Medildos: The Media and the Zimmerman-Martin Case

My first teaching job was in the English Department at Northwestern.  The university was home to the Medill School of Journalism, which considered itself, and maybe still does, the nation's premier j-school.  It had just launched an undergraduate major.  These students were called by others "medildos."  Maybe they gave themselves the name.

Few of my colleagues were happy to see the medildos in their classes.  The afterglow of Watergate still hadn't faded, and most medildos fancied themselves crusaders for Truth, Justice, and the Anti-Amerikan Way.  They were quick to see conspiracies, reluctant to slog through the texts.  They had opinions, but they didn't always have the facts.

Of course there were exceptions, and when I got to know them, I'd try to persuade the budding Woodwards and Bernsteins to major in a discipline that had some content, so they'd learn something about the world and about the methodologies of the discipline.

A typical medildo was a student I'll call Jennifer.  We were reading Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady, and Jen convinced herself that Gilbert Osmond had murdered Ralph Touchett.  Now, Gilbert is an unlovely, unscrupulous aesthete, but he wouldn't kill a fly, and James is quite clear that poor Ralph dies of some lingering disease (which, typically, James doesn't name).  I let the other students in the seminar shoot this thesis down, but I still remember the tenacity with which the medildo clung to it.

As I recall, the syntax on Jen's papers was as garbled as her logic, but these days, if they want to serve as propagandists of the New Faith -- and few don't -- reporters don't always have to write much, let alone write well.

This is mostly because the two default strategies of advocacy journalism are the Drumbeat and the Spike.

The Drumbeat made its debut during Watergate.  You keep the story on page one.  It isn't hard to do.  On a slow day, you can ask the press secretary how the administration is responding to all the attention the story is getting, and put his comments on page one the next day.  And then ask him again the day after.

The Spike is even easier.  You ignore developments that are embarrassing to the Good and the Righteous.  Seen any coverage of Fast and Furious recently on any of the networks?  This conspiracy goes "to the highest levels of the White House," as they used to say in the halcyon days of Watergate, but you'd never know it from the MSM.

The two ploys are demonstrated in the contrasting treatment of Mark Foley and John Edwards.  Foley was the Florida congressman who sent some raunchy and flirtatious e-mails to congressional pages.  The smarmy Edwards needs no introduction, but recall that he was a top-tier presidential candidate in January 2008.  Foley's e-mails were headline news for days.  What did the GOP leadership know about them, and when did they know it?  Meanwhile, at checkout counters across the country, journalists averted their eyes as they approached the register.  The National Enquirer, and the Enquirer alone, covered the story of John's affair with Rielle Hunter and the child she bore him.  The medildos preferred to recycle stories about the candidate's devotion to his cancer-stricken wife. 

The media has kept up the Drumbeat on the Zimmerman-Martin case since they latched onto it in mid-March.  But the information monopoly the Fourth Estate once enjoyed has long gone.  Today, Deep Throat might have blogged or tweeted his revelations.  So the medildos have had to scramble.  And, not to put too fine a point on it, they've had to lie.

Some of the misrepresentations are simply in the language in which the story is cast.  Trayvon Martin, invariably described as "unarmed," is "chased" and "gunned down."  He is also still about twelve years old, while George Zimmerman remains eternally in his orange jumpsuit.  Everyone uses the two pictures Martin's family provided; only Fox sporadically uses a picture Zimmerman's family provided.  The question is not why the medildos do this, but why they imagine that no one will notice the transparent bias or find it objectionable.

It's worth a closer look at three major attacks the media has launched against Zimmerman.

The Screams

Here's a question: two individuals, A and B, are fighting.  After it's over, A has a broken nose and wounds on the back of his head, and his back is wet and grass-stained.  B has no injuries except for the gunshot wound that killed him.  Who was screaming and calling out for help?  Hint: an eyewitness observed A lying on the ground with B on top of him, beating him up.  A was yelling for help.  Hint #2: the police were called by A five minutes earlier, and he was expecting them momentarily.

