Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Message Is the Message

Yes, I know Marshall McLuhan is spinning in his grave. Which makes this Thursday no different than any other day that someone has invoked or remixed the most famous sentence that ever emerged from McLuhan's typewriter.

To support the title of this post, I'm sharing two clips from my favourite show on anything, C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

Before I do, I want you to put your own personal opinions on these terrifically divisive subjects on the shelf and really listen to what each of the panelists is saying. Taken together, the following clips provide a master class in message discipline.

This one, on both sides I think, is how message discipline is done well:

Washington Journal 10.22.08
Frank Schubert, Yes on CA Prop. 8, Co-Campaign Manager & Kate Kendell, No on CA Prop 8 Campaign discuss California's ballot initiative on same-sex marriage

This one, also on both sides I think, is how tangential elements of your argument can subsume the core of it:

Washington Journal 10.23.08
Crystal Clinkenbeard, No on Colorado Amendment 48 & Bob Enyart, Colorado Right to Life, Director focus on Colorado Amendment 48, known as the "personhood" amendment, defines the term "person" to "include any huan being from the moment of fertilization."

In the case of the second clip featuring the folks from Colorado, Mr. Pro appealed a little too much to the emotions associated with his debate and, though extremely bold in places, he also came off as a lil bit irrational to me. Mrs. Con, on the other hand, raised her hands in defense, but failed to counterattack what she called mischaracterizations with any substantial data of her own.

Having said all that...I hope both measures are soundly defeated. Like the Celtics crushing the Lakers in Game 6. (Yes, I think I'm finally over the NBA Finals.)


Bob Enyart said...

Dear the_capital_t, this is Mr. Pro aka Bob Enyart from Colo RTL re our Personhood Amendment 48 to define person as "any huan being from the moment of fertilization."

Feel free to give an indication of what I may have said that "came off as a lil bit irrational..." It would be best to call into my radio show next week M-F 5pm E.T. at 800-8Enyart. I'd like to make one of my arguments here:

Abortion for incest is cruel. The abortion clinic covers up the crime of incest, and typically sends the victim back home to her rapist. Even worse, they often send her home with her rapist, the criminal who brought her to the clinic. Abortion for incest emboldens a criminal to rape his young relative, helps him escape being caught, tempts him to repeat his crime, and is not compassionate because it kills a baby and increases the woman's suffering. Personhood for the unborn helps people understand there are no hard cases when deciding to protect a baby. You don't kill a baby because her father is a criminal. Also, abortion clinics statewide refuse to comply with mandatory reporting laws for suspected child rape. Colorado RTL brought audio taped evidence of that failure to Colorado's attorney general's office, and Republican John Suthers chooses to look the other way. Personhood will reduce crimes against women and children.

But thanks for noting the C-SPAN discussion!

-Mr. Pro

the_capital_t said...

@bob enyart: Wow. Thanks for stopping by.

What I found to be irrational was the invitation for people to bring the baby to you. I won't quote you directly as I recognize that I'm paraphrasing.

It struck me as irrational because I didn't immediately hear a follow-through for how that invitation could be accepted. As if an emotional appeal was being made without providing a viable means of accepting it.

Furthermore, I felt like you were making an argument for your issue, but not exactly for your ballot initiative. In general, I heard plenty of moral outrage, but not a lot of unemotive hard evidence. For example, where do you draw your claim from about the practice of abortion clinics vis a vis incest? Your argument reads and sounds very anecdotal, but not very fact-based.

Having said all that...I do appreciate you taking the time to find this hole-in-the-wall blog and volunteering your two cents. It was very much unexpected as I mostly wanted to share with world my interest in the Washington Journal. Which I find to be an invaluable, unfiltered source of public opinion. I'd be curious, if you care to indulge me, to hear about your exepriences on the show. Did you find it, in any way, biased? How did it compare with other appearances on national broadcast media outlets?

Bob Enyart said...


