Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review | Ray Comfort’s ‘180’

| »

So, I’ve just spent the last half-hour or so (since before writing this post, that is) watching Ray Comfort’s new anti-abortion propaganda documentary, 180. All I can really start off by saying is that when you preface your argument with nearly fifteen minutes straight of “Hitler was evil, m’kay?”, that does not bode well. You wouldn’t think it’d be possible to Godwin oneself so quickly, but if so, then you obviously haven’t encountered the likes of Ray Comfort yet.

I won’t embed the video here because, frankly, I don’t want to give it any more viewings than I can avoid. (You can click the link above if you must see it for yourself.) But you don’t even need to watch it, anyway, because if you’ve ever so much as browsed Comfort’s blog out of sheer boredom at some point (or maybe you were doing research for a report on the harmful effects of evangelism on the brain or something), you’ll already have seen pretty much everything that’s depicted in the video:

  • Hitler was evil! (And hated Christianity!)
  • Holocaust = bad!
  • Argumentum ad populum = solid, compelling arguments!
  • Babies in the womb!
  • Taking life = bad!
  • Ergo, taking babies’ lives in the womb = super-bad!
  • Ergo, abortion = America’s Holocaust!

That’s it. Every single argument contained in those 33 minutes of brainwashing material (intercut with obligatory ghastly imagery and complete with creepy, melodramatic music) is nothing but the same rehashed tripe that’s been steadily dribbling from Comfort’s own proselytizing outlet for years with exactly nothing new added. It’s horrendously predictable: Nazis are bad, Nazis killed people, babies are people, don’t kill babies or you’re just like Hitler, amen. It would be amusing in its predictable lameness if it weren’t so artfully and glaringly dishonest, almost to the point where the perceptive viewer starts wondering why these interviewees aren’t picking up on the framing of it all.

Because it’s all about framing, the manner in which arguments are delivered, and it’s done with the sort of practiced deceit that rivals the skill of any talented con-artist out there. (After all, that’s all a Liar for JesusTM is.) It’s got all of Comfort’s usual tricks: impressing simpletons with cheesy tricks, confusing them with halfway clever turns of phrase and intimidating them with accusatory rhetoric and threats of divine judgment and eternal damnation into reforming from their heathenish ways. You really have to either marvel or rage at the Jesus-shaped chutzpah on display during these scenes (which comprise most of the film, anyway).

One thing that’s conspicuously absent from Comfort’s interview line-up is a single intelligent and educated individual who’d actually given the matter of abortion rights a modicum of thought beforehand. I’ve seen this film advertized as showing the near-miraculous conversions of hardlined pro-choicers, yet those who were questioned on camera were all undecided fence-sitters with loose ideas about what abortion is and even vaguer convictions about it. The fact that Comfort’s well-rehearsed spiel was able to bring them over to his side of thinking is not only unimpressive, it’s utterly disingenuous when used as some sort of argument for why abortion is teh wrongz. You might as well watch a dog chase its own tail for half an hour for all the intellectual substance it brings. (At least the dog would provide some entertainment.)

Chicken, possum, cat, bat and human embryos at various early stages of development
Pharyngula-stage embryos
[source | full size (400×386)]

We’re also given a brief mention of the fact that a six-week-old baby embryo already has distinct body parts such as primitive eyes and hands, and that its heart has then begun beating. Of course, Comfort doesn’t touch upon the fact that the human embryo doesn’t look any different than a chicken’s or a cat’s at this point in development [pictured right] and that arguing about the organism’s physical appearance may be a bit more compelling once it can actually be identified as either a human or a gerbil. And the idea that the beating heart is supposed to be any sort of an argument is just silly. It’s akin to putting a pacemaker on a tree; it doesn’t think, feel or care about anything, and nor can it until at least 28 weeks of gestation, a far cry from the six-week old little tadpole in Comfort’s video. As usual, it’s all emotional appeals and nothing more, scaring or shocking people into a line of thought without providing a lick of actual evidence either way.

But even after spending its entire first half pontificating on the evils of the Nazi regime and showcasing all those reformed anti-abortionists that were supposedly the crux of the matter, we’re then treated to essentially a tediously extended version of the notoriously rigged “Good Person” test*, where you’re funneled down a predetermined path of answers that inevitably concludes that you’re a lyin’, cheatin’ heathen who’s doomed to Hell lest you repent, repent, repent! This actually takes up the entire last third of the film – a full ten minutes of accusing the interviewees of being liars and cheaters and fornicators-at-heart who’ll end up burning in hellfire if they don’t go home and start sucking on the Biblical teat. I’m not entirely sure what this has to do with abortion, given that it’s in the same documentary … but I suppose you can’t keep a good preachy Christianist down.

So, there you have it, folks. Thirty-three minutes of the most dishonestly framed, artfully and connivingly anti-choice disinformation you can conceive of, all shoveled nice an’ fresh from the yap of a professional liar into the minds of impressionable dullards, whose conversion story is then parroted around as the latest great proof that those evil pro-abortionists have got it wrong and that anyone who dares request that women retain control over their own bodies are really just complicit in mass murder.

In a word … Bleh.

At least the flamboyantly mohawked neo-Nazi was entertaining, in a way.

Edit: 09/27/11 2:50 PM – Minor stylistic fixes.

* You won’t believe how many versions of this bloody thing exist. Took me forever to settle on one.