First off, let me say that I wasn't emotionally invested in the verdict from this trial. I was interested from an analytical standpoint, but wasn't going to be angry if there was a conviction or not. There is so much more going on with this case than the legal aspects of the trial and that caught my interest.
The most dismaying thing I've learned, or perhaps had reinforced, is how many of my friends have a very strong opinion on this matter while choosing to be willfully ignorant of most of the actual details of the case itself. Comments such as:
"out and out abbrogation of justice"
"Zimmerman's attorney is seriously the worst fucking lawyer I have ever seen. I need him disbarred."
"Florida you're system is fucked and your people are brainwashed."
Add to that a number of comments calling out the travesty of Florida's stand your ground law I saw on various feeds. You know, the law that was never actually called into question or used as a defense. Mind you, I don't have any issue with people not agreeing with the verdict. But no one I saw who was outspoken about the verdict was so based on the actual trial. I didn't see any comments about the forensic evidence, evidence that existed but wasn't used by the prosecution, or evidence of misconduct by the defense. Instead I saw a lot of talking points that were promoted by various media companies, some which are outright propaganda.
Educated and intelligent people in this country chose to believe propaganda rather than taking a moment to research an issue and draw their own opinions based on the facts available today. There has been no other time in the history of the world when information has been so easily available, yet people choose to not bother. That's dismaying to me.
We learned that you can manufacture outrage with a PR firm. For those who followed the story we know that it didn't make national press until Martin's parents hired a PR firm. The 4 year old photo of Martin and the fact he had Skittles in his pocket, the lightened photo of Zimmerman that makes him look white instead of Hispanic and the general description of the event all came from a PR firm hired by Martin's family. In fact, Zimmerman was originally released by the police without charges because the police didn't think there was evidence to prosecute. In retrospect, it looks like that was the right call by the police department.
Another group of friends was sure there was going to be riots in every city. They read it in the news, so it must be true! I'll certainly admit that there was a higher chance of demonstrations and even demonstrations getting out of hand, but in general riots aren't advertised ahead of time. They grow organically. The very fact all the news outlets were talking about riots made me think they were very unlikely to happen. But a group of friends could not be convinced, they were certain the sky was going to fall.
I learned that people only believe in a cause when it's trendy. In my city there have been dozens of black males murdered so far this year, and there will likely be dozens more murdered before the year is out. Yet, I don't hear an outcry from the populace regarding those. Less than half of all violent crimes reported in this country result in conviction of a guilty party and in urban areas the rate is often less than 30%. In Detroit right now it's 8%. Where is the outrage against that? It's happening every day. Suddenly people care because it's in the news. Sadly, in 3 months the endemic problems will continue, but no one will care because it's not trendy.
Lastly I learned that government agencies continue to be used as weapons against people who are unpopular with whoever is in charge of those agencies. That's the downside to having a very large government, they are only as honorable as the people who lead the various portions of them.
Forensic evidence supported Zimmerman's story that Martin was assaulting him while he was pinned. It was enough to convince the jury. But despite that, the media's attempt to portray Zimmerman as a racist, gun-happy wanna-be cop continues. There was a show on NPR this morning where a guest from the NAACP stated ""Zimmerman made it clear he was out to hunt black males.". Wow, that seems to be a serous stretch. The details don't support that. They mention he "carried a gun without a safety" as if that made him Rambo. You know what guns don't have external safeties? All revolvers and many cheap semi-auto pistols, both are very popular for concealed carry. Zimmerman carried a Kel-Tec. Kel-Tec is a good company, but they certainly aren't a top tier company. People buy a Kel-Tec because they have budget constraints and it's good enough. It's nobodies first choice, especially not a mall ninja, which the press asserts Zimmerman was. If he really was a mall ninja he'd carry a HK or whatever the local PD or his favorite special ops team uses. He carried a Kel-Tec because he's an occasional shooter who bought something cheap as a carry gun. His choice in that gun tells me that about him.
Increasingly people believe the tales told to them by the giant media companies. It's a dire place to be in as a country. We have the tools readily available, there's no reason to no be well informed. Too often the stories we see or read on popular sites are propaganda. If you get all your news from sources like Fox, MSNBC or Huffpo (or honestly, most large media companies) it's going to contain a fair bit of propaganda. It's up to you whether you choose to believe it or choose to be more informed.