I remember the first time I was truly angry at "mainstream media" for manipulating facts to provoke a certain response. I was in college in the mid-1990s, and there was a story widely reported about a schoolteacher who had written "Where are my glasses?" on a little girl's face. As I watched the story on the fraternity commons room TV, I said a few unkind words about the teacher in question. As luck would have it, in the room were two friends who were familiar with the teacher and knew the facts that the media was carefully leaving out.
For one thing, writing on kids' faces was not an uncommon occurrence for this teacher. She would often paint their faces with something they learned that day — the letter of the day, numbers, facts, etc. It was something the kids looked forward to, happy to show off that they learned something new.
Second, she used water-soluble paints that washed off easily. It was extremely unlikely that such markings would still be visible for "days", without some help from studio makeup artists anyway.
Third, the girl was visually impaired. The teacher was concerned that her coming to school without her glasses was affecting her ability to learn, and notes that she repeatedly sent home to her parents were apparently being ignored.
As my friends explained these points to me, my anger shifted from the "vengeful, irresponsible" teacher to the media outlets and the reporters breaking this story. I felt deceived, manipulated, and ultimately lied to.
Even as I went searching for this story, nearly two decades later, most articles still ignore these points. A Bing search for "teacher write face 'where are my glasses'" first returned two articles about the girl graduating high school, then one titled "White teacher suspended for allegedly writing on black student's face" (emphasis added). It's not until page 2 of results that I found a New York Times article that mentions how routine the teacher's face-painting was and the notes she sent home about the girl's missing glasses. (I was also struck by how many articles call out, either in the title or the first sentence, the race of the child and that of the teacher, although I don't recall the "race card" being played so heavily when I first heard the story.)
It didn't altogether surprise me, therefore, when I first heard of how the media was twisting the Zimmerman/Martin case. What did surprise me, though, was just how far they were going in lying to the public, actually to the point of manufacturing and manipulating evidence.
From the beginning, the incident was tainted to look like a "simple" case of white-on-black, racially motivated violence. Zimmerman was described by the media as a "white Hispanic", a phrase that, before this incident, was rarely used.
Then there's Zimmerman's 911 call. Transcripts that were reported were carefully edited to make it appear that Zimmerman was focused on Martin's race. And while initial reports of the audio of the 911 call proclaimed he used a racial slur, further analysis casts that "fact" into further doubt [video].
And why was Zimmerman's account that he was being beaten, with his head slammed on the concrete, so hard to believe? Probably in no small part to the video of Zimmerman's arrest and questioning being degraded and obscured so that his injuries were not visible to the general public — even if such injuries were verified.
Never mind that Zimmerman has a history of helping people, including the black community as a whole. Never mind that he might have even had good reason to keep an eye out for someone who is black.
I'm not sure why they chose to twist this story so completely. Maybe they were trying to support Obama's call for sympathy for the Martins with his "If I had a son..." comment. Maybe they saw an opportunity to tell a story and wanted to make it bigger by playing on people's preconceptions on racial intolerance. Maybe there was a more sinister "wag the dog" motivation, blowing this story up to divert attention from something else.
Whatever the reason, the media seems to be more intent on pursuing its own interests than the well-being of the population. Not only will Zimmerman have a devil of a time getting anything resembling a fair trial, but innocent people are being attacked in retaliation for the story the media has manufactured.