Patrick Craine

Supreme Court justices baffled about what to call baby who may have died before birth

Patrick Craine

Funny how when you start denying reality you end up getting yourself all twisted up on logic and language.

If you deny that the unborn child is a person, you call the child a fetus. But at what point does a fetus become a baby? Can you justify calling a child at 8-months gestation a fetus while you call one born a month premature a baby?

And if you hold, as Canada’s Criminal Code does, that the child only becomes a baby once it has proceeded from its mother’s womb in a living state, what do you call a dead child when you’re not sure if the child died before or after birth?

As Maclean’s Charlie Gillis reported today, Canada’s Supreme Court got itself tangled up around this question last month when it took up the case Regina v. Ivana Levkovic.

Levkovic, who allegedly left her newborn daughter’s body to decompose on her balcony, was charged under section 243 of the Criminal Code, which forbids concealing a child’s body “whether the child died before, during or after birth.” Evidence left it unclear whether her daughter had died before or after birth.

Gillis describes the Supreme Court’s dilemma:

By using words like “child,” “baby” or “girl,” therefore, the judges could be implying humanity on the part of the deceased. They’d also be undermining Levkovic’s defence: if an unborn child has no right to legal protection, her lawyers had reasoned, how could the law stand?

Thus began a kind of linguistic minuet, as the judges reached for acceptable nomenclature for a hypothetical baby that the law might not regard as a person. [Chief Justice Beverley] McLachlin tried “object” and “being” and, at one cringeworthy point, referred to it as “this, um, dead, um, whatever.” Her colleagues didn’t fare much better. During a discussion of the applicability of mens rea, Justice Michael Moldaver, a former criminal lawyer who joined the court one year ago, referred to the infant in such cases as “the thing.”

I find it interesting that the justices struggled so much given that the Criminal Code itself has no difficulty calling the unborn a “child” while at the same time denying his right to live.

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How Facebook is making it impossible for us to reach our 500,000 fans: the technical details

John Jalsevac John Jalsevac Follow John
By John Jalsevac

Earlier today we sent out a fundraising e-mail to our readers explaining how some recent changes Facebook made is making it increasingly hard for us to reach our Facebook fans with our news, and pointing out how this is having a seriously negative impact on our mission.

There was only so much information that we could include in that e-mail, and some of our readers wrote saying they wanted to know more details.

So here is the more technical explanation. It’s all sorts of fun. Trust me.

Last December, Facebook formally, but quietly announced that they already had been, and would continue to throttle the “organic reach” of business pages.

What this means is that whereas previously the owners of a business page (like our LifeSiteNews page) could post something (say a pro-life article) and expect that a certain number of fans would see it in their newsfeeds, in the future that number would begin to drop.

And boy, did Facebook follow through on their promises.

According to the best data available, whereas in the past owners of a Facebook page could expect that each of their posts would reach around 16% of their fans, that number has since plummeted precipitously to around 1-2%.

The difference for a social-dependent publisher like us has been…well… startling, to say the least.

When you consider that we have over 500,000 fans on our various pages (Note: LifeSiteNews runs several different pages, including, We Can End Abortion, We Can Defend Marriage, and others), you’ll begin to understand just how dramatic this change has been for us.

Using the numbers above, if in the past we posted one of our articles to all of our pages, we could expect that around 80,000 people (16 percent of our fans) would see it. Now, however, we can expect about 5-10,000 (1-2 percent) of our fans will see that article. Ouch.

This of course means not only that devoted LifeSiteNews readers are less likely to get the news and information that they deliberately “followed” us to see, but also that they are less likely to in turn share that information with their own Facebook fans – essentially derailing the “viral” effect before it has a chance to get going.

Yes, yes, there are ways to deal with all this bad news. Let’s get to those.

In the first place, because Facebook’s algorithm rewards click-baity headlines and content, we could just post articles all day with Buzzfeed/Upworthy-like headlines like “SHOCK: this shocking thing you won’t ever believe happened, did happen, and it’s really shocking.” That could get us a lot of traffic and make us feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about ourselves and how we’re “growing.” But we have a team of actual journalists who do actual journalisty things for a reason, and besides, it’s not entirely clear how that would promote our mission to create a Culture of Life.

And then, of course, fans can opt in to receive “notifications” whenever we post to one of our pages. And it would be great if everybody did that. (This is your cue to go to our LifeSiteNews page here, “like” it, and then click the “liked” button and select “get notifications.” Voila! You won’t miss any more of our awesome Culture of Life-y news!)

