Monday, March 02, 2009

A Strange Choice of Poster Boys

This past week an anti-abortion ad rejected by both NBC and CNN turned up on YouTube.

The ad is interesting for several reasons.

The first is immediately obvious. The ad shows an ultrasound video of a fetus and provides a hypothetical description of it. "This child's future is a broken home," the ad says. "He will be abandoned by his father. His single mother will struggle to raise him."

"Despite the hardships he will endure this child will become the first African American President."

The ad presents Barack Obama as an example of why a woman considering an abortion should think twice. The ad implores the viewer to "consider the potential".

It's interesting that this ad, produced by the Catholic Fidelis Center, would choose Barack Obama as a poster boy for the anti-abortion movement. Obama's policies on abortion alarm most anti-abortion advocates to the extent that many of the most crazed religious spokespeople refer to Obama as the anti-Christ (at least those who don't refer to him as Hitler).

Secondly, the ad is factually wrong.

It is true that Obama was born to a single mother and that, even by his own account, his father abandoned him.

But to suggest that his mother struggled to raise him is an exaggeration. According to his own account in Dreams From my Father, Obama's mother didn't raise him alone.

Indeed, Obama's Hawaiian grandparents were very active in his upbringing, and helped his mother raise him.

Branding Obama as a poster boy for the anti-abortion movement is an intriguing move, but mischaracterizing his childhood undermines the credibility of the inventive ad. Not to mention the fact that Obama's own pro-abortion policies provide built-in re-branding.


  1. Remember that everytime you point at somebody, three fingers are pointed right back at you.

    Let's try the reverse of that "human potential" argument the Catholic Fidelis Center is trying to work on, just to prove that tactic works boths ways.

    What if Hitler was aborted? Or Pol Pot? Or Stalin? Or Mussolini? Or Marcos? Conversely, wouldn't the world have been a better place if they never existed, thanks to one choice their mothers made?

    Imagine a counter-ad that goes like this:
    "Despite the hardships he will endure this child will become the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party," then cue in images of WWII.

    I'm tempted to point out statistics indicating a larger incidence of infidelity, adultery, and teenage pregnancies in the Southern US states (where most of the US' Christian Right also reside) as compared to the North, but that's probably overstepping.

  2. Regarding that "larger incidence of" so-and-so, allow me to posit this document to back up my point:

    Why am I not surprised? I mean the local porn shop in my neighborhood had their best margins from (surprise, surprise) the students at the Catholic high school I graduated from. I would know - I was friends with more than half these dudes :3

  3. I don't think anyone hopes their child would be like Hitler. I think many people would hope their child would be like Obama, or at least as successful as Obama.

    The ad seems to appeal to a sense of hope. I agree with the positive message of the ad, even if I recognize some of the factual errors within the ad itself.

    It's generally considered poor gamesmanship to respond to hope with cynicism.

  4. No offense, but I hold very little regard for the RHC these days for what I see as hypocritical sense of morality.

    That, and the local Bishops here just walked out of a senate hearing for my country's reproductive health bill. They felt they weren't being taken seriously enough. Translation: They weren't getting the monopoly of attention they've always enjoyed from the local politicos.

    That, and any advert that tries too hard to play my emotions always makes me suspicious. Can't help it - my film and journalism proffs taught me to be wary of such tactics.

    It's hard to be a good sportsman when you know your opponent hits below the belt :p

    On that note: Wouldn't it be equally sensible to say that if people wanted their kids to be like Obama, then it would be more sensible to have less children, ensuring they won't have to spread their resources as thin?

  5. Well, I would agree with you on a few of those points.

    But if you're going to be suspicious of people who play to your emotions, you have a lot of people to be suspicious of, including Obama.

  6. I never said I completely trusted Obama or his policies, though admittedly, he had an extremely well-run campaign machine and he's certainly a big improvement over Bush.

  7. Even Joad Cressbeckler would have been an improvement over Bush.


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