When family life bursts in on work life

Family prevails. And the video of it goes viral.
Sorry if you’ve seen this dozens and dozens of times. I posted it on my personal Facebook page as soon as I saw it last week, and stopped laughing long enough to “share” and add a personal note. Since then, so many media folks with a big following in social media have shared it as well, adding their personal comments to the tweet or post or other commentary, it’s grown into a phenomenon of the moment. And one with a message.

Mollie Hemingway does the best job of capturing what happened here.

The setup:

This morning the BBC interviewed Dr. Robert Kelly, an associate professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University in South Korea. The topic of the interview — the impeachment of Korean President Park Geun-hye — was interesting. But Kelly’s children stole the show.

It has to be watched first, then read about. Hemingway’s Federalist piece puts our universally shared reaction to this spontaneous moment in context.

She lists the 8 (updated from 7 initial) best things about the children taking all the attention from Dad during his BBC interview. There was a ‘marching toddler’ and a ‘rolling baby’, and viewers had their favorites. One tweeted

Enter every room like the kid who interrupts the BBC Skype interview.


Y’all, the baby rolling in got me crying.

I actually laughed to that point of tears. Hearty, knowing, laughter.

Here’s another happy tweet

I legit can’t stop watching this.

Then there’s the mom who realizes what’s happening in real time, and she comes tearing around the doorway into the room, ducking to avoid the camera (or so she thinks) and grab the kids, and we can’t help but laugh with them, to the point of tears.

Mollie Hemingway and her husband frequently do media interviews and manage their family life at the same time.

By the time the mom rushes into the room, realizing the kids have gone rogue during their dad’s very important interview, the comedic value is unquestioned. She goes low — and speaking as someone who does these types of interviews and who is married to someone who does Skype interviews, I can assure you this is a natural instinct.

…having been interrupted by the chaos of life while on air, I know how stressful it is for children to enter the scene. I have never handled it as well as this guy, who keeps his composure as he tries to signal to his toddler to get out of the room. But he’s also totally laughing it off.

Which is refreshing, when we see the utter humanity of happy family chaos break in on structured, managed and reasonably controlled circumstances.

Television is so well-produced that we rarely see real life interrupt our broadcasts. When the toddler walks in, the interviewer is forced to acknowledge this, breaking down the wall we normally preserve between work and home life.

Or at least the perception of it. When one lives in their office and works in their home, this can happen. For all of us who do that, this provided huge comic relief.

The Wall Street Journal was among the major world media whose follow up coverage outdid the initial intended interview.

The buzz has even overshadowed the major news Mr. Kelly was on air to discuss: the impeachment of South Korea’s president.

“It’s a comedy of errors,” Mr. Kelly said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

He also said he and his wife “immediately feared the worst, assuming that he wouldn’t be contacted again to appear on TV.” This is easy to picture:

“We said to each other, ‘Wow, what just happened?’ ” Mr. Kelly, said, adding the blame was entirely on him for not locking the door….

“I made this minor mistake that turned my family into YouTube stars. It’s pretty ridiculous,” he said.

That’s right.

He immediately wrote to the BBC to apologize, but within 15 minutes the broadcaster asked if it could put a clip of the interview on the internet. The couple initially declined, feeling uncomfortable that people might laugh at their children. But they were eventually persuaded that the video would show they were just a regular family.

Within a couple of hours, it became clear to them that the video would disrupt their lives…

Yes, that’s because it “had been viewed over 84 million times on the BBC Facebook page as of Tuesday morning U.S. time. It has been covered by media from Uruguay to Nigeria to Australia, and dissected in thousands of news articles and social media posts around the world. Many have expressed warm feelings toward the family…”

Proving that this brief sequence of events in the life of a family doing what they do in their routine at home, spontaneous chaos and all, brought us together in ways punditry and social science brilliance never could.

Watch both videos, the one on The Federalist site, and aftermath family discussion with the Wall Street Journal here. They’re so human, so endearing.

