Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Doctored Gotcha Planned Parenthood Video and Catholic Responses to It: Some Critical Questions

I haven't talked about that doctored gotcha video made by David Daleiden, who is in cahoots with the odious right-wing gotcha activist James O'Keefe. I haven't discussed it since I knew I could count on various centrist Catholic publications, whose m├ętier is, after all, to give intellectual respectability to the ideas of the hard right no matter how disreputable, to do that job for Catholics. I knew I could count on centrist Catholic publications to clothe the video and those promoting it in "objective" newspapers like the New York Times — can anyone say Ross Douthat? — in respectable garb, even as those publications claim to stand in some mythic, objective "middle" space devoid of commitments to the agenda of either left or right.

I knew I could count on the centrist Catholic publications of the "middle" to sponsor "discussions" of the video, "conversations" about it, grave consideration of its pros and cons . . . . 

Even when they have every reason to know, the Catholic scholars and journalists who hold forth in the centrist Catholic publications that shape Catholic discourse in the public square, that this video is an initiative of an ugly politically partisan smear campaign that does not hesitate for a moment to employ lies to make its "moral" statement . . . .  Even as they have every reason to know that the video was pre-released to Republican political leaders because it's part and parcel of a partisan strategy to smear Planned Parenthood and put the abortion issue on the front burner as the 2016 campaign unfolds — for partisan reasons . . . .

As I say, I don't intend to talk about this video from a Catholic standpoint, when the centrist Catholic journals are already doing that job splendidly for me, and when they're actively promoting the video while claiming to subject it to "objective" scrutiny in their dispassionate "conversations." I do have some questions about the video, though, and about Catholics who profess to be doing a morally admirable thing in lending intellectual respectability to it, even when they should know what it's about and what it intends:

1. If a cause is moral, does it ever need lies to stand on as it makes its moral case?

2. What does the willingness to lie as one advances a moral cause say about the integrity of the moral argument one's seeking to advance?

3. When one continuously clothes with intellectual respectability the ideas of people who claim to be pro-life, but who oppose the rights of women and LGBT human beings, who refuse to grant that climate change is a threat to the continuation of life on our planet, who carry water for economic agents who are all about exploiting those at the bottom of the economic food chain and not serving the common good: when one makes common cause with folks like this in promoting a "pro-life" agenda, what is one really promoting, when all is said and done?

4. When the pro-life argument fails to make its case to the culture at large despite years of single-minded advocacy on the part of certain religious groups, is it perhaps time to ask whether that argument can't compel assent, when it's so clearly pro-life in only a highly selective sense?

5. How do those who enable the selective fixation of the pro-life movement on abortion as the sole or only threat to an ethic of life make themselves a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution in convincing the culture at large to consider the pro-life ethic — while the culture in which we live is so astonishingly anti-life in ways that go far beyond the issue of abortion, about which we (who are implicated in living comfortably with all those cultural ways) remain utterly silent?

Just asking. From the margins. Certainly not from the center.

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