Killing embryos

embry3Last night, as I settled in to watch my St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers (fairly, no less!), I told my husband about a political ad I’d seen the day before. It featured actor Michael J. Fox asking people in Missouri to support an amendment to their state constitution that would ensconce embryonic destruction for the purpose of stem-cell research.

I’m a big fan of Fox and I have followed his battle with Parkinson’s for a while. Which was why I was shocked to see what a devastating turn for the worse the disease had taken with him. He was writhing around, lifting a contorted hand and bobbing back and forth.

When I had seen him on a television show a few weeks ago, he seemed to have been doing well — or at least along the lines of what I have come to expect when I see him every few months. Like all good campaign commercials, this one was emotionally gripping. I wondered, though, whether Fox and the commercial’s producers had overdone it a bit in their attempt to be politically effective.

My husband informed me that Rush Limbaugh was in a world of trouble over similar comments about the commercial. He said he thought that Fox either didn’t take his medication or was acting to exaggerate the effects of the disease. Let’s look at how The Washington Post handles this today:

Possibly worse than making fun of someone’s disability is saying that it’s imaginary. That is not to mock someone’s body, but to challenge a person’s guts, integrity, sanity.

I can’t tell from the online version, but I suppose it’s possible that this comes from that den of complete immunity: the Style section. Still, I’m not sure if even the Style section permits such gross mischaracterization of Limbaugh’s comments. Limbaugh didn’t say Fox imagined he had Parkinson’s. He said Fox exaggerated the effects. When someone makes an incendiary comment that you want to criticize, exaggerating the comment serves no one. What Limbaugh said — though I must admit I thought exactly the same thing — was bad enough. At least I only told my husband. And now you all. Let’s keep it between us, if that’s all right.

In polite society, we’re not allowed to wonder whether someone with a horrible disease is playing it up for sympathy or political gain. We’re all supposed to permit the victim to say or do whatever he wants. You lose a son in combat, you’re an expert in foreign policy. You develop a debilitating disease, you’re an expert in bioethics. It may not be fair, but that’s how the game works.

Even if Fox has admitted that he lays off his medication before public appearances where he’s trying to elicit support.

Anyway, my real beef with this and almost all other stories dealing with embyronic-destroying stem-cell research is that they fail to distinguish between stem-cell research and embryonic-destroying stem-cell research. To wit:

The actor, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has done a series of political ads supporting candidates who favor stem cell research, including Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, who is running against Republican Michael Steele for the Senate seat being vacated by Paul Sarbanes.

That is not true. What reporter David Montgomery means to say is that Fox is campaigning for candidates who favor embryonic stem-cell research.

Everyone, more or less, favors stem-cell research. Stem cells are considered very exciting avenues for research these days because of their remarkable potential to develop into different cell types in the body (muscle cell, brain cell, skin cell). Some stem cells come from adults while other stem cells come from embryos. Each type has various advantages and disadvantages.

Some people don’t think advances in science should come by destroying embryos. Others think destroying embryos is a price you have to pay for the possibility of developing cures to diseases.

Characterizing people who oppose destroying embryos as opponents of all stem-cell research is unconscionable. It’s one thing if Michael J. Fox does it in a campaign commercial. It’s another if a reporter for a publication like The Washington Post does it.

Words have meaning. Journalists, of all people, should know that.

UPDATE: GetReligion is a forum for discussing how the media treat religious issues. It is not a forum for discussing religious issues themselves. Or scientific issues. Or medical issues. Please do not comment on your personal views of embryonic stem-cell usage. Comments are open for discussion of how the media treat this issue.

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  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer TK

    This was posted recently at Pastor Walter Snyder’s blog, Ask the Pastor: A Dog in the Fight

    Reflections of a Lutheran Pastor Suffering from Parkinson’s

    Contrary “opinions” from people like me might be rejected by supporters of Missouri Amendment 2. After all, I suffer from none of the afflictions they claim might be cured by experimentation upon the cells of human embryos. In matters of personal health, I have, as the saying goes, no “dog in the fight.” …

    With this in mind, I contacted a recently retired pastor from my area to see if he’d share his personal thoughts on embryonic stem cell research and the upcoming vote here in Missouri. Not only do I respect him as a man and as a wise “old” pastor, I know him as one who has battled Parkinson’s Disease for a number of years.

    Actually, my first look at Michael J. Fox’s video supporting the McCaskill campaign and ESCR made me immediately think of this brother, so I wrote him, “I’m curious as a brother pastor, a friend who enjoys your personality and insight, a Christian, and a voter what your personal thoughts are on Amendment 2 and the arguments surrounding it from both sides.”

    He replied as follows and graciously gave me permission to use his private thoughts in this most public forum of blogging: Read the rest here

    It’s too bad that this man’s firsthand opinion doesn’t make the news. Even if it did, his comments would probably be bashed as religious rhetoric.

  • Discman

    Yup, the article appears on the front page of the “Style” section, not the “A” section.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Then I guess the untruth is okay!

  • Brandie

    Very nice catch and destinction. I would love to see the U.S. pick back up stem cell research, I feel we are losing out to some countries. But NOT by destroying embryo’s, lets figure out the limits of what can be done with Adult stem cells and when we have exhausted that, let’s see if people will donate their stem cords cells from live births. Why do we insist on focusing on the destruction of life?

  • Greg

    Not taking the parkinson’s medication actually has an opposite effect, it nearly immobolizes the victim. Taking the medication allows for somewhat normal locomotion at the expense of the unconcious, uncontrollable movements that were in the ad.

  • US Marine

    Brandie:

    Do the research, they have almost completely exhausted Adult Stem Cell research. And since when is an embryo life? It is before any stage of life what so ever. Also the placenta from birthing is already completely used. So what’s next…Embryonic Research.

  • Dahgrostabphri

    Yeah, I guess it’s better to allow these embryos to just be destroyed without providing any benefit to the human race, as they are after nobody adopts them to raise to human form. We have over 40,000 frozen embryos, which the religious right says can sit and rot in the freezer as long as they don’t use them to benefit our society. And why do you say this…because someone told you to. But I know how hard it is to introduce a new idea or fact into a religious mind (or closed mind as some might call it) but please do yourself a favor an learn something new…I promise it will be no more harmful to you then if a couple of queers got married. And any of you who talk about not destroying embryo’s even to benefit millions of living people, to all of you who oppose stem-cell research but still have not adopted a child either from an agency or better yet from an orphanage, you have absolutely no room to talk…You wear your religion on your sleeve when it suits your purpose but want nothing to do with the real message of “that which you do for the least of your brothers…” I may abhor and reject religion but I have read the bible and I understand all the words, so I ask you this…when it comes to helping a living person or supporting the poorest people in the world, What Would Jesus Do? Ok, I guess that’s a cheap shot, but honestly if Jesus came back today the so-called Moral Right (which is neither one nor the other) would reject him and his message. Peace, Love and tolerance have no room in Religious America.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    US Marine,

    According to the National Institutes of Health:

    Research on adult stem cells has recently generated a great deal of excitement. Scientists have found adult stem cells in many more tissues than they once thought possible. This finding has led scientists to ask whether adult stem cells could be used for transplants. In fact, adult blood forming stem cells from bone marrow have been used in transplants for 30 years. Certain kinds of adult stem cells seem to have the ability to differentiate into a number of different cell types, given the right conditions. If this differentiation of adult stem cells can be controlled in the laboratory, these cells may become the basis of therapies for many serious common diseases.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    If you want to discuss the merits of embryonic stem cell research, this is not the venue.

