March 28, 2012
Feeding Frenzy

Let me offer a brief moment of fellow feeling for two people who are not high on people’s “friend” lists right now, and for another group that is enjoying a great deal of sympathy but is also facing a great deal of pressure right now.

The people/groups in question are Trayvon Martin’s family, Jason Russell (of KONY 2012 (in)famy), and yes, George Zimmerman.

Don’t get me wrong: I think Zimmerman is in the wrong in Trayvon Martin’s death, and Jason Russell brought the attention he got on himself. Trayvon Martin’s family has been thrust into the spotlight quite unexpectedly.

But whatever the circumstances, I do think we ought to note that all of them have been subjected to a media feeding frenzy that none of them were ready for. Trayvon Martin’s family went from grieving the loss of their brother/son/cousin to symbols of racial politics … in milliseconds. Jason Russell hoped for some attention … and then became a symbol of everything evil about western colonial legacies in, again, microtime. And even if you believe, as I do, that George Zimmerman ought to face a jury for what he did to Trayvon Martin, it is also true that he, too, has been turned into a symbol by the modern media frenzy—an evil symbol of racialist abuse according to most; a victim of leftist politics according to others.

My point in this brief comment is this: no one—and I mean NO ONE—is ready for the shift from ordinary life to center of the media world that can happen today in fractions of seconds. No one’s life—and I mean NO ONE’S LIFE—can sustain the kind of scrutiny these people face … all of a sudden. No one’s psyche—and I mean NO ONE’s PSYCHE—can see itself turned from whatever self image it has to a symbol and a pawn in a media frenzy determined by how fast one group can tweet or blog or link some “insight” about the case. 

It would be nice if we would remember that Trayvon Martin’s family, and Jason Russell, and yes, even George Zimmerman, are people, not props in a media firestorm. We won’t, of course. In fact, all George Zimmerman can hope is that something outrageous happens soon, so the feeding frenzy will focus its attention on the “new” thing, as it has focused on him after Jason Russell and Robert Bales (the accused murderer in Afghanistan). Which is really quite a thing, if you think about it.