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The Power of False Victimization

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Putting a human face on an abstract cause is a time-honored tactic. But it doesn’t work unless a receptive media spins the desired narrative.

A case in point was this past week’s media outburst over a 107-year-old Washington, D.C. woman’s difficulty in obtaining a photo ID.  The Washington Post, Huffington Post, ABC News and others converted the situation into a photo op for “voter suppression.” 

They acknowledged but brushed aside the glaring fact that the lady in question could easily vote in D.C., which does not require a photo ID.   

The spunky centenarian Virginia McLaurin had gained 15 minutes of fame last February for dancing with President Obama and Michelle Obama at the White House during Black History Month. A video of the dance went viral, with a reported 66 million views.  Cue media invitations for her to fly to New York and Los Angeles, which she could not immediately do because she lacked a photo ID.

That’s because a few years ago, a mugger took her purse, and she didn’t bother having her stolen ID replaced. She doesn’t drive, and didn’t need an ID to vote.  Born in South Carolina, she would normally have to obtain a birth certificate from there in order to get a new ID, but to get the birth certificate, she would need some form of ID, a classic catch-22.

This made her an instant victim and poster child for the Left’s dishonest narrative about voter ID laws being enacted by evil Republicans in order to deny such folks the ability to vote.  Except that she could still vote.  An annoying detail.

Also, it was President Obama’s own Department of Homeland Security whose ID requirements ruled out Ms. McLaurin as an airline passenger.  

“The District’s DMV actually issued McLaurin a temporary ID for use when she leased an apartment last month,” wrote Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy. “But the image of her is barely recognizable and, as [her son] understood it, new Department of Homeland Security rules do not recognize those kinds of temporary IDs as sufficient for obtaining either a permanent government-issue ID, birth certificate or even a plane ticket.”

Anyway, the story ends on a happy note. According to an article buried last Wednesday on page 8 of the Post’s Metro Section, Ms. McLaurin suddenly qualified for an ID thanks to a new rule for people over 70 years of age issued by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. City officials met the same day with Ms. McLaurin and issued a temporary ID until she gets a permanent one in the mail.

Refusing to let go of the voter suppression narrative in the face of the mayor’s self-described “common sense” solution, ABC News headlined the story this way:  “107-Year-Old Woman's Struggle to Get Photo ID Prompts Concern for Elderly People's Voting Rights.”

Since her troubles did not involve voting, it was a classic media bait and switch.

Over the years, progressives have built their case for sweeping change on the backs of assorted “victims.” 

For example, the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade case in 1973 that legalized abortion was based on the false claim that “Jane Roe” was a rape victim.  Years later, the ruling stands despite now pro-life Norma McCorvey’s revelation that she was not raped and was used as “Jane Roe” by disreputable attorneys who were intent on wiping out laws that protect unborn children.

Likewise, despite forensic evidence showing that teen robbery suspect Michael Brown did not have his hands up to surrender and was instead assaulting Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9, 2014, the Black Lives Matter campaign continues to employ the “Hands up, don’t shoot” slogan.

Despite trial testimony that the tragic 1998 death of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming was part of a busted drug deal, not a random act of violence over Mr. Shepard’s being perceived as homosexual, the Left continues to portray the incident as a hateful “gay bashing” provoked by Christian resistance to their cultural agenda.

There is nothing wrong per se with humanizing a situation with a specific case to make it more compelling, providing that it’s factual.

Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, followed by her arrest, ignited the civil rights movement, culminating in the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the end of Jim Crow laws.

The difference here is that she really was a victim of unjust segregation laws that forced blacks to the back of the city’s buses.  Sitting in a “black” section row, she was told to move when more white passengers boarded the bus.  Her refusal made history.

In the 107-year-old Ms. McLaurin’s case of a missing ID, her plight turned out to be one of inconvenience, not injustice.  But it was still too good of a victim story to pass up.

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