Wednesday, July 15, 2015

That time Skeptical Scalpel wasn’t skeptical enough

Yesterday I retweeted a link to “Live Action News,” a website with a video claiming that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal organs.

I had watched the video and read the accompanying article but failed to engage my skeptical radar. It turns out that the video was maliciously edited to portray Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood, in the worst possible way. The video showed her “having lunch with actors posing as buyers who are interested in purchasing the body parts of babies who have been aborted” and discussing prices.

The website Media Matters describes some of the edits and explains why they are deceptive. It turns out that of the 150 minutes of the original footage, only 8 minutes were used in the "Live Action News" clip.

If I had watched the video more closely, I wouldn’t have needed Media Matters or the 150 minutes of original footage to see the flaws.

First of all, it begins with an introduction by a former ABC News anchor Connie Chung promising something shocking. But as you can see in the screen shot below in the lower left corner, it clearly says “ABC News 20/20 March 8, 2000.”

Another obvious clue is that the date and time stamp in the lower left-hand corner of the edited video itself is “2014 07 25.” In retrospect, it does not seem plausible that an anti-abortion organization would have sat on this inflammatory story for almost a year before releasing it.

In addition, the times differ greatly as the video progresses which obviously should have told me that major editing had taken place.

The "Live Action News website looks pretty bogus too.

I am very disappointed in myself for having fallen for this dishonest garbage.

It won’t happen again.


Mike vonTschudi said...

I especially love the unedited part of the video where this modern day Mengele eerily describes the "tissue" as having the potential for "lifesaving" research...for everyone except the aborted baby of course. Say's a lot about people who jump to defend this practice. MMA say's it was "heavily edited," so there.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Mike, that's a very good point. The idea of discussing all this over lunch and wine is unseemly. I was uncomfortable watching it too. I was also uncomfortable with the idea of rotating the fetus to preserve certain desirable body parts.

However, as distasteful as it is, the donation of fetal body parts is apparently legal in the US. Maybe the video's makers should have just posted the unedited version, which might have been enough.

Anonymous said...

Of course it will happen again. That's why we all need to remain on guard. So you should promise that it *will* happen again but that you will respond appropriately and quickly, as in this case.

RobertL39 said...

Don't kick yourself too hard. The Washington Post wasn't skeptical enough either! I have a link today from their The Post Most e-mail, which takes me directly to the video with no explanation or qualification. If I want, I can click a 'related link' which goes to the story in the WaPost. But, in spite of the fact that they point out who the video is from (you'd THINK that might make them question it just a little, wouldn't you??) the story swallows the whole enchilada too with no qualification or explanations. Your link to MediaMatters was MOST helpful. Too bad the famous WaPost didn't bother to fact-check!
Keep up the good work! But I don't have to tell you that...

Anonymous said...

Happens to everyone Skep. We learn more from our mistakes sometimes than our successes.

Look at it this way: you had the courage to say I made a whoops. Real men do that. Decent men do. Its the ones who can't that have more to worry about.

Anonymous said...

To those who are anti-abortion choice, do note that not donating the tissue would do nothing to stop a single abortion. Americans are pro-choice and also support embryonic stem cell research. The tissue donation, like organ donation, could save many lives.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Larry, if it happens again, it better be a lot better scam than this one.

Robert, thanks for your support and th WaPo info.

Anon, you comment is much appreciated..

a_Picazo said...

A good read on the issue at heart: fetal tissue donation/use

And also important reading: Who's behind the video

And what this reveals about the greater debate on abortion:

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Second Anon above, sorry I missed your comment earlier. You are correct.

A_Picazo, thanks for the links.

Charlotte said...

You figured this out the next day. Members of Congress still haven't realized (and accepted) what was happening. Critical thinking is a thing of the past. Thanks for your blog and your honesty.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Charlotte, I appreciate the comment.

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