George Zimmerman Supporters Reveal Right-Wing Media's Race Problem
The big story today in certain segments of the right-wing blogosphere is about some guy in Mobile who was allegedly beaten to within an inch of his life by a large group of African-Americans claiming to be avenging Trayvon Martin. The victim, of course, is white.
The Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher is annoyed that the original news report on the incident, from a Mobile TV station, “buried the lede” by failing to mention the supposed mention of Martin until the end of the story. He’s also ready to blame Spike Lee and the national TV networks for the beating, apparently assuming the report by the victim’s sister that one member of the mob mentioned Martin is both accurate and the actual reason for the entire incident. Glenn Reynolds is also quick to call the Mobile beating the “results of media hatemongering,” and quotes a correspondent who suggests the beating might have been a direct message to Barack Obama’s critics about what might happen to them if the president is defeated in November.
I guess this sort of talk became inevitable once big chunks of the wingnutosphere decided to take up George Zimmerman as their hero, following every bit of new information in the agonizingly slow prosecution of the Florida shooter that seems to support his side of the story as an aha! moment that not only reveals Zimmerman as a victim of Trayvon Martin but as a victim of “liberal racism”—you know, the only kind that exists. Zimmerman, it seems, is being assigned the starring role in the American Right’s version of the Dreyfus Affair.
Reading this stuff with its endless and interminable and redundant references to race, you wouldn’t know that much of the original media interest in the Martin shooting was its relevance to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and a nationwide trend towards official encouragment of vigilantes wielding lethal weapons. Martin’s race (and for that matter, his age) entered the story mainly because African-Americans have a great deal more to fear from gun-toting vigilantes in gated communities, and from police and prosecutors quick to look the other way when a black kid is in the wrong place at the wrong time, than anyone else.
That’s not how our little friends on the Right see it. Any invocation of race as a factor, small or large, in an apparent instance of injustice or tragedy is simply a weapon by the “racist” supporters of our “racist” president.
I got a little taste of this the other day on Twitter, when several correspondents kept calling me a “racist” because of my post suggesting that yeah, race might logically enter into the expected reaction to the Romney campaign slogan “Obama Isn’t Working,” particularly since Romney himself has lately been bad-mouthing the president for having a poor work ethic. I mean, even if I’m wrong about that judgement, how does that make me a racist?
Ta-Nehisi Coates nailed this particular phenomenon in a recent meditation on “the race card” as it’s so often played by conservatives these days:
The conservative movement doesn’t understand anti-racism as a value, only as a rhetorical pose. This is how you end up tarring the oldest integrationist group in the country (the NAACP) as racist. The slur has no real moral content to them. It’s all a game of who can embarrass who. If you don’t think racism is an actual force in the country, then you can only understand its invocation as a tactic.
From that perspective, then of course George Zimmerman is a victim of “racism” and so is this man in Mobile, of whom the people writing about him know absolutely nothing. It’s a game, in which hurling insults around indiscriminately is entirely within the rules.