In the seventh video released from the right wing Center for Medical Progress attempting to smear Planned Parenthood, there was a neat little propaganda trick employed by the filmmakers.
When I began writing about the video on Twitter, I got more than the usual chorus of “watch the video” commentary from conservatives. I was told that the video “showed” that Planned Parenthood engaged in a procedure that cracked open the skull of a born-alive infant, and you could “see” the fetus was still alive and moving.
The video doesn’t show any of that (and is filled with lies, as usual)
I have no inside information, but what the video does reveal, I believe, is that Center for Medical Progress has run out of material. Unlike the first few videos that had hidden camera footage of Planned Parenthood employees – later chopped up and edited to mischaracterize their comments – the last couple videos hinge on interviews with a woman who supposedly worked at StemExpress, the company who transported fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.
The video released on Wednesday, “Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Superior Product,” hinges on the testimony of Holly O’Donnell.
In order to give O’Donnell’s interview more impact, there are two visually shocking inserts made into the presentation. The first are images of a dead fetus, being held by human hands. Later, video is shown of an aborted fetus.
The first image comes from a series of photos of “Walter Fretz,” who was stillborn at 19 weeks. The photos were taken by the family after the tragic event. The Center for Medical Progress video only acknowledges this in the description of the video on YouTube, pointing out a Daily Mail article with the photos. Most people who see the video — including those on Center for Medical Progress’ own website — will not see this description. The YouTube video does not explain this at all, and the impression is given that this fetus is from an operation at a Planned Parenthood facility, perhaps even one that was involved in the procedure that Holly O’Donnell describes in graphic detail.
The second clip in the YouTube video shows an aborted fetus. This isn’t from Planned Parenthood either. A small credit on the Center for Medical Progress video concedes that the source of the footage is “The Grantham Collection.” The Grantham Collection is a video archive of abortions from an anti-choice group.
To the viewer, especially someone unsophisticated in video techniques who is emotionally predisposed to support the anti-choice message, this is all a blur. Center for Medical Progress is counting on this, and this is how propaganda has often worked.
Juxtapose a “straight” narrative with striking imagery, and the brain – that is always, always – seeking out the best way to form a pattern for us to understand, does the dirty work. You end up with people who are convinced they saw something they never actually saw. When the interview subject talks about the cold, clinical abortion procedure, combined with the still and video images of the fetus, possibly moving, they believe the video “shows” what O’Donnell is talking about and that’s what prompts the response that you must watch the video to have your heart move.
As Bane says in The Dark Knight Rises: “Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated… but we are initiated, aren’t we Bruce?”