Tuesday, June 2

Blind Pig Finds Shit-Covered Acorn. Oh, And More Shit. Lots More Shit.

William Saletan, "Tiller's Killer: Is it wrong to murder an abortionist?" June 1

"TILLER'S Killer"! I swear to god. I'm not a prudish man, nor a decorous one. I'm not even particularly housebroken. But a gratuitous playground witticism as the headline of a piece about a murdered man who is yet on the same side of the grass as his wife, children, and grandchildren? Whose habit of breathing regularly he shared until sometime after he got to church Sunday morning? Booth's Truths! Ray's Days! Heydrich's Old Tricks! Christ, the piece isn't even about Tiller's (alleged) killer, not that that would be any excuse. Tiller's Killers we would accept, provided that was the actual point of the thing, and provided you considered, at least, an indictment of yourself.

Exhale! O Reader, for no such indictment is contemplated. In fact, one thing one learns, or at least receives a refresher course in, during a week's breath-wasting with proponents of state ownership of fecund uteri--few, by the way, seem to imagine the state need take any interest in the welfare of any other lady parts, or shoulder any responsibility for the Withered or the Sere--say, at brave Indiana blogger Doug Masson's place--or in reading Saletan himself last week, for that matter--is that self-styled anti-abortionists operate from the purest motives in the history of disputation. Even those, like Saletan, who are willing to compromise their principles in the dim hope they won't have to see any more icky protest posters:
If abortion is murder, the most efficient thing you could have done to prevent such murders this month was to kill George Tiller.

Well, like the old saw has it, Kill an abortion provider, and he won't provide any more abortions. Teach a man to kill abortion providers and he might be able to keep going until the Republicans get control of the FBI again.

Let's start here--no, amend that; Let's start here, you lying schmuck. Doctor George Tiller was medical director of a Women's clinic, one of the few in the country willing to provide Constitutionally-protected abortions after the second trimester. Such services are rare and difficult to obtain precisely because of the forty-year terror campaign conducted by people who, just like yourself, are convinced that their metaphysical notions trump the law, and who imagine they are thus justified in preventing their fellow citizens from coming to the opposite conclusion. Their methods of persuasion include harassment, deception, fraud, high explosives, and the ever-popular shooting and running. Dr. Tiller faced these people down his entire professional career, until an agent of Jesus' will on Earth ended it. He did not deserve the sneering, cowardly suggestion, from the likes of you, or even people in honorable professions, that he ran a late-term abortion mill because he had a defective moral sense compared to the average online journalist or other raging psychotic.
To me, Tiller was brave. His work makes me want to puke. But so does combat, the kind where guts are spilled and people choke on their own blood. I like to think I love my country and would fight for it. But I doubt I have the stomach to pull the trigger, much less put my life on the line.

Bill, that question has already been answered. A better one is how you manage the guts required to urge your government to send other people to do it.
The people who do late-term abortions are the ones who don't flinch. They're like the veterans you sometimes see in war documentaries, quietly recounting what they faced and did. You think you're pro-choice. You think marching or phone-banking makes you an activist. You know nothing. There's you, and then there are the people who work in the clinics. And then there are the people who use the forceps. And then there are the people who use the forceps nobody else will use. At the end of the line, there's George Tiller.

Look: no one who behaves like a 9-year-old suburban princess confronted by an older brother with a handful of earthworms is ever gonna make it through the first year of med school, so perhaps having one assess the mettle of those who do is a pointless exercise. "But that would make William Saletan puke!" is an argument against treating gangrene, too, or the massive head trauma suffered by people you helped send to Iraq. I mean, to the extent it's an argument at all, which is to say, none.
Tiller's murder is different from all previous murders of abortion providers. If you kill an ordinary abortionist, somebody else will step in. But if you kill the guy at the end of the line, some of his patients won't be able to find an alternative. You will have directly prevented abortions.

That seems to be what Tiller's alleged assassin, Scott Roeder, had in mind. According to the Washington Post, Roeder told other pro-lifers that he condoned deadly violence to stop abortions. He admired the Army of God's "Defensive Action Statement," which endorses the murder of abortion providers on the grounds that "whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child."

It's a funny thing about that argument: the first paragraph posits a special position held by the late Dr. Tiller as a late-term abortion provider, but the second--the one that contains, oh, the actual comments of the alleged killer, I guess you could say--makes no such distinction. I suppose we can reject as out of hand the suggestion that Saletan's distinction is designed to reinforce his own position, seeing as how the other eight confirmed "anti-abortion" murders in the past sixteen years, plus the seventeen instances of attempted murder, targeted anyone from physicians to security guards to escorts. But those were different.

