Monday, June 24, 2013

Of David Quinn and Demonising the Opponents of X Legislation

Large pink demon from one of the later levels in Doom II. Or possibly Doom. I'd need to check.
Media's view of the pro life lobby?
I do not particularly recommend my book reviews. In it you'll find overlong and overworked reviews of books in which you have little interest, or, worse, overlong and relentlessly critical reviews of books you quite enjoyed. They're mostly about Christian apologetics. For what it's worth, attempting to step into the world view of another gives one a unique viewpoint of one's own. Do wander to unfamiliar sections of the book shop.

This interest in opposing viewpoints may be part of what drew me to David Quinn's latest, "Those opposed to abortion law being branded fanatics". It's been my experience that people change. While I always supported legislation on X, I was two or three blog posts in to the abortion debate before I considered myself pro choice and in that time I was not once referred to as a fanatic. My daily commute found itself unmarked by low flying fruit or vegetation. Indeed, all interactions with pro choicers before I joined their number were positive and engaging. Had I instead been demonised or painted as extremist I would likely have been less inclined to give pro choice arguments fair hearing. If those who oppose X legislation are being unfairly characterised they're unlikely to change their position - misrepresentation helps none of us.

That said, what examples of media bias does Quinn offer?

We are told of Eddie Shaw, chair of the board of management of a Dublin primary school, who tendered his resignation voluntarily after giving pro life material, unwrapped, to children as young as five. One is left with the impression, from Quinn's words, that Shaw's resignation was forced by an unwieldy mob of newshounds brandishing pitchforks, their paths lit by both torches and the long summers' day.

Yet he resigned far too suddenly for the tame coverage of his acts to be considered the root cause. A "stormy meeting" with the school's parents' association seems more likely to have nudged him to new opportunities, something Quinn will find difficult to blame on the media. I also note that there have been no media efforts to have the principal - who describes the incident as "a serious error of judgement on [her] part" - cast from her office. This despite the principal's admission that she "compromised the teachers by putting them in an impossible position". Perhaps those in the media forming the witch hunt are unwilling to put in the necessary hours?

Next we read that the aforementioned newshounds decided their unfettered access to the nations' print media and airwaves were of little use in this (Quinn perceived) campaign of opposition to those who oppose X legislation. Instead the following nefarious scheme seems to have involved 'a woman' who called Liveline to complain about the bishop's opposition to X legislation being read from the pulpit. As you've likely gathered, I do not consider this the easiest route to take should the media find itself moved to engage in conspiracy. Given most of the country favours legislation on X and most of the country is Catholic, it can hardly be counted improbable that a Catholic favouring legislation on X would think to call Joe Duffy.

Finally we reach a point of some agreement as Quinn notes that the Independent published an inaccurate report that anti X legislation campaigners were protesting outside the Taoiseach's house. This was indeed quite wrong, they were father's rights protesters, but it surely cannot escape anyone's notice that Quinn's 900ish words on this media conspiracy appears in the self same newspaper judged to be entwined in this plot. The Machiavellian masterminds behind the imagined propaganda campaign surely missed a trick in letting this one slip by.

Is there a body that seeks to tarnish the reputation of often decent folk who, for various reasons, oppose legislation on X?

To my mind this accusation belongs at the doorstep of the supposedly Irish pro life lobby.

We have Youth Defence / The Life Institute / moniker of the day, a group with a history of violence, whose American funders don't even have the decency to file tax returns. Their website includes the damaging mistruth that abortion causes breast cancer. They parade in residential areas with graphic images several foot high.

There's the Pro Life Campaign, a group whose followers are in the main American Republicans and whose staff write for, a site that gives notable focus to spreading misinformation about abortion and breast cancer.

There's Human Life International Ireland, a group which enjoys good standing in the Irish pro life community despite lying about vaccines causing autism. There are fellow vaccine opponents Family and Life, a group that launched a campaign opposing the HSE's vaccination policy. There's Precious Life, contraception opponents, wielders of a magic painting.

There's the Roman Catholic hierarchy, a group that has failed to pay a pitiful 380 million agreed to over a decade ago in compensation to children raped and assaulted during their decades long coverups.

Quinn feels that the media creates an impression of Irish pro lifers that is "at best impolite and at worst extremist and fanatical". I humbly suggest that those who seek to represent Irish pro lifers are the ones at fault in this regard.

A brief addendum: what council can I offer to pro life readers of this post?
  • Form a new group.
  • Refuse to work with vaccine opponents, or those who share platforms with vaccine opponents.
  • Hold a commitment to the truth and hold it dearly. If you let this slip you'll find the walls of trust difficult to climb.
  • Choose your backers wisely. If your funds come from abroad, be open about it. It's covert approaches that rankle the most.
  • Be open to those of all faiths and none, but do not seek to use the faiths of others to bend them to your way of thinking. An opinion reached through reasoned discussion is a far greater asset than that won through spiritual obligation.
  • Don't take a top down approach. I've met plenty of smart, interesting and thought provoking Irish pro lifers who could probably offer a decent argument if given breathing space.
Do all that, and I'll happily give you a guest post.


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