Friday, March 08, 2013

We Didn't Start the Fire...

NBC is facing a defamation suit for deliberately altering the recording of George Zimmerman's 911 call to make him look "racist". To recap, the actual recording:

 Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about. 

911 Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic? 

Zimmerman: He looks black.

was "abridged", for time NBC asserts, to this:

 Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

In their response, NBC is asking a judge to stay the case until the misinformation campaign has run its course and Zimmerman is safely locked away:

...if Zimmerman is convicted, that fact alone will constitute substantial evidence that the destruction of his reputation is the result of his own criminal conduct, and not of the broadcasts at issue which, like countless other news resports [sic] disseminated by media entities throughout the country, reported on the underlying events.

If Zimmerman is convicted it will be (indeed, he's only facing trial) largely because of this lynch-mob narrative of which the dishonest edit in question is part and parcel, and which NBC helpfully documents elsewhere in its response:

[N]ewscasts across the country played relevant excerpts from the recording and newspapers and other publications similarly quoted only portions of it. On March 19, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported that “[t]he slaying has dominated social media and national news outlets in the wake of Friday’s release of 911 tapes in the Feb. 26 shooting. On the tapes is Zimmerman’s call to report Martin. ‘He’s got his hand in his waistband and he’s a black male,’ Zimmerman can be heard telling the dispatcher, saying he’s following Martin.”… Similarly, Fox News reported a summary of the call as follows: “On the 911 call, Zimmerman is heard describing Trayvon martin as a black man who appears to be, quote, up to no good and reaching in his pocket.” PBS’s “McLaughlin Group,” in a program taped March 23 and broadcast the weekend of March 23-24, summarized the Call this way:

MCLAUGHLIN: Here’s Zimmerman on the phone reporting to a 911 operator the presence of a suspicious person. (Begin audiotaped segment) 
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: He’s got his hand in his waistband and he’s a black male. 911 OPERATOR: Are you following him?
 MR. ZIMMERMAN: Yeah. 
911 OPERATOR: OK, we don’t need you to do that (End audiotaped segment) 

 Keep in mind their first defense was that it was a "mistake", now that it's a time-edit--the first strains credulity because it's nearly impossible an honest mistake would just so happen to turn an indifferent exchange into a neat narrative fit. The second is no excuse at all--that they edited for time (saving a whole three or four seconds) oblivious or indifferent to an inflammatory alteration of meaning.

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