It Depends On What The Meaning Of The Word “Existence” Is

Naive me had always assumed from all the news reports that the news media had access to a recording of Trayvon Martin`s last phone call. After all, Matt Gutman of ABC News had trumpeted back on March 20:

Trayvon Martin`s Last Phone Call Triggers Demand for Arrest `Right Now` 

A phone call from slain black teenager Trayvon Martin to his girlfriend seconds before he was shot dead by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain “blows … out of the water” the shooter`s self-defense claim and he should be arrested “right now,” a lawyer for Martin`s family said today. 

Attorney Benjamin Crump spoke after ABC News reported exclusively the existence of a phone call between Martin and his girlfriend, which detailed the last terrifying moments of Martin`s life as he was pursued, accosted and shot dead by George Zimmerman. 

I didn`t really think about it, so I just assumed from the word “existence” that the contents of the phone call were recorded by, uh,Echelon, or that kids these days have an app that puts every word of every phone call they make on their Permanent Records, or something like that. Obviously, I`m not really up on the latest technology, so I just assumed that if everybody is talking about the existence of a phone call, then it exists.
But, now, Gucci Little Piggy has pointed out that this phone call`s existence is not “existence” in the sense that there`s any record of what was said on the phone call other than what the girlfriend and attorney Benjamin Crump said weeks later was on the phone call. When ABC claimed:

Martin`s father, Tracey Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, listened to the call, along with ABC News, ashen-faced.

It may sound like they mean ABC News listened to Trayvon`s last call, but, in reality, they all just listened to attorney Crump put the anonymous girlfriend through her paces for their benefit, and they weren`t even allowed to watch her, just listen to her over the phone.

G.L. Piggy was wondering what the relationship between Crump and ABC`s Gutman is. I suggested that he should read the sections in Tom Wolfe`s Bonfire of the Vanities where attorney Albert Vogel, an ally of Rev. Bacon, takes reporter Peter Fallow out to lunches to feed him bits of the story.

It`s called access journalism, and that`s how the game is played. The cops and the D.A. have their favorite reporters, as well.

Movie stars play the game, too. If they slip up, like Tom Cruise did when he fired super-publicist Pat Kingsley and nepotistically replaced her with his amateurish sister, their media image can suddenly go from World`s Greatest Guy to Manic Repressed Homosexual Cultist overnight. (If you look at Tom Cruise`s actual movies, he continues to appear in consistently above-average films. All that happened was that he lost control of the access journalism game.)

G.L. Piggy points out that people shouldn`t get over-invested in believing in George Zimmerman`s complete innocence. There may well be evidence against him right now that is being sandbagged for use at a later juncture. That, by the way, was one of the late Andrew Breitbart`s favorite tactics — don`t release everything right away. Release some of it now and then when the other side goes all in, whomp them with some more facts you already had in hand. Repeat as necessary. 

The best guidebook to how this story will play out is of course Bonfire,with Trayvon Martin as Henry Lamb. Think back to how that plot ambiguously unfolds. Is anybody completely innocent? 

Wolfe`s Bonfire, by the way, is 25 years old, but nothing much ever changes. Every few years we go through another one of these re-enactments of Bonfire, like the Duke lacrosse hoax. Isn`t it about time to admit that Bonfire has turned out to be, just as Wolfe bragged, the Great American Novel of our lifetime? Sure, the setting gets pushed out from NYC to some exurb in the middle of nowhere, the reporters are less alcoholic, and the Great White Defendant morphs into the Pudgy Mestizo Defendant, but the basics are here to stay. Heck, Al Sharpton is still around!

In case you are wondering, yes, the Rev. Bacon in Wolfe`s novel is more or less Al Sharpton functionally, but their personalities are very different. Bacon is cold and serious, while Sharpton is very funny. Reporter Peter Fallow is not particularly Christopher Hitchens. He`s more Anthony Haden-Guest, the illegitimate brother of actor / aristocrat Christopher Guest. Lawyer Albert Vogel is presumably radical leftist attorney William Kunstler. The Mayor of New York is roughly Mayor Ed Koch. The tall, rawboned explosively crazy white man who appears briefly in an early courtroom scene is likely Hunter S. Thompson.