Who Really Likes Youth Defence?


Tom Lowe writes:

In response to Niamh Ní Bhriain’s claim in The Irish Times today that Youth Defence has “been inundated with support from the public, while [our] Facebook page has grown to some 58,000 supporters.” However, only 9,280 of their followers are resident in Ireland. Above data pulled from Facebook ad-buying interface.




Previously: Why This Ad Is Misleading

119 thoughts on “Who Really Likes Youth Defence?

    1. realPolithick

      Not surprising that there is such a large following for this group here in the U.S. The tactics they employ are very similar to those used by the Tea Party wingnuts over here.

  1. Boo H

    Tom Lowe… you shall be struck down by a bolt of lightening for your heathenous talk.

  2. David Robert Grimes

    As the author of the original piece which so offended Ms Ní Bhriain, I can state she has zero understanding the studies she has cited

    (1) The Finnish Study (Gissler et al, 2005) is a valid scientific paper, but Ni Bhriain misrepresents findings; It considered the death rates for women after being pregnant, including both miscarriages and abortions in the sample data. They concluded that non-pregnant women die less than pregnant women and women who miscarry or have ectopic pregnancies have higher suicide rates. This is NOT elective abortion.

    (2) She cites Ferguson et al (2008) and claims his work shows a 30% increase in mental health problems; this is patently false – Ferguson followed up 500 women and concluded there may be very small risk to mental health but hard to call amd they state “..the results do not support strong pro-life positions that claim that abortion has large and devastating effects on the mental health of women..” and in the same text note that the vast majority of the women interviewed later felt that abortion was the right choice for them. In contrast, the Danish study (Munk-Olsen et al 2011) followed up on over 300,000 women and found zero evidence that abortion damages mental health in women that opt for it, a finding that is important given larger sample groups have smaller errors.

    (3) Her claim that ‘science’ has shown life begins at conception is tellingly not cited. Had Ms Ni Bhrianin actually read the comments under my original article, she’d have known that using these as proof of her position is misguided and outright foolish. The scientific consensus is that abortion has no causal relationship with mental health; even if you cannot get access to the original papers, you can read about it on wikipedia in a very well cited article ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_and_mental_health ) which contain the passage in the FIRST paragraph; “Expert groups have found no scientific evidence of a causal relationship between abortion and poor mental health. For women with unplanned pregnancies, the risk of mental-health problems is equal whether they carry the pregnancy to term or undergo an abortion” if you were under any illusions. A weak effort as usual; if you want to be against abortion ethically, by all means, be so – do not pretend science supports your assertion and do not claim women suffer mental health problems when anyone who can read can see this is bunk. Also, Irish prochoice movement is incredibly disparate, which I’ve written about before; http://3menmakeatiger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/bad-science-of-youth-defence-and.html

    This irks me but like I’ve said on twitter, if it irks you, write a letter. Until people show they’re no longer willing to tolerate twaddle, these folks will keep dishing it out.

    1. True Kilcockian

      @David Grimes.

      After adjustment for confounding, abortion was associated with a small increase in the risk of mental disorders; women who had had abortions had rates of mental disorder that were about 30% higher. There were no consistent associations between other pregnancy outcomes and mental health. Estimates of attributable risk indicated that exposure to abortion accounted for 1.5% to 5.5% of the overall rate of mental disorders.

      What is unclear about that?
      It is from the abstract of the Fergusson study.

      I also note that in your own piece in the Irish Times you cited the following:
      and claimed that:
      Essentially these studies found there was no difference in mental health between those who opted for abortion and those who carried to term.

      You failed to clarify the fairly significant point that the Danish study covered only women who had abortions in the first trimester.

      Certainly we all have and are entitled to our biases but at least Miss Ni Bhriain does not attempt meretriciously to represent herself as an honest broker.

      1. David Robert Grimes

        Adjusting for confounding ? At such a statistically small difference in a small sample group of 500 ? Even the authors state “..the results do not support strong pro-life positions that claim that abortion has large and devastating effects on the mental health of women..”

        The net result in a single study is not clear, and most tellingly, the authors themselves state the vast majority of those 500 women did not regret their choice.

        Furthermore, there is already a clear scientific consensus on this; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_and_mental_health

        Furthermore, if you want to get technical, over 91% of abortions are carried out in first 13 weeks in EU and are largely medicinal. That is first trimester. The remaining ones are largely done out of medical urgency rather than for elective reasons so hardly the same thing.

        1. True Kilcockian

          To identify a small sample size as an argument against adjustment for confounding strikes me as meretricious.