Mr. Kelly describes his reaction (to the initial disruption) as a mixture of surprise, embarrassment and amusement but also love and affection. The couple says they weren’t mad and didn’t scold the children. “I mean it was terribly cute,” Mr. Kelly said. “I saw the video like everybody else. My wife did a great job cleaning up a really unanticipated situation as best she possibly could… It was funny. If you watch the tape I was sort of struggling to keep my own laughs down. They’re little kids and that’s how things are.”

The otherwise cool, calm, collected Dad laughs and says “This is my life, man!”

This is a life more of us can relate to, exactly, as we ‘do media’ in setting where family, or pets, or neighbors pets or lawn mowers or snowblowers just outside the door or window can cause significant distraction or interruption.

But that’s what made this more than another foreign affairs interview on a global network covering so many stories of the moment, we can’t keep up so most people don’t even try. This interview was supposed to be about the impeachment of South Korea’s president. But wound up in the Wall Street Journal as this: “When the Children Crash Dad’s BBC Interview: The Family Speaks”.

And that’s what the world needs to hear. And see.

Semantic gymnastics in media

The tactic of changing style books in different print and electronic media is to change how news consumers think about what they’re hearing. I recall the first tactic was making ‘pro-life’ a pejorative. Then the style books changed and they were not to be called ‘pro-life’ anymore, but ‘anti’-something, as in ‘abortion-rights’, or ‘opponents of abortion rights’. You know, plant the negative connotation about a social movement and turn public opinion against them as a bunch of activists who want to take rights away.

It would be tempting to call it a game, but semantic engineering has changed the way we hear public debates about social issues. Control information and you control thought.

National Public Radio has taken that tactic to the next level. They’ve changed their style books again.

The folks at National Public Radio understand the power of words. Managing Editor David Sweeney announced yesterday that the station would no longer refer to people in the abortion debate as “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” Instead, the station will say “abortion rights advocates” and “abortion rights opponents,” according to a memo circulated to NPR staff.

In making this change, NPR is shifting the terms of the debate to make it more friendly to the pro-choice position.

This is a fair and reasonable article, and I like the critical thinking they apply here:

Is NPR planning on referring to advocates of gun control as “gun rights opponents”? As the Cato Institute’s David Boaz wrote earlier this month,

“In 415 NPR stories on abortion, I found only one reference to ‘abortion advocates,’ in 2005. There are far more references, hundreds more, to ‘abortion rights,’ ‘reproductive rights,’ and “women’s rights.’ And certainly abortion-rights advocates would insist that they are not ‘abortion advocates,’ they are advocates for the right of women to choose whether or not to have an abortion. NPR grants them the respect of characterizing them the way they prefer.”

I called Sweeney to ask him if NPR was going to change its terminology concerning gun rights. He did not return my call (I will post an update if he does).

NPR has chosen stilted terminology that conveys pro-choicers and pro-lifers in positive and negative lights, respectively. The station could just as easily (though perhaps with less aesthetic appeal) have labeled the two groups “pro-rights of the unborn” and “anti-rights of the unborn.”

And here’s the key, I think:

But NPR apparently does not see it that way. The station’s staff sees the issue — and now frames it on air — as a battle over women’s rights, not the rights of the unborn.

This debate will advance in greater strides when everyone can understand that it’s about both.

Media praise for South Dakota’s lone abortionist

Specifically, the Washington Post was responsible for this jaw-dropper. For anyone who has followed the groundbreaking work of pregnancy help centers, pro-life advocates and conscientous legislators in South Dakota over the past few years, WaPo’s praise for the bravery of the state’s only abortionist was astonishingly clueless.

In his glowing tribute “Minnesota Abortion Provider Helps Meet Need in South Dakota,” Slevin not only turned Ball into a hero, but sympathized with her “difficult” situation…Ball told the Post her decision to start performing abortions was easy. “It was legal. It was right…Why would anybody argue with that?” Talking about pro-lifers upset with what she does in South Dakota Ball said: “I think to myself, ‘What century do we live in?’”

Indeed. That sounds consistent with how Dr. Ball views her abortion involvement.

