'Guns will get you into more trouble than they will ever get you out of'
October 1, 2014 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Soon after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin more than two years ago, George's loyal family learned that sharing his name meant sharing the blame. It also meant a surreal new life filled with constant paranoia, get- rich-quick schemes, and lots and lots of guns. Amanda Robb meets the Zimmerman family and finds out what it's like being related to the most hated free man in America.
posted by almostmanda (85 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
If Robert Zimmerman is having so much trouble leading a normal life, maybe he should consider changing his last name. For some reason I'm thinking "Dylan."
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:44 AM on October 1, 2014 [28 favorites]


"I learn a lot from watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians," Robert told me. "Like, use the shit you've got." One idea was for George to be the focus of a Candid Camera-style program. One episode, for example, might feature a professor teaching a class about self-defense, and at the end of the episode it would be revealed—surprise!—that George was one of the students.

I didn't think anyone could be as despicable as George Zimmerman, but his brother is sure giving him a run for his money.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:47 AM on October 1, 2014 [18 favorites]


I didn't think anyone could be as despicable as George Zimmerman, but his brother is sure giving him a run for his money.

Based on that quote alone (I haven't finished the article yet) he sounds like a deliberate and hilarious troll.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:49 AM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


There is no surer sign of Mr. Zimmerman's lack of intelligence than his failure to parlay his notoriety into Wingnut Welfare. The man is a hero to 30% or more of the country, and hell, he could still become president of the NRA or a permanent guest on FOX, a la G.Gordon Liddy or Ollie North - both convicted felons, I might add.

And it's not as though it takes a lot of brains - witness Sarah Palin's persistent presence in media - but Mr. Zimmerman has neither her balls nor her bravery. Can you adhere to an ideology and pronounce "Obama" as "Obummabungholelolol" ? Then you win! Those morons will trip over themselves to throw money at you. Conservatives care not for Character or Results. They care that you love guns and hate libotards.

Mr. Zimmerman was too frighted and stupid to be a prince to idiots. It's like he got the winning golden ticket, but he ate it instead of turning it in.

Regardless. Life goes on, and I have a large rock in my back yard. I would like to invite Mr. Zimmerman to come die under it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:49 AM on October 1, 2014 [68 favorites]


They watched the movie Argo to learn how to live like CIA.

This is so I don't know what the
posted by localroger at 9:51 AM on October 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Pogo, Pogo, Pogo. . . These are facts. Tell us how you feel.
posted by General Tonic at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


On further reading... is this article a joke? This seems too bonkers to be real.

We can't travel together that day—it's like having the whole royal family travel together!"
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:54 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe he should try wearing a hoodie.
posted by spitbull at 9:54 AM on October 1, 2014 [39 favorites]


Maybe he should apply to GoFundMe to claim his bounty, as have Darren Wilson and others. They seem to lack any moral compass whatsoever, they're sure to help him out.

After all, he'll need it for the inevitable next time he threatens and/or shoots somebody.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:55 AM on October 1, 2014


They also memorized a color-coded threat-ID system. Code blue: Law enforcement at the door. Code brown: Draw your weapons. Code black: Come out guns blazing.

real subtle, guys
posted by theodolite at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2014 [42 favorites]


Can you adhere to an ideology and pronounce "Obama" as "Obummabungholelolol" ?

If we're being honest, that second one is actually sort of tricky.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:59 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


"(Robert) had a great time doing the show and an even better one afterward over drinks with fellow guest Donna Brazile, an African-American political operative who managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. "I miss black people!" he told her."

Too bad his brother can't say the same.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 10:00 AM on October 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think George Zimmerman is definitely stupid...but I don't think the situation is analogous to Sara Palin. As odious as she is, she didn't kill someone. I don't know if his parading around as a public racist hero makes a lot of sense or would work in the same way.
posted by sweetkid at 10:01 AM on October 1, 2014


Atom Eyes: “I didn't think anyone could be as despicable as George Zimmerman, but his brother is sure giving him a run for his money.”

That certainly didn't sound despicable to me. It just sounded ridiculous. It just sounded a bit silly, and likely somewhat self-consciously silly. If anything, Robert Jr is the most interesting and likeable of the bunch.
posted by koeselitz at 10:04 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Most hated free man in America"

I get where this is coming from, but I'd be interested in the numbers. Something tells me that the numbers would show the vast majority have no idea who he is or have an opinion on him one way or the other. Just completely pulling it out of my ass, I'd guess that at least 2/3 of the country has either no knowledge or no strong opinion about him either way.

