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The PJ Tatler

by
Mike McNally

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March 12, 2012 - 3:15 pm

Today’s New York Times includes another of those tiresome pieces, which adorn the MSM in the run-up to elections, about how Republicans are scaring away those all-important moderate voters. It’s a well-worn liberal trope, designed persuade nervous conservatives that they should turn against their ‘extremist’ leaders, and pressure their representative to abandon radioactive/toxic/poisonous policies (delete as appropriate).

Specifically, the piece suggests that Republicans are losing the support of ‘centrist’ women because of their far-out polices on issues such as contraception and abortion. This paragraph gives you the gist…

In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this particular piece of mischief-making is somewhat undermined by the Times’ choice of photograph to illustrate the article…

The caption reads: Lynn Leseth in San Diego on Thursday at the Rally for Women’s Rights, which denounced efforts to limit reproductive freedoms.

Apparently, in NYT-land, a woman who looks like a cross between Cindy Sheehan and Jack Sparrow, and turns up at Planned Parenthood rallies waving a placard decrying the ‘War on Women’ is a centrist.

It’s the equivalent of warning the Communist Party USA that their policies on wealth confiscation and closer links with North Korea risk alienating tea-partiers.

In a perfect world, I’d like to think that the ‘centrist’ Ms Leseth is the same Lynn Leseth from San Diego who’s prominent in the city’s Occupy movement, and who’s described in this blog post as “homeless and unemployed”. However, a few minutes Googling proved inconclusive, and anyway it’s almost too good to check.

Leaving aside that this is a contrived storyline, designed to spook the likes of Davids Brooks and Frum into writing more columns pleading with the Republican party to see the light and move towards, and preferably a little way beyond, the political center, as propaganda goes it’s pretty sloppy.

There are doubtless some women who would consider themselves independents, and even moderate conservatives, who are not entirely on board with the Republican message on abortion, contraception and other ‘women’s issues’. But as a rule they don’t actively campaign in support of the abortion industry, and they don’t use slogans like ‘War on Women’.

It’s hard to imagine Republican strategists looking at Leseth and thinking: “Oh my God! If we’ve lost the pro-abortion activist in the ripped jeans and the bandana we’ve lost Middle America!”

Oddly, Leseth isn’t even quoted in the article – perhaps her quotes were cut. But if the Times wanted to effectively illustrate their invented narrative, you’d think they would have found a more suitable subject; say a business-suited thirty-something standing in front of her small business, or a ‘churchgoer’ from deep in flyover country, complete with large family (smaller photos of two women who do appear plausibly ‘centrist’ are featured less prominently in the piece).

The Times’ picture editors didn’t even think to crop out the edge of the Planned Parenthood logo the bottom of Leseth’s ‘Stop the War on Women’ placard. You’d think the picture desk of a left-wing propaganda machine would know how to deceptively edit material to reinforce their desired narrative.

It could be some kind of foul-up, but the more likely explanation is that the Times genuinely believes women like Leseth are straight-down-the-line, independent, uncommitted voters who might just be lured over to the Democrats if the Republicans keep up their crazy, Attila the Hun-like assault on women. After all, most writers working for the paper wouldn’t even acknowledge that they’re lefties. In their world there are just two types of people: ‘normal’ people, like them, and right-wingers.

Republicans should hope the rest of mainstream media has an equally deluded notion of who passes for a ‘centrist’ woman (or man). In the run-up to November it’ll throw off the Democrat’s messaging no end.

Mike McNally is a journalist based in Bath, England. He posts at PJ Tatler and at his own blog Monkey Tennis, and tweets at @notoserfdom. When he's not writing about politics he writes about Photoshop.
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