We found out two things from George Zimmerman’s interview broadcast on Univison’s newsmagazine “Aquí y Ahora” tonight. One is that Zimmerman is a delusional sociopath who is bent on manipulating the media to project his paranoid fantasies as truth, and the other is that “Aquí y Ahora” has no journalistic credibility or integrity. The interview, conducted by Ilia Calderón–admittedly I’m not familiar with her body of work–was so lacking in substance, precision, and rigor, that Zimmerman was allowed to spin a yarn of dubious obfuscation that ultimately devolved into a Roman Catholic propaganda fest that would have made Francisco Franco, or Augusto Pinochet for that matter, proud.
From the opening sequence, it was clear where this was going: the entire hour was going to be an extension of the defense’s case from the trial, this time without the expensive lawyers that Zimmerman supposedly owes $2.5 million to. While I’m not entirely sure, the animated re-creation of the events shown in the opening segment bore a strong resemblance to what was used by the defense, and passed off as an objective journalistic account of the incident. The key moment here was Trayvon Martin’s “attack” on Zimmerman–a narrative only Zimmerman has attested to, since witnesses were not produced to corroborate them and of course Martin is no longer alive to tell his side of the story.
During Martin’s “attack,” the re-creation shows Zimmerman’s head getting continually bashed into the concrete–something again only Zimmerman’s account has asserted–creating the bloody scrapes on the back of his head that the prosecution and other observers have stated are inconsistent with head-bashing, which would have created more profound bruising and deeper wounds. Then, the animation is used to support Zimmerman’s assertion that he was confronted by Martin, who then sucker-punched him and put him into the defensive posture that would ultimately lead him to believe his life was threatened. Again, none of this is corroborated by any witnesses other than Zimmerman.
Only minutes into the interview, Zimmerman is allowed to assert that the voice heard screaming on the 911 tape is his. He sits there and says, “oh yeah, that was me.” Calderón does not ask whether he thinks Martin’s family is lying or whether he can explain how the voice of a grown man would sound like the voice of a younger man. The one halfway challenging question Calderón asks is why Zimmerman, who has voiced his passion for boxing–first by the fact that he was taking boxing classes, second by agreeing to a celebrity boxing match with DMX, which was quickly called off–did not prefer to engage in hand-to-hand fisticuffs with Martin rather than shoot him.
Well, it’s different in boxing, which has controlled conditions and a referee, and besides I only took that boxing class to lose weight, he says.
The importance of the lack of serious questioning here, and the use of the defense-created animation, is how it accepts the defense’s case as the truth in the incident, and fails to confront Zimmerman with the most basic question in this case. Why, if you were told by a 911 dispatcher not to continue to follow Martin, did you not back off? Why did you pursue him, knowing you were armed, and had the potential to escalate the episode into the violent incident that this became?
This question was never asked or even hinted at by Calderón. Instead, she allows Zimmerman to establish the idea that since Martin had taken away his gun–again, this narrative has only come from Zimmerman, since there are no witnesses that state Martin had taken away his gun, and Martin is no longer alive and unable to contradict him–his life was in danger, and he had no option to act in self-defense.
It is on the basis that Zimmerman had no option except self-defense that Calderón then asks her series of questions about whether Zimmerman has any regrets about shooting and killing Martin. Zimmerman insists that if he didn’t act the way he did, he wouldn’t be alive, and that between him and God he knows that he did what he had to do. This is the first mention of God.
Later, Calderón gets into a semi-combative line of questioning about why Zimmerman found Trayvon suspicious. She says, if Martin was a white man in a suit or a Jewish man, would he still have been suspicious? Zimmerman insists he would have been suspicious of anyone, regardless of race. Calderón seems mildly skeptical, and asks why he was suspicious. Zimmerman replies that he was suspicious because of the way Martin was walking and looking into the houses in the development.
Let’s run that back again. George Zimmerman says that he was suspicious of Trayvon Martin, a young black man wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles, because of the way he was looking into the houses, and it didn’t matter if it were a white man or a Jewish man, anyone would have aroused his suspicion. Does Calderón call him on this? No.
With the facts of the case now tidily disposed of, Calderón and the crack Aquí y Ahora staff establish to the “sociopolitical” context of the case, featuring footage of Martin’s family seeking “the help of the media,” (something Zimmerman never did, because, hey, you call Sean Hannity “the media”?), and protestors looking as frisky and prone to violence as anybody on the streets of Caracas these days.
What follows is laying the groundwork for Zimmerman’s post-trial media strategy: he was a victim! Fancy that. Someone who got away with murdering an unarmed teenager is a victim. This is how it starts: Ominous music, Fox-like footage of Obama, looking like his bad socialist dictator self. How did you feel, Calderón asks, when Obama said that if he had a son, he might look like Trayvon Martin?
Apenado, desilusionado, says Zimmerman. (By the way, he speaks much better Spanish than either Bloomberg or de Blasio. Maybe a run for mayor is in the cards for him.) Why did you feel desilusionado, asks Calderón? Because he was clearly doing this because it was an election year, smirks Zimmerman. It was an “unjust commentary.”
Wondering here why Calderón does not ask what Zimmerman thinks of Obamacare. He would have probably blamed its nasty provisions for not being able to get a job.
You can guess what happens in the rest of the time allotted to the journalistic powerhouse known as Aquí y Ahora. Zimmerman produces a rosary when Calderón asks him why he was expressionless when the verdict was read. His mother makes an appearance and wonders why no one in the neighborhood would help when they heard his son screaming. Zimmerman says his family is under constant threat. His mother claims it is a form of terrorism. Zimmerman complains that he can’t see his doctor regularly because he can’t afford to pay bodyguards. Zimmerman claims he’s suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This is what Zimmerman says when Calderón asks him why he can’t stay out of trouble–he gets stopped for speeding twice and twice police are called to the houses of his wife and girlfriend respectively, where there are violent incidents: Well, maybe if the media wasn’t always pouncing on me while I was trying to have a “discussion” with my girlfriend…But, you were involved in these incidents, says Calderón. Yeah, but the media reports on it, says Zimmerman, implying that other psychopaths are having violent incidents with their girlfriends daily and it doesn’t get reported by the media, my little sweetie.
It goes on, and I can hardly bear to continue, but he also says: The boxing match with DMX, which was called off, was going to be done for charities, which he can’t name, because then they would be threatened, not because he owes $2.5 million to his lawyers. He knows has “a cross to bear,” and tries to live “as Christian a life as he can.” Now get this, this is the killer: he wants to become a lawyer to make sure the injustice that happened to him will never happen to anyone else!
Has there ever been a more appropriate time to invoke the timeless acronym, WTF?
Okay, it’s Sunday. I get it. It’s Univision. We believe in tightly knit families, of course we’re not racists–how dare you? And of course, our whole way of being is driven by…Christian sort of things. That’s why the coda to the whole episode comes when Zimmerman’s mother–following a strange statement of compassion for the woman who “really” raised Martin, not the one who appeared on the “cooperative media,” i.e., his real mother–looks up into the heavens and says, “Some day we’ll find out why God has chosen us…”
Yes we will. And someday we’ll find out why Univision did not choose to give one scintilla of Trayvon Martin’s side of the story in this one-hour travesty masquerading as a “news magazine.” A simple disclaimer would have sufficed: “We reached out to Martin’s representatives in the after-life and they declined to respond to our repeated inquiries.”