Just quick googling shows some claimed poll which shows Donald Sterling as the most hated man in America, with Zimmerman not cracking the top 10:
Donald Sterling
Bernie Madoff
O.J. Simpson
Conrad Murray
Justin Bieber
Phil Spector
Aaron Hernandez
Michael Lohan
Eliot Spitzer
Jon Gosselin
That poll is very strange to me, because I have no opinion on most of the people on that list and struggle to think why people have such strong opinions on them. But it also suggests that current events drive such lists--a year from now, Sterling won't be on that list at all. In that light, it isn't surprising to me Zimmerman was no longer on the list.

But, again, I wonder about absolute numbers. If you are really wondering who is the one person that the most people will say "I hate that person", you are are probably talking about a politician and probably the President (no matter who that is). Whether it be Clinton, Bush or Obama, there will be a larger number (>30%) of the people who are such partisan jagoffs that they'll claim they hate the president, and given the name recognition, that will probably net the largest absolute numbers. Of course, the president is probably also on the most loved lists for the same reason.
posted by dios at 10:07 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


every part of this story is insane, but what really takes the cake is the exaggerated headline
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:22 AM on October 1, 2014


I do like to reiterate that George Zimmerman is a *child killer.* That's how he needs to be remembered and described. He wasn't convicted of murder, but there's no doubt he killed a kid. Trayvon was a boy. So let's make sure that "child killer' is attached to his name for all of searchable posterity.
posted by spitbull at 10:22 AM on October 1, 2014 [62 favorites]


And it's not as though it takes a lot of brains - witness Sarah Palin's persistent presence in media - but Mr. Zimmerman has neither her balls nor her bravery.

Palin - love her or hate her - you have to admit Palin is at least capable of making and executing a basic plan. It's not trivial to get elected Governor.

Zimmerman, in multiple example, shows a distinct lack of ability to plan ahead. You're going to go around as a vigilante policeman in your neighbourhood and chase dudes down with your gun? How the fuck is that going to end? It doesn't take a genius to see that his actions were going to result in someone getting shot. And yet somehow it never seemed to occur to him.

The man lacks higher-order reasoning capacity. The banality of evil, etc.
posted by GuyZero at 10:48 AM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


George would have suffered in prison, but likely been offered the protection of a cable news media celebrity with a supposed bounty on his head. His family could probably stay in the home they're paying mortgage on.

Because he and his legal team and his family and his supporters decided to fight the case aggressively in and out of court, he suffers still. His family suffers still. Everyone would have been better off if there was some, *any* sort of justice for Trayvon.

Robert comes off as sympathetic here, and while he and his family do have real struggles and worries (as well as some that seem positively paranoid) his presence on social media and in cable news before, during, and after the trial was full of racist dogwhistling that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars towards George Zimmerman ' s defense, so I have little sympathy.
posted by elr at 10:48 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


They drove to a Chick-fil-A to figure out their next move.
Well, of course they did.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:06 AM on October 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


I do like to reiterate that George Zimmerman is a *child killer.*

Child is a loaded word. I'd put puberty as an end point for childhood. IANAL, but if this is anything to go by, under 14 is legally a child. Sounds about right.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:07 AM on October 1, 2014


Didn't George Zimmerman, murderer of an African-American minor, make some considerable quick cash selling American flag-themed "art"? That was his end-around for the Go Fund Me mode of cashing in from affluent racists.
posted by GrapeApiary at 11:27 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I learn a lot from watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians," Robert told me.
Oh, Georgie's got bigger problems than that. They better look to the Fords.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:32 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I get where this is coming from, but I'd be interested in the numbers. Something tells me that the numbers would show the vast majority have no idea who he is or have an opinion on him one way or the other. Just completely pulling it out of my ass, I'd guess that at least 2/3 of the country has either no knowledge or no strong opinion about him either way.

The English mathematician Charles Babbage, who conceived programmable computation, wrote to the young poet Tennyson. "In your otherwise beautiful poem," he said, "one verse reads,
Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.
" ... If this were true," he went on, "the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death. I would suggest [that the next edition of your poem should read]:
Every moment dies a man,
Every moment 1 1/16 is born.
"Strictly speaking," Babbage added, "the actual figure is so long I cannot get it into a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."
posted by kewb at 11:33 AM on October 1, 2014 [23 favorites]


how many of me reveals there are 95,000 people with the last name of zimmerman in the us

all they have to do is to avoid the media and when questioned, if ever, say "i'm not related"

how hard is that?
posted by pyramid termite at 11:38 AM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


I side with Tennyson. Either 1 or 2 is born every moment, nothing in between.
posted by maggieb at 11:41 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


What is really striking about the Zimmerman clan isn't their stupidity so much as how much of their worldview is informed by TV and movies. There are people, any number of whom would probably offer their services for free to the Zimmermans just to support the team, who know actual real-world strategies for evaluating and countering the kind of threats they're afraid of. But they get all of their information from cop and spy shows and reality TV. It doesn't even seem to have occurred them to look for expert help.

