Although I tend to agree with his politics, I'm not a big fan of left wing filmmaker Michael Moore; too often, in my opinion, he seems to be a progressive version of Rush Limbaugh. Like Limbaugh, he dumbs complex issues down, plays around with facts, has a healthy ego, and claims to speak for the average Joe, despite having a lucrative media empire. Moore first became famous when he starred in and directed the documentary ROGER & ME, and that film featured what would become his trademark: the ambush interview. With camera crew in tow, Moore pursues someone he doesn't agree with (in that movie's case, it was Roger Smith, CEO of General Motors), hoping to shove a microphone in their face and ask slanted and difficult questions. It's a technique that provides a win-win situation for Moore: if the person speaks to him, he gets to make them squirm on camera, and if they don't talk, he can paint them as a coward. Now while I'm all in favor of public and political figures having to give unfriendly interviews, Moore's unplanned style often seems more like bullying than actually interviewing, especially in the film BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, which found him bluffing his way into an awkward interview with an ailing Charlton Heston. Not surprisingly, Moore's style has been picked up by others, especially Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, who sends out camera crews to try and humiliate political figures who choose not to be yelled at by him on his show, proving that bullies have no political preference.
|But how could you say no to that face?|
Along with ambush journalism, I also have a problem with the hidden camera videos that pop up from time in our political discourse (for whatever reason, they mostly seem to be coming from the right). The inevitable problem with these videos is that they are skillfully edited to confirm the point of view of the people filming. The most horrible example of this was when Shirley Sherrod an African American state director of rural development, was filmed talking in front of the NAACP making comments that at first look appeared to admit that she favored black people in need more than white people; those comments lead to her being fired. Sadly, it wasn't until later that the complete context of her comments, which showed her completely refuting her biased statements were released, but the damage was already done. More recently, an anti abortion group secretly recorded a conversation with a member of Planned Parenthood in which she discussed the donation of fetal tissue for research. While the members of the group claim that she is seen negotiating the sale of fetal organs, which is illegal, the reality is she's only discussing being reimbursed for the cost of the shipment of the organs. (A complete version of the video reveals that she specifically went out of her way to mention that no profit would be made). Although the graphic nature of her conversation may be stomach churning to some, it should be pointed out that the fetal tissue in question was donated by the women getting the abortions. Furthermore, the research being done with the tissue could lead to breakthroughs in diseases like Parkinsons. So, to put it another way, a member of Planned Parenthood discussed sending donated tissue from a perfectly legal procedure, to aid in disease research. To me, this is no scandal.
But, of course, conservatives don't see that way. Planned Parenthood has been around for years, from the first birth control clinic opened in America by Margaret Sanger in New York in 1916, to its modern incarnation, which started taking Government funds in 1970. Although abortions are only about three percent of its total mission, and none of the government money it receives goes towards providing those abortions, it still remains on the conservative chopping block. The frustrating thing about this is that, through its birth control services, Planned Parenthood prevents far more abortions than it provides. The raw numbers are: in 2009, it provided around 300,000 abortions while providing over four million birth control services. It's safe to say that, without that birth control, there would be many unwanted pregnancies for low income women that would have ended in abortions.
If that's the case, why has Planned Parenthood become such a lightning rod for conservatives? Part of this is because while directly overturning of Roe vs. Wade seems unachievable, every possible road block to abortion is being put up by conservative legislatures across the country, and also bashing an obviously pro choice organization like Planned Parenthood also offers an easy way for Republican politicians to play up to the religious right that is still so important in their party. It should be mentioned that, while condemning Planned Parenthood, Republicans will often vaguely mention that their funding should to go to other health care health organizations, without actually saying how that would happen.
To me, the Republican desire to defund a government organization that helps poor women with health care needs shows the lie at the heart of the so called "pro life" philosophy. Why do these people who claim to care so much about human life have no interest in making sure that every pregnant woman gets pre and post natal care, to ensure a healthier pregnancy? And why not fight for health care coverage and national daycare for every child in America? Instead they demonize people on food stamps and resist expanding Medicaid coverage to more poor people. Some culture of life!
While I do think there are some anti-abortionists who truly oppose the procedure because they think its murder, I think the real heart of the matter is that many of them think that women shouldn't be having sex for any reason other than married procreation. For example, in his 1995 book PROFILES IN CHARACTER, in a chapter entitled "The Restoration of Shame", future Presidential candidate Jeb Bush wrote that:" One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame." Yes, here in 2015 we have a Presidential candidate who honestly wants to return to the days of THE SCARLET LETTER. There's a reason why no Republican Presidential candidate has won a majority of the women's vote since 1988, and it doesn't look likely this time either.