Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rhetorical Effectiveness

A few weeks ago, I mentioned how I found conservative rhetoric about an impending socialist tyranny problematic.

I think Mrs. P's comment here may have the same problem:
Oh and the feminists have overplayed their hand. Now that they've gotten taxpayers to fund abortion, taxpayers can demand abortion clinics be subject to the same regulations that hospitals are.

No more tossing babies in the garbage cans...

Oh, and the government can tax even more the money abortion clinics make
off the selling of baby parts.

Now, I understand the theological, philosophical, and moral arguments behind these statements. Life begins at conception. Therefore, personhood begins as conception. Consequently, abortion and destroying the embryos from artificial insemination are murder of innocent children, which is obviously morally abhorrent. When the material from the former life is sold and used in medical procedures, this is even more despicable. All of this is easily understood, if you accept the assumption or, depending on your position, recognize the truth that personhood begins at conception. That's not really the issue.

But if you don't, then the babykilling rhetoric appears hyperbolic at best and unhinged at worst. Given that the people who accept the tenets outlined above are almost by definition NOT the people you are trying to convince, then one must confront the possibility that the babykilling rhetoric actually alienates those whom you are trying to get on your side. If that's true, then there is a very good possibility that the babykilling rhetoric, while perhaps personally therapeutic, is actually counterproductive to the cause.

Now, the entire issue revolves around the basic determination of when personhood begins. It's difficult to use reason and logic to change these fundamental determinations of conscience. It's kind of a knowing shit from Shinola type of thing. Using babykilling language is a bit like saying "this is shit and that's shinola. No, you don't understand, this is shit and that's shinola. You're still not getting this. I'm rubbing your face in the shit now! See how stinky and gross it is!" When that happens it stops being about shit and Shinola and more about the person who is shoving another person's face in something that's gross.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to agree with you FLG but I wasn't overstating the case. It was my priest -the one who baptized my husband and children -who buried these remains - two years ago. I can show you their grave, if you like:

LATHRUP VILLAGE, MI, March 25, 2008 - The Citizens for a Pro-Life Society claim to have found medical records and the remains of at least 18 aborted fetuses in the dumpsters behind the Lathrup Village Woman Care clinic operated by Alberto Hodari. Both the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Lathrup Village Police Department are investigating Hodari's Southfield Road clinic.

Dr. Monica Miller, director of the CPLS, organized the dumpster investigations from February 8-March 2.

Describing the fetuses found, Miller stated, "Each one was wrapped in a bloody gauze, tied at the end. Once you turned these inside out, you would find the infant parts. Each bloody gauze that was filled with an infant was wrapped in the absorbent paper used to cover the operating table which was soaked in blood, and used, bloody, latex gloves."

The CPLS also collected medical records that were given to the police. "By now we have between 200 and 300 patient records with very detailed, identifying information on them about the patients," said Miller.

"We also discovered in the trash used syringes, ultrasound pictures of the babies, dozens of used drug vials, several used IV bags with the sharps still attached, bloody absorbent paper, open condom wrappers, used condoms, and bloody used laminaria," added Miller.


Abortion clinics are not regulated.

And this is a small but worthwhile point, it was over at my own blog I used the term babykiller. Not here.

Mrs. P

George Pal said...

If “babykilling” appears hyperbolic then what term or phrase is to be used? Assuming that one’s aim is to convince not the minority death cultists (hyperbole alert?) but those who straddle the fence, what point is to be made?

Those in the industry who have turned away from abortion have most often done so by coming face to face with the horror of dead babies. How are those not involved with abortions to be made to see, understand what is taking place? Why do abortion supporters go berserkers at the images of aborted children used by pro-lifers in their campaigns?

Now “babykilling” as it is resorted to by pro-lifers is no different from “murdering women and children”, resorted to by anti-war and more specifically, anti-American military activists. Both may be ineffective hyperbole in one instance but may serve the truth in another.

Anonymous said...

Oh totally forgot. Anecdotal now..

I was talking with a woman many decades my senior, a seven sisters graduate and very wealthy from my Episcopal parish. She knew I had started a group at our parish to get the used baby items in our wealthy town to go to help the women, babies and young children in Detroit.

She said -not exact words but close - I was talking to a friend who just had a miscarriage at about 10 weeks -at home (key point). The girl said to her, "I had no idea the baby was fully formed. It was a little baby with hands, fingers toes..."

The woman looked at me with complete disbelief, and said I told her "Of course it's a baby. What did you think?"

