If what had happened to Trayvon Martin happened in the 1960's or 70's, odds are you wouldn't even know who he is. There'd be no marches, no rallies, no t-shirts, and no candlelight vigils. By all accounts, his file and his story would be buried deep in a stock room somewhere, along with countless others who were unjustly slaughtered then forgotten, and whose attackers went free.
Now, imagine, it's the 1930's and it happened to a woman, and the attacker was an employee of Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, the movie studio which virtually had a lock on all things Hollywood back in the day.
Patricia Douglas wasn't murdered. She was raped. Nonetheless, by all accounts, her life ended on that cold night in May, 1937. A young dancer, and still a virgin, she was invited to MGM, along with dozens of other young women, to be extras in what they were told was a movie. It wasn't until they were brought into the banquet room at the Hal Roach Ranch, and saw over two hundred drunken MGM salesmen carrying on wildly, the girls realized they were the entertainment.
A few moments later, a twenty-year old Patricia Douglas found her nose being held closed and an entire glass of scotch being poured down her throat. Moments later, David Ross, a salesmen for MGM, was raping her in a field next to a barn, slapping her repeatedly to keep her awake.
The cover-up began almost immediately, as an unconscious Douglas was taken to MGM's doctor, who promptly gave her a douche, thereby erasing all evidence of sexual assault, then prescribed her medication for V.D., inferring she was promiscuous. The parking attendant who found her, and who witnessed Ross fleeing the scene, recanted his testimony and was given a lifetime job at MGM. The D.A., Buron Fitts, who was supposed to be prosecuting Ross, scowled at Miss Douglas on the witness stand, and asked the jury, "Who would want her?" It didn't seem to matter to anyone Louis B. Mayer was the biggest contributor to Fitts's re-election campaign. David Ross was acquitted.
That didn't stop Miss Douglas. She filed the first federal rape charge, yet, years later, her lawyer, who would later run for L.A. county D.A. himself, along with her own mother, let the case quietly disappear.
Talk about courage. A woman in the 1930's accusing the most powerful man in Hollywood of throwing an "orgy," at which she was sexually assaulted, and refusing to back down, no matter the cost. As it turned, out, the cost was dire. Miss Douglas died alone. A frigid woman, afraid of all men, and estranged from her children and grandchildren. She was ignored by the local police, the state police, MGM's private police force, the district attorney, her lawyers, and her own mother. If anyone could have benefitted from social media, it was her. But, since there was no one to "Tweet" her cause, or "share" her story, it took sixty-five years for justice -- or what was left of it -- to be done.
Patricia Douglas died in 2003 at the age of 86. Thankfully, she lived to see herself vindicated in an article in Vanity Fair. A riveting documentary, "Girl 27," by David Stenn, was released four years later.
Whatever happened in the Trayvon Martin case has yet to completely unfold. But, one thing's for certain; social media is the real detective in this case. It is the antidote to the conspiracy, while it's still being conspired. It is the beacon of light, illuminating the dark corners where the half-assed investigation, and subsequent lack of arrest, by the Sanford police dept. might once have been able to hide. It is the national voice which has literally forced open the door to many more unanswered questions, e.g., Why did the Sanford Police Dept. fail to impound Zimmerman's vehicle? Why was a toxicology report not filed? Why did investigators fail to speak with key witnesses? And, why didn't the police take his clothing for analysis?
These discoveries were only made possible by relentless pressure caused by the social media outcry. Had this happened 30 or 40 years ago, odds are, the only people who would've known about it would've been the few who read the Sanford Gazette or watch the local news, and, the story would've probably been contained to a state-wide issue. In the wake of the virtual, and now quite real, nationwide storm, a chief of police and state prosecutor have both stepped down, the governor of Florida is directly involved, and even the president is keeping close tabs on the case.
One can't help but think, in 1937, if someone Tweeted "Louis B. Mayer largest Fitts campaign contributor! #Justice4PatDouglas," there might have been an entirely different outcome -- not only to the trial, but to the rest of that brave woman's life, as well as the lives of her children and grandchildren.
With all the imperfections and questions that surround the use of social media, itself, the one thing this omnipresent "pair of eyes" has done well, aside from telling us the moment some D-list celebrity is pregnant, is make every one of us more aware of the fallacies of our leaders. It has leveled the playing field and shown us, front and center, that even judges on the Supreme Court, no matter how high a pedestal they sit, no matter how many laws they, themselves, may break or ignore, they are not immortal. They are just people. And, Lord knows, people make mistakes.
Like OWS and the Arab Spring, hopefully, social media will continue to be our megaphone in the Trayvon Martin case, and, perhaps, eventually play a role in the desperately needed disposal of Citizen's United, as well. Otherwise, we might as well change the end of the pledge of allegiance to "...with liberty, and justice for those who can afford it."
Follow David Fagin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nikchapman