I watched Hillary Clinton give a speech in North Carolina this afternoon, it was broadcast live on MSNBC. She did pretty well and then gave way to the Campaigner-in-Chief, one of the great campaigners in American history, President Barack Obama. As Mr. Obama hit it out of the park over and over, smiling, loose, feeling good, interacting smoothly with the audience, there was a constant loop of texts crawling over the bottom of the screen.
This constant flashing of unrelated text and images on the screen during other programming is a relatively new thing that has quickly become ubiquitous. Advertisers and sales executives realized there was valuable real estate at the bottom of the TV screen going completely to waste. Now, during many shows, ads for other shows will pop up, little characters cavort, ads and other messages scroll continually. The modern American attention span is not fractured enough, I suppose, so why not put another 60 penny nail through its nervous system?
As the president spoke there was a scrolling caption about South American authorities looking for a former Guantanamo detainee, out finally and apparently mad as hell and hating somebody’s freedom. Then this bit that caught my eye:
Father who accidentally shot his 14-year old son at a shooting range will not be charged, witnesses and surveillance video confirm the shooting was an accident. The boy, apparently an asshole– the father, no intention of shooting the contumacious little bastard in the face and killing him, the kid is dead and so be it. A well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free State, and so on and so forth, witnesses say the kid was shot by accident, so does the video footage. Video footage does not lie, neither do witnesses. Case closed. Stay tuned for details of this purely accidental tragedy at eleven.
I could not help but make the immediate connection to Trayvon Martin, the black kid shot by an armed white man who’d taken it on himself to patrol the neighborhood and confront the kid with deadly force to find out what a black kid was doing in his neighborhood with a bag of Skittles and a cell phone. The boy was shot after a possible struggle and Skittles were found near the dead boy.
The boy, we learned, was four inches taller than the man with the gun and, at 17, was fit, while the young man with the gun, at 5’7″ and 204 pounds, was ‘clinically obese’. The boy’s blood tested positive for recent marijuana use, and so there’s that. He is alleged to have used the f-word and not shown this armed civilian the least bit of respect when the white man got out of his truck to confront the boy and “stand his ground” with a handgun, as he was permitted to do under a Florida law underwritten by the Koch Brothers and their ilk, operating under the name of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council, you can visit these dangerous, sharp-toothed cocksuckers here; a less self-serving version is here and here with Bill Moyers). The killer also claimed the kid viciously attacked him and that, in fear for his life, he shot and killed the boy in self-defense.
The killer’s father was a local judge and there was a long period, perhaps a month or more, before charges were brought against the judge’s son for the killing of the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. Martin, in addition to marijuana in his bloodstream, also had been in a fight at school and, additionally, was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, a “hoodie”. Pictures of him in the hoodie were shown on TV, he did present a slightly menacing aspect in those pictures. There was an outcry when the man with the gun was not being charged with anything in connection to the boy’s death which had come directly from the barrel of the man’s gun. The man with the gun was named George Zimmerman.
The president went on TV during the rising tensions over whether the killer was going to be charged with a crime. He gave his first speech about race in America, after several years in office. It was an eloquent speech, as all of his speeches are. He identified with Trayvon Martin and his family, said he could have been Trayvon Martin, or his son, if he’d had one, could have been Trayvon. He told everybody to be cool, to wait and see what American justice had to say about the events leading up to the killing of the unarmed boy.
So we stayed cool, we waited and we saw what American justice had to say about the apparently completely justifiable killing of an unarmed boy with a bag of Skittles and, apparently, a big chip on his shoulder. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges.
I saw a crawl a couple of years later claiming that Zimmerman had been involved in a second domestic violence incident, allegedly throwing a wine bottle at his then girlfriend and possibly threatening her with a gun, as he had another ex, who declined to press charges. Zimmerman, in his own home, had every right to stand his ground, though he did seem to lose some of the moral high ground after that alleged beat-down of a third unarmed woman (his estranged wife was in there too). You can read some sordid details about the piece of garbage here. Or just wait for the next crawl.
Or just read this, from USA Today:
In September 2013, his estranged wife, Shellie, called 911 claiming he had punched her father and was threatening her with a gun. She did not press charges. Two months later, Zimmerman was arrested and accused of domestic violence by girlfriend Samantha Scheibe. Scheibe dropped the charges.