The problem, of course, is that most Facebook users have no idea that they can do this, or even that they need to take this extra step – because previously all they had to do was “like” our page to get updates, and most people naturally don’t spend their days greedily devouring the latest articles about Facebook’s algorithm the way I do (at least, I hope not), and so have no idea anything about Facebook has changed.

And besides have you ever tried to get 500,000 Facebook users to do something…anything? You can’t. Why? Well because, in the first place (oh the irony!), we can no longer reach them to tell them to do it, because Facebook will only show our post to a tiny fraction of them. And secondly, because it’s like herding cats: social media users are notoriously bombarded with so much information that getting any sizable portion of them to do any particular one task is nigh impossible.

Of course (and here’s the kicker) we can pay Facebook to reach our fans. In fact, when Facebook first announced that they were throttling “organic reach” of pages, they very comfortingly pointed out that if we still wanted to reach our fans, all we would have to do is give them money, and voila, problem solved! (They’re helpful like that).

Facebook has claimed that the changes they made to their algorithm had nothing to do with increasing revenue, and everything to do with increasing the quality of content in people’s news feeds. There may be a seed of truth there, but I’d put good money on that being about 97.38% total rubbish.

There’s a reason, after all, why Facebook’s earnings and stock values are way up. They’re masters of monetizing their platform. And good for them.

True, I do think some of their methods, particularly on this issue, have been deceptive. After all, the whole thing amounts to pretty much a massive bait-and-switch. Lots of companies like us have spent time and hard cash (including on Facebook advertising) compiling our fans, under the understanding that we were paying for the right to communicate with them. Now Facebook has completely changed the rules. And because they own the game, we have to abide by them.

Fair enough.

The good thing is we’ve got enough years of experience to know what to do about it. We’ve got some exciting stuff in the works to reduce our dependency on Facebook, and reach people in other ways. But the reality is that to move forward and to fulfill our mission of building a Culture of Life through news reporting, we’re going to have to spend quite a bit more on marketing than we ever have before.

That’s why we sent out that fundraising letter earlier today. That’s why I’m hoping you’ll click on this link here and make a donation today.

Thanks for listening!

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Early 20th century photo depicts Samoan girls preparing for the 'ava ceremony. Wikimedia Commons

Margaret Mead and the quackery that undergirded the Sexual Revolution

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

If Alfred Kinsey of the Kinsey Reports was the “Father of the Sexual Revolution,” perhaps no one woman can be more accurately called the “Mother of the Sexual Revolution” than Margaret Mead.

Margaret Mead was a young anthropologist who set out to help anthropology professor Frank Boas of Columbia University prove a very specific thesis: that a person’s upbringing and environment shaped a person’s actions to a greater extent than genetic factors did. Together with another young scholar named Ruth Benedict, Mead set off to research the indigenous peoples of Samoa, spending nine months there—and the result of their time there was her 1928 book Coming of Age in Samoa.

The so-called revelations in this book left many in the academic world both thunder-struck and ecstatic. Margaret Mead described an idyllic island Eden in which people lived in an almost utopian harmony, with very little competition with one another, a distinct absence of class, and, most importantly, no draconian moral codes that restricted people’s sexual behavior. Rather, teenage Samoans had many sexual partners and were encouraged to engage in this free love South Seas hook-up culture. As Margaret Mead wrote admiringly, a young Samoan girl, “thrusts virtuosity away from her. … All of her interest is expended on clandestine sexual adventures.” Christian morality and natural law, it seemed, were nothing but a hoax.

It is mind-boggling to realize when looking at the body of “scholarly work” produced by people such as Margaret Mead and Alfred Kinsey that brought about such cataclysmic changes in traditional sexual mores that most of this work was shoddy research and wishful thinking.

The impact of this book, much like the impact of the Kinsey Reports several decades later, cannot be underestimated. According to one historian (writing in Ted Byfield’s epic history of Christianity The High Tide and the Turn), “This would prove the most highly circulated anthropological book ever written. It became required reading for all first-year anthropology courses, and played a key role in shaping sex education, criminal law, government social policies, and the popular view of acceptable sexual conduct.”

