Accuracy in Media

There is much being said about disinformation, even misinformation, on the subject of abortion. The usual statement amounts to those in favor of legal abortion trying to stop those against it from saying anything.

People are arguing for the censorship of statements they disagree with on the grounds that they’re not true. But what is true is something that is itself debatable often enough – exactly why free speech is that protection of not just freedom, but even good sense and decent public policy.

It’s also true that it’s not just those against abortion who would find their speech restricted if we had that ban on mis- and dis-information on the subject. Here are two examples from the latest Jezebel:

One on a woman with chronic pain issues – something that medicine is, admittedly, not good at dealing with. She cannot gain access to a drug that will treat the pain because she is potentially fertile and of reproductive age. Jezebel tells us that this is all about Roe and Dobbs – it’s nothing of the kind. “Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen horrifying ripple effects like what Rule says she experienced across the health system. “ It’s simply nothing at all to do with this.

There always have been – and almost certainly always will be – certain treatments that women of reproductive capacity will not be given. Simply because they are known to cross the placenta and have disastrous effects on fetal development if that should be occurring. One example would be thalidomide, which caused such a vast and gross problem in the 1950s and 60s. It’s still used for certain complications of leprosy but the restrictions upon women taking it are significant and severe – for obvious good reason.

It is prescribed – like, perhaps that pain pill above – and then pregnancy does occur. The woman then either has a severely deformed child, or necessarily has an abortion. Now, how much is that doctor who prescribed going to have to pay? It’s nothing to do with Roe or Dobbs, is it?

The second is Jezebel praising Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams for calling out people on the subject of fetal heartbeats. It’s possible to opine that Abrams is being too extreme the other way. “There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks,” Abrams said. “It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body away from her.” “ Abrams is a politician arguing her case however well or badly.

But Jezebel is clearly going wrong here: “but the sound of pulsing cells that will eventually become a heart “is created by the [ultrasound] machine itself, which translates the waves of electrical activity into something audible,” per the New York Times. It is, really and truly, a manufactured sound. “ Wrong in the sense that your x-ray is not an actual picture, it’s photographic film translating x-rays into something visible. Your MRI is actually magnetic fields translated into electrical activity on a screen. An ultrasound picture is not a picture, it’s sounds translated into an electrical current that can be used to drive a screen. That’s actually what an MRI or ultrasound is, respectively magnetic fields or sounds which “ translates the waves of electrical activity into something” visible. Entirely manufactured and yet we’re happy enough to have our cancers diagnosed this way – why not heartbeats?

But again the point is not about the specific subject here, abortion, but about the larger issue. People are trying to have the public square cleared of opinions and statements they disagree with.

Jezebel ranks, in one listing, at No. 68 among U.S. media outlets. It gains some 5.4 million visits a month from that position. It is determinedly liberal and feminist – a political stance which may or may not please but it’s certainly allowable.

The thing about this insistence on banning misinformation is that so much of what is being said by those who would ban would also be banned under those same rules. The very thing which should make us suspicious of the insistence – for what is more often meant is not that only truths may be told, but only those things we, the banners, agree with. And that just ain’t the way to run a free society, let alone a free press, now is it?




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