In a piece at Truthdig, columnist Richard Reeves explores the intersection of race and American pop culture through the lens of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Reeves argues that the shooting stemmed, in part, from Florida's arcane concealed-weapons law.
… What happened was a crime and the acquitted shooter, Zimmerman, is no role model for anyone. I have no basis for judging him racist, but there is no doubt he was aggressively stupid.
But for me, the moronic vigilante killer is not the issue. I think this story is about guns and television. Florida is a swampy place and so are its laws. It is ludicrous to permit and empower a civilian like Zimmerman to legally go around with a concealed weapon, following or stalking anyone he decides or imagines is a danger to his community. Circumstances like that are the reason we have laws, courts and police.
And television. I know a bit about television in courtrooms, which I thought was a bad idea from the start. In 1978, I wrote and narrated a PBS documentary called “TV on Trial” about what I believe was the first televised trial — in Miami. The defendant was a kid named Ronny Zamora, who killed an 83-year-old neighbor in a botched burglary in her home. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. (He was released on parole in 2004.)
The Zamora case, like the Zimmerman case, was a story, a big story, not because it was an unusual trial, but because of cameras in the courtroom. The television press, particularly the 24-hour news channels now, could not ignore it. The video feed was a real reality show. It was irresistible and dangerous television wallpaper, guaranteed to fan the ever-smoldering racial coals of the nation …
Read more at Truthdig.