Monday, March 28, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, and TIME Magazine


The lingering death of Terri Schiavo is, whatever else, a tragedy and a focus which has brought about strong emotional reaction. The Old Media has largely failed to represent the matter objectively, however, so that additional issues have been created, to the initial question of whether her feeding tube should have been removed. A representative sample is the latest poll from TIME magazine, which runs a headline claiming “A MAJORITY (53%) OF THOSE WHO CALL THEMSELVES EVANGELICALS SUPPORT REMOVING THE FEEDING TUBE”; the magazine’s sub-title claims “TWO-THIRDS (67%) OF AMERICANS WOULD CHOOSE DEATH OVER LIFE IF THEY HAD TO RELY ON A BREATHING TUBE TO SURVIVE”. The details, however, prove the falsity to those claims. The details may be found on a pdf file attached to the press release.

Let’s start with the most important quality; knowledge of the case. By its own admission, the poll focused on people not familiar with the details of the case. TIME’s poll only found 1 in 3 respondents (Question 4) who claimed to have followed the Terri Schiavo case “very closely”, and given the poor information presented by the Old Media, this invalidates 2 of every 3 answers by the lack of knowledge essential to an informed decision.

In Question 5, TIME sets the stage by describing Terri as being in a “Persistent Vegetative State” or Coma-Like State”. The magazine made no attempt to mention that the diagnosis is in dispute, and that ‘Coma’ is a completely inaccurate description for her condition. Note also that the same question states “Her husband says that Terri would not want to be kept alive artificially in this state”, failing to mention at all that the “husband” already has a replacement wife, to such point that he has had children with her, and that Terri is a Roman Catholic, which religion considers suicide a mortal sin. The poll makes no effort whatsoever to observe the controversy over these claims, but instead presents them as if they were fact.

In Question 7, the poll claims “Florida State Courts … have repeatedly ruled to remove the feeding tube” without once mentioning that the sole decision to remove the tube came from Judge Greer, and that the other State and federal courts have ruled on nothing more than his courtroom procedure, and not the merits of the case or any contested testimony/evidence.

Questions 10 and 11 asked the respondent to say what they would want if they were Terri’s Guardian or Terri herself. Bear in mind, these are, in the main, people who have not followed the close details of the case.

Question 15 asked the respondents if they would like to be kept alive on a ventilator, even though such a condition has no relevance to the Schiavo case.

Whatever one thinks of the case itself, this sort of manipulation of public opinion is shameful, especially as the poll tried to blame Congress, and Republicans in particular, for defending Terri’s right to life and simply to establish a ‘de novo’ review. The people at TIME magazine neglected to ask if any of their respondents would like to have the facts in their own case made clear, in the event they faced a similar situation of having a biased individual given control over their life. TIME referenced a “right to die” (Question 16), but ignored that people might like to have their “right to live” protected

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