As the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri writes satirically:
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Republican Racism Example #44: Glenn Beck, Fox News Fans And The Trayvon Martin Tragedy
Glenn Beck proved too extreme for even Fox News. Since his departure from Fox, on his website and and his web televisions broadcast Beck always seeks to achieve a a new all-time low in human decency. But this week, he demonstrated why even the Fox "Apartheid News Network" shitcanned him.
The recent shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American, by a much larger adult male acting as a so-called “neighborhood watch” captain horrified decent people. Beck, however, saw Martin’s tragic death (which has provoked a Justice Department investigation) as just one more opportunity to dehumanize and belittle people of color.
Racist demagogue Glenn Beck: David Duke without the sheets or even the honesty. (Photo from http://www.thegrio.com/politics/why-fox-news-southern-strategy-may-sink-the-network.php.)
Beck now operates a “news” website called The Blaze. Mytheos Holt, an associate editor at The Blaze launched into an attack on the late teenager, strongly implying (without evidence) that Martin was a thief or had even committed a sexual offense.
News accounts indicated that Martin had been suspended from Dr. Michael C. Korp Senior High School in Miami for excessive tardiness. With no evidence to back him up, Holt said he had doubts about the stated reason for the 10-day suspension and suggested that sympathetic liberal reporters were covering up something more sinister. Holt then listed all the other reasons a student at Krop could be suspended, including theft, sexual harassment, vandalism or sex offenses.
Holt would not be alone in defaming the late young man. Just as Fox News fans greeted the death of singer Whitney Houston’s death with celebratory glee and racial slurs (see my previous post, “Fox News Fans Unleash The ‘N-Word” Against The Late Whitney Houston” at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-19-fox-news.html), so Fox fans applauded the shototing and Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Some made the groundless implication that the black youth had to have been a criminal.
“Good shot, Zimmy, lol,” one fan posted in reaction to a story on Martin’s death at the Fox News site, according to the Huffington Post. “i’m (sic.] just glad Zimmerman didnt [sic.] miss and hit an innocent bystander,” wrote another. Another Fox fan assumed there had to be something incriminating in Martin’s police record, with nothing more to go on than the fact that the youth was black. This Fox poster wrote:
“This is pure B.S I want to see the kids police record even if something is expounged also why was he removed from facebook it says account terminated. Why because his parents are trying to cover his tracks just like if you hit a bus they see Dollar signs. People have dragged data about Zimmerman out where is the kids past. Don’t say he was a good boy prove it. Ask yourself what is more likely to happen any 17 year old kid when you ask a question. A smartass reply I have never and I mean never seen a teenager run unless he did something wrong. I guess no crinimal [sic.] has ever cased a place when they went to a store. It takes me aback the way all these facts are quoted by people who read one story on a issue.” (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/the-blaze-site-founded-by_n_1370843.html).
In case you have been under a rock, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Latino, fatally shot Martin February 26 in Sanford, Fla., near Orlando. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman called 9-1-1 when he spotted Martin, who was visiting his father in a gated neighborhood and had walked to a nearby 7-Eleven to buy Skittles and an Arizona ice tea for his 13-year-old stepbrother.
The victim, Trayvon Martin, on the right and the shooter, George Zimmerman, on the left. (Photo from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/trayvon-martin-case-timeline-of-events/).
Zimmerman told police that he saw “a suspicious person in the area” and began following Martin in his SUV. A dispatcher told Zimmerman to not follow. The dispatcher told Zimmerman that a squad car was being sent to the scene and that police would handle the matter. He clearly ignored these instructions.
What happens after that is murky, but witnesses says they heard a scuffle and cries for help, a cell phone captures the sound of screaming that Martin’s mother has identified as coming from her son, and there was a gunshot. Police subsequently found Zimmerman, with a bloody nose and a minor head wound, armed with a Kel Tek .9 mm handgun and standing over Martin’s body. Martin had already died and had only been carrying the bag of Skittles and the bottle of ice tea.
Zimmerman, described by witnesses as about three inches taller and approximately 100 pounds heavier than the tall but very slender 6-3 140 pound Martin.
(See http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sfl-trayvon-martin-family-20120315,0,2583523.story and http://www.commondreams.org/further/2012/03/20), claimed the shooting was in self defense. Officers accepted his story and didn't run a background check on the shooter. Police didn't hold Zimmerman for questioning, simply taking his statement. They didn't administer drug or alcohol tests on him. Not did they conduct a gunpowder test on him or get a DNA sample. Police also did not question neighbors to find out if anyone recognized Martin. (See http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/trayvon-martin-case-timeline-of-events/).
Trayvon Martin: Guilty of "walking while black." (Photo from http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2012/03/23/who-is-trayvon-martin-asked-my-7-year-old-daughter-i-answered-video/.)
