Monday, 22 July 2013

Against The Argument Of George Zimmerman's "Instigation" Of His Fight With Trayvon Martin

The line of argument I find myself being confronted with in regard to the Zimmerman aquittal is that Zimmerman's on-foot pursuit of Martin "instigated" or "precipitated" the confrontation (is it not curious that the word "caused" is avoided?), and that therefore Zimmerman's shooting of Martin ought to have been regarded as either second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter rather than self-defense.

Now, I can be polite to people whose manner is in turn polite, but otherwise this argument just boils my piss: Zimmerman pursued Martin up to a certain point, but that pursuit in no way justifies a vicious assault and battery. We cannot regard the mere feeling of "discomfort" as of itself a casus belli because - of itself - it is merely an emotional state of mind, and must instead be considered in relation to the events and circumstances to which it is a response so that its rationality can be judged. To launch a pre-emptive strike in self-defense you have to have reasonable belief in a real and present danger to your person, which depends heavily on context, on all the details of the circumstances - and there is simply no evidence that Zimmerman presented any sort of threat to Martin other than his calling the police.

The argument that Zimmerman "instigated" the confrontation might make sense if Zimmerman had followed Martin with the intent to corner him and attack him such that he had approached Martin to within striking distance, in which case it would have been Martin acting in self-defense. However, there doesn't appear to be any evidence to support that conjecture either. Of course, Zimmerman was also armed and therefore didn't need to approach Martin to within striking distance; he could perhaps have shot him from a safe distance - yet, if Zimmerman had indeed harboured malicious intent toward Martin, then it would not have made any sense for him to have already called the police prior to and during his pursuit.

In stipulation to the necessary respect for evidence-based reasoning, I cannot see how the jury got this wrong - i.e. how anyone can reasonably see this case as anything other than self-defense by Zimmerman. However, I can certainly see how disintegrated reasoning skills and rampant confirmation bias would lead someone to conclude that the jury got it wrong. I can also see how the willfully irrational would draw the same conclusion; the people who choose emotion over rationality, and states of consciousness over reality.

The world has never lacked human error, or human depravity.

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