What ought to be done with the Gosnell flap!


Ought to be done, but won’t be: Jonathan Capehart brought a touch of comic relief to the flap about Kermit Gosnell.

Gosnell is the Philadelphia doctor who is on trial for a wide range of abuses at his abortion clinic. How crazy was Dr. Gosnell?

This crazy: According to the grand jury report, “The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely.” Gosnell is charged with more serious crimes, but that helps paint the picture.

Starting on April 11, conservatives began to complain that the mainstream press wasn’t covering Gosnell’s trial enough. We’d be inclined to agree.

On the other hand, conservative news orgs were largely ignoring the trial as well! In this morning’s New York Times, Trip Gabriel reports the completely ridiculous conduct at the Washington Times:
GABRIEL (4/16/13): In recent days, the case has become a political cause célèbre, kicked off by a commentator for Fox News, Kirsten Powers, who wrote in USA Today that “when Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke,” a pro-contraception activist, “there was nonstop media hysteria,” but in the case of Dr. Gosnell, there was only a “deafening silence” that was disgraceful.


But others noted there had been scant coverage in conservative news outlets. Kevin Drum, a political blogger for Mother Jones, pointed out that one conservative paper, The Washington Times, had published one wire-service article about the trial and seven stories “complaining that other media outlets aren’t covering the trial.”
Let's review:

As of April 11, the Washington Times was ignoring the trial. Since then, the Washington Times has been loudly complaining that mainstream orgs were ignoring the trial!

This is a wonderfully comic example of our utterly clownish and subhuman American public discourse. In this case, it’s also a wonderful example of the relentless pile of big stupid shit conservative voters are constantly handed by orgs like the Washington Times.

In a slightly more rational world, liberal activists and mainstream news orgs would explore this contradiction more fully. Ideally, liberals would speak to conservative leaning voters, using this case to help them see the ways they are often abused.

Remember when Fox kept telling those voters that Romney was way ahead in the polls? Here is another groaning example where many such voters might be able to see the way they are constantly clowned.

Sad to say, the liberal world will not be approaching conservative voters that way. The liberal world has very few forums to which such voters pay any attention.

Our career liberal “leaders” spend lots of time entertaining us with attacks on such voters—often, with blindingly stupid attacks. (Rachel Maddow's week-and-a-half of dick jokes remains the all-time example.) In the process, we lose the ability to help such voters see how badly they often get played.

(At present, your lizard brain is telling you that it’s all the conservatives’ fault. You should spend less time with your lizard.)

It’s also unlikely that the mainstream press will do much with this comical episode. Gabriel downplays this part of the story. In our opinion, so did Paul Farhi in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Farhi discussed the conservative clowning midway through his report—after his report has left the front page of the Style section. In our opinion, he then overstates the amount of coverage the story was getting on Fox:
FARHI (4/15/13): The charge of liberal media bias is perhaps undercut by the fact that a number of conservative media outlets—and conservative leaders—overlooked the story, too, until a flood of tweets and commentaries about it began late last week.

The Weekly Standard and the National Review, two leading conservative magazines, for example, hadn’t published anything on the trial, according to a search of the Nexis database. The New York Post’s conservative editorial board has written one commentary—an editorial lamenting the lack of coverage, which, although it doesn’t mention it, includes its own paper. The Washington Times has published five staff-written articles and guest commentaries on the matter, all focusing on the absence of press coverage.

Fox News has been the only consistent national TV source on the story, having run 11 news reports or commentaries on it over the past month.
Please. Fox was doing next to nothing as of April 11, when the coverage flap blew up due to Powers’ op-ed column. Before that day, the Gosnell story had only been mentioned once on Fox in the previous two weeks, dating all the way back to March 28.

Also note: Farhi and Gabriel managed to note the clownish conduct of the Washington Times. But neither reporter told us if the more powerful Wall Street Journal had been covering this topic. And while Farhi overstated the coverage on Fox, Gabriel didn't bother describing the coverage on Fox at all.

