Journalist Michael Hastings died in a one-car collision last Tuesday morning. He was by reputation an in-your-face, truth-to-power journalist who could only be described in three-word-hyphenates. He became famous after an article he wrote for Rolling Stone led to the resignation of the general in charge of the US Afghanistan operation, General Stanley McChrystal. Hastings spoke about the government’s “war on journalism,” about governmental attempts to cover up and manipulate the press, but his death may stand more for the death of accuracy in journalism. Although his focus was the government and the military—he was apparently working on a Petraeus story when he died—the “takeaway” from his career seems to be that the news is agenda-driven at the expense of accuracy. If there’s a war on journalism, it’s being waged by journalists.
Opening statements began yesterday in the George Zimmerman trial. Here’s what we think we know in that case:
* Zimmerman shot a young man named Trayvon Martin;
* Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch, armed, the night he encountered Martin: Martin was armed with Skittles and iced tea;
* Zimmerman called 911, and told the operator he was taking it upon himself to follow Martin;
* Someone yelled for help: Trayvon’s Dad identified the voice on the 911 tape as his son;
Here’s what we’re not sure about:
* Instead of saying to the operator, in effect, “I’m going after him,” Zimmerman actually called for officer assistance and told the 911 operator that Martin was approaching him;
* Trayvon’s Dad first heard the “help” and clearly told police it was not his son, and later changed his statement;
* Witnesses saw Zimmerman being beaten by a black male in a Hoodie, and the timing of a 911 call by a witness suggests the beating may have lasted a considerable length of time before Zimmerman fired…at least 38 seconds, probably longer;
Depending on where you’re getting the story, either Barney Fife shot Huey Newton or Harry Callahan shot Urkel that fateful night.
The case against Zimmerman was driven by the NAACP, by The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and the Martin family, all furious that Zimmerman had not been arrested for days following the shooting. To them, this was a lynching and a coverup. Character witnesses have said Zimmerman had no history of racial bias, and alternatively, he’s been called “a boastful racist.” Others—myself outspoken among them—saw this case as another perversion of Florida’s misanthropic “Stand Your Ground” law. Trayvon brought skittles to a gunfight, and why do we continue to allow gunfights.
If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we must admit we don’t know what happened that night. Whether or not we get our news from the mainstream media, we’re getting a slant. There was once a man called “the most trusted man in America” who would sign off every newscast with, “and that’s the way it is.” Now, we’re not told the way it is, and frankly, we don’t want to be. Now, we look for that smug satisfaction in learning our world view is again proven. If you believe whites still lynch blacks, isn’t it comforting to know Zimmerman did just that? Don’t anti-gun people smile and privately “high-five” themselves when they say, “Skittles, man. He only had skittles?” For others, isn’t this another case of liberals attacking a guy who was defending himself, possessing a gun he was lawfully carrying? Doesn’t the government just want our guns?
I have no idea what happened that night, and I don’t know George Zimmerman. Just tell me what Sarah Palin thinks about this case. Then I’ll know the opposite is true.