Could it be … Satan? Not in the news coverage

When abortion rights supporters showed up at the Texas state capitol to protest, the AP considers it worthy of a 800-plus word feature. The headline on Monday was “Crowd Of Thousands Packs Texas Capitol To Protest Abortion Bill.”

It was the largest demonstration at the Capitol in recent memory, with the Department of Public Safety pegging the crowd size at about 3,000 by mid-morning and The Associated Press later estimating it had grown to at least 5,000 participants at its peak. Scattered among the sea of orange were clusters of blue-clad counter-demonstrators who prayed, clutched crosses, sang and watched the debate from the Senate gallery, but they were far outnumbered by opponents of the legislation.

The AP makes a point of noting the religious activity of the counter-demonstrators (prayed, clutched crosses, sang hymns, the usual stuff), but why do they not mention the religious activity of the demonstrators? For example, what about those who were chanting, “Hail Satan”?

Texas blogger Adam Cahm, who recorded the video, says, “For the record: They’ve been doing this all day, this is just the first time we caught it on video.” So if the protestors were chanting “Hail Satan” all day yesterday, why have we not seen reports about today by mainstream outlets?

The Washington Times appears to be the only newspaper to report on these chants. Meanwhile, CNN producer Josh Rubin mentioned the chants on Twitter (“Crowd of anti abortion activists giving speeches while a group of people chant hail Satan in the background.”) but, so far, nothing on CNN, in terms of actual coverage.

No doubt the number of Satan-hailers is small compared to the number of non-Satan invoking demonstrators. But if it’s worth noting when pro-lifers “clutch crosses” why is not newsworthy when abortion rights supporters invoke the Prince of Darkness?

Why is no one reporting on the chants? Is some lower power compelling reporters to be silent? (Could it be . . . Satan?) Or should we just chalk it up to the ongoing, ever-persistent media bias in mainstream news coverage of abortion?

(Note: If you see other outlets mention the chants, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to this post.)

  • Eugene Scott

    I definitely think that the diversity of the sides should be mentioned – including those chanting, ‘Hail Satan’ AND those who are praying to Jesus. I don’t know why the reporter chose to ignore that. But I think it is essential that one not assume that every reporter covering the event would have written it the same way.

    At best, you answered it here:

    “No doubt the number of Satan-hailers is small compared to the number of
    non-Satan invoking demonstrators.”

    Unless proven otherwise, my experience has been that the majority of pro-lifers are more likely to be praying at their demonstrations. But the majority of pro-choicers do not chant Hail Satan.

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      ***Unless proven otherwise, my experience has been that the majority of pro-lifers are more likely to be praying at their demonstrations. But the majority of pro-choicers do not chant Hail Satan.***

      That’s certainly true. But it raises the question of why pro-choicers (at least based on media portrayals) don’t pray at demonstrations. Perhaps they do! I suspect that if a reporter down at the Texas capitol say a demonstrator praying, they’d assume it was a pro-lifer. Why do they make that assumption?

      • Eugene Scott

        I’m sure there are pro-choicers who pray at demonstrations. But unless I’m wrong, my experience has been that religion isn’t a fundamental piece of the pro-choice protesting experience as it is the pro-life experience. Surely I’ve met numerous pro-choice Christians, but few of them have said they came to their position based on their religious convictions. To me that is so uncommont that quite frankly, if I saw some pro-choicers praying, that would probably catch my eye as much as – if not more than – the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters.

        If I saw someone praying at an ‘abortion demonstration,’ I’d assume it was a pro-lifer. Would you not? But I’d certainly make sure I looked for the sign they were holding, t-shirt they were wearing and words they were saying before concluding that for sure. And I wouldn’t assume that the reporter who wrote this didn’t do those things.

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          ***If I saw someone praying at an ‘abortion demonstration,’ I’d assume it was a pro-lifer. Would you not?***

          Oh, I definitely would make that assumption. I think you are right, as you say, that “religion isn’t a fundamental piece of the pro-choice protesting experience.” The question, though, is why is that the case? Why aren’t abortion rights supporters who *are* religious more openly religious at such protests.

          I’d love to see an enterprising reporter tackle that subject.

          • Eugene Scott

            Maybe I’m just wrongly assuming here, but I’d just think that for the most part, a particular religion doesn’t shape their view on the issue. But that’s not exceptional or surprising to me. Religion doesn’t shape many (maybe most?) people’s – both pro-choicers and pro-lifers – views on many (maybe most?) issues.

      • Sari

        Because many of groups that subscribe to the pro-life position also belong to religious groups which encourage *public* prayer.

        When my son was dying, friends formed a prayer circle in the hospital, linked hands and bowed their heads. One person petitioned G-d for my son to be healed, after which the others responded, “Amen.” Jews do not engage in this kind of spontaneous, public prayer. I am certain that some who visited wondered why we, the parents, were not praying (we were).

        The media would be wise to look at each group’s demographics. I suspect that religion plays a bigger role for the pro-life contingent, whereas gender is the tie that binds pro-choice.

        • wlinden

          I am skeptical about any and all blanket statements of what “Jews” do or do not do. It is unusual enough for all Jews to agree on anything whatever.