Is this really the best our major newspapers can do? When it comes to complaints about powerful conservatives, the answer to that is yes.

The liberal world simply doesn’t have game when it comes to matters like this. We don’t know how to talk to conservatives. And our “leaders” refuse to challenge the timid conduct of our big mainstream news organs such as the Post and the Times.

And good lord, how timid those organs are! They would rather jump off a bridge than challenge the world of Fox. This brings us back to the clownish Capehart, providing some comic relief:

In this morning’s New York Times, Gabriel tells us what the Washington Post’s Martin Baron has said regarding his paper’s failure to cover this trial. Beyond that, Gabriel says that his own newspaper, the New York Times, did cover the trial’s first day.

But what about the Washington Times? There is no sign that they were asked to explain their ridiculous conduct, even as Gabriel hurries past Fox and the WSJ altogether.

At any rate, Baron copped a plea on behalf of the Washington Post, inspiring Capehart’s comedy stylings. Here's what Capehart says in a blog post for that same Washington Post:
CAPEHART (4/16/13): Many critics claim that there has been silence on the Gosnell case from the national media because of the abortion issue. I side with The Post’s executive editor Martin Baron on this. “I wish I could be conscious of all stories everywhere,” he told The Post’s Paul Farhi yesterday, “but I can’t be. Nor can any of us.”
Too funny! Capehart’s boss said he didn't know about the Gosnell trial. Capehart says he “sides with” Baron on that, whatever that might mean.

We thought that was the comic relief. Instantly, though, Capehart topped it:
CAPEHART (continuing directly): Ultimately, the conspiracy of silence on Gosnell lies not with the press. It lies with the workers at the clinic who allegedly participated in barbarous acts or allegedly watched them happen and said nothing. It lies with members of the community who knew about the alleged deplorable activity and conditions at “Women’s Medical Society” and said nothing. And it lies with Philadelphia and Pennsylvania officials who fielded numerous credible complaints about Gosnell and did nothing.
By the immutable rules of the guild, the silence can’t lie with Capehart's newspaper! The real silence lies with the people who worked in the clinic—the people who were apparently committing crimes, just like Dr. Gosnell. (Many have already pled.)

The Post didn't give Gosnell a pass. His accomplices should have spoken up on their own!

In these days of degradation, that is the voice of your upper-end press corps! Truly, when it comes to our press elite, it’s mediocrity—or something much worse—pretty much all the way up!


  1. Why should this story get any more coverage than, say, the story about the Tulsa dentist who had a similarly filthy work environment, and treated thousands of patients over several years?

  2. Why?

    1. Because Dr. Gosnell and his staff are accused of murdering a large number of people -- at least one mother and a substantial number of newborn babies. Three staff members have already pled guilty to third degree murder. Any mass murder is a big story. When the mass murderer is an MD, that makes the story even bigger.

    2. Many, perhaps a majority, of the murder victims were black.

    3. The case raises the thorny issue of the moral difference between aborting a viable fetus vs. "snipping" a newly born infant.

  3. I think the Gosnell story is the strongest argument out there to keep abortions a safe, legal medical procedure.

    It brings up the specter of the backstreet abortions of the 1950's.

    Some years ago I wrote this essay about abortion to keep in my personal history.

    It is time to make it public.

