Child Derangement Syndrome

This morning I posted a video featuring 2-year-old Bethany Wilkerson in support of S-CHIP. Now Faiz at Think Progress catches us up on the right-wing smear of the Wilkerson family. Read and be outraged.

Rightie Rick Moran had written,

I note that this time around, the Democrats were careful to push a family forward whose choices regarding health insurance couldn’t be questioned. In that respect, if they’re waiting for conservatives to attack the Wilkerson’s, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

Um, guess again.

John Amato reports
that even some of the talking heads on Faux Snooze are putting some distance between themselves and the attacks on the Frosts and Wilkersons. Neil Gabler and Jane Hall tried to talk some sense into Cal Thomas and James Pinkerton. As if.

Update: See also Hale Stewart.

13 thoughts on “Child Derangement Syndrome

  1. To be fair, they don’t seem to be attacking the kid, they’re attacking the kid’s parents.

    That’s the only bit of fairness they get tho.

    It’s really odd to hear the talking repub heads defend this … they have all, apparently, bought into the idea that republicans are a bunch of rabid weasels that could not possibly control their own most destructive instincts, because, after all, they’re animals … which is not an argument that you’d expect to hear from a republican … but it’s really the only halfway logical conclusion one can take from their universal blame of the democrats for the smearing of these families, considering that republicans have MANY times in the past used kids as poster children, without having dems going thru their trash.

    But beyond that, their primary argument about the actual program appears to be that if you don’t work a job that you hate for the sake of getting health insurance, you’re being a bad parent. They are DIRECTLY appealing to lower-middle class types by pointing out, hey, YOU work a job that you hate right? So why shouldn’t everybody? Or … something … Life sucks, and because life sucks so bad, this program here that is attempting to make life not suck so bad must be utterly crushed, to make sure that nobody anywhere has a life that doesn’t suck? Or … something … very difficult to see what their actual POINT is without just resorting to the belief that they’re a bunch of evil bastards that absolutely refuse to pay one thin dime in taxes to help the less fortunate, since they themselves are not actually less fortunate.

    Or … something …


  2. To be fair, they don’t seem to be attacking the kid, they’re attacking the kid’s parents.

    That’s debatable, Ian. Ultimately the kid’s will be the losers and they are being attacked through the parents who are the softer targets. It’s the same tactical dynamic that is used by car bomber in Baghdad who blows up seemingly unrelated civilians to strike at the US occupation in Iraq. If an attack prevents children from getting necessary medical regardless of where it’s directed…it’s an attack on the children.

  3. the issue really at hand is one of bad behavior . . . Dara and Brian Wilkerson are real poster children — for irresponsible decisions.

    You see, they’re kinda poor. And in NRO-World, if you’re poor, it’s Your Own Fault. Because you were Irresponsible. So you have to be Punished. Or at the very least, not Rewarded with Responsible, Hardworking Citizens’ Tax Dollars. See, you’re a Bad Example. You’re Bad. Bad.

    [koff, koff -Lakoff- koff – sorry, the smoke must be getting to me. You know, from the little blackened ember which is surely all that’s left of Mark ‘Look, Bethany is “Tampa Bay’s Most Photogenic and Heartbreakingly Unhealthy Babyâ„¢”, ha, ha!’ Hemingway’s heart.]

    On the conference call, Dara admitted to me that she and Brian had been talking about having children since before they were married.

    OMG! What a slut! And worse – they planned this!

    She further admitted that after they were married she voluntarily left a job at a country club that had good health insurance, because the situation was “unmanageable.”

    And what does that mean? Oh, silly, it’s not like we need to ask, we already know the answer: because she was a lazy, irresponsible, freeloading slut!

    [which, in America’s special discourse of division, codes as -well, we can all hear that dogwhistle, right? And while that dog might be getting old and slow and outright ugly, it’ll still hunt.]

    From there she took a job at a restaurant with no health insurance, and the couple went on to have a baby anyway [four years later -ds], presuming that others would pay for it “*

    Goddamn parasites! How dare they have a child on our tab! The nerve of these people, thinking that even though they can’t afford health insurance they get to have a baby anyway! Like they think its their right, or something!

    [“60000 RM kostet dieser Erbkranke die Volksgemeinschaft auf Lebenszeit Volksgenosse das ist auch Dein Geld. Lesen Sie Neues Volk. Die Monatshefte des Rassenpolitischen Amtes der NSDAP“]

    Now, pause for a second. Are you reading this at your computer at work, in a job that you don’t particularly care for or even downright detest because you have a spouse and child that depend on you? You wouldn’t be the first or last person to make that choice.

