The Trayvon Martin case is both an individual tragedy and a symbol of a larger problem, the way some people are treated as "suspicious," as George Zimmerman described Martin, and the myriad consequences that suspicion brings. Lots of conservatives don't really think that larger problem is much of a big deal, and apparently, the way they've decided to make that case is by focusing on this individual incident, namely by trying to convince everyone that Trayvon Martin was a no-good punk who had it coming. Dave Weigel informs us that the right-wing blogosphere is alight with pieces attacking the teenager, and "The Drudge Report has become a one-stop shop for Trayvon contrarianism," pushing one article after another about the alleged defects in Martin's character. The conservative web site The Daily Caller obtained and published Trayvon Martin's tweets, for the purpose of ... what, exactly? Showing that he was a teenager and capable of tweeting stupid stuff and therefore demonstrating that he should have been shot? The Free Beacon, another conservative online publication, sent out their intrepid investigators and discovered that George Zimmerman is a ... registered Democrat! Which I guess is mean to flummox liberals, or something.
Reading an op-ed by the conservative columnist Jonah Golberg, Kevin Drum says, "that, it turns out, is the conservative principle that's actually at stake here: convincing us all that traditional racism no longer really exists (just in "pockets," says Goldberg) and that it's whites who are the real racial victims in today's America."
That's true, but I think it's only part of what's going on here. The most important feature of contemporary conservatism isn't distrust of government, or belief in free markets, or dislike of taxes, or devotion to a large military. It's hatred of liberals. Much of the time that hatred manifests itself in ways that are relatively harmless, like Rick Santorum cursing out a New York Times reporter (the media are all liberals, don't forget) and then celebrating his courage for having done so ("If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican, is the way I look at it," he said). But at other times, the conservative hatred of liberals is manifested in far uglier ways, and this is one such case. When they saw liberal outrage at Trayvon Martin's killing, some (not all, but no small number either) conservatives just couldn't keep silent. If liberals think this was a terrible thing, then they are just going to decide that it wasn't. And trying to assassinate Martin's character was about the only way they could think to fight back.
I'd say this to my conservative friends: Look, I understand that you hate Al Sharpton, and his involvement in this case just waves a red flag in your face. But ask yourselves, do you really want to do this? Do you realize what you're saying?
Who knows, maybe they do.
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