There is something profoundly disturbing about the furore surrounding US politician Todd Akin – but it’s not what he is being hammered for by other politicians and commentators.

And in today's ridiculous outpouring, I declare your device inferior to a Nokia

Akin, an 11-year veteran of the US Congress and committed anti-abortion campaigner said in a live TV interview last weekend that he believed women were unlikely to become pregnant after suffering legitimate rape.

The resulting shock and fury has continued unabated with everyone from the President down belting Akin. President Obama’s comments epitomised the popular angle of attack – that it was unacceptable for rape to be parsed into categories of legitimate and illegitimate.

Akin has explained his comments were a mistake; that in the heat of the interview he had used poorly judged words – “misspoke” – but that he does not legitimise rape in any circumstance. It is an explanation that at least should be considered feasible – that he added an adjective without particularly meaning anything by it.

Anyone who has done a live media interview would be aware how easy it is to be imprecise in language, or how cringe-worthy an explanation sometimes sounds on playback.

But barely rating a mention is the extraordinary proposition that Akin DID mean to make – that raped women have some automatic physical mechanism that “turns off” their fertility. Akin has since withdrawn that proposition, but that an experienced, educated, long-standing politician made such a loony remark in the first place is surely astonishing in the extreme.

Akin’s explanation for making the comment was basically “someone told me”. Really! That’s the basis for policy making in the world’s most powerful democratic nation? And not on some minor issue, but on one that has been contentious and controversial for decades.

The truth is that a piece of fantasist nonsense it might be, but it was a convenient piece of absurdity, because it could be used as a phoney proof point to support his moral position on abortion.

The admonition of one of Akin predecessors in the Congress, Pat Moynihan, that “you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts” appears quaint and old-fashioned in modern American politics.

Yet, sadly, we can see the same phenomenon in modern Australian politics.

The cause of climate change is one of the most researched and settled of modern scientific issues. In fact, there is bipartisan support for the proposition that human activity is causing carbon to increase in the atmosphere, that this is causing climate change, and that carbon emissions must be reduced and/or captured to reverse this trend. The issue between the major parties goes to the appropriate policies to effect this.

But somehow that does not appear to be the impression in the broad community. The public acceptance of the scientific consensus on climate change has decreased rather than increased as a handful of extremist non-believers have achieved attention massively out of proportion to their qualifications or representativeness of the scientific community.

A group of senior politicians has contributed to the celebrity of these climate change deniers because they provide a convenient – if false – proof point for what they would like to believe. Sadly, as much as we want to say that we regard politicians as not to be trusted, when a senior politician declares that something is fact, it does carry a degree of authority for that person’s followers.

So, a politician uses a convenient untruth to justify a position they want to hold for ideological or faith-based reasons, and in so doing provides a veneer of credibility to the untruth itself. It’s a kind of reverse proof point.

This creates another curious problem for observers of politics. It is fashionable for politicians to declare themselves advocates of “evidence-based policy”. But when it is apparent that politicians now regard themselves as being free to invent their own evidence, how do we tell the difference between made up evidence-based policy and factual evidence-based policy?

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    • Economist says:

      12:08pm | 24/08/12

      You’ve only got to look at comments on the Punch, and the Australian newspaper, to see that facts are optional.
      ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................  Geez I’m starting to sound like a prat. This is what happens when you read something that is so wrong it just pisses you off. I’d expect this from Punch comments, but from the national newspaper!
      . .
      . .
      . .
      . .

    • The Badger says:

      01:01pm | 24/08/12

      I have tried numerous times to post links to Ltd. News stories that contain factual errors, but none of these posts have ever gotten through the moderators.  Then you see these “facts” quoted all over the web, especially on this site.
      I understand how embarrassing it would be for the authors of these “stories” and indeed how the site editors might take out their wrath on ThePunch staff.
      Not worth the potential repercussions seems to be their thinking.
      Ethics? Journalism? Make me laugh.

    • mikem says:

      04:17pm | 24/08/12

      You are not alone Badger.  I’ve also tried with no success. 

      Anothe practice which irks me is how often what the headline implies is not supported by the contents of the article.  Its almost as if the policy with political articles is to have an attention grabbing headline irrespective of whether that truly reflects the facts or not.

