9 Ridiculously Predictable Responses to the Trayvon Travesty

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1. The victim was put on trial.

Supposedly, it was George Zimmerman who was tried for a crime. But the jurors were not allowed to hear the testimony of voice experts who say that he was not the one screaming for help in the  911 call.  They also were not allowed to hear about the accused’s arrest record, his alleged history of domestic violence, and other facts from his past that might paint him as a trigger-happy hothead unfit to watch anyone’s neighborhood.

They weren’t allowed to hear about Martin’s past, either (except for his pot smoking, which evidently was considered a vital ingredient); but there was no need.  Propagandists already had done a thorough job of saturating the American psyche with an unflattering portrait of the youngster who was not around to defend himself, and suggesting that because he might not have been a model teen, he deserved whatever he got.

This included lies about his height and weight and photos falsely purported to be of him — circulated by individuals raging about the dishonesty of the “liberal” media for printing actual photos of Martin that were not up to date.  Heck, the brat even had — brace yourself — GOLD TEETH. Die, monster, die!

2. The verdict.

You seriously weren’t surprised, were you? Trayvon Martin had the NAACP behind him. George Zimmerman had the NRA. Get real. Nonetheless, one juror has stated that the accused “got away with murder”.

3. The media predicted riots.

Again.  And they failed to materialize. Again. Although some folks did their best to stir up trouble.

4. People made irrelevant comparisons.

It’s like clockwork. “Well hey, blacks kill each other in Chicago every day, so why make a big deal out of this killing?” The reactionaries don’t stop to consider that if indeed it “happens every day”, that makes it by definition less newsworthy. And why imply that we have to choose whether to care about a single murder victim, mass urban violence, or war overseas? Even the smallest of minds is capable of caring about more than one thing at once.

And of course they also trot out the instances in which a black person kills a white person, and ask where’s the outrage over those.

My old friends over at my favorite gun propaganda website, called (natch) The Truth About Guns, jumped on this bandwagon with a story titled “Black Man Shoots White Teen, Jury Says Self-Defense. And Nobody Cares”.  I assume the writer drew the conclusion that “nobody cares” because there hasn’t been the same level of media coverage or public outcry over the case referred to. He forgets to mention that the story is four years old. But more to the point, he incorrectly characterizes this incident as an “inverse image” of the Martin killing.

Not by a long shot. The black gunman, Roderick Scott, confronted not just one teenager but three. And he wasn’t stalking them or playing Batman; he discovered them actually committing a crime — i.e., burglarizing cars. Furthermore, he warned them that he was armed and ordered them to stay put until police arrive. Whereupon one of them charged him and he opened fire.  The one constant is that it appears both gunmen may have acted rashly, lending substance to the belief that possession of a firearm tends to induce an individual to use it unnecessarily; but the circumstances under which Roderick Scott took a life were quite different from those under which George Zimmerman killed an innocent teen.

Yet the writer of the piece on TTAG  lumps the incidents together and jointly moralizes thus:

Run with a bad crowd, bad things can happen. Act a certain way, dress a certain way, mouth off to the wrong person, and bad things can and do happen.

The problem with this grouping is that one might infer that by dressing and acting “a certain way”, and perhaps “mouthing off to the wrong person” Trayvon Martin was surely guilty of something that warranted his death. And that the boy Roderick Scott shot, who was actually committing a crime, was killed only because he was acting and dressing ” a certain way” or perhaps just “running with a bad crowd.” It’s creepy to realize that so many people who think this way are carrying loaded weapons.

Look closely at the supposedly parallel cases people throw at you, and you’re likely to find substantial distinctions like these. But in case you’re losing sleep over it, it’s probably true that there is more media coverage of whites killing blacks than the reverse. I’ve outlined some of the reasons for this in two previous posts on the topic. (Here and here.)

5. The gun culture waved its bloody flag.

The NRA attacked the media for covering the story, and attacked Attorney General Eric Holder for suggesting that states should review Stand Your Ground Laws — which supposedly means Holder is “pushing Obama’s (shudder) gun control agenda”.  The NRA’s solution for preventing more tragedy of this type is, of course, to pass even more Stand Your Ground laws. Stand Your Ground, which influenced at least one juror’s decision, is a type of law that makes it easier to gun someone down and claim it was self-defense. Except for when it backfires. In fact, Trayvon Martin was the one who stood his ground in Florida, and by reports he was doing well at it without the benefit of any metal implements. But then George Zimmerman invaded his ground and killed him.

6. All the usual suspects mouthed off.

Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh. Sean Hannity. Ted Nugent.  (The latter has such a long and fruitful tradition of bigoted, inflammatory, utterly delusional rhetoric that it was inevitable he would end up on the NRA board of directors.) They and their kindred were, as always, locked in mortal combat to see who could make the biggest ass of himself. Or herself — Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin are invariably in on the action as well, determined to demonstrate that they can be Stupid White Men along with the worst of them.

7. White males felt threatened.

Many of them seemed to fear that since it was a black youth killed, it might appear that all white men are killers of black children. Never mind that the killer was only half-white; it pays to be preemptively reactionary. There was even a meme in circulation to the effect that “only in Obama’s America could a brown man kill a black kid, and the white man get the blame.” Notice the linking of the whole thing to a racially mixed president? A nice, classy touch.

Folks. The racial tension Americans have inherited is directly descended from a very long and very brutal history of racial oppression by — drum roll, please — white men. So yeah, it kind of is the white man’s fault. Sorry to be the one to break the news.

8. “Conservatives” attacked “liberals”.

