Friday, May 19, 2017

Issue storytelling done by a storyteller

Political messaging comes in many forms, from overt advertising, viral videos, pop songs, TV satire, and so much more. When it’s done right, it can influence opinion and voting behaviour. The best issue messages come from proven storytellers, and the video above is an excellent example of that.

The video is called “UNLOCKED”, and was made in support of Planned Parenthood by “screenwriter, film and television director, film and television producer, comic book author, and composer” Joss Whedon. He clearly knows what he’s doing.

Over three minutes, Whedon masterfully shows two entirely different realities for three women: One in which rightwingers succeed in their campaign to close down Planned Parenthood, and the other in which the organisation can continue providing the important health services they provide, ending with the direct question: “What world do you want?”

The answer to that question really is about politics, sure, but even more it’s about simple humanity and human decency. While it is inflammatory to say so, it’s nevertheless true that rightwingers who want to end Planned Parenthood are okay with a world in which women die or suffer needlessly. Those who support Planned Parenthood are not.

Rabid anti-abortion people want to “de-fund” Planned Parenthood because, they say, giving the organisation money for women’s health services frees up other, non-government money to be used for providing abortions. Only about 4%, more or less, of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are related to abortion, but to fervent anti-abortion activists, the women who benefit from the 96% of the services related to women’s health should suffer.

It seems to me that Planned Parenthood’s rightwing opponents can be broadly divided into two categories. The first are the True Believers, who are almost always religiously activist conservative Christians (Protestant and Catholic) who are fervently opposed to abortion, and often contraception, too. There’s no reasoning with this crowd, and no compromise is even remotely possible.

The other, possibly bigger, group is made up of Opportunistic Opponents, mainly politicians who exploit the crusade against Planned Parenthood for personal political gain: They feel that they can tap into the rightwing crusade as a way of fooling True Believers into thinking they’re as anti-abortion as they are.

It’s entirely possible that among the Opportunistic Opponents are people who really do oppose abortion on “moral grounds” possibly for reasons not based on regurgitated religious doctrine. But here’s the thing: In the roughly 40 years I’ve been paying close attention to politics, often participating in it, I have never—ever—met anyone who is “pro-abortion”, despite the defamatory rhetoric used by the rightwing. Not once.

Instead, mainstream people, regardless of party, believe, as President Clinton used to put it, abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”. Supporting the right to choose and access to abortion is not the same as supporting abortion itself.

Instead, mainstream people support age-appropriate sex education to help prevent teenagers from creating unintended pregnancies, as well as life skills education to teach young people how to deal with societal pressure to have sex, that “no means no”, and so on. We also support the right to full access to birth control, and that it be free for those who can’t afford it. But if all that fails, we still believe that the choice is between a woman and her doctor, end of story.

Planned Parenthood is involved in that sort of education, as well as providing birth control and related advice, education, and services. Abortion services are a minor part of what they do.

But aside from all that, they also provide the only healthcare that some women—poor women in particular—can get, especially for services like cancer screening. That clearly has nothing to do with abortion.

Personally, I have zero sympathy for those who want to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. Sure, their little fantasy world in which cutting of government funding for Planned Parenthood is morally justifiable must help ease their consciences, but in the real world it would mean that women die. Since no government money can be spent on abortion services (which is stupid in my opinion, but a different topic), then their ability to provide such services is entirely dependent upon being able to raise the money privately. If people didn’t support those abortion services, they wouldn’t give money to Planned Parenthood, and the government funding has nothing to do with that decision—but women’s lives will be sacrificed because of the—let’s be honest here—batshit crazy fantasy of anti-abortion extremists.

No matter how much it drives some rightwingers into a frothing rage, abortion IS legal in the United States. Until and unless that changes, the zealous rightwingers are really demanding that government money provided for vital healthcare be cut off to stop private people from donating money to support a perfectly legal medical procedure. That’s just nuts.

The video above won’t change any rightwingers’ minds, and it doesn’t need to change the minds of those in the Centre or and the Left who support Planned Parenthood. But it could help the huge number of people who really don’t understand what’s really at stake here, and how very, VERY wrong the rightwing is.

And, if I haven’t been abundantly clear already, “I Stand With Planned Parenthood”. I know what world I want, and Planned Parenthood is part of it.

In any case, this video is very well done.

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