Mission Accomplished: Political False Narrative Established

From a footnote in Robert Weintraub”s “The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age” (2013, paperback edition 2014):

“Sanford, Florida would return to the civil rights foreground in early 2012, when an unarmed black teenager named Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a neighborhood watchman, mainly because he felt the hooded sweatshirt Martin was wearing looked suspicious.”

Weintraub is an author and baseball historian. I got the book, which is excellent, from my son for Christmas. The original hardback edition was published before George Zimmerman’s July 2013 trial, but the paperback edition could easily have been corrected. People have no reason to doubt Weintraub, or assume that he has a political agenda. Maybe he doesn’t.

When he wrote the above, the “Trayvon Martin was shot by a racist because he was wearing a hoodie and was racially profiled” had been the racially inflammatory narrative pounded into the American public for months by the news media, Democrats, black activists and, of course, the President of the United States. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus even wore a hoodie on the floor of the House. In fact, there was never a shred of evidence that race had anything to do with Zimmerman’s actions or Martin’s death, or that it was a civil rights story at all. George Zimmerman, the “neighborhood watchman”—at least Weintraub didn’t say he was a “white Hispanic”—“mainly” shot Martin because…

He was watching the Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated housing complex in which there had been a series of burglaries…

In gated communities, only members  and invited guests are supposed to be on the premises—that’s why they are gated…

Martin was staying at his uncle’s house in the gated community, and any non-resident is considered “suspicious” at night…

He foolishly confronted Martin after he had been advised not to do so…

Martin ended up in a physical struggle with Zimmerman that included the larger teen slamming the  volunteer watchman’s head repeatedly on the concrete…

Prompting Zimmerman to draw his properly licensed handgun and shoot the boy.

It was a complex set of events that nonetheless had a straightforward legal result: a jury found that Zimmerman was engaged in self-defense, and acquitted him of second degree murder charges. Nevertheless, too many comments, mentions, innuendos, deceitful representations, false descriptions, lazy anecdotes and asides by professional writers like Weintraub, who should know better, have been littered through printed and online accounts as well as the public’s easily addled memories. Today it is a good bet that the death of Trayvon Martin will survive in our culture as a cautionary tale of racism and justice perverted.

And that was the intention all along.

18 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, Race, U.S. Society

18 responses to “Mission Accomplished: Political False Narrative Established

  1. A.M. Golden

    I’ve noticed an uptick in what I called snarky political commentary in the history books I’ve been reading recently. I even returned one to the library unfinished because it’s particular snark was just too obnoxious for me to take anything it had to say on the subject seriously. Sorry to hear your experience with an otherwise excellent book was marred by the biases of the author.

  2. James M.

    The ubiquity of casual libel in our society constantly startles me.

  3. Interesting thing about this false narrative, it’s exactly what started a confrontation about a month ago where I tutor. It started very vocal then got mildly physical. I have since retired from that tutoring. There are people that believe the false narrative regardless of the facts. Hands up don’t shoot still survives too. You should have heard these people. The whole thing didn’t end nicely.

    There is a serious problem with understanding facts and logic in the inner city. At some point in time this will erupt in violence.

  4. crella

    People tend to believe what they hear first, and then are skeptical of later info, which is why it’s so hard to combat rumors. The doctored 911 call is probably among the first news reports people heard.

  5. Rich in CT

    What makes the Travon Martin case so frustrating is that Martin himself could also be said to have engaged in self-defense. Martin was followed by an unknown party and was clearly spooked. Zimmerman was armed, so Travon’s best, possibly only chance was to subdue Zimmerman with brute force once the physical altercation began to prevent him from using the gun. Zimmerman, in turn, had to shoot because he was being physically overpowered and severely beaten. While no independent evidence exists of how the confrontation started, there were clearly a series of poor choices on both sides that escalated the situation and forced the other party’s hand.

    • Kyjo

      There is no evidence that Martin was aware of Zimmerman’s firearm until Zimmerman reached for it in self-defense. Being followed was not an assault on his person, and there is no evidence that Martin was ever acting in self-defense. The available evidence is pretty squarely in Zimmerman’s favor: from all appearances, Zimmerman followed after Martin and lost sight of him; Martin doubled back and confronted Zimmerman, resulting in a physical altercation; and Zimmerman was the only one of the two who sustained any injury prior to the gunshot.

    • DaveL

      Spooked, perhaps, but we don’t allow citizens to aggress against others because they’re spooked. If there had been any evidence introduced at trial that Zimmerman had provoked violence against himself, the jury would have been given the instruction on provocation. They were not. There never was a legitimate question of provocation in this case: that was entirely a construct of the false narrative.

    • Another Mike

      The facts don’t allow much room for Travon to claim self-defense. Some of those are:
      – Zimmerman [Z} was not a “watchman” at the complex.
      – After calling the police Z gave a description of the subject and offered to “keep an eye on him”; the response from the dispatcher was that he need not do that, NOT that he should not do that (this is the tape that was edited to discredit Z).
      – Travon had made it to his home and then elected to go out in search of Z,as shown by his phone call to a friend.
      – Travon found Z and initiated contact.
      – An eyewitness saw Z on his back with Travon kneeling over him and striking him with fists “MMA-style”; Travon clearly in full control.
      This is where the pistol was brought into the mix.

      I refer you to the coverage of the trial put up by Legal Insurrection’s Andrew Branca to flesh out this info, don’t just take my word for it. It includes video of testimony and session by session commentary. Branca is also the author of “The Law of Self-Defense”. Google Andrew or the title for access to it,
      (I gain nothing from endorsing either the blog or the book.)

