In 1987 when I was but a pup newspaperman, Tom Wolfe’s classic “Bonfire of the Vanities” captured Al Sharpton’s race circus antics in the person of the novel’s fictional Reverend Reginald Bacon, a New York race huckster exploiting a complex crime scene for racial purposes. Wolfe’s novel was remarkably prescient about events that unfolded that same year as Sharpton became a household name for his accusations that a mob of cops led by New York assistant DA Steve Pagones had raped a black teenager, Tawana Brawley. What Wolfe brilliantly displayed in fiction was not only the race hustler’s tactics but also his use of a willing media.
Twenty-five years later, not much has changed.
Sharpton, now a national figure and employed by the same broadcast media that made him famous, travels the country – not just New York – looking for cases that fit his race theater. Like Sharpton shows before it – Goetz, Brawley, Crown Heights (“Kill the Jews! Kill the Jews!” ranted Sharptons’ mob before an innocent Jew, Yankel Rosenbaum, was killed) – the facts of the Trayvon Martin case have little relation to Al Sharpton & MSM’s narrative. But they make great theater, and rally Sharpton’s base from Orlando to Detroit
Hyped by the Sharpton Playbill as a white guy shooting a baby-faced teen in cold blood, the reality of the Martin case is that George Zimmerman is a Hispanic neighborhood watchman in a diverse neighborhood who got in a confrontation with a tall, troubled, black 17-year old. Zimmerman says – with alleged witness support – that he took a life to save his own.
Given Sharpton’s past, the MSM should be wary. Instead, much of the media have parroted Sharpton’s lines – their coverage a shameful display of journalistic malpractice. From NBC to ABC to CNN, reporters and anchors have refused to provide context, doctored transcripts, and stuck to a race narrative – contradicted by facts – by inventing the “white-Hispanic” adjective for Zimmerman (was Barack Obama the first “white-African” president?).
Like alleged-rapist Steve Pagones before him, George Zimmerman has been tried and convicted in the media. Sentence first, verdict later. Now comes the trial. The facts should now determine Zimmerman’s fate – and, like Sharpton’s accusation against Yosuf Hawkins’ attackers in Bensonhurst, that may mean a verdict of guilty. Or, as in the case of Steve Pagones, innocent. The Brawley grand jury fined Sharpton $350,000 and he was branded a liar by the court for his outrageous conduct.
Sharpton refused to pay the fine and, to this day, claims that Brawley was raped. He threatened violence after the Brawley verdict and will threaten the same if Zimmerman isn’t hung. The show must go on.