If you carry concealed, it’s likely that you’ve given a good bit of thought as to what you would do if, God forbid, you ever had to shoot someone. If you’re smart, you’ve played the game of “what if” in your head, and taken to heart the advice you’ve gotten here on TTAG and elsewhere, regarding how to behave after the incident. But in the Twilight Zone of polarizing politics and media bias, what you may not have thought through is that none of that may matter, if circumstances let slip the Dogs of Media. You may well find yourself on the wrong side of an angry mob, armed not with pitchforks, hot tar and feathers, but something far scarier: video cameras, microphones, and network satellite uplinks. Presented for your consideration: George Zimmerman, 28. A man with a mission. A neighborhood watch captain, caught in the media’s Twilight Zone.
As far as we can tell this early in the investigation, the facts are these: George Zimmerman is a neighborhood watch captain, who was on patrol the night of February 26, 2012, near his home in Sanford, Florida. He has a license to carry a concealed weapon.
Enter Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old returning from a convenience store to his father’s fiancee’s home in a gated community. Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious man. The 911 dispatcher sent out a call to a patrol car and advised Zimmerman not to confront the suspect.
By the time police had arrived, Martin lay dying on the ground with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was unarmed, carrying only some candy, a bottle of iced tea, and a small amount of cash. Zimmerman told police that he was afraid for his life and shot Martin in self-defense.
That’s all we know. It’s not much. But you’d be amazed at the number of people willing to leap to a conclusion (on either side of the issue) from those scant details.
One group, more than eager to do some Olympic gold-medal quality leaping is the news media. For you see, Zimmerman has not (yet) been charged with a crime and has not been arrested by the local police. Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee has told the media that they are conducting a thorough investigation, and until the investigation is complete, Zimmerman will not be taken into custody.
To the media, that’s like waving raw meat in their collective faces. Click on the video to listen to the police chief’s impromptu presser. Pay close attention to the questions the reporters ask. Then ask yourself one important question: Do you think Zimmerman can possibly get a fair shake (not to mention a fair trial) if he’s tried in the press (by the press, for the press’s – ratings) with reporters that don’t even bother to contain (much less hide) their bias?
Look, I can see six ways o’ Sunday where this whole thing could have gone horribly wrong. Let me count just a few of the ways, scenario-wise:
- Zimmerman could be jumpy – we haven’t yet heard if there was a recent string of burglaries or home invasions in the neighborhood – so he might have been predisposed towards being more suspicious than he needed to be in this instance.
- Zimmerman could be inexperienced, and forgotten/ignored the rules of engagement, although he IS claiming self-defense.
- Zimmerman could be, in fact, a bigot or racist as the news media
impliedclaimed, just itching to shoot somebody.
- Martin could have been in the wrong place, in the wrong time.
- Martin could have made some moves that looked overtly threatening to Zimmerman, either in jest, or because he was feeling a little cocky, perhaps. (And if you don’t think that’s likely, you don’t know many 17-year-olds.)
- Martin might have taken offense to being stopped or challenged, and might have done something to exacerbate the situation, to a point to where it reached a tragic conclusion.
There are many more I could come up with, but you get the point. We don’t know what happened. And in fact, we may NEVER know. There is a tape, of course. The 911 operator recorded the whole thing. The police have not yet released the tape, pending the conclusion of their investigation.
Unfortunately, regardless of their findings, it sounds as if the media is going to push and push and push, until the D.A. has no recourse but to indict, even if all evidence points to the idea that Zimmerman was telling the truth.
Please understand. I am NOT rushing to judgement here. We don’t know enough to make an intelligent, informed judgement on this. I love armchair quarterbacking as much as the next guy, but until we know if Martin threatened Zimmerman or Zimmerman believed his life was in imminent danger, there’s not much to say, except that this is a tragedy.
Martin’s family will carry the scars of this forever. Then again, so will Zimmerman, one way or another. Even if he is no-billed, the weight of the knowledge that he took a human life, and shot a kid who posed no threat to him will not be something easy for anyone to scrub from their conscience.
Obviously, the boy’s family is heartbroken. And until the investigation has run its course, they have every right to be suspicious of Zimmerman and his motives. For his part, it would seem that Zimmerman is taking the principle of StFU seriously. Good for him. And the cops (at least for now) seem to be taking a very measured, careful approach. Good for them. I don’t see any racism in the aftermath, save for that coming from the media.
In their rush to impose their “social justice” agenda, the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing (much less the whole “not charged with a crime” thing) seems to have completely escaped their notice. And I think the family and community is being remarkably ill-served by the media trying to turn this into the next race riot.
Is Zimmerman guilty of anything? Homicide? Manslaughter? Bad judgement? Bad luck? I don’t know. Nobody does. Yet. But I sure wish the media, in their unbridled passion and glee to find story they can trumpet that has all the makings of a remake of the Bonfire of the Vanities, would try a little StFU therapy on themselves. Maybe those of us left to pick up the pieces after this mess would all be better off.