Of course they think the world is bristling with guns aimed at them, of course they have to be prepared to come out guns blazing themselves or die, of course the authorities and the media are hostile, because that's usually the case in their source material. Of course they have no sense of proportion because the experience they're basing everything on is calibrated to be exciting rather than realistic. They're all on the wrong side of the screen in The Last Action Hero.

This appears to be a deep and pervasive feature of their upbringing, and probably goes far toward explaining why George had a gun with him and why he was so quick to use it in the incident that set all this in motion. In the Zimmermans' world only decisive violent action can save you from the many threats waiting to take you down.
posted by localroger at 11:57 AM on October 1, 2014 [63 favorites]


I think localroger is on to something. I am amazed at the number of people I come across who don't seem to realize that movies and tv shows are "just movies and tv shows" and that reality shows are not real.
posted by wittgenstein at 12:07 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


They should just suck it up and move. It's harder these days to outrun your reputation, but not impossible.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:08 PM on October 1, 2014


When I read the quotes from Robert Zimmerman I picture a not-lovable version of Andy Dwyer playing FBI agent Burt Macklin.
posted by pibeandres at 12:29 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh no, are they being hassled for no reason just because of what someone else did?
posted by Legomancer at 12:40 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't bring myself to care about Robert Zimmerman, but I have a lot of sympathy for their mother. I wonder also what her own life experiences have been like, especially in Peru, before she came here. This whole thing is just kind of awful and sad and terrible.
posted by corb at 12:40 PM on October 1, 2014


What is really striking about the Zimmerman clan isn't their stupidity so much as how much of their worldview is informed by TV and movies. There are people, any number of whom would probably offer their services for free to the Zimmermans just to support the team, who know actual real-world strategies for evaluating and countering the kind of threats they're afraid of. But they get all of their information from cop and spy shows and reality TV. It doesn't even seem to have occurred them to look for expert help.

This is one of the more disturbing aspects of what I've been seeing in the culture at large: a lot of people don't seem to be getting very much in the way of a diversity of real-world experiences and are relying too heavily instead on their impressions of how the world works as informed by the simulated experiences of life they've seen depicted in television and movies.

There's a good solid scientific basis for the idea that, at a certain level, the raw stuff of the brain can't really distinguish between simulated events and real ones. Consciously, we tell ourselves we know the difference, but in terms of the body's stress responses, we really don't. A scary noise in a movie feels the same as a scary noise in real life and can trigger exactly the same kinds of sympathetic responses as the real deal, so it's not much of a stretch to think we might be conditioning ourselves to have unrealistic beliefs and expectations about life by watching too much simulated life, mistaking simulated events down at the unconscious biological level for real experience and real learning.

Primates--and humans especially--learn first by rote imitation. If you have kids, you know just how literal the truism "monkey see, monkey do" can be. I suspect we learn by imitating first most of the time, and only after we've mastered a behavior through rote imitation, do we begin reflecting on its meaning or thinking about what we're doing more deeply, if ever.

So if we're effectively being socialized in a fake, make-believe world of simulated experiences much of the time now, what developmental consequences would/should we expect to see? I'd like to think it might be possible to formulate these ideas as a testable hypothesis, but I'm not sure how you'd construct an ethical version of an experiment to probe it (even though, in practice, we're all living inside such an experiment on a large scale right now).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:53 PM on October 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


Infamy is fascinating and it's disappointing the Zimmerman clan didn't parlay this into something more disgusting and self-serving. Because people would eat it up like there's no tomorrow. Instead they do stupid things - like this gratis exposé for GQ.

Paula Deen's got this shit nailed down. It's too bad she didn't kill anyone.

Matt Lauer: "So what did you learn this past year?"
Paula Deen: "Oh my gawd, I learned so much. I think it's going to require a book."
Matt: "So... what did you learn?"
Paula: "Oh Lawrd, you'll just have to watch the documentary we are producing."

Fucking black belt.
posted by phaedon at 1:00 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Reading this article is mostly giving me a sense of fear and paranoia of media and mobs. Not just of what they can do directly, but of psychological effects.

I mean, George Zimmerman did some tutoring of youths (including black youths), protested against police for homeless black people before, but because of this murder (which probably showed, uh, quite a few of his mental weaknesses which probably included internalized racism), he's turned into a massive racist and has a ruined family and romantic life, as far as I can tell from the article.

