Thursday, February 09, 2012

Caution! Political Spin on the Road

My credulity flag goes up as soon as I hear a politician in defensive mode explain away serious criticism, what is called  'political spin'. When I was that politician I tried to keep my mouth shut until I could get the facts and my humility in place before speaking or writing when under attack. I suspect my success in this was no where close to 100%.

We have been suffering under a heavy plague of political spin due to the Republican primary. Meanwhile we Democrats have been sitting around with a smile on our face as the other party self destructs. Now we have our own political spin embarrassment concerning the HHS limits on religious freedom. I'm not sure of the sequence but here are some of the spin grenades the that we have been handed. We need to chuck them in the nearest pond so no one is hurt.


This is the old bait and switch spin tactic. The essence of this spin is to claim that the new criticism is just another version of an old issue. There are issues concerning contraception but this is not one of them yet the bait has been widely taken by our media. I have waited or waded through hours and pages of discussion about contraception to hear any discussion about the issue raised by the HHS rules defining who will and will not be recognized as religious or the constitutional challenge embodied therein. There are some some serious issues on the margins of the subject of contraception almost all of which were never mentioned in the discussions I heard.


This is also in same category but the bait is a lot less likely to be so widely taken seriously due to the fact that the most of the organizations being ruled as non-religious are headed by women and among the critics are powerful non-political American women. The implication that institutions headed by woman cannot possible be religious is a handicap on this one. Of course it totally ignores the fact that contraception is relevant only if men are in the picture also.


This is an attempt to convince the public that the group effected by the ruling is small and certainly doesn't affect most Americans. This one can be very effective with those not paying much attention. The fact is that the institutions that will be classified as non-religious would be widespread.

Schools are a major group under the HHS rules and in our rural area one near by small city has four schools systems at the grade school level of which 50% are religious, three at the high school level of which 33% are religious and three at the college level of which 67% are religious. Of the these religiously provided schools only 20% are Catholic. While non Catholic religious institutions may may not have teachings opposed to most contraception drugs you can be sure they will not be happy to be told they must pay for abortions or abortion insurance. Of course the ruling also deals with hospitals, clinics, woman's health centers, adoption programs, social service agencies and counselling services. This fact will de facto lead to many larger  churches and parishes being 'declassifed' as religious since they incorporate one or more of these services in their mission and collocated with their church.


In the current primary campaign this one has been on eloquent display. Every debate has featured the tactic of not answering a question or critique by launching an attack on the critic or even the messenger. The messenger attacked is  often 'The Media' but sometimes its the person reading the question from an audience member or asking a question raised but not answered in public discourse during the preceding week.

This has been the most interesting of the fuzz options I have addressed in this posting since it really accentuates the the point I made last week about the issue of religious freedom being non partisan. The use of the 'attack on the critic' tactic on this issue has come from both self proclaimed Democrats and self proclaimed Republicans alike. I summarize two of those that I have read or heard as follows.

"The bishops are to blame for this:"

             (1) since they teach that abortion (or abortive drugs or contraception or...)
                  is wrong they  should have no say in who pays for insurance that pays for
                  abortions (or abortive drugs or ...).

Its mostly voices from the Democratic side I hear saying this one (1) but I have heard it from several Republican voices in some of the discussions on TV over the last week.

             (2) since they teach that it is wrong to deny health care to anyone
                   this whole thing is their fault since that led them to support efforts
                   to get health care for everyone ("obamacare' in Republican fuzz).
                   If they had not done that we wouldn't  be facing this constitutional
                   challenge right now. 

Now I fully expected that Republicans would blame Democrats for this one but am truly surprised that the this (2) diversion arose so blatantly and quickly from the Republican side. I was even more amazed by the fact that Rick Santorum (my personal favorite among the Republican Candidates) was proactive in giving this one voice. (See my posting on Senator Santorum's use of this argument here.)

On the other hand I am not surprised that many Democratic voices have spoken in opposition to the HHS regulations that severely limit conscience protections. Yet many friends are surprised, I think due to the strange doctrine of polarization that has gripped our political climate on all sides these days.

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