    If only some of the Presidential candidates – or a party – or even a whole movement – were striving to figure out some way, somehow, that people wouldn’t be chained to unpleasant or even detestable jobs, and worried sick about the risk of losing them, because they relied on it for health care. Then America’s pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit could really soar!
    – I know, I know, it’s a absurd idea. Don’t know what came over me . . .

    [“-“The great, overwhelming fact of a capitalist economy is risk. Everyone is at constant risk of the loss of his job, or of the destruction of his business by a competitor, or of the crash of his investment portfolio. Risk makes people circumspect. It disciplines them and teaches them self-control. Without a safety net, people won’t try to vault across the big top. Social security, student loans, and other government programs make it far less catastrophic than it used to be for middle-class people to dissolve their families. Without welfare and food stamps, poor people would cling harder to working-class respectability than they do not.”-

    The thing that makes capitalism good, apparently, is not that it generates wealth more efficiently than other known economic engines. No, the thing that makes capitalism good is that, by forcing people to live precarious lives, it causes them to live in fear of losing everything and therefore to adopt – as fearful people will – a cowed and subservient posture: in a word, they behave ‘conservatively’. Of course, crouching to protect themselves and their loved ones from the eternal lash of risk precisely won’t preserve these workers from risk. But the point isn’t to induce a society-wide conformist crouch by way of making the workers safe and happy. The point is to induce a society-wide conformist crouch. Period. A solid foundaton is hereby laid for a desirable social order“]

    We know that Dara is at least capable of getting a job with insurance — so why does she not have one now?

    Exactly! How hard can it be? And I’m sure that the health insurance she gets through her new job will enthusiastically extend coverage to a two year old who was born with a serious heart defect . . .

    Even if it is difficult [to] insure her child’s pre-existing condition, what about her and her husband’s health?

    Oh, well, I guess . . . but yeah! What about her and her husband’s health?! Um . . . wait, what about it?

    Perhaps it’s rude to ask that question, but I think it’s rude to accept huge amounts of public assistance

    Yeah, yeah, public assistance! Welfare! Damn welfare moms, popping out kids and expecting honest citizens to pay for it!

    Which brings us to another salient point — Bethany Wilkerson is healthy. She is covered by existing programs and has already received the much of the medical care she needs.

    And we don’t want much more of that going around, do we?

    So I hope Bethany grows up strong — I’m worried about her. Not because I’m worried that the state won’t take care of her, but I’m afraid that her parents will continue to set a bad example. In which case, she’ll need all the help she can get.

    But not from me. Because It’s They’re Fault. Because they’re Irresponsible. They’re a Bad Example. Bad. Bad.


    * [Dana Wilkinson, at the Think Progress link above: “ I left my previous place of employment years before Bethany became part of our lives. I am a hard working woman. I have worked at Snappers Sea Grill for over 6 years. It is a good work environment and I am a loyal employee. My husband and I were blessed with Bethany two years ago and we are even more blessed to still have her with us today.“]

  4. I am a resident of the Ohio 8th CD. Minority Leader Boehner is my rep in Congress. I have written letters to the editor of both the Piqua (Ohio) Daily Call and the Dayton (Ohio) Daily news re: his stand w/ the President and AGAINST children.

    I have also tried calling his office with no answer and I have emailed him attempting to explain my displeasure.

    Bueh will never lose Boehner, but I had to try.

  5. Life sucks, and because life sucks so bad, this program here that is attempting to make life not suck so bad must be utterly crushed, to make sure that nobody anywhere has a life that doesn’t suck?

    Ah, you see, that’s where they’ve been quite cunning. Now for sure, much of this matches up very well with classic Lakoffian strict-father conservatism:

    To them, social programs amount to coddling people – spoiling them. Instead of having to fend for themselves, people can depend on the public dole. This makes them morally weak, removing the need for self-discipline and will-power. … A morally justifiable social program might be something like disaster relief to help self-disciplined and generally self-reliant people get back on their feet after a flood or fire or earthquake. … If people were not rewarded for being self-disciplined and punished for being slothful, there would be no self-discipline, and society would break down. Therefore, any social or political system in which people get things they don’t earn, or are rewarded for lack of self-discipline or for immoral behavior, is simply an immoral system.” (as quoted in Doug Muder’s excellent ’04 essay Red Family, Blue Family*)

