zimmerman and the media

Why George Zimmerman was charged – politics.

While the Sanford police originally declined to prosecute Zimmerman, State Attorney Angela Corey charged him with second-degree murder in the wake of the flurry of news coverage, street protests and a powerful campaign on social media.

Whether this political pressure that led to his arrest is a good or bad thing depends on whether or not you believe he’s guilty of a crime. Regardless, his life is forever changed, as he faced significant duress for a year and a half (a guilty verdict would have meant decades in prison), and now faces the possibility of being taken to civil court and sued for all he’s worth. If he makes a book or movie deal, those earnings will certainly be a juicy target in a lawsuit as well.

The editorialist makes a point here:

Martin was an athletic 17-year-old, not necessarily a helpless victim. Zimmerman may well have been acting in self-defense.

This is hardly to suggest that Zimmerman is a candidate for canonization. This is on him. It was his reckless behavior that set this tragedy in motion. If he had stayed in his vehicle as he was told to do by the police, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.

It comes down to whether you believe Zimmerman was taking a stand for justice or acting impulsively and angrily, perhaps in the context of negative feelings towards “certain people” (teenagers, blacks, hoodie-wearers, or whatever). This is perhaps just as much a “cultural” question: whether we Americans are allowed to defend ourselves and fight evil (probably a more conservative or libertarian position), or whether this is inevitably a mean and racist vigilante killing a helpless teenager (likely associated with liberals). Depending on what vision you have of America will invariably influence how you view the facts of the case.

The editorialist’s beef here is ultimately with the media, for sensationalizing a story and not doing due diligence. They solidified the “renegade who profiled a poor black kid and shot him” without the proper dose of analysis. He compares this sloppy media performance to another incident:

Back in 2006, the nation’s media gave huge play to a saga in which three Duke University lacrosse players were charged with raping a stripper at a team party. But the case collapsed, the prosecutor was disbarred and many news organizations looked seriously foolish.

I remember this incident. The students were expelled. When they were acquitted, to my knowledge, the university never apologized. The idea of jocks born with silver spoons in their mouths as the bad guys was too good a story to fact check.

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