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Tucker Carlson Is, Mostly, A Dick
2005.03.03 (Thu) 19:37
We were waiting for the transcript of last Friday's episode of Real Time with Bill Maher to come out — because that incredibly obtuse and unlovable little scamp, Tucker Carlson, was one of the panelists. As expected, Carlson was his usual sparkling, witty self.
CARLSON: I mean, comparing - no, I mean, comparing all religions to radical Islam or the Shia interpretation of Islam, I mean, that's not fair.
That is incorrect. Comparing any common religion to any other common religion is absolutely fair — they are all systems of belief in supernatural phenomena without any supporting evidence, and require blind faith and unthinking obedience to at least some degree. To those of us who don't subscribe to fanciful notions of invisible magical superheroes living in the sky (or in the earth, or in trees, or whatever other mystical dwellings in which your personal deities may reside), all religions are the same. Religion is, quite simply, silly.
What Carlson perhaps meant to say, and he would be correct if he had, is that you can't compare the adherents of all religions to the adherents of, to use his example, radical Islam or the Shia interpretation of Islam. This is true. A large number of religious believers would never dream of engaging in violence directed toward those whose beliefs or values are different from theirs. However, considering where Carlson is coming from — most likely defending his own personal Christian beliefs — we would remind him that Christianity has generated more than its fair share of violence and oppression throughout its millennia-old tradition of being on top.
Later on in the program, talk turned to the film Million Dollar Baby, and its handling of the subject of euthanasia.
CARLSON: But - hold on - [Jack Kevorkian] didn't kill - he didn't kill himself; he killed a bunch of other people, which is still against the law. But the point is, in Holland or places where euthanasia is widespread, there is pressure on the old, the inconvenient, the really sick, who are - let's be honest - difficult, demanding, people don't want them around - to kill themselves. And that's—
MAHER: That is—
CARLSON: It's not — that's not bullshit. That's true. It's totally true. There have been a million studies on it.
CARLSON: ...Spend about four minutes on the Internet. There have been a million studies on the effect of euthanasia.
Really, Carlson? A million? Maybe you mean a "gajillion," or a "kerbillion" — or any other imaginary number that you might similarly pluck from thin air and pretend you didn't just make up.
So we took Carlson's advice, and spent "four minutes" on the Internet. The first study we found, in our allotted four minutes, was a paper by Jocelyn Downie, Director of the Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University, on the effects of legalizing euthanasia in the Netherlands:
...on the basis of the same data, the researchers [on the Remmelink report] themselves conclude that there are 2,300 cases per year of euthanasia and Fenigsen et al [who oppose government permission of euthanasia] conclude that there are 25,306.
It looks like the numbers can be spun whichever way suits your purposes, based on your definition of euthanasia.
...the claim that euthanasia (defined narrowly) is widespread is simply not supported by the data. As was shown in the 1995 government-sponsored study, 2.4% of deaths resulted from voluntary euthanasia and .8% resulted from LAWER [Life-terminating acts without explicit request of patient].
LAWER deaths are those cases in which the patient was unable to consent — this does not mean that patients were simply killed on the whim of a doctor. The outlined procedure for legally implementing euthanasia ensures that a doctor cannot act autonomously in his decision to help end a patient's life.
On Real Time, Carlson makes the outrageous proposition that the legalization and regulation of euthanasia creates "pressure" on the old and disabled to do away with themselves in order to ease the burden on their families.
CARLSON: ...And think about it. If you had a relative who is dependent, who is bedridden — I'm serious — people feel pressure to end their lives because they are a burden to other people. And there's something inhumane about that.
MAHER: I have never heard of anyone—
CARLSON: Do some reading on it.
CARLSON: ...And it's understandable why people would want to kill themselves.
CARLSON: But when you make it legal, you put society in a position where pressure is focused on the weakest in society to kill — I'm serious. And it's understandable. And that's bad.
First of all — Carlson, lay off the late night Logan's Run reruns. Nobody is "pressuring" grandpa to off himself because he's become a burden — at least, not in statistically significant numbers.
