The Michael Dunn trial ended without a verdict on the first degree murder charge, and the news media just couldn’t help themselves. Although the facts of two cases have virtually nothing in common, various prominent media figures could not resist connecting it to the Trayvon Martin killing and George Zimmerman’s trial, thus compounding the damage they have already inflicted on the public’s understanding of law, race, and ethics.
Other events spurred them on as well. There was the George Zimmerman interview in which he described himself as a victim, and this set some people off. Zimmerman is a victim—a victim of being made the race-conflict advocate’s poster boy for profiling villainy and bigotry when there are absolutely no facts that support such a characterization. He’s just not the dead victim in his tragic episode. Nor is the status of irresponsible, gun-toting fool necessarily incompatable with the status of victim in his case, but such nuances are beyond the comprehension of many among us, especially the many with press credentials.
Then the Providence College Black Studies Program announced that it would continue to give out an annual award called the Trayvon Martin Award for Social Justice, intended to honor those who have shown leadership and commitment to ”challenging and eliminating racism” and “empowering others to seek social justice.” The inexcusable implication of the award is that Trayvon Martin was the victim of racism, and that Zimmerman’s acquittal was social injustice, when in fact it was the epitome of the justice system working well. The program established the award in 2012, before Zimmerman had been tried or permitted to mount a defense in court, so this was no surprise. In fairness, the award needs to be renamed the Trayvon Martin “Our Minds Are Made Up So Don’t Confuse Us With Facts” Award. But then, fairness is not what the enshriners of this false but convenient narrative care about.
This morning, CNN’s over-opinionated morning news co-anchor Chris Cuomo (I’ll bet you he runs for office as a Democrat within five years or less) was showing part of his taped interview with Dunn prosecutor Angela Corey. I admit that it was fun watching Corey squirm under Cuomo’s biased and misleading questioning regarding the Martin and Dunn trials; she contributed greatly, after all, to the rush to judgment and trial-by-publicity in the Zimmerman case. Still, Corey tried to make a valid point to Cuomo (whose partner, Kate Bolduan, increasingly sits compliantly and submissively in silence while Cuomo takes over the broadcast and crosses lines of journalistic objectivity left and right): by focusing on a few high-profile cases, media coverage distorts the public’s perception of Florida’s stand-your-ground law as well as the justice African-Americans, victims as well as those accused of crimes, receive in the courts.
Cuomo proceeded to prove Corey correct. First he falsely described the Martin case, describing it as an instance of a young black man, minding his own business, getting into a confrontation, who “wins a fight, essentially”–these were Cuomo’s exact words—gets killed for it, and his killer goes free. This would be unforgivable from a guy in a bar; it is outrageous from a news anchor. If Martin had been shot by Zimmerman after the fight had ended, as Cuomo’s false description suggests, then he would have been guilty of murder beyond question. The evidence presented at trial indicated that Zimmerman shot Martin while he was losing a fight, and when he had no way of knowing how victorious the man on top of him intended to be. That created sufficient evidence of self- defense to win Zimmerman an acquittal. Cuomo was spreading false information to fit a politically motivated false narrative.
“You can understand why people are upset that Zimmerman wasn’t punished,” Cuomo continued. Again, unethical and outrageous. This has been the deceitful fall-back argument of everyone from President Obama to race-baiting bloggers: the fact-free position that Zimmerman’s acquittal was unjust must be respected because “you can understand why some people (some people meaning primarily those determined to prove that the United States has made no progress in race relations since the days of Bull Connor) feel this way.” This is wrong, and obviously wrong.
The fact that we can understand why someone has a demonstrably invalid position never enhances or justifies the position. I can understand why someone raised by ignorant racists is a devotee of racist websites like Chimpmania. I can understand why an adult raised by fundamentalists and home-schooled believes that the earth is 6,000 years old. I can understand why the mother of a serial killer thinks he’s really a good boy who has been framed by the police, but my understanding why someone is dead wrong doesn’t make him or her less wrong, or make the need to declare how wrong they are less urgent. Bias, emotion and ignorance are reasons for being wrong, but they aren’t excuses.
