Prelude—A possible conflict with script: Way back in July 2013, a Florida jury reached its verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.
Not guilty, the Florida jury found. The very next day, Ta-Nehisi Coates offered his reactions at his Atlantic blog.
Coates offered a fairly short, four-part post in which he assessed the jury's decision. He then engaged in extended Q-and-As with readers in his "Comments" section.
At that time, people were still allowed to have different ideas about that jury's verdict. You can read Coates' full post at the link below, then click for his subsequent comments.
Warnings! Coates refers to "the verdict of innocent." Our legal system provides no such findings. He also seems perhaps to be unfamiliar with some of the most basic facts of the high-profile case. We can't riddle you that.
Whatever! In our view, Coates' responses to reader comments were especially instructive that day. But in this part of his formal post, he expressed his basic view of the jury's verdict:
COATES (7/14/13): I think the jury basically got it right. The only real eyewitness to the death of Trayvon Martin was the man who killed him. At no point did I think that the state proved second degree murder. I also never thought they proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted recklessly. They had no ability to counter his basic narrative, because there were no other eyewitnesses.For the record, there actually was one eyewitness to one part of the incident. At any rate, Coates said he thought the jury "basically got it right."
In comments, you can see Coates expressing a further view. According to Coates, George Zimmerman did have reason to fear serious injury or death once the fight with Trayvon Martin got started.
Coates explains this judgment in several different comments. At one point, this exchange occurred:
COMMENTER (7/14/13): I don't see how being on the losing end of a fist fight means a person "reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."That was Coates in July 2013, expressing views of this incident which have, since that time, almost wholly disappeared within the liberal/progressive world. A slightly cynical observer might say that views of the type Coates expressed that day have essentially been disappeared.
COATES: I am on the ground and you are on top of me wailing away. I am most certainly in "imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."
Was Coates correct in his views that day? That's a matter of judgment. It's important to note that Coates never said that Zimmerman's actions were morally correct, though we must again note that he seemed unclear about some basic facts of this case.
Rightly or wrongly, Coates seemed to feel that Zimmerman instigated the fight which occurred that night. His essential point was this:
Once that fight began, Zimmerman did in fact have reason to fear for his life. For that reason, the jury was right in its legal finding.
This post appeared in July 2013. Concerning what occurred that night, we'll call it Coates' first stand. We call it that because, in the past year, Coates wrote an award-winning book—a book which mentions the death of Trayvon Martin at George Zimmerman's hand.
Next week, we'll ask you to notice a certain fact. Coates' account of these events in that book may not sound a whole lot like the account he sketched in that blog post.
To our ear, the account Coates gave in last year's book sounds different from the account he gave in July 2013. Next week, we'll ask you to ponder a question:
If it's true that Coates' account changed, did the change occur because 2015 was the year of liberal script?
There's no way to answer that question, of course. But it lets us start to ask if our own analysis is correct. Was last year, 2015, really the year of liberal script, the year of liberal narrative? If so, to what kinds of script has the liberal world decided all liberals must bow?
For today, we'll only suggest that you read the thoughts Coates expressed in 2013, both in his original post and in his subsequent comments. To our ear, his book conveys a different picture of the events in question. At various times, it also seems to have "problems with the truth"—in its first seven pages, for instance. In our view, the book is also a superb, potentially instructive memoir.
Despite its virtues, does Coates' book perhaps have problems with the truth? Does it emerge from an era of script? If so, the liberal world knew how to react. It hurried to give the book its highest awards.
The conservative world has played this way for a very long time now. Does our own more exalted liberal world now play by this same set of rules?