Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eugenics -- I'm all for it! Apparently.

If you haven't been paying attention -- and I'd advise you not to -- you've missed possibly one of the stupidest, and contradictory, smears against left-wing people in recent memory. Ross Douthat and Kevin Drum have been going back and forth over whether "progressives" favour eugenics. Douthat says we do.

Now, I don't know if I'm in good standing with the Progressive Membership Committee, but I certainly didn't realize that I was a fan of Nazi Supermen. Nor am I a fan, as Ernest Manning was, of forced sterilization. But Ross Douthat, that sleuth, has unearthed the truth! That's right! As well as favouring grossly punitive tax levels, confiscation of national industry, summary execution of the rich, I also (as right-wing caricatures have revealed) favor policies that the Nazis would have approved of!

Of course, I don't, and Douthat is an idiot. What I favour is the right of women to choose what happens in their own bodies, and giving parents the full spectrum of medical information and advice they deserve. What this means in practice -- and here Douthat is correct -- is that many fetuses that would develop life-ending conditions when born (such as Tay-Sachs) are aborted. Douthat calls this "eugenics" because he's an idiot, and knows nothing about the actual history of eugenics.

Eugenics, as it was actually practiced in North America (and Germany) involved the imposition, by the state, of bizarre and unproven theories on to people's everyday lives. Women were forcibly sterilized as a matter of course -- famed Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer was sterilized without her consent by a white doctor during a totally unrelated surgery to remove a cyst.

But for Douthat -- who is, in other matters, a small government conservative -- this is totally comparable to loving couples making informed medical choices on their own given facts, not theories, about their potential children's lives.

What would Douthat prefer? Well, we actually know what he would prefer: a state that reached in to people's lives -- and women's uteruses -- and forced women to give birth to any viable pregnancy. Or maybe he would prefer if we simply denied people the medical knowledge to make informed decisions. Such a thing would be against the most basic bioethical laws drawn up since the Nuremberg trials, but hey, if it stops even one abortion...

What either of those options has to do with "conservative" politics or small government beats me. What any of it has to do with eugenics is a mystery, too, aside from the desire by those on the right to slime the left with rhetoric from two generations ago. Rhetoric which, if we were actually around two generations ago, they'd have been on the wrong side of.

1 comment:

NonyNony said...

It's called framing, and conservatives seem to be very, very good at it. Link abortion to eugenics and BAM! instant negative reaction. Just like equating abortion to murder or calling the estate tax a "death tax".

Of course it isn't eugenics, and anyone with an ounce of education can see why, but that's nuance and requires thinking about the issue, and that's not who these types of arguments are targetting. These are arguments for mob rule, not courtroom debate.