The Wanderer, July 1,
1999, page 5)
The ever-annoying Margaret Carlson of Time magazine
expresses her hope that like most of us, [George W.] Bush may well
have a more nuanced position on abortion than simple opposition to
it. The tony word nuanced, applied to abortion, means, of course,
not really against it in principle, or for that matter in
practice. Miss Carlson, by the way, calls one end of the
spectrum pro-choicers and the other the
extremists. Hows that for delicate nuance?
By the way, whats the
nuanced position on slavery?
Nuances are quickly dispelled by the
sight of an aborted child, which is why the media never show the victims
of abortion. This may be the single strongest taboo governing the news
media these days. When you see a picture of an aborted child, you know
instantly that some pro-life extremist wanted you to see it.
Nobody else would be guilty of such bad taste. The abortion debate is
supposed to be conducted without showing what were debating about.
These little ones arent what Bill Clinton has in mind when he
blubbers about our children.
I recently saw an extremely powerful
picture a bloodless one. It was a simple outline drawing of a
child whose body had emerged from the birth canal while its head
remained within. This of course is the position the child is in when
a partial-birth abortion is committed. The child is actually
already born in all but the most technical legal sense, which is the
whole reason the procedure is used: its not really abortion, but
barely legal infanticide, designed to protect the killer from the law.
If even that sketch were shown on
television, it would change countless minds about abortion in
general which is exactly why its never shown on
television. Or, for that matter, why it isnt shown in the
current issue of Time, which, however, offers grisly
pictures and descriptions of the horror in Kosovo, complete
with anecdotes underlining the pathos: The sickly sweet smell of
decaying flesh hangs in invisible clouds above the province, and the
ground offers up body parts. Bits of ashen bone a thigh, a rib
cage and chunks of roasted flesh litter the floors of burned-out
houses. Corpses, left where they fell, putrefy in fields and farmyards
amid the buzzing of flies and the howling of stray dogs. A
girls discovery of her fathers body is vividly described.
The article features a two-page color photo of a womans gaping
skull, matted with her hair. I cannot tell you what it was like
to see my father with bullets ripping him from head to toe, one
man is quoted as saying.
So the media can do a pretty good job of
recreating physical sensation when they want to. And they usually want to.
Even the print media, with full-color pictures, have become far more
graphic than they used to be. When they want to be. Advances in
technology naturally lead to greater explicitness. Usually.
But theres one subject on which
the media refrain from exercising their full First Amendment right to
push our noses into reality one lone subject on which they remain
downright Victorian in their preference for circumlocution over
Before the sexual revolution, practically
everyone participated in a benign conspiracy of silence about sex, and
abortion was thought too sordid to mention, let alone describe, in polite
company. The old taboos were observed in large part to shield the young
from premature knowledge, as well as to respect the sensibilities of
ladies and gentlemen. Protecting children, setting a good example, and
observing standards of taste took priority over unbridled freedom of
But the current taboo against showing
abortion is hardly designed to protect children; just the opposite. It
serves to protect the abortionist, as is his new title, the abortion
provider. And it also protects those who are complicit with him.
The media arent overly concerned about the impact of vivid images of
sex and violence on children; as far as theyre concerned, kids are
on their own. Shielding them is strictly their parents job, and the
liberal society, in which the media play a central role, feels no
obligation to help the parents.
Of course in the old days we didnt
see pictures of aborted children; they are certainly revolting, but there
was no reason to show them when everyone agreed that abortion was evil.
Its interesting, and revealing, that this is about the only taboo
that has survived from the days when American society was Christian;
because this taboo just happens to serve the purposes of the sexual
revolution, on which the media thrive.
So the media discuss abortion in bland
and nuanced euphemisms and abstractions that pose no risk of
horrifying the public, even as they dramatize carnage in the Balkans for
the precise purpose of horrifying the public. Time wants us
to have the most impassioned awareness of whats going on in Kosovo;
but it wants us to feel that nothing important is going on in
Americas abortion clinics. In the television age, out of sight is
indeed out of mind.
The bias of the media shows up not only in
what information they report and in the slanted language they use, but
most of all in what they choose to dramatize. Their choices are designed
less to inform us than to move our passions and consciences in selected
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