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Tuesday, March 22, 2005  

News: The Credulous American does Schiavo

It comes down to two things, machinations by the right to life movement and the videotapes. 'It' -- of course-- is the brouhaha over ending 15 years of pointless life support for Terri Schiavo. The Bush administration's use of the brain dead women to curry favor with the anti-abortion movement is obvious and shameful. But, the current circus cannot be blamed on politicians alone. The other shoe belongs on the foot of The Credulous American. You know her. So do I. Sometimes she is a man. Sometimes young and naive. Sometimes old and still a know-nothing. Often as not religious in a platitudes and Hallmark kind of way. The Credulous American is the person the propaganda campaign that had politicans dashing around Washington as if the world is ending is targeted to. She is so open to disinformation and misinformation that she will believe just about anything if encouraged to. Well. . .anything that does not make sense.

Brad Smith, writing for the Tampa Tribune, has described how edited videotapes have misled The Credulous American to believe that Terri Schiavo is functional.

TAMPA - The videos run only a few seconds.

Terri Schiavo smiles at her mother. Schiavo follows a Mickey Mouse balloon with her eyes. Replayed on countless news shows and posted on the Internet, the clips help drive national sympathy for Schiavo's parents, who oppose their daughter's court-ordered feeding tube removal.

Seen without context, the snippets raise questions for laypeople. Is Terri Schiavo aware? Can she hear? Does she understand?

Less widely known are four hours of images, taped in summer 2002, of Schiavo's inert stare from her hospice bed. They more accurately show the Pinellas Park woman, argue some doctors and Michael Schiavo, who says his wife is brain-dead and should die in dignity after 15 years in what doctors term a persistent vegetative state.

George Greer, a Pasco-Pinellas circuit judge, ruled the tapes fail to prove Terri Schiavo's brain still works.

``She clearly does not consistently respond to her mother,'' the judge wrote in 2002 after hearing from five doctors with divided opinions. ``The court finds that based on the credible evidence, cognitive function would manifest itself in a constant response to stimuli.''

Last week I watched a segment about the television evangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn on NBC's Dateline. He relies on a television show and gatherings in coliseums around the world to support a 'ministry' that mainly consists of lining his pockets. Benny Hinn Ministries reportedly takes in as much as $100 million per year. In his starring role, Hinn claims to dissolve tumors and drive out demons as the supposedly afflicted fall down on the stage at a wave of his hand. The supporting cast of the show are the people who claimed they were healed while watching him on television. They testify that they have been cured of various illnesses, including inoperable cancers, courtesy of Hinn.

But, exhaustive investigations of Hinn by both religious watchdog groups and the media have failed to find even one medically documented example of Hinn curing anyone of anything. What one discovers is an incredible desire to believe. Hinn's faithful desperately want to believe that he can perform miracles. So, they do. The delusional behavior extends to those stricken by illness and supposedly healed by Hinn. Dateline discovered that some of the people who appear on his show convince themselves that he has cured them, even as they continue to die from their terminal illnesses. These people are The Credulous American to their last breath.

Considering just how credulous many Americans are, it is not surprising there is continuing support for maintaining Schaivo on life support despite no credible reason to do so. Many of the people in the 'Save Schiavo' movement lack knowledge of basic biology. They are incapable of grasping that a persistent vegetative state is not reversible. Others either don't realize they are basing their opinion on a severely edited videotape or don't care. Some seem not to understand that removing Schiavo's feeding tube is not invasive. It returns her to the natural state she is in, allowing nature to take its course.

I expect the Schiavo situation to get worse before it gets better. Republican politicians will exploit it for every drop of publicity they can squeeze from it. Many Democratic pols, too afraid of public opinion to show any backbone, have either been co-opted, or cower in a corner afraid to challenge the GOP. Ultimately, the only denouement to this lengthy drama may be the deaths of Schiavo's elderly parents, Robert and Mary Schindler. Without them as props, the show cannot go on.

Reasonably related

ABC News reports how the 'compromise' bill sending the Schiavo case to federal court -- which gave the Republicans exactly what they wanted -- was reached in Congress. U.S. District Judge James Whittemore has refused the Congress driven appeal. The Schindlers continue to forum shop.

MSNBC has more information about evangelist Benny Hinn and financial irregularities.

11:15 PM