Rem Rieder’s correct complaint about the mainstream press: This morning, in USA Today, Rem Rider hammers the mainstream press for the way it covered the killing of Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman trial.
For twenty-one years, Rieder was editor of American Journalism Review. Three weeks ago, he became USA Today’s media editor.
This morning, he hammers the mainstream press. This is the way he starts, with the headlines in bold:
RIEDER (7/15/13): Media got Zimmerman story wrong from start/The role of the media cannot be ignored in the Zimmerman caseAs he continues, Rieder describes the simple-minded way this story was usually told. He correctly describes the “widely accepted” Standard Press Narrative:
Life is packed with nuances and subtleties and shades of gray.
But the news media are often uncomfortable in such murky terrain. They prefer straightforward narratives, with good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains. Those tales are much easier for readers and viewers to relate to.
Which brings us to Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.
RIEDER (continuing directly): The story of their tragic confrontation on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, was framed early on. Zimmerman, then 28, was the neighborhood watch captain/"wannabe cop" who racially profiled and ultimately killed Trayvon, an unarmed, hoodie-clad black teenager out on the streets of the gated community Retreat at Twin Lakes simply because he wanted some Skittles.We agree with this general portrait, although we note that Rieder doesn’t explain where the narrative came from, with its pile of fake facts. But good God! When the press corps accepts a pile of fake facts from a dishonest partisan player, everybody ends up getting stoned!
The storyline quickly took root, amplified by the nearly ubiquitous images of the two: a sweet-looking photo of a several-years-younger Trayvon released by his family, and a mug shot of Zimmerman from a previous arrest in which he looks puffy and downcast. The contrasting images powerfully reinforced the images of the menacing bully and the innocent victim.
Some of the media's major mistakes stemmed from stories that fit neatly into that widely accepted narrative. NBC News edited Zimmerman's comments during a phone call to inaccurately suggest that he volunteered that Trayvon seemed suspicious because he was black. In fact, Zimmerman was responding to a question when he mentioned the teenager's race. The network apologized for the error.
Similarly, ABC News broadcast a story reporting that a police surveillance video showed no evidence that Zimmerman suffered abrasions or bled during the confrontation with Trayvon. Shortly thereafter, it "clarified" the situation, reporting that an enhanced version of the video showed Zimmerman with "an injury to the back of his head."
It happens every time! Having trashed the general process, Rieder turns around and states one of the many fake facts which defined this Standard Press Narrative:
RIEDER: This is hardly to suggest that Zimmerman is a candidate for canonization. This is on him. It was his reckless behavior that set this tragedy in motion. If he had stayed in his vehicle as he was told to do by the police, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.Zimmerman was told to stay in his car! Right from the first week, this was one of the many fake facts which emerged from Team Crump.
As more details emerged, so, too, did a fuller picture of the events of February 26, 2012. But by then the popular view of what had happened had hardened.
Many news orgs correctly reported that the exchange in question came later, after Zimmerman was already out of his car. But so what? Major pundits kept repeating the more pleasing bogus fact.
Major pundits have repeated this fake fact a million times by now. This morning, Rieder repeats it too, right after correctly complaining about the overall process.
Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Also, George Zimmerman was told to stay in his car!
Fake facts invented by dishonest people are a standard part of our national discourse. When people like Crump are given free rein, even the critics end up repeating the fake, phony claims they have heard!
Bill Clinton had sex with a “21-year-old intern!” Remember that famous fake fact?
This is how George Bush reached the White House. But so what? Many years later, the nation’s “journalists” still adore repeating big piles of fake facts.
By now, we “liberals” enjoy fake facts too! But then, we’re extremely dumb people, as you may have noticed yesterday, watching our tribal cable.