I watched the events at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs unfold on TV on Saturday (Friday US time), mostly on Fox News. Throughout they were careful, as any news organisation should be, not to attribute any motive to the gunman.
(For those that don’t know, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organisation that provides women’s reproductive health services in the United States. It has almost 1,000 clinics and affiliates throughout the country. It’s services include abortions, and thus its premises and staff are subjected to frequent protests and sometimes physical attacks.)
I really wanted to know what could have motivated the guy – the Police had confirmed it was a man – to commit these acts. I didn’t look at Twitter, but a Facebook friend announced he was a right-wing Christian. She’d linked to a news article, which I hurriedly read. The article made no mention whatsoever of the man’s political or religious views, or even speculated about them. As many did, she’d assumed his motives from his actions.
I went back to watching Fox News’s The Five. Fox’s reporters continued to report the situation properly. Some of the commentators couldn’t help but drift a bit, as I’m sure commentators on more liberal shows did too. At one point it was announced that the New York city police department had decided to increase security at Planned Parenthood clinics there. This was in “an abundance of caution” due to the risk of copycat attacks, and not because of any direct threat.
At this point a Five co-host, whom I know from previously watching the show is anti-abortion in the extreme (but pro-death penalty), became quite irritated. He was unhappy with the decision of the New York police. My impression was that his Gut reaction was that women who have abortions, no matter what the circumstances, deserve everything they get. I thought about writing about this at the time, but dismissed the idea as being a bit obsessive because he’s only one guy, and he didn’t actually say what I saw on his face and in his body language.
Then I saw an article from Patheos shared on Facebook by another friend: ‘“Pro-lifers” take to Twitter to Praise Planned Parenthood shooter.’ It seems things have been progressing on the a-hole front. The tweet Patheos highlighted was this one:
“Ryan” has had 140 “likes” in the whole time he’s been on Twitter, 58 of them for this tweet.
He said on Twitter that abortion was okay for rape. His reasoning? Rape is unnatural, so the baby is unnatural too. If a woman has the temerity to abort a child of his though, it appears he has a plan:
Ryan joined Twitter in June 2009 and has so far gained 233 followers, so he’s not the loudest of voices. I think we can safely ignore him in the future, though I’d personally advise women to steer clear of him, especially in a relationship.
Someone with a much louder voice (49.5K followers) is someone who calls themself @gaypatriot, whose account I can’t find again since copying the tweets below:
(The gunman took “objects” with him to the Planned Parenthood clinic, including a barbeque gas tank. It is assumed they were to be used as IEDs or Improvised Explosive Devices.)
Whoever this person is, they appear to have a right-wing political narrative. The Republican Party though has been silent about the events. Think Progress reports that while both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out in support of Planned Parenthood, so far (more than a day later) the only candidate for the Republican nomination to tweet about the attack is Ted Cruz. I can’t stand the man, but I have nothing to criticize about his tweet:
Here are the tweets in support of the gunman’s actions Patheos found, some of which have since been deleted:
As Tracey Moody, author of the Patheos post notes, these “are some people we should all be worried about.” As an aside she adds that none of them appear to be Syrian refugees.
The alleged killer has been named as Robert Lewis Dear. It is reported that he lived reclusively in a cabin in North Carolina for several years before buying land in Colorado and moving there about a year ago. He lived in a caravan on this land. All the neighbours, in both states, that reporters have spoken to that I can find say he never spoke of abortion or politics.
Dear has been arrested before. His arrests included at least one for domestic violence in 1997 against his then wife, and another following an accusation of being a peeping Tom.
So far, the only indication of his motive is that following his arrest he said, “no more baby parts.” Commentators all seem to be interpreting it the same way I do – that Dear seems to have been motivated by the lies spread recently by anti-abortion campaigners that Planned Parenthood is deliberately aborting foetuses in order to sell them to medical research facilities for a profit.
If this is true, those who made the videos and all those who have made political capital out of them must take a small part of the blame for Dear’s actions. They knew that they were peddling lies when they acted. Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs reports:
This ends the debate; it’s a direct link to the deceptively edited videos created by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress [an anti-abortion group], and the outright lies constantly repeated by conservative media and blogs that Planned Parenthood “sells baby parts.”
Note that the words “baby parts” are in the titles of almost all of their videos.
Dear may be mentally disturbed, but we now know he was inspired by the lies and manipulative videos. And every conservative who helped spread these evil lies shares responsibility for this attack.
As for Dear, we still don’t actually know whether he was even anti-abortion let alone right-wing or Chrstian. It may be that he simply believed that Planned Parenthood were doing what they were accused of by the so-called Center for Medical Progress, which even the strongest pro-choice advocate would also condemn if it were true. Using an AK-47 to murder three people and attempt to murder nine more in protest is the action of a disturbed mind. But again, we don’t know whether that mind was disturbed by brainwashing, obsession or mental illness.
Whatever it is, his arrest record demonstrates to me an attitude to women that is less than ideal. It indicates, I think, that he is less likely to believe women should have a choice when it comes to deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
On Tuesday (Monday US time) I will again watch Fox News’s The Five. Despite disagreeing with just about everything most of the co-hosts say, I really enjoy the show. I have no doubt they will talk about this incident, and by then we are sure to know more about what really happened. Further, I have no doubt they will highlight all the liberals, like my friend, who immediately jumped to the conclusion that Dear was a conservative Christian. I hope they also have the intellectual honesty to expose and condemn all those on the right who are calling Dear a hero, and the politicians who have been using the Center for Medical Progress videos to attract money and supporters for their campaigns.
I recommend this post from psychologist Valerie Taico: Christianist Republicans Systematically Incited Colorado Clinic Assault
I wish I’d read it before I wrote my post – I would have included some quotes from this excellent article.