          If you really believe that the Ferguson et al. Study was methodologically flawed so as to overstate the association between elective abortion and negative mental health episodes you should write to the the British Journal of Psychiatry.

          For the record they were aware of the following factors:
          Meaaures of childhood socio-economic circumstances
          Measures of parental adjustment/family functioning
          Measures of exposure to child abuse
          Measures of individual characteristics and educational
          Measures of adolescent adjustment

          The authors state that:
          (a) Exposure to induced abortion was consistently associated with
          increased rates of mental disorders
          (b) Exposure to pregnancy loss was also associated with modest
          but consistent increases in risks of mental health problems
          (c) Having a live birth that was associated with an unwanted/
          adverse reaction to pregnancy was associated with modest
          increases in risks of all individual outcomes except for
          alcohol dependence.
          (d) Associations between mental health outcomes and having a
          live birth with no reported adverse reaction were generally
          weak and inconsistent

          The authors do not say that the impact of abortion is very small or hard to call. That is an extraordinary misreading of the study.

          1. David Robert Grimes

            Well they are pretty honest about the flaws in their data and their sample group; in any case, one study would not be enough to over turn the vast bulk of literature against the assertion that mental health is correlated with abortion.

            In any case, if you’re going to go into that depth, you should have a look at the subsequent studies referencing that BJP one. You could put them all together into a nice meta-analysis and show the evidence for abortion having a casual relationship with mental health is extremely weak.

    2. MissT

      “if you want to be against abortion ethically, by all means, be so – do not pretend science supports your assertion and do not claim women suffer mental health problems when anyone who can read can see this is bunk.”
      I must memorise this for my next dinner party (“,)

      Thank you for your continued involvement in this important conversation

  3. Betty

    Not remotely surprised. Some of the language they use is very redolent of American conservatives, particularly the homophobic screed. Would be interesting to know if latest billboard campaign was funded by $$$$$$$$$$. So far, so sinister.

    1. Matthew

      The donation form on their website used to be in dollars, so almost certainly yes. They claimed that the campaign was entirely funded by Irish donations, but I suspect this is creative accounting (i.e. all Irish donations go to one campaign, all US donations are spread around to fund less-visible aspects of the organization).

      (Link to archived copy of old donation form: http://vm2303.vps.tagadab.com/donate–post-or-fax-form.pdf )

      1. Matthew

        Also, I should mention that what finally got them to change their donation form to euros was when I pointed this out to them on their Facebook page. They changed the form silently and then banned me from their page.

      2. Matthew Corbally

        I’m surprised that they have amounts going up to $5000. Because Irish people are renowned for making donations in the thousands, especially in these pleasant economic times.

    1. paul

      NaziYanks in other words. Happy 4th of July by the way; let’s bomb some country with abortion.

    2. well

      when they last had their “rally for life” in town , I could see many supporters holding American flags , photos of this are on youth defence page too

  4. croninliam

    not in defence of Niamh’s article or what it supports but the page does now have 62k+ likes. I don’t think she mentions that all of these are from Ireland…or am I misreading?

    1. Tom Lowe

      The implication from the phrasing is that there’s a groundswell of popular support for YD in Ireland – she’s not trying to make the point that there are a load of nutso fundies in the US who hate “pro-aborts”, everyone knows that.

      1. True Kilcockian

        Youth Defence are far far to the extreme of most Irish people on this issue.
        I am fairly confident that Youth Defence would prevent surgical intervention to kill the fetus in an ectopic pregnancy and prevent the termination of acephalic fetuses.
        That said most Irish people are not ‘pro choice’.

        1. Esquire

          It doesn’t matter who they are. 68,000 does not equal 10,000 if we’re talking about ‘groundswells’.

          Away from semantics, the connection with the US anti-abortion lobby is telling, especially when we hear anecdotes regarding dollar signs (above)

        2. VinLieger

          Yup just like 70% of facts are made up on the spot 100% of the time, half the time

        3. peepsinho

          actually ectopic pregnancies are dealt with in ireland everyday and are not considered abortion. they do not consist of deliberately destroying an unborn baby. in ectopic the foetus is often already dead, or certainly not viable to live within the womb for any reasonable timeframe due to the fact that it is not growing within the womb. it is often stuck in the fallopian tube and therefore as it grows the women is at serious danger of having a ruptured fallopian tube which can cause death. it is a surgical emergency that that the pro life belief does not object to. stop trying to make out that we are denying women life threatening care because that is not true!

