Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was unarmed when he was fatally shot on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense. Unless you’ve lived in a cave with no television since that day, you are very much aware of this case. No matter the angle we choose to examine it from, it’s a multi-faceted tragedy. One young man is dead. Another has been convicted of murder before all the facts are in, not by a jury of his peers, but by the national media, and hordes of people have jumped on the bandwagon to lynch Zimmerman. No one seems interested in the facts. Right now, the whole situation is a farce fanned and aggravated by reporters striving for sensationalism.
Shame on you, NBC! On March 27, you aired on the Today Show an edited version of the call made by Zimmerman to the 911 dispatcher the night of the shooting. The edited version was as follows: Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
The full version actually follows: “Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about. Dispatcher: OK, and this guy-is he black, white or Hispanic? Zimmerman: He looks black.”
Was the whole purpose of the editing to stir up racism? It certainly appears so. And for what reason? Ratings? I don’t fully understand how television news shows operate, but I do understand right from wrong. Apparently NBC doesn’t. Last week NBC apologized for airing the misleading version and announced that the editor had been fired. That’s a bit like buying fire insurance after the house burns down.
It’s been all over the news, too, that Zimmerman made a racial slur on the 911 recording. Was there a racial slur? Nobody knows for sure. That, too, is all a matter of opinion, according to Sean Hannity, who wonders if the whole thing might have been just a terrible mistake. Despite what some people think they heard, prosecutors say George Zimmerman did not utter a racial slur in his call to 911 on the night he shot Trayvon Martin. Nonetheless, the public had already reacted.
The media certainly seem to be on a quest to generate racial tensions, but whether the intent was there or not, it happened. Everyone seems to have an opinion about the case. Bill Cosby said the uproar over Martin’s killing should be over guns, not race, even though he quickly stated that everyone has the right to have a gun in his house for self-defense. I doubt the members of the media were listening.
Reporters have also been accused of altering pictures of Martin to make him look more innocent and to create bias among the public. On the other hand, the press reported tales of his suspension from school, another attempt to bias the public. Why should such wild attempts be made? The public is not a jury, and I’d like to point out that neither are the media. The media, however, parallel the wild mobs of yesteryear. Stir up the people and the accused gets lynched, guilty or not. No one waits for a trial. Hang him first and ask questions later. Everyone is too aroused to think logically.
Finally, is it possible for Zimmerman to receive a fair trial in these United States of America? And if so, where? Is there an isolated little town somewhere up on top of a mountain where people haven’t heard of this case? Can they find jurors that won’t be biased because of skin color or hearsay? I doubt it. The magnitude of the tragedy grows. How many lives will be lost or ruined because the media tried this case? Only time will tell, but the media cannot wash their hands of this fiasco they have helped create.