Here’s 2020’s first dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media: As the mainstream gears up for its reliably all-holds barred coverage of this Friday’s annual March for Life in Washington, comes this new Marist poll (admittedly paid for by the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus) which shows that a majority actually support meaningful abortion […]
Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Life matters. Jason Scott Jones was the emcee of a Students for Live of America event in association with the recent March for Life in Washington D.C.* Though the event was largely ignored by the mainstream media, it reportedly drew about 200,000 in support of protecting the rights of the unborn. The filmmaker/human rights activist is the founder of Movie to Movement, an organization dedicated to producing and promoting movies that promote a respect for life in all its stages, and is co-author (with John Zmirak) of The Race to Save Our Century Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and a Culture of Life. He has helped to raise more than $6 million for women-in-crisis pregnancies through a short film he helped produce called Crescendo and was also co-executive producer of the hit pro-life drama Bella. In a newly-published article for National Review Online, he talks about how a painful personal experience led him to dedicate his life to fighting abortion and other threats to the dignity of human beings in America and around the world.
* An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Jones was the Master of Ceremonies at the March for Life. I apologize for the error.
JWK: You were at the March for Life in DC last week. Thousands turned out — yet we heard hardly anything about it in the media, even on Fox News. What are your thoughts on the media’s relative lack of interest in the issue?
JASON SCOTT JONES: The mainstream media are dying, precisely because they squirm away from massive stories like this. The pro-life movement is the largest social phenomenon among millennials and other young people. I’d rather be trending on Facebook and Twitter than be on the front page of the NY Times. Images from the March and pro-life statements from young people were flooding social media for days. That’s thousands of energetic young activists, documenting an event that shaped their lives. I would prefer to be present in venues like The Blaze, Breitbart.com, Worldnetdaily, talk radio, and social media.
You know what the TV networks and remaining newspapers are? They’re Bobby Vinton records—which outsold Bob Dylan and the Beatles in the 1960s, because middle-aged people still bought most of the music. But which one shaped the future, changed the culture? It wasn’t Beer Barrel Polka, but Let It Be and The Times They are a Changin’. The pro-life movement now is where the Beatles were in 1965—on an unstoppable upswing.
One of the funniest things I’ve seen in my entire life happened at Walk for Life in San Francisco: A bunch of out-of-shape, middle-aged men in pro-choice t-shirts trying to stop hundreds of college-age women from walking on a public street with pro-life signs. The men were shoving the students, yelling, “We will smash your patriarchy!” Do I expect the San Francisco Chronicle to cover that? The reporter’s head would explode.
JWK: Your pro-life film Crescendo has been utilized to help has been utilized to raise over $6 million dollars for women in crisis pregnancy situations. You also were one of the producers of the successful pro-life film Bella. Why does the issue touch you so deeply?
JSJ: I told this story recently in National Review: “My unborn daughter was aborted without my knowledge or consent. (Or her mother’s consent — my teenage girlfriend’s father dragged her to the clinic.)….This person, who had been carelessly, recklessly murdered, had all the same dignity, grandeur, and significance that I had seen only in myself. Her death opened up for me a whole new moral world, one where every human being shone with radiance. And demanded protection. So I dived into human-rights work. I would avenge her death by promoting life — in every form.”
JWK: You’re the founder of Movie to Movement, an organization which seeks to promote life-affirming storytelling. What current and upcoming films is the group supporting and how important is the art of storytelling — as opposed to political argument — in swaying hearts and minds on an issue like abortion?
JSJ: Beethoven said that “what comes from the heart goes to the heart.” He was profoundly right: Syllogisms don’t change culture, stories do. With that in mind, we’re really excited about Sing a Little Louder, a short film about a real incident in the Holocaust, which will premiere on Youtube in March or April.
Another powerful project is Where Hope Grows, a beautiful new movie that celebrates the life of a young man with Down Syndrome—and questions the murderous myth of “quality of life,” which is used to justify aborting up to 90 percent of children diagnosed with this condition.
