On Sunday, Sept. 30, a peaceful pro-life protest was the occasion of an unprovoked assault. After defacing both the signs and the clothing of participants at a LifeChain intersection in Toronto, a man, later identified as Jordan Hunt, was confronted about his acts of outright vandalism and assault by pro-life activist and Campaign Life Coalition Youth Coordinator, Marie-Claire Bissonnette. The brief conversation that ensued ended abruptly when, incensed at an argument he seemed to be losing, Hunt roundhouse kicked Bissonnette, who happened to be recording their interaction. Because this incident was caught on camera, a number of news agencies reported on the story, including large American outlets like Newsweekand theWashington Post.
To use a modern idiom, the story went viral. Yet the metaphor of contagion is slightly deceptive, since this story proliferated in spite of the media’s robust autoimmune defenses against such stories. Happily, in this case, the media’s appetite for outrageous incidents overcame their aversion to anything that troubles their strongly preferred (and entirely fictional) narrative about the myth of pro-life violence.
In Ontario, bubble-zone legislation was recently reintroduced to curb a supposed rising tide of harassment by pro-lifers. However, facts obtained earlier this year by pro-life blogger Patricia Maloney through freedom of information laws show that these baseless claims were a cynical, fictional pretext. Although the Ontario government specifically named the Ottawa Morgentaler abortion facility as a place where women were made to feel unsafe, an examination of police reports found no reported injuries and no charges laid from 2010 to 2017. Thus, a set of expedient rumors was repeated by pro-abortion politicians, such as then-Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, to curtail the rights of pro-life Canadians, who were themselves employing their rights to free assembly and free speech to protest the wholesale slaughter of innocent unborn children.
And so, for the crime of pricking the guilty consciences of those involved in the great scandal of abortion, pro-life Canadians have been singled-out by the state, and had their democratic rights abrogated. The irony, of course, is that, while fables about pro-life violence led to punitive, restrictive legislation, violence against pro-lifers is becoming more and more common and less and less reported. The coverage of Hunt’s assault of Bissonnette is a welcome exception to this rule, but, it proves the larger point. On the very same day, at another LifeChain intersection in the Toronto-area, paint was poured over a pro-life demonstrator – a shocking act which, had it been inflicted on someone involved with any other event, would have been front page news.
The situation in Ontario offers a microcosm for the larger contradiction in which we now live: bubble zones are erected in response to rumors while actual assaults are either ignored or trivialized. (The first police officers to whom Bissonnette showed the video of her assault callously inquired: “What do you want us to do about it?”) The facts illustrate a clear, troubling trend: that intimidation, harassment, and outright violence are on the rise. Yet, since those facts don’t fit the narrative told by our adversaries in the media and in the halls of power, these very facts are considered unfit to print.
Indeed, in the case of Bissonnette’s assault, the real story is that the zeitgeist is on the side of the assailant: Hunt’s flagrant assault of a woman in broad daylight is an illegal echo of the legal bullying to which all pro-life Canadians have been subjected by our Prime Minister. Indeed, Justin Trudeau – whose resume, like Hunt’s, also includes the assault of a woman – turned an innocuous federal program supporting organizations that hire students for summer jobs into a political battleground. He has used his political power to de-legitimize democratic dissent, and because of his radical commitment to abortion agenda, he has corroded the climate of civilized discourse at a time when the reasonable, rational discourse about divisive issues is sorely in need of defense. Hunt’s assault can, therefore, be seen as a too-zealous implementation of the Prime Minister’s own political strategy of intimidation and confrontation, and only time will tell if Hunt’s violent kick is a portend of uglier things still to come. Let us pray they are not.
Violence against pro-lifers is emerging as a blind-spot in our culture; the ubiquity of cell phones notwithstanding, viral videos can only do so much to protect peaceful protestors when the media are inclined to look away from stories that don’t align with the priorities and prejudices of the powers that be. Indeed, it is no accident that, despite the coverage Bissonnette’s assault enjoyed in America, the state-funded CBC declined to make any mention of this attack until Hunt was arrested and it still has not yet named the pro-life victim in this case. When will the media speak truth to power and take the side of victims of violence whose convictions differ from those who enjoy political power? Journalists should find, in the growing trend of violence against pro-lifers, a golden opportunity to live out the fantasies with which the members of the fifth estate regularly flatter themselves. Instead, indulging their own biases and deferring to the priorities of men in power, our incurious media gatekeepers will keep their eyes blinded to the stories in desperate need of a spotlight. And, through the dereliction of their duties, they all but ensure that the violence which they fail to report will only become more frequent.