Part 3—How life can become a cartoon: On Saturday night, the jury reached its verdict in the Zimmerman trial.
One night earlier, Piers Morgan had conducted his latest discussion of the high-profile trial. As he started, he boasted about his “stellar panel.”
It included Judge Glenda and Judge Alex, the hosts of two syndicated programs!
Morgan is one of the dumbest people on the cable dial. His history in Great Britain was so noxious that CNN simply knew they had to import the chap.
At one point in last Friday’s discussion, a wonderful moment occurred. After an emotional presentation by attorney Ben Crump, Morgan challenged Jeff Toobin about what the jury would do.
“When you hear Ben Crump talk like that, it's very hard to see how this jury can basically say to George Zimmerman, I think, ‘Off you go,’” Morgan said.
Toobin said the jury would follow the evidence. Professor Marc Lamont Hill basically said the same thing:
MORGAN (7/12/13): When you hear Ben Crump talk like that, it's very hard to see how this jury can basically say to George Zimmerman, I think, “Off you go.”We don’t know why Hill thought he knew what the jury was going to do—why he felt he knew that they would focus on facts and the evidence.
TOOBIN: Oh, I don't know. I mean, I think this jury will do exactly what they think is right...I think that the initial sign we get is that they are going to be very meticulous, asking for a list of evidence, suggest they're going to look at the evidence with a considerably amount of care. They're going to let the chips fall where they may, and I don't think they are going to be focused on the public reaction. I think they're going to be focused, as they should be, on the evidence.
MORGAN: Marc Lamont Hill, do you agree with that?
HILL: Yes, I think they're going to be focused on facts. Obviously, their own biases, their own interpretations and their emotions are going to weigh into that. But at the end of the day, they're going to make the best decision that they can based on the evidence they've seen on the case.
But at this point, Morgan wasn't able to tolerate this high-minded talk any more.
First, Morgan offered a cartoonized version of the evidence, of the available facts. Then, he authored a truly wonderful statement:
MORGAN (continuing directly): Six women, five of them mothers, some of the stuff today from rebuttal directly aimed at that fact that they are all female, they're all—many of them are mothers. This is a 17-year-old boy, you know, walking home to his family who was unarmed and got shot dead.“Forget the evidence for a moment!” Finally, in a wonderful moment, this foolish, morally challenged Brit expressed his true heart and soul.
Just on— Forget the evidence for a moment. Just on a human level, isn't that going to be incredibly powerful with an all-female, mother-related jury?
With respect to the killing of Trayvon Martin, Morgan has been trying to “forget the evidence” for a long time now. Alas! The evidence makes this story complex and murky, as human events often are.
Sloths like Morgan always work best when events are made into cartoons.
“Forget the evidence for a moment!” Before Morgan made that deathless suggestion, he had offered an account of this case in which he himself “forgot” a large chunk of the evidence. Throughout the annals of human history, the mob has always assembled its stories this way.
Here's the account of that fateful night offered by Morgan, a man so slimy that he pretty much had to flee his native land:
“This is a 17-year-old boy, you know, walking home to his family who was unarmed and got shot dead.”
At least in this country, 17-year-olds aren’t normally described as “boys” or “girls.” But aside from that bit of special pleading, everything Morgan said was basically accurate.
Martin was 17 years old. To all appearances, he was walking to the home where he and his father were visiting.
He was unarmed. And he did get shot dead.
Essentially, Morgan’s facts were accurate. His account of the case became a cartoon because of the facts he omitted.
Most significantly, he omitted the pattern of injuries which were incurred before the fatal gunshot. He omitted the eyewitness testimony which said that Martin was pummeling Zimmerman, MMA-style, just before he was shot.
Is that what happened in Sanford that night? We don’t know! Like the reptilian Morgan, we weren’t present in Sanford. But as soon as this horrible incident gained the attention of “journalists” like Morgan, they started cartoonizing the facts, in precisely the way The Mob and The Clan have done through the annals of time.
By and large, the nation’s “journalists” and pundits developed a Standard Account of the case, as they have done in a wide range of matters over the past thirty years.
Your “press corps” loves Standard Stories! And as they have shown again and again, they long for the chance to tell their tales as a group. They love to invent simple-minded tales populated by villains and heroes—silly, simple-minded tales they can All Tell The Same Way.
They’ve done this in their treatment of various tabloidized crime stories—in their treatment of the killing of Chandra Levy, the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, the so-called Duke lacrosse case.
Even more consequentially, they’ve done this in their Potemkin assessments of the nation’s most important political figures. In just the past twenty years, they have created Standard Cartoons about President Clinton’s raft of deeply troubling scandals; about Candidate Gore’s strange inability to tell the truth; about the straight-shooting straight-talk of Saint John McCain; even about the way Mitt Romney once mistreated his poor abused dog.