    This is the venue to discuss whether the mainstream media do a good job of covering embryonic stem cell research.

  • Michael

    I’m a little baffled by the failure to distinguish between embryos already slated for destruction and embryos in general. If the embryo is going to be disposed of *anyway*, is it really so important to stand on principle– especially when it hampers what could be the most revolutionary medical advances in history? Furthermore, I find the conservatives who support war while opposing stem cell research astonishingly hypocritical. War is rationalized because the sacrifices of the few protect the greater good. The same ideology applies to stem cell research. One “life” – if, indeed, you consider the embryo a full-fledged life – perishes not simply to save one other life; rather, its sacrifice goes to improving and saving the lives of *countless* others. Yes, one can argue that the embryo (which, bear in mind, is scheduled for destruction and will never going to grow into full human form anyway) has no say in the matter while a soldier has elected to be part of the war. This take is naive at best. Most wars won by this country have either involved willing soldiers who had no idea what they were getting into, or a draft that filled out the ranks with people who didn’t really want to be there. Even today, when the horrors of war are more widely known and no draft is in effect, the skewed socioeconomic environment comes into play, allowing the military to exploit the disadvantaged in order to wage campaigns in the Middle East.

  • Matt S

    Imaginary does not mean imagined, it means unreal. Limbaugh strongly suggested that Fox was faking the symptoms. He said that Fox might be acting. That is, he said that what we see in the ad was not really from Fox’s disease but from Fox’s *imagination*. The Washington Post, unlike Limbaugh, was accurate in their commentary.

    Regarding Fox “laying off” his medications, I wonder if you actually read the article you linked to. The Parkinson’s drugs are hard on the body and they don’t work for long. Fox went from taking them and hoping he could work to taking them so he could be with his wife and child and enjoy life. Personally I don’t see what is the problem with the ad allowing us to see what Parkinson’s actually does to someone. The point of the ad is to show the disease rather than showing it covered up and hidden away.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Matt S.

    Limbaugh said that Fox changed his medication or was acting to EXAGGERATE his symptoms. As much as you or the Washington Post may WISH that Limbaugh said Fox was faking his Parkinson’s, transcripts will not bear that out. Even if you twist them around.

    As I said, according to modern dictates, what he said was bad enough. No need to exaggerate.

    I did read the full article, which had some information about medication that contradicted Fox’s own words about it.

    Permit me to quote from Michael J. Fox’s autobiography:

    I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling.

  • Mike Johnson

    How is it disingenous to “Lay off his meds” and show what Parkinson’s Disease REALLY does to someone? It would be like requiring someone with a lost limb to only talk about it or to elict support for their cause only if they wear a prostetic limb that looks real and will not call attention to the defect or injury. Parkinson’s is a horrible disease that wracks the ENTIRE body with tremors and involuntary movemnts. The meds are tough on the entire body, but will mask some of the effects, some of the time, not always.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    There MZ goes again, quoting actual source material. What’s with this lady?
    ;-)

  • thomas jefferson

    Then I guess the untruth is okay!

    Posted by Mollie at 12:15 pm on October 25, 2006

    And Fox ‘News’ is allowed to lie … legally. Sick. YouTube has a good film regarding Fox ‘News’.

    Mollie,
    It’s very sad that you basically sit and point and laugh at MJF. You must have been the school b—- making fun of anyone that’s not like you. Do you relate to the movie ‘Mean Girls’?

    “Dissent is the highest form of Patriotism.”
    – Thomas Jefferson

  • Loren

    If you want to be consistant in this, the press should be pointing out where these embryos come from in the first place. Why is it ok to produce unwanted and damaged embryos from fertility therapy and not ok to use these extra embryos for research. Is it really worth 15 embryos to have one child? To be consistant you should attack fertility therapy or stop attacking embryonic stem cell research.

  • aaron

    Hi Mollie,

    While I do appreciate your honesty with regards to your own thoughts on the ad, and the relative unbiasedness with which you are raising this question, the issue at hand is whether the Mainstream Media is doing a good job of reporting on the issue. The answer, as is always the case with the Mainstream Media, is no — but not for the reasons you cite.

    Mr. Limbaugh’s ridiculous accusation (I don’t remember him accusing Christopher Reeve of being able to stand up…) needs to be reported on as what it is: Senseless and Shameless flailing by the right wing to try to drum up enough christian conservative sheep to save a couple of seats in the House.

  • John B. Corn

    I just read the excerpt from “Lucky Man”, by Michael J. Fox, that you link to. He DOES NOT ADMIT that he “lays off his medication before public appearances where he’s trying to elicit support”, as you disingenuously state above. He is saying that at times his medicine works, or is “On”, and at other times his medicine does not work, or is “Off”. In any event, he is always taking his medicine. If Mollie cares about the truth, that should be corrected.

  • Jim Raker

    What religion allows us to mock and make fun of the sick? Rush Limbaugh should be deeply ashamed of himself. His listeners should be deeply ashamed. Decent people are taught to value life, help the sick.

  • Dahgrostabphri

    In response to “If you want to discuss the merits of embryonic stem cell research, this is not the venue.

    This is the venue to discuss whether the mainstream media do a good job of covering embryonic stem cell research.”

    This message board and the story posted by Mollie looks to be more about sharing denial and misinformation. The story accused Cindy Sheehan of trying to be an expert in foreign policy, when truly the issue with Cindy is that nobody, not the President and not any of the right wing talking heads, the question to answer is “what noble cause did my son die for?” I don’t want to harp on the Cindy issue for too long but if she does not deserve another audience with the President (and I’m not saying she does) why can’t anyone answer her question. Because the answer would destroy the truth you all live by like so many stale embryos. And the issue with MJFox is to say he is using his disease (or even faking his disease) to advance the horrible act of science. If the stem cell portion of the story was not about stem cells then I wouldn’t be talking about destroying embryos for the good of all mankind. But I stand on my point that most (not all, but most) religious people are only religious when it works for them and don’t really want to hear anything that doesn’t work for them, even if it is the message of their messiah. And again, if you do live by the word of Christ then I hold you in high esteem; it is truly the hardest life to lead. I also would say that if you do not support stem cell research then you should also not support artificial life support, as in the case of Terry Schiavo. It’s impossible to support gods will at the beginning of life and to go completely against Gods will at the end of life. But then being hypocritical is what religious people do best.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    John B. Corn accused me of misstating Fox’s view about laying off medication when trying to elicit support. He said:

    I just read the excerpt from “Lucky Man”, by Michael J. Fox, that you link to. He DOES NOT ADMIT that he “lays off his medication before public appearances where he’s trying to elicit support”, as you disingenuously state above. He is saying that at times his medicine works, or is “On”, and at other times his medicine does not work, or is “Off”. In any event, he is always taking his medicine. If Mollie cares about the truth, that should be corrected.

