The controversy surrounding the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has played out, in some ways, contrary to the usual left-versus-right, shouting-match dynamic to which we've all grown accustomed. Calls for increased scrutiny of Florida's “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law (often cited as the reason Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, has thus far escaped charges) have come from both liberals and conservatives. That Zimmerman should be arrested and charged is a position shared by Al Sharpton and Rich Lowry.
But there is still that segment of the online right that is using the Martin controversy to stoke racial animus.
On March 19, Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, posted an article speculating that Martin, who was on suspension from school at the time of his death due to excessive tardiness, might have actually been suspended for any number of criminal acts, including arson, sexual battery, and murder -- an unsubtle implication that Martin had it coming. As Mother Jones' Adam Serwer pointed out, the article's original URL referred to Martin as the “aggressor.”
Serwer also noted that The Blaze published a companion piece detailing the little-known New Black Liberation Militia's threat to take Zimmerman into custody. And last night, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle filed a story from Sanford, Florida on how “members of the New Black Panther Party ripped President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for not responding forcefully enough to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.”
Normally, the complaints of fringe extremist groups don't merit this sort of attention, but the New Black Panthers hold a special place in the right's Obama mythology, convinced as they are that the president and the attorney general intervened to save this ragtag collection of whackjobs from voter intimidation charges, simply because of their shared blackness. (None of that actually happened.)
But whatever, right? If these groups want attention, and conservatives want to keep saving them from the obscurity they deserve, that's their deal.
Except this morning, following President Obama's brief remarks on the Martin case, Boyle filed his follow-up story:
Obama and the White House have previously refrained from commenting on the case thus far. Following demands by the New Black Panthers and others on scene in Sanford, Fla. that the White House get involved, Obama jumped into the fight.
This is criminally hackish, and the contrived and poisonous narrative it feeds -- that the Obama administration is playing to the concerns of fringe racial groups -- is utterly unsupported.
Then there's Michelle Malkin, who wrote this afternoon that progressives have “turned the horrible death of Trayvon Martin into a racial litmus test” -- whatever that means -- and “Barack Obama is all too willing to pour gas on the fire.” She added: “The Al Sharpton/New Black Panthers Party-led mob is forging ahead with its polarizing racial profiling narratives despite the fact that the alleged shooter is Hispanic and multiracial.”
To which Dave Weigel responds:
What that has to do with anything, I cannot say. In recorded history, there are certainly examples of non-white people bearing animus against other non-white people. The Zimmerman situation might turn out to be one of those cases. [...] The dunderhead strategy is to make this yet another point-and-sputter rant about how the real racists, surely, are liberals who think that racism exists.