Sunday, April 29, 2007

Subliminal Advertising

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Eenie, meenie, minie ... lawsuit

"Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go," says a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. This speech may violate the law, rules a federal judge. Hard to believe in a nation with the First Amendment — but welcome to the wild world of hostile-environment law.

Two African-American passengers are suing Southwest, claiming the "eenie, meenie" line violated antidiscrimination law. The original child’s rhyme, it turns out, ended with "catch a nigger by his toe," though for decades it’s been rendered "catch a tiger by the toe" — that’s how I heard it in the 1970s, and how the flight attendant says she learned it.

"Because of [this] history," Judge Kathryn Vratil said that "the phrase ‘eenie, meenie, minie, moe" could reasonably be viewed as objectively racist and offensive." It’s thus up to the jury to "decide whether [the flight attendant’s] remark was racist, or simply a benign and innocent attempt at humor."

Of course, if this ruling is upheld, things can’t stop there. Presumably I’ll be able to sue about references to "a pound of flesh" because they remind me of the anti-Semitism of "The Merchant of Venice" Chinese Americans could sue over "chink in the armor" because "chink" in other contexts, is a racial slur. "Niggardly" which is sometimes confused for a slur, would likewise be punished — not just by public opinion, but by government coercion through threat of massive damages verdicts.

Southwest might escape liability if the jury decides the flight attendant had no racist motive. But how much consolation is that? Would you feel free to say things that might lead to a lawsuit, on the hopes that you could — tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees later — persuade a jury that your intentions were "benign and innocent" ?

This wave of speech suppression began in the 1980s with hostile-work-environment harassment law, which punishes speech that creates a "hostile … or offensive work environment" for employees based on race, religion, sex and so on. This vague standard has been found to potentially cover jokes, political statements, art, religious proselytizing and more.

Now, campus speech codes are being analogously justified as a means of preventing "offensive educational environments"; and the government is punishing speech in bars, airplanes and other places on an "offensive public-accommodations environment" theory. Remember that the next time you say "eenie, meenie" in a restaurant where a waiter or another patron may be offended.

A few weeks ago, The New York Sun attacked free speech from the right, by suggesting that antiwar advocacy be suppressed because it may help our enemies. Now, a federal court attacks free speech from the left, by holding that speech may be punished if it reminds people of bigoted expressions. The notion that a free people must deal even with offensive speech, and that the public deserves to hear all viewpoints, is again under assault from both sides. And if this assault isn’t constantly fought, the censorship will spread — as it has in the strange career of hostile-environment law.


Volokh is professor of law and runs the Volokh Conspiracy Web log

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Media contribution to the dehydration of a nation

Saturday, March 31, will mark the two-year anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death by dehydration.

As hideous as it was, the truth is, long before Terri's case made headlines, the removal of basic care – food and water – was becoming commonplace. It continues to happen every day across our country oftentimes in cases, like Terri's, where the patient does not suffer from any life-threatening condition.

Much of the problem that exists stems from a blind acceptance of misinformation that has moved us from a firm belief in the sanctity of life to a "quality of life" mindset, which says that some lives are not worth living.

The fact that people have started making decisions in place of God, although many religions have chose to remain silent despite their teachings and the fact that God alone is the arbiter of life and death.

The sad fact is we have become a nation that spends money trying to find the perfect body, while ignoring the condition of our collective soul; where altruism seems to be a thing of the past, and moral relativism has become a bona fide religion.

Combined with a popular media selling the notion that killing people in certain conditions is an act of compassion, one can understand why people with disabilities are in danger.

Terri's case is a perfect example.

In fact, most Americans had never heard of Terri Schindler Schiavo when the controversy over her court-ordered death exploded upon the scene in March 2005.

For more than twelve years she had languished, her body slowly deteriorating in the absence of rehabilitative therapy, while the value of her life was litigated in the courts and weighed by legislators. Although she was neither dying nor dependent on machines for her life, many felt the brain-injured woman who relied on a feeding tube for nourishment should die. Because she had no living will, others insisted ending her life amounted to murder. As the debate raged on the airwaves, its significance was not lost on the pro-life, right-to-die, pro-euthanasia, and disabled-rights advocates who all adopted Terri Schiavo as a poster child for their causes.

Look how the popular media presented Terri's story, abandoning any attempt at objective or ethical reporting in their rush to justify her death. In an effort to dehumanize Terri, they repeatedly reported she was in a coma, brain dead, a "vegetable" and that the autopsy proved she was in a persistent vegetative state, all of which are patently false.

All one has to do is watch the videos of Terri to see how alive she was, and if that's not enough, more than 40 medical affidavits stated Terri wasn't in PVS and/or could have been helped with new medical technology.

The media chose to ignore all of this, instead reporting what Terri wasn't able to do and referencing a doctor who took pride in the moniker, "Dr. Humane Death."

They painted a story of a husband's unconditional love as he carried out his wife's "wish" to die, completely ignoring the fact that there was no evidence of this and that Michael essentially abandoned Terri as soon as he began living with his new wife-to-be.

Completely unaware of their own hypocrisy, they commended Christopher Reeve's wife, Dana, and rightly so, for her dedication in caring for her husband, while vilifying my parents for wanting to do the same thing for their daughter.

And, finally, the media paid more respect to and had more compassion for a racehorse than they did to Terri.

To this day, every story in which a person emerges from a condition similar to Terri's, or an advance is found to help the severely brain-injured, is an opportunity for the media to remind us that, of course, "this is nothing like the case of Terri Schiavo."

It's funny that this is the same propaganda used by the medical community in Nazi Germany immediately prior to the Holocaust when hospitals were used to kill at least 200,000 handicapped, mentally ill and others who were deemed physically or mentally inferior.

Unfortunately, I don't know if people realize how the mainstream media influences their everyday lives, or the scope of what is happening in our hospitals. Perhaps, more accurately, they just don't care.

With tens of thousand in conditions similar to and even worse than Terri's, we should be alarmed. While many would prefer not to educate themselves on this issue, the cold reality is that one day this "quality of life" approach could very well impact their families, as it did ours.

Terri and others like her should be a constant reminder to the media, how the popular media presented Terri's story, abandoning any attempt at objective or ethical reporting in their rush to justify her death. In an effort to dehumanize Terri, they repeatedly reported she was in a coma, brain dead, a "vegetable" and that the autopsy proved she was in a persistent vegetative state, all of which are patently false.

This is exactly the opposite of what media principles stand for..

This artcle was written and posted by the brother of Terri, Bobby Schindler.. More details can be obtained by clicking here

Bobby Schindler now works for the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, Center for Health Care Ethics in St. Petersburg, Fla., an organization dedicated to promoting the Culture of Life, embracing the true meaning of compassion by opposing the practice of euthanasia.