Answer: if you said A, congratulations!  You have at least an 80 IQ.   

But A was the wrong answer for the media.  So the medildos opted for two strategies:

1.  Call on "experts" to contradict the eyewitness.

2.  Call on another "eyewitness" to do likewise.

1. You'd think someone with training as an audiologist or audio engineer would take a wide berth here -- at least if he hoped to testify in future court cases.  He is being asked to compare not two speech samples, but a normal talking voice and screams heard in the background of a 911 call.  Besides, he has the evidence above.  But two "experts" took the bait and claimed that the screams can't be from Zimmerman.  One says this "with reasonable scientific certainty," the other "without a doubt."

One used an apparently untested software program he'd very recently developed and is willing to sell you for $4,995.  The other used only his naked ears and concluded, "That's a young man screaming."  The assumption here is that a 17-year-old will always have a higher-pitched voice than a 28-year-old.  Take a closer look at the claims of these two gentlemen and at their credentials. 

Are there any ethical audio forensic experts out there who are embarrassed by this?  Why haven't we heard from them?  The next time they testify at a Frye or Daubert hearing, they should expect some pretty aggressive questioning.

2. If you can't find an "expert," how about an "eyewitness" who has not witnessed anything?  CNN broadcast an interview with a woman in the complex who heard arguing and screaming, but couldn't see enough even to determine who was fighting.  As for the screams, the witness says, "I feel it was the young boy.  There was the boy and there was the man and it was the boy."  Clearly, the witness has seen the pictures of the twelve-year-old Trayvon and assumes that it was he.  In the argument that preceded the fight, there was a deeper, louder, more aggressive voice, and, again on the basis of the pitch, she is willing to say it was the man rather than the "boy."  (Ironically enough, the ear-witness herself sounds like a man.  Her voice may have been disguised to conceal her identity, but this isn't stated.)  When the woman later told the investigator that she felt bad that she hadn't done anything, he consoled her by saying that the man who was screaming was still alive.  She did not contradict him because she had not seen the fight or the shooting.

Why did none of the neighbors who called 911 come to Zimmerman's assistance?  Why are the few witnesses who have attempted to defend Zimmerman, with the exception of Joe Oliver, afraid to have their faces shown on TV?  Don't expect to see the medildos pose these questions.

The Injuries

On March 28, ABC news aired footage from a overhead surveillance camera in the parking lot of the Sanford police station and from a camera in the building.  The network proudly proclaimed that the blurry video -- where Zimmerman's head was blocked much of the time by the words "ABC News Exclusive" --showed no injuries.  The story was gleefully picked up by papers and stations across the world.

Voice experts are easy to snag, but apparently the network was unable to locate anyone with the skills to sharpen the images.  Only after released a high-definition version of the video that showed evidence of two welts on the back of Zimmerman's head did ABC enhance its own copy.  (The network scrubbed the original broadcast from its site.)  But before it released the improved version, ABC found an ER doctor willing to testify that, yes, though there were gashes on Zimmerman's head, it didn't appear as if his nose was broken.  Of course, any ethical physician would decline to speculate on someone's injuries without examining the person.  As anyone who has been banged up can testify, it can take several hours for bruising and swelling to appear.

A neighbor has since come forward and reported bandages and bruising and swelling on Zimmerman's face twenty-four hours later.  He had sought out Fox 35; no inquisitive medildo had asked friends and neighbors about Zimmerman's injuries.  The neighbor described what he saw in detail and pointed out where the bandages and swelling were on Zimmerman's face.  The watch captain went to a hospital or a doctor's office the next day, so a full report of his injuries should be available to the special prosecutor.  

Zimmerman would have been wise to have gone to an ER right after being questioned.  But the rush to claim, on the basis of blurry, high-angled footage from a surveillance camera, that he sustained no injuries is hardly an exercise in dispassionate journalism.