...well, it's probably not that different from anyone and anyone's situation after a murder. I just really fucking hate people that directly threaten others because of incidents, whether it be the people themselves (Zoe Quinn is heavily in my mind, and it's a bit disheartening that she gets a response like that of a murderer) or their families (Zelda Williams).
posted by halifix at 1:14 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Feel free to correct me if I've got some warped knowledge. I mostly picked this up through reading wikipedia and linked articles, and popular opinion on Zimmerman.
posted by halifix at 1:20 PM on October 1, 2014


Paula Deen's got this shit nailed down. It's too bad she didn't kill anyone.

She's pretty handy with those knives. How do we know she didn't?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2014


Of course they think the world is bristling with guns aimed at them

Not just people - evil black people! The New Black Panthers! That's definitely some fucked up worldview that I agree comes "from cop and spy shows and reality TV" and Fox news.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:27 PM on October 1, 2014


Did you really just compare Zoe Quinn to George Zimmerman I can't even holy fucking shit.
posted by emptythought at 1:31 PM on October 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


That's definitely some fucked up worldview that I agree comes "from cop and spy shows and reality TV" and Fox news.

Sounds like it's mainly Fox News. Dunno if they watched it before or not, but afterwards Fox was the only media outlet that supported their son, so they stuck with it and fell into a vortex of paranoia.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:47 PM on October 1, 2014


George Zimmerman, murderer of an African-American minor,

Again, be careful with words. Murder is a legal charge. He was acquitted of murder. He is guilty of homicide, but that wasn't the charge, and doesn't necessarily carry a criminal penalty.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:53 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Again, be careful with words.

Why would anyone want to lend any more authority to that jury than they already misused?
posted by griphus at 2:26 PM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fuck that. I am not a lawyer or a judge and this is not a court. I can say that Zimmerman murdered a black kid. Because he did. And he doesn't deny it. He just thinks he had a really good reason to murder a black kid.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:27 PM on October 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


The Zimmermans already owned a lot of guns—at least ten altogether, between Grace and her fiancé, her two brothers, and her parents. Still, Grace bought herself a new Taurus pistol.

Ten guns for six people isn't "a lot of guns". That's fewer than two guns per person. What a silly article. At least its biases are plain to see.
posted by jingzuo at 2:29 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


How many guns is "a lot of guns"?
posted by griphus at 2:34 PM on October 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


IndigoJones, Roy Bryant murdered Emmett Till, despite a racist jury declaring him innocent. George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, despite a racist jury declaring him innocent.

I will say it again and again. Murderer. Murderer. Murderer.
posted by tavella at 2:37 PM on October 1, 2014 [17 favorites]


Any discussion of Zimmerman and his family is incomplete without an explicit consideration of institutional and cultural racism. Blame (or shameful praise) for individuals comes easy. Critically examining the implicit ways our society devalues black lives isn't, but it's necessary if anything's going to change.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:38 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Why would anyone want to lend any more authority to that jury than they already misused?

The problem wasn't the jury; all they had was a he-said/nobody-said, because the other person is dead. Witnesses said they saw a scuffle and heard an argument but couldn't confirm or deny Zimmerman's story. Because of this, the jury didn't have any way to know beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman's self-defense claim was bogus. Even a charge of manslaughter can't survive a self-defense claim. (I do wish the prosecution had offered up a lesser charge that had some chance of sticking.)

The problem is the fact that he had a gun at all. The problem is the fact that Florida lets someone carry around a concealed weapon as long as they take a class. The problem is that Florida allowed him to instigate a confrontation in which he knew he could shoot the other guy if things went south.
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:38 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I imagine a lot of guns is like a lot of cats. The general rule for cats is no more than two cats per person or you're a crazy cat person. If you have more than two guns per person, you are gun nuts.

The same rule applies to bullets.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:39 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


emptythought: “Did you really just compare Zoe Quinn to George Zimmerman I can't even holy fucking shit.”

Come on now – "it's a bit disheartening that [Zoe Quinn] gets a response like that of a murderer [George Zimmerman]" seems like a pretty fair-minded comparison, doesn't it?
posted by koeselitz at 2:40 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yes, because anything up to four guns per person is entirely reasonable; what else do you have four limbs for, right?

For comparison, estimated gun ownership rates (including illegal weapons) in the UK are about 6.8 per 100 inhabitants.
posted by Jakob at 2:41 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you have more than two guns per person, you are gun nuts.

