As the NAACP joined with Al Sharpton today to lead a protest of thousands in Sanford Florida, some notes on recent ethics carnage and confusion in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death:
- Roslyn Brock, who chairs the national board of directors for the NAACP, perfectly illustrated ignorance of the justice system and short-sightedness that has characterized this whole, sorry incident. “We come to make sense of this great tragedy and the entire world grieves with us,” she said . “When the Sanford police did not arrest George Zimmerman, they essentially placed the burden of proof on a dead young man who cannot speak for himself.” But of course, as every American should know, that is where the burden of proof lies. The alleged victim in a death is represented by the state, and it is the state that has the burden of proof of guilt as well as having the burden to justify an arrest. It is not Zimmerman’s responsibility to prove his innocence, though that is what the un-American process engineered by race-activists and the media has come to. Does the NAACP really want to take the position that there should be a presumption of guilt in criminal matters? Or just in circumstances where the victim is an African-American and the suspect is not?
- While CNN has taken the lead in trying to present a balanced picture of the controversy, NBC, mostly through MSNBC, has thoroughly disgraced itself by essentially taking an advocacy position on Zimmerman’s guilt, even to the point of doctoring his 911 call to make it seem clear that this was a case of racial profiling. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good…He looks black.” is how Zimmerman’s 911 call was played on the “Today Show” and relayed on MSNBC’s website. The actual conversation was this:
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.
NBC is reportedly doing an internal investigation on how this could happen.
Yeah, good idea.
- Joe Scarborough (among others) condemned conservative media sources, like Tucker Carlson’s “The Daily Caller,” for uncovering and publishing information about Martin that contradicted the image of the boy, passionately promoted by his parents, that he was a gentle, civil, model child, who “respected authority” and was incapable of a violent impulse, much less action. Various reports revealed Trayvon’s two school suspensions, suspected illegal drug use, and an odd episode in which jewelry and possible burglar tools were allegedly found in his backpack. The Daily Caller tracked down Martin’s Twitter account, which showed this tweet:
“This is the equivalent, Mika, just as immoral as somebody trying to say that a rape victim who was brutally raped was a slut and had it coming to her,” Scarborough said. “It’s the same exact thing. These people that are trying to turn Trayvon Martin into a thug should be ashamed of themselves. But since they are doing it, they obviously have no shame. They are just disgusting human beings. Disgusting.”
Joe’s characterization is wrong and unfair. This kind of information is relevant. As long as Martin’s parents and race-hucksters like Sharpton are going to try this case in the media, there is nothing unethical and everything fair and responsible about challenging their slanted representations of both the shooter and the victim, when the sole purpose is to paint George Zimmerman as a homicidal racist who gunned down a harmless child in cold blood. What Scarborough is arguing is that the anti-Zimmerman lynch mob must be allowed to frame the discussion and choose which facts are relevant without rebuttal. Zimmerman’s argument is self-defense; Trayvon’s parents paint their son as someone incapable of causing anyone to be in legitimate fear of personal harm. The various incidents reported and the tweet at least keep open the possibility that this may not be entirely true. Scarborough is pushing the false choice that you must either accept the Martins’ assumptions or be trying to vilify a dead child. That is dishonest and wrong.
- ABC attempted to challenge George Zimmerman’s claim (and that of a so-far unnamed witness) that he was injured by Trayvon by showing a grainy film of the shooter being let into the police station that didn’t show any clear signs of injury. This was irresponsible. The video was not close enough to make a determination (CNN’s John King claimed that he could see signs of blood) one way or the other. Either Zimmerman had injuries when he was examined at the police station or he did not; the video won’t even be evidence in the case. What was ABC’s purpose? Since it has no way to show the Zimmerman was lying, it shouldn’t be implying the Zimmerman is lying; that only feeds the bias and hysteria.
- In addition to Rep. Bobby Rush’s grandstanding hoodie stunt on the floor of the House, and Maxine Waters’ irresponsible declaration that Martin’s death was “a hate crime,” something she cannot possibly know, other Democratic members from the Congressional Black Caucus made unethical statements that compromised Zimmerman’s rights, misled the public and abused their elected positions. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, said that “Trayvon was murdered for walking while black in a gated community.” The statement is outrageous, vicious, unsubstantiated and prejudicial to the administration of justice. Even worse was Rep. Fredericka Wilson of Florida, who stated that “Travon was murdered. Racial profiling and lax gun laws all contributed to this tragedy.” Lax gun laws, perhaps; we know enough to support that argument. But it is unconscionable for a Congresswoman to state that Martin was murdered, which she cannot possibly know; nor can she know whether racial profiling was involved or not. President Obama opened the floodgates for all of this by making the blunder of commenting on the case himself, and doing so using words that appeared to presume that it was a race-based incident.
- Today’s protest march, made with the specific intent of forcing authorities to arrest Zimmerman, is unethical philosophically and practically. The protest was ostensibly for “justice,” but “justice” is not accomplished when authorities act in response to mob pressure and threatening rhetoric, nor is it anything but sullied when law enforcement decisions are made based on political pressure and media distortions. This is not the lynching of Emmet Till or the covered-up murder of the four civil rights workers in Mississippi. This is a complex and tragic collision of two men without records of violence, magnified by bad decisions, bad laws and bad luck, that ended with one man dead and another in fear of his life. It needs objective investigation, not hysterical action; it requires the courage and determination to do the right thing, not to satisfy agendas, grievances and ideological combatants. The protesters are at very least making justice more difficult, and perhaps impossible.