It is an unwritten but immutable law that any time a tragedy occurs, right-wing fanatics must exploit it for political purposes, and use it as an excuse to trash “liberals”. Always. Every time. With no exceptions. Ever. While accusing “liberals” of doing what they themselves are doing.

Accordingly, in one of those twists of Bizarro Planet logic that make the wingers so endlessly entertaining, they proclaimed that them librulz, by drawing attention to racial inequality are actually creating it — that by discussing the ethnic aspects of the Martin case, they are guilty of “race-baiting”. Because we all know that the only way to deal with a problem is to insert your head deep into your ass and pretend it doesn’t exist.

They even attacked President Obama on the same grounds.  (They’re under the illusion that he’s one of them librulz himself, but that’s another story.) One meme making the rounds said “If Trayvon Martin had been killed in Afghanistan, Obama wouldn’t even know his name.”

WTF???  Can you think of any president — or the leader of any nation — in the entire history of the world who was able to rattle off the name of every soldier who’d died in the line of duty? This has nothing to do with anything — except that Barack Obama is expected to perform 200 times as brilliantly as any mere mortal in order to avoid being classified as an evil failure.

9. Most people got it wrong.

Okay, so many of them librulz did make themselves easy targets. Not by “race-baiting”, but by focusing on the wrong question — just like practically everyone else.  It isn’t a matter of racism, but of racial bias/ racial inequality. It’s unlikely that George Zimmerman harbors any blatant hatred of African-Americans. What’s far more probable is that Martin’s ethnicity was a factor (even if an unconscious one) in his being targeted for harassment that led to his death.

I once attended a talk by former NBA superstar Bill Russell, who said something I’ll never forget: “I don’t care what color you are, if you say you’re not prejudiced, you’re lying.” He said prejudiced rather than racist, but they’re two markers on the same scale. And it was quite a punch in the gut to my teenage self who’d smugly assumed that I’d purged every remnant of my Southern WASP heritage.

I don’t know if Mr. Russell was entirely correct, but he was definitely on the right track.  As I’ve subsequently learned, most people do make snap judgments based on superficial characteristics, including skin color. Among other things, this means that people tend to consider darker skinned persons less trustworthy — and this attitude even prevails among darker skinned persons themselves! It’s a complicated problem with no pat solution. Sometimes its manifestation is very subtle and unconscious; sometimes it’s overt and ugly. But it’s always present.

Do them librulz sometimes go overboard in their consideration of race as a potential motive? Sure. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong to consider it all. Trayvon Martin is dead because someone regarded him as a “suspicious character”. And his killer is a free man because the jurors, despite their misgivings, felt compelled to accept his claim of self-defense — even though he instigated the altercation, aggressively stalking the youth even after being told by police to knock off the Rambo routine. If you’re really convinced that race couldn’t possibly have been a factor in all of this, you’re living in cloud cuckoo land.

 

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Why “Conservatism” Can’t Be Taken Seriously Anymore

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Two posts on Media Matters’ website caught my eye recently, as they were very telling about contemporary political discourse and propaganda, and the politico-social movement known as “conservatism” (though in fact it’s anything but conservative).

One involved right-wing pundit Ben Stein, who declared in an interview that “the science is not clear on global warming”. That in itself is not particularly unusual; there are many people who are convinced they know more about science than scientists do, and they have every right to make fools of themselves by saying so in public. “The science is not clear” is often a handy circumlocution for “scientists are part of a sinister conspiracy to pervert the truth, which only Glenn Beck is qualified to utter.” But what really made my ears stand at attention was his reference to those scientists as “global warming terrorists”. Apparently, our species has devolved to the point that research is considered a weapon of mass destruction; and providing facts that contradict right-wing dogma is tantamount to launching an attack on America itself.

The other item involves Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who gave a speech in which he lamented “Washington’s ongoing assault on free speech”, which is part of a “coordinated assault from groups on the left that don’t like the idea of anyone criticizing their aims” that tries to “harass” and “intimidate conservatives with the goal of scaring them off the political playing field…a grave and growing threat to the First Amendment.” Phew.

And what evidence did McConnell provide in support of his vast left-wing conspiracy theory? The existence of Media Matters itself! By meticulously researching and politely publishing instances of right-wing misinformation, Media Matters supposedly is trampling all over the First Amendment.  He seems to be taking his cues from Fox “News”, a frequent target of Media Matters. Fox loves to brand Media Matters as a “left-wing smear site”, though it can’t be bothered to produce a single smear to back up that label. Apparently, our species not only has devolved to the point that supplying inconvenient facts is un-American; it has devolved to the point that correcting untruths, even in a supremely civil manner, is un-American.

These are singular incidents , but they are all too representative of the right-wing mindset these days — a combination of arrogance, myopia, contempt, divisiveness and disinformation that spell out why “conservatism” is far beyond being taken seriously.  Sure, you’ll also sometimes find left-wingers who are loose with their facts and even hostile toward those who challenge them. But they generally don’t regard fact-checking, however misguided, as a threat to the First Amendment; and they’re much more likely to embrace science than trash it.

With right-wingers, however, these aren’t just occasional occurrences; they’re standard policy. It’s easy to dismiss Stein as a fringe figure, (and he is in fact far less arrogant and venomous than the average right-wing propagandist). But McConnell has served in the Senate for nearly three decades, and has been the Minority Leader for several years.  And Fox, lest we forget, is the most heavily viewed “news” network, and the de facto voice of “conservatism”.

Given all of this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the focus of this blog is mostly right-wing rather than left-wing propaganda.  It’s not just a matter of personal “bias”.