Sunday, January 31, 2010

March for Life 2010: How the MSM missed the bus

There’s an interesting YouTube clip on Tom Peter’s American Papist site. The video shows the March for Life 2010 in Washington, DC.

For the most part, you didn’t hear about the March for Life from the mainstream media. So far as any were looking, they were focused on the handful of pro-choice people standing forlornly on the steps of the Supreme Court, holding the blue “Keep Abortion Legal” signs they have been holding for the last 37 years.

Krista Gesamen, writing for, wrote a story whose lead was Who’s Missing at the ‘Roe v. Wade’ Anniversary Demonstrations? Young Women.” Her story, posted at 7:22 a.m. on the day of the march, confidently assumed that the bulk of the pro-life protesters, like those of the pro-choice camp, would be older people in their 60s, and that the “young, vibrant women” would pursue their advocacy through the social media on the Web.

Like any other massive rally, a firm number was never really generated for the attendance. But the guesses put it up over 300,000 … the vast majority of them under thirty, with “young, vibrant women” definitely in the lead and in the mix. That’s what happens when you file your review before the movie even plays.

If it were a gay rights rally, it would have been Page 1 news. If it were a war demonstration, CNN would have been showing footage every ten minutes throughout the day. (As it was, reporter Rick Sanchez couldn’t tell the difference between a handful of people on the steps and hundreds of thousands in the street: “It’s the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade case ... both sides being represented today, but it does appear to me, as I look at these signs that—which side is represented the most ... Do we know?”) Washington Post Metro columnist Robert McCartney wrote a fairly sensitive piece,  owning up to his pro-choice leanings even while noting who showed up for life and who didn’t show up for choice. But an op-ed is not a cover story, and the March for Life was cover story material.

Yet the MSM ignored it, for the most part. Just as they ignored the equally massive march in San Francisco (the radical liberal capital of the US) a week or so before. Just as they ignored the massive march in Kansas City a couple of months ago.

In the video, you can actually see MSM reporters ignoring the rally. They’re focusing on the less than 100 women who showed up to carry blue signs, while a mighty river of humanity walks right behind them. Twenty-five or thirty years ago, the reporters would have switched their focus in a heartbeat, recognizing instantly (and regardless of their social and political beliefs) “where the story was”.

In other words, the mainstream media missed the bus.

I remember discussing with a friend of mine a Ku Klux Klan march she had seen in—was it DC again?—several years ago. Although she is black, she told me how sorry she felt for the small, decrepit gaggle of senior citizens carrying their pathetic hatred through the capital in a visual display of marginalization and irrelevance. Now, I don’t for a second believe that the pathological elements of racism have been completely neutralized; whatever I might say from here on out about Pres. Obama’s administration, I will continue to pray for his safety from assassins until he turns over the White House to his duly-elected successor. Yet as I wrote at the time (in a previous blog whose pages are no longer accessible), the KKK, one of the modern world’s first terrorist groups, is finally a spent force in American politics.

You can’t say the same about the National Abortion Rights Action League, or their propaganda machine, the Alan Guttmacher Institute. They are still forces to be reckoned with. If the organizers and bigwigs of NARAL were present among the forlorn dozens on the SCOTUS steps, they will have seen the future. And they will fear that it belongs to their opponents. And they will try to whip up a frenzy among the complacent young women across the US who take abortion rights for granted (whether or not they’ll ever take advantage of them).

That’s not so easily done. Several polls in 2009 suggested that there’s been a shift in public support for abortion, with more people favoring more restrictions, and more young people identifying themselves as pro-life; the pro-aborts no longer have a clear majority in their favor. As I’ve argued for years, the pro-abortion movement has made most of their successes by trading in on the lethargy of people who don’t think abortion is “wrong enough” to merit opposition. The current crop of youngsters who consider themselves pro-choice defenders aren’t lethargic … just disorganized. But there’s also less of them than the NARAL thinks there are. The soft center is growing smaller.

So I suspect we’ll see pro-choice rallies in the next year that will try to mobilize the youth base of the movement. But as Amanda Pelletier, co-director of the abortion-rights group at American University, admitted to McCartney, “Unfortunately, I feel my generation is a little complacent. … It just doesn’t seem to be a very hip issue.” What she probably should have said, though, is that pro-choice isn’t a very hip position to take. The same people who didn’t think abortion was wrong enough to illegalize aren’t going to think abortion is right enough to defend.

Why did the MSM miss the bus? I think that’s an easier question to answer. The fact is, when it comes to breaking news—devastating earthquakes, plane crashes, mall shootings—the MSM has to report the news as it happens, so there isn’t a lot of time or opportunity for spin control. Events like the March for Life, on the other hand, are preplanned and prepared with plenty of advance notice for whatever news organizations will care to show up. Therefore, the producers and reporters have time to “prepackage” their coverage according to their political predispositions … which are, with very few exceptions, pro-choice. The story as it has been written for the last quarter century has been of a dying struggle against Roe v. Wade as settled Constitutional law; and, by God, that was what they were going to report.

In fact, Roe is not settled Constitutional law. Many people have seen in Chief Justice John Roberts’ concurring opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned the McCain-Feingold Act limiting corporate political advertising, a signal that Roe could be overturned if a case challenging its Constitutionality comes before the SCOTUS bench.  However, the comments as made within the context of Citizens United merely remind us that the Court can, and has, overturned its own precedents, and can’t be taken as a guarantee that Roe will be overturned even with sufficient pro-life votes on the bench. Nevertheless, even the dimmest of pro-abortion activists knows that abortion-upon-request is not guaranteed by the Constitution because it depends upon a particular interpretation, not by the letter of the document. Change the makeup of the Court sufficiently, and what is today a right may become a revocable privilege tomorrow.

Moreover, the MSM made the mistake at least twenty-five years ago of deciding to write off the pro-life movement as being populated, in the main, with loonies and psychopaths who would age and die off marginalized and abandoned (like the KKK) while the rest of the world soaked in the advantages and benefits of “choice”. Now they are faced with a new generation of refreshingly sane kids showing up in the tens and hundreds of thousands. Not only is the opposition gaining strength, it’s doing so even while supporters are losing interest in basic political action.

After all, the pro-life kids are just as adept at social media as the pro-choice kids.

In sum, the MSM is caught up in their own deception, intellectually trapped in explanations that no longer bear any relation to reality. Eventually they’ll break free and start to repackage their explanations in light of the new facts, though the pro-choice bias will continue to remain in place for at least another two decades, perhaps longer. But for a little while at least they’ll still reside in the belief that, while they have control of the news, they have control of the truth.

However, the MSM no longer controls the truth. Through the alternative media outlets, the blogs, Facebook and MySpace, the children of the pro-life movement are spreading the stories of their success and encouraging each other to fight harder, to bring out more people in the marches of the future. The initiative is quickly passing into their hands, and they know it. They know that the children of the pro-choice movement didn’t show up … except for those who came over to the pro-life camp.

Roe v. Wade isn’t dead yet. But it is over the hill.