Tuesday, November 27, 2001

I THINK I'M A CLONE NOW: If the pro-cloning camp is going to take a serious stand against the criminalization of science, the first thing it's got to do is to re-frame the debate through semantics.

The word "clone" itself evokes cinematic images of, alternately, Dr. Frankenstein's operating theater -- the sickly, sterile factory-laboratories of Spielberg's A.I. -- and of course, legions of lookalike suicidal super-soliders of George Lucas's Attack of the Clones ... the sunken eyes of soulless automatons stacked like cordwood in refrigerated storage ... Killer Clones from Outer Space ... Dawn of the Clones ... It's hopeless. The PR baggage of the word alone will doom clone research in its infancy.

Just as the anti-abortion movement has bolstered its support in the guise of the more palatable "pro-life" movement ...

Just as the opponents of a fiscally responsible Estate Tax -- applicable only to the richest 2% of American taxpayers -- have successful morphed themselves into bold defenders against the dreaded Death Tax (evoking a sense that the tax was as terrible, swift and certain as death itself!) ...

Likewise, suppporters of legitimate, sensible cloning research must immediately seek to remove any reference to the word "clone" from the debate, and replace it with a suitable, user-friendly alternative. May I be the first to suggest these:

Pro-LifeExtension: This one has the one-two punch of first corrupting the anti-choice lobby's favored "Pro-Life" label, and then forcing actual pro-lifers to reconsider the tenuous moral link between cloning and abortion rights. After all, how could anyone logically position themselves as being both pro-life and also against the extension of life, as held out by the promise of organ cloning? (Granted, many right-wingers manage to rationalize being both pro-life and pro-death penalty -- but the purpose of these semantic exercises is not necessarily to change anyone's mind, but to make them work harder at rationalizing mutually exclusive positions. Let their brows furrow a little deeper while they try to hold two more contradictory thoughts simultaneously!)

Bio-SupplySider: Now we're really getting somewhere! By corrupting the shorthand for supply-side economics -- another conservative favorite -- we're also suggesting that cloning technologies will eventually "trickle down" from the wealthy elite to the struggling middle class. Sure, I won't be able to afford a cloned kidney anytime this decade -- but with any luck, my "birth kidneys" will hold out for at least another 20 years -- and by that time, when organ-cloning techniques are actually proven and certifed safe by the FDA, it'll be cheap enough that I can afford a set of new, genetically custom-matched kidneys right about when I'll actually need them.

ReproCidivists: All right, I'm reaching here -- but the word sounds a little like declaring yourself to be so much in favor of reproduction per se that you'd gladly do it again and again and again, by any and every means possible. Opponents would be cast as being against God's commandment to "Go Forth and Multiply." (And, burdened with a label like "AntiReProCidivists," who can even figure out what they're for or against?)

But we need to move fast. If the Pro-Clonies can do it, it won't be long before the Anti-Clonies get into the act. Watch for them to start peppering their moral diatribes with loaded words like "Pro-soul" and "Anti-soul."


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