The Associated Press provides a nearly perfect example of how media bias works, in a highly tendentious report on the appearance of several prominent Republicans before the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. The first two paragraphs of the story set the tone:
Invoking fiery references to Satan, “savagery” and a “culture of death” to criticize their opponents, anti-abortion lawmakers on Wednesday insisted that Republican contenders keep an intense focus on social issues in the upcoming midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race.
Like many abortion opponents, the Susan B. Anthony List is in search of a White House contender who won’t shy from social issues after back-to-back presidential nominees in 2008 and 2012 who focused their campaigns on the economy and came up short. Several potential 2016 candidates were making their pitches in blunt terms, urging the group members to stick to their principles and fight those who would stand in their way.
Clearly reporter Philip Elliott does not like the Susan B. Anthony List, or the speakers who addressed them. He seeks to convey the impression of a “fiery” revival meeting. And of course, he won’t do them the courtesy of referring to them as “pro-life,” the way abortion extremists are invariably referred to as “pro-choice,” even when the “choice” discussed by the more daring enthusiasts consists of outright infanticide. (That very issue comes up later in the story and is portrayed as a dubious “claim” made by speakers at the Susan B. Anthony List event, even though it’s both fairly common and logically defensible to describe extreme late-term abortion procedures as infanticide, and abortion extremists have indeed taken to musing about how fetuses shouldn’t acquire special protections against the power of “choice” just because they get clear of the womb.)
However, that first paragraph was originally worded differently. The version linked above includes an explicit correction, but many other versions of the AP story floating around on thousands of websites were corrected by stealth, and there are doubtless copies that have never been corrected at all. And even the correction is disingenuous.
Here’s what Paragraph One originally said:
Calling their opponents Satan worshippers and savages, anti-abortion lawmakers on Wednesday insisted that Republican contenders keep an intense focus on social issues in the upcoming midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race.
Wow, which one of those crazy Bible-thumping anti-choicers called the noble and selfless champions of a Woman’s Right to Choose “Satan worshippers?” Why, it was none other than Senator Ted Cruz. But he didn’t call anyone a “Satan worshipper.” He accurately stated that protesters during the Wendy Davis “filibuster” saga chanted “Hail Satan” to drown out pro-lifers. This is a matter of objective fact, not anyone’s opinion. There are video recordings of the incident:
The body of the AP story goes into more detail about what Cruz said, but still avoids informing readers that he is delivering a 100 percent factual account of the event he describes. It was still made to sound like something he’s asserting without evidence, or perhaps exaggerating.
The correction, if you’re lucky enough to stumble on a version of the AP’s false report that includes it, reads as follows:
In some versions of a story March 12 about possible Republican presidential contenders talking about abortion, The Associated Press reported erroneously that they called abortion rights activists Satan worshippers. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said abortion rights activists had chanted “Hail, Satan,” referencing a rally last year in Austin, Texas.
Ted Cruz didn’t merely “say” that abortion activists were chanting “Hail Satan!” He accurately reported it. The rewritten story does him the courtesy of saying he “reminded” his audience at the Susan B. Anthony List of the Satan-hailing, and that it was done to “silence their enemies.” He does needle the demonstrators for engaging in this chant, but he didn’t seriously suggest they were bona fide devil worshipers.
Too bad the reporter couldn’t see past his obvious biases to write an accurate story in the first place. It wouldn’t have been that hard. Abortion extremists are lucky to have so many volunteer P.R. representatives in the media, willing to avert their eyes from obvious truth and paper over the excesses of their movement. It’s good to be friends with the people who stand guard around the Memory Hole.
The usual ripple effect of media reports kicked in, leaving us with such nonsense as a National Journal piece in which an actual Satanist was interviewed to find out how he feels about Ted Cruz comparing him to the crowd in Austin. This story by Emma Roller also falsely asserts that “Sen. Ted Cruz likened abortion-rights supporters to Satanists.” Some time after its publication, National Journal was contacted by Cruz press secretary Catherine Frazier, who obliged them to include a “clarification” that, in her words, “Cruz did not liken or compare abortion advocates as Satanists – he told the truth about a protest in Austin.”
Which of course makes the entire National Journal piece obsolete, since the goal was to drag out some guy from a Satanic Temple to make Cruz look like a clown. If abortion extremists don’t want anyone pointing out that they chanted “Hail Satan!” at a rally, maybe they shouldn’t chant “Hail Satan!” at rallies. Interesting that nobody was interested in the Church of Satan’s feelings about this until the big story was Ted Cruz, rather than the people who did the actual chanting.
The Satanist interviewed by National Journal had a good point about this childish outburst: it was meant as a “thumbing-of-the-nose to religious conservatives.” That’s increasingly what the “pro-choice” movement is all about. It’s a movement defined by who it hates, and what it opposes. That’s why its members are given to making blood-curdling statements they have to retract later, such as the preposterous Wendy Davis later attempting to claim she’s a “pro-lifer.” (Would the Associated Press accede to her request to be referred to that way, or would their stylebook insist on calling her “anti-abortion?”)
The point of most “pro-choice” rallies is to stick it to those heavily demonized religious conservatives. The people at the rallies don’t always understand what they’re supporting. Wendy Davis certainly didn’t; interviews after her filibuster made it clear she had an incomplete understanding of the legislation she opposed, and claimed not to know who abortion monster Kermit Gosnell was. Much of the abortion movement has become an exercise in identity politics. The opportunity to lob insults at the people singing “Amazing Grace” on the other side is a big part of its appeal.
While there are certainly a large number of religious people involved with the pro-life movement, it’s not true that everyone is, and people of faith also have logical reasons to oppose the more atrocious excesses of abortion culture. But that’s not how they look to journalists who have deep-seated preconceptions about their motivations, combined with a reflexive urge to view their opponents in the most positive light.