Report

PEJ New Media Index: The Killing of George Tiller Dominates the Blogosphere Debate

  • June 11, 2009

The killing of abortion doctor George Tiller was eclipsed by Barack Obama's Mideast trip and economic news in the mainstream press last week. But in the social media, the May 31 shooting that sparked an impassioned debate over a divisive issue was the week's dominant subject.

From June 1-5, the death of Tiller—a rare provider of late-term abortions who was shot while in church—generated 31% of the week's links on the Web tracking site Icerocket, according to the New Media Index by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Much of the online commentary was intense and polarizing, reflecting the hardened ideological fault lines on abortion. For many of those who were pro-choice, Tiller's murder was an act of terror against a man who devoted his life to helping women. Conversely, pro-lifers saw Tiller as someone responsible for the deaths of thousands of unborn fetuses.

But beyond those arguments, a more complex series of cross-currents emerged in the blogosphere commentary. While most pro-life advocates condemned the murder, some wondered if it could be morally justified. Some pro-choice bloggers speculated about the role of certain talk hosts in inciting violence. And commentators on both sides of the issue pondered the impact of the crime on the ongoing battle over abortion policy.

Read the full report The Killing of George Tiller Dominates the Blogosphere Debate on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.