The media has three categories for filing away inconvenient stories. There are the stories that are buried. There are the stories that are really buried. And then there are the stories that are weighed down and dumped deep inside an abandoned coal mine to never see the light of day.
There are plenty of reasons why Kermit Gosnell‘s falls into the third category. The abortion argument has largely been divided over medical procedures with the embedded assumption that any limitation of abortion would send women to places like Gosnell’s house of horrors. But Kermit Gosnell was able to operate his house of horrors because of a lack of oversight. And that lack of oversight existed because oversight might have shut down some abortion clinics.
And there is race, whose presence at the heart of the old eugenics arguments behind the work of pioneers like Margaret Sanger, is all too present here. But the embargo is getting shakier.
The amount of potential traffic alone is forcing sites to cover what they would rather not cover, if only to pick up the hits. Powers’ piece in USA Today helped break the embargo. That’s being followed by Conor Friedersdorf’s much longer Atlantic piece. Both argued that the story deserves wider coverage.
Tellingly the left is already assembling its fallback talking points. Their approach is to blame Gosnell’s abuses on “conservatives” for restricting abortion, even though Gosnell was allowed to operate precisely because there was an attempt to go in the other direction. Before long Media Matters and Think Progress will spew out industrial sized versions of the talking point that Gosnell, like the coathangers, is the fault of the right, not the left.
Dave Weigel at Slate argues that the process by which local stories become national is random.
So the question, raised by pro-lifers, is this: Explain to us why Gosnell isn’t a national story. Somebody else can try. I can’t explain it. It’s never made sense to me, how a local crime story becomes a national story. Two words: “Poop cruise.” CNN ran hours of coverage and grainy video of a stranded Carnival cruise ship, a situation that inconvenienced many and killed none. How does a missing college student or an angry man in a TSA line become part of Our National Conversation? I don’t know. I do know that a reporter in the bubble is less likely to be compelled by the news of an arrested abortionist.
Oh it can be explained. A local story goes national because it is either compelling or exploitable. Or for political reasons.
In the first category we have the poop cruise. Or Jeffrey Dahmer. In the second category we have the local gay marriage or transgender man stories that the media keeps pushing to the top even though very few people care about them.
The process is not random. It’s not incomprehensible. It’s all about the hook and the motive.
There are some stories that are neutral and apolitical. There are other stories that exist for the sake of a political agenda. Newtown and Gosnell are both horrifying stories. But one fits a political agenda and the other undermines it. One gets national coverage and the other doesn’t.
If Democrats viewed abortion the way they do guns, then Gosnell’s house of horrors would have been the topic in every media outlet for months and the families of his victims would have their own lobbyists and be namechecked in every Obama speech. Tactics like that are also why the left has been winning its fights.