The Racial Slur

Though CNN's ear-witness had already said she could not hear any words in the argument between the two men, the medildo interviewing her hopefully asked, "Did you hear any racial slurs?"

On March 21, CNN believed that it had struck gold: under his breath, the network claimed, Zimmerman mutters the archaic epithet "coon."  The camera follows the reporter into the newsroom's sound studio, where a technician amplifies and tweaks an inaudible moment in the 911 tape until it yields what sounds like "f-ing coons."

The report was jubilantly repeated by all the networks.  Unfortunately, CNN was obliged to backtrack when additional experts could not support the technician's reconstruction.  Now it was claimed that Zimmerman said either "f-ing cold" or "f-ing punks."  Zimmerman himself, according to his attorneys, said he muttered the latter.

NBC had been left in the dust by CNN and ABC when it came to vilifying the neighborhood watchman.  So it took matters into its own hands on this all-important issue.  As everyone following the story now knows, the network edited the 911 tape so that Zimmerman says, "The guy looks like he's up to no good.  He looks black."  In reality, the watchman gives that description in response to the dispatcher's question.  NBC used the doctored quote repeatedly between March 17 and 22.

This was not only malicious, but stupid.  Uncut versions of the tape were all over the internet.  The pajamas gang called NBC out, and Fox followed.

It's pretty obvious why the media was so intent on casting Zimmerman as a racist: 1. to suggest that he "profiled" Martin, 2. to suggest that during the confrontation with the teenager he may have used an epithet that provoked Martin, and, above all, 3. to support their narrative: the racist vigilante chased down the innocent young teenager returning from the store.

Unfortunately, it turned out that not only did Zimmerman have African-American friends and relatives, but he had tutored two black kids and had circulated a petition asking for justice when the son of a police officer beat up a black homeless man and was not charged.  Family and friends swore he had never used derogatory language about African-Americans.

But of course Zimmerman had profiled the teenager.  Eight out of eight of the burglaries in the complex during the previous fifteen months had been committed by young African-American males.  If an eighty-year-old Asian woman had been wandering around in the rain, George probably would have gone up to her and asked her if she was lost, and not bothered the police.

The interest in detecting racial motives in a crime is restricted to white perpetrators.  How many of the 905 killings of whites by blacks in 2005, the last year for which DOJ numbers are available, were investigated as possible hate crimes?

The Spike

The media has subjected Zimmerman's words and motives to relentless scrutiny.  Martin got a pass until March 26, when the Miami Herald disclosed records of his suspensions.

The blogosphere quickly unearthed social network accounts.  Some images were from the account of another Trayvon Martin, but there was enough from the Martin's own accounts to overturn the media image of the sweet and studious young man.

For the most part, the MSM simply ignored these.  The Herald had the courage to take a look at the messages, though, of course, it interpreted them as charitably as possible.

But the real spike has covered up information about Martin's movements on the night he died.  The narrative is that he was coming home with the candy and tea when waylaid by the overzealous watchman.  A map of the gated community, with a scale on it, reveals that, after he became aware that Zimmerman was watching him, Martin had about 5 minutes to go less than 1,000 feet if he wanted to return home.

7-Eleven has acknowledged that an African-American male did buy Skittles and tea on February 26. 

But the purchase was made between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m.  The 0.8-mile walk back to the gated community should take 16 minutes, Google Maps estimates.  Say 18 if he returns to the townhouse he's staying in.  Had he gone straight back home, he should have arrived sometime between about 6:20 and 6:50, long before Zimmerman got in his truck to go to Target.

The information is readily available on the web.  Just not in the media.  

George Zimmerman is no more like Gilbert Osmond than Trayvon Martin resembles Ralph Touchett.  But like Jen thirty years ago, the medildos are determined to pin a murder on him.

The villainess ofThe Portrait of a Lady is the shrewd and charming Madame Merle.  Toward the end of the book, when her schemes have been foiled, she asks plaintively, "Have I been so vile all for nothing?"  Come November, the medildos may find themselves repeating her famous line.

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