    • marley says:

      06:01pm | 24/08/12

      I’m not defending NewsLtd on this because I agree, but they’re not the only culprits. I once wrote to the ABC pointing out a very basic factual error (easily verifiable) on its website about a criminal investigation in Canada - and got a reply along the lines of “that’s what the AAP gave us, we don’t verify, so stuff your complaint, the story stays” - well, to be fair, it was a little more polite, but not much.  And the story remained, uncorrected.

    • simonfromlakemba says:

      12:10pm | 24/08/12

      “how do we tell the difference between made up evidence-based policy and factual evidence-based policy?”

      When you have people on all sides making anything up to suit their own ideals it makes it hard for the average person to decide whats wrong and right.

      You see it here day in, day out on the Punch. People posting links to articles which if you asked them to explain wouldn’t be able to, but the link backs of their viewpoint even if they have no in depth understanding.

    • gary says:

      12:19pm | 24/08/12

      What’s the problem here.
      Everyone knows that facts and opinions are interchangeable.

      just ask marley

    • chuck says:

      12:24pm | 24/08/12

      He must have been talking about kangaroos!

    • RightToMitt says:

      12:33pm | 24/08/12

      The idiots supporting this idiot generally do quote evidence - a paper written by John Wilkie, MD in 1999. The MD means doctor, so clearly it’s legitimate!

      What they fail to mention is that John Wilkie is also the nutjob who founded the International Right to Life Foundation. And the president of the National Right To Life association. And spent the last 40 years writing dodgy anti-abortion materials.

    • Mike says:

      12:34pm | 24/08/12

      If people wanted a meritocracy, they would’ve chosen one much sooner. Fact is, most people prefer a theocracy of some form or another. We don’t want smart politicians, we want inspirational politicians.

      When faced with arrogant athletes who damn the weak, we are all inspired to go to the gym. When faced with arrogant scientists who damn the dumb, we tear them down and decry them as snobs.

      Debate in Australia is purposely dumbed down to small 30 second sound bites so that the public can understand it, but not be challenged by it. Politicians choose populists arguments because they get votes from them. I’ve never subscribed to the notion that it’s the politician’s fault. In our democracy, we choose what we want to hear, see and believe.

    • Al says:

      12:59pm | 24/08/12

      While to a large degree I agree with you I do also believe it is the politician’s fault as well as the voter for not educating themselves on the sunjects and checking the facts.
      I for one don’t prefer the theocracy we have, but I know I am in the minority.

    • Scott says:

      01:05pm | 24/08/12

      Agreed. Because, especially with social media, exposure of politics, issues, politicians, needs to be dumbed further down the farther it reaches. Pollies have to be much more careful about they say, and so of course they’re more likely to pick those populist arguments.

    • Scott says:

      01:06pm | 24/08/12

      Agreed. Because, especially with social media, exposure of politics, issues, politicians, needs to be dumbed further down the farther it reaches. Pollies have to be much more careful about they say, and so of course they’re more likely to pick those populist arguments.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      12:36pm | 24/08/12

      What an absolute dickhead this man is. What’s even more astonishing is that he actually seemed to believe what he was saying.

      What is it with the US right wing old, male pollies wanting to define womens’ reproductive rights? They clearly don’t know anything about it.

    • AdamC says:

      12:42pm | 24/08/12

      “Akin’s explanation for making the comment was basically “someone told me”. Really! That’s the basis for policy making in the world’s most powerful democratic nation?”

      Actually, on this issue, American policy was set by a group of unelected jurists, based on a provision of the US Constitution that does not exist or, at least, was not included in the actual document.

    • Not a lawyer, but.... says:

      01:56pm | 24/08/12

      Perhaps these  simple “unelected jurists” ie the Justices of the Supreme Court of The United States of America,   knew what they were doing by interpreting the right to privacy  as “substantive due process (guaranteed by the 14th Amendment) to include rights and freedoms that are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution but that, according to the Court, extend or derive from existing rights”  in Roe Vs Wade in 1973. This right to privacy of contract, as  between doctor and patient, extended to abortion under that decision. It was, and still is, an important defence of personal liberty and the right to choose.

