Friday, April 6, 2012

Trayvon Martin, Hephzibah House, and American Shamelessness

By Tim Dunkin

                By now, the chances are extremely good that if you have a pulse and an EKG reading, you have heard about the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman last month in Sanford, Florida.  And if you are one of that majority of Americans who get most of their information from the mainstream media, the chances are also extremely good that nearly everything you have heard is both factually incorrect and purposefully slanted to support the agendas of various interests on the Left who have been trying to use this event as a springboard to further their political programs.  Even where you may have seen that some element of the Martin shooting story has been walked back by media outlets because it turned out to be untrue, it can be almost guaranteed that the walkback you heard was buried quietly so as to be almost unnoticeable, while the initial untruth was proclaimed loudly and repeatedly.

                The "official" rendition of the story which Americans initially heard about the shooting made quite an impact on the American psyche (as it was designed to do).  If you only listened to the initial story reported in the news media, you would be under the impression that George Zimmerman is some kind of racist vigilante psycho hiding behind the legitimacy of a Neighborhood Watch organization, who stalked an innocent young African-American teenager who happened to wander into the wrong neighborhood, cornered him in an alleyway, and proceeded to shoot him in cold blood.  This was certainly the impression that was made when the story made the national headlines a couple of weeks ago.

                Unfortunately, it's still the delusional impression under which millions of Americans are laboring, either through ignorance and gullibility, or because of a purposeful choice to retain this as their preferred version of events, despite everything we've learned in the intervening days.

                What have we learned about this case?  A lot.  For instance, the reason George Zimmerman, as a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, was keeping tabs on Trayvon Martin that night was because there had been a rash of break-ins in the area in recent weeks, and Martin was acting suspiciously by appearing to be looking into houses whose owners were away.  Also, we've learned that it was Martin who initiated physical contact with George Zimmerman by assaulting him, punching him in the head and continuing to attack him as Zimmerman was on the ground.  We discovered that Zimmerman, who was in contact with the local police per his Watch role, reported being attacked by Martin, and that he couldn't get away from the younger and faster assailant.  We found out that Zimmerman actually shot Martin because of the attack and the disparity in strength between the two, and because Martin was trying to take Zimmerman's gun (which qualifies as a deadly attack under most "Stand Your Ground" laws – if you're trying to take away somebody else's concealed weapon in a fight, it's likely because you intend to shoot them with it).  We've even learned that Trayvon Martin was not the sweet, angelic, church choir singing, 12-year old looking kid in the pictures that the media kept (and keep) showing – he'd grown up a bit since that picture was taken, and at the time of the shooting was actually a 6'2", 160+ pound thug with a nice gold rack across his teeth (a common indicator of gang affiliation). 

In other words, Martin was actually the aggressor in all of this, and Zimmerman shot him in what is a clear-cut case of self-defense.  This is the way the Sanford Police see it as well, which is why they cleared Zimmerman, and continue to refuse to arrest him for anything, despite the building pressure from "citizen groups." 

None of this, of course, has given pause to those who want to see this as an obvious case of white racism (though Zimmerman, despite his name, is actually half Hispanic), and to try to purvey the whole matter into yet another excuse to pass left-wing gun and "hate crime" laws, among other things. 

As noted, the news media have been confronted with the facts in the case, and have been forced to – quietly – walk back significant portions of what they had initially reported about the shooting.  However, this hasn't prevented some of them from trying to create epicycles upon epicycles designed to keep the story afloat and the basic narrative unchanged.  As a result, when witness reports started coming out that contradicted initial statements, these were swept under the rug for as long as they could be, and only quietly mentioned once attention was turning elsewhere.  When police footage of George Zimmerman was released that showed him bloodied (and thus supporting his version of events), the media dug up an "expert" who claimed in headlines that there was no evidence from the tape that he was so – until it was demonstrated decisively that he actually was clearly beaten up in the video.  The media brought forward "experts" claiming they could hear Zimmerman using the word "coon" in audio of the 911 call he made to police – except that it actually turned out upon further analysis to have been the word "cold."  The point of this was to try to "prove" that Zimmerman was racist, and thus support the storyline that he shot poor Trayvon because he was black.  Never mind that just a couple of years ago, Zimmerman had actually lead an effort in his community to demand punishment for the white son of a Sanford police officer who had beaten a homeless black man on Dec. 4, 2010, and whose crime had basically been swept under the rug.