In fact, if you think that legalized euthanasia fosters an environment where euthanizing "the old, the inconvenient, the really sick" is encouraged, then perhaps we should be a little worried about your intentions. This odd line of reasoning reminds us of our old pal, Tom Carder, of the CAP Alert movie analysis website. (You can read more about Tom and CAP Alert in a previous Rant of ours.) This fundamentalist nutcase, in analyzing movies for objectionable content, tackles The 13th Warrior — under his category Sex/Homosexuality, he notes: "child nudity, including genitalia." Listen, if you think that a movie's depiction of nude children is sexual content, then maybe we should be carefully watching you around the kiddies. We certainly don't consider an image of a very young and naked child who is simply wandering around with his family to be sexual content — why the hell does Carder?
In the same manner, if Tucker Carlson thinks that legalizing euthanasia encourages us to kill off the elderly, maybe his grandparents should be kept away from him for their own safety.
Carlson seems to make the common assumption that all requests for euthanasia in the Netherlands are granted; the Downie paper addresses this misconception, noting that:
The 1995 study revealed that there are approximately 10,000 concrete requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide each year and that approximately 6,000 are not carried out (because the physician refuses in approximately 3000 cases and the patient dies before the request can be honoured in most of the other cases).
With respect to the immediacy of availability, the Canadian Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide was told that 59 per cent of patients undergoing euthanasia died on the same day that they requested euthanasia and that in 11 per cent of cases, patients died in the same hour. Dr. Van der Wal, the author of the paper cited as authority for these statistics, was shown the numbers and, in turn, he explained what they actually represented:
Yes, [the patients] did die on the same day that they requested euthanasia for the last time. Do you understand the difference? The patients had discussed the subject and had explicitly requested euthanasia many times before, but the day on which they died was the last time that they requested it.
The next sentence says that in 11 per cent of cases, patients died in the same hour that the first request was made. It was not the first request; it was the last request.... The facts are completely distorted.
Sometimes and for a variety of reasons, there is relatively little time between first and last requests. However, quite clearly, the data do not support the claim that euthanasia is available "on demand".
It doesn't seem to us like there's any "rush" to kill these patients, despite what Tucker Carlson portrays as an endemic increase in people offing their elders. It's just the old slippery slope argument. Downie responds to such arguments:
A critical step in the slippery slope argument is that legalization caused the slide down the slippery slope; if that is not true, then the Netherlands-based slippery slope argument against decriminalization loses its force. However, there is no evidence that the shift in policy and practice with respect to the state's response to euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands caused any slide down a slippery slope.
The slippery slope argument is also grounded in the assumption that the incidence of nonvoluntary euthanasia is higher in the Netherlands (where it is permitted in some circumstances) than in those countries where it is illegal. The truth of this assumption has not been empirically demonstrated and indeed there is now data to suggest that the assumption is false. The authors of a recent Australian study summarized their results as follows:
The proportion of all Australian deaths that involved a medical end-of-life decision were: euthanasia, 1.8% (including physician-assisted suicide, 0.1%); ending of patient's life without patient's concurrent explicit request, 3.5%; withholding or withdrawing of potentially life-prolonging treatment, 28.6%; alleviation of pain with opioids in doses large enough that there was a probable life-shortening effect, 30.9%. In 30% of all Australian deaths, a medical end-of-life decision was made with the explicit intention of ending the patient's life, of which 4% were in response to a direct request from the patient. Overall, Australia had a higher rate of intentional ending of life without the patient's request than the Netherlands.
The authors concluded that "Australian law has not prevented doctors from practising euthanasia or making medical end-of-life decisions explicitly intended to hasten the patient's death without the patient's request."
The Downie paper is good reading, and easily counters Carlson's "kajigillions" of — unnamed and unreferenced — studies.
Lest you think that we are just down on Tucker Carlson in general, and can't recognize when he does make a good point, consider this exchange between Carlson, Maher, and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio (with Tim Robbins contributing, well, very little):
ROBBINS: [the newly appointed leader of Iraq] won't shake hands with women.
TUBBS JONES: Wait, wait, wait. Now, I don't have a problem if — there are a lot of things I have a problem with, but I — I respect the Muslim religion and their choice not to shake hands with women.
MAHER: You've got to be kidding.
TUBBS JONES: No, I absolutely do respect it.
CARLSON: I'm on the "you've got to be kidding" side of this, too.
