There is probably no better example of the institutional bias of the American media than their outrageous handling of the Treyvon Martin story. It also illustrates how significantly the press can distort the legal process for anyone involved in a self-defense situation.

As the trial is currently in progress, I will not offer opinions on Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence. My concern here is the media’s portrayal of the case. The basic facts of the case are as follows:

Zimmerman says that he noticed Martin walking inside the community, and called the police to report Martin’s behavior as suspicious, stating, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about” and “looking at all the houses.” After the phone call, there was a violent encounter between Martin and Zimmerman, which ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting Martin once in the chest at close range.

When police arrived, Zimmerman said that Martin had attacked him and that he had shot Martin in self-defense. Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose and lacerations on the back of his head, consistent with an attack. EMTs treated Zimmerman at the scene, and then taken to the Sanford Police Department. Zimmerman was detained and questioned for approximately five hours.He was then released without being charged; at the time, police said they found no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

Those of us in the self-defense training community are well aware of the natural (and somewhat understandable) tendency of police to initially see anyone involved in a shooting as a suspect. When there is a fatality, it is not unusual to question those involved for 24 hours or more. So the fact that the police so quickly released Zimmerman without charges is significant.

Why then did this initially unremarkable case, just a month later suddenly explode into a nationwide spectacle? Simple. The press, ever on the lookout for racism, especially when it involves legitimate gun owners, apparently jumped to a conclusion consistent with their world view. Specifically, they saw “racist white guy shoots innocent black kid” (a virtual “wet dream” for a liberal journalist).

But why? It was probably that name “Zimmerman” that tripped the media’s collective trigger. Definitely sounds like a “white guy,” right? If George Zimmerman, who is clearly Hispanic, had instead been named “Jorge Gonzales” or something similar, the story would probably have been reduced to a brief paragraph in the local paper. The liberal press has little interest in minority-on-minority crime.

As further evidence of their agenda, when Zimmerman’s extensive Hispanic history was eventually revealed, they fell all over themselves, desperately trying to save the racist angle by laughably referring to Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic” (just HAD to get that word “white” in there, now didn’t they).

But the most egregious violation of the public trust occurred when the press began saturating the print and TV media with a carefully hand-picked photo of Treyvon Martin. They intentionally passed up the numerous shots of Treyvon at his then-current age of 17, showing his imposing stature (over six feet tall) and his arms covered with tattoos, not to mention his “gangsta” gold teeth.

Instead, they chose the now infamous “kid in a hoody” shot, a picture that was taken when Treyvon Martin was barely 13 years old. Now, there is a huge difference between a 13 year old and a 17 year old. I have friends who went to war at 17.

Worse, the picture has been shown over and over again, and even today continues to give the false impression that Treyvon Martin was little more than a child. The number of people who still think George Zimmerman was “the guy who shot that kid in the hoody”’ is downright frightening. Add to this the constantly repeated description of Treyvon Martin as an “unarmed teenager” and you get the impression that Martin was the cute (and “unarmed”) little boy.

An interesting side note is that as soon as the story broke, Treyvon’s Facebook page was almost immediately “scrubbed” of numerous pictures of the “teen” in some rather unflattering poses (giving “the finger” to the camera, for example). One can find some of these that had been saved by those who got to the site early, but not in any mainstream media.

With such massive pollution of the jury pool, it is unclear whether George Zimmerman will get a fair trial or not. I seriously doubt it. But one thing is certain. What happened to George Zimmerman could easily happen to anyone who carries a firearm for self-defense.