The 'Pouncing Conservatives' Epidemic
It's a little known fact that one of the greatest B-horror films ever conceived (though oddly only the third or fourth best primate-themed movie starring Roddy McDowall) is a 1990 flick called Shakma.
Shakma, known internationally as Panic in the Tower, is about an insane laboratory baboon that hunts down and violently attacks medical students locked in a building for what was supposed to be an annual, live action role-playing game. In addition to McDowall, the film also stars 1980's heartthrob Christopher Adkins and Amanda Wyss (from A Nightmare on Elm Street fame).
One of the things that makes Shakma so great is that an actual baboon was used in filming, including in the various attack scenes. This was before CGI was relied upon for such things, and even the shots where a stuffed prop or puppet was used are limited in number.
No, Shakma is the real McCoy. And to the audience, the monkey comes across as — well — legitimately insane.
Don't get me wrong. I'm sure that behind the scenes, the little guy was a mild-mannered pro. But when the cameras were rolling, he was a rage-fueled killing machine — screaming like a banshee, ramming his hairy body into hastily locked doors, and lunging through the air to attack his terrified prey.
Here's a short fan-edited video to give you an idea of what I'm talking about (don't worry, it's spoiler free):
Though to fully appreciate the speed and agility at play here, it does help to go ahead and toss out a spoiler after all. Sorry, folks (and sorry, Roddy):
"What does any of this have to do with politics or the news media?" you might be asking.
Well, more than you think, actually. I contend that the little altercation embedded above provides a pretty darn good metaphor for how people in the mainstream news media tend to frame stories that — on their face — reflect horrifically bad for liberals and liberal sensibilities.
Just for a minute, think of Roddy McDowall's character as Kathy Tran, the Democratic delegate who recently introduced a bill in Virginia’s House of Delegates that would remove all existing restrictions on abortion, effectively legalizing it literally up until the very moment a mother actually gives birth.
Or better yet, think of McDowall as Virginia governor Ralph Northam, who subsequently not only defended the bill, but also — on a radio show — offered this explanation of how a child's birth could potentially be handled, should the bill become law:
"If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
What Northam described was even more heinous than partial-birth abortion. It seemed as though he was expressing support for the legalization of infanticide.
Needless to say, many pro-lifers quickly made their views loud and clear in regard to Northam's words. And by any remotely objective standard, the governor's comments were incredibly disturbing. Someone of his stature making such a statement, and doing so as cavalierly as Northam did, is a legitimate news story that should transcend political parties and ideological divides.
What if, right after Northam had made the bombshell comment, a crazed baboon had darted into the studio, pounced on the governor, and brutally mauled him? What would have been the takeaway story then?
The answer is obvious. The story would have been about the insane monkey, and Northam would have suddenly been the victim.
You may have already guessed where I'm going with this metaphor, but in case you haven't, the baboon represents "conservatives."
You see, this is a media tactic that real-life conservatives have known about, and have commiserated over, for quite some time. When an important Democrat or liberal says something totally outrageous or indefensible, the liberal media tends to make the headline not about the lefty who made the remark, but about the aggressive, unreasonable conservatives who responded to the remark.
This is known as the "Conservatives Pounce" angle, which both Noah Rothman and Kevin D. Williamson have written good pieces on in the past. Conservatives have become pretty good at predicting when this tactic is about to be employed by the mainstream media, in its various rhetorical forms. Here's an example from yesterday:
Like clockwork, it came . Here's how the Washington Post presented the Northam story:
Oh, the conservative backlash. Oh the humanity!
Appropriate sarcasm from conservative circles was quick to follow:
— Andy Smarick (@smarick) January 30, 2019
The news cycle if you don’t follow conservatives on twitter: 1. Nothing 2. Nothing 4. “Conservatives pounce on [X].” 5. “Democrat clarifies comments on [X].”
Liberals, do you get tired of missing the first 2 steps of every story? Seems to happen a lot. — Darrick Johnson (@darrickjohnson) January 30, 2019
— Harry Khachatrian (@Harry1T6) January 30, 2019
As predicted by Mr. Johnson, Governor Northam was indeed given the opportunity to "clarify" (aka "clean up") his comments before they were ever granted wings by much of the mainstream press (CNN and MSNBC didn't even report his original remarks in prime-time) — an act of grace that is virtually never afforded to those pouncing conservatives and Republicans.
As Williamson pointed out in his piece, this is obvious bias:
"When a Republican does something stupid or wrong and gets criticized for it, the story is that a Republican has done something stupid or wrong. When a Democrat does something stupid or wrong, the story is “Republicans pounce!” on the episode, cynically looking to wring some petty advantage out of the mess. For those who lean Democrat, that is a much more pleasant story to report."
What makes the example of Northam even worse is that what he said wasn't merely stupid or wrong (though it was assuredly both). It was downright sickening, as was his defense of the bill that David French further described in a piece for National Review:
"The bill reduces the number of doctors required to certify the alleged medical need for an abortion from three to one, and — critically — eliminates any required showing of severity before the doctor and mother can determine that the birth would impair her physical or mental health. Under the bill’s actual text, virtually any claim of impairment would suffice to meet the act’s requirements. Anxiety? Depression? The conventional physical challenges of post-partum recovery? Any of those things could justify taking the life of a fully formed, completely viable, living infant."
Thank goodness that the governor had an enraged homicidal monkey to draw some fire. At least he's got that going for him.