Politics / Social Issues
There has been no shortage of Planned Parenthood criticism in the days since several controversial videos surfaced. Humans are by nature trusting creatures. We instinctively trust our senses and we pathologically trust each other. Even the most cynical of individuals must fight the impulse to have faith in what they are told. Our inclination to trust is the evolutionary by-product of relying members of our group for our survival.
The compulsion to trust other people over objective reality has even been the subject of humor, such as the classic Groucho Marx line; “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” The premise of that 75 year old joke is at the heart of the latest attack on Planned Parenthood by the Center for Medical Progress and their slickly edited undercover videos.
The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) was founded in 2013 by David Daleiden apparently for the sole purpose of producing the videos that are oozing their way into the public discourse. Contrary to their name CMP has no interest medicine or progress. The group’s website describes the organization as a group of citizen journalists. Before venturing into the realm of James O’Keefe and Lila Rose “citizen journalism” Daleiden was a full-time anti-abortion activist who worked for Live Action.
Most CMP’s funding comes from Operation Rescue, the same group that harassed Dr. Edward Tiller before his murder at the hands of Scott Roeder. The group disavowed the actions of Roeder after the name and phone number of Operation Rescue’s senior policy advisor Cheryl Sullenger were found in his car.
Self described citizen journalists like Daleiden and O’Keefe believe that journalists in mainstream media aren’t telling the truth at worst and at best are simply incompetent. Citizen journalists from the right and left focus their attention more on ideology rather than facts.
So far the Center for Medical Progress has released five edited videos in which members of the group pose as employees of a bogus tissue procurement company interested in obtaining samples from Planned Parenthood. There are two significant problems with the videos; the first and perhaps most egregious has less to do with the videos themselves and more to do with the reporting of their content.
Both opinion and hard news coverage of the videos deliberately conflate the questions the undercover actors ask with what Planned Parenthood representatives have said. For example, reporting about the first video released by CMP most outlets followed the lead offered by the CMP’s press release, which has the headline “Second Planned Parenthood Senior Executive Haggles Over Baby Parts Prices, Changes Abortion Methods” However, the actual exchange which starts at 2:20 in the video. The PP exec names a price and the buyer says that’s too low and pushes the price higher. Calling this haggling is like a buyer telling a car dealer that the price they are asking for a car is too low and that they want to pay more.
Each of the video’s released thus far are full of such duplicities where the actors portraying buyers ramble on and on with the only response from PP representatives being polite and offering nothing more than uhuhs and mmms. The accompanying press release, which form the basis of what is reported in print, online and on television frames the comments as coming from Planned Parenthood which is patently false.
To paraphrase the nineteenth century Prussian statesman Otto Von Bismarck “Medicine, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” Unless you’re in the medical profession you are probably not used to hearing medical professionals talk about procedures in dispassionate, workman like terms. The conversations on these videos between doctors and people they believe to be in the “medical field” are conducted in the same way as a couple of auto mechanics talk about transmissions.
Sure, there is an “ick” factor to the talk of body parts and specimens for the layman, which is why your doctor doesn’t talk to you about your condition in the same way she talks to her colleagues about you. The reporting on these videos, once again drawn from CMPs press releases, portrays this professional shop talk as contemptible disregard for human life.
The Proof is in the Pundits
Politicians and the pundits that prattle on endlessly about them share one very important quality, caution. They are by nature risk averse creatures who go to great semantic lengths to avoid making statements that can be shown to be demonstrably false such as the sun revolves around the earth or Planned Parenthood broke the law. Instead, they rant about “callous disregard” and “inhuman” behavior. The reason is that they are trying to blow smoke where there is no fire. Ultimately, the Planned Parenthood criticism is much ado about nothing.