Thursday, December 11, 2008

Modern-Day Nellie Bly

When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was a Scholastic Books paperback about the conquests of Elizabeth Jane Cochran Seaman of Pittsburgh, better known in The Big Apple as Nellie Bly.

Starting her journalist career by invitation in the 1880s following a fiery retort to an editorial in the Pittsburgh Dispatch, she centered her early investigative work on the plight of the working woman in the city’s factories. Unusual for a woman of those times, she served a six-month stint as foreign correspondent in Mexico. But she is best known, at least as far as my childhood memories of this particular book reach, as the stealth reporter whose undercover work in New York City asylums resulted not only in spectacular narrative for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World but in actual change: launching a Grand Jury investigation into the scandal and, ultimately, a decision to fund an increase of nearly one million dollars to the Department of Public Charities and Corrections budget for the specific cause of improved care of the insane.

There is a new Nellie Bly on the loose. She is facing a giant of today's political ideology: the one ushered in by those whose process she is following. The giant is Planned Parenthood, the icon of the “rights” of abortion. And like the Nellie Bly of over one hundred years ago, she is learning to play the part of the victim to see life through that victim’s eye. The hundred little slipping details that most of us are too busy to know, to notice, to admit, Lila Rose is shoving in our faces in a way that can’t be ignored: it is not right to cover up child abuse or disregard for state laws, all in the overarching need to uphold “rights.”

Social activists can bring about change. If change means moving from what is currently acceptable to what is not yet “politically correct,” then those our culture currently lauds as social activists are no longer truly activists, but place markers and cheerleaders for what already is the dominant ideology. A real counter-culture activist must, by definition, be infiltrating that which is established with those ideas and practices that are not currently acceptable.

Current social activists label themselves as such, according to their organization’s content, assuming that the work of activism will always yield the same, favored ideology. Yet activism refers to action taken, inferring process, not content. And the process is thus ideologically neutral.

Though the dominant culture (those who claim “Social Activist” status) does not admit this, there is an example of the new activist in their midst—in opposition to their ideology, to be sure, else not able to claim activist status by process in their unilateral, post-partisan world. While activism was awarded accolades when performed by their own operatives, now that the opposite ideology takes hold of the process, why does the content disqualify them from recognition? They, too, are activists.

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