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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sunday Evening Mix 'n' Match

posted by Mike at 1/09/2005 09:42:00 PM

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Just a couple of Sunday evening politically themed tidbits.

Framing in Action: A couple of days ago, I posted to Running Scared about the concept of framing, as expressed by cognitive linguist George Lakoff. A great example of that is this thread on Daily Kos, where Kos talks about the framing of abortion terms. Notice how conservatives call themselves pro-life and anti-abortion, which is great for them, because it immediately paints their opponents with the opposite terms: anti-life and pro-abortion, neither of which is true. Discussion in the linked Kos thread centers around how they can be framed differently to highlight neocons' hypocrisy on this issue. Kos suggests "pro-birth" (or, rather, passes along a Benedictine nun's suggestion!), which to me is an awful choice, because it implies proponents are "anti-birth." In the thread, terms bandied about for those who are against abortion but also against financial support for pre-natal visits, post-birth care, etc.,"pro-criminalization" and "forced birth." (I think the latter sounds worse, and thus would be more effective.) It's an interesting framing discussion, and is a perfect example of what I was discussing earlier, if you'd like to see the theories in action.

Democracy in Virginia, Indeed: A bill in the Virginia legislature as phrased would have required women to report a miscarriage to the government within the first 12 hours of their miscarriage (assuming it happened outside of medical attention) or face a Class I misdemeanor charge -- punishable by 12 months in jail and $2,500. Given the immense emotional trauma people experience surrounding a miscarriage, this was a horrific concept that raised hackles all across the country after a blogger brought it to people's attention. The representative in question promptly received about five metric tons of e-mails that were, in his words, "extremely abusive, condescending, and mean-spirited," so language quickly found its way into the bill that clarified the legislation's (supposed) original intent, which was to discourage those women who would abandon their children in trashcans after delivery. ("If a coroner could not determine if the child was born alive," Conyers wrote, "the person responsible for abandoning the child could only be charged with is the improper disposal of a human body.") The blogosphere had a substantive effect in this one, and it's thanks to someone who was both a blogger and who was introduced to activist politics by her volunteer work for Dean. Gotta tip my hat to her on this one.

An interesting moment on TalkLeft: The mother of the youngest inmate on Texas' death row leaves a comment in a thread there about the juvenile death penalty. Her comment is heartwrenching, even after you learn what her son did.

Another interesting thread on TalkLeft: Speaking of the death penalty, defendants who are facing the death penalty in a case may plead guilty just to avoid death, even if they are innocent. If you've got the equivalent of a gun to your head (in other words, your life is being threatened), it's going to alter the defense you're going to put up and the choices you make for that defense. So if the death penalty is ruled unconstitutional in your state (as it was in Kansas), can you then withdraw your guilty plea? Interesting discussion there.

Jack Chick: Do you know who Jack Chick is? Have you ever been somewhere (highway rest stop bathroom, subway/train platform, etc.) and found a fundie Christian tract that was in the form of a comic? Then most likely you've found one of his tracts. (Here's the Wikipedia article on him.) His world's a fascinating if scary one. Everything is in extremely contrasting shades of black and white -- no shades of gray -- with everyone going to hell except for a select few, which doesn't evidently include Wiccans, gays, Catholics, Jews, or Muslims, or even people who've done good but aren't born again. (And if you play Dungeons & Dragons, supposedly you're already hellbait. Don't even think about trick or treating, either. And I saved the most offensive tract for last.) I suppose I blog about this for two reasons. For one, I find his stuff peculiarly fascinating, that insanely regimented and conspiracy-filled worldview. I've always been interested in strange conspiracy worldviews, but Chick beats the pants off of must of them. (Hey, someone decided to make an extremely tongue-in-cheek game campaign based on it.) The other reason is that I really wouldn't be too surprised if the halls of Washington have quite a few of these tracts scattered about here and there. Chick's worldview is, in many respects, right up a lot of the neocons' alleys. I will find myself shaking my head over some really particularly twisted fundie moment in a tract, and then suddenly realize, complete with cold chill, "You know, this isn't funny to a lot of people -- and at least some of those are in Washington." Eep. Then I go read the "Cthlulu Tract" parody and stop shivering.

Anyway -- this particular paragraph wasn't meant to be a uber-insightful analysis of Chick. But a lot of people don't realize who he is, just like a lot of people don't know who Fred Phelps is. I suppose I speak of these guys as a heads-up, because I think it's important to know the forces of hate that are out there working in this world.

P.S. On an entirely off-topic note, I love Ireland -- not only are they sensible enough to elect a woman as their President, but she even dresses comfortably for her official portrait.