Or as John Horgan put it in the Scientific American, Mead’s book “posed a challenge to Western sexual mores, which according to Mead inflicted needless suffering on young men and women. The metatheme of Coming of Age and all Mead’s subsequent work was that the way things are is not the way they must or should be; we can choose to live in ways that make us happier and healthier. Her writings helped inspire feminism, the sexual revolution, the human potential movement and other countercultural trends during the 1960s.”

It is mind-boggling to realize when looking at the body of “scholarly work” produced by people such as Margaret Mead and Alfred Kinsey that brought about such cataclysmic changes in traditional sexual mores that most of this work was shoddy research and wishful thinking. (Just as Alfred Kinsey was revealed to be a pansexual hedonist, Margaret Mead’s daughter later revealed that her thrice-married mother had many sexual relationships with women, including her fellow anthropologist Ruth Benedict. When she left for Samoa in 1926, Mead informed her husband that, “I’ll not leave you unless I find someone I love more.”) Yet academic communities, eager for any shred of “evidence” that could disprove Christianity and ensure that God was indeed, as Nietzsche declared, dead, seized onto Mead’s work as yet more proof that Judeo-Christian values were outdated at best, and damaging at worst.

Mead’s work, much like Kinsey’s, has been definitively revealed to be a hoax. Mead set off with conclusions she needed to prove, and simply found the information she needed to substantiate those conclusions, never living with one Samoan family or learning the language in her entire nine month stay. Her information on the sexual culture of the Samoans, it turns out, came almost entirely from two young girls. Mead, working on several projects at once, found herself running out of time to interview adolescent girls. So instead, she decided to befriend two of her female Samoan companions, win their trust, and then obtain from them the information on Samoan sexual culture that she needed. She did not realize that by asking the sensitive and explicit questions she was asking, she was breaching Samoan code of etiquette—and the girls responded by playfully feeding Mead precisely the type of information she wanted to hear. Mead was triumphant, feeling sure that her friendship with these girls had led her to discover the real truth about sexual customs in Samoa. The girls thought the joke they had played on the nosy Western anthropologist was quite funny. Little did they realize that their playful joke would end up informing entire fields of academic study in North America, with decidedly unfunny consequences.

When Dr. Derek Freeman decided, years later, to follow up on Mead’s research and travel to Samoa himself, he found that virtually all of her conclusions had been wrong. Samoans held to a very strict, if not puritanical, code of sexual ethics. There was no South Seas hook-up culture. He even tracked down the two girls Mead had based her analysis of Samoan sexual practices on. As Byfield puts it: “He found these individuals, by now elderly women, and reminded them of Mead’s visit. They began to giggle in embarrassment, he reported, recounting how they had told that white lady such awful lies and stories, not expecting her to believe them. They were sorry now to have so misled her, they said.”

Many in academia, seeing the foundation of so much of their worldview threatened, have savaged and personally maligned and slandered Freeman and other Mead critics. But most of them are now forced to admit that her work on the Samoans was fatally flawed. Unfortunately, our culture has already heeded the wishful thinking of Margaret Mead to such a great extent that much of the damage she has caused cannot be undone. The Sexual Revolutionaries have claimed that with the overthrow of traditional morality, we have freed ourselves to love one another better. I find it sadly ironic that they have backed these claims with the shoddy, self-serving research of people like Alfred Kinsey and Margaret Mead, who did not believe in such quaint and outmoded traditions as fidelity. As time has proven, we have made a tragic mistake by heeding their words.

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Émile Bayard's classic illustration of Cosette in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

Tracts and sermons alone won’t form pro-life children. Here’s what will.

Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony
By Anthony Esolen

What is remarkable in our age is not that half of our citizens believe it is wrong to kill the child in the womb, the child whose existence, except in the rare case of rape, is owing to our own voluntary actions.  That would be like congratulating ourselves for believing that it's wrong to steal someone's car, to lie under oath to hurt an enemy, to throw our aged parents into the street, or to desecrate churches. 

Where is the great moral insight?  What's remarkable instead is that half of us believe it is all right to snuff out the life of that child – because nothing must be allowed to interfere with our “right” to pursue pleasure, as we use the child-making thing as a sweating-off spa on our way to money, prestige, a five-bathroom mansion for two, a tenured chair in Women's Studies, the mayoralty of Camden, another year of nights out on the town, whatever.

How have we come to this pass?  Our imaginations are stunted or diseased, that's how.
 Let churchgoers beware.  You cannot spread pro-life icing on a cake made of flour and rat poison.  Our children meet with rat poison everywhere. 

