NY Times columnists are squishy and icky, too


It’s too much to hope that the NY Times will ever get rid of their awful opinion columnists. At least it gives us something to gripe about every week.

The latest bit of irrational conservative nonsense comes from Ross Douthat, who doesn’t like abortion. He is saddened and appalled by those absurd anti-Planned Parenthood videos that have been released. He dismisses the idea that these are trumped-up and phony.

It may be unseemly to hear a Planned Parenthood official haggle over pricing for those organs: “Let me just figure out what others are getting, and if this is in the ballpark, then it’s fine, if it’s still low, then we can bump it up. I want a Lamborghini.”

If hearing a worker at a Planned Parenthood clinic tell you they hope to get a Lamborghini out of their abortion services doesn’t clue you in that you’re being played, you just might have the brain power to be a NY Times conservative columnist.

He starts his essay with a story about a bunch of aborted fetuses being dumped in a suburban neighborhood, and people walking around on tiny, naked, all-too-human bodies of aborted fetuses. That’s the heart of his argument: abortion is icky. Fetuses are people. There’s blood and slime in abortions! This is no more credible an argument than that we shouldn’t treat cancer with surgery because it’s disgusting to see tumors chopped out of people.

At least he’s smart enough to see that that’s a really stupid argument, and he tries to defuse criticism by claiming that fetuses are special.

And the problem these videos create for Planned Parenthood isn’t just a generalized queasiness at surgery and blood.

It’s a very specific disgust, informed by reason and experience — the reasoning that notes that it’s precisely a fetus’s humanity that makes its organs valuable, and the experience of recognizing one’s own children, on the ultrasound monitor and after, as something more than just “products of conception” or tissue for the knife.

No, that’s a not reason: that’s a collection of assumptions that many of us don’t share. If you assume that an oocyte is equivalent to a baby, then menstruation represents a baby holocaust. Douthat is taking his Catholic biases, that there’s something more to fetal tissue than a partially organized mass of human cells, and making that his premises. Show me what that something more is, or you’re just making an argument from the assertion of magic.

Finally, he makes this excuse:

This reluctance is a human universal. It’s why white Southerners long preferred Lost Cause mythology to slaveholding realities. It’s why patriotic Americans rarely want to dwell too long on My Lai or Manzanar or Nagasaki. It’s why, like many conservatives, I was loath to engage with the reality of torture in Bush-era interrogation programs.

Oh, please, don’t call your conservative assholishness a human universal. Some of us patriotic Americans think it’s important to bring up our moral failures whenever the nonsense of American exceptionalism comes up, because caring about the fate of your country means openly addressing its problems. Don’t confuse the fact that conservatives are close-minded and actively turn away from the truth of history with patriotism — that’s appropriation of patriotism is a line they always use, and it’s contemptible.

Also comparing a routine and often necessary medical procedure to slavery and massacres is a thoroughly contemptible rhetorical game.

He admits to a lack of moral clarity on the issue of whether adult human beings ought to be tortured. But apparently while he could weeble and dodge on that topic, the one thing that finally gets him off his ass to be indignant is the very idea that women could have a right to control what goes on in their bodies. A man has to have priorities, don’t you know.


  1. raven says

    I once read an op-ed that was so stupid I made a mental note of who the author was. It was about the RCC priest child sexual abuse scandal. It excused it by explaining what a great guy Father Joseph, his own parish priest was.

    That may have even been true. But it was completely irrelevant.

    The name was…Ross Douthat. Ross Douthat isn’t a columnist. He is a propagandist for the Catholic church.

  2. Gregory Greenwood says

    Doubhat drones on endlessly that a mass of partially differentiated cells is totally a human being, and yet he oddly never seems to extend that same definition to fully adult women with dreams and aspirations of their own – they get relegated to the status of incubator, and disposable incubators at that. That he honestly seems to think that his misogynistic christo-fascist agenda is not obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together would be funny if his blather didn’t contribute to so much preventable suffering.