    Orly, France, Summer, 1956

    I used to go to the Rec hall and shoot pool during the day. Technically, kids weren’t allowed to be in the Rec hall, but the GI’s rarely complained or told them to leave.
    I would tell GI’s if they wanted my table, they would have to beat me at 8-ball. They assumed they would have no trouble beating a 12 year old, but I won more often than not. I would yield the table anyway, because, after all, it was put there for them to use.
    One day I was alone, and I spied a copy of a men’s magazine on one of the chairs. It was the type with a cover depicting muscular guy killing a grizzly bear with a sheath knife.
    I leafed through several articles; then stopped when I came across one on abortion. I had learned enough from older boys what abortion was about.
    The article showed pictures of dead, naked, young women left in pools of blood on wooden tables. It had pictures of men standing in the street while police dragged out women from buildings and put them into paddy wagons.
    The men's faces had black bars across them to protect their privacy.
    The article talked about how these women had committed crimes by going to an abortionist. It told how some women had suffered botched abortions and were left to die alone in a filthy motel room.
    I wondered why a magazine that was supposed to provide entertainment for men would present such an article. I had to accept the fact that this horror story, like the ones about man-eating tigers and vampire bats, was entertainment.
    I could not understand why men could look on idly as their mothers, wives, sweethearts, or daughters were being treated this way. The article gave the impression that nobody cared about these women, and that they got what they deserved.
    I hated what these men did to these women. I hate it when I hear people attempting to pass laws interfering with the doctor-patient relationship of total strangers.
    No other human being has as intense a relationship with an embryo as the woman carrying it. Why should some people be granted the power to force their beliefs on pregnant woman?
    People that cannot define a human being will nonetheless insist they know the exact instant of its creation.
    Virtually all the arguments against abortion are either based on unverified assumptions, or blame the woman for getting pregnant.
    Ever since I was that little boy in that pool hall, I have believed that the people who want to outlaw abortion think women are inferior to men, and should therefore be subjugated to the will of men. This is flagrant sexism cloaked in religious hypocrisy.

    I haven't changed my OPINION in more than 60 years.

    1. I think the number of people who are anti-abortion because they want to control womens' bodies is quite low at this point in our history. There are lots of people who simply regard abortion as murder, which is their right. I personally am uncomfortable with abortions, although I think the alternative to legalized abortion, as you laid out, is far worse. The question is, why are the actions of this one bad provider any worse than the provider of any other medical service. Somehow, it is supposed to de-legitimize abortion, but there are bad doctors in every field, and no one uses them in an attempt to de-ligitimize those areas. It's just another trumped up bit of right wing nonsense, about on a par with Terri Schiavo. Only the nuts and the hacks bring it up.

    2. til: I think the number of people who are anti-abortion because they want to control womens' bodies is quite low at this point in our history.

      You're kidding, right?

    3. No, I'm not kidding. If you look at poll data, you'll see that about as many women as men are anti-abortion. Are these women motivated by their desire to control other womens' bodies, or do they simply think abortion is wrong? I think it's the latter. You are, of course, entitled to your own view.

  4. I agree with gravymeister that abortion should be legal.

    Still, I think the Gosnell case raises a difficult moral issue. An abortion is legal when a fetus is viable and even partially born, provided that the birth would threaten the life or health of the mother. There seems to be little moral difference between a partial birth abortion vs. Gosnell's procedure of inducing birth then immediately killing the baby. So, accepting abortion as moral can lead to acceptance of infanticide as moral.

    I don't think this means abortion should be illegal. The process by which a fertilized ovum becomes a human baby is gradual. Some arbitrary point must be selected where the law recognizes the being as human. The instant of birth seems to me to be a good choice, because it's objective and easily knowable.

    1. There is a continent of distance between late term abortion or partial birth abortions and what Gosnell did. Late term abortions are not a casual subject for medical professionals and mothers. A common reason for partial birth abortions is to protect the health of the mother. Gosnell did not give a damn what happened to the mothers and his unsafe, unsanitary abortion mill was a travesty to the medical profession. There is no moral equivalence between a necessary procedure to protect the life of a mother and Goznell's nightmarish abortion mill.

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  6. Courageuos liberal blogger and former award winning reporter Susie Madrak of Crooks and Liars covered this story way back in January 2011 when Gosnell was indicted.
    From her as always factual coverage:

    "It's estimated that unreported deaths from liposuction centers now exceed the number of people who die in car accidents. Think about that."