On ‘The Terrorists Who [Still] Aren’t in the News’

Attempting to add appropriate context to mainstream reportage of Sunday’s murder of Kansas doctor George Tiller, the Media Justice Fund blog has reprinted (6/1/09) an October 8, 2006, Women In Media & News post by Jennifer Pozner titled “The Terrorists Who Aren’t in the News: Anti-Abortion Fanatics Spread Fear by Bombings, Murders and Assaults, but the Media Take Little Notice.” In it, Pozner recounts how, “on September 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks that devastated our nation, a man crashed his car into a building in Davenport, Iowa, hoping to blow it up and kill himself in the fire.” Yet

no national newspaper, magazine or network newscast reported this attempted suicide bombing, though an AP wire story was available. Cable news (save for MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann) was silent about this latest act of terrorism in America.

Had the criminal, David McMenemy, been Arab or Muslim, this would have been headline news for weeks. But since his target was the Edgerton Women’s Health Center, rather than, say, a bank or a police station, media have not called this terrorism–even after three decades of extreme violence by anti-abortion fanatics, mostly fundamentalist Christians who believe they’re fighting a holy war.

Since 1977, casualties from this war include seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, 152 assaults, 305 completed or attempted bombings and arsons, 375 invasions, 482 stalking incidents, 380 death threats, 618 bomb threats, 100 acid attacks, and 1,254 acts of vandalism, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Abortion providers and activists received 77 letters threatening anthrax attacks before 9/11, yet the media never considered anthrax threats as terrorism until after 9/11, when such letters were delivered to journalistsâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢ offices and members of Congress.

Rueing the fact that “every fresh incident of anti-abortion terrorism is a reminder that womenâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s health supporters are not safe,” Pozner asks if we think of each anti-choice attacker as “a lone nutcase, or a member of that network of violent extremists?” Alas, “we donâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t know, because journalists havenâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t investigated. Nor,” Pozner adds, “have they reported that just [in 2005], nearly one in five abortion clinics experienced gunfire, arson, bombings, chemical attacks, assaults, stalking, death threats and blockades.” Her conclusion: “As we continue national debates on how to keep America safe from terrorism, journalists do us–and especially women–no good pretending that the threats come only from radical Muslims outside our borders.”