Wednesday, June 29, 2022

More on that Roe v Wade feeding frenzy

■ In the New Zealand Herald this morning, Richard Prebble says Christopher Luxon made “politically the exact right decision” in instructing his backbench MP Simon O’Connor to take down his tweet welcoming the reversal of Roe v Wade.

The key word here is “politically”, which is not the same as “morally”. A past master of the political dark arts himself, Prebble tends to view politics through a Machiavellian lens.

As the days pass and the New Zealand media continue to revel in a self-generated feeding frenzy over Roe v Wade, Luxon looks more and more compromised. On Morning Report this morning, he described the US Supreme Court’s decision as “really distressing” and “a real shock”. How does he square this with his professed pro-life beliefs?

His equivocation can only be interpreted as an attempt to ingratiate himself with the woke cabal that seeks to control the national conversation. There would be no inconsistency in Luxon unambiguously affirming his personal stance on abortion while simultaneously making it clear that a change to the abortion laws would not be on National’s agenda under his leadership, but he can’t even bring himself to do that. Conclusion: he lacks the moral courage to stand by his principles.

Two points on which I do agree with Luxon:

He is right to point out that he has repeatedly made it clear that National has no intention to relitigate abortion, but the media refuse to leave the issue alone, no matter how many times he says it. Luxon says he doesn’t want to import the culture wars from overseas but of course he’s whistling in the wind, because they’re here already.

In this instance the conflict is being stoked by media whose motive appears to be primarily ideological. This extends to journalists seeking out MPs who exercised their right to a conscience vote by opposing the 2020 abortion legislation, effectively demanding that they explain their defiance of  ideological orthodoxy and inviting them to recant. There is an ugly undercurrent of authoritarianism here, and it’s highly effective; politicians of all stripes were scuttling for cover. But the witch-hunt (for that’s what it looked like) produced delicious unintended consequences when Labour MPs Rino Tirikatene and Jamie Strange, both of whom voted against the Abortion Legislation Bill, explained that they would have been aborted had their mothers not defied medical advice. Game, set and match, you might think, but no; journalistic hubris is not so easily squelched.

I’m sure Luxon is also correct when he says most people are more concerned with the cost of living than with a judicial decision made 14,000km away and with no direct relevance to New Zealand. But the media no longer reflect the concerns and priorities of ordinary New Zealanders. The world as seen from newsrooms and TV studios in central Wellington and Auckland is very different from the world as seen from living rooms in Opunake, Manurewa and Gore.

■ Simon O’Connor, whose tweet provided abortion rights agitators and their media allies with the flimsy excuse they needed for their display of confected outrage, now offers a confusing and rather contradictory explanation for removing it.

On the one hand, he says he took down his comment because the online reaction was spiralling out of control. But almost in the same breath he says he did it at Luxon’s request, so it appears it wasn’t entirely his own decision and the headline on NewstalkZB’s story – “I have not been gagged” – doesn’t look entirely convincing.

He’s quoted as saying he doesn’t resile from his comment that the reversal of Roe v Wade was a good day, yet he now admits it was a “misstep” and “a distraction from our core messaging” and said he would apologise to the National caucus. This political jargon comes straight out of the spin doctor’s playbook and can mean only one thing: that the party control freaks have got to him and he’s capitulated. Why O’Connor should feel it necessary to apologise to caucus when abortion is supposed to be a personal conscience issue isn’t explained.

In the circumstances, his insistence that he hasn’t been gagged has a hollow ring. This is particularly disappointing in the light of his impassioned advocacy for free speech in the House recently, and will leave people wondering (not for the first time) where his party stands on issues of individual freedom. National looks like a party that demands conformity above all else.

And here’s another disturbing thing. If the online reaction to O’Connor’s tweet was overwhelmingly hostile, as seems obvious, then removing it was a triumph for the online equivalent of the so-called heckler’s veto, whereby agitators and disrupters negate people’s freedom of speech by the simple expedient of shouting them down. Asked what he had to say to people who agreed with his tweet, O’Connor said they could email him – but he must know that’s not the same. When you withdraw from open, public debate for fear of an adverse reaction, the other side has won by default.

Having said that, I feel sympathy for O’Connor because he must feel isolated. In a supposedly free society where all he did was express a legitimate opinion, he shouldn’t be in that position. But the media wanted to make an example of him, and they succeeded. He has been hung out to dry.

■ Ah yes, the media again. TV Three’s nightly wokefest The Project began last night with a vox-pop in the streets in which the people interviewed were overwhelmingly against the US Supreme Court’s decision. Quelle surprise! But the problem with vox pops, of course, is that they don’t tell us a thing, since the respondents are chosen at random and it’s always possible that some ended up on the cutting floor because they didn’t give the answer the producers were looking for.  Never mind; it served the desired purpose of giving the impression New Zealanders are united in their firm belief that abortion is a human right guaranteed by the US Constitution, which is what the overturned Roe v Wade judgment argued - not that the question would have been put to them in those terms. 

