Note: This is a long one – so hang on. And I hope it’s worth your time.
It wasn’t long ago I was a regular headline in the local news. A city councilman hitting rock bottom in two instances that led to his resignation from office and eventually 120 days of incarceration. Since that time, two major events have occurred that I watched with a heightened sense of understanding and frustration. After all, I had been through the media ringer and I was watching the same thing happen with two other individuals: George Zimmerman and as of late Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson.
To back up a little I want to briefly discuss what I mean with the title “trial by media”. When a shocking and exciting event happens and news agencies cover the story, the news reporters are in a position to have to report the story – often times without all the information. What becomes frustrating is when more information does become available and the media ignores it because they have already set up their narrative and they typically don’t sway from it.
For instance, the first of the two instances I was involved in (Thanksgiving Day 2011) was a situation where I followed a radically driving teenager home to talk to his father. When I arrived I was confronted with hostility and after an escalation of tempers and being assaulted, I tried to retreat without success until after somebody was severely injured.
What the news reported was that it was a “road rage incident” in which I ended up running a man in to a brick mailbox after dragging him and one other individual more than 600 feet, in reverse, with my car. “Nick Ibarra, city councilman, raging bad guy!”
What never did happen was media asking why there were two men climbing on and in my car while I was trying to retreat. Neither was it asked why the statement of the involved men conflicted with a witness who was with the victims at their residence when asked if I was assaulted. The victims stated there was no physical altercation whereas both the witness and myself stated there was. There was never follow up, either, as to what happened to one of the main individuals involved who left the scene because he had a felony warrant for his arrest. Or, lastly, the “victims” were never asked why they said I was intoxicated then later stated I was not slurring, my eyes weren’t red, and I didn’t smell of alcohol. Like I said, the media already had their narrative set and they weren’t going to sway.
I fully recognize I was in the wrong for my part on the road and for following the young man home in general. I started the whole situation and I take full responsibility for my actions.
The issue for me is that the media never really investigated what happened – and that is what this post is about. The media and their often irresponsible approach to reporting.
Fast forward just a few months to February 2012. In a small Florida town, Sanford, 28-year-old George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The media quickly ran with the story that Zimmerman, a white man, shot and killed a black teenager. This news quickly spread and the regular accusations of race driven violence spread throughout the nation as fast as a wildfire in California.
Before long there were hints that it wasn’t a white-on-black crime after all. Once the family of Zimmerman began making statements, we realized that George was referred to as Jorge, with the “J” being a “H” sound… or, in short, Jorge wasn’t so white after all. He was Hispanic. This is when the truth began to sprout and didn’t stop until after the trial was over and Zimmerman was acquitted of murder.
There was much more to the story than this being a random white neighborhood watch citizen shooting a black teen for the fact he was black. But then again, the media has to rush to judgement and get the story out as quick as possible – facts be negotiable. This was their story and they tried with all their might to stick to it!
To begin, Martin was 17, sure – but he was 5ft 11in tall and almost 160 lbs. That is the size of many grown men. He was in a neighborhood that had recently experienced burglaries. Martin was suspended from school for having drug paraphernalia and also for graffiti. He was also caught with tools used for burglaries and women’s jewelry. But he’s just a kid, right?
The story that Martin went to the store and bought a bottled iced tea and Skittles made him sound like a lowly teenager simply trying to enjoy his youth. With a few tries at Google, you can find limitless sites that discuss the drug “Lean”. Some of the ingredients? Flavored iced tea and skittles. There have been numerous references to Martin’s Facebook page and posts about “lean”, however there are as many claims the posts are false; I am sharing what I have found and allowing you to make your own decision. There is more to Martin’s electronic useage as well. The defense tried to introduce Martin’s texts during the murder trial of Zimmerman to display the violent nature of Martin. These facts should all play in to the character of Martin and should be known as much as the things that help us understand the character of Zimmerman.
Lastly, and above all else, the lowly teenager who was trying to simply get a snack down the street was beating Zimmerman while Zimmerman was on the ground before he shot Martin (click here and here for pictures). Fact.
In short, I’m not in any way trying to smear the name of Martin; but in order to understand what really happened, we must be willing to look at all facts regardless of how uncomfortable they make us. When we consider the whole picture of what happened in Sanford, Florida in 2012, we see the media was negligent in reporting the truth in a fair and impartial way – that’s another fact. It’s also a fact that this was much different a situation than the white-on-black crime the media portrayed.
Fast forward one more time to August 9, 2014; the location is Ferguson, Missouri. If you listened to the mainstream media, you would be led to believe a police officer decides to randomly shoot a black teenager for walking in the middle of the street.
With this media narrative, everyone from residents of Ferguson to Communists, Chicago Revolutionaries, and the regular race-baiting groups and individuals such as the Black Panthers and Al Sharpton have rained down protests, looting, and violence to “show their disapproval” of white cops killing black teens. The media? Same story as before with Zimmerman – whitey is killing the minority who is just minding his business. It’s a shame these concerned citizens and media outlets don’t have the same concern for issues concerning shootings when the roles are reversed.
None the less, the media – from national sources to local – has created a race related issue out of something when the facts show that there may be no need for such small-mindedness. You see, once a little time had passed, we found a very different story.
From what we know, here are the facts: a convenient store was robbed by a black man wearing a red hat, white shirt and shorts. Soon after, Police Officer Darren Wilson came in contact with 18 year old Michael Brown. Brown matched the description of the convenient store perpetrator (while reading this linked article which has valuable information, note the picture of the deceased on the ground). According to an eyewitness who was unaware he was being recorded (here and here), not only did the 6ft 4in, 280 pound Mike Brown assault the police officer, but after he started to walk away instead decided to turn back around and charg Officer Wilson. It is at this point the police officer discharged his firearm.
Since the shooting the media has gone full bore in promoting the “white cop killing the black teen” narrative. Further, Ferguson is on fire and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has had no problem rushing the justice system by stating “a vigorous prosecution is needed”. Nevermind the prudence and patience needed to allow true, blind justice to work. The same government that is supposed to uphold those values now sees them as useless. The same media that is supposed to offer non-bias reporting seems to enjoy the thought of racial contentions continuing in America – heck, it’s a good story.
When we watch and read the news, we need to be ever mindful that even non-political issues can quickly become political when the narrators of our information begin reporting. It is a fact. What needs to also be a fact is we as citizens need to practice patience, prudence, and objectivity when trying to understand what is really going on. Give truth the time to rear it’s head and understand the media has a job to do, and that is to keep readers and viewers.
May we read the news and be informed citizens, but may we also read the news as closely and critically as we listen to our politicians. May we scrutinize the media in the same way we would like the media to scrutinize people and events. And may we be forever mindful that the media is made up of human beings – flawed, imperfect creatures of nature that are subject to as many mistakes as anybody else.