By the time I get this posted to my blog, the issue will have probably died down. The public is by and large fickle and has a short attention span. Oops! When I say that, am I including you in that remark? Of course not! Why, present company excluded, of course! You should never think I’m talking about you. I’m always talking about THEM! Even if I use the word “you” (for example in the previous blog post where I called “you” an ass and “me” an asshole. “We” are golden; “They” are urine). However, on a purely academic observational level, I find this recent development involving republican senate nominee from Missouri Todd Akin… amusing. He has already distanced himself from his own words (as has every other republican candidate from Romney on down) with the magical phrase, “I misspoke,” made popular by Ronald Reagan and abused ad infinitum by George W. Bush, but uttered by most politicians regardless of party affiliation at one time or another. People who already didn’t like him or his party were demanding Todd Akin’s head on a platter, but those who voted for him probably just smiled and nodded; especially those who tend to only support “pro life” aka anti-abortion (aka anti-women’s rights) politicians.
So, just what DID Todd Akin “misspoke” anyways? Twitter was all abuzz yesterday with the #LegitimateRape tag which is how I found out about this. I’m not exactly one with my pulse on Missouri politics. One wonders why this reached national status. There are things that local politicians here in Texas misspeak all the time and except for the occasional Rick Perry nonsense it doesn’t reach national attention, but talk of whether or not rape can ever be “legitimate” is a very dangerous button to push. It’s not one that usually gets pushed accidentally. Am I suggesting Akin did this on purpose? Well, let’s look at the evidence and see what we can speculate or interpret from that. First off, the phrase was taken out of context. However, in context it’s even more disturbing.
When asked about abortion in instances of rape during an interview, here’s how Todd Akin inserted his foot in his mouth. “It seems to me,” he began, “from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.” I read this combination of words from Akin’s brain as a fancy way of saying I am about to mis-speak.
He is qualifying that what he is about to say is what he made up in his head after pretending to listen to people believed to be knowledgeable about this sort of stuff. Regarding the rarity of abortion in instances of rape, he believes this is rare. This is based not on actual data that he has researched, but on “what I understand from doctors.”
Mentioning doctors makes it sound like he speaks from authority. However, Akin purposefully caveats the word “doctors” with malarkey that he can later retract if needed. Politicians do this ALL THE TIME and people continue to fall for it. You’d think by now we’d get it. The joke’s on us. However, it works. We let them get away with it, so they continue to do it.
Why do politicians do this? Why not just speak candidly and honestly without the subterfuge? The politicians who speak candidly and openly usually are not going to get very far up the political ladder cuz inevitably they will tick off somebody. They talk candidly to their base, or at least pretend to do so, early on in their careers in order to build a base of like-minded individuals who have lots of money. However, as a politicians gains notoriety and more and more people hear about them, they tend to have to cater more to the moderate and less to the extremes of their own party. Otherwise they won’t be able to get more financial supporters. However, you still have to keep the more extreme participants that are paying you in the loop. This is known in political parlance as “catering to your base.”
Even when the opponent is listening, your more extreme base wants to see you remember them publicly. They don’t care that this could mean you lose the moderate vote. They want the politician to perpetuate the illusion that after they get elected, they won’t forget them. It is a dance that all politicians play. Some are worse at it then others. I haven’t been able to determine whether or not Akin is a good dancer yet. It depends on whether or not he gets away with it.
Now here comes the part of Akin’s words on the topic of “legitimate rape” that floors me. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Now, what Akin may be referring to here is something called rape trauma. It’s a dated belief with absolutely no scientific basis that claims the traumatic experience of raping a woman causes her reproductive system to shut down. There’s absolutely no substantive proof to this concept, and it’s been discredited for centuries but this does not stop people like Todd Akin from believing in it, just as people still read daily horoscopes or carry a lucky rabbit’s foot. It’s such an old traditional idea: there must be something valid to it, they believe.
Now, remember, this is what Akin claims to understand from doctors. This is not actual data from doctors. It’s what he found in his head and pretends doctors say. He doesn’t really know, but if one believes in belief and superstition, one doesn’t need facts and data to back up anything they say.
Todd Akin has admitted to misspeaking this belief there’s something inside a woman’s uterus that can tell if the sperm arriving unannounced comes from a rapist as opposed to, let’s say, the penis of a husband in holy matrimony with his spouse. Akin claims to understand this from doctors, but he may not be talking about medical doctors. He could just as easily mean graduates of a seminary or religious private college who have honorary doctorates in religious studies, or parapsychology, or basket weaving.
Doctor Phil isn’t really a medical doctor, no matter how much anyone believes otherwise. Just saying.
Todd Akin can retract this now all he wants, but his message was delivered to the people he was really trying to reach: like minded believers who know deep down that life begins before conception: whenever their god says it does.
Todd Akin did not believe his words were for anyone but other people who, like him, believe in faith over truth. He was speaking to people who pretend the world is as they believe it is, in spite of evidence to the contrary. They do not need to confirm what they understand from doctors with actual doctors, just as they don’t need to confirm what they believe their God’s word means by actually reading their bible and taking it at face value. They ‘interpret’ what their god says to suit their purposes, if they bother reading their own dogma at all. They don’t need to confirm their belief in a god with the presence of an actual god. They make up their god, why not make up their reality? Any part of reality that disagrees with them becomes “of the devil” which is mighty convenient if you want to live in a fantasy land but still enjoy some of the things about the world which you don’t mind.
These people feel they are right and righteous, and that is enough for them. They really don’t understand why you should have a problem with that. They believe someday you will understand, as you writhe and wallow for all eternity in the flames of hell with whores and abortion doctors and anyone else who disagrees with their subjective, unprovable reality.
However, if they ever said that out loud, later they would say they “misspoke” because currently it’s not fashionable to warn nonbelievers of the fate that awaits them in the afterlife, after we’re all dead, when we will all see that they are right and it will be too late to ask for forgiveness.
There are no laws against miss speaking. There are no laws against miss thinking. Nor should there be. If you disagree with me on that score, just go read George Orwell’s 1984. Laws against thought crimes are a very bad idea. However, those of us who would like to defend the separation of church and state in the United States of America have long ago let the wolves take over the hen house. When they claim to misspeak, what they are really doing is howling at the moon.