Zimmerman and Ketman
The most interesting question at this point in the Trayvon Martin case may be who believes the Party line and why.
As for the incident itself, after the case became the latest and noisiest cause célèbre of the left, the police released seven 911 tapes on March 16, and then disclosed further details from their investigation to the Orlando Sentinel on March 26. All are a couple of clicks away, and until the Seminole County Grand Jury convenes on April 10, or the special prosecutor files charges, which may happen earlier, any account of what happened has to be based on what the tapes disclose.
Of the 911 calls, only two are from actual eyewitnesses: a man identified as "John," who later spoke with the Orlando Sentinel and the local Fox station, and George Zimmerman.
"John" told police that he saw two men on the ground, fighting. The one on top, beating the one underneath, was Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman, in a red sweater, was yelling "Help, help!" You can hear his screams on other 911 tapes. A tape was played for Martin's father, and he confirmed that the voice crying for help was not his son's.
The Zimmerman call runs for four minutes and twelve seconds. He reports seeing a suspicious character in his gated community. Despite the relentless focus on the hoodie, what disturbs the neighborhood watch captain is Martin's behavior, not his clothes. It was raining, according to Zimmerman and at least one other 911 caller, but the teenager is not walking briskly and purposefully, as people tend to do in the rain. He seems to be wandering aimlessly, as if on drugs, looking at the houses. Zimmerman then reports, nervously, that the guy is staring at him, then coming toward him, his hand concealed in his waistband. At about 1:42 on the tape, he can no longer see him. "The assholes always get away," he mutters. At about 2:15, he spots the guy in the distance, running. He starts following him, and the dispatcher tells him that he doesn't need to do this. "OK, he replies (2:29). "He ran," he says under his breath ten seconds later. At 3:38, asked for his address, he hesitates. "I don't know where this kid is," he says. Zimmerman proceeds to give directions to the dispatcher, asks police to meet him at his truck near the mailboxes, then requests that he be called when the cops have come through the gate.
According to Zimmerman's later testimony, he had returned to his truck and was waiting for the police when he was surprised by Martin. The teen asked him if he had a problem. When Zimmerman said "no" and reached for his cell phone, Martin punched him in the face. Zimmerman fell to the ground; Martin jumped on top of him and began slamming his head against the sidewalk.
Zimmerman was not arrested for the simple reason that the physical evidence corroborated his testimony and "John's." According to the police, he had a bloody nose, a swollen lip, lacerations on the back of his head, and scuff-marks or grass stains on the back of his jersey. The police had no reason to believe that these were self-inflicted. If Zimmerman's statement is accurate, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, the subject of so much vitriol, may not have been relevant; it applies to individuals who are standing, not lying on their back being beaten. In no state do you not have a right to defend yourself with lethal force if your head is being slammed into concrete.
A key piece of evidence not disclosed so far is where Zimmerman's truck was parked. If it was close to where police found Martin's body, this would support his version. Even more interesting when it's released will be the paramedics' report. ABC has featured a police surveillance video which, they initially claimed, shows no injuries to Zimmerman. Embarrassed by a high-definition version on Breitbart.com, the network enhanced the video, and it now shows "what appear to be a pair of gashes or welts on George Zimmerman's head."
The case for the prosecution, repeated ad nauseam, rests on the assumption that Zimmerman ignored the advice of the dispatcher and continued to follow the teenager, then cornered him and shot him. Though assiduously searching the tape for a racial epithet, and seizing, in lieu of one, on "the assholes always get away," reporters and commentators apparently haven't registered that this comment would seem to indicate that Zimmerman has lost sight of Martin. Zimmerman agrees not to follow the teen, and by 2:39 on the tape, he has again lost sight of him. The one eyewitness account also clearly contradicts the claim that the neighborhood watchman stalked his prey and gunned him down.
The way in which the story has been spun by the media should not surprise anyone who remembers earlier National Hate campaigns: the Tawana Brawley, Duke lacrosse team, Jena 6, and Jared Loughner cases. Five-year-old pictures of Martin were repeatedly shown. Photos of the 6'2" or 3" seventeen-year-old wearing gold teeth, sporting two prominent tattoos, and making gang signs, readily available on the internet, were suppressed, as were other images from his Myspace and Twitter accounts, where he called himself "No_Limit_Nigga."
Also missing was any background on the teenager. He happened to be in Sanford because he'd been suspended from his high school in Miami for ten days on suspicion of selling marijuana. (His brother seemed to believe that he had punched a bus driver.) This was Martin's third suspension. Last October, he was caught with twelve pieces of woman's jewelry, a man's watch, and a flat-head screwdriver. He told authorities that a friend had given him the jewelry, but he couldn't identify the friend. When this information was released, the family and left-wing commentators accused those responsible of smearing the teenage martyr.
