Buzzfeed, Pro-Lifers, and the Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect is named after an episode where Barbara Streisand attempted to suppress photos of her Malibu house in 2003 and accidentally triggered much more interest in the story than there otherwise would have been. It now refers to any “phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.”

So a couple of weeks ago Personhood USA, which is a somewhat radical, upstart pro-life organization, put up a list on Buzzfeed on 8 Outrageous Things Planned Parenthood Was Caught Doing. I’m a long-time critic of Planned Parenthood, so I’m generally supportive of attempts to steal their undeserved halo, but what was really interesting about this particular list was the reaction. That article, a blog at The Guardian, bears the headline: “BuzzFeed is taking trolling to a new level by pandering to right-wing nuts” and went on with the subtitle: “BuzzFeed should apologise for allowing a radical pro-life group to use the site’s new Community section as an anti-abortion ad.”

Did you know that BuzzFeed has a “Community section”? I did not. So I can see that there might be some anger from folks who mistakenly assumed that the  Buzzfeed list created by Personhood USA was actually a regular BuzzFeed article, but it’s not. And Fruzsina Eordogh (who wrote the apoplectic Guardian piece) knows that, since she specifically calls out “the site’s new Community section”.

BuzzFeed, to their credit, did not oblige. They did however, post a disclaimer that (as far as I can tell) was custom created for that particular article:

2013-09-04 Buzzfeed Disclaimer

That’s probably where the story would have ended, with the hordes of angry liberal responses serving to create just another example of the Streisand Effect in action, but the National Right to Life Committee (the oldest and largest of the pro-life groups) apparently looked at the kerfuffle and thought, “Hey, we can do something cool here.” So they did.

16 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Life Before Birth is a perfect pro-life piece. It has the right mixture of upbeat humor and serious fact to really get the point of the pro-life message across. A point that is simple: all human beings deserve equal consideration under the law. And it does so with clips from Honey Boo Boo, The Big Bang Theory, Finding Nemo, and a host of other major cultural touchstones who–aside from Justin Bieber–would probably all loathe the idea of their works being put to this use.

Still, I’m a fan. I even think they got away with the only acceptable use of the phrase “YOLO” known to man:

1. At the moment of conception, you had a unique set of DNA that never previously existed in the history of the world. YOLO.

Well done, NRLC. Well done indeed.