Remember Skittles and iced-tea?
In the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s fatal confrontation with George Zimmerman, the media went to great pains to characterize the teenager as an innocent kid who was shot for wearing a hoodie while black. After all, this depiction fit their narrative—their narrative of a country filled with racist rednecks just waiting for a chance to shoot innocent and unarmed black teenagers.
Four years had passed since the country had elected its first black president. With an election coming up, the media no doubt was worried that President Obama’s novelty had worn off. Candidate Obama had portrayed himself as a transformational figure who would heal the country’s deep racial wounds. By 2012, it was obvious that he was keeping the status quo.
With a mediocre economy, growing questions about the efficacy of Obamacare, and a lethargic base waking up from a hope hangover to find that the president had left them hanging on the change part, the media knew that President Obama couldn’t win on his record. The media would need a controversy to galvanize the base and shame moderates into reelecting President Obama.
And so, when an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a man claiming self-defense, the media pounced. They routinely used a years-old photo of Martin as a smiling young child. Zimmerman was depicted with a mugshot. The message was clear: Martin was just a young child wearing a hoodie and eating Skittles while Zimmerman was a deranged menace.
When it came out that Martin may have attacked Zimmerman, the media ignored images of his bloodied face and head and instead fixated on a grainy surveillance video taken long after Zimmerman received medical attention.
When it came out that Martin had been suspended from school for possession of marijuana, the media immediately ran stories condemning “drug stigma” and arguing that “Martin’s possible experimentation with pot should be no threat to his reputation.”
When it came out that Martin may have been on top of Zimmerman punching him “MMA style,” the media focused on the fact that Zimmerman did not exhibit extensive brain damage after the attack.
And when some perceptive observers raised questions about the testimony of Rachel Jeantel—the woman who Zimmerman’s prosecutors said was Martin’s girlfriend and had been on the phone with him during the last minutes of his life—the media fired back with indignation. The testimony of teenagers is beyond reproach. Unless they happen to be wearing MAGA hats.
With the benefit of some excellent investigative work by film-maker Joel Gilbert, many of these revelations and the ensuing questions are returning with staggering force.
Gilbert’s most recent film and book, The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud that Divided America, provide painstakingly researched evidence that seem conclusively to show that Rachel Jeantel was not Martin’s girlfriend and was not on the phone with Martin in the moments before his death. In other words, a good deal of the legal and media case against George Zimmerman was based on a false witness.
Gilbert will be holding a press conference on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to share the details of his research and investigation. But if the past is any indication, the mainstream media likely will bury the story or derisively try to discredit the evidence provided. When reality and the facts oppose their narrative, they show utter contempt for the truth and jealously guard their narrative.
But their narrative is failing. Remember “hands up, don’t shoot”?
While the media lies and spins, our country is being torn apart. Most Americans don’t have the time to carefully consult primary sources and suss out the truth. Nuance and judicious examination are too often thrown out the window to favor visceral and easily mobilized outrage. It is too easy to appeal to victimhood and play on the emotions of citizens for political points.
But the truth is too important to be marginalized for an easy narrative.
Exceedingly few would view Trayvon Martin’s death as anything but a senseless tragedy—a young life ended entirely too soon. The real question is how can we stop such heartbreaking tragedies from occurring. By ignoring the true circumstances behind Martin’s death, we stop ourselves from having an honest conversation about the real problems in our society. In the case of Zimmerman, the media created an easy scapegoat to sidestep the difficult question of how we make our communities and our lives better.
Unfortunately, members of the mainstream media will continue spinning their simplistic and misguided narratives to generate outrage, increase turmoil, and ultimately feed a healthy audience on the divisions, misery, and suffering of our country. But we must continue to focus on the truth. Because the only way we can make the future better is by learning from the past—the true past.