    Apparently John B. Corn did not read the portion I excerpted here. I’ll excerpt it again for those who are having trouble following links:

    I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling.

  • thomas jefferson

    Mollie,
    It seems you have not taken into consideration the fact that the medications needed to make MJF ‘presentable’ for you have MAJOR side effects. MJF’s quality of life is not much better on the meds. I don’t see a problem with MJF showing the world his true self. I see a brave person showing himself to the world for all to see the disease in it’s full discourse. It shows people what does not have to be if we were to be allowed to do some science.
    TJ

  • Stomple

    In a debate about media honesty and mischaracterization, why include a photo that does exactly the thing you criticize? Why not run an image of a typical embryo used in embryonic-destroying stem cell research? Or simply indicate which image within the photo you posted best represents a typical embryo that’s destroyed? Is it because that embryo wouldn’t generate the same level of sympathy for your position as a fetus that everyone can easily identify? Perhaps you should hold yourself to the same standard you hold others, “Words have meaning. Journalists, of all people, should know that.” How about the images that accompany those words?

  • Louis

    First of all, if anyone is distorting facts is you. Again, you blame the media for your problems. The Post line you are all reading from is taken from a column…you know an OPINION not NEWS piece.

    Second of all. I am a Christian. God GAVE us the gift of science. Read Jesus’ words he wanted people healed. And while we’re at it, don’t you all think Jesus would be more concerned with people starving and cold on the streets of St. Louis not who is running for congress? Get a life. You are giving Christianity a bad name.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I’ll use smaller words this time:

    We don’t discuss policy issues here. Or medical issues. Or political issues. We discuss how the mainstream media treats religious issues. If you want to discuss how the media treats religious issues, please comment.

    If you want to discuss Parkinson’s Disease, or Stem Cell Research, or the effects of Parkinson’s medication on Parkinson’s sufferers, THIS IS NOT THE BLOG YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.

    We look at how the media treats those issues, but we do not look at the issues themselves.

    Any questions?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Louis, uh, wrote:

    First of all, if anyone is distorting facts is you. Again, you blame the media for your problems. The Post line you are all reading from is taken from a column. . .you know an OPINION not NEWS piece.

    That’s not true. It is NOT a column. It is a news story in the Style section. It is written by someone who is credited as a “staff writer” not an opinion writer or a columnist.

    You are wrong.

    In the future, it would be nice if commenters would back up their allegations. This is not a community where you can call one of us a b—- and run away. Although that was very nice and mature of you, Mr. Fakenamed Commenter!

    I would call upon all the sudden visitors/proponents of embryonic stem cell research to take a deep breath, learn about where you are and comment in a calm, rational manner.

    It will be much better for you in the long run.

    Thanks!

  • thomas jefferson

    I think most of your new visitors were directed here via Google News, thinking this was a real source of news, read what you posted, and were offended by your bias. I recommend you have your URL removed from Google’s News sources. Unless you intend to start reporting new news, instead of holding an OP/ED forum for your personal views on existing news already reported by actual news feeds.

    HowManyOfMe.comThere are:519people with the name Thomas Jefferson in the U.S.A.How many have your name?

  • JBH

    I do believe that Billie Graham has suffered from Parkinson’s for years. I don’t think he has yet to endorse embyonic destruction to cure it. I am sure if he did he would be criticized for making his disease a religious political issue. If MJF wants to make it just a plain political issue it seems to be perfectly legit however. The politics is the issue here and I think that is what Rush was trying to bring out.

  • MJG

    Aren’t you missing the point? If he Fox did “lay off his medication” before taping the ad, all he is was show us how bad Parkinson’s truly is. I am not a proponent of stem cell research, but only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved by Fox’s predicament, and that of many others like him who suffer from this and other currently incurable diseases.

  • Dion

    Mollie,

    I appreciate your attempt to tackle this issue as it is a difficult one. I have to say that I was shocked to hear Limbaugh’s comments on the issue and I think that it was completely irresponsible to make a comment on the veracity of Mr. Fox’s condition unless Rush had actually observed Mr. Fox on a regular basis. Parkinson’s, like MS and other neurodegenerative diseases can show effects in differents way at different times depending on exacerbating circumstances such as fatigue, stress or illness.

    I think that there is an issue that is not debateable. That issue is; notwithstanding the use of available therapeutics that help treat the symptoms, eventually Mr. Fox will be the way that we see him in the commercial, or worse, all the time.

    Thanks.

  • Dahgrostabphri

    OK, I guess this blog is just like any religious organization, we don’t talk about anything that might bring additional light to the garbage we are advancing. If the case is how the media is mischaracterizing MJFox’s intentions then wouldn’t we first have to hash out what the ground rules of the issue are? Wouldn’t that require a discussion of the underlying topic? In this case the underlying topic is stem cell research and to talk about weather MJFox is faking or exaggerating his disease or if the media is working against your religious beliefs. Now clearly stem cell research is a hot-topic issue for the religious right and the media’s coverage of this issue is what you’re discussing. I don’t’ see how policy is separate from this topic. But I’m in your domain so I would ask that if you want this discussion to be so narrow then please have the person who wrote the initial piece to not be as disingenuous in their story and I feel that will keep the blogers more focused on the topic at hand, but if the initial writer is going to use the term Destroying Embryos in the way Mollie did and when you speak of a polite society you seem to abandon Jesus message. OK, so you only want to discuss the media’s effects on religion, I’ll ask you, is your story for or against living human beings? Do you support science when your sick but reject it for anyone else? Is it OK to embrace science to keep a dead woman alive against the will of God and then say that God would not want us to embrace the science that would advance and improve our lives? If that is the case then your topic about the media has no merit because you yourself would speak out against God, but only when it suits you, I’m sure that’s OK, God doesn’t mind being your doormat anymore then Jesus would mind being your wishing well.

  • Melissa

    I think to many people, “stem cell research” means something along the lines of “that controversial stem cell research topic.” When it comes up in the news, I can recall mostly hearing/reading it called that: “stem cell research.” No distinction there between a less controversial kind and a more controversial kind. I think many people are just ignorant of the terminology, and what “stem cell research” and “embryonic stem cell research” mean (and that, particularly, they don’t mean the same thing). This doesn’t mean that journalists should fall short in their coverage — I wonder, though, if the umbrella term “stem cell research” is being used more often now to mean “embryonic…”

  • Short ‘n’ sweet

    Mollie,
    You sure post some mean, nasty and vindictive comments in response to the commenters on your blog. Especially for someone sitting under the “GetReligion” umbrella.
    -Peace be with you.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Hey Short ‘n’ sweet,

    Could you back up your slur that I have posted “mean, nasty and vindictive comments” with any evidence at all?

    To all the other people who are about to comment with unsubstantiated claims, please SUBSTANTIATE YOUR CLAIMS.

    Thank you!

