I'm sorry, @adamgoldenberg, but did you just say pro-life = anti-choice?

So I'm enjoying a relaxing Father's Day and trying to steer clear of the #TOpoli merry-go-round, but then this thread caught my attention. I've been reluctant to enter the debate over Pride and QuAIA for several reasons, but this just couldn't go unaddressed.

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  1. Right away, one's Spidey-sense is tingling, because what looks like an innocent attempt to trigger a debate is, when you break it down, a slick attempt to channel the discussion down pathways the guy's already selected. Clever, because when you get people arguing on your turf in your terms, you're already more than halfway there. So, let's break it down and make the rhetorical tricks explicit.

    1. "What should be the criteria for allowing ... "
    Assumption being that Adam, or anyone else, has the right to determine those criteria in Pride's stead.

    2. " ... a divisive group ... "
    Note the use of the pejorative term "divisive" right off the bat. Before the debate's even been joined, he's trying to establish them as the bad guys.

    3. "... not LGBT-specific ..."
    Um, QUEERS against Israeli Apartheid? Sounds pretty LGBT-specific to me. And, as with the first assumption: who asked him? What gives him the right to make that determination?
  2. Sez who? I must have missed the part where Adam got the right to decide who's on message and who's not. We'll let Andrea take it from here ... 
  3. OK, well ... there it is, in his own words. Suddenly it's not just about Pride and QuAIA, but about abortion as well. You would think a guy with his credentials would understand something about "connotation," not to mention implicit assumptions in the words we choose. But we can't assume, so let's unpack. 

    Anti-abortion and anti-choice activists like to characterize themselves as "pro-life" for a very simple reason: it allows them to cast their opponents as "anti-life" and thus claim the moral high ground. It's for that reason that standing up for reproductive autonomy is cast as "pro-choice;" we can't assume that any time a woman wants to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, it's because she wants to end a life -- and indeed, to even discuss it in those terms is to concede the discursive turf to those who want to endow unborn fetuses with human rights. We all know where that road goes, but for the purposes of this discussion, it's important to note not only that, but the effect that choosing those words has on the subsequent debate: it prejudices the whole discussion. If you concede that going in, you've lost before the conversation even starts.

    Accuracy and fairness demand, therefore, that defending women's right to choose be described as "pro-choice." That's not a question of taking sides. It's a question of characterizing positions accurately so that whatever discussion takes place (and that leaves aside the whole matter of just how offensive any suggestion that the debate needs to be re-opened is) can do so in a rational atmosphere, as opposed to one that's susceptible to emotional hijacking.

    Words matter. Definitions matter. Connotations matter. That's why it's so important to ensure that they're used correctly, and that the emotional and ideological assumptions implicit in the choice of certain words and not others is identified.

    There's nothing new or complicated about any of this -- it's Semantics 101. And as noted earlier, a guy with Adam's credentials ought to know this, so one has to wonder what he's trying to accomplish here. Back to the Tweeter ... 
  4. Seriously, Adam, is that the best you've got? Absurd hypotheticals?

  5. Disclosure: I adore Andrea. And it's her call. But this sounds awfully like giving the Cowardly Lion a platform ...