Nevertheless, a whole host of race-baiters and general rabble-rousers across the country are trying to use the shooting as an excuse to advance their agendas.  The usual suspects like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (who himself should be in prison for his part in enflaming the Crown Heights riot in New York back in 1991, in which two men were killed) have been out in force, using this as an excuse to try to exacerbate racial tensions and fatten their own pocketbooks.  Predictably, Democrats in Congress and in Florida continue to use the false version of events to agitate for the repeal and federal ban of state "Stand Your Ground" laws that allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves against violent aggressors.  The lefties are banging the drum for stricter "hate crime" laws, even though this obviously wasn't a "hate crime."  Martin's own parents are allowing themselves to be used as pawns in all of this by leading "remember Trayvon" rallies in Miami. 

All of this is purposefully – these people are aware that the evidence refutes the initial version of events, they just don't care.  They know that most people in this country do not pay enough attention to follow the story closely to learn about the facts as they come out (aided by a complicit news media that downplays anything not conforming to the narrative), and therefore most people only know what was first reported – and therefore can be more easily fanned into a burst of outrage about it.  They know that the initial impression of a story is what will stick with 90% of those who hear it, and they're counting on this to outweigh the actual facts about the case that work against what they're trying to accomplish with the narrative they've built.  In other words, they're lying, knowing that most people out there either do not know or care enough to see through it. 

Unfortunately, this sort of shamelessness is becoming the norm in the United States of America, where facts and truth take a backseat to hackery and agenda promotion by any means necessary. 

An example of this that I've written about before, but which I think serves to perfectly illustrate this glaring flaw on the face of the American public square, is the story surrounding the ongoing saga of Hephzibah House, in Warsaw, Indiana.  Briefly, Hephzibah House is a fundamental Christian ministry in which teenage girls from Christian homes are enrolled when they prove to be too much for their parents and home churches to handle – often these are girls who've gotten involved with drugs, alcoholism, even violence.  The Hephzibah House ministry seeks to salvage and rebuild these girls' lives by giving them Christian instruction and a character-building lifestyle in an environment separate from the bad influences that were often leading them down destructive paths.  As you can imagine, this sort of ministry is not popular with the types of people who are already inclined to hate conservative Christianity anywise and who would relish the opportunity to corrupt the innocence of Christian young women, and therefore have an agenda diametrically opposed to that of Hephzibah House.  Further, many of the girls who have been sent there over the past four decades resented their time there, as one might also imagine – after all, their enrollment is not usually voluntary. 

For the past five years or so, Hephzibah House has been the target of an ongoing campaign of internet slander and public defamation perpetrated by a small circle of former residents and their vocal supporters.  These opponents, whom I will refer to as the "Hephzibah Haters" or merely "Haters," have repeatedly made a number of very serious and attention-grabbing accusations against the ministry involving allegations of abuse: supposedly girls at Hephzibah House have been starved, force-fed, beaten severely, forced to soil themselves and stay in it for long periods of time, have had "hormones" added to their milk to prevent menstruation, and on and on.  As a result of these attacks, launched all over the internet on blogs, discussion forums, and so forth, Hephzibah House has been cast as a harrowing den of abuse that would be instantly shut down and punished in any decent society.  In our analogy here, these accusations are a lot like the initial reporting of the Trayvon Martin killing – sensational, scandalous, lurid, and designed to provoke a particular sort of reaction from the otherwise unknowing reader who happens across them.

There's just one problem with all of this – the accusations are not true, and have been refuted a number of times and in a number of ways, whenever the opportunity to put them to the test has been provided. 