    • Anna C says:

      12:53pm | 24/08/12

      If only rape victims could switch off their fertility like this moron suggested.  It would reduce the additional pain and suffering faced by rape victims who have to deal with unplanned pregnancy and termination on top of everything else. 

      I just wish poltical parties in America would stay away from issues that deal with womens bodies.  Enough already.

    • Buggy bear says:

      01:01pm | 24/08/12

      Of course you can make up “facts”. But only if you’re a conservative! They do it almost daily!

    • Reader says:

      01:04pm | 24/08/12

      The 4people in detention, the 33000 scientists. Complete bs invented by the right and circulated in the blogosphere. They’re not true but become “fact” because idiots believe it.

    • Nodger says:

      01:06pm | 24/08/12

      The horrible corollary of Akin’s position is that if a pregnancy follows from a rape, then it is likely that the woman in fact was not raped but consented. And that if she floats, she must also be a witch.

    • Baloo says:

      01:10pm | 24/08/12

      How can you sit in front of a camera and say that in front of millions of people?
      I just feel sorry for US citizens.

    • HC says:

      02:26pm | 24/08/12

      Because people there (and also here) are gullible enough and naive enough to believe him.  He wouldn’t have made the statement unless he thought he could get some sort of political advantage from it.

      At the end of the day he’s a politician and like all politicians he pretends to believe in a set of ideals that voters will latch on to (so long as they don’t think too hard).  Like any good politician he just needs to lie well enough to convince the idiots to crawl out of their rocks on polling day.  The problem with this Akin guy is he seems to be just stupid enough to start swallowing his own sh!t.

    • Mahhrat says:

      01:15pm | 24/08/12

      Akin should be sacked for gross stupidity if nothing else.

      Of course, I just read an article that drew a bow between rape victims and global warming, but hey, it’s Friday.

      Seriously, wtf.

    • DennisDenuto says:

      01:24pm | 24/08/12

      All this piece does is try to link an abhorrent statement relating to rape to those people who question the human impact of climate change. It’s a base level smear and the analogy is unsound.

      There is plently of literature out there questioning the human impact on climate change. Much of it is well researched and considered. Much of it is peer reviewed. Of course those holding a view that the human impact on climate change is minimal are in the minority. But their views are not automatically based on a phony proposition.

      The climate debate is a scientific debate with two equally well researched and considered points of view. More people accept one point of view than the other. Just because that is the case though does not give those who hold the majority opinion the moral highground over the others. Equally, those who question the majority position are not morally deficient, as perhaps someone who questions the impact of rape might be.

    • Hartz says:

      03:41pm | 24/08/12

      I think people accept that pollution is not good for the environment but I also believe that the Climate Change Industry shot itself in the foot with its hysterical approach to the whole thing… People can see that scientists need to perpetuate the science in order to keep their grants and research money - it’s an industry, they are making their money and the general public is sick of the 24/7 screaming from the roof tops and certainly no one wants to pay more money to the government for ZERO environmental return… The author trying to link this nut job to anyone who doesn’t accept their interpretation of the science or more accurately just disagree with the method the government is trying to use to solve the promblem of climate change (read: Make more money) is just another reason why people are sick of the whole debate..!!

    • Scott says:

      01:26pm | 24/08/12

      I can’t believe the outcry against this guy and how heavy the declarations of ‘ignorant, bible-bashing bigot’ are flowing all over the internet.

      The theory is not ludicrously implausible. Creating and sustaining a pregnancy relies on a special hormonal balance. Following a severe physical & emotional trauma such as rape, it would be naive to think that something so complex as the hormone system couldn’t be affected somehow, and thereby possibly reducing the chance of a pregnancy. I acknowledge that there would be minimal (if any) reliable evidence to support this statement however, likely because proving it with any sort of study would be impossible for ethical reasons.

      And why the offense at his use of the term ‘legitimate rape’? Did anyone consider that he was differentiating between ‘forced’ rape and ‘statutory’ rape? Both are considered rape in the eyes of the law, yet one carries the trauma, while the other does not, which is the point of the theory he’s presenting.

