After the death of Trayvon Martin sparked an outcry with calls for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the man who shot him, controversy over the question: "Who was Trayvon Martin?" has deepened with new photos of the teen that recently emerged online.
According to The Chicago Tribune, some bloggers and websites have raised questions about the images of Trayvon initially circulated following his death, saying the photos show him younger than he was at the time he was killed. New photos of Trayvon purporting to be closer to his age at the time of his death have surfaced.
One of the new photos first surfaced on Yahoo! News and Drudge Report, and was the profile picture of a Twitter account allegedly linked to the teen. The photo has now been widely circulated, especially on online forums and blogs with titles and headings such as "the real Trayvon Martin." According to Las Vegas Review Journal, the initial photos circulated by the media showed Trayvon, a sweet looking 12-year-old, while the new photos from his Twitter account show him a 6-foot 3-inch teen wearing a "wife-beater t-shirt."
He is shown in one of the photos wearing a grill, a removable metal dental jewelry popularized by hip-hop artists. Another shows him spotting tattoos, one of which says "Sybrina," Trayvon's mother's first name.
But supporters of Trayvon's family are saying circulation of images and recent reports about Trayvon's misbehavior at school are merely part of an orchestrated smear campaign and are irrelevant to his case. Accounts that Trayvon was suspended from school three times for misbehavior including "tardiness," writing graffiti on school property and being caught with a plastic bag containing marijuana residue have painted the "bad boy" image of the victim, and according to The Telegraph, Trayvon's mother has accused the police of smearing her son's reputation. The mother said: "They've killed my son, and now they're trying to kill his reputation. Trayvon's father added: "We take pride in our kids and it tears me apart to sit here and listen to the slander they are giving my son. Even in death, they are still disrespecting my son. I refuse to let them assassinate my son's character."
Trayvon Martin: New photos deepen online controversy
Fox News reports that when the photo first surfaced on Drudge Report, showing Trayvon wearing a tank top, looking older and bigger than he appeared in the photograph initially circulated by the media, Rosenberg of Media Matters angrily called Matt Drudge a racist and accused him of using a fake photo of the youth. Rosenberg, according to Fox News, tweeted at 10:56 a.m. ET: “Racist demagogue Drudge continues to run photo of some kid, not Trayvon for incitement purposes."
Rosebenberg also late retweeted a message that said: "Matt Drudge has done more to debase American news coverage than anyone in history of country.”
But by 1:03 p.m., Rosenberg was issuing an apology: “Mixed up Drudge photo of Trayvon w Michelle Malkin's. Malkin's is an admitted fake. Drudge? Don't know. Sorry.” Another tweet said: “Malkin apologized for fake #Trayvon photo. I apologize for mixing up her photo with one Drudge used.”
The Chicago Tribune reports Kenny Irby, expert in visual journalism and diversity in media, and senior faculty member at The Poynter Institute, maintained that the photo of the victim the media uses is important, saying a story about a fast growing teen should feature a photo reflecting his age. He said: "I think it's fundamentally an issue of accuracy."
He pointed out, however, that the images of the teen wearing a grill, a practise popularized by black hip-hop artists, and sporting a tattoo may give a bad impression. According to Irby, "The grill is fundamentally a part of that bad boy image." It is part of the "bad boy" paraphenalia demonized by the media, like the hoodie and tattoos.
Irby said: "This has been a big part of how American society sees young black men. All of these images have assumptions."