Thursday, September 18, 2008

Palin, Down's Syndrome, and Trolls

The tone and content of most of the dissenting remarks in response to Nick’s Palin/Down’s syndrome article to date together verge on the hysterical madness of a lynch mob, sharing with Christian and Muslim fundamentalism the same unreasoning, teeth-clenched emotionalism and the urge to convert or kill. The anti-abortionists are about as “pro-life” as the Muslims who bury a woman up to her neck and then stone her to death for having broken one of their irrational, tribalist rules. Especially appalling was the sneering attack on Judy, who spoke in her remarks of her first-hand experiences as the mother of a “special needs” child with as much authority as Nick spoke on the issue.

I’m glad that Nick has not removed these malicious posts, as he has every right to, for they reveal that the enemies of reason and individual rights are not only Republicans and Democrats, but also libertarians and other cretins in various states of intellectual arrest. Having read every one of the remarks, over one hundred and twenty-five to date, I got the impression that when a libertarian or Christian or Rockwellian read Nick’s article and gasped at his “blasphemy,” he alerted his ilk to descend on Rule of Reason with the cry, “Let’s get ‘im! How dare he contradict the consensus of the scientific community!!” (Like the scientific “consensus” on global warming, or on smoking, or on any other government-friendly scientific chicanery that costs individuals their freedom and money?) Also, I think it is nearly flattering that so many trolls visit Rule of Reason. They must consider the blog a major threat to their premises and peace of mind.

And it was nearly amusing to read another Anonymous’s religious quotation: “Do what thou will shall be the whole of the Law.” Excuse my ignorance, but is that from Kant or from the Bible? This categorical imperative is also evident in the yahoo-ish, anti-intellectual rhetoric of both presidential candidates and their running mates. How could anyone sincerely defend Sarah Palin, whose political record is being whitewashed, suppressed and retrofitted with the same dishonesty and fervor as has been Obama’s?

Lastly, it was interesting to see Nick’s critics play by the Rulebook of Argumentative Irrelevancy and latch onto an incidental remark in his article that “a person afflicted with Down syndrome is only capable of being marginally productive (if at all)…” and beat it to death as though it was his primary point and premise. His major premise is that a woman owns her body; his minor premise is that a fetus in her body, defective or not, is an appendage until it can sustain its own life upon birth, whether as a billionaire wastrel or as a productive individual. His critics couldn’t deny with any credibility the validity of his major premise, and so resorted to skewing and misrepresenting his minor one, consequently losing all credibility as defenders and valuers of any kind of freedom.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your blog post on the 16th of September paraphrases the argument presented in the 1942 propaganda film short "Dasein ohne Leben"(existance without life). You REALLY better see that film if you havent already; it presents the same argument but with less pretense as it was produced by Nazi Germany.

Anonymous said...

"...for they reveal that the enemies of reason and individual rights are not only Republicans and Democrats, but also libertarians and other cretins in various states of intellectual arrest."

I agree. Its interesting to see *both* the religious/intrinsicist arguments AND the skeptical/subjectivist arguments. The religious direct animosity against Objectivism because it champions non-mystical moral absolutes. The subjectivists hate Objectivism because it champions absolutes at all! And it shows that the Libertarians are totally unable to defend individual rights, freedom and capitalism. They can put up no meaningful arguments against the mystics. By their own premises, they have to cave

J. Bandler

Anonymous said...

I understand your wanting of the freedom to get rid of people you regard as inferior or aberrant but you simple ARE NOT Entitled to it!
Your freedom ENDS when it comes to the rights of others.

Anonymous said...

The notion of aborting/euthanizing the disabled is violation of individual rights! You claim that it is "rational", but you are putting the interest of a group over that of those individuals.
I'd like to see some real statistics about just exactly what percent of taxpayer money and charity funds go to support those who cannot live independently...

malcontent said...

You are absolutely correct, Mr. Cline. It was indeed hysteria, and I am convinced that many of those individuals did not actually read Nick's article. Maybe I'm being kind; if they did read it and still reacted as they had, that would be even worse.

revereridesagain said...

Excellent commentary, Ed, and it looks like some of the trolls have already followed you here. I thoght you'd be amused to know that "Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law (Love is the Law, Love Under Will)" was the "magickal" motto of the notorious early 20th century occultist Alesiter Crowley. When Crowley said "what thou wilt" he meant whatever the hell you feel like doing no matter how outrageous and damn the consequences. I haven't read the exact post but it sounds like some ignoramus was trying to equate
Objectivism with the O.T.O.

Dave-o said...

There are two points of yours I wish to address. I realize that Nick made the original argument, but you summarized his argument pretty well, I think, so I'm responding here. And, just to be clear, I'm not trolling. I'm trying to make a reasoned civilized argument, and I'm not going to use religion.

