Imagine that someone hated you (or your company) and wanted to make you look bad. So, he pretended to be a friend or colleague, went to your events, repeatedly asked you to meetings or lunch, gained your trust, and then spent two years recording private conversations. Could he find stuff that would make you sound like a heartless monster? If you’re like me, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, there’s no way it would take years.
Like me, you probably can think of five things you said in the last week that you would cringe to hear on the evening news. But would a selectively edited patchwork of your worst (or most easily misinterpreted) moments accurately reflect who you are? Almost certainly not.
The scraps of conversation with Planned Parenthood employees that were recorded and released by fundamentalist Christian David Daleiden and his front organization, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), sounded shockingly nasty. But as details of the smear campaign emerge, we probably should be surprised that they didn’t sound worse.
Here are nine facts that put what you heard in context:
42 Splices – According to forensic analysis by Fusion GPS, the first five videos released by Daleiden and CMP, contained 42 splices where sentences were cut and patched to create the appearance of a seamless conversation. By design, these edits changed the meaning of individual sentences as well as the overall conversation. In one example, a Planned Parenthood staffer’s comment about lab protocols was edited to sound like she was talking about abortion procedures. Her words got echoed repeatedly by mainstream media who falsely assumed they knew what she was talking about.
Contradictory Evidence Omitted – In a Colorado interview, a Planned Parenthood employee said 13 times that all fetal tissue donations must be reviewed by attorneys and follow all laws. All 13 times were omitted.
Edits in “Unedited Videos” – The “unedited” videos released along with shorter excerpts were themselves edited, rendering them useless as evidence in legal cases or regulatory hearings.
Thousands of Hours of Recordings – To shock audiences and create the appearance of callous wrongdoing, abortion foes selectively released as little as one percent of their recordings, compiling even smaller fragments to create viral videos. By Daleiden’s own report, CMP agents recorded “thousands of hours,” from which they selected the ten or twenty hours of (edited) recordings to obtain fewer minutes of (spliced together) inflammatory conversation fragments.
Expensive Taxpayer-funded Investigations Find No Wrongdoing – A growing list of government committees in states including Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia and Pennsylvania have now cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. Five other states have declined to investigate. After urging from some members of congress, the State of California and Federal Department of Justice plan to investigate possible fraud and other legal violations by the Center for Medical Progress.
Yuck Factor – Rather than seeking to expose wrongdoing, the campaign appears optimized to trigger a frenzy of disgust among religious conservatives, activating them for the upcoming campaign cycle. This was accomplished in part by pairing audio with images of non-representative images, including pictures of a fetus that aborted spontaneously. Research suggests that, in contrast to liberals (who base moral judgments primarily on questions of fairness and harm), many conservatives fail to differentiate between physical disgust and morality. Conservative campaigns leverage this fact. Homophobes wielded the “yuck factor” effectively for decades to block gay rights and are deploying the same strategy against reproductive rights. Repeated reference to fetal remains functions as a powerful arousal trigger for the Religious Right.
Gallows Humor – Because black humor is a way people deal with stress, CMP was virtually guaranteed to catch shocking “callous, inappropriate” comments if they recorded long enough. Gruesome humor is particularly common among soldiers, doctors, EMT’s, medical researchers, farmworkers, nurses and others who work around bodily fluids and death. One friend commented that her nurse colleagues will joke rudely about their patients at one moment and then will be crying for the same patients an hour later.
Letting Down – From a psychological standpoint, things we say and do in private (or among trusted, like-minded friends) are particularly vulnerable to being distorted by people with ill intent. That is because we rely on the other person to interpret any given statement within their experience of us. For example, after my bike is stolen, I can safely rant among friends about capital punishment for bike thieves only because my friends and family already carry the rest of the context: they know I oppose capital punishment. A Planned Parenthood employee joking about wanting a Lamborghini relies on the same unspoken understanding.
Not About Abortion – The CMP smear campaign was designed not to reduce abortion but rather to control who has sex, by heightening the threat of pregnancy and STI’s among young women. Secondarily, it was timed to feed Tea Party Republicans fodder for election campaigns . Since public dollars pay for no abortions, defunding Planned Parenthood would eliminate only their preventive care services, including birth control, with the ironic effect of driving up need and demand for abortion. It is part of a broader anti-birth-control campaign aimed at protecting biblical (Iron Age) family structures and gender roles.
Don’t be deceived: The religious conservatives behind the Planned Parenthood smear campaign have shown repeatedly that they are willing to harm women and families and even drive up abortions in order to control the sexuality of females and youth. This isn’t about their hatred of Planned Parenthood, the healthcare nonprofit, it is about their hatred of planned parenthood, with two small “p’s.” It’s about their hatred of the changes in society that allow young people to create the lives and families of their choosing, free from the biological constraints that for most of human history have made pregnancy the price of sex.
Speaking of young people, online youth collective, Ultraviolet, has done a little selective splicing of their own. They just released a video in which Sean Hannity interviews Deleiden about Mike Huckabee’s sale of fetal squish. It is not to be missed.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.
I Will post this in 1-2 days
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:) Great. Thanks!
Lying for Jesus
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Congratulations; good thinking, clearly written. cheers Jeanne
Shared! Thank you.
As usual, a great piece!
I say at least a dozen things every hour that would have me BBQ’d at the state in the public square if heard by the gang I’m always complaining about. Two of my favorites are that I believe an annual open season should be declared (and celebrated as a Federal holiday) to cull our society of the morons who have been allowed, for yet another full year, to roam the public streets w/o a straight jacket and that we should have, at bare minimum, an annual public lobotomy fest to deal with the asswipes.