  • Darrell

    It’s an egg
    It will not be human till the little sperm enters and starts the chain reaction. Even then I’m not sure when life begins. I’m not letting religious fanatics tell me when life begins. I trust them about as much as insurance agents and car salesmen. Ooo don’t forget the bloodsuckers of society…lawyers. So in my mind, it’s an egg. That being said, let the research begin. Save millions of lives with it. One might grow up and figure out this world and what makes it tick. And as Molly stated earlier…they’re slated for a dumpster anyways. Put them to good use. What are you going to do…make a million little John Doe tombstones and bury each and every egg in its own little gravesite? Okay, sarcasm aside, Michael J Fox is a better person to bring Stem Cells Research out in the open than Homar J Simpson. He’s loved, admired, and honest. The world is a better place with him in it…even with Parkisons. So put your hypocritical beliefs in your back pocket and really open your eyes. Stop being lead around by the nose by someone with a motive that you are not aware of or might not agree with.

    Hail to the Free Thinkers

  • Joseph

    There are two points that I would like to make, and I welcome any correction of logic that the readers of this blog may present. The first point that I would like to make regards the embryos that are being used for embryonic stem cell research. There are approximately 400,000 embryos slated for destruction in American fertility clinics. Why is there opposition to using these embryos (which, incidentally, are zygotes, a collection of eight undifferentiated cells, not a fetus as shown in the graphic at the top of this blog) that are going to be destroyed anyway?

    The second point that I would like to make is that the scientific community is quite clear regarding the advantages of using embyonic stem cells over adult stem cells. The difference derives from the fact that these undifferentiated cells have not undergone the same exogenous interaction as adult stem cells. This gives promise to new research above and beyond what has been done with adult stem cells (which have been studied for some time).

    Furthermore, I think one would have to be pretty dumb to think anyone was talking about adult stems cells in the context of the controversy. I beg of all of you to think before you support irresposible policy

    Joseph Rhodes
    Portland, OR

  • Joseph

    There are two points that I would like to make, and I welcome any correction of logic that the readers of this blog may present. The first point that I would like to make regards the embryos that are being used for embryonic stem cell research. There are approximately 400,000 embryos slated for destruction in American fertility clinics. Why is there opposition to using these embryos (which, incidentally, are zygotes, a collection of eight undifferentiated cells, not a fetus as shown in the graphic at the top of this blog) that are going to be destroyed anyway?

    The second point that I would like to make is that the scientific community is quite clear regarding the advantages of using embyonic stem cells over adult stem cells. The difference derives from the fact that these undifferentiated cells have not undergone the same exogenous interaction as adult stem cells. This gives promise to new research above and beyond what has been done with adult stem cells (which have been studied for some time).

    Furthermore, I think one would have to be pretty dumb to think anyone was talking about adult stems cells in the context of the controversy. I beg all of you to think before you support irresposible policy.

    Joseph Rhodes
    Portland, OR

  • david bledsoe

    Rush Limbaugh is a disgusting fat slob. Anybody with a brain knows Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive disorder of the central nervous system that leaves patients increasingly unable to control their movements, thus Michael J. Fox was not acting as the fat hog would suggest.

    Incidentally, while we know Michael goes off of his meds, what about Rush? I suspect he is still on his drugs since he appears impaired. I would love to see how the slob acts when he is off his “drugs”, although I doubt that will ever happen.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    David Bledsoe,

    What a great point you’ve made. You avoided ad hominem attack. You stayed on topic. You advanced your cause. Good work.

  • Mike Hunt

    I love this, a bunch of religious zealots arguiing about stem-cell research.
    Somebody above stated that “Characterizing people who oppose destroying embryos as opponents of all stem-cell research is unconscionable.” What is unconscinable is a wealthy country like the US preventing potential cures for numerous diseases based on some misinformed religious nuts.

    These same nuts who oppose stem cell research are the morons supporting the criminal President Bush and his war. Which I find ironic… that they support a Right to Life and an illegal war? Interesting, save american babies (good) kill iraqi babies (good)?

  • jon burford

    The thing important point, which is rarely mentioned by those against embryonic stem-cell research,is that the embryos which will be used, are embryos that are targeted to be destroyed.
    So, to me, if these embryos will be destroyed otherwise, we’d be honoring these embryos, that they will be used for the good of people, rather than just destroyed.

    I just don’t get all the rhetoric against it…
    is it better to destroy them, or use them to help prevent, or treat disease?
    To me, it’s a no-brainer.

    This is just another issue, where the Politicos, have manipulated good people, to vote against their best interests.

  • Tim Townsend

    Mollie,

    When our political reporter, Jo Mannies, showed me the “Claire McCaskill/Yes on Amendment 2″ MJF ad last week, she told me she’d interviewed Fox about 20 min. before he taped the ad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9WB_PXjTBo) and said his palsy was much more pronounced during her interview with him. In other words, Fox was not “off his meds” when he taped the McCaskill ad – if anything he was making an effort to control his body.

    As a Cards fan (I’m a Cubs guy) you might also be interested to note our story today that tonight’s Game 4 pitcher, Jeff Suppan, stars in a “No on Amendment 2″ ad that will run during the game.

    We’ve been on the stem cell issue pretty hard, including a series that just finished Sunday with two religion stories (“An unusual alliance comes together” and “Black clergy are making a stand”: http://www.stltoday.com/news/religion).

  • Catman

    I know a topic on ‘Get Religion’ is in trouble if I see a rapidly growing post count from the main page. Any idea how so many people suddenly “find” this blog for certain controversial subjects and raise the post count?

    I appreciate this blog for the insightful commentary and thoughful responses – when I see the responses such as the ones for this subject, I get discouraged.

    Mollie, I do very much appreciate your analysis and commentary – however it may help you to stay away from sarcasm in your responses to being attacked (you know, turning the other cheek and all that – something I still have a hard time doing).

    God Bless!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Tim,

    Thanks for the info. I saw those stories and will try to take a look at your coverage here soon.

    Catman,

    My colleague just mentioned that my sarcasm was probably not the best idea. If only you knew how much I was trying to rein it in! But thanks for the admonition.
    MZH

  • http://watchpost.blogspot.com Tyler Simons

    I’d second both of Joseph’s points, for the record, but the third is the appropriate one in the context of this blog, and I think it challenges Mollie’s position in the original post pretty effectively. The general public, I’ll say in all my arrogance, doesn’t even know or care that adult stem cell research exists. It’s methods haven’t attracted the kind of controversy that would bring its importance to public attention. Everyone knows, though, about embryonic stem cell research. Everyone knows that the issue is whether or not possible babies can be destroyed (or, if you want to soften it, devoted to the alternate aim of) fighting already-existing human disease.

    Liberal atheists may well, in some cases, think that the Pro-Life community are wackos, but very, very few, I’d guess, have such distorted views that normal Christians are so nuts as to oppose running tests on DNA taken from cheek swabs. Michael J. Fox, the Washington Post, and my liberal atheist friends are all well aware that this debate is about embryos, even if they sometimes talk about the debate over “stem cell research.”

