Throwing some of George Zimmerman's most memorable words back in his face, Charlie Pierce predicts stardom for the killer of Trayvon Martin:
... there will be the victory tour on Fox. And the inevitable book deal. There will be the long career as a hero to the people in the communities that feel themselves besieged by assholes and fucking punks in their hoodies. There will be a long, lovely ride surfing the strange and wonderful celebrity that will befall him now because he stood up to the people who defend the rights of asshoes and fucking punks to walk in their hoodies through neighborhoods where they don't belong, according to him, George Zimmerman, American hero.Zimmerman is already a hero of a sort to a certain segment of the public, which thinks he did absolutely the right thing and got crucified for it. But for him to become a real right-wing rock star, I think he's going to have to own his hatred of Trayvon Martin. He's going to have to go out in public and boast of what he did. He's going to have to do things like show up at Ted Nugent shows waving his gun in sync with Ted waving one of his, in a sort of NRA version of the twin-guitar attack. He's going to have to be defiant.
He hasn't looked that way through the trial. He's looked sheepish. Yeah, he won, and the wingnut population of America likes the fact that liberals' and African-Americans' faces were rubbed in the verdict, but he doesn't come off as having rubbed our faces in it, just because he looked cowed during the trial. Right-wingers want him to seem angry.
I'm thinking he won't do what right-wingers want. The press is running stories about how he's likely to live in fear now. CNN's is titled "Zimmerman a Free Man, but May Be a Marked Man":
... one of his attorneys, Mark O'Mara, has said that Zimmerman is a marked man and lives in fear for his life.A Boston Globe story is even more overheated:
In fact, during court proceedings, Zimmerman didn't disclose where he had been residing for more than a year, and he dared to venture outdoors only when in disguise. Zimmerman also wore body armor.
"I believe his life is at risk, and I don't say that for dramatic effect," O'Mara said before the verdict. "There are a lot of people who think George killed Trayvon Martin for racial reasons, even though nothing supports that. And if they feel that anger enough, they could react violently."
Security experts and crisis management pros say the former neighborhood watch volunteer must immediately get a security plan in place. This could involve hiring an expensive team of bodyguards or consultants who will assess whether the threats against him are credible.No, really, this guy is serious. (Me, I think Zimmerman just has to move to an all-white exurb in a deep red state that hasn't voted Democrat since LBJ. He'll be welcome, and nothing will happen to him.)
Richard Davis, the operations director for The Bodyguard Group of Beverly Hills, said that if Zimmerman were to hire his firm, he would have a stable of former Navy SEALS and Special Forces guards looking out for his safety around the clock. They would relocate him to a safe home (probably in a large city where he can blend into a busy community), quietly file court paperwork to change his name and create a "protective bubble."
"No one enters the bubble," said Davis, whose company has provided security for A-list celebrities and politicians. "It moves with you."
Davis described what he thinks is the optimal security plan for someone in Zimmerman's situation: a big team of guards for the initial few weeks following the verdict, a cross-country move, and an armored car. Restaurants would have to be pre-screened, exercise would have to be done in a home gym and a trip to the movies would be out of the question.
"You can't go in that store alone, you can't go to the movies ever, unless you rent out the whole theater for yourself," he said. "A movie theater is a death trap."
Zimmerman is also being advised not to leap into a publicity tour -- a "crisis public relations manager" tells CNN, "He's got to be careful to avoid the appearance of creating more divisions by accepting money or support openly from groups that maybe that would create more friction because of the tenor of this case" -- which is pretty much everyone who backs him -- while Jonathan Bernstein, another professional crisis manager, offers this advice in the Globe:
"If he’s doing a book deal, he should keep it quiet, and don't come out with a book in a hurry," said Bernstein, adding that he would advise Zimmerman not to speak to the news media in either paid or unpaid appearances.If this is the conventional wisdom, I think he's going to follow it. I don't think he's going to do a big, triumphant victory lap.
"The more you talk, the more you are a target," he said. "The court has spoken for him. The best thing he could possibly do is go below the radar."
The person he reminds me of is Bernhard Goetz, the 1980s vigilante who shot four young men he said were attempting to mug him on the New York subway in 1984. He was acquitted on attempted murder charges, although he did serve eight months on a weapons charge. He subsequently lost a civil suit -- as Zimmerman might -- and was ordered to pay one victim $43 million. (It's not clear how much of that he's actually paid.)
Goetz hasn't exactly been a celebrity, even though plenty of people, here and across the country, thought he was a hero. Like Zimmerman, he seems like a frightened guy who was also a coiled spring. He did something a lot of people approved of, but they didn't idealize him personally, probably because he didn't make much effort to make people admire him.
Goetz gets interviewed every so often and comes off as a sad eccentric. He ran for mayor in 2001 and finished eighth, with 0.1% of the vote. The guy from the Marijuana Reform Party got twice as many votes as Goetz. Even Kenny Kramer, the inspiration for Kramer on Seinfeld, got more votes than Goetz. Goetz's big issue? Vegetarianism.
I think that's Zimmerman's future -- being a sad man who briefly became a hero to angry people for doing a horrible thing, but who, fortunately, will never fully exploit the situation.