          • Sari

            I’ve belonged to all sorts of congregations, from Reform (elementary school) to Orthodox (present), across the United States. My grandfather studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary, which ordains rabbis for the Conservative movement, after he’d already received Orthodox s’michah (ordination) in Russia. One of his closest friends was Mordechai Kaplan, who founded both the Young Israel movement (Orthodox) and the Reconstructionist movement (not). I have never seen any Jewish group engage in the type of public prayer performed by members of certain Christian groups. If there is, it is well off the Jewish mainstream. Observance often reduces to anachronistic customs that become part of the culture.

  • RayIngles

    I’d think that it’d be far more interesting to actually ask one of the ‘Hailers’ why they were chanting that. I suspect that actual Satan-worship is unlikely… but GetReligion continually asks reporters to get people to explain their beliefs and actions in their own words, and this seems an ideal case for that.

    • tmatt

      Precisely. TALK TO PEOPLE. Quote them.

      Let people speak for themselves.

      • RayIngles

        So why didn’t you mention that first? :-)

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          I sort of took that as a given. When asking the media to report on the chants, I would expect them to talk to the people involved and ask what they meant by it.

          • JoFro

            If they didn’t talk to the rosary clutchers, don’t think they’d talk to the Hail Satan crowd either!

  • Bob Smietana

    The AP story ran on Monday. The blogger didn’t post the video till Tuesday. The Washington Times didn’t post anything about the video till today. So unless the AP had a time machine, it is hard to see how they would have reported on the video. Looks like it took the blogger a day to find any video of the chanting – and all he had was 35 seconds of it.

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      ***The AP story ran on Monday. The blogger didn’t post the video till Tuesday. ***

      Right, and today is Wednesday. Could the AP not have done a follow-up? They are a wire service so they could file a story whenever they want.

      ***The Washington Times didn’t post anything about the video till today.***

      Exactly. Which shows that other news agencies had time to post about it too.

      ***Looks like it took the blogger a day to find any video of the chanting – and all he had was 35 seconds of it.***

      Actually, what he said was, “They’ve been doing this all day, this is just the first time we caught it on video.” Perhaps he was just videotaping other areas — or not videotaping at all — the rest of the day.

      • Bob Smietana

        The only thing thing other outlets could have posted about is that the Texas blogger has 35 seconds of video, which he posted the day after the event (and after the AP story that you’re criticizing was published). He got 35 seconds of great videi

        Texas Speaks has lots of video posted of the pro life testimonies. I’ve skimmed through them and it does not appear that Hail Satan was happening all the time http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2384829/LetTexasSpeak

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          Are you saying that you don’t think any reporters were on hand to hear the chanting? If so, what about he producer from CNN? He was there on the ground and heard it for himself.

          If there were no other outlets (aside from CNN) at the protest then it might be excusable that they’d miss out on it. But do you think that is really the case? I don’t. I think we’ll hear more reporting on the protests within the next or two — only without mention of this incident.

          • Bob Smietana

            Go back and read the times on the tweets and then on the AP story. The AP story ran Monday, July 1. On Tuesday, July 2 – Abby Johnson and the CNN editor posted about the Hail Satan — a day after the AP story run. So again, unless Matt Smith from Dr. Who lent the AP his time machine — they could not have reported on it. Because it had not happened yet. Now that some video is out, it is fair game to report on, but my guess is the AP folks have moved on to other stories or are getting ready for July 4.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    Looks like we have another entry for the Myles na gCopaleen Catechism of Cliché:

    What do certain types of protestors often bring to a protest?

    Crosses.

    Are these crosses held, carried or how are they manipulated?

    They are clutched.

    To what are they clutched?

    In the past, bosoms. Nowadays, we still await details on that, Trevor.

  • MollieZHemingway

    Kind of funny. The Atlantic attempted to debunk one of the worst photos coming out of yesterday’s demonstrations — of a child holding an absolutely vile sign as an adult woman also carries the same vile sign. The debunking didn’t work so well. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/07/texas-pro-choice-satan/66834/

    • wlinden

      We have to wonder if the writer would be as nonchalant if there were “only five” people shouting “God hates fags!”

      • Kodos

        Good call. I’ve been amazed with the amount of coverage the MSM gives to this church with, what?, 30-something members.

  • Chris Shearer

    This thread got me thinking about the automatic assumption that pro-life = religion.
    I went searching and found this:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/01/25/yes-there-are-atheists-who-are-anti-abortion/

  • BobbyStruck

    Don’t you understand that the people chanting “Hail Satan” are just borrowing the superstitious and fictitious language of religion to, more or less, poke fun at the anti-choice protestors who take such themes seriously? Seriously, what could be more obvious?

    • wlinden

      I guess that makes it all right then.

      • BobbyStruck

        Borrowing an opponent’s language in order to highlight what the borrower sees as absurd in his or her opponent’s message is a common tactic in political discourse. I fail to see how there is a moral dimension to it at all. What my point does do, though, is highlight that the people who are accusing the pro-choice protestors of Satanism are maybe being a bit intellectually dishonest. I think it’s pretty clear that “Hail Satan” is being chanted for the purposes I’ve mentioned, and not because they believe in or worship some character by that name.

      • feb

        Its makes it alright because there’s no such thing as satan :p they’re trolling you religious people, they’re trolling you. #slowclap

    • Triston

      BobbyStruck. Why do you call them anti-choice? That is not accurate. They love the choice of life. Better to call them anti-murder-of-babies. That is much more accurate. I take it from your comment that you are pro-murder-of-babies.

  • Geoff Trowbridge

    Did anyone actually watch the video? I saw one person chanting “Hail Satan.” ONE. And clearly it was done in mocking fashion.


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