The BeginningIf I remember correctly, the national coverage started on Monday, March 19. By Friday, it was the biggest national story. Demonstrations had been organized. Al Sharpton was down in Florida. Obama, Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney all commented on the case. In general, they each said it was a tragedy that should be investigated thoroughly. For the life of me, I can't see anything wrong or offensive or even partisan in such a sentiment. It seems logical to me--someone dead by gunshot, therefore a need to investigate how and why and to determine if there was a crime.
Getting NastyHow did we go from that logical sentiment to the conservative media circling the wagons? I can try to trace all the steps: Gingrich criticizing Obama for noting that Trayvon and he were could have been family (read: were the same race without saying 'race' or 'black'); the stupid hoodie comments by Geraldo Rivera. But then the reaction on the outer right seemed to go crazy. (Note: I'm not even going to touch the comments on various blogs because people are always trying to outdo one another in outrageous statements.)
Some conservative blogs, including some within the conservative mainstream, started trying to portray Trayvon as a thug, which is hard to do when he'd never been arrested. In lieu of an arrest record, they used his posed gangsta photos, his suspensions from school, and the braggadocio on his twitter account.
In the meantime, CNN was reporting all the developments regardless of whether they tended to support Zimmerman or the Martin family. They reported the statement from the unnamed neighbor who saw Trayvon over Zimmerman on the grass. They reported about the demonstrations, they displayed the video of Zimmerman in the police station and the picture of Trayvon with the gangsta-style gold tooth ornament. The only information they didn't pass on were the hacked emails (many of which weren't authentic) and the tweets.
It's not clear to me why part of the conservative media went so negative on Trayvon Martin. It was known that he was unarmed, so why is it important to show Trayvon was a thug?
When You Don't Know WhyI don't have a logical answer to this, so I have to reach for an emotional reason. This story got a lot of traction, and it fits many points that Democrats/liberals/progressives make: there is racial profiling that hurts blacks, even resulting in death; police don't fully investigate the deaths of young black males; black males are presumed to be guilty of something; assailants, even when known, can get away scot-free with killing a young black male. A new concern is that Florida's Stand-Your-Ground law will result in even more deaths of young blacks that aren't investigated or prosecuted.
The story works so well for Democratic/liberal/progressive narrative that conservatives are left grasping at anything they can to lessen the impact of the story. Not all conservatives have felt this need. Many are treating this as largely a legal and police procedural matter where the state investigators and the courts will have to determine if Zimmerman was justified or not. These sane conservatives haven't felt the need to defeat the story.
The others, however, tried to shred the story, criticizing the media (of course, a favorite target), black spokesmen, Obama, Hispanic organizations (for not tribally supporting Zimmerman), the special investigator, and most cravenly, the dead boy.
Why is it so important to defeat the story rather than letting it play out? Is all news a zero-sum game, where the points your opponents can make should be blocked whenever possible, no matter how?
For some partisans, this is undoubtedly true. But why can't some, who have more responsibility because of their roles on news sites, let go of the competition and let the Democrats win those points? Instead, in their unwavering, single-minded tribalism, they try to smear whomever they can, and just end looking like the foul sewer floaters that they have become.
Photo credit: cleftintherock.orgExtras.
- Measured response by HotAir, Morning Joe, Allen West.
- Examples of needless attacks: at Karen Finney, Daily Caller, more Daily Caller, wagist, Nice Deb, National Review, and Christian News.
- Perhaps the first national reporting of the incident and its significance.
- Critique of local coverage.
- Detailed CNN coverage.
- Minute-by-minute timeline, with contradictions and uncertainties.
- Detailed account of Trayvon's family's actions in the first two weeks afterward.
Updates. There are too many to mention. Click on the label "Trayvon Martin" to see more.