In my previous article about Hephzibah House, I detailed a number of reasons why the accusations against Hephzibah House are false, and why the accusers themselves cannot really be considered credible, so I will not repeat these here.  Suffice it to say that, as with the Zimmerman accusers in the Trayvon Martin case, the Hephzibah Haters have been refuted by the actual facts, but nevertheless continue to spin epicycles upon epicycles to try to sustain the credibility of their narrative version of events, something which I've been detailing on a blog I've dedicated to dealing with these attacks on Hephzibah House. 

If you read some of the rather shrill and hyperventilating responses to my previous article in the comments section, you can see just how averse to actual facts these Haters are.  For them, emotion and accusation ought to be enough to convict Hephzibah House.  Indeed, one woman even came right out and said that she didn't care about the facts, because she "knew" that Hephzibah House was guilty.  Never mind all those things like "proof" and "logic" that just get in the way of a good, passionate outburst of emotionalism.  Indeed, when dealing with the Hephzibah Haters, it quickly becomes apparent what tack the conversation will take:

Hater – "How can you support ABUSE?????"

TD – "I don't." 

Hater – "Yes you do!  Hephzibah House has been accused of abuse, and you're DEFENDING them!!!"

TD – "An accusation does not constitute guilt.  Before you can rightly claim that Hephzibah House abused any of these girls, you first have to provide some evidence to that claim."

Hater – "No I don't, I just KNOW they're guilty!!!!"

TD – "Okay…so what about the eyewitness evidences against the accusers' stories, and the other evidences that exonerate Hephzibah House?"

Hater – "Those don't count, because they are on Hephzibah House's side!!!"

TD – "So, let me get this straight – you can't actually prove that the accusations you make against Hephzibah House are true, and you expect us to simply take them as true on the basis of emotion and 'righteous indignation,' but the evidences that work in Hephzibah House's favor, we're supposed to ignore, *because* they work in Hephzibah House's favor?"

Hater – "How can you support ABUSE?????"

                And so on. 

                With the Hephzibah Haters, you essentially have a group that wants to tenaciously hang onto their narrative's version of events, despite the evidences against it.  They also know that 90% of people will believe the first thing they read about a matter, so rather than simply admitting that maybe their story has problems and walking back the things they've previously said that were not true, they double down on their narrative, because their goal is to get as many people as they can to support them in their agenda, instead of simply letting the truth be known.  In this, they've largely been successful.  To their shame, even pastors and churches have believed the one-sided attacks against Hephzibah House that they initially read on these blogs and forums, and refuse to consider evidences and arguments that contradict the narrative – choosing purposefully to believe lies, just as many Americans continue to believe the lies about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, despite the debunking of the original story.

As in the case of the Martin shooting, the government itself has looked into the matter and found nothing to substantiate the arguments for guilt.  The police and various pertinent regulatory agencies in Indiana have investigated accusations against Hephzibah House a number of times, and found them to be baseless.  And as with the Martin case in which protestors accuse the police of not arresting Zimmerman because of institutionalized racism and so forth, so also the Hephzibah Haters excuse the fact that the police and State of Indiana haven't found anything to back up the accusations as being due to some "influence" that Pastor Ron Williams (the founder of the ministry) and Hephzibah House supposedly have over Indiana's regulatory bureaucracy.  It's almost as if Ron Williams has some sort of psychic mind-control power that he exerts to keep the authorities from looking too closely, if you were to listen to the ravings of some of the Haters. 

