NRL News

“Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: The War of Words Against the Victims”

by | Apr 8, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

DehumanizingbookWhat a picker-upper. Just today I received an email from an old friend, Professor Bill Brennan. He alerted me that 20 years after his great book Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives was first published, there would be an anniversary edition with a new subtitle.

Two decades is a long time, even for someone like me who has been in the fray since the last 1970s. But I vividly remember first reading Bill’s book (the first of several that I had the pleasure of devouring).

In addition to letting you know about the anniversary book, I’d like to repost an excerpt from an editorial that was written in the context of the fight to ban partial-birth abortions. I believe it will give you a sense of what Professor Brennan’s outstanding scholarship is all about and what it has taught so many pro-lifers.

From “A Badge of Honor“:

“It is almost impossible to exaggerate how passionately pro-abortionists believe in the slippery slope. They are utterly convinced that if they give those crazy pro-lifers an inch, the whole house of cards (to switch metaphors) will collapse.

Pro-lifers, including me on occasion, are wont to dismiss this as little more than tiresome, fundraising rant. However, I have come to see that they are on to something profoundly important.

As it happens I received a call this morning from an old friend. Prof. William Brennan is the author of three outstanding, must-read books: The Abortion Holocaust: Today’s Final Solution; Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives; and Medical Holocausts: Exterminative Medicine in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America.

The common theme, the common denominator, of his life-long work is the power of language to dehumanize categories of vulnerable human beings. Stripped of their humanity, they are left to the tender mercies of those who consider them less than cattle.

Our conversation drifted into a discussion of the media coverage of the three trials in which the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood, and an assortment of abortionists are challenging the partial-birth ban signed into law last November. While most accounts contain only a snippet or two from the testimony of abortionists, they are enough for even the casual reader to learn fundamental truths.

Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: The War of Words Against the Victims
by William Brennan
“A wide-ranging study that chronicles the awesome power of degrading language
to justify violence against a diverse spectrum of victims.”

This “technique” takes the life of babies past the mid-point in pregnancy in a manner that bears an uncanny resemblance to cattle being moved through a slaughterhouse. If that weren’t macabre enough, persistent probing by Justice Department lawyers defending the ban, and clarifying questions by at least one presiding judge, are making the strong case that during their death throes these babies may suffer unimaginable pain.

Dr. Brennan pointed out that a key reason the Nazis were able to exterminate millions and millions of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and the handicapped was because the German press – – once one of the most fiercely independent in Europe – – was reduced to a propaganda tool for the Nazis. In our time, until recently, most media outlets voluntarily operated as little more than stenographers, dutifully passing along pro-abortion talking points.

They are still a long ways from embracing objectivity. But the ferocious debate over partial-birth abortion and the subsequent eye-opening (and blood curdling) revelations that are coming out in testimony in the partial-birth abortion trials are forcing a partial reevaluation. Maybe there really is something to the idea of “the wisdom of repugnance.” Perhaps that explains why the idea of jabbing surgical scissors into the backs of kids’ heads and vacuuming out their brains gives morally sentient human beings pause. “¦

In her new book, The Spiral Staircase, theologian Karen Armstrong writes about a period in her life which “seemed a hard Lenten journey, but without the prospect of Easter.”

Armstrong was “repeating the same mistakes, quite unable to see where I was going.” But as she would later come to understand, Armstrong all along had been “slowly moving out of the darkness.”

The work of scholars like Bill Brennan reminds us that when it comes to the vulnerable, that too many cultures are prone to making the “same mistakes” over and over again.

As a nation we have made the same lethal mistake over and over again – – pitting the unborn child against her mother and, all too often, ignoring the baby’s father altogether. But thanks to the faithful work of people just like you, the light of truth is making it possible for our great nation to gradually “move out of the darkness.”

That is a badge of honor you should wear proudly.


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