Imagine for a second if a much larger African American man bearing a gun followed an unarmed white teenager carrying nothing but Skittles and ice tea and fatally shot the youth. Do you honestly think that any police department would have let him go simply on his claim of self defense? If this theoretical black suspect had been released, how do you think the folks at the “Black People Scare Us” Fox News network would have reacted to the story, given their ginned-up, phony hysteria over rappers like Common performing at the White House, or ACORN, or the miniscule “New Black Panther Party?” (See my previous blog post at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-17-fox-news.html).
What happened immediately after Trayvon’s killing is every bit as disgusting as the police malfeasance at the crime scene. Martin was carrying a cell phone, which police found. When he didn’t return home, his loved ones began calling him. Police apparently didn’t pick up the phone or call any of the numbers stored on it. Martin was left for three days as a “John Doe,” in storage at the local morgue for three days while his panicked family tried to find out what happened. This unfolded in spite of the fact that Martin’s mother reported him as missing.
The world has found out a lot about George Zimmerman since the shooting. Mytheos Holt, the “crack investigative journalist” at Beck’s website, implied without evidence that Martin might be a criminal. The clod missed the fact that Zimmerman has an arrest record. As the Orlando Sentinel reports:
“In 2005, George Zimmerman was twice accused of either criminal misconduct or violence.
That July, Zimmerman — 21 at the time — was at a bar near the University of Central Florida when a friend was arrested by state alcohol agents on suspicion of serving underage drinkers, according to an arrest report.
Zimmerman was talking with his friend, became profane and pushed an agent who tried to escort him away, the report said. Authorities said he was arrested after a short struggle.
Charged with resisting arrest without violence, he avoided conviction by entering a pretrial-diversion program, something common for first-time offenders.
A month later, court records show, a woman filed a petition for an injunction against Zimmerman, citing domestic violence. It's unclear what led to the petition, but Zimmerman responded by filing a petition of his own the following day.
Records show injunctions were later issued in both cases. Reached by email, the woman would not comment on her past with Zimmerman or his current situation.
[In 2008] . . . he resurfaced in court documents as a credit-card company pursued him for unpaid debts.
Capital One accused Zimmerman of failing to pay more than $1,000. He settled with the company for $2,135.82, records show, to cover his debts with interest, as well as attorney and court costs. However, the credit-card company soon reported that Zimmerman wasn't making the payments he had agreed to.
Zimmerman's employer at the time, CarMax, agreed to garnish his wages. That arrangement was canceled in late 2008 because Zimmerman was no longer employed by CarMax.
It's unclear how Zimmerman was employed when he encountered Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, but he took his role as a Neighborhood Watch volunteer very seriously. Police say Zimmerman had called to report suspicious people on multiple occasions, just as he did when he saw Trayvon. In the past 15 months, he made 46 calls to Sanford police, according to records.” (See http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-03-20/news/os-trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-20120320_1_robert-zimmerman-domestic-violence-online-petition).
According to the Seattle Times, Zimmerman found a variety of reasons to make calls to police while on neighborhood watch, including finding open garage doors in the neighborhood and repeatedly describing people he spotted as “suspicious.” He has acted aggressively towards other African Americans, according to one witness. As the Seattle Times noted:
“Teontae Ami, who also lives in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community, said very few black teens like himself live in the neighborhood.
Ami, 17, said he and a close friend who is black would sit at the end of a driveway in the evening and felt uncomfortable when Zimmerman would pass them on a neighborhood patrol. They used to greet him, but he never responded, he said.
‘I think he took his job too seriously,’ Ami said, referring to Zimmerman's watch patrols. A student, Ami said his friend was once confronted by Zimmerman, who accused him of stealing a bike.
‘I don't want to call it a black thing, but it sure seemed like it,’ said Ami. (See http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2017819414_zimmerman23.html).
Predictably, the shooter’s father, Robert Zimmerman, has insisted that his son, who comes from a multi-racial family, is not a racist. (See http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-03-15/news/os-trayvon-martin-shooting-zimmerman-letter-20120315_1_robert-zimmerman-letter-unarmed-black-teenager).
Police recordings of the 911 calls, however, add a further disturbing element to this already sad story. Some listening to the tapes believe that they hear Zimmerman utter the phrase, “fucking coons.” (See http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/03/did-george-zimmerman-use-a-racial-slur/254925/ ). As Slate has noted, Zimmerman’s repeated 911 calls reveal a pattern: he apparently frequently found the actions of black people in his neighborhood suspicious. Slate reports:
“In August 2011, he called to report a black male in a tank top and shorts acting suspicious near the development's back entrance. ‘[Complainant] believes [subject] is involved in recent S-21s’—break-ins—‘in the neighborhood,’ the call log states. The suspect, Zimmerman told the dispatcher, fit a recent description given out by law enforcement officers.
Three days later, he called to report two black teens in the same area, for the same reason. ‘[Juveniles] are the subjs who have been [burglarizing] in this area,’ he told the dispatcher . . . On April 22, 2011, Zimmerman called to report a black male about ‘7-9’ years old, four feet tall, with a ‘skinny build’ and short black hair. There is no indication in the police report of the reason for Zimmerman’s suspicion of the boy.” (See http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2012/03/23/george_zimmerman_s_long_lonely_war_against_black_youths_doing_things.html).
