Doublespeak masquerades as simple difference of opinion

BRATTLEBORO — I was perplexed to find in The Commons this article, accompanied by an image of a page from a 1931 eugenicist screed in order to support the article's point, such as it is. A quote by Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits below the article, stating “The state controlling a woman would mean denying her full autonomy and full equality.”

I'm baffled by the series of editorial decisions that brought together this assemblage of the image, the article, and the end quote.

Back in January, the editors of The Commons printed a commentary by the same author, “What is the compelling state interest in killing unborn children?,” which is at least a more straightforward indication of the author's position on Article 22 and the right to terminate a pregnancy.

In the earlier article, Erica Walch bemoaned Prop 5 (now Article 22) as an assault on the rights of unnamed blastocysts (to whom she curiously awards Vermont citizenship, by christening them “unborn Vermonters”). To its credit, this is a fairly straightforward, recognizable anti-choice position.

On the contrary, Walch's most recent piece sheds all concern for zygotic life as quickly as a purple-state Republican scrubs their previous anti-choice/forced-birth positions from their website in this midterm election cycle.

Instead, the article pretends to a concern for the possibility that the amendment might pave the way for a repeat of Vermont's ugly eugenicist policies of the 1920s and '30s by focusing on the second clause of the amendment: “...unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

Never mind that the main clause of the amendment explicitly protects “an individual's right to personal reproductive autonomy.” As an apparent legal scholar, Walch surely understands that the “unless” clause she focuses on is actually meant to make sure that the strictest possible judicial review should be applied to any effort to infringe on that reproductive autonomy, and to prevent exactly the kind of legislation of people's reproductive choices that Vermont enacted in 1931, and that many states in our country are currently enacting to restrict (or, more often, vacate entirely) the right to terminate a pregnancy.

But, truth be told, I cannot fault Walch for...pivoting, let us say, to this new critique of Article 22.

Surely, if one's argument on the merits is unconvincing at best and deeply offensive at worst to the vast majority of the population, it is perfectly sensible as a political actor to abandon rational discourse and resort instead to dissembling and misdirection.

No, my issue is not with Walch, but rather with the editors of The Commons who have here elevated the principle of journalistic naïveté to absurd heights, and have actively promoted this cynical ruse as if it were an honest contribution to public debate.

I am unsurprised that politicians on the right have left behind all pretense of having a position worth defending in favor of concern trolling, dog whistles, subterfuge, and the sowing of doubt and confusion (Walch would have us believe this one-sentence amendment is “meandering and nearly incomprehensible” just because she says so, even though I'm quite sure she comprehends it perfectly).

What is of far greater concern to me are ostensibly trustworthy media outlets like The Commons who legitimize this sort of corrosive discourse by not only printing it but providing supporting graphics and an end quote.

The slogan “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” had power in 1984 because of the lack of an independent media. With our putatively free press, we have no excuse for allowing such obvious doublespeak as appears in Walch's commentary to masquerade as a simple difference of opinion.

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