Write As I Say!

Yesterday the conservative media world was consumed with anger and joy at the release of a video produced by an antichoice sting operation that showed a senior Planned Parenthood doctor calmly (over lunch, no less) discussing procedures for making available fetal remains from D&X abortions it conducted, thinking she was talking to representatives of a firm using fetal tissue in medical research, not scam artists.

Today, with amazing speed, much of said conservative media has now moved on from the “scandal” of the video to the more important “scandal” of MSM and liberal media not covering it the way they wish.

At the Daily Caller, Betsy Rothstein has the most extensive roundup of media perfidy, though her tone of gravity is more than a little undermined by a photo showing a bunch of women’s legs in support of the headline, “Mainstream Media Refuses To Give Planned Parenthood Scandal Legs. The Question Is: Why?”

Rothstein turns to people that she describes as “the loudest right-wing media critics out there” to answer the question, and it’s the usual stuff about MSM and lefty folk being advocates, not reporters. But the actual answer is right there in her own article:

As the story unfolded, the only sites covering it were the ones who were most disgusted by it — Glenn Beck‘s TheBlaze, National Review, Breitbart News, TownHall, The Federalist, RedState and my own employer, The Daily Caller.

Lefty sites like Salon, Slate, BuzzFeed, and Gawker followed up late Tuesday and Wednesday to discredit the entire story. It’s not what it seemed. No laws were broken, they reported. “No,” declared Gawker like a stern schoolmarm. “Planned Parenthood is not selling aborted fetal body parts.” On Wednesday night, Media Matters, which operates like an arm of the Democratic Party, had a cluster of stories on its homepage — all debunking the video.

Salon rolled out their anti-choice piece on Wednesday at lunchtime (yum).

Perhaps remembering that she was supposed to be writing about the MSM, Rothstein finally gets around to mentioning coverage from Politico (which “played it straight”), The Hill (which angered conservatives by suggesting in a headline that they had “seized on” the video), and WaPo (scored for changing the term “organ harvesting” to “research” in a headline).

Even as conservative “media scandals” go, this is some weak tea.

Think about what journalists faced when the video appeared. It was self-evidently the product of a advocacy sting operation. It was heavily edited. It was released with language suggesting that Planned Parenthood committed multiple felonies (again, I keep wondering why the scamsters here didn’t have an obligation to go to law enforcement officers with their video when it was shot more than a year ago). And it was greeted instantly with a huge outpouring of wrath and glee from political and ideological advocacy outlets using the most inflammatory language available about illegal abortions and the sale of baby parts–language supported by the video only to the extent that you think “fetus” and “baby” are interchangeable terms and that all late-term abortions are or should be illegal.

You get the impression Rothstein and her friends think the MSM and everybody else should have somehow been forced to report the story on their terms. I mean, how could the sting operation that produced this video not be part of the story? How could responsible journalists fail to note that the moment the video appeared half the Republican politicians on the planet dusted off old legislation to defund or otherwise damage Planned Parenthood?

As it stands, conservatives think they have a dual story: one of savage butchery and trafficking in baby parts at abortion clinics, and then of media complicity in burying or distorting the evidence. And so the many dubious parts of the video and their interpretation of it will be instantly enshrined as “facts” and pass into the large and growing body of “facts” that nobody but conservative ideologues fully believes in: you know, like the vast number of scientists disputing human-generated climate change, and the persecution of Christians and other conservatives by a grimly political IRS, and of course, the mother of all self-demonstrated truths, Benghazi! It would be merely sad if it weren’t so important a phenomenon.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.