Monday, June 01, 2009

The Tiller murder

There is, of course, a lot of discussion regarding yesterday's murder of George Tiller, who made a living performing late-term abortions in Kansas. Although no one really knows yet, everyone is assuming the perpetrator is a prolife activist. That is, of course, a reasonable assumption.

Killing babies for a living has a way of making people think less of you.

There are a lot of ironies in this case, one being why a person who presumes to be an activist in an organization whose purpose is to save lives would act to take a life. But the world is full of ironies. I once saw a talk show on which the guest, a pacifist, got so aggravated at the host that he took a swing at him.

Another, perhaps more significant irony is that the very utilitarian logic that is the only rationale for such an action ("If I kill the abortion doctor, I will save lives") is the same logic that leads people like George Tiller to do what they do. But you can't fight utilitarianism with utilitarianism. It only breeds more utilitarianism.

Maybe there is a utilitarian argument for eliminating utilitarians, but only a utilitarian would be convinced by it.

Obviously the murder will be turned to the propaganda advantage pro-abortion groups. They will portray it as an example of where the prolife position leads, when, in fact, such actions are blatant violations of everything the movement stands for. That will give them the rhetorical advantage and benefit their case.

But how can you blame them? They're utilitarians. That's what they do.


Lee said...

Isn't it odd how Tiller's murderer's motives are newsworthy, while the motives of the murderer of the Army recruiter are not?

I think it was Ed Morrissey who noted that NPR did not name the recruiter's murderer on the air (he has an obviously Islamic name), but mentioned that the murderer *may* have had religious motives.

What those motivations may have been were left unspecified, as if it may have been done by "a crazed Unitarian" or "violent Presbyterian."

I can see how you can justify not naming the perp in a murder story, and I can see how you can justify naming the perp. I cannot see how you can justify naming the perp in one story, and not naming him in the other.

I can see how you can justify speculating on the motives of the perp in a murder story, and I can see how you can justify not speculating. I cannot see how you can justify speculating on the motives in one story, and not speculating on them in the other.

But that's our objective, impartial, unbiased, and utterly fair mainstream news media for you.

If the reporter says, "We named the Tiller suspect and reported on his probable motives because it's newsworthy," I accept that.

If the reporter says, "We do not want to inflame national opinion against innocent Muslims," I accept that.

One or the other. But not both. Either the Muslim's name and probably motives are newsworthy, and that overrides other concerns; or we should not inflame national opinion against innocent pro-lifers.

Behind every apparent double standard is an unacknowledged single standard. The single standard here is whatever hurts conservatives causes is what gets reported.

Lee said...

Correction: It wasn't Ed Morrissey, it was Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic: