The Media’s March Toward Irrelevance
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 29, 2017 by The Washington Times.
As any reporter can tell you, it’s far more fun to cover zany people and events than those exuding decency and restraint. The news business, like much of the entertainment media, thrives on mayhem.
In Disney’s animated classic “Fantasia,” the spectacular deviltry of “A Night on Bald Mountain” is followed by a peaceful march of candle-bearing believers after the morning sun dispatches the satanic hordes. The melodic strains of “Ave Maria” wash away any lingering creepiness. It’s soothing and poetic, but very low-key. If cameras were deployed, it’s obvious which event would dominate the evening news.
I’ve always wished the “Fantasia” writers had not perhaps unwittingly made demonic-inspired confusion appear more exciting than a life of faith. The candle march went on way too long and got boring. Instead, the Disney studio magicians could have shown a cascading montage of exciting natural wonders and touching scenes illustrating the power of creation and love. I know, don’t leave your day job to be a movie critic. But my point is that chaos gets the ink and air time.
And so, the media, which all but ignore the huge, peaceful, annual March for Life, went big for the Women’s March on the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. That day, several hundred thousand women and some male-ish persons mounted a colossal hissy fit in the nation’s capital. Thousands were at it again on Thursday in Philadelphia outside a Republican lawmakers gathering, protesting Mr. Trump and his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
At the Women’s March, which The Washington Post said attracted “millions of marchers who descended on Washington and cities worldwide,” every strain of the progressive left was represented, from the American Civil Liberties Union to radical unions, racialist groups and climate change zealots. There were even a few witches and warlocks and some anti-Israel demonstrators, not that they were representative of the main body of protesters. But you probably did not see them on TV, which is by design.
The liberal media were head-over-heels, hyping the march in advance, gushing over the sea of pink pussycat hats, quoting celebrity marchers, and making sure to edit out the ubiquitous use of f-words and unbelievably obscene signs (which I will not describe) carried by some demonstrators. The event’s animating principle, apart from sheer hatred of Donald Trump, was the left’s unholy sacrament of abortion.
This past Friday, the pro-life community rallied in the March for Life, which annually attracts multitudes of people protesting the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion.
Unlike the Women’s March participants, who like other liberal protesters left mountains of trash, the pro-lifers are always well-mannered and pick up their own litter. Boring.
But the novelty factor only partially explains the monumental gap in media coverage. Looking at the major networks’ time spent on the 2016 March for Life against the time devoted to the Women’s March, Media Research Center analyst Katie Yoder caught the networks in a spasm of bias: Combined, “ABC, CBS and NBC spent at least one hour, 15 minutes and 18 seconds on the women’s march.” That’s a lot of airtime. “But for the 2016 March for Life, they devoted an embarrassing 35 seconds (22 seconds following the march, 13 before).” This is 129 times more coverage. The networks also “blurred words on the signs the marchers carried because of the vulgar language on them” and completely ignored the ouster of a pro-life feminist group from the Women’s March.
Since Mr. Trump’s election, abortion policy has made the news again in a big way, with upcoming fights over funding cuts predicted for Planned Parenthood, and his reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits sending taxpayer money to foreign groups that perform or promote abortion. Also looming is a huge battle over the next Supreme Court justice.
If the gap in coverage of the respective marches is any indication, the media will stay true to form, ignoring inconvenient truths about abortion while parroting the left’s talking points and euphemisms. America, they will tell us, is awash in a “war on women.”
No wonder people are increasingly tuning out the “legacy media” and seeking alternative news sources.
Just because they live in their own version of “Fantasia” doesn’t mean we have to.