Analysis of media issues, politics and current events.
What is the counter-balance of a story of an unarmed child being shot by an overzealous, unsanctioned neighborhood watch captain who seems to be predisposed that blacks are criminals and who’s not supposed to be carrying a gun? If you are the fair and balanced Fox News, it’s the rights of gun owners.
By now you’ve likely heard the story about the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Shot by a self-appointed, untrained captain of an unsanctioned neighborhood watch in a Florida community. “Captain” George Zimmerman, who upon spying Trayvon walking to where he was staying from a 7-Eleven, called police dispatch saying the black youth looked “suspicious.” He followed the boy, though no crime had been committed, and told this radio dispatcher he was concerned ” they always get away.” And against the advice of the police dispatcher, confronted the boy. A confrontation that ended in a shot and a boy shot
in the back (correction: not shot in back, found on back), dead –unarmed with soda and Skittles. Zimmerman claims he shot in self-defense and wasn’t charged with a crime.
Traditional media was slow the cover this story. The release of the 911 tapes seem to speed this as a story as it became of story woven with coverage of this man’s stereotypes of black people, aggressiveness and failings of neighborhood watch, and the tragic death of a boy.
That is, unless you’re Fox News, in which the story quickly turned to gun rights. Fox News ran multiple pieces positioning this story as they salvo or leverage in the attack on gun rights.
Fox News’ Martha MacCallum,
“The alleged gunman [is] claiming that it was self-defense,” said MacCallum, “and now anti-gun advocates say the 911 calls from some witnesses prove otherwise—and they’re using them as ammunition in a new attack on the National Rifle Association.”
Fox News’s Trace Gallagher:
“Remember, Florida is also a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law state, which means that you can use guns or other deadly force as self-defense without backing out of a confrontation. Now, the National Rifle Association backed that law, and now the Brady Campaign, which is pushing for tougher gun laws, says, ‘That’s the National Rifle Association’s vision for America.’ It’s important to point out that gun sales in this country have never been higher, and the crime rate, says the FBI, is very low.”
Is gun control an angle in this story? Yes. In the same way Bill Clinton sexual use of a cigar in the Monica Lewinski scandal is really about the dangers of smoking. Is an assault on the NRA the “balancing” part of this story, as the “fair and balanced” news network would have us believe?
The quick pivot from Trayvon’s death to NRA was likely done to fit the narrative of the core Fox viewer. Mostly White. High respect for law enforcement. And likely pro 2nd Amendment. And I hate to say this, not as sympathetic or resistant to the idea of black figure of an unarmed 17-year-old boy as victim instead as criminal.
Today’s viewers don’t like stories that threaten their view of how the world works. Liberal or conservative. In this case, Fox executives understand this story as that kind of threat to some viewers’ grasp of what’s right. Plus like a drama queen, Fox can can make any story about themselves. Turning any story into one where viewers’ lifestyles (and freedoms) are always under assault – even when it’s not about them.
So Fox has a uncomfortable story. So what do they do? Change the angle so it’s more palatable to many of its viewers. Yea, a boy got shot –but more importantly do you know what this means for the NRA and your right to have guns (the Second Amendment is under attack).
Also, I don’t think this is the “balanced” side of the story as if that was a white boy shot by a neighborhood watch, I don’t think the story would be about woe-be-the-NRA. It’d be about the unsanctioned neighborhood watch or the overzealous watch captain. And for the “race-neutral” Fox News, it could have been covered that way – even about a black child. But it wasn’t because, for their viewers’ sensitive world view about race and guns that can be disturbed, that wasn’t the editorial decision to make.
That to me is not fair and balanced. It’s putting the thumb on the scale for a story angle that confirming of current beliefs.
There’s different coverage of Fox’s coverage of this story, but for most balanced on I’ve seen so far check out David Frum’s Article “There is America, and Then There is “Fox News America”