Life Imitates Art: Trayvon Martin Shooting is Bonfire of the Vanities Redux

Remember Tom Wolfe’s 80′s novel Bonfire of the Vanities? Henry Lamb was the hit-and-run victim of a callous investment banker’s mistress. Maria Ruskin struck Lamb with money man Sherman McCoy’s Mercedes when the pair missed a highway onramp and ended-up lost in the South Bronx. The serialized story of money, power, greed, politics and the media captured the tenor of the times. And now we have life imitating art in the Trayvon Martin shooting. The parallels are unmistakable . . .

As a story, the Martin shooting is only really just getting going. But before this little passion play is played out, it will be cast with a stomach-churning assortment of mau-mauing “community organizers,” callow politicians, opportunistic anti-gun activists and the too-willing media, pleased as punch to present the whole nauseating hot mess in just the right light. To paraphrase Margo Channing, fasten your seat belts because it’s going to be one hell of a bumpy ride.

Sound familiar?

If you haven’t read Bonfire of the Vanities—don’t bother with the uniquely awful movie—a simple traffic accident triggers a feeding frenzy of self-promotion and ass-covering. No one would mistake George Zimmerman (no relation) for a wealthy, WASPy Master of the Universe. If press reports are relied on, some of his actions may have been questionable at best. But casting him as a racist wannabe cop just lookin’ for someone to shoot seems just a little too pat. Yes, the Sanford, Florida shooting has all the hallmarks of Wolfe’s literary sensation.

- An African American “victim” – In Bonfire, Lamb was revealed to be something less than an entirely blameless casualty. We’ve yet to hear the full story surrounding Trayvon Martin’s actions in Zimmerman’s gated community, but his media portrayal paints an eerily similar picture to Lamb’s coverage.

- A media feeding frenzy – In Bonfire, a dissolute British journalist takes a relatively local story and blows it up into a national cause celebre. As befits our time, social media agitators are performing the same function.

- A race-baiting African-American Reverend – The Bonfire’s Reverend Bacon was based on Reverend Al Sharpton’s race-based extortion and self-promotion. In the Martin case, Al Sharpton plays the roll of Al Sharpton.

- Carefully orchestrated public protests – In Bonfire, Bacon organizes pubic protests to call attention to the supposed inaction and racial prejudice of the New York justice system. Tonight, organizers have created the Million Hoodie March, wherein literally dozens of New Yorkers will march for “justice” for Martin while wearing hoodies. And thousands more will pose with hoodies on their Facebook page.

No one came out of the Vanities meat grinder blameless or unscathed. And so shall it be in this real-life Sunshine State version. This sad death—one for which hard facts and conclusive evidence don’t seem to exist—is tailor-made for anyone with an agenda and sharp enough elbows to seize the spotlight, make a name for himself and advance an agenda.