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JUST BE NORMAL AGAIN

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 14:19 EDT
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A couple of weeks ago, I got my hands on the training manual for the courses that anti-choice group Justice For All uses in its courses. It’s 113 pages, so I only scanned in about a dozen, because there are only so many hours in the day, and most of the book is workbook stuff and scriptures. But it’s super-interesting stuff, and I wrote about what’s in it in the context of the assassination of Dr. Tiller. If you want a sample of the handbook to read yourself—and I highly recommend this—you can get the PDF of the pages I scanned in here.

Justice For All is clearly an organization that was created simply to go on campus and protest, with the knowledge that students will come up and argue with you. From watching them extensively (they set up their tables near where I live), I get the strong impression that they like targeting colleges because the women on college are who they believe their target audience to be—young, nubile girls whose young nubility is of utmost importance to anti-choicers, as Jessica Valenti has chronicled in The Purity Myth. Only student organizations are allowed to have tables on campus, and the one thing that jumps out at you when witnessing a Justice For All protest is how unlikely it is that the protesters are students, unless every middle-aged student on campus is an anti-choice nut. I hate to say it, but I suspect what they do is get a single student to register them, and then they get the prime locations on campus for tabling by being the scary anti-choicers you really don’t want to piss off. They don’t threaten, of course. It’s just that at this point the pro-life movement has built up such a reputation that people just try to avoid conflict with them. One thing is for certain—they have money. When they show up, they build a two story tall 3D display of fetus pictures next to pictures of Holocaust victims, and they have a small fence that the protesters stand behind.

This handbook is something else. It’s hard to really pick out the most shocking parts, so I dedicate time to a number in the Reality Check piece. But I think the part that was honestly most telling was the strong, repeated instructions to practice showing concern for women. Readers are told that the big mistake anti-choicers make is railroading over women as if they don’t matter, and you really lose credibility. You’re given sound bites to show concern (their words), because, and this is important—if you show contempt for women who die from illegal abortions, you lose credibility. They don’t come right out and say to fake concern, but that’s the gist of it.

These manuals are given out in classes, so I imagine they role-play faking concern and other tactics, such as not coming right out and saying that you think the birth control pill is murder and condoms are wicked. Because of this, there’s some notes scribbled on it. Some of them make some sense, but others are a mystery. My favorite, written in all caps with a heavy hand, so the owner of the manual doesn’t forget it, is this:

JUST BE NORMAL AGAIN

There’s a story there, I’m sure. I have my theories, with my strongest being that the class instructors know that the personal weirdness of anti-choicers is generally off-putting, so it’s critical to ape the customs of the normies. Perhaps the guy who owned this was once not-crazy, and perhaps his strategy is to tap into the person he was before he got caught up in the cult of fetus worship.

Here are two analogies I’m hearing that are being employed to distract people from the fact that Dr. Tiller was killed after being targeted for harassment, vandalism, arson, and even a prior murder attempt. “Pinning Roeder on all pro-life protesters is like pinning the 9/11 terrorists on all Muslims” and “pinning Roeder on all pro-life protesters is like pinning Valerie Solonas on all feminists”. These are both poor analogies, used not to enlighten but to conceal.

The flaw in the first analogy should be obvious. Pinning the 9/11 attack on all Muslims is actually like pinning Roeder on all Christians. No one is doing this. What we are doing is looking directly at the movement he’s in, and holding them accountable. This is much closer to holding the Taliban responsible for 9/11. They may not have directly killed people, but they inculcated a specific ideology, set up training camps, built up a culture of violence, and shielded people who openly wanted to be terrorists. Few people would say their hands are clean. The activist pro-life movement has the same relationship with the few that decide to risk jail and commit murder or arson. It took the Washington Post no time at all to find a bunch of people who knew Roeder well, knew that he was obsessed with violence and prone to vandalism, and who did nothing. Why? Because, I suspect, that’s SOP for them. Why? Well, the people the Post found wouldn’t even put forth a disingenuous condemnation to cover their own asses, like the leadership does (while immediately claiming or at least implying that Dr. Tiller had it coming).

Look, Roeder was caught vandalizing a clinic the day before the assassination. That sort of thing is so routine that they can’t even be bothered to give a shit. People who actually work at clinics can testify that “non-violent” is not what they’re up against. Intimidation is not non-violent, and people can see that when it’s other issues. Claiming that arsons and doctor murders don’t implicate the larger anti-choice movement is like claiming that arsons and activist murders in the 60s against civil rights workers don’t implicate people in the informal white supremacist resistance who stuck to burning crosses, but didn’t pull the trigger.

Onto Valerie Solanas’ relationship with the feminist movement, and the relationship of her shooting of Andy Warhol to her feminism. It’s a weak link. Warhol wasn’t shot as a terrorist act. He was shot by an unstable person who blamed him personally for her life failures. Her relationship with the feminist movement only started after she was in jail, and in the context of the times, that makes a lot more sense. Radical feminists were part of the larger leftist movement that abhorred the justice system, period, and were always casting around for an excuse to find new prisoners to defend. It was stupid, sure, but in no way, shape, or form does it mean that Warhol was attacked because of a political disagreement with him. Unlike Dr. Tiller, Warhol wasn’t some hate object for feminists. Protesters didn’t stake out the Factory. Feminist groups didn’t scream at people going in and out of it, and no irate feminists tried to bomb it. There wasn’t some anti-pop art movement that was a subset of the feminist movement that used harassment and intimidation its strategies. No one wrote diatribes about how Warhol was a Nazi who murdered for pleasure, and they certainly didn’t spout those diatribes on TV. Her SCUM Manifesto was unpublished until she made herself famous by being a criminal in the era where movies like “Bonnie and Clyde” lionized criminals. The people who defended Solanas were out of their fucking minds, but they did not provoke her to violence, or give her a target.

The point is that just because your sweet grandmother has some fetus jewelry doesn’t mean that the anti-choice movement gets a pass. Sweet grandmothers supported segregation, and they are part of the system that led to church bombings and assassinations, too.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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