Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Burying the lead: Justin Bieber is against abortion, but he may not be 'anti-choice'.

This is the first, and hopefully last article I'll be writing about Mr. Bieber that doesn't involve his present and future film projects. I have nothing against the kid, but I have no more business discussing Bieber's worth as a musician than I do discussing LeBron James's first year on the Miami Heat. But there is much huffing and/or puffing about released excerpts of his Rolling Stone interview, including one bit that deserves a bit of analysis. First off, kudos for him for his defense of Canada's single-payer government-run health-care system. It's what we damn-well should have gotten last year, as it's the right moral thing to do (health should be classified under 'commons') and it would have solved the unemployment crisis in a heartbeat (quick, how many older people do you know who are still working purely for the health insurance?). But his thoughts on abortion are a little trickier, and the condemnation that followed is yet another example of how hard it is to express a nuanced opinion in the era of the one-sentence soundbite.

On the topic of abortion, he stated "I really don't believe in abortion," Bieber says. "It's like killing a baby?" The reporter brought up the question of rape, to which Bieber stated "Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that." Most of the commentary has focused on his general disapproval with abortion, and his apparent belief that rape victims shouldn't be an exception to an anti-abortion stance. But notice that last sentence: "I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."

That, ladies and gentlemen, is called empathy. It's what separates 'us' from 'them'. Mr. Bieber may in fact be opposed to abortion, and he very well may believe that life begins at conception. But unlike the folks who are trying to redefine rape or those who want to give citizens the right to murder abortion doctors, Bieber is not trying to impose his personal opinions about a (currently legal) medical procedure on anyone else. If we are to take that last sentence at face value, then Bieber, however much I may disagree with his core values on abortion and/or predestination ('everything happens for a reason'), shows a willingness to concede that not all things are black and white and one cannot condemn what you do not understand. It's a sign of maturity that isn't so much wise-beyond his years as it is a sign of maturity far behind the likes of those currently feverishly at work to revoke a woman's right to choose.

Justin Bieber being against abortion and casual sex doesn't make him an iron-clad conservative anymore than being for single-payer healthcare and homosexual rights make him a flaming liberal. It doesn't make Justin Bieber a hero or a genius, but it makes him a thinking and feeling human being who is willing to acknowledge that his opinions are not set in stone and perhaps not meant to be inflicted on others as a matter of public policy.

Scott Mendelson

12 comments:

Kyle Leaman said...

"But unlike the folks who are trying to redefine rape or those who want to give citizens the right to murder abortion doctors, Bieber is not trying to impose his personal opinions about a (currently legal) medical procedure on anyone else."

While your story supposes to be about Justin Bieber's aborton comments, I think your comments above reveal a different purpose to the story (providing an ironic on your burying the lead title). It's clear you absolutely can't stand the guys who are trying to 'redefine rape', but it seems your letting that dislike push you to see something as simple as inarticulate Justin Beiber comments as an opportunity to bash them.

So an adolescent boy who clearly doesn't have a much thought through stance on abortion ends his views with the qualifier "I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that" and it's reason to contrast him with legislator's? Seriously?

How do you even know the motive of his statement? You take it as empathy, but how do you know that? It sounds like a kid just expressing his (still developing) view and then tacking on a qualifier so as to make it PR safe.

How does an adolescent musician giving his opinion even compare with elected officials who are purposely elected to legislate their views? Isn't that why the people have elected them? It's an unfair shot at legislator's to say they are trying to legislate their views. That's the definition of a representative.

I'm sorry, it's such a stretch that the whole story comes off as a partisan attack piece.

Rick said...

I don't think you'll find anyone who actually "likes" abortion, it's just that some people accept it as an option for women to consider while others are well, dicks.

Andrew_PD said...

Sorry Kyle, its not a partisan attack piece, its a clarification piece.

If this story had not been the big newsmaker it was, then yes dredging it out and making the distinction would have been a stretch. But its been a huge story today with the headline not clarifying what his stance is, and that little last bit where he mentions "not being in a position to judge", hidden in the middle of a paragraph.

Unfortunately the average person can't read between the lines, and would in all probability assume Bieber is anti-choice (as two people I have talked to today have). People CLARIFYING what he actually said helps others understand the distinction and prevents Bieber from being seen or used as some figurehead for the pro-life movement.

rafter said...

