If there were ever a useful case study for the effect of fake news on real events, it was the media-spawned birth of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The movement congealed around two fatal incidents: the first, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012; the second, the shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014.
In both cases, the media created countless news stories out of whole cloth. These stories had the obvious effect of aggravating black-white tensions and the less obvious, but more deadly, effect of assuring police reticence in black neighborhoods.
For the record, the Black Lives Matter movement began as a hashtag in July 2013 immediately after the acquittal of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges.
That Zimmerman’s case even went to trial owed everything to the media’s eagerness to highlight white injustice. With little prompting, the media turned the six-foot, 160-pound, 17-year-old street fighter who viciously attacked Zimmerman into a “boy.”
As a corollary trick, they turned Zimmerman, a Hispanic civil-rights activist and Obama supporter, into a snarling white racist.
The upstart Current TV show, “The Young Turks,” created some imaginative fake news to advance this narrative. Three weeks after the shooting, host Cenk Uygur played the unedited Zimmerman call to the police dispatcher.
No network had done this, in part because Zimmerman used the word “f—ing.” Although the F-word was difficult to hear, the word that followed was impossible to hear, except of course by the social justice warriors (SJW) in the audience.
Able to find evidence of racism even in empty static, they convinced themselves that Zimmerman said, “f—ing coons.”
Two days later, CNN reporter Gary Tuchman validated this nonsense. Working with an audio design specialist to enhance the audio, Tuchman concluded, “It certainly sounds like that word to me,” that word, of course, being “coons.”
Although even liberal media pundit Jon Stewart said what most sane people were thinking – “That doesn’t sound like a word at all!” – the SJW crowd had found all the proof they needed of Zimmerman’s evil intent. “I get so angry when people deny there is racism in this country,” said Uygur.
A week later, Michael Miller, a reporter for the Miami New Times, sent a fresh jolt of fear into troubled liberal hearts. “Neo-Nazis are currently conducting heavily armed patrols in and around Sanford, Florida,” he reported.
This story had simply too much sex appeal to bother verifying. It rocked for about 24 unmolested hours. “Trayvon Martin Case: Armed Neo-Nazis Patrolling Sanford,” read the headline of the Huffington Post. “CHILLING: Armed Neo-Nazis Patrol Sanford,” shouted a headline on the Daily Beast.
The conservative website Legal Insurrection did something no one in the liberal media had bothered doing, namely checking with local authorities.
“We have no indication of any such patrols at this point in Sanford,” the Sanford, Florida, police department answered when asked. No one in the media apologized for the hysteria.
NBC’s contribution to fake news was so outrageous Zimmerman eventually sued the network. Its producers had compressed Zimmerman’s casually factual answers to the dispatcher into this one seemingly racist assertion, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
When the dispatcher asked what Martin was wearing, Zimmerman talked about Martin’s jeans and white tennis shoes and also his “dark hoodie like a grey hoodie.” NBC compressed this into “a dark hoodie” and in so doing provided the SJWs with an enduring symbol of profiling and oppression.
In her book-length account of the case, “Suspicion Nation,” NBC’s Lisa Bloom elevated the network fakery to stunning heights.
In her version, Zimmerman and Martin engaged in a “tussle.” She did not find it “particularly significant” who was on top. She was sure, though, a “frightened” Martin was the one heard screaming for 40 seconds on a 9-1-1 call.
To make this account work, Bloom had to fully ignore the testimony of the one good eyewitness, Jonathan Good.
Having witnessed the attack from just a few feet away, Good told police – and eventually the jury – that he saw “a black man with a black hoodie” on top of Zimmerman, “throwing down blows on the guy kind of MMA [mixed martial arts]-style.” Zimmerman, Good would testify, was “on the ground, yelling out help!”
Incredibly – no, appallingly – Bloom recounted none of Good’s testimony. In so doing, she and her colleagues established the false and destructive media template for their reporting in Ferguson, Missouri, two years later.
There, almost without exception, the major media rushed to transform brutal thug Michael Brown into still another innocent unarmed “teen,” this one victimized by gratuitous police brutality.
“Family members described him as a sweet boy, a gentle giant who loved to rap, tinker with computers and do little else,” reported the Washington Post without a hint of skepticism. “Standing at nearly 6-foot-4 in high school, he practiced football for a week before giving up the sport because he didn’t like to hit people, relatives recalled.”
In the days and weeks that followed, the media reportedly almost gleefully how the “gentle giant” was trying to surrender when Officer Darren Wilson shot him.
As the New York Times reported nearly a year after the shooting, the phrase “hands up, don’t shoot” had become “the national rallying cry of a new civil rights movement.”
The Times reported this after the Obama DOJ grudgingly conceded that the whole counter-factual surrender scenario was concocted on the spot by Brown’s running mate. The conservative blogosphere had figured this out within days of the shooting.
Even Attorney General Eric Holder thought it essential “to question how such a strong alternative version of events was able to take hold so swiftly, and be accepted so readily.”
Holder may have thought it essential, but the Times and the other media have not. They may occasionally back off the fake news they have created, but if they have ever apologized for it, the SJWs haven’t gotten the memo.
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