How important is the Trayvon Martin story?

How the press has handled coverage of the Trayvon Martin case points to what I think are disturbing tendencies on the part of the media. When the story first came out we heard that a guy named George Zimmerman had shot and killed a black kid. Zimmerman, of course, is the whitest name around (presumably derived from German) and the shooting sounded like a classic act of racism. Of course it then turned out that George Zimmerman is more correctly defined as hispanic (at least in terms of appearance. He has more than a passing resemblance to the hispanic rapper Pitbull.)

However, a couple days after the Martin shooting, a young guy in Tulsa rants on his facebook page about “niggers” and then allegedly grabs a buddy and goes off and kills three black men (and wounds two others). The press’s (and the public’s) reaction? Largely, “meh…”

It would seem if there’s any case perfectly illustrating the evils of racism it’s the Tulsa case. More deaths, more overt racism (the “n-word” is used) and, to top it off, the killers looks like they came out of central casting for “hillbilly racist fucktards.” (Pics at the link above.) So why the flaccid press coverage? I think it’s partly a matter of timing. The media already had their “horrors of racism” story in play with the Martin shooting and didn’t want to upend it. Secondly, while there’s plenty of conflict in the Martin case (white versus black, cops versus society, gun nuts versus anti-gun nuts) there really isn’t much in the Tulsa shooting. Most of us agree these guys are scum and should be put in jail. And this gets into a point I’ve made earlier. What the press needs is conflict – large groups of people set against each other. Conflict stories cause people to buy newspapers, watch television shows and discuss these topics (heatedly) at the kitchen table*. With the Tulsa shootings, there’s not much to discuss. Nobody’s going to defend these guys (and rightly so.)

* As I and others have argued, our eagerness to take sides in conflict may be rooted in the evolutionary psychology of our tribal roots.

But the problem is: which is the greater news story? Now, defining what is news is an ethereal art form at best, but I would argue that the Martin case is more of an inflated news story whereas the Tulsa shootings is more of a deflated news story. And we, as consumers of news, should be aware of the hand of the media in manipulating those valuations.

1 Response to “How important is the Trayvon Martin story?”

  1. John Saleeby

    The Tulsa story isn’t news because the accused are obvious violent lunatics and there’s no potential for huge riots and demonstrations by mobs of angry black people. To the Media huge riots and demonstrations by mobs of angry black people are what it’s all about. Liberals totally get off on watching black people freak out and go berserk in the street. They looooove it! So the Martin story was tailor made for those ghouls because for a very long time nobody knew anything at all about the case but that a black teenager had been shot to death by something kinda almost close to being sort of a white man. With no facts at all the media could just sit back and let the usual crowd do their best to whip black people into a frenzy and . . . But it never happened. Boo hoo hoo. And then Mike Wallace died! Boo hoo hoo, liberals. And Rush Limbaugh is still on the air! Ha ha, liberals! And, no – Ted Nugent is not going to jail. Ha ha.