Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Some March for Life fun facts and a few thoughts on media blackouts

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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January 28, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Hands up everyone who went to the March for Life this year. (All those still waiting to get out of DC-area airports can just whimper weakly.) I know quite a few people here in Europe, Brits, Italians, Irish, Poles, who go every year and wouldn’t miss it, and they are bringing the idea back to Europe with them.

I went last year, but this year just couldn’t face the punishing 25 hours of travel time and 36 hours of recovery time it would take. But the memories of the march are still with me. While the debate continues as to what, concretely, the March for Life accomplishes in the political realm, the one thing we all agree on is that it’s fun. It’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s a happy time over an issue that can sometimes seem hopelessly depressing. Even the mainstream media, if they were to show up, could not miss the fact that no one there is angry, no one is waving a fist.

I thought I would look a few things up about it, and pass them along, with some thoughts about that annual bugbear, the media blackout.

Most protest marches and demonstrations on the Mall are one-time events and, it being the capital of the most powerful nation on earth, it has all the biggest ones. The March for Life is one of only two that are held annually. The other one is “Rolling Thunder,” a demonstration of bikers for the benefit of American POWs held every year on Memorial Day.

This means that with this year’s rough estimate of 400,000, the March for Life in Washington is by far the largest single annual political event in the United States. And possibly in the western world.

In the history of Mall demonstrations, very few have come close to the size of crowds that attended on January 22nd this year. 500,000 demonstrated in 1969 for an end to the Vietnam War. The same number was recorded gathering again in 1971 for the same purpose.

By comparison, even the causes that enjoy broad social support, that we would now call “politically correct,” do not draw anything like these numbers. In 1972, a demonstration against South African apartheid drew 8-10 thousand participants. In 1976, a demonstration organized by the National Organization for Women (NOW) drew 16,000 in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.

It is also notable that the issues at the heart of the Culture Wars, abortion and homosexuality, seem to draw the most people. In 1987, when AIDS held pride of place in the media, an estimated 500,000 homosexuals and their supporters attended a rally on the Mall. And in 1989, a pro-abortion counter protest to the March for Life, titled “March for Women’s Lives,” another NOW project, brought another 500,000; a similar event with similar attendance occurred in 2004.

It used to be the job of the National Parks Service to issue crowd size estimates, but in 1995, following a controversy over their reporting of the Million Man March, they gave it up. Since then, crowd size estimates come from demonstration organizers and the media, which one might imagine leaves a great deal of room for interpretation depending on the media’s attitude toward a given issue.

Pro-life people are also not the only ones who complain of “media blackout.” It’s a surprise to see that pro-abortion demonstrators complain almost as often as we do that the media is ignoring them or giving unbalanced accounts. Yes, it’s true. It may prompt our jaws to drop in incredulity, but leftists, progressives, feminists, abortionists and homosexualists regularly complain, at least in the U.S., of a pervading right-wing bias in the media that makes it impossible for them to get their message out. No, I’m not making it up.

In 2009, Don Smith, a Democratic organizer and activist in Seattle – a typical Left Coast leftist – complained that at a pro-abort rally he attended in DC, the media focused their cameras on the lone pro-life counter-protester amidst a sea of pro-aborts.

At another rally in Seattle protesting an appearance by then-President George Bush, Smith asked a photographer why only photos of the president shaking hands, and not of the rally appeared in the local papers. The photographer said his editors “decided that the President’s photos would generate the most reader interest. It was a business decision.”

(I also had a bit of smile when he said, “Progressives also need to build a viable, alternative online press … at least a few successful, well-edited websites that have enough market share and respectability to be powerful.” At least that’s one lesson we are getting on this side of the fence. And thanks again to all the readers who continue to make it possible, by the way…)

It is probably a good lesson in perspective for us to remember that the first task for journalists and editors is to attract an audience, to figure out what is “newsworthy,” and as rule, marches and rallies are not, no matter what the cause. I would think this especially true if it were a rally that predictably happens on the same date every year.

If the news can be thought of as a form of non-fiction drama, a kind of non-stop soap opera, it is well to remember the axiom laid down by Aristotle in his treatise on poetry, that for drama to exist, there must be conflict. It is the conflict that journalists are after, since it is only conflict that arouses the public’s interest and sympathy, what Aristotle called “pity and fear.”

This is the reason, despite complaints that the news is a downer, that “good news” really doesn’t sell. It is human nature. Tragedy sells. Sex sells. Holocausts, pogroms, genocides and bombings sell. A day in the life of the smiling people of Happy Village…? not so much.

This rule was brought home to me some months ago when I attended a press conference at the Vatican to introduce Peter Seewald’s interview book with Pope Benedict … you know, the one that caused the latest big kerfuffle over condoms. As I was waiting for the bigwigs to come in, I found myself seated next to a venerable Vaticanista, someone who is on our side and who has been reporting closely on Vatican affairs for decades. I expressed my surprise at the packed house; it looked as if every journalist in Europe were there. She smiled and said, “It’s about the pope and sex. It’s a seller!”

This does not exonerate the media, and I think it is obvious that the coverage of the March for Life, when there is any, is wildly, laughably unbalanced, but Smith’s point is well taken. One reporter he asked about news coverage of rallies and protests, said, “most rallies simply aren’t newsworthy.”

“It’s not news when progressives protest against war, or when Catholics protest against abortion.”

Nonetheless, Smith’s photographer friend made the point: “Only if rallies are massive (like hundreds of thousands of people), or violent, do they get coverage.” While the March for Life doesn’t qualify when it comes to violence (there isn’t any), it does seem that the hundreds of thousands who show up annually might draw the attention of the media bigshots, at least more than they do.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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