Monday, March 19, 2012

Cultural and Political Cold Civil War: Fox Coverage of Trayvon Martin's Death Explains the "Why"

Martin: "an A and B student who
majored in cheerfulness.
A Sad, Unnecessary Death in Sanford. In case you're not familiar, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, FL three weeks ago by a self-appointed, gun-carrying "neighborhood watch volunteer" named George Zimmerman. Martin was a high school kid with excellent grades and had no criminal record. He was on the high school football team. He lived in Miami and was visiting family in Sanford when, that  night, he was walking back from the 7/11 with some candy and a soda. The self-appointed neighborhood watchman, Zimmerman, called the police and reported Martin as being "suspicious," as he was walking back home in the gated community where Zimmerman's and Martin's family's live. Police told Zimmerman not to follow Martin, and that they were sending out a police car to investigate. What happened next is murky, but what's clearly known is that Zimmerman killed Martin, and argued--legally in Florida, as it turns out--that he acted in self-defense. Zimmerman was released, and remains free, even though it's clear that he confronted Martin and wound up shooting and killing him. ThinkProgress has a summary of what happened. (Angry yet?? Sign the petition at the end of this post.) Here's a summary by Think Progress, which is all over this:
1. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was in his car when he saw Martin walking on the street. He called the police and said: “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… These a**holes always get away” [Orlando Sentinel] 

2. Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher:

Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Zimmerman: “Yeah”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

3. Prior to the release of the 911 tapes, Zimmerman’s father released a statement claiming “[a]t no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin.”[Sun Sentinel

4. Zimmerman was carrying a a 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. [ABC News

5. Martin weighed 140 pounds. Zimmerman weighs 250 pounds. [Orlando SentinelWDBO

6. Martin’s English teacher described him as “as an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.” [Orlando Sentinel

7. Martin had no criminal record. [New York Times

8. Zimmerman “was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. The charges appear to have been dropped.” [Huffington Post

9. Zimmerman called the police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011. [Miami Herald

10. According to neighbors, Zimmerman was “fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.” [Miami Herald

11. Zimmerman “had been the subject of complaints by neighbors in his gated community for aggressive tactics” [Huffington Post

12. A police officer “corrected” a key witness. “The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.” [ABC News]
13. Three witnesses say they heard a boy cry for help before a shot was fired. "Three witnesses contacted by the Miami Herald say they saw or heard the moments before and after the Miami Gardens teenager's killing. All three said they heard the last howl for help from a despondent boy. 
14. The officer in charge of the crime scene also received criticism in 2010when he initially failed to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was videotaped attacking a homeless black man. [New York Times] 
Fox has more pressing matters to report on. (Source)
CNN, MSNBC, and FOX: A Tale of Three Cable Networks and a Country in Conflict with Itself. In addition to being an incredibly horrific and sad incident--and a scary example of the "right to carry guns anywhere" ethic that's on the rise in this country--it's also a clear case of racism. Had the tables been turned, and a black kid shot Zimmerman (who is actually Hispanic, not white), I think we all know that the police would have locked him up immediately. At any rate, this case, which has become a national story, has been ignored by Fox News. Why? Well, because it's not convenient to their narrative. A black kid was wrongly shot and killed, and obviously a great injustice was done--and that's exactly the kind of story that Fox doesn't cover. If, however, the tables had been turned, and a black teenager had been released after shooting an "upstanding, non-black citizen," I think we would all be assured of their interest. ThinkProgress posted a graphic that indicates the relative coverage provided by the major cable news networks:

Fox News: Uninterested in Racial Injustice. But it's all one needs to know to understand the divide in this country.
Those who watch Fox don't care about the Trayvon muder. Those who don't, do.
SIGN Trayvon's parents' petition to the Florida State Attorney General: 
Why This Is Important

On February 26, our son Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he walked to a family member's home from a convenience store where he had just bought some candy. He was only 17 years-old.  
Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman, admitted to police that he shot Trayvon in the chest. Zimmerman, the community's self appointed "neighborhood watch leader," called the police to report a suspicious person when he saw Travyon, a young black man, walking from the store. But Zimmerman still hasn't been charged for murdering our son.  
Trayvon was our hero. At the age 9, Trayvon pulled his father from a burning kitchen, saving his life. He loved sports and horseback riding. At only 17 he had a bright future ahead of him with dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic. Now that’s all gone. 
When Zimmerman reported Trayvon to the police, they told him not to confront him. But he did anyway. All we know about what happened next is that our 17 year-old son, who was completely unarmed, was shot and killed. 
It's been nearly two weeks and the Sanford Police have refused to arrest George Zimmerman. In their public statements, they even go so far as to stand up for the killer - saying he's "a college grad" who took a class in criminal justice. 
Please join us in calling on Norman Wolfinger, Florida's 18th District State's Attorney, to investigate my son's murder and prosecute George Zimmerman for the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin.
  Sign the petition here 

Additional links: 
Excellent summary from Mother Jones here.

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