The Left, the Right, ‘Smearing,’ and ‘Victims’

by Robert VerBruggen

It’s now a major theme in the liberal press that conservatives — and even the mainstream media — are “smearing” Trayvon Martin by discussing the (growing) body of evidence that he wasn’t the kind, gentle A/B student he was initially presented as. We’re “blaming the victim.”

The problem is that “blaming the victim” requires two things — blaming, and a victim. It’s not clear that either is present here.

As for “blaming,” I have seen almost no conservative commentary — and what I have seen is on the fringes of the blogosphere — asserting that Martin’s past behavior (including his suspension for marijuana, and a disciplinary incident in which he was caught with women’s jewelry and a screwdriver in school) proves that he is worthy of blame in the confrontation with Zimmerman. Rather, these facts are evidence about Martin’s character — and they will and should help determine whether Zimmerman’s story, when it is released in full, sounds plausible.

And as for “victim,” while I think it’s clear that Zimmerman needlessly provoked a confrontation, we still know very little about what happened when the situation became physical. That’s what we’re trying to figure out here. It’s not possible to “blame the victim” while you’re debating whether someone is a victim.

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