Vacuous NYT report props up Planned Parenthood’s “videos were edited” meme


The New York Times reports today that “Undercover Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds.” There’s almost no value to this story, because the only videos that the company chose to “analyze” were the shorter, edited videos, not the uncut, longer ones. To say an edited video was “altered” is trivial. It implies nothing about the truth of the content of the video.

Notice two things in this snippet from the NYT story:

According to the investigation, the reviewers could not determine “the extent to which C.M.P.s undisclosed edits and cuts distort the meaning of the encounters the videos purport to document.”
But, it said, “the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries” unless C.M.P. provides investigators with its original material, and that material is independently authenticated as unaltered.

First, the analysts balk at giving substance to the claim that the videos were altered. Taking after Derrida, they are totally agnostic about what the video is really trying to say, and how that might differ from what the raw data of the uncut video really says.

Second, I’m not so sure that a “manipulated” video has zero evidentiary value in court. A testimony, whether written or recorded as audio or video, is necessarily a product of a human mind and hands at work. Call this manipulation. Yet, such testimony is often rightly admitted as evidence.

More pertinent to Planned Parenthood’s legal troubles, the longer videos that the Center For Medical Progress recorded are very likely not “manipulated” in the nefarious sense that the analysts suggest. The job of a legal prosecutor will be to draw on that uncut video evidence to produce a case that in effect corroborates the shorter, edited videos. And it is the jury, not these analysts paid big bucks to say nothing of value, who will decide the matter.

So what business does the New York Times have in producing this empty story, if not to carry water for Planned Parenthood? The report uncritically repeats the message of a company hired by Planned Parenthood. The coverage is one-sided; there’s zero effort to get comment by anyone not ultimately commissioned by Planned Parenthood. The headline is clearly meant to prop up the vacuous “videos were edited” excuse for ignoring the content of the CMP releases. Imagine how many social media feeds this unsubstantial NYT story is populating now, giving false relief to people who want to ignore the undeniable brutality, callousness, and illegality that these videos–edited or not–clearly attest to. Whatever The New York Times is doing here, it is not objective journalism.

Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Get smart on social issues

Social issues have been on a role lately.  Even though conservatives have the winning logic, the Left has the tailwind of popular outrage that comes with the liberal fear of an “American Taliban.”  From Komen’s forced Planned Parenthood backtrack, to the weak Obamacare contraceptive mandate reshuffle, to Rick Santorum’s unnecessary utterances on prenatal tests, neither the media nor the White House have missed a chance to cast a troglodyte pall on any Republican within firing range.

Liberals have the tactical advantage as long as the policy discourse is defined by the paradoxical presumption that government should run citizens’ lives while maximizing their “privacy.”  Rather than get mired in the house-to-house fighting of the culture wars, Republican presidential contenders ought to turn the tables and insist that privacy is best preserved by getting government out of the healthcare business.  Gutting mandates is the real “pro-choice” position.

Winning the presidency requires a positive, sunny disposition, and delivering bad news about people’s personal conduct is the job of elders in robes: pastors and judges.  If you win the presidency, you get a bully pulpit, but more importantly, you can appoint clear-thinking judges who can stem the progressive march to positive-rights oblivion.  The problem is you need to win the presidency first.  Let’s get smarter on how we talk about social issues.

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