Let’s go back and look at the most comprehensive document written on the subject since Roe v. Wade, the 2005 ‘South Dakota Report of the Task Force to Study Abortion’. When you get the chance, read the whole document. For now, let’s look at a snip involving testimony from state Planned Parenthood director Kate Looby and Dr. Carol Ball.

Based upon the reporting of the women on the forms reviewed by the Department of Health, and the testimony of Ms. Looby and Dr. Ball, it appears that Planned Parenthood does not voluntarily convey other information about the fetus after women listen to the doctor’s taped recording. In fact, what is communicated to the women is misleading. Ms. Looby and Dr. Ball played a video for the Task Force illustrating what may be communicated to women about the abortion procedure. In this video, reference is made to the contents of the woman’s uterus in dehumanizing and misleading language. For instance, the video never mentions that an unborn child, embryo, or fetus is even present. It never refers to the unborn child in any way that would imply the existence of a second patient. The language used in the video simply implies that something is removed but does not identify what it is except to claim it is only “tissue:”

1. “The uterus is then emptied by a gentle suction.”
2. “As the uterus is emptied…”
3. “A spoon shaped curette may be used to feel the walls of the uterus to help ensure
complete evacuation.”

4. “Occasionally the contents of the uterus may not be completely emptied.”
5. “To remove the tissue it may be necessary to repeat the vacuum aspiration.”
6. “Very infrequently, the early abortion procedure will not end the pregnancy.”
7. “If the pregnancy has not been ended, another abortion procedure is

At this point, the Task Force applies the standards South Dakota’s legislators considered necessary to qualify any signed ‘consent’ as being truly informed.

We find first that Planned Parenthood fails to inform the pregnant mother in any language that her unborn child is in existence. It is impossible for a woman to give informed consent to an abortion if she does not fully understand that her child is in existence and that she is consenting to the termination of the life of her child.

Second, the doctor who in seeking consent to terminate the life of his or her second patient (the child)

[in this case Dr. Ball]

cannot, in a professional or moral sense, contend that proper authority has been obtained from the mother if she is not fully aware that she is giving such authority. Dr. Ball and Ms. Looby testified that the women who come to Planned Parenthood sign a “consent” to have an abortion without first speaking to the doctor. These consent forms are filled out before the doctorsees the patient.

The video, Dr. Ball, and Ms. Looby all verify that the women are told that they may ask questions of the doctor who is to perform the abortion. However, we find that the process which results in the pregnant  mother signing the consent form and making her decision before ever seeing or speaking to a abortion doctor is incompatible with the principles of a doctor’s duty to see that the patient’s decision is informed before she consents to an operative procedure.

We find that there is no true physician-patient relationship in this process…

And here’s the clincher:

Following her testimony, Dr. Ball was asked what she would tell a woman who asked her “Is this a human life?” or “At what point in the process does human life begin?” or similar questions. Dr. Ball testified that she would refuse to answer these questions. When pressed on this point, Dr. Ball stated that it is a subjective matter for the woman to decide, and an answer from her is nothing but her subjective personal opinion.

No, it is not a subjective personal opinion that human life exists from conception. Choosing to deny the facts doesn’t change the facts.

That someone with a medical degree can make such a testimony is simply stunning. That she performs abortions, and is praised by the Washington Post for her bravery in continuing to do so, is in the realm of the bizarre. And another measure of how irrelevant big media can really be.

Health care summit or theater?

Big day, Thursday.

It’s interesting……I was traveling, and caught some of the first few hours of this summit. Early on, a resolute President Obama started with his usual posture head tilted back, chin up, looking down the nose in a commanding way at those around him. That quickly faded to a dead-on stare, and then various positions of head cradled in hand while staring down the Republican opposition. Frankly, I didn’t expect the Republicans to come better prepared than the Democrats, but they seemed to be measured and reasoned and fact-based. They’ve been represented in the media as discombobulated and void of ideas. Sounded like they offered plenty in the first two hours alone.

[Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn] said Obama’s approach seemed to be that “it’s my (Obama’s) bill, plus what you think.”

Coburn, a physician who has co-authored an alternative reform bill, was one of the key spokesmen at the summit for Senate Republicans, giving his views at the outset of the meeting and again at other points.

He said the nation could dramatically cut the amount spent in the health care system by attacking waste and fraud in the public programs, Medicare and Medicaid. The money saved from rooting out waste and fraud, he said, could be used to provide access to care for those who currently lack it.

Coburn said one-third of the money spent on health care doesn’t go toward treating the sick or preventing illness.

“We don’t need to spend a penny more on health care in this country,” he said. “What we need to do is spend it much more wisely and much more effectively.”

Coburn also said fear of medical malpractice suits was akin to “extortion” that drives doctors to order tests for their own protection rather than for patients.

He said any health care reform legislation should focus on giving people incentives for prevention. He cautioned against more government intervention, saying governments now direct “over 60 percent of the health care in this country.”

“And if throwing money at it and creating new government programs could solve it, we wouldn’t be sitting here today because we’ve done all that,” Coburn said. “It hasn’t worked.”

At the end of a long day, I was surprised to find little to no coverage of this dramatic event in most of the elite media. Fox News devoted hours to it. CNN seemed to be covering anything but this summit, at least when I checked, which I did throughout the evening. Online, top news stories of the day turned up all kinds of articles on events both national and international….with the glaring omission of the health care summit.

Late, USA Today came through with this:

After more than seven hours of occasionally acrimonious debate, Democrats and Republicans said they see little chance for bipartisan action…

“I was discouraged by the outcome,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “I do not believe there will be any Republican support for this 2,700-page bill that the American people are so opposed to.”

Obama dominated the meeting at Blair House, the presidential guest residence across from the White House. He challenged Republicans to defend their step-by-step approach to health care or come around to Democrats’ comprehensive measure.

“After five decades of dealing with this issue, starting over … means not doing much,” the president said.

“Politically speaking, there may not be any reason for most Republicans to want to do anything.”

What? Is he insinuating that “most Republicans [don’t] want to do anything”? That’s ludicrous, and if Thursday’s summit openly showed anything it was the determination of both parties to put forward their own particular, specific plans.

Obama said the two sides should take up to six weeks to try and merge their philosophically divergent views about health coverage, costs and ways to overhaul the insurance market. If there’s still no agreement, he said, “that’s what elections are for.” And he did not rule out having Senate Democrats pass the bill with a 51-vote majority, rather than a 60-vote supermajority they no longer have because of Republican Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts.

So at the end of the day, it’s still a matter of power politics. Stay tuned…

At the beginning of the day

Before the health care ‘summit’ began Thursday morning, there was plenty of media skepticism over whether Washington politicians, in the Congress and the administration, can actually put bitter partisanship aside and finally and responsibly deliberate over the people’s business. Consensus is that it’s doubtful.

The Financial Times captures the ideas pretty well in this brief editorial.

Tuesday’s meeting of Barack Obama and congressional leaders from both parties to discuss healthcare is, first and foremost, a political show – but do not underestimate its importance. Badly needed reform hangs in the balance, and so do the wider prospects for Mr Obama’s presidency.

The theatrical aspect of this televised “summit” is apparent. There is no will on either side to compromise. The Republicans are intent on blocking comprehensive reform. The president’s new proposal, on the other hand, merges bills recently passed by partisan majorities in the House and Senate, offering no concession to conservative complaints. Each party simply aims to embarrass the other.

Shamefully true. And they make the sorry point that it is also “sadly” true that partisan tactical moves on camera in front of the nation will wind up being the measure of success. Like how well Mr. Obama can obscure Democrats’ plan to make a power play, or can ‘expose Republicans’ failure to offer an alternative’.

Which leads FT to this conclusion:

Outreach to Republicans on matters such as medical liability reform would improve the president’s proposal, lend it a bipartisan flavour and impress many voters. Mr Obama should attempt that today. Unfortunately, he knows that this approach risks worsening the Democrats’ splits, and would most likely elicit no new Republican support. And so the show goes on: a deeply dispiriting struggle, with no resolution yet in sight.

