Just the facts, ma’am
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
In the 1950s, the TV show “Dragnet” told true crime stories using a fictional police sergeant, Joe Friday. Friday had a calm, restrained manner, captured in his famous phrase: “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” No flashy gun fights or special effects, just a careful compiling of the facts around a case.
Today, there are too many people who seem to want anything but the facts. They grab onto whatever online story supports their world view, whether true or not. (Case in point: Margaret Thatcher’s funeral). Many conservatives/Republicans seem to be especially guilty of this.
A recent example of this comes out of the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Mo. The basic facts are these: Michael Brown was unarmed, he was shot by police officer Darren Wilson and Brown is dead. After that, things get murky really quickly. For some reason, conservatives tend to try to villainize black victims, and this case is no different.
To justify Wilson’s shooting of Brown, conservatives promoted the story that Wilson was in fear for his life. To substantiate that theory, Fox News and others grabbed a story off the Internet, put there by a man named Jim Hoft, which said that Brown had beaten Wilson so severely he crushed Wilson’s eye socket. How Brown did this while Wilson was still in his car is problematic, but no fear; Hoft had a CT scan actually showing the crushed eye socket. Ann Coulter even referenced this scan in a recent column. Just one problem — that CT scan had nothing to do with Wilson.
The scan that Hoft posted was a generic CT scan from the University of Iowa which Hoft had found online. Hoft tried to blot out the identifying information, but some remained on the scan. Anyone who actually looked at the scan would have seen that information, but as is all too common, right-wingers were so eager to smear Brown, they just skipped that part.
Actual eye witnesses have said that Wilson had some mild facial injuries, which could have happened when his gun recoiled or if his car door happened to swing back and hit him when he tried to open it. He was seen walking around Brown’s body moments after the shooting, clearly not savagely beaten. Medical records confirm there was no crushed eye socket. But the story that Brown was responsible for his own death was too good for the conservatives. “We don’t need the facts, ma’am.”
Another young man smeared in a similar way was 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, killed by George Zimmerman. All of us have seen the picture of Trayvon wearing a red T-shirt in which he looks like a mild-mannered young man. That picture was taken when he was 16, but many right-wing sites tried to claim he was just 12 or so. To prove their point, emails were sent out showing a huge, muscled, tattooed man who might scare many of us. The emails claimed this was Trayvon Martin, who had attacked the 5-foot, 8-inch, 200-pound Zimmerman.
Just one problem — that picture was not of the 5’11”, 158-pound Martin. It was of a rapper called Game, 31 years old at the time, 6’, 5”, 228 pounds. Just in case that photo didn’t sway enough people’s minds, another photo taken from a Facebook page showed a defiant Trayvon Martin giving the finger to the camera. Once again, a problem. That Trayvon is another young man in a different part of Florida still very much alive. The site later apologized for the mistake, but the damage was done. Conservatives had a picture in their mind of a thuggish Martin attacking a defenseless (although armed) Zimmerman, and no facts were going to change their minds.
Regarding these killings, Fox News and Republican mouthpieces such as Michael Reagan wonder why black leaders aren’t more concerned about black-on-black crime in places like Chicago. They ignore the fact that black leaders have held many rallies and summits in Chicago to address this problem. That reality doesn’t fit Fox’s narrative. The conservative agenda of “blame the victim” trumps everything else.
We see political leaders such as Louis Gohmert and Michele Bachmann, and pundits such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, frequently blur the lines between truth and lies. For too many, truth isn’t a requirement, and that’s wrong. Defense of ideology is fine, as long as it’s based on reality. Just the facts, please.
Jeanette Strong is an LVN columnist whose column appears every other week. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.