Of Human Bondage: Schiavo "Silence"

There are a lot of weird angles to the coverage of the Terri Schiavo case. One that's popped up in the past day or so is the ubiquity of pictures featuring people with their mouths taped shut. Paradoxically, it seems that a good way to get the media to pay attention to your protest is to insure that you can't speak to them.

Thursday's New York Sun spreads a huge picture of Rachel Stedman, outside the Supreme Court, gagged with red tape bearing the word "Life." Similarly silenced in the pages of Wednesday's New York Times was Jesse Engle, while Aysha Rogers stayed mum in the Daily News. They were both outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, foxnews.com's photo essay featured a woman with her mouth taped and a group of silent protesters outside the Florida hospice where Schiavo is located. Newsday's online photomontage has another gagged group outside the hospice as well as a woman who was keeping quiet in front of the local courthouse.

According to a nexis search, The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times have also featured photos of Engle and Rogers, although it is unclear how they appeared in those pictures.

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The idea behind the protest, according to participants, is that Terri Schiavo also has no voice in the case. Strictly speaking, that's true, even though members of Congress returned from recess to approve a bill that aimed at prolonging her life, and the president of the United States rushed to Washington to sign it.

But whether Terri's voice would vote for "life" is at the heart of the dispute. So the message of the red tape is a crafty way of simplifying a fairly complex issue—like the phrase "pro-life" itself, which some media organizations avoid because of its implication that advocates of legal abortion are "pro-death."

Some pictures are worth a thousand words. The duct-tape shots—like their subjects—say very little, but get plenty of play.

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