On Oct. 30, 1938, author Orson Welles narrated his famous story, “The War of the Worlds.” After the radio narration a widespread hysteria took place, as many actually believed aliens were invading their world. The radio drama drew scathing criticism for its “realism.” I suspect, however, that more so than realism, mob mentality convinced the scared listeners they were about to be obliterated or subjugated.
One sad example of this mob mentality is undoubtedly the reaction to Trayvon Martin’s death. Obviously Martin’s death is tragic. A March 28 ABC News article details George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student in Florida. Martin had no weapons on him, only Skittles and an iced tea.
As a result of the killing, hundreds have rallied, petitioned and otherwise actively attempted to have Zimmerman arrested and even killed. Indubitably to most, this case reeks of ostensible racism. Nonetheless, I am deeply bothered by the proliferation of Trayvon Martin Facebook posts and conversations.
If one were to casually listen to some of my peers talk about the case, it would be easy to assume they were prosecuting attorneys. As time has inexorably crept forward, new details continue to emerge.
A CNN article from March 30 reports Zimmerman’s brother is claiming Martin snuck up behind him.
Florida also has a “Stand Your Ground” law that allows deadly force to be used in the case of self-defense.
The ways in which these details will cloud the fate of Zimmerman remain unclear. Yet to listen to those rallying in defense of Martin, Zimmerman’s fate should include some sort of severe punishment.
I am disturbed by the general lack of understanding of either the circumstances surrounding Martin’s death or of Floridian law.
For example, I’ve heard many people claim the involved police are simply trying to defend Zimmerman because he is a white man. While race might be a factor, it’s not simply one of white vs. black paralleling Zimmerman vs. Martin, given the
previously cited CNN article notes Zimmerman is Hispanic.
While there is surely a wrong here to be rectified, simply getting up in arms because it’s the in-vogue thing to do marginalizes any attempt at justice. The death of Trayvon Martin needs to be met with a conclusion (be that a prison or death sentence for Zimmerman or an acquittal of any wrongdoing) with slow deliberation, not rash scapegoating.
What the Martin case, Kony 2012 and Orson Welles’ narration reflect is a propensity toward mob mentality.
Granted, I might be railing against some psychological tendencies. However, an inability of people to think rationally could lead a potentially innocent man being charged with a crime we cannot reasonably convict him of. Of course, we can trust the courts to be level headed, yet these are the same people who have some measure of control over the fates of others and the policies we as a country enact.
Next week there will be another fashionable cause about which people will post poignant statuses and tweets. Yet it’s fair to say the people who are actually dedicated to the cause of seeking justice for Martin will not forget about him. I predict only a small fraction of the hoards we now see will consist of that genuine bunch.
Trayvon Martin not only serves as a discussion starter for race relations in America, but about the pursuance of justice in a moral and thoughtful way. As expounded upon, he also serves as a reminder of social networking fads and detrimental, destructive groupthink.
War of the Worlds caused quite a bit of controversy. Yet had the viewers taken the time to think critically, they would have saved themselves and Welles time and effort.