Do you remember the story you heard on Day One, when this first became big national news? A racist white man gunned down an innocent little black boy for no reason, just because he was Walking While Black through a swanky gated condo community. The cracker cops of his small Florida town waved this trigger-happy paranoid self-appointed security guard on his merry way.
A million furrowed brows bent over the tape of Zimmerman’s 911 call, seeking to divine racial epithets from his barely-audible muttering. NBC News deliberately edited out the 911 dispatcher asking Zimmerman to describe the ethnicity of the person he was observing, to make him appear race-obsessed. When the media suddenly discovered what Zimmerman actually looks like, his designation was changed, with nearly one hundred percent consistency, to “white Hispanic,” by media outlets which had previously employed that designation three or four times in a century, at most.
We saw a thousand reprints of the most infamously disingenuous photographic comparison in recent memory: a shot of 12-year-old Trayvon beaming happily, next to an equally outdated mug shot of a morose George Zimmerman. It took a long time for the media to cough up more recent photos of either one.
And now we’re finally getting some “deep background” on Earth’s most famous “white Hispanic.” Reuters published a long profile of Zimmerman on Wednesday, and it’s nothing short of astonishing compared to the image pushed by the media over the past month.
Just for starters, it turns out this allegedly gun-happy nutball got his concealed weapons permit on the advice of an animal control officer, because a pit bull was menacing him and his wife. He was asked to begin neighborhood watch patrols by his community, which a black resident – who asked not to be indentified, because she fears retaliation – testified was being robbed by young black men.
And Zimmerman was raised in a “racially-integrated household,” with a family tree that included an “Afro-Peruvian great-grandfather.” His grandmother baby-sat for “two African-American girls who ate their meals at the Zimmerman house and went back and forth to school each day with the Zimmerman children.”
George Zimmerman was a Catholic altar boy, volunteered to work in a rectory, helped out at school by translating English to Spanish for immigrant parents, worked three jobs to buy his first car, and opened his own Allstate insurance office… with a black partner.
Here’s how Reuters describes that posh “gated community” where Zimmerman supposedly hassled Trayvon Martin for no good reason:
By the summer of 2011, Twin Lakes was experiencing a rash of burglaries and break-ins. Previously a family-friendly, first-time homeowner community, it was devastated by the recession that hit the Florida housing market, and transient renters began to occupy some of the 263 town houses in the complex. Vandalism and occasional drug activity were reported, and home values plunged. One resident who bought his home in 2006 for $250,000 said it was worth $80,000 today.
At least eight burglaries were reported within Twin Lakes in the 14 months prior to the Trayvon Martin shooting, according to the Sanford Police Department. Yet in a series of interviews, Twin Lakes residents said dozens of reports of attempted break-ins and would-be burglars casing homes had created an atmosphere of growing fear in the neighborhood.
In several of the incidents, witnesses identified the suspects to police as young black men. Twin Lakes is about 50 percent white, with an African-American and Hispanic population of about 20 percent each, roughly similar to the surrounding city of Sanford, according to U.S. Census data.
One of the incidents in question involved a black teenager stealing Zimmerman’s bicycle off his front porch. In another, two black men broke into an occupied house, trapping a woman and her infant son upstairs, whispering frantically to 911 dispatchers. Zimmerman contacted her after the incident, put a stronger lock on her sliding glass door, and told her to contact him or his wife, if she ever felt unsafe again.
Are you getting the picture? Do you see just how badly this story has been mis-reported? Much of this information was readily available to any media organization that cared to request it. I can recall allusions to some of it from early reports in the Florida press, before the story went national, but those details just plain dropped out of the story. Instead, we were told Zimmerman was a hysteric who melted 911 lines with bogus calls.
Even the clear description of his injuries from the police record was called into question. How far do you recall plunging into Trayvon hysteria before you were even aware that Zimmerman was physically assaulted during the encounter? How much further did we get before the media grudgingly admitted this was an undisputed fact?
None of this background information absolves Zimmerman of responsibility for his actions, but it makes second-degree murder tough to prove… and the prosecution must surely have known most of it when their affidavit was written. Remember, the affidavit expressly states that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, implies that Zimmerman merely “felt” people had “committed and gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood,” and asserted – despite considerable evidence to the contrary – that Zimmerman wantonly disregarded the 911 dispatcher’s instructions to stop following Martin.
Why did the media push a story so completely at variance with the picture Reuters paints of Zimmerman in this extensive profile? My guess is a combination of the hunger for sensationalism, a political agenda, and pure laziness. There was a time when such a major story would have called for more shoe leather, and less reliance upon press releases from interested parties.