By that standard, I hope you don't like hunting. You are aware that you use different guns for hunting different things, right?
posted by corb at 2:42 PM on October 1, 2014


i don't know - how many guns does she have?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:42 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


By that standard, I hope you don't like hunting.

As long as we are hunting to make sure that there are no more than two deer per person. I don't want to be labeled as "buck wild."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:44 PM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


By that standard, I hope you don't like hunting. You are aware that you use different guns for hunting different things, right?

George Zimmerman seems to mostly be hunting people. Do you need different guns to kill children and grown-ups, or does it more vary by the color of their skin?
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:47 PM on October 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


Two people meet. Legally, neither of them do anything wrong, and neither of them were going to do anything wrong, yet one of them was shot to death by the other. If it had turned out the other way there'd be an even stronger self-defense claim, since some guy came up and pulled a gun on him.

A lot of the loud pro-gun people talk about the benefits of good guys with guns. The problem is that you're only a good guy with a gun in your own mind. To everyone else you're just a guy with a gun.
posted by ckape at 2:50 PM on October 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


"I learn a lot from watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians,"

wut
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:52 PM on October 1, 2014


Some positive, semi-related news: Michael Dunn was found guilty of first-degree murder today.
posted by theodolite at 2:55 PM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


That's fewer than two guns per person

right? how are we supposed to walk out of the house with guns in both hands, all side gripped like badasses, when there's a code black?
posted by Hoopo at 3:17 PM on October 1, 2014


For comparison, estimated gun ownership rates (including illegal weapons) in the UK are about 6.8 per 100 inhabitants.

Wait, so you're telling me that in the UK that 100 people have to share just enough guns for a single person!?
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:29 PM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Come on now – "it's a bit disheartening that [Zoe Quinn] gets a response like that of a murderer [George Zimmerman]" seems like a pretty fair-minded comparison, doesn't it?

I don't think I was trolling by reading it as saying it was unfortunate he got this response, just like it was unfortunate she got a similar response.

The difference is that he actually did something to provoke it rather than just being attacked. It's like being annoyed someone is being shamed and punished for drunk driving(even if they were acquited) whereas someone else is just stalked and harassed to the same level by the community.

He did something extremely malicious, and I think that even bringing her harassment up as a "similar issue" is trite and tasteless even if you try and prequalify it with her not deserving it. It serves to shore up your point that he somehow DOESN'T deserve this harassment.

I don't actually understand how someone could think this harassment was unjust and think that the ferguson protests were. especially since so much of this "harassment" seems to be made up "code black" shit in their heads they're imagining from tv.

So yea, I really think I am not out of line being offended at that comparison. It's just inherent, viscerally tasteless and offensive in every way to me. And I think it's intended to do something quite dirty.
posted by emptythought at 3:29 PM on October 1, 2014


As I wrote to my friends when they passed this around: Christ, what a pack of assholes.

I am, however, also envisioning some kind of wacky crossover event with the Zimmermans in their undisclosed location house and the Queen of Versailles people.
posted by TwoStride at 3:35 PM on October 1, 2014


Child is a loaded word.

Damn right it is. Especially when you kill one with a loaded gun.
posted by spitbull at 3:50 PM on October 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


Michael Dunn was found guilty of first-degree murder today.

Good. Would that every murderer of a black child was convicted thusly. Jordan Davis, however, is still dead.

But at least no one can object when we call Michael Dunn a murderer now.
posted by spitbull at 3:52 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Some positive, semi-related news: Michael Dunn was found guilty of first-degree murder today.

Oh my god. Reading that article and this thread was worth it to learn this, which I had not heard earlier.

The Dunn shooting was mentioned here when it happened in one of the original Trayvon Martin threads. The hung jury on the murder charge was so insane and I am just so goddam relieved that the Florida courts got it right finally. Not, I think, that it will make a difference to Dunn--he was already in prison for life, right?--but, for Jordan Davis's family.

Dunn actually thought he was going to be cleared and then get rich off a civil suit against the state of Florida (or the prosecutor, or the Davises, or someone?). Which makes the story even more relevant to the FPP, I guess. That man is utterly deluded, paranoid, and a menace.
posted by torticat at 3:57 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


George Zimmerman seems to mostly be hunting people.

Even if we grant that - does that mean that everyone who happens to share genetic material with him automatically must too?
posted by corb at 4:20 PM on October 1, 2014


"Before Ferguson: America’s disturbing legacy of white supremacy and guns"
The moment we are in is not unlike the fear-mongering times of Reconstruction or the countercultural shifts of the civil rights era. America is in a pivotal place of transition from predominantly white to increasingly black, brown and mixed race. From a nation of men controlling power to one with more women claiming a seat at the table. From a nation of heteronormativity to that of multi-ethnic, gay and blended families.