Due to an editing error, this story originally included an incomplete quote from Justin Bieber. The full quote, his response to whether abortions should be allowed in cases of rape, reads: "Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."

this is now been posted on the Rolling Stone website
now the Bieber gives his answer - then questions his own answer - the additional sentence that was left out makes a huge difference - it is much more thoughtful

Anonymous said...

Due to an editing error, this story originally included an incomplete quote from Justin Bieber. The full quote, his response to whether abortions should be allowed in cases of rape, reads: "Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."

this has now been added to the Rolling Stone Website
a whole sentence was left out

Kyle Leaman said...

Perhaps your right Andrew PD. I agree with you that the intent is a 'clarification piece', but we disagree on the final result.

Scott begins the clarification piece by praising Beiber, "kudos for him for his defense of Canada's single-payer government-run health-care system". Is this typical in a clarification piece? Scott states his motive for writing that bit though with the followup, "It's what we damn-well should have gotten last year, as it's the right moral thing to do (health should be classified under 'commons') and it would have solved the unemployment crisis in a heartbeat."

So Scott's first point in the clarification piece is to praise Beiber for a position Scott believes to be the 'moral' thing to do, then pontificates that had we done it like Canada our employment problem would be history. Is that part of the clarification process?

Then Scott goes on to use the 'excerpted' comments of Beiber to clarify that he was giving a 'nuanced' opinion that showed 'empathy'. Is that really trying to clear up the facts or is that more of an interpretive opinion based on excerpts?

Then going on to contrast Beiber's empathetic remarks with representatives trying to pass and legislate laws Scott doesn't believe in is clarification? The irony here is that a health care 'mandate' was passed by a democratic congress last year. In other words, it's alright to praise legislating and imposing morals (in this case healthcare) if you agree with it. However, if you disagree, and disagree greatly, then it's evil people without empathy trying to impose their morals (in the case of redefining rape).

Perhaps Scott's intent was clarification, but that is certainly sidetracked in the piece by his desire to slam those on the opposite side of his views. I don't care if Scott wants to throw his own opinions in, it's his site, he's fine and right to do that. If thats true however, then it's not just an innocent 'clarification' piece as you would say. It also contains praises for Scott's views, slams of the other side, all using Beiber's comments as the platform to do it. This means it's also a partisan attack job.

Jihad Punk XXX said...

I agree with Scott... it's called having empathy.

I am fiercely pro-choice, meaning that I support women's rights to have ALL KINDS OF CHOICES- getting an abortion, keeping the baby, giving the baby up for adoption, and having access to all sorts of safe birth control at little or no cost, and having access to sex-ed information.

What I didn't like was that Justin Bieber said "um, that's sad but everything happens for a reason." So rape happens for a reason, Bieber? Really?

Ugh.

Seldon said...

As a Canadian who has lived in both America and in the UK I just thought I would weigh in on this. I have experienced three different healthcare systems. America's is BY FAR the worst. I say that both anecdotally and with statistics. Furthermore, in Canada and the UK, gauranteeing a basic standard of healthcare is seen as a human right. To not do so is considered amoral.

In a recent poll the founder of the Canadian Healthcare system Tommy Douglas (Kiefer Sutherland's Grandfather no less!) was voted the best Canadian ever.

I do this so as to explain why even a 16 yr old Canadian like Justin Beiber would consider the US healthcare system as "evil". Obviously Beiber is quite religious (very much so by Canadian standards) but crucially as Scott points out he says that he is not in a position to judge. This is a very distinctive difference and probably reflective of the fact that in Canada this isn't a debate. Abortion is completely legal and appropriate. End of story. Those that feel otherwise are in the scant minority in Canada.

Kyle seems to be viewing this as an attack piece. I am not quite sure where you are picking that up unless you are someone who both against healthcare and for the redefinition of rape.

You make an interesting point about the healthcare mandate, which I also happen to think is a problem. Mandating health care WITHOUT a public option I think is bad. There are some good things in the health care bill but also a lot of junk. Overall my opinion was that it was better than nothing which is a far cry from what it should have been.

Kyle Leaman said...

Seldon, one doesn't have to have any particular stance on healthcare or redefining rape to be able to comment on the 'process' aspect of this article.

