He’s a centrist, they’re idiots

Reading Dana Milbank’s column this week, I thought of what media critics have pointed out about the role centrism plays in journalism’s view of the issues, and themselves.
Journalists, according to this theory, see two sides to every story (and only two), both of them irrational and extreme. The center, the median position between them, is always right (I offer a dissenting view here). And journalists themselves are centrists, cool, unbiased thinkers who see things free of ideology, ergo the true center is whatever they believe.
Milbank’s column is a textbook example. His position is to look out at all the Roe vs. Wade protests (it’s the anniversary of the decision coming up), pro and con and conclude that he’s seeing “fact-free spectacles that have less to do with abortion than with raising money for advocacy groups on both sides … If these groups cared as much about the issue as they claim, and didn’t have such strong financial incentives to avoid consensus and compromise, they’d cancel the carnivals and get to work on the one thing everybody agrees would be worthwhile — reducing unwanted pregnancies.”
More specifically, the pro-life side should stop fighting to make it harder for women to obtain birth control, or allowing pharmacists the right not to dispose of it. The pro-choice side should stop “sky is falling warnings about Roe” and acknowledge the other side’s legitimate objections to abortion. In short, both sides are crazy, Milbank is the voice of sanity.
But maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be something off in Milbank’s efforts to equate the two. Pro-life groups (or many of them) are actively working to restrict access to birth control. Pro-choice women are … saying the other side is wrong. One of these things is not like the other (see another example here).
Even setting aside Milbank’s centrist pose, his argument is crap. Some pro-lifers don’t agree reducing unwanted pregnancies is worthwhile unless it’s done by not having sex: As I’ve mentioned before, Rick Santorum thinks any effort to prevent pregnancy is unnatural. Some pro-choicers work hard on preventing unplanned pregnancy, or hasn’t Milbanks heard about an organization called Planned Parenthood?
Nor are warnings about Roe “sky is falling” irrationalism. It’s eminently possible that given enough presidents appointing enough conservative Supreme Court justices, Roe could be overturned. It’s also possible that by slapping on regulations on abortion clinics, states could make abortion unavailable in practice (which is presumably what Milbank refers to when he mentions Roe as irrelevant). And those of us on the pro-choice side don’t believe the pro-lifers are expressing legitimate concerns. I don’t think abortion is murder, I do believe it’s a woman’s right and I think a lot of pro-lifers (not all) are motivated, in part, by a general distaste for women being able to have sex freely.
That said, plenty of right-to-lifers do believe they’re fighting to prevent the murder of innocent babies. The protests over Roe aren’t a carnival for them either: They see abortion as a national tragedy, not a minor distraction from the issue of family planning (I disagree with them completely, but at least some of them are sincere).
The fact Milbank disagrees with both sides doesn’t make him right.
It doesn’t even make him logical.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

2 responses to “He’s a centrist, they’re idiots

  1. Pingback: Some interesting thoughts (some for writers, some not) « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Deep advice for Democrats | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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