Then The Project rolled out the writer Catherine Robertson, who was presented as an authority on abortion for no better reason than that she’s one of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealand women who have had one. (What’s different is that Robertson is prepared to go on record about it, as she did here.) On The Project, nodding heads and murmurs of assent from the panellists as Robertson held forth served to reinforce a familiar aura of self-reinforcing groupthink. But here’s a question: would The Project have featured a woman who had had an abortion and now bitterly regretted it? There are such women, and I’m sure any pro-life organisation could have put the show’s producers in touch with one. Perhaps The Project mislaid their phone numbers.

That raises another point. In all the white noise in the media about Roe v Wade, one voice has been conspicuously absent – namely, that of the countless unborn children denied life, mostly because of “mental health” justifications that even the Abortion Supervisory Committee was forced to admit were often spurious. But of course the victims of abortion are forever silent, which is convenient for pro-choice activists. There are plenty of people prepared to speak for them, however, and they are silent not by choice, but because the media denies them a platform.

One last thing. In recent years there has been a striking change in the tone of pro-abortion rhetoric. Abortion is no longer portrayed just as a measure of last resort for desperate women. It is now proudly embraced and celebrated as an assertion of female autonomy. To put it another way, feminism – which was once defined simply as a belief in sexual equality – has taken a grotesque turn and now appears to measure its success in terms of the ease with which society can dispose of its most helpless and vulnerable.  Is this really its crowning achievement?






David McLoughlin said...

I agree strongly with you Karl re the NZ media frenzy. It's being portrayed as if abortion rights here are under threat because of the US Supreme Court. That's utterly bizarre. It seems our media no longer have editorial executives able to rein the hysterical scribes back into reality.

One last thing. In recent years there has been a striking change in the tone of pro-abortion rhetoric. Abortion is no longer portrayed just as a measure of last resort for desperate women. It is now proudly embraced and celebrated as an assertion of female autonomy.

I'm not sure about that Karl. I seem to recall the slogan "my body my choice" being in use for decades now.

Wikipedia, which is ferociously PC if not woke on many matters (so presumably accurate on this topic), has a lengthy page on the slogan which says: "In late 1969 the slogan was coined as a feminist struggle for reproductive rights and subsequently noted by the global feminist struggle."

It is a slogan so familiar to me that, as I walked through the Parliament Protest in February, I chuckled and took photos of some of the many women there with t-shirts emblazoned with "my body my choice." I presumed the "choice" cited referred to the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine rather than abortion, which must have caused apoplexy for the media whose parrot line was that the protesters were a mob of male white supremacists (please don't get me started on all the Māori women and men there with their Tino Rangatiratanga and 1835 flags, never mentioned by the reporters who could only see male white supremacists everywhere).

Anonymous said...

I come from the other side of the abortion debate than you Karl, but I agree with much of what you say about the media and the weird circumlocution Luxon and National are going through on this issue.

As someone who votes National, but is socially liberal, I really don't like the idea of voting for a party lead by a evangelical christian. It's not his views on abortion that I object to, but his lack of a a vision or sense of ambition for NZ. The way he has jettisoning what you'd expect to be quite important to him shows that his desire for power overrides all, even his faith. Slick for sure, but why can't we do better than this?

Max Ritchie said...

Again, we are being badly served by the media. Roe is about the US Constitution, not abortion. There’s no mention of abortion in the US Constitution and therefore any law about it is a matter for the States. And note it’s the US, not NZ. We are also being badly served by our political leaders. Luxon again demonstrates that while he might have been great at marketing peanut butter and air travel, he is hopeless at politics. Even the much admired Seymour couldn’t help getting in on the act, creating a policy for his party on the hoof. Labour of course, formerly the party for Roman Catholics, is into abortion, boots and all. The Church hierarchy seems to be strangely silent. This issue - Roe - is not a matter for us, any more than the abortion rules or constitutions of France or Chad or Mongolia.

LNF said...

I do not understand why there is such an outcry for abortion to be accepted as being fine
How many contraceptive products are available.
Condom, pill, morning after pill, etc. Another option is to delay the act until preventative measures can be availed. Surely behaving like a rutting animal is not a tag people want
Abortion is being added as a form of contraception
Time someone stated something to the effect that if you are not smart enough or responsible enough to manage this aspect of your life, then perhaps the world is better off without your gene pool
And maybe we should look at bringing back hanging

Karl du Fresne said...

For the record, I oppose hanging for the same reason I oppose abortion. It strikes me as weird and contradictory that many of the US states that propose to ban abortion - such as Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Oklahoma - also retain capital punishment. They seem to take a highly selective approach to the sanctity of life.

