Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Noise in the Abortion Debate

I think this is the kind of thing Neil Postman had in mind when he warned that entertainment and news would make poor bedfellows. Just like his models on the other side of the political spectrum, many of the conservative talk show hosts, Oakley is more concerned with entertaining his listeners. We often think that people want to be liked in the media, but that is only part of it. Who gets more attention in a compelling film-the actor who plays the resilient hero, or the antagonist who kills people with stun guns? All attention is good attention in the media world, and if you can get someone to hate you, you create controversy, which may win more attention than preaching to the choir.

It may seem curious then that I would choose to analyze Oakley's arguments if I think he is only trying to stir up the pot, but the arguments he uses are so often repeated that I think they could benefit from a bit of analysis.

Oakley starts out by stating that he hates the term "pro-life" because it is an example of political framing, which is designed to portray one side more favorably than the other. He then makes the case that if someone is really pro-life then they should be against war, the death penalty and the killing of animals.

First of all, this analysis is really rather silly, because everyone knows that both the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are used in the context of the abortion issue, and both are true to a point. People against abortion are literally for the life of the fetus. People who are for choice are literally for the woman's choice.

This argument frustrates me because it only sees error in those on the other side of the debate. The term "pro-choice" is just as guilty of being an example of political framing. It is designed to make detractors look like they are against choice. If we the head-in-the-sand analysis of Mr. Oakley, we could provide this analysis:



A kid with a plaid shirt is staring at us.


You know what annoys me about politics: the term “pro-choice.”
You see, “pro-choice” is an example of political framing. Political framing is designed to define your philosophy in the best possible light. It is also designed to portray the opposition in the worst possible way, in this case making pro-life seem pro-fascist. The truth is though if you are completely “pro-choice” that means you would say that all choices no matter their circumstance or situation are good. You would say that no one should be able to say that killing another person is wrong. That’s a choice, right? And if you’re pro choice that means you think all choices are okay. You would also advocate genocide, pedophilia, the Rape of Nanking, and the choices of those fetuses being aborted. Until you are willing to legalize those choices you better shut up about being pro-choice and embrace what you really are, anti-life. Yep, slaughtering the innocents for generations!"

Do you see my point? Both sides can engage in this sort of unreasoned debate. No fool would think that someone advocating pro-choice is being hypocritical in their use of the term Pro choice, even if that person does not agree that all choices are viable.

I agree with Tyler that political framing is not good, but he is only willing to go halfway. If we want to have an honest debate then we must be willing to strip away the manipulation in our rhetoric too.

I say we do away with both terms. They are both just white-lies that intend to sway stupid people. This debate is far too complex to be reduced to four words.

Read the next entry: Fallacies in the Gay Marriage Debate

Return to Destructive Interference Issue 1


Dustin Bryson said...


Good stuff man, I think I am going to like this blog. Is there a way I can subscribe so posts get sent to me via email? If so can you enable that feature?

I would also like to see a call to action at the end of the posts. Kind of a "What do you think" only with more meat. I watched the kids video, then read your post and wanted to put in my 2 cents but I wanted to stay within the bounds of the argument. A call to action would help us boneheads out a bit.

Thanks man.

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