Of course, hanging the wrong man will deter crime just as certainly as hanging the right one will, as ol' Doc Shaw once noted.
Is that statement wrong? Is it wrong to defend the life of an unborn child as you would defend the life of a born child? Because that's the question this murder poses.

Really? 'Cos to me, that's the question the "Right to Life" movement has been posing, via bullhorn, since around your third birthday. And they've got the answer, too, Bill (surprising, I know). Differs slightly from yours, there, as we noted, in that they're willing to absolve all such murders, no matter who catches the shrapnel, while you hide like Hamlet in the arras, waiting for one more to your liking.
Peaceful pro-lifers have already tried to prosecute Tiller for doing late-term abortions they claimed were against the law. They failed to convict him.

Which in other circumstances--frequently those not involving legal proceedings involving people we want to harass--is known as being found "not guilty". It just never occurs to you people that taking the law unto yourself is a terrible idea, does it? Even when you're cosmologically certain.
If unborn children are morally equal to born children, then Tiller's assassin has just succeeded where the legal system failed: He has stopped a mass murderer from killing again.

Gee, what a remarkably fair and dispassionate way to frame the "argument".

Of course, Saletan does so in order to present his own position as the reasonable compromise. But without ever explaining to us how not murdering people who "take Life" via abortion is any more consistent.

Let me tell you something else I was reminded of at Doug Masson's place: the remarkable number of presumably white, presumably "conservative", presumably-Middle-Americans who vehemently opposed the Dred Scott decision, and who vehemently objected to Plessy. And I was but a lad during Dr. King's career, but it's funny; I seem to remember the struggle taking a lot longer, and costing the blood of brave men and women--and innocents--just to get to Court decisions and Federal legislation which were then routinely ignored or skirted. You'd think with all that native, deeply-felt support it would have gone a lot smoother.
So is Roeder getting support from the nation's leading pro-life groups? Not a bit. They have roundly denounced the murder.

Right. Which proves they're all Simon Pure in motive and in deed. Also that they refrain from hiring public spokesmen who tend to blurt out things. At least most of 'em do (see Terry, Randall).
I applaud these statements. They affirm the value of life and nonviolence, two principles that should unite us. But they don't square with what these organizations purport to espouse: a strict moral equation between the unborn and the born.

Okay, fine. We're agreed.
The reason these pro-life groups have held their fire, both rhetorically and literally, is that they don't really equate fetuses with old or disabled people.

Yeah, I knew it couldn't last. Tell you what: let's look for those missing keys under the streetlamp. Because, for one, the light's better, and for another, this time that's where they're lying.

Now maybe, just maybe, these groups, and by extension your political party, Mr. Saletan, earned a tidy income in money and votes for forty years with this one issue which public and philosophical consistency would have threatened. Contraception is precisely the same as abortion to the Catholic who confirms this century's Church teaching, but Condoms are Murder! would have split the movement in twain. You never heard contraception raised as a national issue until well into the Bush II administration, when the powers that control such things figured they had a permanent majority in hand and could start restricting access. The minute you nailed down movement leaders on charging doctors, or expectant mothers, with Murder, and anyone else remotely involved as accessories, you'd'a uncovered some remarkably, oh, nuanced views of Life. When did a Roman Catholic bishop ever threaten to excommunicate a politician for insufficient dedication to banning contraceptives?

So let's suggest an alternative: these people believe something which is, at best, beyond rescuing, logically or philosophically, and many of them believe precisely as you suggest they don't, or cannot: they believe a blastocyst is indistinguishable from a middle-aged woman, save that it has rights they seek to protect, and they're willing to use deceit in the interim if they think it furthers the cause. And more than a few accept that argument about justifiable murder, too (but wouldn't accept it as an excuse for gunning down an executioner, a warden, or the cop doing traffic control). Which, yes indeedy, does abnegate their "moral" arguments, but not accidentally or without recognition. Not at the top, anyway. It just underlines the scam.
They oppose abortion, as most of us do.

The only thing worse than a liar is a liar armed with a poll. Most people agree.
The people who kill abortion providers are the ones who don't flinch.

