False Reporting of Texas Abortion Law Protests Needs Scrutiny

Earlier this week I wrote about the misinformation, and misleading by various law enforcement, media, and bloggers about the Zimmerman Verdict Protesters.  We saw it in LA, with false claims from the LAPD and NBC, claiming $15k in damage to the Hollywood W Hotel.

We saw this in the right wing blogosphere false reporting of two white men killed by a group of black men over a “Free Zimmerman” bumper sticker THAT DID NOT EXIST; it was a drug deal gone bad, where two white men were  killed by another white man and two black friends, and there was NO BUMPER STICKER, and no conflict over anything related to Zimmerman or the Trayvon Martin killing.

We saw something similar in Baltimore, where a woman falsely claimed on social media that black teens assaulted an hispanic man, while yelling “This is for Trayvon” that also DID NOT HAPPEN.

This may be the best inaccurate story about protesters story of the week: the claim by the Texas Department of Public Safety that they had confiscated 1 jar of urine and 18 jars of (suspected) poop, along with tampons and other feminine hygiene products is WRONG.  Subsequent investigation of this claim by the Texas DPS has been unable to find any member of law enforcement who made such a confiscation, after checking with those who were at the doors, confiscating tampons. Yes, there was a fear by a male Republican legislator that outraged women might rain tampons down from above onto legislators, which led to the unprecedented confiscation of such personal items, and some very horrific abuses of women in the course of law enforcement doing so, that have been reported elsewhere.  Like the mandatory medically unnecessary ultrasound legislation, this appears to be intended  both to embarrass and humiliate women regarding a personal and private matter of biology, while at the same time, additionally wounding them in the wallet.

But that effort backfired on the Republican legislators, who were shamed into discontinuing the confiscation after that news went viral.  In the uproar of additional outrage generated by the confiscations, the Texas Department of Public Safety, in order to justify their actions, claimed in an official statement that they had also confiscated 1 jar of urine and 18 jars of poop from women entering the Texas legislature, with the implication being that these items were intended to be used to stop the proceedings and attack Republicans passing the anti-abortion legislation.

THAT was not true either.  The story has changed several times, but apparently the actual officers on duty were not briefed, or perhaps declined to join in the disinformation effort.  No law enforcement officer found ANY protester armed with jars or bottles of pee and/or pooh.  THAT DID NOT HAPPEN.  Then the story changed to the version that women were offered the opportunity to leave with their jars or bottles of offending substances, or dispose of them in trash cans…….. but that doesn’t appear to be validated by statements from law enforcement either, and is, as stories go, considerably less plausible.  It was at this point, apparently that the version of events changed to containers of ‘suspected’ feces and urine.

As MSNBC cable news host and parent to a toddler Chris Hayes noted in reporting on the story progression, it is possible both quickly and definitively to determine if suspected pee and poo are the real thing.  One need not remain in suspense.  Personally, I found the notion that this material was being transported in jars and bottles oddly cumbersome and impractical for delivery to the alleged intended targets, but that’s my odd streak of tactical and strategic thinking kicking in.  Further, if this were a serious concern, in order to prevent such an occurrence, it would be necessary to bar the protesting women from the state house restrooms, or to search them as they left them, if you are logical about preventing such a threat from being carried out.

It is NOT, emphatically, my intent to be crude or vulgar here, but rather to point out that logically this brought into question the factual nature and validity of the original story; it was a vigorously waving little red flag that triggered my skepticism when I first heard this.  That no protester there reported this kind of interaction, from that side of the protests, also seemed an odd lack of verification for this story, while many women reported in different venues about the tampon confiscation.

Every story should be read or heard or viewed with a healthy sense of skepticism checking it for factual accuracy, or at least allowing that some or all of it might be factually inaccurate.  But when one side has an obvious advantage to misinformation, or possibly disinformation (deliberately misleading AND inaccurate information), then such discrepancies or gaps in logic become more significant in alerting that news requires additional diligence and verification.

The only ‘dirty business’ in the Texas Legislature relating to the protesters of the anti-abortion legislation pushed through in the second special session appears to have been the right wing politics, not in the actions of the protesters.