In some of these instances, their ludicrous conduct has changed the course of world history. And here’s the part that is so remarkable:
No one will tell you about this conduct by the press corps! No matter how ludicrous their Group Conduct gets, their Standard Group Conduct goes unremarked. Even the best and the brightest of professional analysts refuse to tell you about it.
Kevin Drum will tell you many things, but he won’t talk about this. Paul Krugman has never been willing to tell you.
None of the Jonathans will talk about this—not Chait, not Alter, not Capehart, not Cohn.
Gene Robinson won’t tell you. Neither will the increasingly clownish multimillionaire star, TV's Rachel Maddow.
The high Lady Collins won’t tell you about this. Joan and David won’t tell you either. How could they? The thought is absurd.
No one is willing to discuss this hugely consequential part of modern “press corps” culture. This is very bad behavior on the part of the silent lambs.
People are dead all over the world because of the fact that the press corps engages in this rather obvious group conduct. Surely, those people all know this is true. But none of those people will say so.
This brings us back to the Cartoon Story told by Piers Morgan last week. It takes a stupid person to tell this story that way—or it takes a member of a mob.
But all around the entertainment/news complex, people have offered cartoonized versions of what happened in Sanford that night. This practice is tremendously common, yet it goes with almost no comment.
Consider the version of that night’s events offered on Monday evening’s NewsHour. Judy Woodruff’s first question that night went to the Christina Swarns of the NAACP.
Swarns said justice wasn’t done by the Zimmerman verdict. Whatever you think of that assessment, we’ll ask you to focus on her account of the events on the night of Martin’s death:
WOODRUFF (7/14/13): I want to ask each one of you the same question, starting with you, Christina Swarns. Was justice done here?Was justice achieved by the Zimmerman verdict? People will have different views about that. But please note:
SWARNS: No. I think that’s quite clear. Justice was not done. I don’t think you can say, when a child is walking down the street doing nothing wrong, buying candy and iced tea, and gets shot and killed in the street, largely because he is African-American, and there is no one held accountable for that death, is justice. So I think it`s quite clear no, that justice was not done in this case.
If we accept Swarns’ account of the facts of the case, very few people would disagree with her moral judgment. If we go by her account of the facts, that “not guilty” verdict will seem quite astounding.
But what about her account of the case? According to Swarns, this is what happened:
A child was walking down the street doing nothing wrong, buying candy and iced tea. He was shot and killed in the street, largely because he was African-American.
If that’s what happened in Sanford that night, very few people would approve of a “not guilty” verdict. But is that what happened in Sanford that night? Has something perhaps been “forgotten” as we watch Swarns tell the tale?
It’s hard to know what purpose is served by the promulgation of cartoonized stories. But this is now one basic way our so-called “press corps” functions.
In the 1990s, they created sets of cartoonized stories about Bill Clinton in Arkansas. From March 1999 through November 2000, they promulgated an endless set of Standard Cartoons about Candidate Gore’s deeply puzzling “problem with the truth.”
Your modern “press corps” creates Standard Cartoonized Stories in much the way other folk breathe. Even your most intelligent analysts agree that they mustn’t discuss this.
Last Friday, Morgan offered a cartoonized, bowdlerized account of the events of that night in Sanford. On Monday, Swarns told the same cartoonized story, though she added a Standard Irrelevant Fact when she mentioned the Skittles, as Morgan constantly does.
The Skittles have always been part of this Standard Group Story, right from the time the story was invented. So too for an inaccurate claim advanced by Swarns a bit later—the claim that Zimmerman was told to stay in his car that night.
In March 1999, a Standard Group Story was quickly invented about Candidate Gore. For the next twenty months, the beasts recited that story quite brilliantly.
People are dead all over the world because of what those people did. But everyone from Krugman on down has agreed that this can’t be discussed.
In the realm of tabloidized crime, there have been other Standard Group Stories. Again and again, these stupid stories have turned out to be wrong.
Last March and April, with great speed, a Standard Group Story was assembled concerning the killing of Martin. To some extent, this Standard Story was built on irrelevant facts, and on factual claims which were false.
To a large extent, the Standard Group Story relied on the use of highly evocative language. Undesirable facts were forgotten. These were the facts which would make the story complex.
Some facts unravel cartoons. For the beasts we still call a “press corps,” such facts must be disappeared.
When Charles Blow wrote this early column on March 17, 2012, the basic elements of the Standard Story were already taking shape. That same day, this news report about the shooting appeared in the New York Times.
It was the Times’ first news report on this matter. The report is riddled with obvious errors, as anyone can see.
Before long, the Cartoonized Standard Account of this incident had been locked into place. What were the elements of that story?
Where had that story come from?
Tomorrow: The love of irrelevant facts