Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ad misericordiam arguments....Democracy Now! today

Listening to Democracy Now! today, I found that they lapsed into something they usually avoid: arguments not based on evidence and logic but on appeal to emotions. Specifically, in a generally very good piece about tort reform and about how the notion of frivolous lawsuits has been exploited by the right, they included this piece, about a couple whose son was born with cerebral palsy. The problem wasn't sympathizing with people who either have or are effected by cerebral palsy, or opening ones self up to the possibility that medical malpractice may have been involved. The problem was that, especially compared to some of the other stories covered in the show related to tort reform, their case appeared to me to be very weak and to be argued based on appeal to general outrage rather than to specific wrong done to them.

The woman was 9 months pregnant with twins. She noticed that there was less movement. She called her doctor who said that it probably wasn't anything. Then, the next day, she noticed that there still was less movement, so she called the doctor again, and was given an ultra-sound that resulted in an emergency c-section. One of her twins was born with cerebral palsy. Now, the way that they explained it didn't actually give any explanation as to why waiting a single day was wrong. In fact, not only was waiting one day wrong according to them but waiting an hour and a half in a waiting room was wrong, and was equally guilty. I suppose that not being able to instantly teleport themselves to the doctors office makes the doctor culpable for whatever harm occurred.

Instead of actual arguments about why the doctor doing this was wrong in doing so, the guilt of the doctor was assumed, and then in the remaining section, the idea that states can put limits on cash awards was challenged, and the insurance industry was invoked as well as capitalism in general, corporate greed, etc...

While corporate greed etc... may be issues, a person can't just come in off the street and put whatever they want forward, then list a lot of stock rhetoric, and expect to be proven right and given whatever they want. In court, and hopefully everywhere else, they have or should have to give actual reasons as to why they're right that involve actual evidence. Otherwise, there's no limit to basic selfishness and self interest running rampant, with folks looking at whatever system in place as being a sort of piggy bank that they can just take money out of by saying the right things. And being shocked, morally shocked and outraged, when people refuse to give it to them because they have no real reasons for doing so.

Reasons are important. The thing is that no matter how you feel about political issues the other side has a right to defend themselves, to present evidence for their innocence no matter what they're being accused of or who they are, or who the community or a section of the community thinks about who they are.

Democracy Now! is very good in that they usually don't make naked appeals to emotion. They have their viewpoint, but it's mostly based on solid journalism that backs up and supports that viewpoint. It's especially sad to see it when for example the case about the woman with third degree burns from McDonalds' coffee is a so much more compelling story of someone getting hurt and the media and ideologues distorting it for their own purposes.

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