      Finally, I’m all for arguing against dud statements, but can we start denouncing them with objective arguments before we shut them down with offensive labelling and intimidation? I feel like civilised, adult society is regressing back into high school… We need to get over this delusion of a ‘right to be offended’ and let people have their view, and then intelligently and respectfully debate it accordingly.

      PS. David, if there was a scientific consensus, all the scientists would be in a consensus. And 97% would represent more than, what, 74 scientists?

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      01:59pm | 24/08/12

      Are you for real? “The theory is not ludicrously implausible.”

      i’m sorry i can’t even.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      02:03pm | 24/08/12

      Also, the reason people take offence at “legitimate rape” is because apparently if you are not actively fighting the attacker off and end up with bruises and cuts and a black eye, the victim somehow ‘wanted it’, and cue the victim blaming.

      As I mentioned in another article, my now wife was drugged and raped when she was 18. She was incapable of making decisions and incapable of consenting, she was barely concious. That is not ‘forced’ rape, it is not statutory rape, it’s just freakin’ rape.

      Take a good look at what you’ve written: You are part of the problem why rape is unreported and encourages victim blaming.

    • loxy says:

      02:34pm | 24/08/12

      Scott, using the term legitimate rape in the context Akin did strongly implied that if a rape victims falls pregnant then it obviously wasn’t a proper or legitimate rape in the first place.

      This is a grossly offense statement and if you can’t see that then you can count yourself out of your so called ‘civilised society’.

    • Slothy says:

      02:43pm | 24/08/12

      Fine - this study from Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of South Carolina puts the number of rapes resulting in pregnancy at 5 per cent - about the same as normal unprotected intercourse. So now can I say that Akin and his friends who talk about ‘the juices not flowing’ and ‘the tubes going spastic’ are ignorant bible-bashing bigots?

      If Aiken and his cronies believe that there is some super special anti-rape pregnancy mechanism, that would suggest that that they believe that anyone who gets pregnant from a rape wasn’t actually raped. You’re damn right I’m going to hold tight to my right to be offended by that kind of bullshit.

    • Drama Queen says:

      02:45pm | 24/08/12

      Scott, Scott, Scott -

      Firstly, if there is “minimal (if any) reliable evidence” then why did a politician make such a statement claiming it as fact. The onus is on him to have facts to support a statement he makes not the other way around.

      Secondly, for your lack of knowledge on the subject you don’t have to look any further than wartime rape and pregnancy statistics. Also there are plenty of academic articles on the subject in your bother to use google. One research paper estimates 32,101 pregancies due to rape in the US per year. I also feel like some posters are regressing back to high school when they can’t use a simple tool like google.

      Contrary to what you think most statutory rape does carry trauma - do you think pedaphiles are okay?? Like Nathan says you really are part of the problem.

    • Cynicised says:

      02:48pm | 24/08/12

       Unfortunately, Nathan, many  men will never completely understand female rape, it’s as simple as that. Women have vaginas which they sometimes consent to be penetrated and sometimes don’t. It’s the idea that a woman can choose which seems to baffle many men. Because  during sex a woman has to allow the man’s penis to enter her body, arousal is necessary as well as consent in order for her to enjoy the experience. Most normal straight women do, when they desire their partner. However, when the act of penetration is without consent and arousal, it is a traumatic violation of her right to bodily integrity and a subjugation of her will. Whether awake or asleep, accompanied by violence or not, rape is rape. It infuriates me when men (especially politicians) use terms like “legitimate rape” or “forcible rape” as if to justify a diminution of the charge if the woman is asleep or not battered to within an inch of her life.  I’ll put it in as simple terms as as I can - unless the woman is conscious and consenting, men need to keep their dicks (and other things) to themselves!

      Let me also make another simple point. All that is required for pregnancy to occur is sperm meeting ovum and implantation of the resulting blastocyst in the uterine wall. Full stop. Please, Scott,  do tell pregnant women who have been raped that their state of mind makes their all -too -real pregnancy impossible or unlikely. Victim blaming indeed! 

    • Sickemrex says:

      02:56pm | 24/08/12

      The theory there’s a tiny pink unicorn named Stanley living in my roof isn’t ludicrously implausible either.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      03:12pm | 24/08/12

      @Cynicised

      I agree; I can’t even imagine what it would it be like. All I can do is try to educate other guys and hope they at least knock it off on the victim blaming and trying to dictate what women do with their own organs. It disgusts me, it truly does.