We’ll see, at the end of the day.

‘The persistent issue of abortion’

The pivotal Washington health care summit is about many things and much of it is political posturing. Maybe most. By both parties. What’s getting little attention is the persistent issue of abortion at the core of both House and Senate versions, and how the policians in Congress are handling it.

The day before the much-hyped event, at least the WSJ re-framed the picture.

Abortion was one of the final matters to be resolved in December when the Senate created its version of the health-care bill, with a carefully crafted compromise that left neither side in the debate happy. If a final bill is to clear the House, Democrats will have to find a way to finesse the problem again. One idea being floated involves inserting more-restrictive language later into a spending bill.

At issue is whether health-insurance policies people would buy with federal subsidies established by the legislation could offer abortion coverage.

 When the House debated its health bill last year, antiabortion Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) won language prohibiting insurers from selling plans that cover abortion to any person receiving the subsidies. With their votes, the bill passed 220-215.

The Senate language is less restrictive. It allows insurers to offer abortion coverage as long as customers write a separate check to pay for it, an exercise meant to assure that no federal money goes toward abortion services. That provision was a compromise aimed at satisfying Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the last Democratic holdout.

And we all know how that turned out.

But Mr. Stupak said the Senate version left too big a loophole, while abortion-rights supporters argued that in practice, it would be too cumbersome for insurance companies to collect separate checks and they wouldn’t cover abortion at all.

Note the langauge in the reporting, “anti-abortion Democrats”….”abortion-rights supporters”. Cue the readers…”anti” is bad, “rights” are good, right?

The WSJ has bought into the media style book that changed designations to change public opinion.

Let’s think critically: If you can’t assure citizens that the government won’t pay to end human life, how can you buy into negotiations supposedly assuring that the government will pay to advance the health of all citizens?

Teed off

Though it was much-anticipated and rather heavily promoted in the media, I made no note of the Tiger Woods press conference scheduled to televise his first public statement since his scandalous affairs broke last November. But then happened upon it simply by turning on the news that Friday morning, just as it was beginning. Asked about it a few days later on radio, I said little except that we can’t judge the heart or intentions of anyone. But actions are visible, and he did seem kind of peeved that he had to be out there talking about this….

A lot of folks in the media did not hold back their opinion of the televised event, of the timing and location and wording Tiger Woods and/or his handlers chose for this occasion. It was everywhere.

So the next evening, my son and I are having this lively conversation and jokingly turn the television that was on in the background to something serene and calm to have on the screen in the background, but muted so it won’t distract our attention. Laughing, he said ‘The Golf Channel works well’, and so we did. But an interesting thing happened…..

Tournament coverage was followed by a studio panel discussion of the Woods press conference, and it seemed serious and engaging, so we listened. It was some of the best insight I’ve heard yet. Especially the comments emerging from golf pros about what they’ve put up with for a long time…..Tiger Woods fell out of grace with his colleagues and the press that covered him (in more ways than one) a long time ago. He has behaved badly and angrily on the course time and again, throwing clubs and swearing angrily and breaking a sort of code of honor of the sport that was maintained with decorum by other golf greats before him. One of the broadcasters said he didn’t uphold or even recognize the basic level of respectful human discourse expected in the game and certainly at that level when he faced the media after tournaments.

Wow. Good lessons here for everyone. Where was this conversation before the fall?

Anyway….here’s a Golf Channel sample of reactions. Including the Dalai Lama’s.

And here’s an interesting handling over at GetReligion. I didn’t go further than the second comment, but thought this was interesting:

When Tiger talked about returning to Buddhism, he talked about realizing he had been looking outside himself too much. This is very different from a Christian come-to-Jesus apology where someone would admit to thinking too highly of oneself and realizing they need to look outwardly to Jesus. So, perhaps the “control-freak” aspect of this apology boils down somewhat to religious differences about where “redemption” is located.

Another good point.