Cuomo got even worse, saying that Corey should also understand why people are outraged that Michael Dunn shot into an SUV full of kids, killing one, and is “not going to jail.” Yes, he really said this. As Corey quickly noted. Dunn is going to jail—his sentence so far adds up to 90 years, and the first degree murder charge, which Dunn’s conviction on would add nothing to his actual punishment unless he lives to be 200, is being retried. Never mind, though. This is guns, this is race, this is violence, this is Victim Mongering 101. The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck gets the news media and the Al Sharpton fans where they want to go, so they aren’t getting off any time soon.
This morning, in the op-ed pages of the Washington Post, the Martin-Zimmerman case was evoked yet again. This time it was liberal columnist E.J. Dionne misrepresenting the facts of the case, in a frontal assault on stand-your ground laws. Dionne, in a word, is ridiculous: I seldom mention him here because he’s a parody of the knee-jerk pundit: Democrats can do no wrong; Republicans are all Neanderthal obstructionists, the Affordable Care Act is wonderful, and Obama is a great President. Dionne’s schtick is preaching to the choir, and providing talking points for those as immune to nuance and reality as he is. This column, however, was incompetent even by his own standards.
“The law is supposed to solve problems, not create them,” his op-ed begins. “Laws should provide as much clarity as possible, not expand the realms of ambiguity and subjectivity. Laws ought to bring about the practical results their promoters claim they’ll achieve. And at its best, the law can help us to live together more harmoniously. By all these measures, “stand your ground” laws are a failure.”
One would have to be immune to irony and ignorant of the concept of hypocrisy not to chuckle at a resolute defender of the Affordable Care Act beginning a column that way. But it isn’t just the ACA—by those standards, most laws are failures. Virtually every law has unintended consequences. Clarity? Ambiguity? We have millions of lawyers and thousands of judges precisely because laws are never as clear and unambiguous as their drafters intend. Achieve the desired results? If laws did that, we wouldn’t have to keep making new laws. “At its best” the law can help us live together harmoniously perhaps, but not achieving lawmaking “at its best is an irrational and an impossibly high standard by which to define failure. Dionne has just defined laws in general, and “stand your ground” laws are laws. There are good arguments to eliminate or amend such laws, but this isn’t one of them.
Then, writing about the Dunn verdict, Dionne goes Full Cuomo:
“The verdict came seven months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the Sanford, Fla., killing of Trayvon Martin in another case where the stand-your-ground law was at issue. Both Martin and Davis were black teenagers. Should it surprise anyone that many African Americans fear that the law does not protect young males of color when they find themselves in confrontations with whites?”
Irrelevant, wrong, irrelevant, and wrong again:
- The Dunn case has nothing whatsoever to do with the Martin case. The facts were different, the defenses were different, and the verdict was different. The Dunn verdict also came five months after the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cradinals in the 2013 World Series, and the two are exactly as relevant to each other as the Martin and Dunn cases. But by raising the Martin-Zimmerman case in the context of Dunn, Dionne unethically and deceitfully suggests a pattern that supports the “whites are out to kill black kids” narrative, which is his intent.
- Zimmerman did not raise the “stand your ground” defense, which requires a hearing before the trial. It was not, as Dionne says, “at issue.” It could not have been at issue, given the facts of the case. If Zimmerman had confronted Martin, Martin had pushed him, hit him or threatened him and Zimmerman had responded with deadly force when he could have retreated, that would have raised stand your ground issues. The evidence showed that Zimmerman fired when he was on his back with Martin on top of him, slamming his head against the ground. Zimmerman wasn’t standing his ground, he was getting beaten on the ground, and may have believed his life was in danger. Dionne, again, is intentionally misleading his readers.
- There is no evidence that either killing was racially motivated, though it is now obvious that many progressives, race activists and shameless race-baiters will say otherwise until the end of time. The fact that both victims were black teenagers is the Texas Sharpshooter logical fallacy: gather facts and draw a target around it as if they were naturally connected. Dionne is shameless.
- And there is is again: the “You can understand…” tactic in the slightly different “Should it surprise anyone…?” form.
No, E.J., it doesn’t surprise me at all that many African Americans fear that the law does not protect young males of color when they find themselves in confrontations with whites—not when unscrupulous and unethical pundits and journalists like you and Chris Cuomo work so hard to mislead them.
And the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman ethics train wreck rolls on…apparently forever.
Spark and Source: CNN
Graphic: Take a Train Ride