Monday, July 15, 2013

J'Accuse 2013

In 1894, Lt. Col. Alfred Dreyfus, then a Captain, was accused of selling military secrets to a German military attache. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island

The unfortunate thing for Capt. Dreyfus is that he was innocent. Another man, Maj. Ferdinand Welsin-Esterhazy was the traitor and spy. He manufactured evidence against Dreyfus to make sure he was convicted, which wasn't hard to do. 

You see, Alfred Dreyfus was a Jew. Which was reason enough to convict in those days. There was a media campaign, in fact, calling for his conviction and punishment led by Le Libre Parole. So an innocent man was sent to perhaps the worst penal colony in the world at the time, because he had the misfortune of being born to the wrong religion. 

 But he didn't stay there. 

Over time he gained supporters, such as Georges Clemenceau, Anatole France, and Emile Zola. The last of these decided to use his position as a writer and essayist to plead the case of Captain Dreyfus, and in Clemenceau's paper, he published an open letter to the president of the French Republic, "J'Accuse" (I accuse), in which he accuses the army of a cover-up of its botched investigation resulting in the wrongful conviction of Dreyfus. Zola was convicted of libel and fined 3000 francs for his troubles. 

Dreyfus got a new trial, was re-convicted and then pardoned by the president. In 1906 he would eventually be cleared of all charges. This was the once-famous "Dreyfus Affair", which was once taught in history classes.

So why the history lesson? It seems that we have seen a trial that was driven by media pressure to achieve a conviction, and the sole factor that drove that frenzy was race. George Zimmerman caught the attention of the media because he was the wrong color. Had George been African-American, this would have been a local tragedy: black on black crime doesn't make national headlines. It hardly merits local headlines. This past week, 2 people in Southeast DC were killed. Where is the national hysteria? Where are the protests? 


If George had been killed, this would have been another non-news story, a Hispanic man killed by an African-American teen. But this was stirred up by the media into a crisis point requiring a poorly conducted trial on the part of the prosecution because he had a "white" name: Zimmerman. 

What are the basic facts, as determined by forensic evidence? That George Zimmerman saw a young man walking through a gated neighborhood that had been subject to a rash of break-ins late at night. He got out of his car to follow this young man. At this point, there was a confrontation, which ended up with George Zimmerman on the ground, Trayvon Martin on top of him, beating him with his fists, eventually taking Zimmerman's head in his hands and beating him against the pavement. This is confirmed by forensic evidence from the stains on Martin's pant legs and the dirt on the back of Zimmerman's jacket, as well as eyewitness testimony.  At this point, Zimmerman draws a pistol, which was licensed and legal, and shot Martin in the chest, killing him.
This could be Obama's son...
Zimmerman calls the police and turns himself in, and they investigate it, releasing him because it seems to be a case of self-defense. 

Now the media gets involved. Creating a story about a "kid", a "boy", or a "child" who was attacked unjustly by a "white man", a storm of controversy was stirred up. Prominent people voiced their opinions, and finally the Seminole county officials were compelled to bring Zimmerman to trial. The media did all it could to convict Zimmerman, emphasizing the difference in ages.   An endless loop of photos of the 12 year-old Martin were used to illustrate the story, along with the mugshot of Zimmerman. No wonder public outrage was stirred up. 

Now I accuse. I accuse the media of a rush to judgement based on the superficial evidence of Zimmerman's last name. I accuse the media of latching onto what they had hoped would be a case of white on black crime, ignoring the greater tragedy of crime within lower-income communities.  I accuse the community activists such as Al Sharpton and his ilk of fanning the flames to lift his profile. I accuse the voices on the left that so desired to make this the platform for issues that they ignored the simple forensics of the case, so willing to convict a man to fulfill their own prejudices. I accuse every last American who couldn't stand by, hear the evidence, and accept the fair judgement of a jury, seeking instead to jump to easy conclusions so they can get their adrenaline shot of righteous anger to make themselves feel important and able to forget the petty complaints of their own lives. 

Like Dreyfus, George Zimmerman's case has not yet been settled. Now the federal authorities are considering trying Zimmerman for the same crime with a new twist: he shot Martin because he thought bad thoughts; the feds are making the case for prosecution for a hate crime. One would think that this would fall under the prohibitions against re-prosecuting a defendant who has been acquitted, also known as "Double Jeopardy". But wait, there's a difference! He was guilty of a thoughtcrime. He hated Trayvon Martin because he was African-American, and now can be convicted for his feelings. 

So we can be prosecuted for our last names and our thoughts? Frightening. 

At this point, I can only agree with Abraham Lincoln

"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes"When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic]."