The media were no more unbiased in their identification of Zimmerman. The one photo invariably shown of him has been a police mugshot from 2005. No images of George as a cute twelve-year-old. His brushes with the law were publicized: he had been arrested for pushing an officer who was trying to arrest a friend in a bar. He was the subject of a restraining order filed by his ex-fiancée; he filed one against her as well. His wages were garnished in a dispute with a credit card company.
Zimmerman was also described repeatedly for many days as a "white man," though, as is clear in his picture, he is half-Hispanic. His mother is Peruvian. (This has provoked endless discussions about the term. Of course "Hispanic" is not a race, but comparatively few immigrants from Latin America are of solely European ancestry. The dispatcher initially asks Zimmerman: "Is he black, white, or Hispanic?" "Asian" was not an option.)
Above all, Zimmerman has invariably been represented as an overzealous cop-wannabe, a nutcase who had made forty-six 911 calls in a year. The calls, it turns out, were over a period of eight years, and, like the call he made on the night of February 26, they were to a non-emergency number. Police did not consider the number of calls excessive. Zimmerman has been characterized repeatedly as a "self-appointed" neighborhood watch captain, as if any volunteer in a hospital or animal shelter is not also self-appointed. It turns out he was not on patrol that night, but was, like Martin, returning from the store.
Now comes the part of the story that has been scrupulously avoided by the national media.
Zimmerman's concern about a young black male stranger has been represented as pure racism -- that is to say, paranoia. This is the assumption that frames the entire narrative spun by the media. The corollary is that across the nation, young black males, especially those who choose to wear hoodies, are being targeted by white vigilantes. The Rambos are armed and dangerous, and it's open season on young black males. (For the genteel WaPo version of this Sharpton charge, see this column.)
Is this what's happening?
At the very beginning of his 911 call, Zimmerman tells the operator that there have been a lot of break-ins recently. In fact, there were eight burglaries in the previous fifteen months. Where the intruders were identified, most were young black males, including two who invaded the home of a young mother and tried to break into the bedroom she had locked herself into with her infant son. This must have been a terrifying experience, but it was not of interest to the MSM. Zimmerman met with the woman afterward.
Is Twin Lakes in Sanford an anomaly?
Like the 911 calls, Justice Department statistics are a click or two away.
That is, over the 30-year period, African-Americans committed murder at about 7.33 times the white rate. (Whites here include Hispanics.)
Of homicides committed by strangers, on average, 18.77% involved blacks killing whites, while in 5.08% of the cases, whites killed blacks. African-Americans were therefore nearly 3.7 times more likely to kill a white than a white to kill a black
To provide some raw numbers, in 2005, the last year for which the DOJ statistics are available, 10,285 African-Americans committed murders. As 8.8% of these were "black on white," there were, assuming only one death per murderer, 905 whites killed, almost 2.5 per day. In the same year, again assuming one killing per perpetrator, 267 blacks were murdered by whites (3.2% of 8,350 killings).
Crime is a young man's métier. The vast majority of the 52.2% of U.S. murders committed by African-Americans are the work of the roughly 2% of the population who are black males between the ages of 15 and 25.
Would these figures, courtesy of Eric Holder, surprise most Americans?
Not if you scroll down to the comments in local papers below stories of murders, like this one on March 31.
Not if you judge by demographic trends since the 1960s.
But this is a subject that cannot be mentioned by the national media. With rare exceptions, when blacks kill whites, it's local news.
One of the exceptions was Eve Carson, student body president of UNC, killed by two African-American men on March 5, 2008. Another white student, Lauren Burk, a freshman at Auburn, was kidnapped and killed by a black man the day before, but because of Carson's position, her record of public service and academic accomplishments, and, no doubt, her attractiveness, the story was picked up. But not by Barrack Obama. Less than two weeks later, the candidate gave his famous oration on race, dubbed "A More Perfect Union" by an admiring media. Eve Carson was not mentioned. Instead, Obama called out his white grandmother, who once confessed to him that she sometimes feared "black men who passed her in the street." But despite this display of raw racism, the benevolent senator said that he was not willing to "disown" Madelyn Dunham, just as he refused to disown Jeremiah Wright for his inflammatory comments.