Really? 'Cos they seem, almost uniformly, to run for the hills afterwards, assuming they weren't already in the hills when the bomb went off, and threaten anyone who stands in their way, as Tiller's killer did the fellow Christians who stood between him and escape. These people aren't John Brown. They're self-righteous criminals who've appended themselves to Christianity. If it were Wiccans or astrologers who were ambushing physicians we'd see how quickly reproductive freedom "became" a civil right.
If you don't accept what he did, then maybe it's time to ask yourself what you really believe. Is abortion murder? Or is it something less, a tragedy that would be better avoided? Most of us think it's the latter. We're looking for ways to prevent abortions—not just a few this month, but millions down the line—without killing or prosecuting people. Come and join us.

S'funny; I could have sworn you just found a surefire way to prevent abortions, aside from that squeamishness of yours. Oh well, the internal consistency of the law muddles through, somewhat, despite people like you. Such is Life. Meanwhile, remember to ship your unwanted children to Bill Saletan, c/o Slate. He knows just what to do with 'em.

(Typo fixed, with thanks.)


R. Porrofatto said...

It just never occurs to you people that taking the law unto yourself is a terrible idea, does it? Even when you're cosmologically certain.What is it about "against the law" that these people don't understand? I might believe that alcohol is the devil's own poison, but I still can't execute or even intimidate bartenders, though they may be hard core end-of-the-liners still pouring at last call, despite the possibility it could SAVE LIVES!1!!! Hell, South fucking Dakota voted down a ban on abortions fer chrissakes, so it still ain't legal to murder abortionists in Bismark, and not just because they all went north to Fargo for the action.

What an awful column. Thank you, as usual, for eviscerating it.

scott said...

This isn't about whether or not blastocysts deserve the same protection under the law. That's a red-herring foisted on otherwise smart, insightful people to divert them from the real agenda here:

Controlling women. This is all about keeping women barefoot, pregnant and chained to the bed with just enough slack to get to the kitchen. You take away reproductive choice and presto, the wimmin' folk are back where they belong.

Whatshername at Pandagon has been writing about the abortion debate from this perspective for years and she seems to be one of the few on the left who "gets" the real agenda of the right here.

Anonymous said...

Oh good! Now Saletan is adding terrorism apologetics to his previous winning streak as a young racist!Let's go Holocaust denial for the contrarian trifecta, Willy-boy!

Sator Arepo said...

"If abortion is murder, the most efficient thing you could have done to prevent such murders this month was to kill George Tiller."

What if corporate hegemony is murder?

Brendan said...

I was hoping you'd see this latest piece of shit by Saletan. Well said. Hope he reads your words.

Julia said...

so here's the thing - if there's no moral imperative to obey the law against, say, murder, why are we compelled to follow the second amendment? Even if you assume it applies to something other than a well-regulated militia, the constitution, as I believe Mr. Saletan reminded us when the Iraq war and habeus corpus and torture were at issue, is not a suicide pact.

Obeying a quaint rule about allowing arms to people who cannot in good faith be asked not to do murder sounds awfully suicidal to me.

Of course, he doesn't mean any of it. He'd just like to point out that he's far more morally complex than the rest of us. And male. And white. And affluent. And the cops in his neighborhood would have had this guy bleeding in the gutter before he got within a block of the Saletan homestead.

But as ever, Mr. Saletan's morals are primarily for others to wrestle with. After all, if they were fit for free will they'd have plane fare to Switzerland for every daughter that had a little lapse in the Hamptons.

Whatever. It's Slate, Jake. A Microsoft monopoly and the Washington Post's NCLB contracts mean they'll never have to sell anything with any worth to keep floating. They seem to be remarkably comfortable in that niche.

I can't imagine how they slipped up and hired Dahlia Lithwick.

whetstone said...

"I can't imagine how they slipped up and hired Dahlia Lithwick."

Hired Krugman, too, then lost him to the NYT and were like 'don't let the door hit you on the way out.'

I'm sure they'll be as dignified to her as well.

CMike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D. Sidhe said...

Why am I seeing so much of this "Well, obviously if they condemn both the murder and the victim, they can't really believe abortion is murder or they'd be cheering the murder, not condemning it"? Is it possible they're the same people who tell racist jokes once they know who-all's at the party? Even if they don't actually believe that killing a fetus is the same as killing the neighbor, they may very well be quite happy that someone has killed a doctor who was doing something that, perhaps, made it easier for sluts to escape punishment for having sex, or indeed any other reason they might oppose abortion.

They're probably pleased as punch about it, and I've never had an anti-abortion type look me in the eye while condemning killings of doctors, but they do know it's good PR to swear they didn't want *that*!

If it's okay to murder to stop abortion, it's certainly okay to lie to protect any influence you may have in stopping abortion.

And it's clearly okay for Will to pretend he's not offering justifications for the next murder.

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