For the NRA, officer Darren Wilson, George Zimmerman and others like them, the gun is what Berry calls “a symbol of their ability to correct people and perpetuate their idea of what America means, which does not include black people.” However, equal protection under the law is the first step to dismantling our addiction to guns and unnecessary violence. It’s not just about lone gunmen or the emotionally disturbed or rogue cops; it’s about a legacy of white supremacy and guns.
posted by audi alteram partem at 4:36 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Even if we grant that - does that mean that everyone who happens to share genetic material with him automatically must too?

If only someone had written an article about the family and their relationship with guns! Then we could read it and have some idea of whether the family are avid hunters or just shoot people and think about shooting more.

It might say things like: The Zimmermans rarely venture out of that small house in central Florida. They are isolated and bored. They pass the time caring for Gladys's mom and watching Spanish-language telenovelas and Duck Dynasty and Real Housewives and Fox News. Which would indicate that they weren't hunters. It might mention their obsessive self-defense strategies, like "Keep a weapon close by at all times. Robert slept with his gun." and never mention hunting once, even in passing. Family members might scream "We need to get guns!" and go and buy pistols - terrible for most hunting situations. They might walk around "carr[ying] a backpack filled with handguns". They might say "if FBI agents come and kick in his door, he's probably gonna shoot a few of them."

Yes, if someone had written an article about the family, then we wouldn't have to have idiotic baseless conjecture that maybe they have a bunch of guns because they love hunting, rather than because they are living in a paranoid movie fantasy and planning to shoot people.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:47 PM on October 1, 2014 [26 favorites]


halifix: “Reading this article is mostly giving me a sense of fear and paranoia of media and mobs. Not just of what they can do directly, but of psychological effects.”

I am not sure you read this article closely, or even through to the end. It's worth following along - this is from the second page:

“The New Black Panthers? They never came knocking. The Internet threats? Just empty words, lobbed from a distance. That time a Publix employee recognized George and refused to make him a sandwich? The time Robert was almost beaten up in a Starbucks? Nothing actually happened, so it's hard to know if the threat was real or imagined...

“Maybe George's relatives are right about the risk to their lives—maybe it still exists as much as it ever did. Or maybe it's just a way for the Zimmermans to feel as if they still matter. Maybe their paranoia, and all the rules and routines that it requires, just gives them something to do.”


If George Zimmerman and his family were threatened, that's awful. But as dios and others have pointed out in this thread – as the article itself points out – America has pretty much moved on, and people stopped caring, mostly, a while ago. Because I guess it's trying to be fair, the article poses this as a question: are they really under the threat they imagine? I don't think it's an open question, though. There is no way that carrying a backpack of handguns or pretending that you're in Argo is at all warranted, considering the Zimmermans' situation.

Maybe you're saying that this is necessarily what happens to people who become famous in this way – but I don't really buy that. People have acted differently in the past.

And I'm a guy who really, really hates internet mobs. Still – this level of paranoia is never warranted. It certainly isn't warranted now.
posted by koeselitz at 4:58 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


the article poses this as a question: are they really under the threat they imagine?

I'm not aware of any threat on twitter that included Zimmerman's address. Or the river of actual threats others have had to endure that were directed to them, personally and publicly.

One might discern from the fact that Anita Sarkeesian does not have a backpack full of "babies" that she is either more secure and brave than Chickenshit McChildshooter or that she is far more foolish than he is.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:41 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not aware of any threat on twitter that included Zimmerman's address.

From the article, it sounds like two of their locations might have been doxxed, and the parents' house is a matter of public record which is why they aren't there.

I really don't doubt that their fears and reactions aren't legitimately felt. One of the things which has disturbed me for a while about a certain brand of media is how it leverages on scaring people; it's easier for me to spot it on the Right with the focus on guns, but the media which motivates people to not use vaccines, or to use or not use a given product, etc... is equally fear based.

Culturally, it seems like in general the idea that people should be motivated by a combination of fear and shame is pretty pervasive. I honestly wonder how much of it has to do with how one is disciplined as a child, as my response to a lot of fear-motivation is anger and resistance, likely due to my early ethical interactions with beating people (not me) and my contempt for that as a form of discipline even while I recognize it's perverse motivating factor (I didn't act to protect my older brother because I was afraid that would inspire my father to beat me. Thankfully, the last time he beat my brother was when I was three or four, but my experiences on the side of that have informed who I am).