TUBBS JONES: ...Every country does not believe like we believe. [applause] And every country — every religion — does not respect or get involved in how we practice our religion. I have been around a significant number of Muslims, and I am not offended by the fact they don't shake hands with me.
CARLSON: Really? How do you feel about the Saudi prohibition against women driving? Which is a pretty solid idea if you think about it. [applause]
TUBBS JONES: That's a different — you know what, Tucker? That's not the same thing.
ROBBINS: Now, now.
CARLSON: No, no, it is the same thing. That's their interpretation of Islam.
Hey, what do you know? We agree with Tucker Carlson.
CARLSON: And you're [Tubbs Jones] standing up for the oppression of women!
TUBBS JONES: No, I'm not.
CARLSON: In the name of religious—
TUBBS JONES: You know what? I think what really would be important, if you want to be involved in diplomacy, to understand someone's religion. And if you understood the basis of the religion with regard to shaking hands — I'm not with anything else—
MAHER: What if there was an African country where the white people wouldn't shake the black people's hands?
Exactly. Ms. Tubbs Jones, your response?
TUBBS JONES: [overlapping]—it's not religious-based.
TUBBS JONES: Don't throw race at me. It's not—
MAHER: It's an analogy. I'm not—
TUBBS JONES: I'm not talking about race. It's not an analogy.
MAHER: Oh, of course it is.
TUBBS JONES: It is not.
Yes, it is, Ms. Tubbs Jones, no matter how hard you press your thumbs in your ears and stick out your tongue. In fact, we'll go one better: the American slave owners, and those who were still against civil rights for blacks for a century after emancipation, commonly used their religion as justification for racism. Bill's analogy — and it is an analogy — is spot on; he never told you the justification used by his hypothetical white people. It could very well be religious in nature — you're just assuming it isn't.
CARLSON: [overlapping] It's actually sort of a smart analogy, if you think about it.
Wow! Good job, Tucker!
CARLSON: I guess the question is, is there any kind of behavior that you can't excuse by saying, "Oh, it's my religious belief?"
CARLSON: No, there isn't. And at some point, we need to say, actually this is right, this is wrong; you disagree on religious grounds, tough for you.
We heartily applaud Tucker Carlson for these statements. It's amazing how when an absolute dick actually makes a good point, intelligent people will agree with that point, regardless of its source.
But...there's always a catch. And in this case, the catch is: does Carlson practice what he preaches?
Perhaps Tucker Carlson should remember that he was on a long-running television show that discussed an assortment of issues, the transcripts for which are freely available to anyone who might wish to view them. We picked a subject — creationism — to see what Carlson had to say.
From the 29 May, 2002 episode of Crossfire:
CARLSON: OK Barry Lynn, if you ask any responsible scientist where did people come from, he'll give you a pretty straightforward answer. We don't know. So why not tell school children that, the truth that Darwin's theory of evolution is just that. It's a theory.
Moron? How many misconceptions can you pack into four sentences? The "just a theory" thing doesn't fly with anybody who knows what a scientific theory is. We have a theory of evolution because we do know, with very reasonable accuracy, what happened. People "come from" a long line of previous organisms, evolving over generations and billions of years to become what we are today. And if you meant to ask where all life came from, that's not something the theory of evolution deals with — that's abiogenesis. Idiot.
CARLSON: ...I want you to look at a recent Zogby poll. And it asked people what should be taught about evolution in schools. Evolution only? Fifteen percent of Americans think that. Evolution and evidence against, 71 percent of Americans think school children should hear all the facts. And you shouldn't crush dissenting points of view.
Hey, Tucker? At "some point, we need to say, actually this is right, this is wrong; you disagree on religious grounds, tough for you." Evolution is right, creation "science" (whatever you choose to call it) is wrong; you disagree on religious grounds, tough for you.
In the 24 August, 2002 episode of Crossfire, Carlson harps on and on about the usual bullshit we've come to expect from either fundamentalists (which we don't think he is) or the misinformed (which he most definitely is): evolution is "just a theory," gravity is a "law," there's "no proof" of evolution, and so on. At one point, he even asks:
... or is this so far over my head I don't know what you're talking about?
Yes, Tucker, it is over your head; because, intellectually speaking, you're very, very short.
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