Before you ask, searching ABCNews.com’s archives reveals multiple pieces on the Gosnell trial over the past month — all from the Associated Press wire. There’s no original content from ABC News itself unless I missed something. There is original content that mentions Gosnell dated from late January. It’s a story about … threats to late-term abortionists and how they’re not all monsters like that terrible man in Pennsylvania. So yes, they’ll mention him, as long as they can somehow spin what he did in service to The Cause. Of course.
And yes, they know about the case. And they’ll acknowledge it in lower-profile formats:
Kermit Gosnell is probably the most successful serial killer in the history of the world.
— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) April 12, 2013
He’s not the only one:
The trial of corrupt abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell has produced some horrifying testimony: articles.philly.com/2013-04-09/new…
— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) April 11, 2013
This reminds me of Mickey Kaus writing about “undernews,” stuff that people will eagerly chatter about online but which “respectable” media ignores, at least temporarily. Typically it relates to rumors like John Edwards’s affair, which people whispered about for months but which big media, because it couldn’t nail down the story and/or because it was politically “unhelpful,” refused to cover. The first suspicions about Anthony Weiner started off that way too. One of the many surreal elements of the Gosnell story is that it’s somehow ended up as undernews even though, as Moran aptly says, this degenerate may in fact be one of the worst serial killers in history. It’s not a rumor; he’s on trial by the State of Pennsylvania with a death sentence on the table. But somehow it’s not suitable for media coverage. Instead:
— Kirsten Powers (@kirstenpowers10) April 12, 2013
Here’s what I want to know: Which reporters have known about the story all along and simply refused to cover it, knowing that the revulsion universally (or almost universally) felt might start readers thinking Disapproved Thoughts about what it means to be pro-choice, and which ones are somehow so insulated that they haven’t even heard of Gosnell until recently? Conor Friedersdorf, who wrote a sharp Gosnell critique for the Atlantic this morning, says he didn’t know about it until yesterday. Dave Weigel claims it was news to him until last night on Twitter, when the Gosnell story exploded among pro-lifers and ended up trending. Quote:
Let’s just state the obvious: National political reporters are, by and large, socially liberal. We are more likely to know a gay couple than to know someone who owns an “assault weapon.” We are, generally, pro-choice. Twice, in D.C., I’ve caused a friend to literally leave a conversation and freeze me out for a day or so because I suggested that the Stupak Amendment and the Hyde Amendment made sense. There is a bubble. Horror stories of abortionists are less likely to permeate that bubble than, say, a story about a right-wing pundit attacking an abortionist who then claims to have gotten death threats.
That’s … better, I guess, than intentionally suppressing the story, but what’s the solution? What “next steps” will be taken by reporters who are waking up to this today to make sure they don’t miss future news on the order of “the most successful serial killer in the history of the world”? One thing that’s struck me over the years is that journalists seem more willing now to confess to bias or ignorance when pressed, but really only as a hedge to having to do anything about it. Conservatives howled at them for years that they’re either in the tank or out to lunch; now that there are lots of megaphones for that accusation, on TV, radio, and online, they don’t resist as much with implausible claims of impartiality. Often they’ll cop to it — or rather, they’ll cop to the industry leaning left while leaving their own political sympathies vague — but nothing really changes. If anything, as the Gosnell coverage shows, it gets worse over time. The critique from the right has always been that press should at least acknowledge its leanings if it insists on championing liberal causes, but the point of that critique isn’t really to get them to be honest, it’s to get them to stop being biased and practice the neutrality they pretend to. Faced with having to either abandon the cause in the name of neutrality, though, or simply admit to being biased or part of a “bubble” and then go on pushing the leftist take, most of them seem to prefer the latter.
I don’t mean to single out Weigel for that as, unlike nearly everyone else in media, he does seem contrite about having missed the story and wrote about it today. He’s not “big media” either. They’re the ones I’m chiefly concerned with. The best-case scenario is that they’re part of a bubble that’s causing them to miss narrative-busting news stories, which in turn means the public is missing them, and many might be only dimly aware of it — as ludicrous as that seems to you and me. The worst-case scenario is that some of them are building the bubble deliberately to keep those narrative-busters away from the public, even if it ends up blinding some of their colleagues too. Anyway, recommended reading: The Anchoress’s suggestion of different angles on Gosnell for the media to pursue going forward. This isn’t just a story of an alleged lunatic decapitating babies, it’s a story about the state looking the other way for 17 years while he did it because meddling with abortion clinics is frowned upon by pro-choicers, no matter what garbage they’ll be shoveling soon to the contrary to distance themselves from Gosnell. Here’s two from the Anchoress to start you off:
***Would Gosnell have severed baby feet and kept them like trophies if he had any fear of surprise inspections? Could regular inspections have saved women’s lives? Did political pressure from abortion advocates precipitate end of inspections, limited regulations?
***How much pro-abortion money flows into political coffers? Did Gosnell ever donate to a party or a politician? If so, could that have given him cover? He apparently pulled down over one million dollars a year and hid money in his mattresses. Were any local or state officials paid off to ignore his depravity? Who might be likely recipients of payola? Follow the money?
Update: Here we go.
— Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) April 12, 2013
Tapper tweeted this afternoon that he’ll have something on it too. And Ace is right to note that Fox News isn’t covering the story much. A little, yes, to distinguish it from its competitors, but nothing like you’d expect. As for MSNBC, the less said, the better.