She then added, it's because it's a baby that I'm a closet pro-lifer.

It's a baby. Modern science proved that one. Can it survive on it's own? No. No baby can. Even the born.

The question in the debate is is it a baby that has rights? The courts have decided no.

And now that the Congress has the appropriations to fund abortion, Roe can be done away with and we will still have abortions because Congress can still fund it. Atleast that is how I understand it. i may be wrong.

This is why abortion had to be in the bill.

Mrs. P

Andrew Stevens said...

I actually believe (of course) that reason and logic can be used to resolve this issue, just as with any other issue. The strongest pro-life argument doesn't revolve around "personhood" at all, but is rather Don Marquis's "futures like ours" argument.

This argument is the one that must be answered since it actually accords with our moral intuitions. For example, most people seem to agree that it might be okay to pull the plug on someone who we know for certainty will be in a coma for the rest of his life, but we all agree that it's not okay to kill someone who is simply sleeping (or in a coma, but will wake up). What is the distinction? The person who will awake has a "future like ours" and the person who won't doesn't. We have similar moral intuitions when we consider individual deaths. We might view the death of a 90 year-old as tragic, but most people seem to intuit that the death of a 7 year-old is moreso. Why? The 7 year-old has been deprived of more future than the 90 year-old has.

There is, I believe, a possible answer to Marquis, but it's one that most people seem to reject. That would be that what makes killing wrong is, in fact, "personhood," but that personhood doesn't come about until certain developed psychological capacities occur. This is fine, and I don't object to it, but we should be aware that it justifies infanticide as well as abortion, certainly for at least six or seven months. (Any rights infants have before then would have to be only as property of their parents.) Those who hold this belief have to argue that our intuition against infanticide is simply mistaken because infants aren't people any more than fetuses are. I believe this too is a strong argument and I cannot refute it except to appeal to intuition and plausibility.

Another possible objection is that what makes killing wrong is the capacity to suffer. I don't think much of this argument because it seems to conflict with universally held intuitions, but you do hear it. (Thought experiment: if a person was born without the capacity to feel pain, would it be okay to kill him?) If you do buy this argument, then infanticide is wrong and abortion isn't. However, we must now grant rights to animals who clearly do have a capacity for suffering.

So take your pick:

1) Psychologically developed humans only have rights. Infants, animals, and fetuses don't.

2) Adult humans, infants, and animals have rights. Fetuses don't.

3) Adult humans, infants, and fetuses have rights. Animals don't.

I'm fine with any of these three options and can respect the holder of any of these beliefs. What I cannot justify and have never once heard a conceivable justification for is the clear plurality belief: adult humans and infants have rights, but animals and fetuses don't. I don't know what could possibly justify this position other than a completely amoral and unprincipled pragmatism, but most people seem to hold it.

Hilarius Bookbinder said...

We're in complete agreement on this one, FLG. Most anti-abortion/pro-life rhetoric seems needlessly overheated, and a very targeted dose of moderation would do a world of good. Then again, because abortion is the defining moral issue of our age, even the slightest appearance of compromise (even the moderation of rhetoric) is effectively impossible.

Hilarius Bookbinder said...

Also, re: Andrew, a lot depends on what you (or anyone) means by 'rights.' My guess is that the viewpoint of the average citizen slips between several different senses of the term.

Andrew Stevens said...

In that particular argument, I'm dealing with a very narrow conception - specifically only the right not to be killed. I don't see how there's any real danger of equivocation here.

I should add though that one can also deny any such right with complete consistency, of course, so I'll add:

4) Nobody has a right not to be killed. It is not wrong to kill any human, infant, animal, or fetus.

This is also perfectly acceptable and I have heard many people claim to believe this, even though they obviously don't.

Withywindle said...

As for rhetoric: damned if you do, damned if you don't. Use toned-down rhetoric, and the majority slumbers on while the murders continue; call murders murders, and you're an extremist who turns people off. The trouble is that abortion is not a normal persuasion issue; it is a persuasion of conversion, where suddenly you hear the screams of the charnal house. I don't think sweetly and softly gets you there. And even if it did, it corrupts the soul to speak of such murders sweetly and softly.

Hilarius Bookbinder said...

"The trouble is that abortion is not a normal persuasion issue; it is a persuasion of conversion, where suddenly you hear the screams of the charnal house. I don't think sweetly and softly gets you there."

