Murdoch and Cameron: Symptom or Cause?

Some time ago, when I first moved to the UK,  it was common to see and hear wide-ranging condemnation of the United States from just about everyone in the UK, or so it seemed.  The criticisms were also usually completely general.  It would be horrible to live in America, for example, because there is no place to walk, the sweet librarian at one of the Oxford colleges maintained.  American universities are not really what you’d call universities, the man repairing a plug in my bedsit explained.  Never mind American politics, culture and food, along with the fact that we all seemed yellow, apparently.  Unfortunately, what with Nixon, the Viet Nam war and all, one could hardly disagree with a lot of it.

I think the op-ed from Roger Cohen in today’s NYTimes is the first time I’ve seen a comparably breathtakingly vicious attack on the UK in a contemporary US newspaper. 

But it is not only Cameron who is in the sewer. The culture of the United Kingdom as a whole has been reeking pungently of late — its venal, voyeuristic, reality-show-obsessed, me-me-me nature thrust under the magnifying glass by revelations about what the tabloid press would do to satisfy the prurience of its readers, hacking into phones at any price, even the phone of a 13-year-old murdered girl.

It may be debated to what degree Murdoch created this culture, or reinforced it, through his ruthless, no-holds-barred approach to journalism — and its ultimate deviation into criminal activity….

The United States, after all, has been doing its own good impression of life in the political sewers recently. Republican ideologues with no notion of the national interest do their brinkmanship number as the country hovers near an unthinkable default. The only thought in their heads seems to be: How will all this play next year in the election and how can we hurt President Obama without being blamed for it?

Is the calculation of these Republicans that different from Cameron’s? It’s all about the next news cycle, and spin, and ego, and where the money for political campaigns is, and a total absence of judgment. What it’s not about is responsibility and the commonweal. …

Something deeply insidious and corrupt is at work that has been on view in both Britain and the United States. It involves the takeover of politics by money and spin and massaged images and privileged coteries. It is the death of statesmanship.

And the US equivalent of the purient readers?  What do you think?

Blogging about the Pluralists’ Guide

Some of the authors of the Pluralists’ Guide are guest-blogging over at SGRP to discuss the Guide.

William Wilkerson, who attempted to develop a section devoted to GLBTTQ philosophy has issued a call for help in trying to amass information on the topic here.

And Linda Alcoff explains more of the methodology behind the Climate for Women survey here.

Check it out, and do join in the discussion!

UK doctors and the right to opt out

A survey of medical students has found that almost half believe doctors should be allowed to refuse to perform any procedure to which they object on moral, cultural or religious grounds, such as prescribing contraception or treating someone who is drunk or high on drugs.

Abortion provoked the strongest feelings among the 733 medical students surveyed, according to the study in the Journal of Medical Ethics. “The survey revealed that almost a third of students would not perform an abortion for a congenitally malformed foetus after 24 weeks, a quarter would not perform an abortion for failed contraception before 24 weeks and a fifth would not perform an abortion on a minor who was the victim of rape,” said researcher Dr Sophie Strickland.

In the UK, abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks if two doctors agree that it is medically necessary. (This is, probably deliberately, open to interpretation: one interpretation is that an abortion is medically necessary if a woman wants it. A key part of the reason is that the risk of continuing the pregnancy is greater than the risk of aborting: early abortion is pretty risk-free, and childbirth is more risky.) But if we don’t have enough doctors willing and able to perform abortions, it won’t be properly available.

Also, although the article just skims over it– I’m really shocked to hear there are medical students who want be allowed to refuse to treat a patient who is intoxicated. This isn’t a matter of refusing to perform some particular procedure that the doctor believes to be wrong. That’s hugely problematic, but at least I understand the reasoning. This is a matter of refusing treatment *in general* to someone because they have engaged in legal behaviour.

For more, go here.