How Right-Wing Bullies Blame and Attack the Victims of Violence and Oppression
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The idea is to change the conversation to speculation, conjecture and attempts to slant the story differently. This even included Michelle Malkin's site posting fake pictures of Trayvon Martin's alleged Facebook account to make him look more "thuggish." Even after it retracted the story, damage had been done.
When conservative media, like the New York Post, got Orwellian and claimed that liberals were exploiting the tragedy to "make it about race," this also helped cow journalists, ever afraid of being labeled "liberals." Thus, the right's derailing efforts were aided and abetted by the wide media circulation of Zimmerman's account. Through family surrogates whose stories were suspect at best, Zimmerman claimed that he was overpowered and afraid for his life before he pulled the trigger. His story was spread alongside the local police's seemingly corroborating claims that Zimmerman was bloodied and bruised, claims that would have required a lot of explanation to match up with the evidence.
On Thursday night, video surfaced that appeared to show Zimmerman, contrary to his own and police department accounts, uninjured and not bleeding. Jesse Singal at the Daily Beast notes that this evidence shows there was far too little skepticism from "disinterested" observers to begin with:
In retrospect, there was so little reason for the Zimmerman account to have changed anyone’s view of the case. Neither he nor the Sanford Police Department were disinterested observers. He, after all, was facing potential murder or manslaughter charges, and the department was shielding itself from a nationwide barrage of criticism for not arresting him.
Why did some media outlets report the Zimmerman story so uncritically, and why is the right-wing able to get these counter-narratives into the national consciousness? Singal hints at the reasons:
Of course, that Zimmerman likely outweighed Martin by 50 pounds or more, or that the worst “criminal activity” alluded to in the Twitter account was smoking pot...didn’t matter. No. What mattered was that this version of events was so much more palatable and digestible than the notion that race had played a part in the death of an unarmed black teen (which is so... liberal). And that’s why the story festered and spread like a virus.
Protecting Power Structures, Comforting the Powerful
It's fair to make the point that some of the backlash arose from an insatiable conservative drive to undercut anything liberals and progressives support, even a basic issue of justice like this one. But this is about much more than politics, it's about power structures. Singal's colleague Michelle Goldberg elaborates:
...some on the right are deeply invested in the idea that anti-black racism is no longer much of a problem in the United States, and certainly not a problem on the scale of false accusations of racism. You might call these people anti-anti-racists. They are determined to push back against any narrative that would suggest that a black man has been targeted for the color of his skin.
We are living in an inverted era: it generates more outcry to call someone a racist than to be a racist. But racism--not just casual racism but the racism that denies the very humanity of people of color--is alive and well. Dozens of young people tweeted that they didn't care about the poignant death of Rue, a young girl in "The Hunger Games" because she was black. Naeesa Aziz at BET wrote that she found it: "impossible to think about how race affected people’s reaction to the death of the ficticious character of little Rue and not think of Trayvon Martin and the countless other young men and women whose lives were considered expendable because of their skin color."