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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For Hillary Clinton, abortion access trumps religious liberty

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By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- For Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, apparently abortion trumps religious liberty.

It may have gotten bipartisan support in the House of Representatives last night, but a spokesperson for the Democratic Party's leading presidential candidate says a resolution protecting religious liberty in the District of Columbia "overrule[s] the democratic process" and hurts women.

The vote, which saw three Democrats join the GOP majority and 13 Republicans stand with Democrats, was meant to protect pro-life and religious organizations in the District from the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA).

RHNDA was signed by the mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, in January, and makes it illegal for any employer, including religious and pro-life organizations, to use a person's belief or actions about abortion in employment considerations. It also requires employers to provide abortion coverage.

The resolution now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to fail due to the Senate being on recess. Under existing federal law, the measure has 30 legislative days to be disapproved by Congress and President Obama. If this does not happen, it becomes law.

The 30-day window ends on Saturday. President Obama promised a veto of the resolution on Thursday, even though RHNDA was opposed by former District mayor Vincent Gray. According to Gray, while he "applaud[s] the goals of this legislation," the former mayor believes RHNDA could violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal treatment under the law.

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The statement by the Clinton campaign left no doubt that she stood with Obama and a majority of Democratic legislators. Spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri told CNN, "Hillary Clinton has fought for women and families and their right to access the full range of reproductive health care without interference from politicians or employers."

"Hillary will fight to make it easier, not more difficult, for women and families to get ahead and ensure that women are not discriminated against for personal medical decisions."

The remarks come a week after Clinton took criticism for saying that "religious beliefs" critical of "reproductive rights" must "be changed."

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” she told the Women in the World Summit on April 23.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper," said Clinton in her speech. "Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will."

“Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed,” said the candidate.

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Social conservatives may be funding the destruction of marriage: corporate watchdog

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By Dustin Siggins

May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- With over $55 million in annual revenue, the Human Rights Campaign may be America's most powerful LGBT activist group. And according to a conservative corporate watchdog, that's in part because social conservatives are funding it.

"Conservatives would be surprised to know that many of the dollars they spend every day are helping fund an agenda that seeks to destroy traditional marriage and undermine religious freedoms," said 2nd Vote National Outreach Director Robert Kuykendall. "Even when they purchase a beverage from a company like Coca-cola or Starbucks, their dollar is going to support HRC's liberal agenda to redefine marriage."

Less than 18 months old, 2nd Vote has graded hundreds of corporations on six issues -- corporate welfare, the environment, education, support for the Second Amendment, abortion, and as of two weeks ago, same-sex "marriage." Using their "scoring" system, 2nd Vote ranks corporations on their direct or indirect involvement with these hot-button public policy and cultural issues.

And according to them, some of America's favorite corporations are making the radical HRC agenda possible.

"HRC is the largest LGBT lobbying organization in the United States with reported revenues of over $55 million," Kuykendall told LifeSiteNews. "The redefinition of marriage and the undermining of religious freedom are major components of HRC’s policy agenda. To fund their policy goals, HRC has enlisted the help of many major corporations that we do business with every day to help fund. Over a third of the contributions received by HRC are listed as 'Corporate/Foundation Grants.'" 

Why should conservatives care about corporate donors to HRC? Kuykendall says the organization is both politically influential and publicly deceptive. "Last election cycle, HRC spent around a million dollars on electioneering activities and in support of liberal candidates willing to push their legislative agenda. HRC is responsible for spreading much of the misinformation regarding [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] laws and has also mischaracterized the protections provided by these laws."

"HRC organized a massive grassroots campaign in support of the legal battle to overturn state laws protecting marriage and influence the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges," said Kuykendall.

Marriage isn't the only issue on which conservatives may be at odds with HRC's corporate backers. "2nd Vote’s research into other issues such as life, the environment, and the 2nd Amendment shows that many of the companies supporting HRC have taken liberal stands on other issues as well,” he said. “For example, Apple, Citigroup, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola are Platinum Partners, the highest level of HRC’s National Corporate Partners, that have also funded the liberal Center for American Progress [CAP]."