    But it’s not just that. After all, a lot of families either on or potentially eligible for S-CHIP are real familiar to lots of people, almost as familiar as looking in a mirror, or next door, or into a there-but-for-fortune possible life. And the traditional wedge used to splinter apart support for social programs isn’t as applicable. This is incredibly dangerous for opponents of expanding S-CHIP coverage for kids. So we have first the relentless repetition of a single and wildly uncharacteristic outlier – New York State’s proposal to extend coverage to families of four making 82,000 – and then the obsessive campaign to paint the Frosts as rather affluent, down to fixating on exactly what kind of stoop they have. Otherwise, folks might notice that – despite the pseudopopulism and appeals to envy and resentment (you’re stuck in a crappy job so your family can get healthcare, why should they have it any better!) this proposal might well help them – and if not, one of the main liberal issues is trying to set up a system so that they aren’t stuck like this!

    Unfortunately it wasn’t much of a stretch for conservative spokespeople, really, at least in the beginning – in fact, it combines the ‘liberals want to take your money and give it away to the lazy, undeserving, irresponsible poor – welfare queens in their welfare Cadillacs, immigrants who can’t even speak the language, etc.’ – with the consistant demonization of liberals as a detestable and effete -but rich and powerful – elite who wants to run you and your family’s life while loathing everything you hold dear and mocking your most precious values. (cadillacs and limousines, hmm).

    Of course, the berserk reaction to the Frosts certainly had a heavy does of “Irresponsible! Irresponsible!” as well. But now there’s no chance (as Hemmingway, etc., admits) of painting the Wilkinsons as wealthy freeloaders, so that’s all they have to fall back on. And it is very interesting how he obsessively focuses on Dana Wilkinson, to the virtual exclusion of her husband – not to mention some oddly familiar themes and language . . .

    * which is even tangentially relevant to the recent but closed faith/religion thread (as is Tanya Luhrmann’s research w/ evangelical practice and embodiment).

  6. Ok, I don’t know what happened there – I actually wasn’t repeatedly smacking the ‘submit’ button in righteous rage, though I’m quite close to it; maha, could you delete the multiposts, please? : ( sorry.

  7. Of course, what’s so striking – sorry, if I stop typing I think I might throw something, and then I’ll feel really bad about that – is that the tremendous, unforgivable sin of irresponsible behavior that Hemmingway rants about is Mrs. Wilkerson (Dara, not Dana nor Wilkinson as I typo’ed above – arrgh) dared to leave a job that provided some level of health care, ended up in one that didn’t, and then, with her husband, some four years later dared to have a child.

    In other words, any couple who dares to have a kid without employer-provided or self-covered health insurance – increasingly harder to get, or out of reach for ever more families – are simply incredibly irresponsible wastrels who – it’s seemingly implied – perhaps aren’t even the best choice to be raising that child, lest they damage it even more through their “bad example” . . .I . . .arrgh!
    [throws a completely innocent Anne Perry mystery novel across the room. Well, not really- I couldn’t do that to a book. But still.]

    Family values, my scrawny white ass.

    And hey, if they’re that hot for feudalism*, they can even visit one of the various renaissance faires (here in PA it’s open through almost the end of october, even) (although they might be a bit disappointed . . . ). It’s just when they insist on translating their little sweaty fantasies of domination and shaming into real life, where they hurt real people, that’s it’s really not ok.

    * Sure, not really, but do you see what I mean?

  8. Digby says it better:
    However, underlying this destructive sniping is a serious idea, and it is that children are a privilege that only those with means should be allowed to have. (This translates to the idea that sex is a privilege as well, since they don’t believe in abortion and birth control.) This is a very old trope and one which conflicts directly with one of conservatism’s most important arguments: family values. (Interestingly, it’s a common belief among authoritarian aristocrats and communist totalitarians alike.)

  9. I am courious…remember that family that has about 16 children….what does medical insurrance cost for a family of 18…or is this a s-chip family????

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  11. When Bush extended Prescription Drug Benefits to Seniors nobody said shit about “irresponsible decisions” or “socialized medicine”.

    Who do they think they are fooling?

  12. Besides, as others have pointed out – these same critics are the ones screaming that we need to have more children lest we be conquered by the mooooooslims – but the rich aren’t having them and the poor can’t pay for them without some help.

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