Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fox news: fair, or unbalanced?

If ever you doubt that the Republican position on science is insanely hypocritical, remember five words: "Rush Limbaugh mocks Parkinson's victims."

Here's a recap: Michael J. Fox, famed actor and Parkinson's sufferer, filmed this ad for Claire McCaskill in Missouri. In it, he expresses his support for stem-cell research and for candidates who do so. The spot is hard to watch for anyone who remembers Fox in his Hollywood prime. Some, such as Rush Limbaugh, accused Michael of exaggerating his symptoms for emotional effect.

Fox says the exact opposite: that his symptoms are actually from the medication he is taking. Without the meds, he says, he would be virtually catatonic. Either way, the man is going to show his symptoms. The consensus among those familiar with Parkinson's Disease is that Fox isn't faking it. I'll take their seasoned word over the far-right political bleaters any day.

As someone who has seen numerous relatives live out their final weeks (or even years) in the grips of terminal illness or stroke, I can attest that it's a heart-wrenching experience. Watching your loved one deteriorate over their final years is something that makes you want to close your eyes and hum. But you don't, because they are still the same person, and it's up to you to show them the care and affection that they deserve. Sometimes, that alone is enough to make things better for both of you. Basically, you find yourself wanting to do anything you can to alleviate the suffering.

That's why I get so annoyed when politicians and pundits claim we should just ignore the suffering. They don't say that directly, of course, but they do so under the guise of "respecting the victim's wishes" or other hell-paving phrases. It's one thing for someone to a patient or a family to choose that on their own; it's another to want someone who chooses to take their fight public to shut up.

The right certainly had no problem making Terri Schiavo as ubiquitous as apple pie. Michael Schiavo has said that he would be happy if no one outside his family and friends ever knew who he was. It was the right-to-life forces and their friends in the Florida governor's mansion and the White House who made Terri's fight into a political cause. So, you see, they have no problem magnifying unpleasant personal issues when it suits their own twisted ends.

On the other hand, Fox sparked his career in the 1980s by personifying the Young Republican in the most eighties show ever, Family Ties. He is one of Hollywood's best-loved stars and personalities, which shines through his tremors even today. And while he has professed liberal beliefs time and again, he did stump for Republican Arlen Specter in 2004. In other words, he's no partisan hack.

So where did he go wrong? He made a perfectly reasonable case for stem-cell research. And while it's okay for screechy liberals to do so, how could Alex P. Keaton? Why can't the guy just shut up, can the theatrics and go back to exalting Reagan? Whoa, bad example...stem cells might have helped him too! Arrrgh!

The outcry over Fox's ad isn't so much his argument; it's that he makes it a hard point to argue. He's torn down the conservative pro-life rhetoric just by showing his reality, thus toppling the very weak leg on which the anti-stem-cell platform has so far stood. And no amount of desperate GOP hysterics will right that leg. Or any other limb, for that matter.

Michael J. Fox may be half the man Rush Limbaugh is; but he has twice the heart.


yournamehere said...

There is no way any rational person can defend what Rush Limbaugh did when he mocked Michael J. Fox the way he did. I think he crossed a line that offended even some of his diehard "fans".

Anonymous said...

First off Rush has apologized. Second Fox himself admited to going off his meds for a Congressional hearing to show his sypmtoms more which is what Rush was referring to in the first place. Third, that ad is filled with wrong information and supports an amendment that Fox has confessed to not even reading. I agree that Rush's mocking jestures was over the top and uncalled for, Fox is not immune to being called to task for an ad that is full of misinformation.

Ian McGibboney said...

I've read Michael's book "Lucky Man," so I know that he admitted to going off his meds. But I don't see that as deception; in fact, quite the opposite. The drugs are the deception, because all they do is hide the symptoms. He wanted Congress to see the full effect of his disease, so he did what he had to do to show what all Parkinson's sufferers deal with constantly.

At this advanced point in Fox's condition, meds actually MAKE him jumpy. This is because of the overstimulation that the drugs cause. Without them, as noted in the post, he'd be virtually immobile and unable to enunciate.

As for Rush, I'm not impressed by his apology. Isn't it crazy how he always seems to be apologizing? An abusive husband also apologizes all the time; that doesn't take away from the fact that he's taking cheap shots at his wife.

Anonymous said...

At least Rush apologized immediately after Fox stated he was on his meds this time. Unlike Kerry who was brow beaten for a whole day by everyone under the sun before he finally apologized for his stupid statement.

Ian McGibboney said...

Rush has made a career of saying horribly indefensible things, and then apologizing for them. How else would get away with the kinds of statements he makes? It's not a mistake on his part regarding Michael J. Fox; he meant to say that, knowing full well he might have to backtrack.

Again, I bring up the battered-wife analogy. The husband always knows he can beat the crap out of her, whether or not he could even remotely justify his anger, because he knows that a simple apology will clear everything up if need be. The question now is, when will the wife finally stand up and say, "enough?"

Regarding Kerry: he flubbed up a point he was trying to make, that everyone not out to get him understood anyway. That's a profound difference from making ad hominem attacks followed up by weak retractions.