The List

7 people to blame for the Trayvon Martin hysteria

With the killing of the unarmed black teen in legal limbo, and the actual shooter never in doubt, people are pointing fingers in both odd and predictable directions

Everyone seems to agree on at least the basic details of the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin: A neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, killed the unarmed black 17-year-old after a scuffle of some kind in an Orlando-area gated community. Zimmerman said it was self-defense, and has not been arrested. Just about everything else is being hashed out, increasingly loudly, in the public sphere. Who's to blame for this headline-grabbing controversy and the death that prompted it? Here, seven groups or people at the receiving end of accusatory fingers:

1. The mediaAfter weeks of "round-the-clock media coverage," any suspicious death can mushroom into a national mania, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But throw in "a highly charged racial subtext" and new "facts" surfacing daily from "a media more interested in sensationalism than honest reporting," and you're virtually guaranteed mass hysteria. 

2. The policeThis wouldn't even be much of a local news story if the Sanford, Fla., police had done their job and arrested Zimmerman in the first place, says Martin Longman at Booman Tribune. Instead, the more we learn about the night of Feb. 26, the more it looks like "the police covered up this incident and filed false police reports" to get Zimmerman off the hook. On top of that, Sanford authorities are investigating whether local cops leaked details meant to boost Zimmerman's case and discredit Martin. "They killed my son and now they’re trying to kill his reputation," says Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton.

3. President ObamaSarah Palin and Newt Gingrich are among many high-profile critics who have blasted Obama for weighing in on Martin's death. On March 23, Obama empathized with Martin's parents, saying "it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect" of the case, and called for some national "soul searching." The president also made things personal, saying: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." And so once again, says Lauri B. Regan at American Thinker, Obama made race an issue while inserting himself into "the latest controversy stirred up by the mainstream media and infamous race-baiting rabble-rousers."

4. Other black leadersOn March 28, Zimmerman's father, Robert, accused Obama and other black leaders of fanning the flames of hate. "I never foresaw so much hate coming from the president, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP," and others "trying to get notoriety or profit from this in some way," he told an Orlando Fox TV affiliate. Some conservatives specifically point fingers at Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who have been speaking at rallies for Zimmerman's arrest, accusing them of playing the "race card" to stir up tensions and, potentially, violence. 

5. Jeb BushA major point of contention in the case is Florida's "Stand Your Ground" gun law, which allows permitted gun owners to shoot anybody they reasonably think could cause them serious harm. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) signed the law in 2005, and Zimmerman has used the law to avoid arrest. That means "Jeb Bush helped pave the way for this senseless tragedy," said Ed Schultz on MSNBC.

6. The gun lobbyA host of civil rights, labor, and good-government groups blame the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative think tank that produces draft legislation for state legislatures, for Florida's gun law. "We've come to pull back the curtain so that the world can meet the team of ghost-writers who have written these 'kill-at-will' laws and spread this poison around the nation," National Urban League president Marc Moral said Thursday. A week earlier, journalist Karen Finney filled out the list on MSNBC, pointing to "the Koch Brothers, the NRA," and other ALEC funders. 

7. Geraldo Rivera... and hoodiesWhat would a national brouhaha be without Geraldo Rivera? In this case, the Fox News host sparked outrage by making Martin's hooded sweatshirt a suspect in the case, saying, "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was." Of course, Martin's death had "little to do with attire, per se," says Mario T. García in the National Catholic Reporter. It was more "the combination of Martin's hoodie plus his blackness." Right or wrong, hoodies on young black and Latino men are seen as "gang attire." And while white "intellectuals may celebrate certain clothing as a form of oppositional culture, I don't think they would be as enthusiastic if one of their sons were killed because he was mistaken for a gangster." 

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