COTTO: How George Zimmerman became a public enemy

The media and the illusions it both falls for and creates are to blame more than anything else. Photo: Associated Press

OCALA, Fla., August 15, 2013 — Angela Corey, Benjamin Crump, Al Sharpton, Pam Bondi, and Rick Scott all played pivotal roles in building the now-infamous criminal case against George Zimmerman. Each had his or her own reasons for doing so. To say that there is more than meets the eye is a colossal understatement.

“The Trayvon Martin story is a case study in how, even in the modern day, an advanced industrialised democracy can completely lose its senses; and how difficult it is for it to then recover them,” writes James Myburgh of South Africa’s politicsweb.

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“In this particular matter a whole society seemingly fixed its mind on the one object of having George Zimmerman arrested, convicted and sent to jail for life, in reckless disregard of the evidence and the law,” he writes. “The mainstream media, so-called civil rights organisations, the Democrat President of the US, the U.S. Attorney General, the Republican Governor of Florida and his Attorney General, and State Attorney Angela Corey all combined forces in an effort to destroy a single, isolated individual.”

If it weren’t for the establishment media, though, just how much would everyone else have been able to get away with? 

Shortly after Zimmerman shot Martin in early 2012, NBC News ran a deceptively edited audiotape of Zimmerman’s 911 call. With NBC’s edits, Zimmerman seemed to racially profile Martin.

Because of this, Zimmerman filed a lawsuit against NBC. The suit was placed on the back burner during his trial. Now, it is moving forward at full speed.

SEE RELATED: The O’Reilly/Sharpton racial debate: Crusader vs Opportunist

“I think what NBC did was quite damaging and I think that, at the time, the damage they did to Goerge’s reputation … is still not undone,” says Robert Zimmerman, George’s younger brother and de facto public spokesman. “As far as I know, Mr. Beasley, co-counsel in the lawsuit, has gone on the record saying he intends to proceed as soon as possible. 

“Mr. O’Mara, co-counsel on the same lawsuit, has suggested that this might not be the only lawsuit or civil action that George pursues, and I think that suing the media is definitely risky, but there are some lines that should not be crossed and portraying someone as a racist — deliberately and frequently as the suit alleges — is wildly inappropriate.”

“Life is packed with nuances and subtleties and shades of gray,” wrote Rem Reider of USA Today following Zimmerman’s acquittal. “But the news media are often uncomfortable in such murky terrain. They prefer straightforward narratives, with good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains. Those tales are much easier for readers and viewers to relate to.”

“Conservatives see this episode as yet another manifestation of the pervasive bias of that dreaded liberal media,” he later said. “But there’s something else at play. Journalists are addicted above all else to the good story. And the saga of the bigoted, frustrated would-be law enforcement officer gunning down the helpless child was too good to check. It’s also another example of how groupthink can shape news coverage.”

Do words get any truer than this?

“The failures of the mainstream media in their reporting on this case were manifold,” writes Myburgh. “(P)recautionary scepticism should have been redoubled once the Martin family team had been caught out, very early on, lying about Trayvon Martin’s school record and the existence of and reasons for his multiple suspensions,” he opines afterward. “Instead, they were repeatedly given a free pass, even by the more critically minded journalists and commentators.”

Had the media done their job from the beginning, the Martin shooting would not have turned into a ghoulish carnival for grievance peddlers, race hustlers and politicians.

“In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do,” Scottish journalist Charles Mackay wrote in his 1841 magnum opus, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. 

“We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”

The question about media coverage of the Martin shooting is not a matter of left or right. Rather, it strikes to the heart of whether what is presented as news can honestly be called “news.”

If the products of contemporary mainstream journalism are little more than talking points gleaned from activists with an axe to grind, then what is the point of journalism? If the establishment media are satisfied with being mouthpieces of some people at the expense of others, then what reasonably positive purpose do they serve?  

This is the defining issue of the pop-culture tale of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

The media-driven story has almost nothing to do with either Martin or Zimmerman. Neither was more than a pawn in the eternal chess game of operatives whose cunning is matched only by their ruthlessness.

The saddest thing is that millions of people in this country not only fall for, but eagerly buy tickets to see this dog-and-pony show. 

Indeed, Mackay would have much to jot down during these interesting times.

Far-left? Far-right? Get realRead more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto 


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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