Hugh Jorgan said...

Karl, I'd be interested in your thoughts on Dita De Boni's opinion piece in the NBR today.

Karl du Fresne said...

Didn't see it Hugh. Behind a paywall.

Odysseus said...

The media beat-up is clearly politically motivated. In the most recent polls Labour has been losing its grip on the female vote (18 to 49) which was previously solidly for Ardern. The Supreme Court decision and reactions to it provide the opportunity to smear Luxon and National as hostile to women's rights and win back this electorally crucial demographic. This being so O'Çonnor's social media post was very foolish and he does indeed owe his colleagues an apology.

Anonymous said...

A minor clarification. O’Connor’s post was to his Facebook page. From there it was copied and posted on Twitter by a Green Party MP who wished to use it for political capital to begin the twisting of the narrative that National was not to be trusted around the laws regarding abortion. Luxon then went into damage control, but make no mistake here, the ones throwing fuel on the bonfire were the desperate amongst Labour and the Greens.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree with your last paragraph more.
I call this phenomenon Toxic Femininity.

Anonymous said...

This would have been a great opportunity for Luxon to remind the media and NZ how democracy is supposed to work: he personally opposes abortion, but he accepts that there was open debate and it was clear the majority of voters do not share his views and therefore he will not only accept it, but defend it as a representative of those people. Show Labour's Maori caucus and Willie "tyranny of the majority" Jackson how it is supposed to be done.

Tinman said...

For the record I don't believe in any "sanctity of life" (Nor does anyone who cheers when they see Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine but that is another story.).

As an old fart I fully support the idea that someone should put me down as soon as I cease being a good bad example.

I also don't have a position on abortion.

I do, however, have a position on the deliberate dishonesty the msm are using to play up this story in an attempt to further abuse those of us who believe in individual responsibility.

I don't like it!

Rob said...

Its extraordinary and as if many Kiwis seem to think we’re part of America. Something similar happened after George Floyd.

Anyways that brings me to my point: why don’t we become the 51st State? Surely accession would be a win-win for everyone? We’d all be Democrats in our colder California, our academics and their woke fellow travellers would feel right at home, One News would become half relevant, Ashley could hook up with Dr Fauci, our rappers with their rappers, Wellywood with Hollywood, the 501s with the Bloods and the Crips. We’d get rid of maths and our kids could buy a house …. in Arkansas. We’d finally get that free trade agreement, although Canada still wouldn’t take our dairy and our national debt could hide behind a decimal point somewhere in Washington. Most importantly free speech and democracy would be guaranteed for a while at least with a conservative Supreme Court willing to uphold the actual Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Eamon Sloan said...

David’s comment:

“I agree strongly with you Karl re the NZ media frenzy. It's being portrayed as if abortion rights here are under threat because of the US Supreme Court. That's utterly bizarre. It seems our media no longer have editorial executives able to rein the hysterical scribes back into reality.”


I may be on a slightly different page to you on some parts of the current abortion and protest debate. I feel the reason the abortion debate here has gone off on the proverbial tangent is that Labour feels the pro-life movement could draw a lot more oxygen and support from the US Supreme Court decision. Rather than take up a lot of space in Karl’s commenting area I have placed my own piece out there. If you read it I hope you would not place me in the hysterical scribe category.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, and while he was at it he should have called out 3 Waters and added the Health reform and stated, unreservedly that, National will repeal any legislation that does not recognise democratic equality for all its citizens, subject only to the usual agreed age and criminal incarceration provisos etc. But of course he didn't, and won't, because he no doubt believes in the mythical 'partnership' and that co-governance is ok, leastwise while there maybe the odd vote in it. Hardly the sort of person you want to be in the trenches with, as he'll pick the expedient of whatever assists in securing his PM aspirations.

As for what the American Supreme Court says on abortion, surely for us here it's an irrelevancy and it's just a media and political beat-up.

Scott said...

Great article Karl. Couldn't agree more 😊

Tom Hunter said...

You may also appreciate this argument from well known US legal blogger (and libertarian), Ilya Somin on the Reason website, A Broader Perspective on "My Body, My Choice":

Similarly, Anglo-American law holds there is no liability if you walk by a baby drowning in a lake and choose not to save her (though some philosophers and legal scholars believe there should be). But, if a fetus has a right to life comparable to that of a baby, then abortion is a stronger case for regulation than the "drowning baby" scenario. In most, though not all, cases (rape is an obvious exception) the pregnant woman had a major role in putting the fetus in a position of jeopardy in the first place, by voluntarily choosing to have unprotected sex.

This makes the situation very different from one where the drowning baby was in peril for reasons having nothing to do with the person who might be able to save it. If you threw the baby in the water, or he ended up there through your negligence, you do indeed have a legal or moral duty to save him.