1. You state that a baby in utero is "an appendage until it can sustain its own life upon birth". This implies that after birth a baby has certain rights, that he is a "person". It also implies that, in utero, the baby does not have these rights and therefore the mother's will is supreme. But this would mean that somehow the fetus goes through a transformation as he exits the birth canal, transforming from an appendage with no rights to a person with full rights. I don't think anyone who lives by the Rule of Reason could subscribe to such a leap of faith, so it begs the question: When does a "person" begin?

It's somewhere between the moment of conception and adulthood. So what evidence do we have to make such a determination?

We can't consider the "soul" -- this is a non-religious argument, after all. Perhaps it's self-awareness? If so, that means newborns and infants aren't "persons". Perhaps it's the ability to be completely self-sufficient? If so, that means that children aren't "persons".

Clearly our body of laws do consider newborns, infants, and children as "persons" (it's universally murder to kill any of these). Therefore, measures of sentience or self-sufficiency can't provide us an objective view of when a "person" begins.

The only other evidence I know of, then, is the physical. What's the physical difference between a fetus at full term and a baby? One exists in the womb, one outside. Both are critically dependent upon others to care for them. Unless you're prepared to make the argument that passage through the birth canal bestows personhood, I don't know how you can support the claim that the baby in utero is a mere appendage.

Perhaps, then, we're really talking about a younger fetus, not one at full term. That would then lead to the question: What's the physical difference between a newly-conceived zygote and a full term fetus that would allow us to conclude that the full term fetus has rights that the zygote does not? To be sure, full-term fetus is more fully developed: fingers, toes, organs, etc. But the only real difference between the two is: time.

A zygote is different from a full term fetus, is different from an infant, is different from a child, is different from an adult... only in time. They are the same being at different stages of maturity across a continuum of time. Every one of us was a fetus and a zygote before that. From the moment of conception, all that a zygote needs is food and a safe environment. He is a fully self-contained and self-directed living being.

Now, you may still make the argument that the mother's will is supreme and she has a right to take this life while it is still in her womb. But that's a different argument entirely, and not the one I think that has been made here by Nick and yourself.

Camile Paglia makes this argument that abortion is murder, but a woman's choice still reigns supreme, so it's not entirely unheard of, but I really don't think that is the crux of the abortion debate.

2. Maybe Nick's comment about "marginally productive" was incidental, but it was incendiary. Someone who throws grenades should not be upset when a few actually blow up. It's also a pretty silly argument to make, equating the value of a person with their economic net benefit, even putting aside the emotion that comes with criticism of a disabled baby. By your logic, if one of my children were -- God forbid (okay, there's your religious reference) -- terribly disabled by some sort of accident, rendering them "marginally productive", it would be my moral duty to off him so as to not burden society after I pass away.

So, there's a response for you that's not a troll, that's an honest effort to make a reasoned counter-argument that doesn't resort to any of the nastiness that prompted you to write your post. I'd be happy to continue the conversation if you care to reply.

David

Anonymous said...

> You state that a baby in utero is "an appendage until it can sustain its own life upon birth". This implies that after birth a baby has certain rights, that he is a "person". It also implies that, in utero, the baby does not have these rights and therefore the mother's will is supreme. But this would mean that somehow the fetus goes through a transformation as he exits the birth canal, transforming from an appendage with no rights to a person with full rights.

Yeah. With all due respect, it's called being born.

Provenzo's post received the attention is had because he dared to criticize those who hold Sarah Palin out as a saint for knowing giving birth to a retarded child. His main argument is contained in these two lines:

>[I]t is completely legitimate for a woman to look at the circumstances of her life and decide that having a child with Down syndrome (or any child for that matter) is not an obligation that she can accept. After all, the choice to have a child is a profoundly selfish choice; that is, a choice that is an expression of the parent's personal desire to create new life.

Furthermore, Provenzo writes in another post:

>Physically attached to a woman in the manner a fetus is, the woman's right to regulate the processes of her own body is controlling. Unattached and physically independent, the fetus is thus transformed; it is a person no different from anyone else and enjoys all the individual rights of personhood.

You can't read that and infer that he somehow support eugenics, forced abortion, ect. That's nothing more than a canard the anti-abortionists are using to whip their supporters into a frenzy—which is precisely what they need to justify their blind-eyed depravity.

Anonymous said...

This idea that Mr. Provenzo somehow didn't express himself is false. I think that he was clear and to the point: raising a retarded child is a life-long commitment. If you are not absolutely up to that commitment, you shouldn't take it on, abortion being a perfectly legitimate option.

What you don't have is a right to dump your retarded child on the doorstep of others against their will because you have some "pro-life" fetish, but aren't that big on any of the other parts of rearing a retarded child beyond passing it though your vaginal canal. (Sorry to be so frank, but that is what it is).

So I'm glad that someone took on the myth of Sarah Palin as a 'pro-life' hero. There's nothing heroic about giving birth to a retarded child because you happen to think abortion is 'murder' and while you would deny the choice to have an abortion to others. Palin is free to do what she will with her life, but leave the rest of us out of it.

Anonymous said...

Dave-O:

I think it best that you read Nick's new article on this subject, as he explains it better than I could, especially regarding my "appendage" remark.

Ed Cline