    • the cynic says:

      03:28pm | 24/08/12

      I was always under the impression that those pesky little white wiggly things swim like all get out towards the final destination and nothing short of some form of contraception will stop them. It’s a a race for life, survival of the fittest and they get on with it regardless of what the women is doing or thinking at the time.

    • lostinperth says:

      01:36pm | 24/08/12

      You link an idiots view on rape victims with those who doubt the 100% accuracy of global warming?

      Very classy.

      You also seem to have trouble understanding the difference between data, a theory based on an interpretation of the data and facts.

      Gor someone who works in “Information and Communication” that is a worrying lack of knowledge

    • DOB says:

      03:16pm | 24/08/12

      Why not? If youre aware of the facts you know that both positions are devoid of sufficient facts to support their arguments.

      Makes perfect sense. If youre offended at being on the “looney” end of the argument then perhaps you need to re-evaluate the facts.

    • Meph says:

      01:39pm | 24/08/12

      Making up facts in relation to climate change denial?

      How about the following article linking to some facts for you:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/08/23/antarctic_peninsula_ice_core/

      Facts that indicate that temperatures on the antarctic peninsula have frequently been higher than they currently are in the last ten thousand years.

      Personally, I carry around a huge block of salt for application when anyone starts telling me “facts” with a clear agenda of self interest.

    • BruceS says:

      01:48pm | 24/08/12

      Judging by the “outrage"spewing from the Left, he must be telling the truth.

    • Muggles says:

      04:52pm | 24/08/12

      I’m not saying his statement was valid (far from it; it was pretty damned dumb), but…

      He could have said the sky was blue, and there’d be outrage spewing from the Left.

      It’s what the Left does.  He could have exactly the same policies as Obama, and he’d be howled down.

    • GEOFFREY says:

      02:16pm | 24/08/12

      Perhaps he should have interviewed   one of the 1,000,000 + children conceived by rape in Germany at the close of the 2nd world War . Perhaps he might have found out how their Mothers managed to do it

    • Gordon says:

      02:17pm | 24/08/12

      Sorry, but the theory is pretty implausible.  Rape in war is undisputable and so are the pregnancies that result. Just one of many examples. Biology is not terribly interested in morality and the feelings of those concerned. Once part A is introduced to part B however unpleasantly nature will take it’s course.

      “legitimate” carries an sotto-voce assumption that rape without other violence isn’t really rape. Wrong, and an affront to the generations of women who have struggled for the right to say no thanks and have it stick. Rape is a crime and rape with additional violence is two crimes.

      Sure he can say all this, and I too get a bit bored by the outrage industry going mental every second day, but I’m not surprised he’s copped a flogging. The right to express an opinion doesn’t include the right to not get told it’s uninformed.

      Like this: Linking this to global warming is uninformed. The human reproduction experiment has been repeated about 100 billion times and counting. “The” science really is “in”, athough even here we are still learning. Human influence on the climate is just now, perhaps, becoming noticeable in amongst a system with many many other variables. Science is littered with surprises and the precautionary principle cuts both ways.

    • Gordon says:

      04:15pm | 24/08/12

      Bugger, linked to wrong post,  was aimed @Scott of the implausibly ludicrous higher up.  I see I’m not alone either.

    • year of the dragon says:

      02:30pm | 24/08/12

      It is pathetic that a anyone would try to spin a story about an obnoxious comment by an indeological knucklehead into a comment about those of us who are sceptical about the extent of AGW.

      It is unsurprising that such a vile link would come from a company specialising in spin and with strong links to the ALP.

    • MH says:

      06:52pm | 24/08/12

      Who’d have thought?  I also liked this sneaky little effort:

      “In fact, there is bipartisan support for the proposition that human activity is causing carbon to increase in the atmosphere, that this is causing climate change, and that carbon emissions must be reduced and/or captured to reverse this trend.”

      There is some level of bipartisan support for the first proposition, a lesser level of bipartisan support for the second and absolutely no bipartisan support for the third.  Lazy, shameless misdirection.

 

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