    It might be more precise for journalists to say “embryonic” every time they mention the debate, but, it strikes me that jumping up and down and putting images of fetuses at a much different stage of development on the blog and advocating for the inclusion of the word “embryonic” every time in press accounts of the stem cell debate (oops! I just revealed my bias!) runs dangerously close toward advocating for the pro-life doppelganger of the liberal media bias. It may well be the case that liberals unconsciously eliminate the word “embryonic” from their discourse because of secret anxiety over the whole baby-killing thing, but the appropriate response is not to advocate for a faint chant of “dead babies, dead babies, dead babies” in the background of every story.

    I’m not really sure how the Michael J. Fox bit connects with the “embryonic” bit and fits in with the context of this blog, either. As far as I can tell, some critic in the WaPo style section misrepresented Rush Limbaugh. Big deal. If this blog started wading into the vital issue of misrepresentations of opposition viewpoints in the punditocracy (especially down at the Limbaugh level) there wouldn’t be time to do anything else. I, too, have some desire to see a desacrilization of victimhood (which would, by the way effect the death penalty debate in a more substantial way than the ESR one) but I’m not sure that calling on the news media to trumpet Michael J. Fox’s medical regimen rises above partisan gunslinging to media criticism.

    All the stuff about Michael J. Fox’s duplicity — I was disappointed to find out about his pill-not-taking — does do a real good job of poisoning the well against liberal causes and people in general before Mollie gets to her “real beef” with the whole ESR thing. Of course the liberal media distorts the debate. They probably do so intentionally! After all, Michael J. Fox didn’t take his meds before he shot that ad! Liberalism is bad!

    It seems to me that the ideological push of a GetReligion post like this invites the kind of political debate in the comments that is, over and over again, explicitly discouraged by the site operators. This is an awkward position! I’m not saying that y’all can be bias-free, but isn’t our ability to transcend our biases the whole point of this blog? I didn’t see much of that with this post.

  • Alison

    The problem is the media does not distinguish between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research. It assumes that if you are against embryonic stem cell research you are against it all – adult, placenta, cord, etc. I think it is a deliberate attempt to mislead. Everyone is for stem cell research – some of us just don’t want to sacrifice one life to help another life to have better quality.

  • http://watchpost.blogspot.com Tyler Simons

    You didn’t read my comment, did you, Alison?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Tyler,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I think that bioethics DEFINITELY fits within the domain of this blog. And I think how the Washington Post treated the latest imbroglio, therefore, is ripe for discussion.

    The two points I made — that there is no need to exaggerate when tackling someone’s comments and that the media do a poor job of distinguishing between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research — are points I have been wanting to make for a while.

    But in response to what you’ve said, I don’t think calling on journalists to be precise in the language they use to describe this EXTREMELY CONTENTIOUS debate means that they would be advocating the pro-life side.

    I mean, if we said, “Call a spade a spade: It’s baby killing!” then that would be extreme.

    But if the debate is over whether embryos should be destroyed in the course of stem cell research — that needs to be made clear.

    I’ve received more than a few private emails today that thanked me for making this point — from people who didn’t know that Jim Talent and Michael Steele support stem cell research. They believed that they opposed it all. Journalists can afford to be more precise.

  • http://xrysostom.blogspot.com/ Walter Snyder

    As the blogger mentioned above by TK, I’ve been working within print (the local newspaper) and electronic (blogs and email) media to change perceptions as well as to get people to focus on facts rather than emotions and scientific knowledge rather than speculation.

    In reading up on the amendment’s supporters and in viewing favorable editorials and positively-spun news articles, I rarely see much mention about the source of the financing. Even if the dollar figures are reported, only occasionally are the major sources listed. It seems that much of the media are embracing a secular “prosperity gospel” wherein Amendment 2 must be good because it’s getting most of the bucks.

    Neither of the two largest papers in Missouri have delved into the self-interests of the single largest contributor, a charity founded by a Kansas City billionaire who is heavily invested in biotechnology and who would likely prosper greatly if the amendment passes. These papers’ endorsements of Two look like rubber stamps of the words coined by the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. To this date, the strongest rebuttal of Amendment 2 I’ve seen from a newspaper was by the local paper in Concordia, Missouri. Since they’re not online, I had to transcribe the editorial in order to share it with a wider audience.

    I’ve also not seen much “follow the money” reporting or commentary concerning the state’s universities. After all, if form holds true, they’ll be able to patent and profit from stem cell lines.

  • Dan Crawford

    Ethical issues of any variety seem to escape the grasp of far too many reporters. Understanding the complexity of issues like embryonic stem cell research, abortion, capital punishment (to say nothing of soliciting pages for sexual behavior, having sex with one’s students, corporate larcency which deprives employees of their retirement income, the “lucrative lobbying” of congressman, and the laying aside of habeas corpus) require not a little intellectual work and the willingness to suspend one’s biases to examine such issues in depth. Having read newspapers for 52 of my 62 years, I have learned that one cannot assume that reporters are willing to do the intellectual work and the thorough interviewing required. So we get articles with the snap and depth of a bumper sticker. We get uncritical reporting of TV commercials. We get articles that do more to misinform than to clarify. We make headlines that deceive and reward the guilty parties with Pultizer Prizes. Editors no longer edit – fact checkers check only the facts of their weekly checks.

    Several years a highly respected professor of ethics spoke in our church about stem cell research and pointed out what was lacking in most of the articles he had seen published. It was a series of simple question: where is the evidence for all the claims for embryonic stem cells? What makes them “superior” to regular stem cells? What can regular non-embryonic stem cells do? It was true two years ago; it’s true today. As for the moral arguments against embryonic stem cell research, they are dismissed out of hand with no serious attempt to engage them logically or by evidence. Reporters just know that anyone who raises questions about Michael Fox’s views, Christopher Reeve’s, and (fill in the blank) is obviously a Neanderthal fundamentalist slanthead. It’s the kind of reporting that works. It’s the kind that get reporters invited to write feature articles and to address gatherings of prominent people. And it doesn’t really require all that much effort.

  • Lenora

    Darrell,

    I just had to comment on this one. You quoted:

    It’s an egg. . .
    It will not be human till the little sperm enters and starts the chain reaction. Even then I’m not sure when life begins. I’m not letting religious fanatics tell me when life begins. I trust them about as much as insurance agents and car salesmen. Ooo don’t forget the bloodsuckers of society. . .lawyers. So in my mind, it’s an egg. That being said, let the research begin. Save millions of lives with it. One might grow up and figure out this world and what makes it tick. And as Molly stated earlier. . .they’re slated for a dumpster anyways. Put them to good use. What are you going to do. . .make a million little John Doe tombstones and bury each and every egg in its own little gravesite? Okay, sarcasm aside, Michael J Fox is a better person to bring Stem Cells Research out in the open than Homar J Simpson. He’s loved, admired, and honest. The world is a better place with him in it. . .even with Parkisons. So put your hypocritical beliefs in your back pocket and really open your eyes. Stop being lead around by the nose by someone with a motive that you are not aware of or might not agree with.

    Hail to the Free Thinkers

    You really need to learn the facts.

    It is NOT an egg. It’s an embryo, and an embryo is a fertilized egg. Let me spell this out more clearly. A fertilized egg is an egg that a sperm has already entered. If we were just talking about eggs, I don’t think there would be any controversy here or anywhere.

