On twitter yesterday, it was mildly irking to see a few tweets in my timeline from people like Kevin Drum and I forget who else, basically saying, (essentially) “oh, yeah? Well, if the Gosnell story was such a big deal, why weren’t any of you people writing about it in 2011, huh? Answer that! Burn!”.
It was pretty easy to do a quick search and send him links of this blog and Hot Air and Michelle Malkin and others, writing multiple times of Gosnell in 2011, and even 2012. But here’s a piece that speaks specifically to the media blackout of the story, that I wrote for First Things, ‘way back in 2011:
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.
That’s all pretty obvious to everyone, today, but here’s something I suspect no one is thinking about, and it’s an idea that the mainstream press has got to hate:
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?
The press was quite right (and duty-bound) to report on the shameful failures of our bishops and the sins of our priests. They reported; they followed up. They dug through records. They sought out histories. They looked for more, because they understood that if filth existed in one diocese, it likely existed in others. They courageously did their jobs, unworried about fallout or repercussions; they were looking at a big issue, and were thus unintimidated by big names, and rightly unreserved in their outrage.
They pulled neither punches nor headlines. They even dared to peer at the very uppermost seats of authority and leadership, to see if there was any culpability, there—any mismanagement, any looking-away.
In the wake of Kermit Gosnell, however, in the wake of Andrew Rutland, Stephen Brigham, and Abu Hayat, there is no following-up, no digging through records; there is no curiosity about filthy, women-maiming, spine-snipping facilities existing in other cities; there are no big names to go to for quotes. These crimes—when they are covered at all—are treated like “local” aberrations. No one peers in at authority or examines the pro-abortion leadership. There is no one in government, apparently, to ask about criminal-neglect, lack of scrutiny; no one to accuse of mismanagement or of looking-away.
The mainstream press, made uncomfortable by a 261-page grand jury report detailing what might well be called a decades-long and heinous crime against humanity, abetted by the spectacularly willful looking-away of those in authority, itself turns away from the story and neglects its duty to the public trust.
In doing so they bring to mind the words of Saint Paul to the Romans: “The evil which I hate, that I do.”
Some members of the press are finally reporting on Gosnell, and some even seem authentically horrified by the story and mortified that their profession let it go unreported. Despite the ones intent on distracting by sneering, “oh, yeah? And where were you when the story broke?” like 14 year olds, let’s be glad they’re finally awake and paying attention. Let’s appreciate what may be a moment of grace.
UPDATE: The FT piece links to this but let me also link to it, here, Melinda Henneberger’s excellent piece from…2011