The Variable Value of Human Life
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.
— Animal Farm
An elderly, disabled, pro-life activist dependent on an oxygen tank and who wore leg braces was gunned down in Michigan. Had the man been an abortionist or a leftist activist like a Bush-era anti-war protester, the death of Jim Pouillon would have been news all week. Instead, it got buried in the weekend news cycle.
Compared to the media coverage of the murder of George Tiller, which pro-life activists repudiated, the murder of Jim Pouillon has garnered no national coverage. This despite the fact the murderer has admitted he killed Pouillon because of his pro-life activities.
A number of leftist justifications argue this isn’t the same as the George Tiller case, contending Pouillon’s murderer was 1) mentally unstable, 2) not a pro-choice activist, and 3) had two other targets and therefore this was not a crime against pro-lifers.
The arguments themselves are fairly reasonable. However, when compared to the media coverage of anti-abortion shootings, wide double standards exist.
In the first place, Eric Rudolph, whose 1998 bomb killed an off-duty Atlanta police officer who worked at an abortion clinic, also had multiple targets, many not related to abortion. John Salvi, who killed two women at an abortion clinic in Massachusetts in the 1990s, was a mentally unstable young man who committed suicide in jail and showed signs of schizophrenia. Further, the anti-abortion killers have existed on the fringes of the pro-life movement and have been condemned roundly. Yet all of these killings count against the pro-life movement in this country, while the killing of Pouillon is treated as irrelevant.
Consider also that the Pouillon killing hasn’t been the only violence committed against pro-life activists. This past summer, in Phoenix, a man pulled a gun on a pro-lifer who handed a pamphlet to his girlfriend just one week after another man in Chico, California, tried to run down a sixty-year-old pro-life protester.
And, that’s not all. David Brody of CBN News reports the FBI is looking into increased death threats against pro-lifers, many coming after the Tiller killing, when irresponsible media figures branded pro-life activists as nutty terrorists in reaction to the first anti-abortion murder in nearly a decade. Given recent events, will Keith Olbermann be the one with blood on his hands, as he famously slandered Bill O’Reilly?
Most conservatives wouldn’t even consider the argument. The idea that a bombastic blowhard is responsible for a crime and not the man who pulled the trigger goes contrary to the principle of personal responsibility and undermines the very foundation of freedom. If we can never be blamed for the crimes we commit, we cannot be free. Rather, we must be protected from influences that could lead us to do things that might harm others. You cannot have freedom of speech because certain speech is too dangerous to be spoken, even if it doesn’t directly call for violence or revolt.
The left is usually ready to pronounce who the “real perpetrator” is in a crime. Rarely is it the trigger man, who is usually a sympathetic or not-so-sympathetic victim. Republican administrations, organized religious groups, corporations, and disliked political interest groups are usually held responsible. Violence against an abortion provider occurs as the result of pro-life rhetoric according to leftist logic.
The closest the media has come to laying blame is the focus on the fact that Pouillon carried graphic signs. The unstated argument is that the one really responsible for Pouillon’s death is Pouillon. Unable to find a proxy perpetrator, the media has decided to lay the blame on the victim.
The left refuses to apply its logic to itself. It can’t blame eco-terrorism on Al Gore’s doomsday scenarios, it can’t blame the liberals who labeled all opponents of ObamaCare as extremists for the beating of Kenny Gladney at a town hall meeting, and it can’t come to terms with the killing of Jim Pouillon. To search for a “real perpetrator” to blame would require they point the finger at themselves and their institutions.
Instead of incriminating themselves, the left chooses the far more comfortable tactic of minimizing or completely ignoring crimes against their political opponents. This puts the value of human life on a sliding scale. If your death fits into a popular political narrative, it is of great value. If not, your death is only of importance if it can spark the prurient interest of enough people to make a successful prime-time special.
This value system extends beyond the press’ coverage of abortion. The abuse of prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib was far more outrageous to the liberal press than the beheadings of innocent civilians by terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan or the shooting of two of our soldiers outside of an Arkansas Army recruiting center.
In the 1970 episode of Adam 12 “Elegy for a Pig,” the show took aim at elites’ hypocritical selective outrage over death, particularly of police officers. Pete Malloy, as portrayed by Martin Milner, ended the show by saying, “Strangely enough, in view of current custom, no one will raise a placard to denounce his senseless murder, no one will raise indignant cries of protest at the shedding of his blood, no one will march in anger because of his death.”
Little has changed in forty years. The U.S. House voted 423-0 to condemn the death of George Tiller. There will be no such resolution passed on James Pouillon.