          1. Caroline

            It is not the case that the foetus is usually dead in an ectopic pregnancy – it is frequently alive. It is actually the fact that it is continung to develop and grow that poses the problem in the first place (expansion leading to rupture/haemorrhage/death). It is true that it is almost certainly not going to survive to term. So it is important to note that this “surgical emergency” often involves the death of a foetus – and most certainly constitutes abortion. Whether it’s an abortion you object to or not is up to you, of course.

          2. True Kilcockian

            Youth Defence oppose surgical intervention in ectopic pregnancy. Youth Defence are against all abortion whether medically justified or not, whether the fetus is viable or not.

        4. Figlen

          “most Irish people are not ‘pro choice’” – you sure about that? Really… Based on?

          Sounds a bit like saying there’s a large majority of people in Ireland who are Roman Catholic, meanwhile numbers of churchgoers dwindle dramatically.

      2. JohnM

        Implication seems to be authors bread and butter.

        From the IT – “In the Seanad last week Senators confirmed they had received no complaints from the public about the Youth Defence/Life Institute billboards”

        From http://www.universitytimes.ie/?p=11062 – “Senator Paul Bradford said that he had not received any complaints on the advertising campaign”

        The implication is that some pro-life senators receiving no complaints is somehow meaningful in the author’s opinion.

        In reality, if one had a complaint, they would contact the advertising authority, the advertising company and any senator except a pro-life senator.

    2. woesinger

      And what proportion of those 62K are from Ireland?

      That’s relevant because why should we care what Americans think of YD and their position on abortion when deciding policy in Ireland?

      While she might not have said the support was from Ireland solely, it was a reasonable inference. She’s attempting to show that there is popular support for YD in Ireland and, that appears not to be the case. So she is ill-informed at best, disingenuous at worst.

  5. G

    Also is it possible that of those 9,280 people who ‘like’ Youth Defence, actually hate Youth Defence, and liked it on facebook to see what absolute tripe they came out with next.

      1. Clampers Outside

        Many people do this. I liked both yes and no campaigns in the referendum and every party in the last election. It’s common enough and is by no means just a theory. It’s fact.

    1. Steph

      I was just going to say that. I’m pleased to say that in the bit where it shows which of your friends have liked the page, there are only two listed and both of them are going for the jugular in the arguments on the comment threads. People are only liking it so they can better track their arguments. I’ve resisted the temptation so far.

      1. Matthew Corbally

        I haven’t liked it myself, but I will admit it gives me a fair bit of pleasure to see when my comments receive more likes than YD’s and their supporters.

        1. paul

          A lot of my friends have liked the page in order to engage (be ignored and blocked) in the debate.

          It must be stressed you don’t need to like the page to comment. Please don’t like the f**kers.

  6. Tom Lowe

    It’s easy enough to see from the activity on their page that a lot of YD’s supporters are lunatic fundies from the US – the real issue however is where the money comes from. I am pretty convinced that it’s sourced outside Ireland but have no proof. Any Broadsheet readers with tips on where I might find this info?

    1. Matthew Corbally

      I actually tried to get information on their funding via a FOI request. I got a call back, and basically they’ve registered themselves as a small business. They are not legally obligated to provide any information to the government beyond a name for themselves (which is actually Youthdefence, as in one word), a comment about what kind of business they are (anti-abortion), and an associated person’s name and address (the address provided is a residential address apparently). The fact that they’ve chosen to register themselves in such a way and to provide the barest possible minimum of public information is telling.

        1. conor

          Which they are.


          Registered as a business name though, not a company. I’ve registered business names before, and from what I gather only a human person (or persons?) or another company can register the name (like ‘trading as’).

          This means that monies are going through the accounts of another company or an individual (or individuals).

          1. conor

            Wait, no. Mea culpa. One can open a business bank account with a business name. Apologies.

          2. Daniel Sullivan

            I’m not sure that it is legal as such that you can be taking in money from others and spending it and yet get by with just registering as a business name. Surely you have to register as a company, either Limited, sole trader or partnership when doing that .i.e. trading.

            Or else this is an individual who should be declaring the donations being made in their tax returns, there are limits on the amounts that individuals can be given by other individuals.

          3. conor

            Nope, I’m very sure it’s legal, once all your taxes are paid appropriately. For example, self-employed people can trade but might not always form a limited company. The main advantage of forming a limited company is that it the company is a separate legal person, and can sue or be sued. In the case of just a business name it means the parent individual or company can sue or be sued (much riskier).

            You do raise a very good point about donations, however.

      1. Billy

        I wonder if there’s any way to get them investigated under business practices law?

          1. Leela2011

            exactly what I thought, in reference to ASAIs ‘lack of power’. especially when their billboards could garner more donations to their ‘small business’..

