Media So Dumb It Makes Your Head Hurt (Abortion Reporting Edition)
This Friday I had an exchange with a member of the mainstream media that was absolutely maddening.
What sparked it was the annual invasion of D.C. by the anti-choice squad. Organized largely by religious groups, specifically the Catholic Church, the “March for Life” is all about getting rid of abortion as a choice for women.
Enter Joe Heim, editor for The Washington Post Magazine.
When I noted that “the fringe” was in town for this protest, Heim objected, insisting that my allegation was accurate, “Only if you consider 44 pct to be the fringe.”
I decided to check Heim’s data and found this recent poll from NBC/Wall Street Journal. The number Heim was citing was a combination of people who think abortion should be illegal with and without exceptions (35%, 9%, respectively.) But as I pointed out to him, the protesters do not include the 35% who think abortion should be illegal “with exceptions.”
The poll doesn’t clearly point this out, but it would be safe to assume that among those exceptions include rape, incest, and abortions done to save the life of the mother.
Those aren’t the people protesting every year in the March for Life. They believe – and who am I to doubt their sincerely held beliefs –in completely outlawing abortion. Period. In other words, they are the 9% of poll respondents who believe in making abortion illegal “without any exceptions.”
That is a fringe position. It is certainly far more of a fringe position than the 31% of respondents who feel abortion should be ”always legal,” a position I don’t even agree with (for the record I believe in parental consent for minors and that it should be restricted to within the first trimester in most cases).
Heim wasn’t having it. Despite the rhetoric of the marchers, he was insistent that they represented the entire spectrum of abortion opposition, rather than its extreme fringe.
This is how the right gets the mainstream press to carry their water. They refuse to believe, despite what the right actually says, that their positions are as extreme as they actually are. The media is aware of what the right says, but chooses not to hear it. They think, well, they couldn’t be that extreme! Except they are.
By contrast, they are so indoctrinated in this perverse mindset that they treat mainstream opinion that falls on the left as if it is some extreme deviation. They are so used to liberal ideas being panned by the loudest voices on the right and the cranks that fill their voicemail boxes, that they assume the liberal position – even if it has majority support – is fringe. At the same time they help to mainstream the conservative fringe and severely limit the spectrum of discourse.
It’s so dumb, it’ll make your head hurt.
(For more on how the media – mainstream and conservative – fail when writing on choice, check out my colleagues’ work here)