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Selective Media Outrage



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Like many on NRO, I too have been stunned by the media’s general news brownout of the Gosnell murder trial. He ran an abattoir for babies. It should be huge news Instead, outside of Philadelphia, it has been a case of see-little-evil in the media. 

I should say, stunned but not surprised. It’s par for the course for the media to drive stories that help narratives they support, or ignore those that might undermine public support for progressive social values.

In my biweekly First Things column, I ruminate on this selective media outrage, and note another example: Jack Kevorkian. Kevorkian’s purpose in assisting suicide was not compassion, but exorcising his own death obsessions. From my piece:

I saw the same “see little evil” phenomenon in the media’s overwhelmingly friendly reporting of the assisted suicide campaign of the late Jack Kevorkian. The man was a veritable ghoul. But you wouldn’t know it from most media reports. When Kevorkian ripped out the kidneys of one of his assisted suicides, and called a press conference offering them for transplant, “first come, first served,” the story made little splash and was soon forgotten.

It was also the rare journalist who reported on Kevorkian’s self-stated motive for pushing his assisted suicide campaign. As he described in Prescription: Medicide, Kevorkian used assisted suicide primarily as a means to a stomach-churning end. From page 214 (emphasis mine):

I feel it is only decent and fair to explain my ultimate aim . . . It is not simply to help suffering or doomed persons to kill themselves—that is merely the first step, an early distasteful professional obligation (now called medicide) . . . What I find most satisfying is the prospect of making possible the performance of invaluable experiments or other beneficial medical acts 

Of course such messy issues rarely made the media reports — and never did toward the end of his campaign of death or during his post-prison rehabilitation.

There is a reason for such air brushing of a man like Kevorkian:

When the media believe that a provocative story will further their ideological predilections, they drive it to a high public profile through blazing headlines, prominent story placement, top-of-the-television news coverage, the use of vivid language, and repeated follow-up reports. But when newsworthy events conflict with desired media narratives, coverage will usually be sporadic, buried, blandly headlined, matter-of-factly described, and dropped as soon as practicable. 

The media hot shots blame their industry’s trouble on technology. That’s a part of it, but I believe that bias also plays a huge role. When consumers know they are not being provided all the news that’s fit to print (as it were), they tune out.



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