          2. Rory

            I think the billboards were non-commercial.

            The non-commerical thing was a ruse by ASAI so no-one would realise that it’s a voluntary body with no teeth that YD would just ignore.

      2. True Kilcockian

        They aren’t a state body. Thank God.
        Go the other way and look at groups that fund anti abortion activists in the USA. One of those will be funding Youth Defence.

    2. Jess

      Apparently the donations page on their website used to list amounts in dollars, which is either very telling of who they expect to be making donations, or very dumb on the part of whoever built the site for them. Hard to tell. They insist their money comes from individual donations from Irish supports but that’s difficult to prove and they sure aren’t giving any concrete evidence.

  7. Luny loo

    If you buy friends on facebook they will all come from the US. Could be a rent a friend scheme.

    1. Jimmy

      @Liam – 2,500 Facebook likes work out at less than $100 – a fraction of a single one of those billboards. And thats not even a particularly competitive quote. I’d wager 99% of broadsheet.ie’s likes are legitimate.

  8. Steph

    That could have a lot to do with the fact that broadsheet operates mostly via twitter where it has over 12,000 followers.

    1. Tom Lowe

      About 1000 from the UK, 560 in Australia then there’s a long tail of countries with between 100-200 fans such as Canada, Philippines, Italy, South Africa, India. Can’t itemise them all without putting each country in the world into Facebook’s Ad Manager, so there may well be another big one missing. This info is available to the Page administrators however.

  9. Ke

    Summary: We don’t like their ideology therefore they must be sinister evildoers with dodgy funding sources, paid-for Facebook likes, and possibly — probably — far worse.

    1. Matthew

      If you have a better explanation for how tens of thousands of Americans have heard of an organization that barely had a media presence in Ireland, let alone the rest of the world, I’m all ears.

      1. Tom Lowe

        I would be of the view that their Facebook likes being predominantly from the US is due to their strong ties with American fundamentalist Christian organisations, rather than being paid-for. For example, googling “Pastor John Hagee” “Youth Defence” will bring up a lot of facebook profiles of the pastor’s flock, who are also fans of YD.

        Link for lols: https://www.facebook.com/PastorJohnHagee

    2. l

      But they clearly do have dodgy funding sources and their Facebook likes are not from people who are based in Ireland.

  10. Blobster

    I have never visited YD’s Facebook site and have no plans to do so, but why does it matter if it has 60,000 likes or 10,000 or where they are from?

    Playing a numbers game is a waste of everyone’s breath. Like it or not (most on BS clearly don’t) YD do represent a portion of the Irish population.

    Also, I think the overall insinuation that all pro-life American’s are fundametalist whack-jobs (admit it…you were thinking it) is lazy.

    As if human-rights in this country is an issue that cannot possibly be open to external influences!?! No…we’re too pure for that.

      1. woesinger

        Are AI trying to use those Like figures to claim levels of support in Ireland for their views?

        If they’re not, then your comparison doesn’t hold much water.

      2. Clampers Outside

        Blobster, explain your reasons for the question because your previous post makes that one look silly… I’m guilty of that on occasion too BTW! :)

        Yes, playing the numbers game is a waste of breath. Absolutely when it comes to social media. I have no issue with YD representing “a portion of the Irish population”.

        But, I have a problem with claims of large support from Ireland when clearly not the case. And then falsely tout it as if it showed strong support.

        Additionally, YD obviously don’t understand ‘likes’ and that they are not an affirmation of support for their page.

        1. Blobster

          Yeah – I totally contradicted myself, I know. But as I said….I’m genuinely curious now.

          Anyone able to get an answer?

          I chose AI, btw as I figured it was a human rights based organisation and I knew it had an Irish branch….feel free to come up with your own ideas.

          If the thrust of this thread is “look, YD’s facebook likes are really from Ireland” then I figured it’d be interesting to apply similar scrutiny to other organisations just to see if that’s a general facebook thing. Facebook is a very globalised environment after all.

          1. Steph

            I agree, it would be interesting but I don’t know how.

            What’s worth noting is that if you engage with AI they’ll engage with you. I’ve never seen someone blocked from asking a polite question that AI considered inconvenient to their agenda.

      3. Tom Lowe

        Amnesty have 16,580 fans who are resident in Ireland, 1,720 in the US, or 6% of their total following. Youth Defence’s fans are 63% American. Whatever you think of their politics there’s something strange going on with their Facebook following that they’re so keen to use to prove that they have support.