I argue that it uses the occasion of Beiber's comments for Scott to congratulate him on the things he agrees with and then slam elected officials as immature for legislating views he doesn't agree with. Because Beiber said,"I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that", it's occasion to wax eloquent on his maturity and how he is someone wiser than those representatives Scott agrees with. Please.

Beiber comes off as someone who has inarticulate, conflicted, adolescent, and still developing views. But because he offered a disclaimer (of which Scott can only speculate on the motive), he's wiser and more empathetic than the grown adult representatives who happen to have a different view than Scott. That's partisan, and (based on the original purpose of the article) amounts to an ad hoc attack.

Seldon said...

As a Canadian who has lived in both America and in the UK I just thought I would weigh in on this. I have experienced three different healthcare systems. America's is BY FAR the worst. I say that both anecdotally and with statistics. Furthermore, in Canada and the UK, gauranteeing a basic standard of healthcare is seen as a human right. To not do so is considered amoral.

In a recent poll the founder of the Canadian Healthcare system Tommy Douglas (Kiefer Sutherland's Grandfather no less!) was voted the best Canadian ever.

I do this so as to explain why even a 16 yr old Canadian like Justin Beiber would consider the US healthcare system as "evil". Obviously Beiber is quite religious (very much so by Canadian standards) but crucially as Scott points out he says that he is not in a position to judge. This is a very distinctive difference and probably reflective of the fact that in Canada this isn't a debate. Abortion is completely legal and appropriate. End of story. Those that feel otherwise are in the scant minority in Canada.

Kyle seems to be viewing this as an attack piece. I am not quite sure where you are picking that up unless you are someone who both against healthcare and for the redefinition of rape.

You make an interesting point about the healthcare mandate, which I also happen to think is a problem. Mandating health care WITHOUT a public option I think is bad. There are some good things in the health care bill but also a lot of junk. Overall my opinion was that it was better than nothing which is a far cry from what it should have been.

Kyle Leaman said...

Perhaps your right Andrew PD. I agree with you that the intent is a 'clarification piece', but we disagree on the final result.

Scott begins the clarification piece by praising Beiber, "kudos for him for his defense of Canada's single-payer government-run health-care system". Is this typical in a clarification piece? Scott states his motive for writing that bit though with the followup, "It's what we damn-well should have gotten last year, as it's the right moral thing to do (health should be classified under 'commons') and it would have solved the unemployment crisis in a heartbeat."

So Scott's first point in the clarification piece is to praise Beiber for a position Scott believes to be the 'moral' thing to do, then pontificates that had we done it like Canada our employment problem would be history. Is that part of the clarification process?

Then Scott goes on to use the 'excerpted' comments of Beiber to clarify that he was giving a 'nuanced' opinion that showed 'empathy'. Is that really trying to clear up the facts or is that more of an interpretive opinion based on excerpts?

Then going on to contrast Beiber's empathetic remarks with representatives trying to pass and legislate laws Scott doesn't believe in is clarification? The irony here is that a health care 'mandate' was passed by a democratic congress last year. In other words, it's alright to praise legislating and imposing morals (in this case healthcare) if you agree with it. However, if you disagree, and disagree greatly, then it's evil people without empathy trying to impose their morals (in the case of redefining rape).

Perhaps Scott's intent was clarification, but that is certainly sidetracked in the piece by his desire to slam those on the opposite side of his views. I don't care if Scott wants to throw his own opinions in, it's his site, he's fine and right to do that. If thats true however, then it's not just an innocent 'clarification' piece as you would say. It also contains praises for Scott's views, slams of the other side, all using Beiber's comments as the platform to do it. This means it's also a partisan attack job.

Andrew_PD said...

Sorry Kyle, its not a partisan attack piece, its a clarification piece.

If this story had not been the big newsmaker it was, then yes dredging it out and making the distinction would have been a stretch. But its been a huge story today with the headline not clarifying what his stance is, and that little last bit where he mentions "not being in a position to judge", hidden in the middle of a paragraph.

Unfortunately the average person can't read between the lines, and would in all probability assume Bieber is anti-choice (as two people I have talked to today have). People CLARIFYING what he actually said helps others understand the distinction and prevents Bieber from being seen or used as some figurehead for the pro-life movement.

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