  3. says

    It’s not just that RD is misogynistic and anti-sex and generally uber-conservative. I marvel mostly at how stupid he and many of his partners in wingnut welfare are. It’s not even that I reject their values; the fact that these people make money bloating is mind-boggling to me. And when I see them do it for publications like the venerable NYT, all I can think of is “Jesus Christ, who would I have to blow to get that gig?”

  4. microraptor says

    What really irks me more than this idiot is the people who read crap like this and say “you know, he kind of has a point” even though they’re pro-choice.

  5. says

    Ross Douthat is reason number 5,652,194 I no longer read the Times, except on the exceedingly rare occasions when someone shoots me a really compelling link. Number 1, of course, is David Brooks. Number 2 is its coverage of Israel/Palestine. Number 3 is withholding from revealing the Bush surveillance programs until after he was safely reelected. Number 4 is its laughably narrow parameters for (what passes as) liberal/leftist discourse. I could do this all day, but brunch awaits!

    Tl;dr: The Paper of Record is barely suitable for lining bird cages.

  6. congenital cynic says

    From my perspective most surgical procedures are “icky”, but just because they are “icky” doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be done. It just means that I was right when I decided NOT to go into medicine. You wouldn’t want your surgeon throwing up in the middle of a procedure. But luckily for folks like me, there are those who love the OR. And using “icky” as an anti-abortion argument is just stupid.

  7. VP says

    What if instead of describing abortion as what it is (a surgical procedure to remove a cluster of cells) it was rebranded as torture by Americans on the frontline (doctors) to protect Americans (the women) and the American way of life?

    I think we’d see the Douthat types start writing articles in favor of abortion.

  8. Knight in Sour Armor says

    Even if the doctored vids did represent reality, what really is the problem with making good use of an excised uterine parasite? Sure it’s a bit icky, but so are c-sections, brain surgery, maggot tissue cleaning, which are all necessary and good things to do.

  9. raven says

    He starts his essay with a story about a bunch of aborted fetuses being dumped in a suburban neighborhood, and people walking around on “tiny, naked, all-too-human bodies of aborted fetuses”.

    I can think of worse things.

    Something shambling through your neighborhood. The blank look. The lurching walk. The plainitive cries of Braaiiinnnssss!!!

    It’s a Zombie. Again. Church just got out. In this case it’s Ross Douthat. Who’s higher cognitive faculties were fried by toxic religion. Douthat is truly an undead.

  10. says

    So what is Ross Douthat and the church doing to lower the abortion rate? Surely they are in favor of comprehensive sex education and cheap/free birth control for women and condoms for men.

  11. dianne says

    Things to note (that Douthat appears to not understand):
    1. The majority of abortions occur in the embryonic period.
    2. It is the undifferentiated state of the embryo that makes it valuable for stem cell and cell culture purposes.
    3. The image on the ultrasound monitor is a rorschach test. You can read anything into it. People can and routinely do mistake kidneys, gall bladders, and empty uteri for fetuses. This does not make kidneys, gall bladders, or empty uteri separate people.

  12. Monsanto says

    Show me what that “something more” is, or you’re just making an argument from the assertion of magic.

    Magic? Nothing could be more scientific than “vital force”. You’re welcome.

  13. whirlwitch says

    My grandmother donated her body to science. It was a very valuable donation, as she hit 97 without any dementia at all, and Alzheimer’s researchers are in particular need of brains in that category – and they rarely get them.

    I’m pretty damned sure I would have hated watching any procedure done to her body post-mortem. So would a whole bunch of other people, including many who didn’t know my grandmother at all and just don’t want to watch a corpse get cut up. None of that makes the doctors and researchers into immoral bad guys, or the procedures themselves into horrible acts.

  14. magistramarla says

    Yup, I intend to donate my brain to Dystonia research because I have Spasmodic Dystonia.
    There is no cure yet, and dystonias are not well understood. They do tend to run in families, though.
    If the research on my brain can help to keep my children or grandchildren from suffering with the problems that I have, my brain will have served a great purpose.
    As for the rest of my body – use what is usable, cremate the rest, and throw the ashes into the Monterey Bay, hopefully along with those of my hubby.