Thanks for once again detailing the full extent of the batshit looneyness that this gang of morons has sunken to. You’ve performed a valuable public service.
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On a recent hit-piece article posted by an evangelical the author quotes Margaret Sanger. That “quote,” as it was discovered, was pieced together from two different chapters of her book, with no ellipses.
Something really confuses me here. I’ve always interpreted the “false witness” commandment as “do not lie”. Apparently, at some point, this was “revised” to mean “do not lie in court”. In any case, it’s become obvious that honesty and trustworthiness are not requirements for “God’s people”, :)
With reference to the iron age gender script, you might find another Hitler quote interesting.
“Woman’s world is her husband, her family, her children and her home. We do not find it right when she presses into the world of men.”
I have a question for you, and for anyone else who wishes to respond. I’m thinking about adding one or more Hitler quotes as footnotes to my e-mails, but I’m afraid that people might actually think that I believe that stuff. Please give me your opinion.
I support everything that Planned Parenthood endeavors to do. At the time I did my abortion presentation, it was estimated that defunding Planned Parenthood would increase the number of abortions performed by 810,000!
Still, there’s one thing that boggles my mind: Given that the “right to life” movement has no scruples whatsoever, why weren’t the folks at Planned Parenthood more skeptical? In particular, why were they communicating with a “company” whose “business address” was a post office box?
(I would think that this information, or the lack thereof, was easily obtainable over the internet.)
Well, good question. Obviously we all wish they had been less trusting and naïve.
–> My Facebook timeline.
I’ve been on this myself through Twitter, Facebook & blogger. Good story. We all knew about the disreputable siege mentality against PP by right-wing cabals. Your story confirms the details.
Again and again: WOW! The human capacity for “creative dishonesty” amazes. And all of our swell new “technology” opens up new vistas for it. :-)
I was somewhat surprised at this sentence:
“California and Texas lawmakers have also called for investigation of fraud by the Center for Medical Progress.”
As a resident of Austin and one who has closely followed this issue, I’m not certain you can include Texas in that sentence. Texas Governor Greg Abbot and State Attorney General Ken Paxton have both called for investigations into Planned Parenthood, but I’ve heard nothing about investigation into CMP.
Thanks, Robert. I will doublecheck that.
I think there’s some good points you have, and there probably is some deceptive presentation of these interviews. I am no fan of selective editing and don’t believe the ends ever justify the means.
As mentioned, there are full videos of the raw footage out there that the organization encourages people to check out themselves, and some who have viewed them have said that the shorter clips don’t take it out of context and the meaning remains the same. You state that even the raw footage was edited, but this claim needs verification and, if true, it might simply mean small changes that make no difference at all like changing the format of the files.
The complaints raised here can be said about almost ALL information out there, which most definitely includes information from the opposing side. I would also very much disagree that this campaign is not about reducing abortion, because that is exactly the horror they are trying to expose. This isn’t a campaign against birth control, or against sex education… none of that. I think, or at least hope, that most anti-abortioners support those things. Rather, this is a campaign against abortion, a practice we firmly believe equates to the killing of human beings who have inherent worth regardless of age. Ending abortion may have the effect of tying up rather than freeing those “biological constraints” making pregnancy the price of sex, but that is no excuse to say it’s okay. Frankly, we’re really in a twisted place if minimizing the consequences of poorly planned sex is an endeavor to be undertaken at all costs, even when those costs include the killing of human beings. What is good we call evil and what is evil we call good.
Hi Rob –
Have you seen my most recent article, “What a Serious Anti-Abortion Movement Would Look Like?” I’d be interested in your thoughts on it. Thanks!
I just took a look at the article. I think most of those suggestions are great things to work towards, and I appreciate the focus on finding solutions that at least have the desired effect we want. I will say, though, I don’t think serious beyond-abortion activities have to do those things to be defined as serious. Most people don’t have the time, energy, or sheer willpower to tackle all those issues, and certainly don’t have the power (at least by themselves) to truly effect those changes. But that doesn’t mean they’re not serious. They can still legitimately oppose abortion because they see it as murder and at least want to raise awareness about the issue. Like with any problem, a problem needs to be defined as such before it can really be tackled, and many do not define abortion as a problem. So it seems we’re still in an early stage where raising awareness is a primary goal.
Also to your list I would add looking for ways to better support and offer access to adoption services. If the education and contraception has failed and yet someone is having a baby they don’t want, then there MUST be other options available. Adoption is a very practical way of handling it and one that beyond-abortioners can readily put into practice by adopting children of their own. And I would also love to see some kind of financial support, from the government or charitable organizations, to help mothers and fathers care for babies that they didn’t have the means to care for (and would have therefore aborted).
According to the research that I’ve done on abortion, only 3% of all women who experience an unintended pregnancy opt for adoption. The remaining 97% either carry through the pregnancy and keep the child, or terminate the pregnancy.
It appears as though you’re factually challenged. Fact is, defunding Planned Parenthood would INCREASE the number of abortions by around 810,000. Fact is, the US has the highest rate of teenage sexual activity, the highest rate of venereal disease, the highest rate of teenage pregnancy, and the highest rate of abortion of any indusrialized country.. Fact is, presenting teenagers with full information about sex, and allowing them to make their own decisions, REDUCES the probability that they will engage in sexual activity. Given the above, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there is a statistically significant NEGATIVE correlation ( p < .05) between the availability of legal abortion and the abortion rate.
From the context of your post,it appears as though your goal is to reduce teenage sexual activity, and to reduce the number of abortions. The obvious question, then, is, why do you advocate policies that do the exact opposite?
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