The trouble is, of course, that you can find people who think virtually every area of policy is a "persuasion of conversion" and that "sweet and softly" won't get you there. See also global warming or the worldwide spread of democracy. That's a recipe for agonistic politics, but then, that's what people in these positions usually want.

Anonymous said...

"That's a recipe for agonistic politics, but then, that's what people in these positions usually want."

Hardly. Abortion is not on the same moral plane as global warming. Yes the Left insists it is. But they are wrong.

For a starter, if there is "global warming" there's nothing that can be done about it. Nothing. It's beyond our control.

As for "MAN-MADE global warming" there's little if any evidence these days as recent scandals have shown.

Abortion is different. It's not beyond our control. Morally, if the mother's life is at stake, it ceases to be an abortion in the classic sense. It's about saving a life. As for standard abortion, there's a death every time. If there isn't, the doctor screwed up and the baby survived.

Oh and it was Obama who voted 3 times in the Illinois legislature not to let the babies who survive abortions live. The will of the mother was to be followed, he said....

And Sen. Barbara Boxer believes babies only have rights once they go home from the hospital.

And people get upset if I use the term babykiller. LOL.

Mrs. P

Hilarius Bookbinder said...

""That's a recipe for agonistic politics, but then, that's what people in these positions usually want."

Hardly. Abortion is not on the same moral plane as global warming. Yes the Left insists it is. But they are wrong."

Can I just say that this makes my point and leave it at that?

Anonymous said...

*sigh* some days it's like shooting fish in a barrel, not that I mind shooting fish. Frank sinatra used to do it all the time.

e scientists are virtually screaming from the rooftops now," he says, his voice rising. "The debate is over! There's no longer any debate in the scientific community about this. But the political systems around the world have held this at arm's length because it's an inconvenient truth, because they don't want to accept that it's a moral imperative."

-Al Gore -high priest of Global Warming as our Princeton Alumni Weekly described him this week as 2 high also formerly pro-life.

Mrs. P

Anonymous said...

Oops. I edited myself too much -- should read -- as2 high profile Princeton grads as well as climate scientists are at serious odds with Al Gore. And Al Gore was once pro-life but had switch his beliefs to be a national politician in the Democrat party.

Mrs. P

Anonymous said...

I'll pick Andrew Stevens' Option 1, and suggest that the capacity to feel dread is important here. If it's suffering, well, you can do this humanely. Dread seems to carry human-ness, to me. dave.s.

Anonymous said...

"President Obama signed the Senate health care bill into law Tuesday. He did not sign the executive order on abortion negotiated with Michigan Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak in an 11th-hour arrangement that may well have saved the entire health care reform effort.

"A White House official told Fox, Obama will not sign the Executive Order Tuesday and has set no specific date to do so. Stupak predicted Obama would sign the order later this week. The White House said only that Obama would sign the order “soon.”"


Mrs. P

Hilarius Bookbinder said...

Mrs. P,

Shall I assume you mistook my claim about the epistemological and rhetorical language used by both left and right as a claim they're actually equally valid? Or are you wending towards some other mysterious purpose? Or do you just like LOLing at people who disagree with you? Whichever it is, good luck changing public policy with an attitude like that.

Anonymous said...

For a guy named Hilarious you certainly aren't all that cheerful.

Changing public policy? Surely you jest. I'm just a troll on a blog. You make too much of me.

Did I mistake you? Nah. you're quite clear. The pro-lifers would do well to moderate. Moderate what? Their language? Why? It's unappealing? Distasteful?

Meanwhile the Left is allowed to use our money to pay for abortions.


And yes, that the president didn't have the class to sign the EO that won him his health care is LOL.

It's also much worse than that morally speaking, but I must moderate myself when speaking of moral issues...

Mrs. P

Withywindle said...

Hilarius: True. Which is why I am more tolerant of highly charged rhetoric than (I think) FLG is in general.

Anonymous said...

Now I just read something absolutely hilarious. Not only does it go back to the point the Dems had no clue what was in the bill -including Obama - this revelation should cause President Obama to moderate his speech in the future.

First, Obama on Saturday when he was demanding his party to continue to not listen to the people:

And Saturday, addressing House Democrats as they approached a make-or-break vote on the bill, Obama said, "This year ... parents who are worried about getting coverage for their children with pre-existing conditions now are assured that insurance companies have to give them coverage — this year."

This morning:

"AP -Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.


What was that you said FLG?

Simultaneously a fuckwad and a ideologue. Obama is the testbook definition. Thank God he's not actually competent. I'd be in fear for our country.

Mrs. P

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