    Religious fanantics haven’t told you when life begins. God has. But, that being said, as a majority of people don’t recognize His authority anymore, if you want to look to science, you can. Science has now shown when life begins, and that’s when an egg is fertilized and becomes an embryo. The question has stopped being, “When does life begin?” The big question now is, “When does that life become human?” (Incidentally, God has the answer to that one, too.)

    Another thing that bothers me is so many people quoting that frozen embryos are “slated for a dumpster” or “slated for destruction.” This also is not neccessarily true. Ask any fertility doctor or clinic. Most people that have frozen embryos in storage have various reasons they have not or cannot use their embryos. Most people do not want their embryos destroyed. There are many people who are more than willing to “adopt” these embryos (people who cannot make their own viable embryos, even with fertility treatments), but the laws in most states and the rules that govern a lot of hospitals holding them in storage do not allow for this. There are some organizations that are helping couples to “adopt” embryos. I certainly wish there were more. The laws also do not allow for destruction of these embryos (at this time). They are protected. Hmmmmm, I wonder why?

    Mollie, I apologize for not staying on target here, but it really bothers me when people just make up stuff or only say what they’ve heard and don’t actually have any facts. Yeah, “Hail to the Free Thinkers” all right.

    What I can say about the issue at hand is that, YES, most definitely, the media does not treat religious issues accurately (or a lot of other issues). They’ve got their own political agenda. I live in Missouri, and as most know, I will be voting on a “stem cell” amendment – that means an amendment to our State Constitution – it’s a very serious matter to amend a constitution. I was offended when I received letters in the mail a few months back from an organization asking for my support on this amendment. It was endorsed by a former governor or senator (can’t remember which). Why was I offended? Because the letter never mentioned embryonic stem cell research. I’m sorry I did not keep the letter (but I don’t like keeping such offensive material), as I would love to quote from it right now. But I do remember the letter saying they were endorsing all forms of stem cell research, without actually using the “e” word. Technically, they’re off the hook, but it was obvious to me that they were trying very hard not to use the word “embryonic.” There will be a large proportion of gullible people who will buy into that, who may be against embryonic stem cell research, but would look at this letter and say, “Yes, I support stem cell research.” I found it quite deceptive. I realize this is not the media, but an organization on one side of the issue, so I’m still not sticking with the issue at hand. I don’t have a television, so I get my news from the radio and internet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this organization has had big support by the media. Maybe another Missourian can shed more light on that.

    Thanks for listening.

  • http://watchpost.blogspot.com Tyler Simons

    The two points I made — that there is no need to exaggerate when tackling someone’s comments and that the media do a poor job of distinguishing between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research — are points I have been wanting to make for a while.

    I, of course, agree with your first point, even if I, in my sinful nature, fail to always follow my own advice. I’ve already explained how I think you made that point rather carelessly and the ideological aftertaste that, in doing so, you risk leaving with people who disagree with you politically on key parts of this issue. Again, I think that fighting misrepresentation in the opinion-based media is a bit too big of a task for such a focused blog. If you really do want to go down that road, though, I hope you’ll highlight some of the gross misrepresentations coming from advocates for positions you’re more friendly to as well.

    I’ve received more than a few private emails today that thanked me for making this point — from people who didn’t know that Jim Talent and Michael Steele support stem cell research. They believed that they opposed it all. Journalists can afford to be more precise.

    Leaving aside all but one snarky comment about the misinformed people who sent those emails and the apparently mind-numbing effectiveness of the Democratic political machine, (!) I’m inclined to say that, while you might have a point here, getting out the word about Talent’s and Steele’s positions on stem cell research, in all their nuance, is more the task of Talent’s and Steele’s communications strategists than the news media itself. How hard would it be to come up with a 30 second spot with the candidate spelling out his position on embryonic stem cell research?

    Can you blame the media for the reluctance of conservative candidates to talk much about embryonic stem cells? I’d guess that the media whiz kids working for the GOP made a decision to keep relatively quiet about their opposition to ESR ’cause they realize that its limited (and, arguably, morally correct) acceptance of stem cell research in general still might be seen by important constituencies to be opposed to scientific progress — this conversation always comes around to those clumps of eight cells sitting in a freezer waiting to be destroyed because the parents don’t need them.

    I’m probably wrong, because if avoiding the real discussion is the Republican strategy, it’s a pretty easy one to exploit. The Democrats, unlike, I agree, the news media, are totally allowed to portray the GOP as anti-SCR if the Republicans aren’t going to answer. However, at the end of the day, I’m not so convinced that it’s the media’s job to answer Democratic attacks. Are the Republicans really trying hard enough to get the right message out? Is the media participating in some big conspiracy to ignore important conservative talking points? I doubt that they could, even if they wanted to.

  • Lenora

    After I made my last post, I saw several more come up. I’m almost positive that it was the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures that sent me the two letters, just to clarify.

    Catman, I can’t say for the others, but I found this blog from looking at Google News. It was a highlighted news headline.

    Mollie, I was a little confused when you said people didn’t know Jim Talent and Michael Steele support stem cell research. At first I thought you were saying they support embryonic stem cell research. Now I realize that’s not what you were saying. Just to clarify, am I correct when I say that they support all forms of stem cell research except embryonic stem cells?

    Tyler, there is not a person in the media who does not know about the the huge controversy raging over this issue. For a reporter to say “stem cell research” and not clarify between that and “embryonic stem cell research,” I believe is almost always purposefully done.
    God bless.

  • http://kingslynn.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    Having watched the ad, I suspect that what we are seeing is the side effects of his medication. Dyskinesia – involuntary movements- is a very typical side effect of L-Dopa treatment. One of the problems with media coverage of medicine is that they have a hard time with the way medicine mimics religion: where it is complex and ambiguous. Parkinson’s is difficult and subtle, and the treatments only sort of work. It’s even harder when a complex and subtle disease is stacked against a complex and subtle subject like stem cell research, particularly since the tendency from the less knowing in either field are wont to look at it as the source of a miracle without consequences.

  • Tim Townsend

    Had to jump back in again after reading a couple posts. Walter Snyder wrote:

    Neither of the two largest papers in Missouri have delved into the self-interests of the single largest contributor, a charity founded by a Kansas City billionaire who is heavily invested in biotechnology and who would likely prosper greatly if the amendment passes.

    Walter may not have read our story about the Stowerses. Or about the money spent on the amendment fight.

    Dan Crawford followed with a vignette about a professor who spoke about stem cell research at his church and who listed a series of questions the press has failed to ask:

    Where is the evidence for all the claims for embryonic stem cells? What makes them “superior” to regular stem cells? What can regular non-embryonic stem cells do? It was true two years ago; it’s true today.

    Dan apparently hasn’t seen our scientific coverage of the issue, or our coverage of some of the moral questions involved. Generalizations about reporting of the variety that Dan makes in his post seem to me to be as irresponsible and lazy as the crap journalism he purports to have studied for 52 years.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Hello folks,

    Google News carries a wide variety of sites linked to news, including commentary sites and even advocacy journalism sites. Google does not carry blogs that are merely personal opinion.

