Cross-posted at DailyKos. Recommends welcomed.
“Wry and pithy,” I call him. Seattle’s Howard Martin sends out daily briefs on news, usually about Howard Dean’s deeds. But this morning, Howard writes:
in The New Yorker points out how “a set of video snippets
, provided by the Schindler family and broadcast incessantly by the three cable news networks–CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC–which are themselves entangled in a desperate struggle for dominance,” have helped to shape the national conversation on the Schiavo case.
“Florida’s made-for-TV passion play” has been created, in part, by these media companies, just as they have helped the paint the pictures that frame our political discourse.
Do the words “broadcast incessantly” remind you of anything? I don’t know if this observation is obvious to everyone else or not, but since I don’t have cable at home, I needed this reminder. …
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From The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town, and written by Hendrik Hertzberg:
Terri Schiavo’s life, as distinct from the life of her unsentient organs, ended fifteen years ago. But that did not prevent her from becoming the star of an unusually morbid kind of reality TV show. …
The first factor, writes Hertzberg, was the bitter battle between Michael Schiavo and Terri’s parents.
The second factor was “a set of video snippets, provided by the Schindler family and broadcast incessantly by the three cable news networks–CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC–which are themselves entangled in a desperate struggle for dominance. …”
Sometimes the snippets are identified by the year of their taping (2001 and 2002); sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are accompanied by inflammatory captions (fighting for her life); sometimes the captions are merely dramatic (schiavo saga). They show Terri’s blinking eyes seeming to follow a balloon waved in front of her; or her mouth agape in a rictus that could be interpreted as a smile; or her face turned toward her mother’s, with her head thrown back, Pietà-like. …
The video snippets, reports Hertzberg, are “profoundly misleading” according to neurologists.
A few seconds of maximum suggestiveness culled from many hours of tape, they are more in the nature of special effects than of a documentary record. Without them, there would have been no show–and, most likely, no televised vigils outside her hospice, no cries of “murder” from Tom DeLay, the egregious House Majority Leader; no midnight special sessions of the House and Senate; no calling Dr. Frist for a snap video diagnosis; no visuals of President Bush returning from Texas to land on the White House south lawn, striding dramatically across the grass as if it were the deck of an aircraft carrier. …
What a line that is: “[T]hey are more in the nature of special effects than of a documentary record.”
The New Yorker’s Hertzberg also discusses the court records, saying that reading the documents “is to be impressed by the thoroughness and conscientiousness with which the courts, especially the Florida courts, approached her case.”
On legal, substantive, and constitutional grounds, they seemed to have reason and justice on their side. Yet it was a cold sort of reason and justice. On a human level, it was hard to see what concrete harm there could be in indulging her family’s desire to keep her body alive, its care presumably underwritten by the hospice and the family’s supporters. …
The New Yorker notes that, as this past week went on, “the fervor of Terri’s Christianist ‘supporters’ was motivated by dogmas unrelated to her or her rights.” And Hertzberg dares to state the obvious:
Terri Schiavo has become a metaphor in the religio-cultural struggle over abortion.
This–along with the advantages of demonizing the judiciary in preparation for the coming battle over Supreme Court nominees–explains the eagerness of Republican politicians to embrace her parents’ cause. Her lack of awareness actually increased her metaphoric usefulness. Like a sixty-four-cell blastocyst, she was without consciousness. Unlike the blastocyst, she was without potential. If letting her body die is murder, goes the logic, then thwarting the development of the blastocyst can surely be nothing less.
Last weekend, as Good Friday gave way to Holy Saturday and Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday, Florida’s made-for-TV passion play neared its climax. The death of Terri Schiavo’s body will only enhance her symbolic value, elevating her to her destined place as another martyr in this dismal age of martyrs.
If you think you can read one more article about Terri Schiavo, make Hertzberg‘s the one.