  15. says

    On a minor tangent — Does anybody know how to get that all set up, you know, the body-donation thing? Because I’d like to donate mine.

    Back on topic, uhhh… “icky”? Yeah, abortion’s kinda icky. Generally speaking, it’s going to be varying degrees of both messy and icky when it comes to removing/expelling things from your body. That’s pretty much a given.

    But we don’t ban things because they’re “icky”. If we did that, we’d have nothing because it doesn’t matter what you name, someone, somewhere thinks it’s gross.

  16. dianne says

    If the thinks abortion is icky, what does he think about childbirth? Because that’s a (literally) bloody mess at the best of times.

  17. Cas says

    @16 WMDKitty – I currently work at a university Medical School and we have a dedicated contact that we can refer people to who want to donate their bodies to science. It is always a bit of a shock to pick up the phone to find a lovely old man or woman very earnestly telling you in great detail why they want to donate (or even more of a shock to stumble into work early on a Monday morning to find a corpse in the lift with you being taken to the anatomy labs!!). So yeah, I’d say get in touch with your nearest medical school. They should be able to refer you to the right people.

  18. se habla espol says

    @16 WMDKitty: In my experience, carrying out my mother’s wishes, it’s best to make arrangements in advance. She had wanted her body to go to UCLA, but we were out of their transport range. The nearest UC med school’s Willed Body Program was in range, but had been shut down because of some legal issues. There was another, with a larger range that our third choice, but the only available option.

  19. Lofty says

    @16 WMDKitty:

    My mother, lifelong atheist, wanted to donate her body to science. So I contacted our local university med school, they sent out some forms which were duly signed, witnessed and returned. Unfortunately when she died, the freezer was full so she had to be cremated instead.

  20. says

    He starts his essay with a story about a bunch of aborted fetuses being dumped in a suburban neighborhood, and people walking around on “tiny, naked, all-too-human bodies of aborted fetuses”.

    I call bullshit on this story. I’m sure freak accidents happen, but this story reads like a William Burroughs novel; and there’s absolutely no citation of any actual news source (yes, there would be local news — this is precisely the kind of lurid scoop that local journalists would eagerly lap up to advance their careers). The only thing that passes as a “primary source” here is an ADVERTIZEMENT for a book that’s billed as “Notes on the Art of Surgery” and “moving and perversely funny…considers…the meaning of life and death.”

    And how is it that nobody even notices all that unusual garbage on their streets until AFTER they’ve started walking in it? Didn’t these innocent suburban zombies at least see something that kinda looked like bloodstains first?

    “It is a foreignness upon the pavement” sounds more like pompous religious droning than a description of a real event. All in all, this story doesn’t pass even a basic smell test.

  21. terrencekaye says

    Brth cntrl s nt cntrcptn ndscrmntly nd thghtlssly prctcd. t mns th rls nd cltvtn f th bttr rcl lmnts n r scty, nd th grdl spprssn, lmntn nd vntl xtrptn f dfctv stcks – ths hmn wds whch thrtn th blmng f th fnst flwrs f mrcn cvlztn.

    [Racism gets you a disemvowelment! And a banning! Bye! –pzm]

  22. Tom Weiss says

    …the very idea that women could have a right to control what goes on in their bodies…

    Wishing progressives would use this logic for issues other than abortion…

  23. says

    Wishing Tom Weiss would stop pretending he has anything of substance to say. After his last little meltdown about how liberals want to put guns to everyone’s heads and violate our bodies for hideous unspecified purposes (has someone been watching too many “True Blood” repeats perhaps?), he really has no credibility, and we have no reason to take him at all seriously.

  24. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Wishing progressives would use this logic for issues other than abortion…

    Here’s wishing TW could find some evidence to back up their inane political/economic claims. Nada, zip, zero, zilch, empty set. Which is why you aren’t listened to. You need more than the equivalent of evidenceless theology to have solids points.

  25. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says


    Wishing progressives would use this logic for issues other than abortion…

    We do. Everyone has a right to bodily autonomy. The vast majority of self-described progressives agree with that.