Media's broad brush

National | Murder suspect's arrest gives dominant media culture an opportunity to tar the pro-life movement

Issue: "Tax man's terror," April 14, 2001

The arrest in France of James C. Kopp on charges of the 1998 murder of Buffalo, N.Y., abortionist Barnett Slepian has given media champions of the procedure an opportunity again to slander pro-lifers. Last Saturday's New York Times covered Mr. Kopp's arrest at the top of its front page, an indication of the importance editors attached to the story. Inside was a "defending abortion rights" editorial, and should there be any doubt where the Times stands on this issue (how could there be?), the paper published an op-ed piece by the director of the Boulder (Colorado) Abortion Clinic, who said he received the news of Mr. Kopp's arrest "just as I finished performing an abortion for the last patient of the morning." For Dr. Warren M. Hern it was just another day at the office. HBO aired a special of its own conception Sunday, April 1. "Soldiers in the Army of God" was about the extremist group by that name which believes the killing of abortionists is a pro-life act because it reduces by intimidation and elimination the number of doctors who do the procedure. The documentary followed "The Sopranos," a show in which murder is entertainment. Apparently, HBO believes that a show that favorably depicts hit men in the Mafia is an appropriate lead-in to another show that unfavorably depicts executions in "The Army of God." The HBO script followed the usual line: Pick the most extreme form of behavior, do a documentary on it, and leave the impression that all pro-lifers are just a hair trigger away from snuffing out the life of their local abortionist. The Washington Post's Megan Rosenfeld got the intended message. In her review of the show (on the front page of the widely read Style section) Saturday, March 31, she wrote: "… these are not just wacky eccentrics flying under First Amendment radar, these guys are genuinely dangerous." Ms. Rosenfeld sees this documentary as a lesson with different messages for each side. "Abortion rights proponents can use it to invigorate their troops," she wrote. But for us nasty people who think babies deserve a chance at life (and pregnant women should be allowed the same access to information about the life within them that shoppers get about food at the supermarket), Ms. Rosenfeld writes, "the antis could use it to assess what they have unleashed, and figure out a way to get the discussion back to principle and away from terrorism...." By this logic, the abolitionists and others in the anti-slavery movement were responsible for the violent tactics of John Brown and nonviolent, anti-Vietnam war protesters must have spawned the violent Weathermen. In fact, nonviolent pro-lifers (which are the overwhelming majority) have spoken about principle ever since Roe vs. Wade. However, most of the media won't carry their thoughts because so many in the media oppose any restrictions on abortion, preferring the morally vacuous word choice. Most pro-life speakers, no matter what their fame or reputation, go largely uncovered by local or national press. When a pro-choice speaker, even one with little or no reputation, shows up to address a small audience, he or she receives favorable coverage. What other conclusion can be reached than that the media wants to ignore responsible debate and suppress legitimate information of use to women? Instead, they promote a singular point of view, while stereotyping the one with which they disagree. When the issue was civil rights 40 years ago, most of the mainstream media chose to promote the nonviolent ideas of Martin Luther King Jr. and treat him as the movement's legitimate leader. Men like Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and Malcolm X, all of whom advocated violence to achieve their objectives, were eventually marginalized and portrayed as outside the mainstream. With abortion, it's the reverse. The extremists are featured and responsible voices are ignored, because extremists help the pro-choice cause. The arrest of James Kopp for an unjustifiable act gives the media and their pro-choice allies another opportunity to misrepresent responsible pro-life opinions.

-© 2001 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.


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