    • Rich in CT

      I stand corrected on the factual statement that no evidence exists on how the confrontation started.

      • dragin_dragon

        In actual fact, we do have to take Zimmerman at his word. NONE of the witnesses saw either the beginning or the end of the altercation. Zimmerman was the only survivor. His cuts and bruises are, at best, circumstantial. Thus, his testimony is ALL WE HAVE. Since he took an oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, and we have no evidence refuting what he says, we are OBLIGED to accept what he says as the truth.

  6. Aleksei

    I read a good book about self-defense law and it had a very detailed chapter on the Martin case. As I recall, when Martin started assaulting Zimmerman, he wasn’t aware that Zimmerman was conceal carrying. When Zimmerman was on the ground, with the head bashing occurring, Zimmerman started to reaching for his pistol, where Martin noticed this and tried to beat him to it, interjecting with something like “I’m going to kill you”. But it wasn’t a case of trying to subdue someone because he knew he had a gun, the gun was a surprise and a “oh shit” moment for Martin. Correct me if I’m wrong, I can reread that chapter for more detail if needed.

  7. dragin_dragon

    Unfortunately, there were only two people present during the altercation, and only one of them survived. I suspect that his account has been embroidered a bit. No accusation, here, just human nature…we all want to see ourselves in the best possible light. So, it is possible we will never know just exactly what happened that night. However, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we almost have to take Zimmerman at his word. All else is speculation, at best; fantasy at worst.

    • Matthew B.

      #1 – there was a witness.
      #2 – there is the evidence that Martin had no injuries except for the gunshot wound. Zimmerman bore evidence that he was taking a beating.

      • dragin_dragon

        Re: witnesses.

        “The only eyewitness TO THE END (bold, italic caps mine) of the confrontation stated that Martin was on top of Zimmerman and punching him, while Zimmerman was yelling for help. This witness, who identified himself as “John”, stated that “the guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, ‘Help! Help!’ and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911”. He went on to say that when he got upstairs and looked down, “the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point.
        A 13-year-old boy walking his dog saw a man on the ground shortly before the shooting and identified him as wearing red. His mother later disputed the testimony and claimed that the police pressured him into choosing the color that the man was wearing and that her son could not see any details in the dark. She also stated that the police waited five days before requesting to even question her son and said that the lead homicide investigator told her that he did not believe the shooting was self-defense.
        Mary Cutcher and her roommate, Selma Mora Lamilla, appeared on AC 360, and Cutcher stated that she believes that “there was no punching, no hitting going on at the time, no wrestling” just prior to the shooting but admitted that she neither saw the shooting nor the preceding altercation. Cutcher and her roommate heard the pair in their backyard and a “very young voice” whining, with no sounds of a fight. They heard a gunshot; the crying stopped immediately, and they saw Zimmerman on his knees straddling Martin on the ground. Mary Cutcher phoned police after the fatal shooting and said the black man was standing over another man, although Trayvon Martin was already dead. According to the Orlando Sentinel article, “Police spokesman Sgt. Dave Morgenstern [on March 15] issued a statement disputing Cutcher’s version of events, calling her statements to WFTV ‘inconsistent with her sworn testimony to police'”. However, Cutcher and her roommate maintain that their account of the incident to the police did not agree with Zimmerman’s, and they demanded the police issue a retraction.
        On March 29, 2012, an eyewitness, referred to as a male, said that he saw two men on the ground scuffling, then heard the shooting and saw Zimmerman walk away with no blood on him. The witness later appeared on AC360, referred to as a female, giving more details on her account. She pointed out that she heard an argument between a younger and an older voice. During the time that she witnessed the incident, the scuffling happened on the grass. She said that the larger man, who walked away after the gunshot, was on top and that it was too dark to see blood on his face.
        A witness who arrived shortly after the shooting revealed photos that he took that night that showed “blood trickling down the back of Zimmerman’s head from two cuts. It also shows a possible contusion forming on the crown of his head”. In revealing the photo to ABC News in mid-April, he noted that he had heard but had not seen the scuffle, had been the first to arrive, and had been the first to talk to Zimmerman after the shooting.
        One eyewitness statement given the night of the shooting describes “a black male, wearing a dark colored ‘hoodie’ on top of a white or Hispanic male who was yelling for help.” The witness said that the black male was throwing punches “MMA [mixed martial arts] style”. After hearing a “pop”, he saw the black male “laid out on the grass”. When the witness was subsequently interviewed weeks later by a different agency, the witness said he thought that the black male was either punching or pinning the lighter skinned male underneath him. He was no longer certain who was calling for help, having not seen their mouths in the dark. He was still certain that the black male had been on top of the lighter-skinned male.”

        There are a plethora of witnesses, all of them Sgt. Schultz. All the same to you, Matthew, I’ll stand by my original statement.. To give credit where it is due, the above was gleaned from Wikipedia.

    • Another Mike

      No, we don’t have to take Zimmerman “at his word”. Yes, we hear his word and then we see the statements of the witness who actually saw the encounter and the disparity of injuries between Z and Martin and come away with some support for Z’s version of events.

      People who “feel” that no blows were struck are not really witnesses.

      Again, if you chase the coverage at Legal Insurrection you can find actual video of the in-court testimony of the eye witness as well as that of all the others. You will then have the same information that the jury took to their deliberations.

      Travon was a very poor assessor of victims as it turns out. One “polar bear hunt” too many, perhaps.

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