My mom, who took over discipline, was an explainer - which means shame was a much stronger "form of discipline*" - however her responses to things were frequently orthogonal to the idea of punishment. We got consequences, and they often directly related to what we did that she didn't want us to do.
"Acting out" (I was a violent child) led to therapy and redirection, not punishment. At the same time, she was encouraging us to think about the media we were consuming and what people were telling us; my cut my eyeteeth on analysis of Smurfette's role in the Smurfs, though I had no idea what I was doing until decades later. This has led me to have a sort of revulsion to a lot of the "you should be afraid of this thing and do what we say" sort of mindset, but I can see how for someone raised with fear-based discipline this could be completely transparent and even comfortable due to the early exposure to it.

*there are issues with shame as a motivator as well, but fear seems much more relevant in this case.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:06 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aw, c'mon you guys - everybody knows that the correct number of firearms per person is nine.

You put two in ankle holsters, two more in holsters attached your belt (like a cowboy), and two more in shoulder holsters that fit up under your coat (like a TV detective). Then you carry the shotgun, to stop unexpected close-range threats, and strap the machine gun and sniper rifle (with scope) to your back for easy access in case you need 'em.

I guess you could add a pocket derringer or something, but that seems kind of excessive.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 8:33 PM on October 1, 2014


Hmm. Before I forget, let me state my point: Murderers should not have their privacy (place of residence, phone, etc.) violated.

So earlier, I didn't need to compare it to other harassment situations. That was my bad. I got sidetracked because I feel extremely strongly about all sorts of harassment; other than harassment, these people have completely different situations.

I'm fine with people making opinions on public discussion channels. Be careful with damning statements; people can be held accountable for libel, especially if they have a position with large public influence. As for drunk driving, we should increase the fines for it. Use any increased fine collection to help fund public transportation. Maybe even control alcohol, although I'm imagining a different system where all drugs are legal but restricted. People always have a right to protest in public. They may get arrested for obstruction if they didn't clear it with government channels, but they should not be arrested for protest. People should especially protest if others are fucking with their voting and protesting rights. Just don't threaten people directly in unrelated channels.

In the Hope Solo FPP I talked about how experiences and causes should be analyzed when looking at great (and terrible) feats. It should be done regardless of whether it's a hero, villain, or average citizen. I originally thought George Zimmerman was massively guilty. It took me a while to change that thought, and then I had a lot of questions about media convicting people. I don't think anyone should ever attempt to harass others. Go vote to improve laws and raise awareness instead.
posted by halifix at 8:34 PM on October 1, 2014


I've been thinking a lot about localroger's comment above: Zimmerman lived in a world of TV and movie fantasy. And, dammit, he made me feel sorry for George Zimmerman.

I own a ridiculous number of knives. X-Actos I used as a kid for balsa wood kits. Folding knives, straight knives, hunting knives. Why the hell did I ever buy a balisong? I carried a knife in my pocket for fifty years, until jury duty and metal detectors made me ask myself why. I mean, in real life, I've never used a pocketknife as anything but a boxcutter or envelope opener, so why am I carrying this thing?

Because, to be honest, in the back of my mind, I had this Death Wish/Dirty Harry fantasy that, one day, I will whip out that sharp little boy and defend myself/innocent bystanders/America because I am carrying a tiny folding knife.

I used to live in fantasy all the time. And I lived in terror. Perhaps Zimmerman is not so different than I was, when I was more concerned about protecting myself from people than relating to them.

I still have all my knives. Nostalgia, mostly. The only knife I "carry" now is a compact Leatherman that I keep in my car, mainly because the pliers.
posted by SPrintF at 9:06 PM on October 1, 2014


This appears to be a deep and pervasive feature of their upbringing, and probably goes far toward explaining why George had a gun with him and why he was so quick to use it in the incident that set all this in motion. In the Zimmermans' world only decisive violent action can save you from the many threats waiting to take you down.

Substitute "conservative" for Zimmerman and you've summarized an entire worldview accurately.
posted by maxwelton at 10:14 PM on October 1, 2014


I carried a knife in my pocket for fifty years

I've carried a knife with me more or less every day for decades - even back in grade school as a Boy Scout, in the good old days before kids starting making shivs out of crayons. A knife is a ridiculously useful tool to have in a lot of situations. It's got a lot of uses outside of the realm of self offense.

A handgun on the other hand, doesn't really at all. You could use it as a paperweight or a door stop. Or use it to kill someone - and that's about it. Zimmerman was a useless piece of shit with one gun on his belt. I don't know how he figures he'll be more useful with a backpack full of them.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:05 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman: There's a good solid scientific basis for the idea that, at a certain level, the raw stuff of the brain can't really distinguish between simulated events and real ones.