Trayvon Martin: one of several black "suspicious" characters that aroused Zimmerman's worst fears. (Photo from http://www.sott.net/articles/show/243236-Killing-Trayvon-Martin-White-Sheets-Surrounding-Florida-Teen-s-Slaying).
Resolving whether Zimmerman is a racist or simply a volatile, dangerous person will not take place in the near future. A less complex issues is whether police actions reveal racial biases (they do) and whether the reaction of Fox News, its fans, and Glenn Beck and his Blaze website to this story is racist (it is.)
Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin has made the standard, dumb “the racists are the people who point out racism” argument. The initial reaction of Fox was to ignore the story. As of noon on March 21, the Huffington Post reported, “the network had aired just one segment on the case, compared to 41 segments on CNN and 13 on MSNBC.”
(See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/the-blaze-site-founded-by_n_1370843.html and http://thinkprogress.org/media/2012/03/19/447289/all-major-news-outlets-cover-trayvon-martin-tragedy-except-fox-news/?mobile=nc). Perhaps Fox, which as a result of its constant Obama-bashing and white supremacist spin, has virtually no African American audience (about 1.38 percent of its total audience, or around 29,000 total black viewers nationwide according to the Nielsen rating service in 2010), could safely assume that its right-wing white audience doesn’t give a damn about an injustice affecting the African American community. (See http://www.thegrio.com/politics/why-fox-news-southern-strategy-may-sink-the-network.php).
Later, the network shifted to an uglier “blame the victim” approach. On March 23, Fox host Geraldo Rivera tweeted, "His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman." Rivera was suggesting that many associate black men wearing hoodies with violent street gangsters. As others correctly pointed out, blaming Martin’s death on his clothing choice was like blaming rape victims for their assault if they wear short dresses. Associating black men and hoodies with crime is inherently racist. No one reaches for the gun when they see New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick or Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a hoodie.
Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, above, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, below, sport their hoodies. Perhaps if these guys got shot, Geraldo Rivera would have a point. I think the white skin gives them a shield of protection that Trayvon Martin lacked. It's not the hoodie. It's the racism, Geraldo. (Photos from http://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=623202 and http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/08/07/mark-by-mark-zuckerberg-fashion-line-parodies-the-facebook-founders-wardrobe/).
As the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri writes satirically:
“Guns don't kill people. People don't kill people. Hoodies kill people. Those shorts will get you raped, and if you wear too much makeup or your skirt is just an inch or so above the knee or your sweatshirt looks too much like the one that always turns up on the surveillance footage, forget it, you don’t have a face or a name and you might as well be carrying a sign that says Commit A Crime Against Me, Please.” (See http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2012/03/geraldo-rivera-wearing-a-hoodie-while-black-is-asking-for-it.html).
CNN contributor Roland Martin makes a more important point. Whites have used African Americans as target practice long before the advent of the hoodie. "Hey Geraldo, Black kids have gotten shot not wearing hoodies. Dude, that's just dumb . . .”
Geraldo Rivera: that dude is "just dumb." (Photo from http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/03/geraldo_rivera_blames_trayvon_martins_death_on_his.php).
Meanwhile, President Obama made the most simple but eloquent comment yet on this horror story. Obama said:
“Obviously this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. When I think about this boy I think about my own kids and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.
I’m glad that not only the Justice Department is looking into it, I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what is taking place.
I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this happened. That means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident.
But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon. If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we will get to the bottom of exactly what happened.” (See http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/23/president-obama-statement-on-trayvon-martin-case/).
Newt Gingrich, of course, couldn’t leave well enough alone. The disgraced former House Speaker and serial adulterer has deliberately pushed white supremacist buttons during his pathetic White House campaign by calling Obama a “food stamp president” and by smiling when one fan in Georgia congratulated him for putting a black reporter “in his place.” (See my posts at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-16-voter-thanks.html and http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-15-newt.html and http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-14.html as well as http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/voter-thanks-newt-gingrich-putting-juan-wil ) Gingrich hypocritically accused Obama of exploiting race this week on Sean Hannity’s radio show:
“What the president said, in a sense, is disgraceful. It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background.
Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him. That’s just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”
It goes without saying, that Obama was not making the Martin case a racial issue. He was relating to the young shooting victim in a personal way, as a human being. Racists like Gingrich, Beck, Hannity, and the core Fox audience have spent their whole lives denying the humanity of those with dark skin. To the Gngriches, Becks and Hannitys, black people like Martin are not be mourned but are political props to be cynically exploited to win the support of the ignorant and fearful. Goddamn them all.
Michael Phillips has authored the following:
White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006)
(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)
“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)
“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ” in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)
“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)
(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).
(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).
(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013).
“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).
He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.