Do they watch Friends on television, that un-funny amoral “comedy” about nihilist young urbanites trading depressions in the mattress with one another?  Rat poison.  Do they watch movies like – well, the moronic Titanic, wherein a shrewish girl and a pouty boy fornicate before they are swallowed by the deep blue sea?  Rat poison.  Do their school teachers feed them such exalted lyric poetry as that of Sylvia Plath, imagining what it would be like to smash her sleeping husband's head like a rotten pumpkin?  Or the bogus Laramie Project, making a hero out of a deeply disturbed young man, killed in a meth deal?  Or Toni Morrison's maudlin obsessions with race and adultery?  Is it an endless cafeteria of ghouls, vampires, girl-murderers – Lord of the Flies, without the severe moral imagination and the talent of William Golding?  Lord of the Flies, Lady of the Flies, Cheerleaders of the Flies, Lifeguard of the Flies, Mr. Goodbar of the Flies, Fight Club of the Flies, Hunger of the Flies?  Rat poison, with that peculiar character of rat poison, that the more the critter consumes, the thirstier it grows. 

Vice is the addiction that mimics the habit of virtue.  One hour a week on Sunday does not flush out the strychnine.  Theology lessons are band-aids when your arteries are porous inside.  The forming of a moral imagination is not something additional in the education of a child.  It is the education of a child. 

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Your child sees a commercial for Planned Predators.  The commercial baldly states that it doesn't matter who your “partners” are, how many you have, or what you do – because you are the only one who has any say in the matter, and nobody has the right to judge you.  This is not the morality of a cad or a tramp.  Cads and tramps have attacks of conscience.  It is the bland oh-so-self-assured anti-morality of a demon.  It is one hundred proof grain stupidity.  It is distilled evil.  Now, we want to raise children who will do more than say, “I don't agree with that.”  Wonderful enlightenment! 

We want to raise children who would look upon anyone who uttered such a thing as they would look upon someone who would fish his food out of a septic tank: incomprehensible, base, inhuman, insane.  That's the negative.  Let me give the positive.  We want to raise children who will understand and cherish the virtues of love and purity.  Those virtues must not remain mere terms or notions.  We must clothe them with flesh and blood.  Consider the following scene from Victor Hugo's masterpiece, Les Miserables.  Two pure young people, Marius and Cosette, have long beheld one another from a distance.  They have fallen in love, and finally, after many months and much seeking, the youth and the maiden meet and speak.  Here is how Hugo describes what they do every evening:

Throughout the month of May . . . in that poor, wild garden, under that shrubbery each day more perfumed and dense, two human beings composed of every chastity and every innocence, overflowing with all the felicities of Heaven, closer to archangels than men, pure, honest, intoxicated, radiant, glowed for each other in the darkness.  It seemed to Cosette that Marius had a crown, and to Marius that Cosette had a halo.  They touched, they gazed at each other, they clasped hands, they pressed close together; but there was a distance they did not pass.  Not that they respected it; they were ignorant of it.  Marius felt a barrier, Cosette's purity, and Cosette had a support, Marius' loyalty.  The first kiss was also the last.  Since then, Marius had not gone beyond touching Cosette's hand, or her scarf, or her curls, with his lips.  Cosette was to him a perfume, and not a woman.  He breathed her.  She refused nothing and he asked nothing.  Cosette was happy, and Marius was satisfied.  They were living in that ravishing condition that might be called the dazzling of one soul by another.  It was that ineffable first embrace of two virginities within the ideal.

Victor Hugo was a man well acquainted with the squalor of the streets, and the wicked things that people do to themselves and one another.  His blood ran hot, not cold – hot with indignation against the wickedness, and hot with greathearted love for what is noblest in man; with what he would call the work of God in man.  Our purveyors of rat poison have not witnessed one hundredth of the miseries and the sins that he witnessed!  But they turn our children's vision to what is dark and dead, and he raises our eyes to the everlasting hills, whence cometh our help.

We want to raise boys like Marius and girls like Cosette.  We cannot do it with tracts in church teaching and a sermon on Sunday, as needful as those things are.  They may give us the moral, but they do not nourish the imagination.  Without story, without flesh and blood, they flare in the ear but do not ring in the conscience.  Hence the need for art and song, for stories and poetry.  Jesus taught in parables.  These are not just instruments.  They are of the essence.

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