It was inevitable that conservatives would view the tragic death of a 17 year-old black kid as a political game where they were “losing” and had to come up with something to get back the upper hand. Thus we have a spate of revolting counter-attacks on the character of a dead teenager, as if any of them would warrant shooting him in cold blood.
First, they sent out an alleged photo of Martin in a requisite “scary black teen” pose, which turned out not to actually BE Trayvon Martin, but I guess they all look alike. As Dave Weigel points out, wingers are STILL sending around the photo. Then, the Sanford Police Department leaked a report that Martin was suspended from school because of trace amounts of marijuana found in his book bag, which in Sanford they usually settle by having a vigilante shoot and kill the offender, right? Finally, the Daily Caller decided to post Martin’s tweets for no discernible reason. The tweets depict your basic 17 year-old talking about girls. I know that when I go and get myself murdered, I want to have a bunch of people picking around my Twitter feed to figure out why I deserved it.
No more serious but at least marginally relevant to the case at hand, the lawyer for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed Martin, claims that Martin started the fight and was beating Zimmerman’s head against the concrete, when… I guess Zimmerman managed to get up, pull out his gun and shoot the assailant? None of this makes sense either, and the Orlando Sentinel had a particularly abominable story about this that simultaneously attributes Zimmerman’s story to the police, then says it’s vague and unknowable, then says there are witnesses, and then says there aren’t.
I think Michelle Goldberg captures this pretty well:
I’m far from the first to notice the similarities between the way people talk about Martin and the way they talk about rape victims, whose clothes and histories are often subject to scrutiny no matter how cut-and-dried the case seems. Like a rape victim, Martin’s past is being excavated for evidence that he might have provoked the harm done to him. It hardly matters that even if Martin had gotten high every day, it would have had zero relevance; it’s not as if marijuana use is linked to violence. Nor that it’s not unusual for a teenager to come across as obnoxious on Twitter. People were looking for some tenuous justification for treating him as complicit in his own death, and now they’ve found it. (For the record, I was also suspended from high school, though in my case for smoking cigarettes. I trust that should a stranger shoot me in the street, no one will treat this as a mitigating factor.)
On the surface, it’s odd that Martin’s image would become so politicized. No ideological capitulation would be required for conservatives to mourn his death—one can believe in gun rights and still believe that he shouldn’t have been killed. A real NRA fanatic, after all, might make a case that Martin himself should have been armed, so that he could stand his ground against the paranoid man who was stalking him.
But of course, everything is political nowadays. If a black kid gets shot and folks want justice for that, the other side – the other side of the murder of a black kid! – has to come up with their own narrative, something pleasing to their allies, something they can use to win the argument. It’s about as shameful as you can get.
Also see Jenice Armstrong.