Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The media's blind-eye complicity

I wanted to write about this last week, but time wouldn't allow me to devote the attention I needed to make any new points. It's still worth reflecting on, and so I offer, with one or two concurring thoughts, the following.

One of my favorite short stories is a piece that appeared in Dappled Things a few years ago, called "Pear Trees". It's not actually about abortion or the press, but it does touch on how the press is complicit in covering for abortion simply by looking the other way.
She ordered another martini and studied the yellow rose in the center of the tiny black lacquered table, dainty and delicate, looking oddly contained in a sleek stainless steel vase. Patrick had sent her a dozen roses last fall from New Orleans when she'd had the abortion. He was there to write a piece on the racism of the Bush administration being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. He hoped for a Pulitzer on that one, but there were too many others like it, too much competition. There were two dozen deep red roses. Jenn put them in her bedroom on the dresser, but she moved them out to the living room. They looked like blood, a great blood clot. Just a blood clot, a living one, yes, but just a clot. When Patrick called, she told him about the Women's Clinic, how they told her it would be painless, how excruciatingly painful it was, how there were little cell-like rooms all in a line down a long corridor, each one just big enough to contain a treatment table, a stool for the doctor, and a vacuum apparatus. So many, many little rooms, the doctor rushing down the corridor to spend a few minutes in each little room for the procedure, like an assembly-line operator. She thought Patrick might want to write about it--no one ever did, so he wouldn't have the competition he was having with the Katrina disaster and Bush administration. He wasn't interested, though. The steel vase was like a piston chamber, but where there should be a piston, there was a rose.
As a whole, I'd say that those in journalism pride themselves on the service they perform for society—informing the public about vital issues and events, shedding light on hidden truths and worthy causes. They consider themselves champions of such ideals as feminism and human rights. The Kermit Gosnell abortion story should have been low hanging fruit for any news media outlet and its intrepid investigative reporters.

But the reporting on this story has been pretty much a concert of crickets. Elizabeth Scalia writes a powerful indictment of the media's betrayal of the public trust by their silence.

The Gosnell story—a story that by any measure deserved in-depth coverage, some serious discussion about regulation and responsibility, and a few features forcing the nation to consider just when a “late-term” abortion slips into the category of “infanticide” or what our leadership and politicians really think of all of this—proved too big and too messy for the mainstream media.

They did not want light shed on dark truths that cannot be prettied up with euphemisms and nebulous notions of “choice.” They did not want to have to ponder the likelihood of Gosnell’s stinking, body-piled-and-bloodstained rooms being replicated in other cities, in other states, where other authorities chose to look away from the carnage, rather than address it.
The media turns a blind eye, handling the distasteful subject as little as they can possibly get away with, for the sake of a "greater cause." Sound familiar?
So, allow me to ask the impolitic question I have hinted at elsewhere: in choosing to look away, in choosing to under-report, in choosing to spin, minimize, excuse, and move-along when it comes to Kermit Gosnell—and to this whole subject of under-regulated abortion clinics, the debasement of women and the slaughter of living children—how are the press and those they protect by their silence any better than the Catholic bishops who, in decades past, looked away, under-reported, spun, minimized, excused, moved-along, and protected the repulsive predator-priests who have stolen innocence and roiled the community of faith?
People, no matter where they are, are all too prone to congratulate themselves on how enlightened their ideas are, or how honorable their intentions, how noble their pursuits.  Meanwhile, when something truly evil rears its head to threaten that self-image, they send some token roses, wash their hands of the ugliness, and move on.

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