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Don’t rush to judgment about Michael Brown’s death

Written By | Aug 12, 2014

OCALA, Fla., August 12, 2014 — Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old was killed by police in the working class St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Sunday afternoon. It is alleged that he tried to grab an officer’s firearm after pushing the latter into his squad car.

Brown’s relatives have retained the Trayvon Martin family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump. Al Sharpton is planning a visit to Ferguson, which has been subject to white flight over the last few decades. The Department of Justice is on watch for possible civil rights violations.

Before this goes any further, we should remember what happened in the Trayvon Martin nightmare. Specifically, we should remember what came George Zimmerman’s way and not rush to judgment about Brown’s shooter.

“The Trayvon Martin story is a case study in how, even in the modern day, an advanced industrialised democracy can completely lose its senses; and how difficult it is for it to then recover them,” wrote James Myburgh of South Africa’s politicsweb.

“In this particular matter a whole society seemingly fixed its mind on the one object of having George Zimmerman arrested, convicted and sent to jail for life, in reckless disregard of the evidence and the law,” he noted. “The mainstream media, so-called civil rights organisations, the Democrat President of the US, the U.S. Attorney General, the Republican Governor of Florida and his Attorney General, and State Attorney Angela Corey all combined forces in an effort to destroy a single, isolated individual.”

If it weren’t for the establishment media, though, just how much would everyone else have been able to get away with?

Shortly after Zimmerman shot Martin in early 2012, NBC News ran a deceptively edited audiotape of Zimmerman’s 911 call. With NBC’s edits, Zimmerman seemed to racially profile Martin.

“I think what NBC did was quite damaging and I think that, at the time, the damage they did to Goerge’s reputation … is still not undone,” Robert Zimmerman, George’s older brother and once-de facto public spokesman, told me last year.

“Life is packed with nuances and subtleties and shades of gray,” wrote Rem Reider of USA Today following Zimmerman’s acquittal. “But the news media are often uncomfortable in such murky terrain. They prefer straightforward narratives, with good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains. Those tales are much easier for readers and viewers to relate to.”

“Conservatives see this episode as yet another manifestation of the pervasive bias of that dreaded liberal media,” he later said. “But there’s something else at play. Journalists are addicted above all else to the good story. And the saga of the bigoted, frustrated would-be law enforcement officer gunning down the helpless child was too good to check. It’s also another example of how groupthink can shape news coverage.”

Had the media done their job from the beginning, the Martin shooting would not have turned into a ghoulish carnival for grievance peddlers, race hustlers and politicians.

“In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do,” Scottish journalist Charles Mackay wrote in his 1841 magnum opus, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. “We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”

The question about media coverage of the Martin shooting is not a matter of left or right. Rather, it strikes to the heart of whether what is presented as news can honestly be called “news.”

If the products of contemporary mainstream journalism are little more than talking points gleaned from activists with an axe to grind, then what is the point of journalism? If the establishment media are satisfied with being mouthpieces of some people at the expense of others, then what reasonably positive purpose do they serve?

This is the defining issue of the pop-culture tale of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

The media-driven story has almost nothing to do with either Martin or Zimmerman. Neither was more than a pawn in the eternal chess game of operatives whose cunning is matched only by their ruthlessness.

The saddest thing is that millions of people in this country not only fall for, but eagerly buy tickets to see this dog-and-pony show.

Indeed, Mackay would have much to jot down during these interesting times.


Imagine being king one day and refugee the next. This was the reality faced by HM Kigeli V, Rwanda’s long-displaced monarch.

The Marquis Dr. Carl Lindgren, Kigeli’s former secretary general, shares an epic story of courage, honor, and humility on the latest Cotto & Company.

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph Cotto is a nationally syndicated columnist. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he wrote for The Washington Times Communities and Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications.