Unravelling the Mystery of Trayvon Martin
Although there may be more pressing issues to be debated in this year’s presidential election, the nation seems to have stagnated on the killing of Trayvon Martin over the last few weeks.
Who wants to hear about the constitutionality of Obamacare or the war being waged by the Right against women’s rights? These may be important stories, but they’re yawners. The death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a self-appointed neighborhood watch-man, who was told by police to not pursue a 17-year old carrying only a bag of Skittles and iced tea, makes for a much better story, according to the media. Like an episode of Law and Order, this mystery brings out the investigator and lawyer in all of us. Setting aside the fact that Trayvon Martin is dead, the media has focused on our attention in this mystery on just one letter which might mean the difference between setting the killer free or putting him in jail for the rest of his life. Whether George Zimmerman said the word “coon” or “goon” has become the debate the media wants to cover. What started as a local network story has exploded into a national story with race dividing America (and its news stations) into a Lakers-Celtics rivalry, with one side coached by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and the other by Rush Limbaugh and Geraldo Rivera. Those who feel George Zimmerman acted in self-defense tend to be white, blue- collar suburbanites, while inner-city blacks overwhelmingly believe Trayvon was murdered. The media’s racially-divided coverage of the tragedy indicates the extinction of objective journalism. Gone are the days when network anchors like Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings strove to of- fer unbiased information.
The anchors of old have been replaced by a 24-hour news cycle dominated by the spin of cable news, Twitter feeds and bloggers. Now, instead of getting facts, we get slanted opinions from pundits whose commentary always seems to reflect their political affiliation. Everything from the weather report to Trayvon’s tragic death is politicized. Those seeking unbiased reporting may have to tune into Al-Jazeera–or better yet, Russia TV. Such is the misfortune with Trayvon Martin’s killing: this may have been a lost opportunity to have a civil discussion about race and inequality. Instead of gathering facts, charismatic partisans spin stories, leading to misstatements and retractions. News today has become a bare-knuckle battle among media net- works of competing ideologies. As a result, senseless killings like that of Trayvon continue with no apparent solution. If you say we should come to
some sort of compromise about guns, special interests immediately lobby Congress for even fewer gun regulations. If you talk about gang violence in urban communities, civil rights groups become outraged and call people racist. Inevitably, moderates become pessimistic. As someone inclined to watch MSNBC, I find the coverage of the Trayvon case was decidedly unprofessional. Given the spin, its coverage was no different than that by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. In MSNBC’s quest to garner emotion from liberals, it picked liberal black leaders whose opinions do not reflect black America. Liberal media outlets like the New York Times and left-wing pundits like Lawrence O’Donnell pulverized anyone who questioned their version of what took place on the night of Trayvon’s death. Those who doubted
their theories were accused of being racist and insensitive. So now you see how easy it is to get sucked into this circus despite issues that should probably consume more of our energy.