US ambush video crew at March for Choice turn out to be extremists who want death penalty for women who have abortions

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The March for Choice saw another another sinister anti-choice video crew in operation.  The last time on investigation they turned out to be an far-right crew who subsequently worked with Tommy Robinson, ex leader of the EDL.  This time the accents were American rather than British and on investigation we discovered they are an extremist anti-choice church, one of this crew has even told media they want women who have had abortions to be executed. [Video report]

As with the previous crew their method is to try and get participants to agree to be interviewed without revealing their extreme anti-choice views. As you will see in the video when challenged as to who they are they tried to vaguely pass themselves off as a TV studio and then Facebook stream.  When people agreed to be interviewed after a few sympathetic appearing questions they were suddenly ambushed with very hostile language in the hope that their targets either don’t notice or get flustered.  The goal is to then broadcast edited footage of flustered or hostile pro-choice people to try and dehumanise us and urge their own followers to fanaticism.

After this tactic was used at Strike for Repeal we were on the lookout for more of the same.  As it turned out were others, before we found this crew others had spotted them and confronted them near O’Connell bridge.  If you had a run in with them let us know so we can collate these reports.

Their video has yet to appear but the far-right crew published theirs several days after Strike for Repeal and then 10,000 or more was spent on Facebook advertising to push into the feed of people following the National Ploughing Championship page among others.  Durbin has boasted that “Apologia Studios  … through a fundraising campaign, the group has raised over $200,000 in donations, which will be used for a proposed "media flood campaign" for their anti-choice project.   So they should have plenty of change from their flights and hotels to pay for similar advertising. 

We spotted them in the aftermath of the rally, becoming suspicious of a strange looking and sounding crew of 3 bearded Americans who we spotted already interviewing the two women you hear in our video.  You can see and hear their technique play out in practise, sympathetic grunts suddenly switching to  ‘murdering children’ and ‘thank you for supporting child abuse’.  We don’t know the two women but they did a good job of disengaging once they copped on what was up.  If you see this drop us a line and tell us what happened before our video started, in particular how did they represent themselves when they stopped you.

They were with a group of 6-8 people so we only started to confront them once a couple of us were in the scene, basically warning people they were trying to interview as to who they were.  And putting ourselves in front of their cameras.  This was quite a short interaction that ended with the Garda trying to order one of us out of the area under Section 8 - a very misused part of the Public Order Act often used in this manner.  However as you’ll see from their social media this was enough to unbalance them and resulted in them packing up and leaving soon after. 

Jeff Durbin posted that he had “Narrowly avoided getting arrested (by an obviously biased police officer) for merely talking to Pro-choice advocates. Marcus Pittman almost got hit”. On his preacher biography page Jeff boasts of being a. “a World Champion martial artist with 5 Black-Belts” so we are somewhat amused that so little led to such an overblown description.  Presumably all part of an attempt to convince funders to dip into their purses to support his ‘heroism’ in being willing to ‘go head on with a predicted 30,000 women’.

At the time of shooting our video we didn’t know who these guys were beyond the American accents.  We’ve been investigating them further in the aftermath of March for Choice and what we’ve found is disturbing to put it mildly.  They are a gang of extremist preachers who consider the mainstream anti-choice movement as not extreme enough. They have spent three years picketing Tempe’s Planned Parenthood in Florida where Vice recorded Durbin being regretful that he didn’t yet have the resources to also picket IVF clinics.  Yes you read that right.

Marcus has written “if you have spent any time outside of an abortion clinic pleading with the women going in to save the life of their baby, you know that these women are not victims. They may be very emotional but they are not deceived by their emotions. They are murderers and in most cases, they act like it.”

Continuing this hostile anti-women theme, Durbin told Metro UK in February that he wanted women who had abortions executed saying “Whether it’s a mother who kills her child in the womb or a mother who kills her five-year-old twins by drowning them in the bathtub, we would want it to be treated as a murder charge, and for that to be applied consistently under the law. I believe that a just answer to murder is the death penalty."

They call their Facebook page Apologia Studios and in the context of the remarks above the message they posted right before the march becomes sinister rather than hilariously overblown; “Pray for Jeff, Luke and Marcus as they go head on with a predicted 30,000 women marching for abortion to be made legal in Ireland today” Women are constantly identified as the enemy, even when, as with the March for Choice, there was also a large minority of men marching.  In the aftermath of the march Marcus tweeted “Lots of nasty women in Ireland today.”

They call themselves pastor/elders of the Apologia church a ‘Neo-calvinist’ outfit.  The US has many extreme self proclaimed churches of this type.  A quick investigation of youtube even turned up a  Jeff ranting against antifa before diving into a ridiculous beef he is having with another local pastor revolving around their competing homophobic performances in front of their ‘congregations’.  

However on the 30th Marcus took to social media to boast that he had met “with some Presbyterian pastors in Ireland yesterday about setting up media and programming to counter the secular media in Ireland.”  We’d be very interested in hearing who these pastors are and whether they were aware of the extreme views outlined above before they met Marcus.  Presbyterianism in Ireland has a complex history that extends from the democratic republicanism of the 1790s to the extremist sectarianism of the Paislyites.  Any Presbyterians worried about the way that later legacy defined most people’s picture of their religion might like to intervene before this sort of new anti-women extremism becomes a new defining image.

Just how extreme there views are is illustrated by this hostile piece about them from another anti-choice source in the US after they had apparently used their ambush technique within the anti-choice movement there.  That report complained that “They lured Mr. Lauinger in and got their sound bites, and then they proceeded to publicly denounce him and attack his character — calling him a hypocrite and a coward because “he refuses to call the women who had an abortion a murderer”. 

We don’t know yet what connections this gang has to the anti-choice movement here but it seems obvious that they were not over here on a holiday and indeed Marcus admitted on social media on the 28th that “We went to a pro-life rally in Ireland today” before complaining that they were not extreme enough.  There are certainly questions to be asked but given the long linkage between the anti-choice movement and the far right we’d be foolish to expect answers.

In terms of the impact on the referendum to Repeal the 8th the major thing to watch here is the use of Facebook advertising.  Such advertising was an important part of the story of both the Trump election and Brexit because it allows obnoxious reactionary ads to target people without those opinions without the rest of us even knowing they existed.  And even if we were to find out via looking over the shoulder of ‘reactionary uncle’ we wouldn’t know who had placed them.  Which means horrifying messaging can be used without there being the public opinion costs that the anti-choice movement has subsequently had to pay as a result of their shaming billboards campaigns etc.

It also means the vast sums the US anti-choice movement has as its disposal can be used to influence the referendum without that cash ever crossing our borders.   Ads to target voters in Ireland can be ran and paid for from Utah or Arizona.  This could prove to be an extremely toxic combination with extremist US groups spending hug quantities to push nasty lying ads into our feeds.  If you are already seeing those ads or do in future take a screenshot and message us.

 

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