Monday, April 25, 2005

scarborough on Maher

I always liked Politically Incorrect, and have only seen a few episodes of Real Time but have liked what I have seen. I watched friday for the first time in a long while and I guess I should say I liked the show, but some of the dialogue on it was fairly painful. Bill Maher does a pretty good job as the comedian gadfly, but he cowed to some pretty silly arguments by joe scarborough.

There was plenty to complain about in what scarborough said, although it was less annoying than he usually comes across, but the argument which he was given a pass for which left smoke shooting from my ears was his glib dismissal of religious leaders'(specifically the pope in this case) responsibility in the spread of HIV, particularly in Africa. His argument was that if folks were going around having multiple partners and extramarital sex, then they obviously aren't paying too much attention to what the church thinks about moral matters anyway and the church's position on condoms is not why they aren't using them.

In so far as the assertion that the church's position on condoms is not directly influencing most individual decisions directly, he is ok. The problem is that his assertion deflects attention away from the real issue in which the church is implicated: influencing public policy to make birth control and information about disease and prevention less accessible to the public.

I have no beef with a preacher telling his congregation that they should not use condoms and should only have sex in matrimony and that when they follow his advice and have children coming out their ears that they shouldn't have an abortion. I would argue with what he says, but I got nothing against his right to say it, in so far as he is explicit about his intentions towards influencing the hearts of individuals. The second it steps over into attempting to directly affect public policy to take away options from those individuals whose hearts he can't sway, he is implicated in the outcome of his efforts (rather than the individual, since he was no longer trying to influence their choice but rather control it).

This is the fundamental difference and one which joe either missed or intentionally ignores. A religious leader telling his flock that they are to do this or that or face an unhappy deity in the after life is fine with me (so long as his flock can choose another shepherd if they think he is crazy); a religious leader who works to influence public policy to limit the availability of health care options and disease prevention to the public is way, way out of bounds. The Catholic church has enormous influence in Africa and has used this influence to affect public policy in such a way as to make contraception and other reproductive information and services less available. president bush and his cronies are guilty of the same crime with all their riders on HIV funding requiring abstinance only bullshit and emphasis of the imperfection of condoms. Both groups are knowingly killing people.

So, if you are a curmudgeonly comedian with a political antagonism show and one of your guests makes the assertion that the church has no responsibility in the spread of AIDS in Africa because the sinners doing the dangerous deeds ain't been listening to the pope anyway or they wouldn't be screwing around so much, tell that guest to STFU until the the church stops trying to influence public policy to limit access to condoms and information about reproductive health.

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