On Friday, Robert Dear surrendered to authorities after a five-hour murder rampage and stand-off near and in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Dear killed a policeman and two others, wounding many more. The policeman who gave his life to defend the clinic, Garrett Swasey, was a married father of two young children and a leader at his evangelical Christian church. The other two killed, Jennifer Markovsky and Ke’Arre Stewart, also had two children each.
A picture of Dear as a conspiratorial recluse is being painted by reporters, who have interviewed family and neighbors of the man. He has been described as strange and incoherent.
But many in the media believe, if their frequent references are any indication, that Dear, who lived in a parked vehicle without electricity, was motivated by undercover videos showing high-level Planned Parenthood officials talking about how to perform “less crunchy” abortions in order to preserve human organs for sale to purchasers. These videos showed Planned Parenthood executives haggling over prices for human organs procured from the hundreds of thousands of abortions they perform each year. Outcry over the videos has led to state and federal investigations into the practice of such human organ trafficking.
Planned Parenthood, for its part, has claimed to have stopped the practice of taking money for the human organs they obtain as a result of their abortion practice.
Some in the media believe that talking about Planned Parenthood’s human organ trafficking — or even generally speaking against the injustice of ending a human life after it has begun — caused the tragedy in Colorado Springs. The two main problems with this argument are 1) the pro-life movement is opposed to ending and exploiting human lives and has made this argument consistently for decades; and 2) the police have been rather tight-lipped about the shooter’s motive and mental health.
An editor at The New New Republic favorably linked to an article blaming the pro-life movement for recent violence:
Planned Parenthood also put out a link to a Guardian article blaming pro-life rhetoric for violence.
And yes, that was Planned Parenthood approvingly linking to an article decrying dehumanizing others as a means to legitimizing violent action against them. You cannot make this stuff up.
This journalist took things even further:
The war on Planned Parenthood has killed a volunteer pastor of an evangelical church https://t.co/BQDTHtR3b6
Bill Scher (@billscher) November 28, 2015
This general tone of media coverage brings to mind a few instances of established political violence that were covered very differently by our mainstream media.
1) Pamela Gellar: Blaming The Victim
Two armed Muslim men showed up at a contest for offensive drawings of Muhammad intending to murder as many people as they could. They were thwarted only by elaborate security. The media response was not to blame Muslim teachings against drawing pictures of Muhammad. The media response was to blame Pamela Gellar, the organizer of the event. Take this unbelievable Washington Post headline, “Event organizer offers no apology after thwarted attack in Texas.” Some “highlights” from the article follow:
Pamela Geller, the woman behind the Texas cartoon contest attacked by two gunmen late Sunday, knew what she was doing when she staged the controversial event featuring irreverent depictions of the prophet Muhammad in Garland, Tex… If the contest was intended as bait, it worked. Police say two men drove 1,000 miles from Phoenix, shot at a police car outside the event and were quickly killed by one of the hired guards. The shooting has been condemned by Muslim leaders, and Geller, too, has come under fire for staging an event many viewed as purposely provocative… In an interview with The Washington Post, Geller said she and her fellow organizers were “prepared for violence” this past weekend. In tweets immediately after the shooting, Geller appeared almost gleeful that she had been right.
CNN also blamed Gellar as did The New York Times. Can you imagine if the media took this approach with Planned Parenthood? They shouldn’t blame the victim, of course, but it’s really fascinating that a free speech contest is considered to be something that any reasonable person shouldn’t host because it might set people off, but annually ending 300,000-plus human lives after they’ve begun is something people would only be bothered by if people talk about it or critique some of its attending practices.
2) Dylann Roof: No Qualms About Some Media Coverage
In June, racist Dylann Roof massacred nine black Christians meeting for a mid-week Bible study. He hoped to launch a race war, as he explained in a manifesto you can read over at Mother Jones. The second paragraph of the manifesto begins, “The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case.” He talks about all the media coverage of the case and how it radicalized him. Some in the media immediately linked the shooting in Colorado Springs to videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing human organ harvesting and trade as part of their abortion business. The implication — if not outright claim — is that people shouldn’t talk about what Planned Parenthood does, much less speak against the injustice of abortion, because some people might take such discussions the wrong way. But you may remember that nobody in the media suggested that they shouldn’t have highlighted the killing of Trayvon Martin for fear that some racist might be set off of by the discussions. And that’s a good thing, because the idea that the media shouldn’t cover news because someone might be so bothered by it that he goes on a rampage would be very stupid. We can leave aside, for now, the media’s widespread failure to cover the Planned Parenthood videos even remotely well relative to the wall-to-wall coverage of Martin’s killing.
3) Family Research Council Shooting: Does Overheated Rhetoric Lead To Violence?
In the aftermath of Friday’s shooting, many in the media wanted to have a conversation about overheated political rhetoric possibly leading to violence.
Ok, let's have that conversation about overheated political rhetoric leading to violence…. pic.twitter.com/er4dQzlwFB
Will Antonin (@Will_Antonin) November 30, 2015
The Huffington Post article notes:
A man who planned a mass shooting at the headquarters of a conservative Christian lobbying group in Washington last year was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison for the plot that injured a security guard.
Floyd Corkins II was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches and nearly 100 rounds of ammunition during the shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council. He later told authorities he planned to kill as many people as possible and to smear the sandwiches in his victims’ faces as a political statement. Chick-fil-A was making headlines at the time because of its president’s opposition to gay marriage, and the Family Research Council also opposes gay marriage.
Corkins admitted he intended mass murder because he opposed their views on marriage. In the end, he shot one guard who overpowered him and saved many lives. This story was barely covered by the media, certainly not in real-time as it happened, and with no breathless coverage about whether media coverage against those who opposed redefining marriage was to blame for this violence. What’s more, Corkins said he specifically used a map provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center to locate his victims. Even so, the same media that falsely claimed a Sarah Palin electoral map targeting a Congressional district was to blame for a mass shooting in Arizona, wasn’t interested in this story at all.
There are, of course, many other examples of how unevenly the media exploit violence to push preferred political narratives. But after months of egregiously weak coverage of issues raised by journalists who went undercover in the abortion industry, it’s particularly unwelcome.