It is good to chat with you. Regarding the offer from my wife and I to care for an abandoned baby, I saw the debate online, and I made a specific effort to tell people how they could reach me. As you wrote:

"What I found to be irrational was the invitation for people to bring the baby to you... It struck me as irrational because I didn't immediately hear a follow-through for how that invitation could be accepted. As if an emotional appeal was being made without providing a viable means of accepting it."

tct, when I made that offer, I repeated that I am a director of Colorado Right To Life, making clear that a viewer could easily contact me. Short of giving my cell phone #, I thought that was an explicit way of giving people contact information for me.

tct: "where do you draw your claim from about the practice of abortion clinics vis a vis incest? Your argument reads and sounds very anecdotal, but not very fact-based."

tct, along with other CRTL officials, we met with the Colorado State Attorney's office and presented audiotaped phone calls to Colorado abortion clinics where a 14-year old girl scheduling an abortion told the clinic that she was impregnated by a man in his 20s. These clinics systematically avoided any requirement to report. Further, a longtime law enforcement officer at that meeting who specializes in sexual crimes corroborated what we claimed, that abortion clinics in our state have NEVER reported suspected sexual molestation of a minor. NEVER. And that is true nationwide. But my experience is that pro-choice people care nothing about abortionists violating mandatory reporting laws and sending the victims home with their rapists.

And having said all that, I to appreciate you chatting. And I agree that the Washington Journal is a valuable source of public opinion, even if we do have to listen to a certain percentage of calls about the Illuminati.

I found Pedro to be fair, and the callers somewhat evenly split between pro and con. I was recently interviewed by CBS News and they say they have a Personhood segment that will air on the CBS Evening News. We'll see. And today, quotes me criticizing on McCain. If you noticed on WJ, I criticized McCain during the show (he's authorized funding of 300,000 abortions). Some of that info appears on American Right To Life's site,

Thanks again,
-Bob Enyart

the_capital_t said...

@bob enyart: I first listened to this debate on CSPAN radio so my initial experience was a bit limited. I've since gone back and watched the video, too.

I would report that I heard you remind viewers of your title when extending the offer to take in any unloved babies, but it came across as more of a Superman pledge than a reasonable plan. I think that statement would have been much more rational sounding if it would have been followed with info to the effect of "I am the Director of X,Y,Z and we have a program in place where we work with adoption agencies to place babies. Some members of my organization, including myself, have taken babies in and will take babies in. You can learn more about that program on our website..." To me, that would have been explicit. And it would have been a profoundly reasonable solution. If nothing else, you should have referred people to your web site. And asked the host to post the URL on screen for the TV viewers. I believe you offered a what, but not a clear how. The how is often the most important part.

RE: the incest...You've listed one example here. And you referenced one case in Cali, but I feel like you're asking me to make a big leap to believe that there is a systematic problem. What studies have been conducted about this practice to confirm that it has never been reported? Is there a part of any organizational charter which mandates that Planned Parenthood, etc do not report suspected sex crimes?

Further...I think you're tackling a very complicated issue (privacy rights) in order to make your argument. From what I understand, there is a cultural reluctance across the board (not just in the case of sex crimes) to step on privacy rights. Feels to me like this part of your argument might be tangentially dangerous. Maybe.

One thought: the strongest part of your argument was in the description of the fertilization process. Where you talked about how every other sperm knows when life begins. While I'm inclined to disagree with you in general, I found that very compelling.

Another thought: when you make your argument, you hit the words "baby" and "children" VERY hard and VERY frequently. It comes across as an obvious emotional appeal. If that's what you're trying to do, then well done. But if you're trying to make a rational argument, that tactic appears to be detrimental.

Lastly, glad to hear the WJ experience is as balanced as it seems. This election season has been a nice break from calls about the Illuminati. Lol.

Thanks for tips about other coverage of Prop. 48. Will be interested to learn which way the people of Colorado vote on it.