CNN, the news network that invented the 24 hours format, has taken news coverage to another level by literally stopping on one national story: George Zimmerman's trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
When it first came out it had already generated quite a few televised debates (because of civil society led protests), but it is nothing compared to the actual trial (that happened to be in a State that allows cameras!). I had never seen so many resources from such a big company used towards one single story. They all got involved, including all the top anchors, and one could see that they really seemed to care. They also invited a great number of experts, and together, they tried to foresee the outcome of the trial by assessing the tactics used on a daily basis by the defense and the prosecutors. It became some kind of very long Super Bowl final, but instead of the show during the break, we were served with the expectation triggered by the imminent arrival of one "special human being": a new member of the Royal family of the United Kingdom.
It is interesting to observe the skills of these news people. One may be, and I believe should be, critical of the production behind CNN news. On the other hand, during this trial, the skills really stood out in the way they took the viewers through all the subtleties of one single story. Trial of the century?
The story reached its paroxysm with the verdict.The defense won.
Because this is what it was all about - two very qualified teams playing against one another. The jury, referee of that confrontation, finally took its decision, and George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder, nor manslaughter on Trayvon Martin. Everything went back to the starting point. Why did the jury decide unanimously that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense? Why?
What is self-defense anyway? The State of Florida has its own legal interpretation, which does not stipulate that someone, when sensing danger, should attempt to avoid that danger instead of confronting it. Based on this interpretation of the law, Martin could have been the one "committing" the act of self-defense if Zimmerman had died instead of him. You can basically advance on someone and end up shooting that person in an act of self defense. How can a jury of common citizens deal with such a tricky legal matter, bearing in mind that it took place in a complex context (it is quite wide indeed, Canadian blogger Stefan Molyneux, among many others, went through the whole thing and offered his own reconstitution and interpretation).
The bottom line is that this case is not about self-defense.
The media, boosted by social media, took it back to a much more fundamental issue. Race. And here comes the dichotomy of this tragic story. A case of civil rights was built among the public, but it was not tried as such. I will innovate by saying that I honestly don't know what to think of this case. The guy with the gun obviously made moves he shouldn't have. He was not up to the responsibility of carrying a gun. That's a fact.
On the other hand, I really ask myself how a country that rates itself so high, namely the United States of America, can still be immersed that deeply into racial problems (no pointing the finger at any side, just showing some concern). We are in 2013 for Heaven's sake.
Martin Luther King Jr. passed 45 years ago, to name only one person among thousands (many anonymous) kindred spirits who exercised compassion, yet, there seems to be a great deal of reconciliation left to do.
Does debating about race profit to somebody? Is this the reason why this debate has got into such big proportions? The fact that a commercial venture like CNN allocates all of its time and resources on one trial shows that boosting a national debate about race may pay off considerably. Is it really about making money, then? Is there more to it? Is it mass control?
Nevertheless, CNN is trying to find out the truth for us and the post-trial phase is even more intense than the trial itself. More experts and remembrances of past televised trials. Some great television moments, especially when they called back this amazing young lady that happened to be the key witness in that case. If I were to keep one positive part of this masquerade, that would be Rachel Jeantel.
Because the story belongs to the media, CNN brought us juror B37. They make a point on helping us understand exactly why Zimmerman was not condemned. Did the jury make the right decision? We'll go and ask juror B37 to explain why she decided Zimmerman was not guilty of anything at all. One more step forward for the media into the court room, on its way to reaching the jury deliberation room. The limit is the sky.
How can a "common", yet tragic, single story make it that far, anyway? Could it be a diversion? As a matter of fact, thanks to Zimmerman, CNN does not have to find ways not to address a much bigger story - the defection of Snowden and Michael Manning's trial, which is much more important and happening right now.
With Snowden, there is more than the secrets he took out of the NSA. With Snowden, we can admire the capacity of media corporations to turn a banal domestic event into an international debate and stories of international interest into a rare appearance on a scrolling news feed.
When Snowden does appear, the trick is to portray him as a traitor. What the NSA have been doing does not matter, they do it for the well-being of good citizens, right? The American Constitution and the sovereignty of other countries can take one more blow for that good cause, can't they? However, we must be made aware that real danger comes from traitors. Whoever call Snowden a hero cannot be right in their mind.
CIA contractor Snowden is in possession of an unknown amount of extremely sensitive classified material, and he is living in Moscow international airport, almost going unnoticed. Ironically, Russia's top guy is a former KGB officer. I reckon that with regards to Manning, the media are waiting to see if they will be able to use him to reinforce the traitor "teachings". Meanwhile, let's take Zimmerman's trial as far as possible. Today, we are about to hear how Martin's parents feel, and we are still waiting for the president's statement. Is he going to comment? Should he? As an appetizer, a report explains everything about the cameras used by San Leandro's police in California to monitor license plates in great details. See the connection?
Let's not forget that CNN is an international network. This means that it informs its viewers about important events throughout the world. At the moment, it is Zimmerman's trial, but in the middle of the trial, Egypt's first democratically elected president was taken out by the military.
This is commonly known as a coup.
There shouldn't be any confusion about the term, as it cannot be more simple - an elected civil president was removed by the military. Nevertheless, the media had a great deal of trouble to define if it was appropriate in this case. CNN used the word, but initially to debate on its semantics. Webster's dictionary was used to show that the definition is not that simple. Jeffrey Martini from RAND was asked a few days later and explained why the US had better not use that term. Jim Clancy (CNN anchor) seemed relieved, as this meant that he could finally say the word, as far as he didn't question the fact that the government did not want to use it (The New York Times had apparently the same problem, and they chose to go for a wide range of synonyms in order to avoid the issue).
The highlight of Martini's analysis came through a question from Clancy : "Jeffrey, the bottom line is, it is not about politics, it is about economics. Who has a plan [to fix Egypt's problems]?" Martini gave us the good news. Friends of Egypt (Saoudi Arabia, Koweit, United Arab Emirates) are helping and the future looks brighter with technocrats such as Hazem El-Beblawi who are taking control of the economy.
Taking out the Muslim Brotherhood is not about politics. How can a journalist at this level seriously say such an aberration? Everything then comes into place. CNN's presence at the time of the coup, showing the popular support, showed the world that this coup could be acceptable.
This is why, in the end, CNN had better cover Zimmerman's trial. Regarding Snowden and Manning, they will understandably avoid the big national debate. They'll help to turn them into defectors and we'll all talk about race instead. CNN should just play movies like Remember the Titans all day long, they would get to help a lot more. But how would these experienced and skilled journalists get paid?