Even when there's been a widespread outbreak of violence by young African-Americans, as in the flash-mobs of last summer, where scores of European-Americans were attacked in more than half a dozen cities, it's not going to be discussed in "the paper of record" or the non-Fox channels -- only among the local outlets. And from the president, other politicians, editorialists and op-ed writers, and commentators on TV, come the sounds of silence. There are no demonstrations by activists protesting the violation of the civil rights of the victims, and no hand-wringing by African-American leaders.
What's going on?
In 1953, the Polish poet and future Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz published in Paris a collection of essays on the intellectual gymnastics performed by writers and artists living in Eastern Europe. The third essay of The Captive Mind is called "Ketman." Milosz took the term from the 19th-century traveler and ethnologist Arthur Gobineau. Writing about the Muslim East, Gobineau reported that "[h]e who is in possession of truth must not expose his person, his relatives or his reputation to the blindness, the folly, the perversity of those whom it has pleased God to place and maintain in error." It is not enough to conceal the truth. "'There are occasions when silence no longer suffices[.] ... Then one must not hesitate. Not only must one deny one's true opinion, but one is commanded to resort to all ruses in order to deceive one's adversary[.] ... Ketman fills the man who practices it with pride. Thanks to it, a believer raises himself to a permanent state of superiority over the man he deceives[.]"
Milosz then describes the way Ketman is practiced in Eastern Europe. In the first place, on every occasion one has to express "one's awe at Russian achievements in every field of endeavor, to carry Russian books under one's arm, to hum Russian songs, to applaud Russian actors and musicians enthusiastically, etc. ... The chief characteristic of the people who practice this Ketman is an unbounded contempt for Russia as a barbaric country." Milosz explains how an iron curtain, so to speak, descends between the practitioner's private and public life. "A man of taste ... changes completely within the four walls of his home. There one finds (if he is a well-situated intellectual) reproductions of works of art officially condemned as bourgeois, records of modern music, and a rich collection of ancient authors in various languages. This luxury of splendid isolation is pardoned him so long as his creative work is effective propaganda." That is to say, that it supports what Milosz calls "the New Faith." "To protect his position and his apartment (which he has by the grace of the State), the intellectual is prepared to make any sacrifice or compromise[.]"
Milosz is interested in the evasions and rationales of skeptics. But of course the New Faith had its true believers. Though in the end these were mostly Westerners, at all levels of the Party in Eastern Europe there were credulous individuals who continued to subscribe to the Stalinist dogmas and recited the liturgy with pure hearts.
The New Faith was, of course, a monotheistic creed: "No other church can be tolerated," Milosz writes in another essay, "Man, the Enemy. "Christianity is Public Enemy No. 1. It fosters all the skepticism of the masses as to the radical transformation of mankind." The great task of the clerics of the New Faith, he says, is defining and isolating the enemy.
The tenets of our New Faith are naturally different from dialectical materialism, though our version shares its radical environmentalism (in the older sense): humans are largely if not entirely shaped by their environment, except for homosexuals, whose proclivities are innate. The first commandment of the faith is relativism: there are no significant differences among sexes, ethnicities, religions, and races. Disparities in standards of living are the result of Western oppression; the perception of these and other differences is "orientalism."
The second commandment is "tolerance." If you question commandment number one, you are guilty of a hate crime and need to be punished by "diversity training," the more benign version of the "re-education" dissidents were subjected to in the Soviet Empire.
There is today the same eagerness, once shared by members of the Central Committees of the People's Republics and their acolytes, for exposing and humiliating the enemy. So people keep their heads down. Your apartment or house might not be in jeopardy, but your job could be.
Does Ketman explain the apparent cognitive dissonance of the chattering classes? Do American journalists and commentators -- from the hauts vulgarisateurs of the New York Review of Books to the crime reporter on 7 On Your Side -- have the intellectual sophistication of Muslims in early-19th-century Persia or Eastern European writers and scholars between 1945 and 1989?
It's probably safe to say that their gated communities are not, like George Zimmerman's, 50% White, 25% African-American, and 25% Hispanic. They send their kids to private schools. They don't go strolling down MLK Blvd. after dark. What do they acknowledge within the four-plus walls of their homes? Do they wrestle with their consciences, like the intellectuals Milosz anatomizes, or are they true believers?
It's also of interest what ordinary Americans -- and extraordinary Americans who are not members of the Fourth Estate -- think of the case. They're not likely to reveal their opinions to pollsters. You have to check the comments below news stories, when these aren't censored. And maybe the election results later this year. It's always "the economy, stupid." But there's a possibility that voters this November might also wish to express their preference for candidates who are willing tell the truth about daily life in the real world. There are still no cameras in the polling booths.