When any trial becomes the sole focus of the media, we miss crucial other things that are happening in our world.
As father of a 16 year old I am horrified by the Zimmerman/Martin case. The reality that my son could be shot by an armed “neighborhood watch” person, while walking down the street minding his own business, is very disconcerting. The fact that my son and I are not African-American and therefore in a lower risk category, is far from comforting, especially considering we are Jewish and have our own painful history and reality of hatred and persecution (as do many other groups in America, past and present).
What I am questioning here is the assumption that there is value in bringing this trial into our homes, blow-by-blow all day every day. CNN, HLN, Fox and MSNBC seem to devote a large portion of their programing to bringing us full coverage of the trial. Is there nothing else of importance happening here or around the world? Do we not need to be informed? Can we not get limited reasonable coverage of this important trial but still also get the news? Does the media not have an obligation to bring us all the news of the day/week/month?
A brief Internet search revealed but a few critical stories deserving of more coverage right now:
- Ousting of the president of Egypt by the military, after public outcry and demonstrations of millions, and his replacement with military appointed leader pending new elections. Riots that followed resulted in numerous deaths of Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators (ousted President is a member and was elected to office). Potential serious destabilizing event in the region—the Middle East—poised to erupt.
- City of Detroit on the verge of bankruptcy: governor appointed “Emergency Manager” arguably illegally, assumed power from elected officials in Detroit, effectively taking democratic representation away from hundreds of thousands of Detroit citizens.
- Abortion rights and legal and safe abortion availability being taken away by well planned and executed—some unconstitutional and some simply nasty—actions of Republican state representatives and governors, also eliminating the availability of health care services to millions of women as well as refusing federal funded expansion of Medicaid to poor Americans who desperately need it.
- For the past 1.5 years President Obama’s NLRB appointments have been filibustered by Republicans in the senate. The National Labor Review Board is the “Supreme Court” of labor issues, leaving millions of Americans without recourse for employer labor laws violations and abuse of employees.
- 30,000 prisoners in California started on a hunger strike to protest solitary confinement. In Guantanamo, military forced feeding prisoners on hunger strike to protest indefinite imprisonment without charges or trial. The American Medical Association declared forced feeding as unethical.
- Edward Snowden and our rights to privacy: Need I say more?
- Choose your own: Yes, I believe in participation.
The point here is simple. There are many issues deserving of coverage, public debate and actions. Some of the chronic big ones are: still very high unemployment, increasing rates of inequality and poverty, serious attempts and reduction if not elimination of civil rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, association and collective bargaining rights, privacy rights and rights to clean air, water and soil as well as rights to live on a habitable planet and preserve same to future generations.
As important as the coverage of the Zimmerman trial for the killing of the young Trayvon Martin is, the endless ongoing media obsession over this case is counter productive and results in the lack of appropriate coverage and public debate of other critical issues. We can and should do both. We all understand that we live in a voyeur society with an endless appetite for scandal and tragedy, real (in this case) or made up (in most if not all reality shows). It is the job and responsibility of the media to rise above this and in doing so, elevate the public discourse and attention. “We the people”, must demand and expect better.
Photo credit: Flickr / karlfrankowski