Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Breaking the Propaganda

The recent PBS “documentary” entitled Breaking the Silence has created quite a brouhaha. Various men and fathers rights groups have rightfully raised concern over how such a biased and one-sided documentary could be broadcast on a tax supported public network, particularly without any counterbalancing perspective.

In a very small nutshell (which is about all this documentary deserves), Breaking the Silence uses a small number of extreme cases within the family court systems of a few localities to suggest that all family courts are biased against mothers and woefully insensitive to the needs of children. Using cinematic license, the documentary presents these isolated cases as if they are the norm, rather than the exception. And, of course, avoids the issue of how fathers are routinely maltreated in family courts.

Worse, Breaking the Silence presents statistics and other information as if it were fact, but provides no evidence and cites no research in their support. For example, the documentary states unambiguously that the majority of fathers fighting for joint custody of their children are actually “abusers.” This, on its face, is untrue. Unless, that is, one were to stretch the definition of abuse to include a man loving his children against the wishes of their mother.

One of the producers of Breaking the Silence, Dominique Lasseur, has defended himself and his misguided documentary extensively. Within his defense, one can see the clear signs of ideology driven advocacy, even though he would like us all to believe otherwise. Lasseur uses many of the tricks used by gender feminists (or, genderists, as we call them now) to corner people into suspending disbelief. For example, Lasseur says, “Domestic violence is notoriously difficult to report on because of the emotional nature of the issues involved.” So, according to him, his reporting on the topic should not be criticized. He should only be commended for his bravery, regardless of the misinformation and propaganda presented in his documentary.

Lasseur does not stop there:

“Our open mindedness did not include the opportunity for fathers who had a destructive political agenda to be represented in the piece. We spoke with members of fathers' rights organizations and did extensive research on their views. We made the decision not to interview them on camera because they would not have provided any balance and fairness to the piece.”
That quote pretty much sums of the attitude, indeed the totalitarian-like restriction, of Producer Lasseur towards any thought that counters his ideological and political viewpoint. A father who believes that he has a right to at least joint custody of his children is deemed to have a "destructive" point of view.

Interestingly, Glenn Sacks revealed that one of the mothers in Breaking the Silence was actually convicted of child abuse in a criminal court. But including her side of a concocted story without even mentioning her past conviction is not destructive? Obviously, Lasseur was screening for message as opposed to facts. And, that message is the victimhood and anti-patriarchal (whatever the patriarchy is, which we are still trying to figure out) message of contemporary genderists.

But, the many complaints to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS are not falling on deaf ears. Michael Getler, PBS Ombudsman, has made his position on the documentary quite clear:
My assessment, as a viewer and as a journalist, is that this was a flawed presentation by PBS. I have no doubt that this subject merited serious exposure and that these problems exist and are hard to get at journalistically. But it seemed to me that PBS and CPTV were their own worst enemy and diminished the impact and usefulness of the examination of a real issue by what did, indeed, come across as a one-sided, advocacy program.

I'm not saying that there is necessarily another side to tragic cases where a child is abused and handed over to the abuser. But this is a broad issue, often complex, hotly debated and contested, with dueling statistics pouring out of both sides. Yet, there was no recognition of opposing views on this program. There was a complete absence of some of the fundamental journalistic conventions that, in fact, make a story more powerful and convincing because they, at a minimum, acknowledge that there is another side.

This presentation made no concession to the viewer and to the legitimate questions one would have or expect. Not only were no fathers heard from to state their side of the individual stories presented, there was no explanation (with one exception) as to whether the producers even tried to get their views, or if the fathers were asked but declined, or, as we now know from Lasseur's statement, that there was a decision not to give air time to critics or groups holding opposing views.

The one exception was a disclaimer printed on the screen, but with no voice attached, after the filmed portion of the program ended, that a father of one young woman, who continues to seek custody of his daughter in the court, declined to be interviewed.

The studies that one presumes back up the statistics stated on the program are not cited. Research that Lasseur uses to back up the program in his response to critics is not cited in the film; nor are the statistics cited by critics.

It is not clear when several of the interviews with mothers and children took place, nor how old the cases are. In a few interviews, references are made to the mid-1990s. Some of the talking heads that make lengthy and numerous appearances as explainers on the program are scantily identified with a sub-title. Lundy Bancroft, who plays a major and informative role as explainer, is only identified as an "Abuse Intervention Specialist." Richard Ducote, also a major explainer, is identified only once in a sub-title as an "attorney," and if you blink you'll miss it.

It seemed to me that what was badly missing in this presentation was a reporter, or skilled presenter, who could provide at least some of the context and controversy surrounding this issue, explain the cast of characters, and deal with the basic questions of fairness and balance that come quickly to mind. Even in Port's very positive review, he writes: "Some facts are in order here. We're talking about a big but very narrow problem. Custody is not disputed in court in the overwhelming majority of divorces, as many as nine in 10 cases settle amicably, according to studies. In uncontested custody, mothers win out over fathers, taking custody about 2-1, although this is partly because some fathers see trying to win custody as futile.
It was refreshing to read Getler’s letter. Finally, someone is calling BS on at least one example of genderist propaganda and their myth making machine. That machine is well oiled by billions of federal dollars streaming to them as a result of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The tactic of stating opinion as fact, misusing statistics or using invalid statistics, applying statistics that come from one universe to a different universe for which they are not applicable, and dramatically and emotionally baiting viewers, are all in widespread practice by genderists.

In the short term, PBS must work on its credibility by ending all airings of Breaking the Silence and admitting its mistakes. Or, PBS could produce a documentary giving the father’s side of how they are treated in family court. Preferably, they could, and probably should, do both.

For the long term, in order to get some sanity back into to the highly politicized topic of relationships between the sexes, and temper the government’s involvement in attempting to social engineer the American family, it would be good if the misdeeds of Breaking the Silence became a tipping point for a larger movement in our society. It is well past time that the tide turned and the extreme and hateful nature of genderism be pushed back to the fringe where it belongs, as opposed to literally writing public policy, as it has done since the Clinton administration.

This group of Women Studies graduates, quick to blame every social ill on the phantom called “the patriarchy,” has met no resistance for thirty years. The producers of Breaking the Silence are transparent in their confusion, because finally the voices of men and fathers have become organized enough to be heard. Talking about "silence"! It may just be that the silence of men and fathers has finally been broken by this documentary.

Now that we have seen the genderist vision of a legal system that operates differently for men than it does for women, and we see the results, it’s high time that resistance to their strange ideology became a full fledged political movement.

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