Thursday, April 26, 2012

No truth in the News and no news in the Truth

This is more of a rant on the poor state of journalism in the US than it is about Detroit.
You are warned...
There are a couple of incidents that have come up recently that I find disturbing.
A teaser for this post is that FOX News reported a story more honestly than CBS or CNN.
Let me preface this with I DO NOT LIKE FOX NEWS. I think they are biased and often not even close to factual.
It brings up my alternate “Topic” “Is NPR actually better than FOX News?” But as nice and button pushing as that title is it’s really CNN and CBS that were the stand out Bad guys and I haven’t heard NPR’s coverage so...
The actual story in question is the sad case out of Florida.
The spin I and pretty much everyone else in the US got from the media was that this jewish white guy (not stated but implied) in Florida saw this innocent looking black young man (and we had pictures of this very non threatening kid to go along with the story) that happened to be wearing a hoodie. Got threatened because he was black (we get some 911 transcripts to prove he was fixated on him being black), followed him against the orders of the police and hunted him down and shot him. The police being racist bastards didn’t charge him.
Now that is a story to get pissed about and a whole lot of people, including me, did.
Unfortunately a lot of the “spin” was just spin to sell papers and make a buzz.
Not that our shooter is sweet and innocent but this story is all grey and not black and white.
So what IS the story.
Well our “villain” has a “jewish” last name but he is hispanic. But that doesn’t play into the white on black crime angle so not talked about.
Our “hero” is not the innocent kid in the photos.
Those are his photos but they are from when he was 12. He was 17 and 6’2” tall,he wasn’t that kid anymore.
To be fair there have been some claims the photo is a fake but there are archives of his twitter account that show similar shots. Also what doesn’t show here is that he had a bunch of tattoos.
He was wearing a hoodie but also the rest of the “gansta” out fit.
Then there is the twitter archive.
Where he is maybe dealing drugs??
And he was on a 10 day suspension from school for something the family’s lawyers have had the court seal.
None of this means he was a bad guy or did anything wrong BUT he also was not the innocent 12 year old he was painted to be. If you take away the “innocent child” angle the story changes dramatically.
Our “villain” did ignore police saying he shouldn’t follow the guy, but they didn’t order him not to. AND he lost him so he was heading back to the car when the shooting happened.
How did the confrontation actually happen then? Well our hero followed our villain, confronted him and decked him, then he got shot.
From a FOX News report, but verified by others since.
"The guy on the bottom who had a red sweater on was yelling to me: 'help, help…and I told him to stop and I was calling 911," he said.
Trayvon Martin was in a hoodie; Zimmerman was in red.
The witness only wanted to be identified as "John," and didn't not want to be shown on camera.
His statements to police were instrumental, because police backed up Zimmerman's claims, saying those screams on the 911 call are those of Zimmerman.
"When I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point," John said.
Zimmerman says the shooting was self defense. According to information released on the Sanford city website, Zimmerman said he was going back to his SUV when he was attacked by the teen.
Sanford police say Zimmerman was bloody in his face and head, and the back of his shirt was wet and had grass stains, indicating a struggle took place before the shooting.
Again this doesn’t make our villain a good guy, but it does paint a very different picture from the race obsessed guy hunting down the innocent kid.
The notorious 911 clip that has our villain talking about the scary black guy, is not actually what happened. It was edited by CNN to sound that way. Our villain didn’t mention color the dispatcher ASKED him and he answered. They cut it so it sounded like he was following him because he was black.
That tidbit was brought out by FOX news. Since I don’t watch FOX News I heard about it when John Stewart brought it up. All I can say is WTF!
Does this mean that race had nothing to do with it? Well no. But we would have to go to other incidents to come to real conclusions. Would our villain have been less concerned with a white guy he didn’t recognize “prowling around”. Hard to say, maybe but he was hispanic so maybe not? We all, if we are honest, are more leery of folks that are not part of our “group”. Some of those “groups” are based on race, some are not. I have worked for black theatres where I felt part of that group so in a lot of cases I would have been more worried about a white guy prowling around the theatre than a black guy. I also did a show at a gay theatre in SF and we (non gays) had to be educated about how careful you had to be leaving the theatre because you would be assumed to be gay and there were folks who would beat you to a pulp on that assumption.
So I (as a white guy) have quite a bit of experience being on the “other side” and yes you often have to watch out for folks who are not “in your group”. The real question then would be whether out villain thought our hero was in his “group”. I’m guessing not. Was that a race issue? I’m guessing partly. But our villain was a watch captain so he knew everyone in the neighborhood. If our hero had been in the neighborhood then he would have been part of the “group”. But our hero was just visiting the area and so our villain didn’t recognize him. I think that probably had more to do with it than color.
The police didn’t arrest out villain because there is a witnesses to the incident and there really isn’t a case. There might be in another state but by Florida law it’s self defense.
He is on trial now because of public out cry but he will almost certainly walk because of the laws in Florida. Actually he would get off in any state that allows you to carry a gun since it was a fairly clear case of self defense.
At most he might get tried on unintentional manslaughter in other states. But even that is thin because it is pretty clear he was getting pounded before he shot.
Now it gets a bit complicated from a human stand point since our villain really set up the situation. But by the time the shooting took place he was no longer the aggressor so...
It’s a sad story and our villain is certainly guilty of creating the environment that lead to the shooting but so was our hero. He could have let it go. He didn’t and by being the first person to “attack” he looses (legally) all the benefit of having been pursued.
The larger sad part though is that there wasn’t anything close to real journalism going on in the sources we (non FOX news watchers) have come to rely on.
That leads to the title above.
In the old Soviet Union there were two state papers. One was named “Truth” the other “News”. The Russian joke was that there was “no truth in the News and no news in the Truth”.
It’s a sad day when Russian jokes apply to American Media.

BTW I will gladly alter this to reflect new information providing you can give me some way to substantiate it. I looked at a bunch of sources and as far as I can tell everything above is accurate.

Actually what I'm going to do is delete stuff that turns out to be wrong and just post a link here to the Wikipedia article since it seems to be one of the most balanced accounts.

My point was more about bad reporting than to try and "solve" the case.  There is still a fair amount of conflicting stories so...

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