Politics & Policy

Snuff Film; Speed Doesn’t Kill

SNUFF FILM

If Jack Kevorkian had put a gun to Thomas Youk’s head and pulled the trigger, the results would have been exactly the same, but the pontificating and hand-wringing would be much reduced. After all, Mr. Youk would have had a quick, painless death. Perhaps his passing would have been even less traumatic via a bullet; we’ll never know. I think we do know what the reaction would have been if 60 Minutes had run a clip of an invalid being shot in the head. People would have rightly screamed bloody murder. Because it would have been. The difference between injecting a man with poison and injecting a bullet into his gray matter is entirely, entirely, aesthetic. Medicalized murder is an alliterative and pseudoscientific way of saying, “Kill me softly.”

Dr. Kevorkian says he invited 60 Minutes to film him slaughtering a man because he wanted to “move the debate.” Sure, but the debate he wanted to “move” was about Jack Kevorkian and nothing else. I am constantly baffled by the media’s willingness to compartmentalize certain demagogues but not others. Louis Farakhan honestly believes he has been shuttled around in flying saucers, that white people were created in a lab, that aliens live amongst us. But the media, mau-maued by the radical black Left, believes it is not their place to discredit an “authentic voice” of African-Americans. Farakhan’s anti-Semitism is treated as if it is a worrisome symptom of black disenfranchisement.

Kevorkian is the worst form of thanatophile and he should be locked up. I have talked to numerous pro-euthanasia ethicists, and off the record they all say more or less the same thing: Kevorkian is an egomaniacal madman and he is ruining a real issue with his self-centered craziness.

To be sure there is an argument about euthanasia. I do not like situational ethics, but whether or not to end a human’s suffering truly does depend on the situation. Easing someone’s passing on a battlefield is different than in a hospital ward. But Kevorkian’s intent to drive this into the courts will help no one except Kevorkian himself, who believes he is entitled to perpetual publicity. We have already disrupted civil discourse terribly by relegating all discussion of abortion to the courts, the last thing we need to do is place the other instance of “medicalized” life-termination in the hands of judges as well. Throw Kevorkian in jail. Let him assist his own suicide via hunger-strike in the pokey. Hey, 60 Minutes can televise it.

SPEED DOESN’T KILL

The Wall Street Journal has an item on its op-ed page by Eric Peters, an automotive columnist for the Washington Times. He reports that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, higher highway speeds have resulted in . . . fewer highway deaths! 1997, the year with the most recent data available, witnessed the lowest highway death rate in history. It is a truism of the media that predictions of mass-death are page one stuff, but when the deaths, alas, do not materialize, it’s at best page B17 copy. The NHTSA and its fellow-traveling Naderites predicted that removing the 55 MPH speed limit would result in blood on the asphalt across America. It turns out that, surprise, the Luddites were wrong according to Peters. There is an important lesson here. Social planners, also known as bureaucrats, believe that they can rationally impose systems that are more efficient. Sometimes this is the case, but very rarely. More often bureaucrats are solipsists. They are more interested in making their lives easier by putting restrictions on the lives of the citizens. During the first days of Hillary Care, the Clinton Administration wanted to stockpile all child vaccines in a single East Coast warehouse. It would certainly be easier for the paper pushers to catalog where all the stuff was. The tendency among bureaucrats is to streamline their processes. They are like the man who looks for his lost car keys under the street lamp because the light is better there.

Now, the highway-safety crowd is declaring that SUV’s are dangerous because of the damage inflicted on people who crash into them with punier cars. In other words, in the old days if two Ford Pintos crashed into each other both drivers would be terribly hurt. Today, crashing into an SUV, Pinto-drivers are roadkill. The lesson an average person takes is, gosh I gotta get me a Range Rover.

Of course, there are ulterior motives behind the pro-55 MPH and anti-SUV crowd. Environtmentalism, broadly defined, suffuses all rational discussion of automotive issues. But the Naderites rarely own up to their real motives. Instead, they pepper the policy debate with inaccurate platitudes like “Speed Kills.” But a little innacuracy is a small price to pay for easier paper flow.

NOTICE TO READERS

Many of you have written to me about how you’ve made the long walk out to your e-mail box only to find nothing in it from me. Alas, the Y2K problem came a little early for us. The e-mail subscription to the G-Files has not gone out for the last few days. No, it wasn’t the DNC’s meddling. Anyway, the problem should be fixed shortly and you can still find the Goldberg Files on the NR webpage.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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