    This is a news-commentary site, written by and for professional journalists (and lots of other people listening in).

  • Brad Townley

    Limbaugh has a history of offending and ridiculing people he disagrees with. Additionally, Limbaugh is a hypocrite when it comes to following his own advice. Case in point, his behavior with regard to his drug addiction (OxyContin, Lorcet and hydrocodone) while preaching zero tolerance; and his bashing of ACLU while declaring that he was “targeted” when his own civil rights were abused (the Viagra incident).

    MJ Fox didn’t take his medication to show the real toll of PD on his body. Is that considered exaggeration?

  • Richard

    Self-righteous, sanctimonious, insensitive, hypocritical bastard.

  • bruce reynolds

    You god-sucking freaks have drunk way too much coolaid and missed out on the wine. Get real. Noone killed more babies than god. He got off on it. Never saw a first born he didn’t want to smite. And take the bible literally, for gods sake, that’s what you always rant on. Show me where in the bible a zygot or blastocyst is a human being. In fact, in the old school, humanness did not come into effect until a child had reached the age of reason. Applying that fact, none of you bible thumping whack jobs have yet achieved even a modicum of humanity. Go torture something, that’s where your version of truth comes from.

    No, a group of undifferentiated cells, ‘fetal’ or otherwise, is not a human. That’s just silly. For example, if one were to assume that a ‘soul’ entered the first cell at the moment of conception, then what happens when that cell divides? Does each cell have a soul? Do identical twins share a soul? If a group of cells is cut in half, does each half get half a soul? If i take a group of cells from my mouth and grow a clone, does that clone have a soul? Does it get part of my soul? If a cell falls off my body, a cell which is genetically identical to a single stem cell which you want to give voting rights to, does that cell which fell have a soul? If i mix the genome of a human with that of a chimp, does the result have a soul? And does the chimp, with 99% of the genome of the human, have a soul? Or 99% of a soul? And if there’s no such thing as a soul, then where does all this religious crap go anyway? Or does a soul only happen when an egg is fertilized by sex between one man and one woman? That being the case, an egg fertilized in the lab has no soul, is not ‘human’, and can be used for whatever purpose deemed useful.

    Wanna talk moral? Talk about the biblical passages about killing your slaves or selling your daughters. That’s the word of god. Get thee to the western wall and stone the bitch. Or put her to death on her father’s door for having burst her hymen before the wedding night. Kill all the males, that gives god a woodie. And take your brother’s widow as your second wife. God said, so shaddup.

    The purpose of any organised religion is to make the leader rich. The more sheep to be fleeced, the better. Ergo, more pregnant ewes. And god loves a nice mercedes. Better get a couple.

    And don’t forget, you demented big-haired misanthropic defects, jesus was black! and bi! and he never said a damned word about marriage. His chick was a hooker. Oh, and he said not to prey in public, like the hypocrits, but go into your closet.

    The mullahs and taliban are a big problem. The american version is a bigger worry. Why do you hate our freedoms?

    Jesus said ‘render unto ceasar that which is ceasar’s’. So have your damn churches pay their property taxes, pay your own income tax, and stop trying to cram your skewed bogus religious crap into my constitution. America is a religion-neutral country. If you don’t like that, move to frigging afghanistan and run around with a sword like the other nuts.

    bruce

  • kjones

    I think that Rush Limbaugh complaining that MJF is shilling for another party, is one of the most laughable lines I have ever heard. Is’nt that what he does every day on his radio show for the Republican party? Limbaugh and his followers are the most hipicritical people I have had the displeasure to speak with or listen to. They will do anything to stay or keep their “team” in power, regardless of looking at what is best for our country.

  • http://just.shelleypowers.com Shelley

    You spend a great deal of your post on ‘embryonic destroying’ stem cell research and how Fox sure looked like he was exaggerating to you, then tell people to comment on the media coverage only, because this blog doesn’t get into the issues.

    Is this an example of Christian journalism?

    I would say the focus of your blog is to compliment journalism that agrees with your viewpoint, and passive-aggressively dispute that which does not.

  • Mason Beecroft

    I think many of the comments on this topic reflect the need for stem cell research into the possibility of reversing effects of a lobotomy, or maybe it is just learned stupidity (I now suspect there is such a thing). If doctors can reverse a vasectomy, then certainly the great, learned philosophers and ethicists of our day like Bruce and others have hope. Sorry, the scotch got the better of me. I actually enjoy reading most of the topics, but this one really demonstrates the depth and nature of discourse in our culture.

  • David

    Mollie:

    Having raised this issue previously on GR (as a non-journalist), I appreciate you pointing out the issue (as a professional). Personally, it seems to me that the manner in which the MSM fails to make the distinction is a rather obvious example of media bias.

    As every beginning speech student learns, debates are won or lost on DEFINITIONS and/or LOGIC. Failing to report the distinctions (definitions) effectively steers the conclusions.

    I had only heard about Limbaugh’s comment second or third hand (on an “all news” Los Angeles radio broadcast and an independent San Diego rock radio DJ) this morning and, needless to say, missed some important details (which I suspected).

    For the record, I am not a fan of talk radio in general and Rush Limbaugh in particular. But I do puzzle over why so many people object to using labratory animals for experimentation but have no qualms about embryonic destruction.

  • Theresa

    I find it sadly amazing that most people are unable to discuss this topic without attacking the person who observed:

    “my real beef with this and almost all other stories dealing with embyronic-destroying stem-cell research is that they fail to distinguish between stem-cell research and embryonic-destroying stem-cell research.”

    Very few coments on MZ’s observation, but lots of comments based on personal baggage.

  • Kurt

    Let’s implant the embryos and let them grow into humans and then ask them how they feel about embryonic stem cell research. Then we’ll train them to be soldiers and go kill men, women and children overseas. Because, like, screw those kids over there.

  • Emily

    Parkinson’s is a nasty disease. Even if Michael J. Fox did somehow “exaggerate” his symptoms by not taking his medications, it is his prerogative to do so and show the American public what Parkinson’s looks like. He filmed a political ad, which is necessarily a matter of opinion and advocacy for a cause.

    That said, the Washington Post and all journalists should be more even-handed in how they deal with the controversy. Stem cells come from various sources, as other comments above indicated. Failing to distinguish between the types of stem cells means that doctors or politicians who support only certain kinds of stem-cell research are wrongly characterized as opposing any stem-cell research and thus opposing any scientific progress.

    The AP Stylebook mandates that newspapers use the phrase “anti-abortion” instead of “pro-life.” When people who oppose abortion complain, the AP and local media respond that using “pro-life” to refer to those who oppose abortion is disingenuous, because there are other areas in which one may be pro-life (i.e., opposing the death penalty and war), and opposing abortion does not necessarily make one entirely pro-life.

    Why can AP be so technical about the abortion debate, but not about this debate?

    Opposing embryonic stem-cell research does not necessarily mean that one opposes all stem-cell research. Journalists need to be clear about this, for the sake of fairness.