    1. VinLieger

      It matters because they are claiming a mandate to keep doing what they are doing by posting the numbers of likes on their facebook page as “fact” that alot of Irish people support them.
      By showing that less than 20% of their support on FB is from legitimate irish sources it pokes a giant hole in their so called mandate.
      It also again adds support to the theory that the VAST majority of their funding does NOT come from single Irish donations as they like to claim but from very large and well funded pro-life american lobby groups who have no democratic right to be interfering in our law making processes like this.

    2. woesinger

      They do represent a portion of the Irish public. The problem is that they’re using figures that include a portion of the American public to make claims as the the size of the portion of the Irish public they represent.

      Since they’re religiously motivated, YD should be aware that “Thou shall not bear false witness” is as much a commandment as “Though shall not kill”.

        1. Gogol

          Or wear cloths of mixed fabrics. Or do any number of bizarre things that are written in one of the dumbest books I’ve ever read. And yes I’ve read it. Tough going but slightly fascinating.

        1. Matthew

          They’re a very strongly orthodox Catholic organization, though they’re de-emphasizing that a lot in their ads to appeal to a wider audience. The organization’s newsletter had some fairly strong anti-homosexuality statements, though these were removed from the online version when this was pointed out. A lot of the high-ups and founding members were heavily involved in issues like the divorce referendum and so on.

          1. Matthew

            Er, I should clarify that I mean “orthodox” in the sense of strict interpretations of the rules and general fundamentalism rather than being part of the Eastern Orthodox Church or anything.

          2. Blobster

            Lots of individuals in different organisations hold various religious views. Do you have proof that Youth Defence is “a very strongly orthodox Catholic organization”? Or is that just your gut instinct?

          3. woesinger

            “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Matt 7:16

            Less facetiously, if you’re genuinely interested, Blobster, take a look into the background of the leaders of YD. They’re very much motivated by religious beliefs.

        2. woesinger

          Ah now, Blob, we didn’t come down in the last torrential shower.

          Anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-divorce and you expect us to believe that they’re not motivated by religion?

          1. Steph

            They’ve also blocked me from their facebook page for asking about the anti-civil union article that was poster her a few days ago.

        3. barnch

          having lost siblings to christina gallagher, latin mass, youth defence bollocks I can tell you from experience that the whole set up is ENTIRELY religiously motivated.
          As you’re well aware I suspect.

  11. well

    Thats something people need to be reminded off too, youth defence are also against divorce and against gay marriage.

  12. jonny bravo

    Who cares where they got their Likes from or what else they are for or against? They are entitled to purchase advertising hoardings and display what they want. It’s called freedom of expression. Their basic position is they’re against abortion which they hardly try to hide. I don’t see what the problem is.

    1. l

      That’s not their basic position, they are also against gay rights and divorce (follow the links above) as well as the Nice Treaty and others.

      They are entitled to freedom of expression but when they peddle statements without anything to back them up, that’s where there’s a problem.

    2. Betty

      MISREPRESENTATION! Sorry for the shouty capitals but YD’s claim of “support” is obviously problematic if the majority of it didn’t originate in this country.

    3. woesinger

      No argument from me about freedom of expression, but if they make misleading statements (intentionally or not), it is also freedom of expression to call them out on it.

    4. The Vajazzler

      Obviously the people complaining care. FFS jonny bravo let them express themselves and speak out about how shite youth defence are.

  13. conor

    So I’ve done a litte poking around with the publically available whois information for YD, and I’ve found a few things..

    http://www.truthtv.org has no whois information other than UTV Internet, but it redirects to http://www.prolifeinfo.ie. The whois contact for prolifeinfo.ie is also Una Scully (http://domainsigma.com/whois/prolifeinfo.ie).

    The contact information at the bottom of the homepage on http://www.prolifeinfo.ie gives an address at 10A Capel Street, which is also the address for Cóir (http://www.cro.ie/search/CompanyDetails.aspx?id=237952&type=B)

    The contact for coircampaign.org has an email address at lisbonvote.com (which redirects to coircampaign.com).

    It appears that people involved with YD are also involved with Cóir, although I can’t be certain.

  14. Laura

    Pointed this out on twitter earlier today, but the way the ‘likes’ spike and lull (i.e. from a respectable 93 per week to 2,283pw at the end of June, and from 142pw to 4,389pw more recently) is very odd; http://www.facebook.com/YouthDefence/likes

    Also, they only have about 1000 followers on Twitter, which to me doesn’t really match up to having 60,000+ likes on Facebook. That’s a massive difference.

    It could indicate bought ‘likes’. Then again, it might not.

  15. Mick Flavin

    These poor people, pregnant with self-righteousness. It’s so unfair that they have to go overseas to procure a safe Facebook like.

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