I'm just reading Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow, where one of his points is that "What You See Is All There Is". It's not the main point, but it's a factor in a whole series of circumstances where decision-making and perception are strongly influenced by a very simple set of relationships.

Meanwhile, FOX News seems to be determined to create their own separate reality.
posted by sneebler at 8:52 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


[Can we please attempt to avoid rehashing every gun conversation that's ever been conducted on Metafilter? Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:06 AM on October 2, 2014


>I will say it again and again. Murderer. Murderer. Murderer.

Well, that's one way to get yourself off jury duty.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:29 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of the things I didn't understand from the article is how they went from a home where guns were frowned upon to having a son patrolling the neighborhood while armed.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:39 PM on October 2, 2014


George Zimmerman will not be prosecuted for a violation of Trayvon Martin's civil rights.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 1:04 PM on October 2, 2014


"how they went from a home where guns were frowned upon"

That's the Zimmermans speaking now about the past, and never exactly frowned upon. I think what they say is rarely tied to reality. Maybe the father intuited early on that his sons were not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Bob Zimmerman also wanted his wife and son to have concealed carry permits, but didn't want to address his own permit situation.

Because of his job, he always owned a gun, but he taught all his kids to stay away from firearms. "If we ever touched or handled a gun," Robert told me at one point, "Dad was gonna beat the shit out of us. Period. He made it absolutely clear, like bare bottoms, you're gonna get the shit beaten out of you. He was always saying, 'Guns will get you into more trouble than they will ever get you out of.' "

As my mother used to say, they talk out of both sides of their mouths.

This article is as disturbing as heck.
posted by readery at 1:32 PM on October 2, 2014


After some consideration and reading, yeah, I actually don't regret mentioning Zoe. She has two major differences: she has come out of the harassment in a much, much stronger fashion than Zimmerman (and probably myself if I were the target of such harassment), and she has not committed any physical/illegal harm. But they are both human, both majorly harassed, and both could use hugs.

I wouldn't trust or befriend him in his current, extremely paranoid state. But before the shooting, he was easily more empathetic and more visibly non-racist than I am. I guess it's ideological differences, but for me, the hate I read is vastly more disgusting than whatever things people say out of not-willful ignorance and reflex. It makes it seem like people are much more sure that they will never commit any errors, even in emotional distress and panic. I definitely do not trust myself to that extent. I'm young, paranoid, and probably emotionally stunted. I may hurt people by being reclusive, but I'd prefer that to letting myself harm people out of hate like that I see online. (And that's a major difference I probably have compared to most civil rights activists. They've taken their experiences and developed far more than I have, and that's wonderful.)
posted by halifix at 6:35 PM on October 3, 2014


I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, but I can guarantee that I will never shoot somebody accidentally or on purpose (as Zimmerman has said that he did) because I have no interest in carrying a gun. And regardless of Zimmerman's past actions and however wonderfully noble you may think his past is, his statements around this event and his behavior on that night show that he, like many of us, carries what may well be unconscious bias against young black men, which in this case was deadly because of his choice to be armed and to patrol the streets as a vigilante.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:43 PM on October 3, 2014


Yes. I've stated in a previous comment that his actions that night very likely revealed internal racial bias. It's also quite reasonable to hate his current self. You can easily guarantee that you would not actually shoot someone, regardless of public charges, and I also would agree that we need a lot better gun control laws.

It's a bit of self-insertion in my part. I may not have had a black best friend, just a black friend. I did not take a black person as a prom date, and as far as I know I have no black relatives. I'm not sure how many black students Zimmerman tutored, and I've never protested police treatment of a homeless black man. I have absolutely nothing that could give me a firm placement of his previous emotional character. It's just that my justice has nothing to do with killing a stranger's sanity in order to punish them. Getting probation, put in a holding cell, getting a restraining order, fine. And it was definitely within rights for the Trayvon family to get this case to court. Voting, protest, and legal actions are my preferred way of acting. Jail should preferably not be a punishment, but seen as a place for recovery, but I don't see that happening in America for a while.

In this case, we know for sure that George killed Martin, because he turned himself to the police and admitted it. Talking about media cases and focusing on character assassination, and then harassing the damn person's family in private, frightens me. There's quite a few cases of death row inmates proven innocent. Sometimes it unfortunately happens after they have been killed. Other times, they are proven innocent and have their life completely shattered.

At the same time, one of the similarities which struck me after I made the comparison to Zoe is that in both cases, people didn't think the targeted, private harassment happened, or that it was focused only on the person and not their family. I guess people are really optimistic here, in that regard.
posted by halifix at 8:28 PM on October 3, 2014


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