  • Phil de Haan

    Mollie,

    Wow, things really took off on getreligion while I was away. Guess you can thank Google News for that! In reading your first post and the many comments that followed I was struck by this passage from your post:

    When I had seen him on a television show a few weeks ago, he seemed to have been doing well — or at least along the lines of what I have come to expect when I see him every few months. Like all good campaign commercials, this one was emotionally gripping. I wondered, though, whether Fox and the commercial’s producers had overdone it a bit in their attempt to be politically effective.

    This strikes me as critical and seems to me a place where many issues become conflated. If you support embryonic stem cell research than it’s easy to see Fox’s ad as simply telling the truth about a horrible disease. If you do not, then it becomes easier to wonder if he was faking it, if he had “overdone it a bit.”

    But to ask that question is to attempt to see into the heart of a man and that’s always a difficult proposition. I won’t attempt to see into Fox’s heart. But I will say that my father-in-law has Parkinsons and some days it’s far worse than others. Stress has an amazing impact on his symptoms. So to assume motive for Michael’s symptoms seems somewhat uncharitable to me.

    As to how the media has covered religion vis a vis this issue I think the topic of Fox, Limbaugh, Parkinsons and TV ads has enough drama without me trying to add religion to the mix!

    I do enjoy the blog though and I appreciate your attempts to think with care and precision about the interesections of religion, media and society.

  • http://derekpgilbert.com/ Derek Gilbert

    I haven’t seen anyone report on the latest SurveyUSA poll that shows support for Missouri’s Amendment 2 evaporating:

    Support For Stem Cell Amendment Begins to Erode, Opposition Increases; Males Bail: In a referendum today, 10/24/06, 2 weeks to Election Day, Constitutional Amendment 2, the Stem Cell Initiative, has more support than opposition, but: with 18% of Likely Voters Not Yet Certain how they will vote on the Amendment, and with some demographic groups dramatically shifting their position on the Amendment, the contest is too volatile, and too unpredictable, to reliably forecast. Twelve days ago, in an identical SurveyUSA poll, Amendment 2 passed, 57% ‘Certain’ to vote Yes, 27% ‘Certain’ to vote No. Since then, ‘Certain Yes’ is down to 45%, ‘Certain No’ is up to 36%; a 30-point cushion on 10/12 is today a 9-point cushion.

    [...]
    In Central MO, the Amendment had passed by 32 points, now is defeated by 6, a 38-point swing.

    I wonder how the Michael J. Fox ad will affect this trend.

  • Theresa

    Interesting comments, Emily. I wonder, though, if differentiating between stem-cell research and embryonic stem-cell research forces one to recognize that there is a difference. It appears from the previous comments that some people are violently opposed to making a distinction. One would think that if the AP Stylebook mandates how an abortion stance is to be described, then the various types of stem-cell research would also need to be delineated.

    I’m surprised at the comments allowed on this blog. I wouldn’t allow flat-out personal insults on my blog. We need to be able to discuss things, not attack each other.

  • Phil de Haan

    The daily briefing from the Poynter Institute has some nice resources today on stem cells, Parkinsons, the Fox commercial, a commercial responding to the Fox commercial and much more.

  • Matt S

    Mollie,

    Limbaugh was factually wrong on many levels. The symptoms you see in the ad are those of the *medicine*, not those of Parkinson’s. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are rigidity and *tremors*, not tics and spasms. Diagnosis over the TV is hard enough if you have training, if you are ignorant it is better to leave the job to others.

    You are wrong because I never accused Limbaugh of saying Fox faked the *disease*. He did say that the things we *saw* were faked (exageration is a method of faking) symptoms.

    As for the passage from Fox’s autobiography, that does not suggest that the symptoms were exagerated, it suggests that he showed them for what they actual are, that he did not *cover them up*. So it seems that you and Limbaugh are now upset with Fox for his *honesty*, for his presenting the disease as it is. (Again, you are both wrong because what you see in the ad are the symptoms of the medicine, not the disease directly.)

    You quote Fox as writing: I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling.

    You then decided that he lays off his medicine for *all* public appearance to elicit sympathy. Can we assume that anything you do once for one specific reason you do all the time for other reasons?

  • Chris Bolinger

    Mollie, Terry, et al. — Can you delete posts that are not on-topic? It is frustrating to wade through the muck here, and it is obvious that some folks have no interest in following any guidelines or decorum.

    To go on-topic myself, I believe that when people in the press fail to distinguish between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research, they do so deliberately. That tactic makes it easier to demonize those who are on the “wrong” side politically and avoid touchy religious and scientific topics such as when life begins and what should be done with embryos.

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    I can’t tell from the online version, but I suppose it’s possible that this comes from that den of complete immunity: the Style section. Still, I’m not sure if even the Style section permits such gross mischaracterization of Limbaugh’s comments. Limbaugh didn’t say Fox imagined he had Parkinson’s. He said Fox exaggerated the effects. When someone makes an incendiary comment that you want to criticize, exaggerating the comment serves no one. What Limbaugh said — though I must admit I thought exactly the same thing — was bad enough. At least I only told my husband. And now you all. Let’s keep it between us, if that’s all right.

    In polite society, we’re not allowed to wonder whether someone with a horrible disease is playing it up for sympathy or political gain. We’re all supposed to permit the victim to say or do whatever he wants. You lose a son in combat, you’re an expert in foreign policy. You develop a debilitating disease, you’re an expert in bioethics. It may not be fair, but that’s how the game works.

    That might be how the game works–but that doesn’t make the game right. Michael J. was on a news program like 60 Minutes a few years ago (when he left Spin City) and he took pains to not show the effects of Parkinson’s–even taking time out from filming the interview to take his meds and then resume.

    Which makes one wonder why ESCR is so necessary if pharmaceuticals are effective–or would that be a hated hat tip to an “evil” entity?

    Must be election day coming up, given the strong opinions on this subject–and the lack of objective reporting and writing.

    The Wall Street Journal did a piece a few months ago that stated the barrier to ESCR is not the government but the lack of stem cell lines. It seems that way too many people still have qualms about destroying stem cells and the law allows them control over those stem cells, thus there are few lines available, whether or not the government or private enterprise pays for the research.

    BTW, what is the real issue–who should fund ESCR, or ESCR itself? Bush limited the lines the federal government would fund, but that doesn’t stop any state government or private enterprise from funding such research, which is ongoing even as we debate–what?

  • Jennifer

    “Even if Fox has admitted that he lays off his medication before public appearances where he’s trying to elicit support. ”

    He hasn’t. He’s ‘admitted’ sometimes reduces his medication to reduce the side effects of the medication (the swaying), not to exaggerate symptoms. The swaying, etc., is a symptom of the medicine, not the Disease.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Not true. I quoted his own words. I’ll quote them again:

    I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling.

  • jane

    MO amentdment is NOT about stem cell research! It is about CLONING./ They tagged is with a misnomer to get out the vote./ The whole thing is a sham. Media do your research/.

  • Jennifer

    That’s not honest- he has not admitted he “lays off the medication” before “public appearances.”

    He ‘admitted’ doing so once, when testifying before congress about the disease.

    NOT the same thing, and not an honest portrayal of his behavior.


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