Our new documentary 40 reveals the effects of abortion on America in the 40 years since Roe v. Wade. It lets post-abortive women tell their stories, and shows you how the destruction of unborn life is breaking America’s heart. 40 is now available on DVD. See it, and show it to your pro-choice friends.
JWK: I think entertainment creates our language. Which bring me to the word “abortion.” It sounds so sterile and impersonal. You abort a rocket launch. What do you think of replacing it with the term “fetus-cide” which would, at least, get across the agreed-upon idea that something — or someone — is being killed?
JSJ: Did you know that as late as 1960, the word “abortion” was almost an obscenity? If you said it out loud at a cocktail party, people would back away from you. It was like the “n-word” (rightly) is today. People used to understand what a sick, appalling thing abortion is. So rather than change the word, we want to give it back its power. Even today, when a reviewer wants to say that a movie is worthless, disgusting, and never should have been made, he might call it an “abortion.” People know. That’s why our culture has built an elaborate mechanism of denial, which centers on the myth of “choice,” instead of the facts, which are flesh and blood.
JWK: You were also involved with the making of the film The Stoning of Soraya M. which took on another issue that the media seems to prefer to avoid — that being the brutal treatment of women in countries where extreme interpretations of Islam are enforced. Why do you think the same media voices that have no problem portraying abortion opponents as anti-woman will at the same time label those who call attention to these situations with epithets like “racist” and “Islamophobic.”
JSJ: My work with that project was ancillary—I was just an associate producer, but it’s a privilege to be associated with it. There’s something very beautiful in our culture, which is a fear of painting innocent people with a broad brush, and a desire not to offend someone else’s religion or culture—especially if they are seen as weak. But that impulse can be exploited to cover up real abuses, to enable corrupt institutions and evil people, even terrorists. In the case of honor killing, people are ignoring the systematic persecution of women, and pretending that the men who are murdering them are somehow victims of “Islamophobia.” It’s sick, and it needs to be exposed.
JWK: How dangerous is political correctness to free thought and the future of democracy?
JSJ: Political correctness used to indicate the fear of offending someone weaker than yourself. Now it means something entirely different: The fear of speaking truth to power, the excuse you make for yourself so you don’t stand up for the vulnerable or speak out against injustice. It’s always easy to cut yourself slack—as some actors did in the 1950s for not speaking out against segregation. (It might hurt their films’ ticket sales in the South.) That’s why I consider Charlton Heston a hero, for speaking out against racism long before most of his colleagues. Today, Patricia Heaton and Eduardo Verástegui are heroes for bucking the industry and being honest about abortion.
JWK: In The Race to Save Our Century, the book you wrote with John Zmirak, you talk about the “Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and the Culture of Life.” Briefly, what are they — and how well are we as a society doing in upholding them?
JSJ: We drew those principles from looking at the cruelties, abuses, and genocides of the 20th century—and asking, “What could have stopped them?” Our study of history suggested these:
- A reverence for every human life as the image of God.
- Acceptance that there is a transcendent moral order, higher than any nation’s law (which might allow slavery or abortion).
- The need for a humane, free economy that protects property rights while offering a safety net for the truly needy.
- The importance of small, decentralized, responsive government that protects civil society instead of trying to replace it.
- The solidarity that should make us care about the rights of every fellow human—including civilians in “enemy” countries, and workers in foreign sweatshops who make our stuff.
Our record on living up to these principles is mixed, of course—although America offers more hope than most countries, because our founding was based on these very principles.
JWK: Are there any political leaders you see on the scene right now who really stands for those principles?
JSJ: There are quite a few. A non-exhaustive list would include Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Mia Love, Chris Smith, Dan Lapinski, Rand Paul, Dave Brat, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Sam Brownback.
JWK: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
JSJ: Optimism and pessimism are for stock analysts. We have hope, which is a gift from God, Who promised us “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matt. 28:20)
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11