Saturday, October 28, 2006

Michael J. Fox and How the Media Slams Conservatives

I've been browsing through the news links at Google News, reading several articles / commentaries about the recent flap between Michael J. Fox and Rush Limbaugh. As many of you know, Fox has battled Parkinson's disease since the late 1990s and has recently begun campaigning in favor of candidates who support embryonic stem research. The line of reasoning goes like this: vote for the people who support embryonic stem cell research because it will lead to all sorts of cures.

Liberal voices have been quick to seize upon this issue and the coverage has been predictable. One example, with a few comments:

    Since Fox began speaking up in favor of candidates who support science over superstition, the television and film star who suffers from Parkinson's disease has been accused by Limbaugh of "exaggerating the effects of the disease" in campaign commercials in which he points out that Democratic candidates for the Congress and governorships in the battleground states of Missouri, Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin and now Iowa favor a serious approach to stem-cell research while their Republican opponents do not. (John Nichols, The Nation: source).
There are several problems with this. Notice how Nichols distinguishes between candidates who "support science over superstition." What superstition is he talking about -- avoiding cracks so as to not break your mother's back? In other words, if you are a conservative person and have ethical problems with using embryonic stem cells in scientific research, then you are the equivalent of a modern-day caveman. How convenient -- label your opponent an idiot and avoid any substantative discussion.

In fact, many conservative opponents of embryonic stem cell research are not intellectual lightweights at all.

But there's more. Nichols contends that the Democratic candidates for office "favor a serious approach to stem-cell research while their Republican opponents do not." Really? Where have I been when the Republicans were doing stand-up jokes about embryonic stem cell research?

Of course, only those who favor embryonic stem research are taking the serious approach. Suggesting that the use of adult stem cells may actually be better scientific and more productive ... that's making light of the situation.

I wouldn't be surprised if Nichols also thought that Democratics heal faster and care more about sick people. Then again, maybe Republicans never get sick.

This is the type of discourse that doesn't serve either side very well. It certainly doesn't serve the people who live with the challenges of illness and disease.

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