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"Bank of America, Google, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, PepsiCo, and Morgan Stanley are also HRC Corporate Partners that have funded CAP. Furthermore, all of these companies signed the amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn state marriage laws."

In Indiana, the state's religious liberty law was modified because of corporate pressure led by Tim Cook, Apple's gay CEO. Kuykendall says conservatives should not give up, though he acknowledges that "for too long, conservatives have let liberals and groups like HRC bully companies into not just going along with their agenda, but actively funding and promoting it."

"However, conservatives have also proven their ability to mobilize and use their dollars in support of traditional values as we’ve seen through the fundraising campaigns for the pizza parlor and wedding cake makers who have been attacked by liberals for their beliefs. Conservatives need to turn the tables on the left, and groups like HRC, and motivate companies to stop funding the liberal agenda through the power of their shopping habits."

Only nine companies have ranks of "five" or "four" on 2nd Vote's ranking system, indicating a pro-marriage perspective. They are outnumbered more than 10 to 1 by organizations that support redefining marriage.

Concerned citizens can download the app on 2nd Vote's website. The full list of corporation scores can be found here.

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First graders exposed to book about transgender boy—without parental notification

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By Fr. Mark Hodges

KITTERY POINT, ME, May 1, 2015, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Parents at one Maine school are upset that children as young as six were exposed to a book promoting transgender issues, in the name of "acceptance."

Parents were not only not consulted, they were never even notified of their children's exposure to transgenderism.

Horace Mitchell Primary School read the book I Am Jazz to first-grade students. The book is about a boy who identifies as a girl from the age of two, "with a boy's body and a girl's brain." He eventually finds a doctor who tells his parents, "Jazz is transgender."

Parents began to inquire about what was being taught at Horace Mitchell Primary after children came home with questions about their own sex and wondering if they, too, might be transgender.

One mother, upset that teachers would broach the subject of transgenderism with her little boy, said the primary school ignored her complaint. "I feel like my thoughts, feelings and beliefs were completely ignored...My right as a parent to allow or not allow this discussion with my child was taken from me," she told Hannity.com.

"When I spoke with the principal he was very cold about it," the mother continued. "It's amazing how thoughtless the school has been with this whole thing."

Only after Sean Hannity made national inquiries did Horace Mitchell Primary School suggest that teachers should have told parents ahead of time.

Allyn Hutton, the superintendent of the local district, said she supported reading the book but admitted that parents should have been given advance warning about the subject matter. "We have a practice of – if a topic is considered sensitive – parents should be informed. In this situation, that didn't happen," she said. "We understand that toleration is tolerating people of all opinions."

Horace Mitchell Primary School sent an e-mail, after the fact, to concerned parents, including a link to a blog post of the school's guidance counselor, explaining their motivation was "cultivating respect."

"Some may think primary school students are too young to worry about addressing issues surrounding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Not so, experts say,” the school's guidance counselor wrote. “It’s never too early to begin teaching children about respecting differences."

Homosexual activists say they support the teaching of transgenderism to first-graders, with or without parental notification. "The staff of Mitchell School is...shedding a light on [LGBTQ] issues,” said a column in Gay Star News.

The LGBT puublication goes even further, advocating homosexual propaganda be commonplace in elementary schools across the country. "LGBTQ issues should never be classified as a 'sensitive subject,' [because] there is nothing sensitive about the way we are born. Blonde hair, brown hair, gay, straight or somewhere in-between."

Brian Camenker of MassResistance commented on the infiltration of homosexual propaganda in children's schools. "We deal with parents and teachers a lot, and the idea that teachers would do this is unconscionable. It's like the people that promote this stuff are evil. It's demonic. You can't imagine adults that would do this to other people's children, and do it with such anger, and such vitrol.”

Camenker emphasized that this is “not an isolated incident with just one, rogue teacher. This happens because the whole administrative hierarchy buys into it.”

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“The new generation of educators is very, very frightening,” he said.

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