Who’s obtuse and out of touch?

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, July 12, 2010 21:49 EDT
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To continue the theme of talking about “Friday Night Lights”, I have to link this review of the abortion episode from the New York Times, because it had such a beautiful distillation of what’s so wrong with the way abortion is treated in the mainstream media.

What was striking about the exploration of Becky’s circumstance on “Friday Night Lights” was the extent to which the opposing view was depicted as obtuse and out of touch. Two years ago an anonymous young woman ultimately received an abortion on “Private Practice” but not before an hour of television had passed which felt less like drama and more like journalism — sound, balanced and fair — with all relevant moral positions respectfully represented.

It’s one of those glistening moments when they admit that being “balanced” and catering to right wing nuts will always and forever be considered more important than being honest and accurate. And suggesting that “journalism” has some obligation to work PR for wingnuts that comes before its obligations to the public to be informative and, again, accurate. Because an accurate portrayal of the anti-choice movement would result in one where they come across as obtuse and out-of-touch, because that’s what they are. It’s almost definitional—anyone who waves off the struggles of a pregnant 15-year-old and suggests that it will all work out in the end is someone who has deliberately made herself unable to relate to the problems of her fellow human beings, because her dedication to the patriarchy is so strong. Anyone who puts an embryo over a living, breathing human being but refuses to admit that’s what she’s doing and turns herself into pretzels trying to rationalize that is obtuse by definition. Anyone willing to promote anti-choice lie because that’s what they wish was true is obtuse and out-of-touch at best. That’s the generous interpretation—that they’re fuddy-duddies who don’t know any better. In many cases, it’s worse than that, and they’re just sadistic assholes.

Anti-choicers have always been the leading edge in terms of pushing right wing nuttery into mainstream discourse, and making critical, honest takes on it taboo. Anti-choicers set the path then followed by neocons claiming that we’d be greeted like liberators in Iraq, pollution apologists who claim that global warming is a hoax, and other assorted assholes and liars that get treated with respect they don’t deserve in the mainstream press that fears appearing unbalanced. Anti-choicers are pioneers in the art of getting the mainstream media to give them a major handicap, because presenting their side honestly would turn so many people off, and that’s somehow “unfair”. They were able to get the misleading propaganda term “pro-life” into the mainstream discourse, even though there’s nothing objectively pro-life about them, especially when opponents of legal abortion are way more likely to support war, the death penalty, and depriving people of life-preserving health care and nutrition because of their income levels.

When you do present the issue of abortion fairly, you find that a much different image of anti-choicers emerges than the tender-hearted one that the mainstream media helps concoct as a cover story for the anti-choicer nutters. You get something closer to the documentary “12th and Delaware”, which gives equal time to the antis and the clinic workers, and was signed off on by both sides. With little editorializing, the picture that you get of anti-choicers is of a group of mean-spirited bullies who are, surprise surprise, obtuse and out-of-touch, as well as shockingly willing to lie to women in an effort to discourage the use of abortion and contraception. And by obtuse and out-of-touch, I mean really obtuse and out-of-touch. One thing that really becomes clear when you start to dig in and look at the anti-choice movement for what it is, you start to find that the people that move it have really weird ideas about what the world is really like, ideas that make them often sound like they’ve been locked in a cave for decades and have completely forgotten how actual human beings operate in the real world. In many cases, I think they’re not as clueless as they seem, but are just putting up a front to conceal that they know perfectly well that things like parental notification laws won’t actually improve parent-child relationships but instead will create hell for teenage girls in bad situations, but they don’t want to admit that the latter is their real goal. In some cases, though, like when Jill Stanek praised men who would beat up a woman for having an abortion as real men, I think that they’re being perfectly honest and really are that out-of-touch with what the mainstream that doesn’t hate women nearly as much thinks.

Anyway, it’s just a real shame to see how easy it has become for writers for publications like the NY Times to agree that they have an obligation to “balance” before old-fashioned journalistic values like accuracy.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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