Another point of similarity with the Martin case is that the Hephzibah Haters act as they do because they have a very specific agenda that they want to push.  As alluded above, and as noted in my previous article, the majority of the "drivers" in the anti-Hephzibah House protests and internet campaign are people who, to be frank, hate conservative, fundamental Christianity and have a vested interest in doing anything they can to defame, accuse, attack, and slander it.  We're talking about people who are pornographers, self-proclaimed witches, atheists, and lesbians.  Like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who have both practical and ideological interests in stoking racial hatred as a result of Martin's death, the Haters have a very real interest in stoking hatred and suspicion against fundamental Christians – and use the Hephzibah House accusations as a vehicle for this.  Indeed, it's not unusual for those such as myself who defend Hephzibah House and who demand that actual evidence be brought forward before accusations are to be believed to be accused of "ignoring the abuse because they're Fundamental Baptists."  In other words, the accusers are projecting the fact of their own religious bias into the discussion, assuming that those who disagree with them are biased as well.  Quite the opposite is true, however.  If Hephzibah House really and truly were proven by evidence to have engaged in the abuses of which they are accused, then I would agree that they should be shut down. 

However, the interest on the part of some parties in sticking with the Haters' narrative is not just due to ideology or religious bias.  There's also a pecuniary interest, as well.  As the reader likely knows, there is a large and growing "abuse industry" in America, made up of social workers, child psychologists, lawyers, and others with a vested interest in finding as many cases of abuse as possible – more abuse means more money budgeted to ferret out abuse, which in turn means larger paychecks and settlements for all involved.  These are the folks, for instance, who knowing that a three-year old child will want to please adults, will talk a three-year old into agreeing with statements saying that their parents or some other adult have abused them, even when no such thing ever happened.  I've read of cases where police or other investigators have even offered candy and other goodies to children if they will accuse a suspect in a case.  These are the folks who use hypnosis to "discover" abuse that supposedly happened thirty years ago, buried deep down in somebody's psyche.  They tell us that even though there's no actual evidence for abuse, you still have to accept any accusation that is made, no matter how spurious or outlandish  it might seem. 

When you have a vested interest in finding child abuse, then you will run across it everywhere you look.  This was evident in the comments discussing my previous article.  One commenter is a counselor dealing in child abuse cases, so we know where her bread is buttered.  Another is a lawyer who admitted that he was (at least at that time) currently litigating a child abuse case.  We shouldn't be surprised that they will be ready and willing to believe accusations against Hephzibah House.  After all, the more abuse accusations there are in this world, the larger a pie there is for them to eventually get a piece of.  Does this mean that any and all accusations of abuse are false?  Of course not.  But, it does mean that accusations of abuse should be accompanied by evidence, instead of just emotion, innuendo, and denunciation, to be deemed credible.

Not without interest, this same lawyer was also the individual who tried, somewhat in vain, to argue that accusations don't actually need to have evidence before they can be used as "evidence."  In other words, evidence doesn't actually need to constitute "facts that speak concretely to a case" - things like physical data, police reports, doctors' observations, even corroborating witnesses – to be actionable.  Simply making the accusation, in this lawyer's opinion, ought to be enough.  As he pointed out, there are court cases where judgments have been obtained on the basis of an accuser's testimony only.  However, this is not an argument for the rightness of such a situation.  Rather, it is an indication that fundamental injustices can and do take place in the American judicial system – injustices that lawyers will exploit to their own benefit.  It is fortunate, however, that there seems to be a trend over the last few years toward greater doubt about the value of eyewitness and "victim" testimony alone in criminal and civil law.  One hopes this will result in greater legal requirements for corroborating evidence before accusations (of any sort) are substantiated.

One of the shameful traits of modern American society is the willingness to believe lies, and to spread them, when doing so will benefit someone's particular agenda.  In our nation, practically everything has been subject to politicization, and therefore everything involves somebody's agenda.  The Left has been doing this in the Trayvon Martin shooting case – using the death of a young man to further its own anti-freedom, anti-gun, anti-Constitution agenda.  This is both shameful and shameless.  Equally so, however, is the Hephzibah House case, where though on a smaller and less widely-known scale, the mendacity of a small cadre of liars with an agenda is ultimately as damaging to its victims and dangerous to the fabric of our society as the race-baiting surrounding Trayvon Martin's death.  Ultimately, the Hephzibah Haters are a manifestation of so much of what is wrong with America today, a symptom of a disease that afflicts our nation and its people.  They, just like the socialists, race-baiters, and general ne'er-do-wells on the Left, should be rejected.