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Monday, June 23, 2014

When the fight is all that matters

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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It was a "gotcha" moment.

Not long ago, some anti-abortion activists who call themselves Live Action Films sent a young woman to talk with a Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky counselor. The young woman claimed she was only 15 and had a 17-year-old boyfriend.

While the young woman and the Planned Parenthood employee talked, a hidden camera recorded the conversation. The heavily edited recording of the exchange - so heavily edited that it makes it impossible to know the context of the conversation or how much the undercover anti-abortion activist asked leading questions to prompt the responses - soon found its way onto YouTube and then into the mainstream media.

It caused quite a stir. The Planned Parenthood employee was caught on camera talking about pornography and sadomasochistic sexual practices, among other things.

In short order, Planned Parenthood released a statement saying the conversation didn't reflect the organization's values - and fired the employee in the video.

Much of the media attention focused on the prurient nature of the episode but not much on one key point.

The folks from Live Action Films lied to get their "investigator" in the door to film the Planned Parenthood employee.

And the fact that they have yet to release the unedited video suggests there might be other things they're being less than completely honest about.

No doubt the folks from Live Action Films operate from a strong sense of moral conviction. Their web site makes it clear that the organization and its founder, a young firebrand by the name of Lila Rose, see abortion as an abomination. Their rhetoric about the many evils of Planned Parenthood and anyone who disagrees with them about reproductive rights is so fevered it can singe the eyeballs.

Because they operate from a sense of moral conviction, Rose and her team probably wouldn't approve of lying in too many other contexts.

But they do in this one.

That's because they believe both abortion and the people who think it should be legal are so evil that opposing them justifies practicing other, perhaps lesser evil. It doesn't pay to be scrupulous when grappling with the enemy in a just war.

We have too many Americans - on both the left and right - operating this way now. Instead of seeing other Americans as fellow citizens who happen to disagree with them on an issue, they see enemies. And to destroy those enemies there are few principles they're not willing to compromise or even ignore.

I suppose all of this might make a certain amount of sense if it accomplished anything, but it rarely does.

Consider what happened here.

Rose got a lot of media attention, including a love fest with Sean Hannity on Fox News. The Planned Parenthood employee lost her job. And the world moved on.

Did anything of consequence happen to anyone - other than to the woman who lost her paycheck?

Not really.

Did Live Action Films folks stop a single abortion? Not likely.

Did they change the debate about abortion in this state or country? Nope.

Did they do anything that is likely to make a lasting impact? Probably not.

That's because they, like so many zealots who wander the land these days, are more focused on winning the fight than solving the problem. They're more eager to defeat the enemy than they are to settle the dispute that started the fight in the first place.

That's a great way to keep the anger and animosity that fuel so many of our debates at a fever pitch. It's also a great way to harden the battle lines and make sure that the extremes continue to dominate our discussions about important issues.

Most of all, it's a great way to keep the fight alive.

And, for a lot of these folks, the fight, not the solution, seems to be the most important thing.

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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