Groups Mislead Voters by Distorting History

There is another front group that is twisting the words of important historical figures to mislead voters into thinking a certain way. The latest group doing this is Feminists For Life (FFL). Their claim is that Feminist leader Susan B. Anthony and others wer “anti-choice” on the issue of abortion. They do this by taking a series of quotes from Anthony and others out of context to say that they were anti-abortion.

This weekend I told you all about the Black Republican Freedom Fund, and how they are deliberately misleading voters into thinking that Martin Luther King, Jr. would be a Republican in 2006.

The way to protect yourself against stunts like these and others is to not take statements on the political views of historical figures at face value, especially when the source’s credibility is questionable. In general, we need to stop believing everything that we hear.

Has anyone else encountered misleading campaigns such as these?

One Love. One II.



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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

4 responses to “Groups Mislead Voters by Distorting History”

  1. t-hype says :

    Garlin, what about FFL’s use of quotes did you find “out of context”?

    At the turn of the last century, hardly anyone was “pro-abortion” and the few who were primarily suggested the idea to curb the growing populations of “unwanted” children. (read: illegitimate, poor, black) It was not considered an everywoman’s option as it is today.

  2. Garlin II says :

    Thanks t.

    It is out of context because it does not say anything about the purpose of the body of writing from which it was taken. Take a look at this NY Times article on Susan B. Anthony and FFL, which says the following:

    “There is no question that she deplored the practice of abortion, as did every one of her colleagues in the suffrage movement…What is generally not mentioned is that the essay argues against an anti-abortion law; its author did not believe legislation would resolve the issue of unwanted pregnancy.”

    I am not implying that anyone is “pro-abortion,” defined here as someone who likes abortion and thinks that they are good things. Please don’t get caught up in the rhetoric that labels anyone who believes that people have right to make their own choices with respect to having abortions as being “pro-abortion.” Notice that the position is called “pro-choice,” not “pro-abortion,” because individuals who are “pro-choice” do not believe that legislation will do anything about pregnancy. This would make Anthony “pro-choice” and not “pro-abortion.” I don’t think you will find too “many pro-abortion” people. I definitely have not found any among my friends and family members who have had abortions.

    I agree that proponents of racist philosophies like eugenics in the past have suggested abortions for Black and poor people, but I don’t see Anthony as advocating this position in this writing or in any of her other writings that I’ve read.

  3. t-hype says :

    “There is no question that she deplored the practice of abortion” And FFL was wrong to point that out because…

    The “No one is pro-abortion argument” is a cop-out. They DO exist. They are activists. You would not dedicate your life to promoting something for which you are not “pro.” I met a lady who had an abortion just to prove a point. Ten years later, she was still very much independent, very childless and very single. (I’m not sure she was enjoying it as much.)

    Pro-choice but not pro-abortion? That’s like saying: I don’t think people should beat their children with pieces of metal. I, personally wouldn’t beat my children with pieces of metal. However, if other people genuinely feel the need to do so, I’d support them in that decision.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    As for unwanted pregnancies, it’s fascinating to me that it still happens on such a regular basis with the wide availability of hormonal birth controls, condoms AND the morning-after pill!!! In this day and age, What’s your excuse? If people don’t want to have a child, they have several stop-gap measures available to them BEFORE abortion ever even comes into the picture.

  4. Garlin II says :

    Thanks t for this discussion.

    In a world will taking things out of context to prove a point is either acceptable and responsible, there would be no issue. I’m just crazy enough to believe that people are smart enough to draw conclusions based on facts given in context. The fact that this conversation is happening is evidence supporting the need for context when citing words from history. So they are not wrong for the simple act of “pointing that out.” They are wrong for “pointing that out” without telling the whole story on Anthony’s stance on abortion legislation.

    To your example on beating children with metal, that is a question of control in my mind, just like the question of abortion. I happen to believe that I don’t think it’s my place to tell the lady you met who had the abortion that it is illegal for her to do that. I have no control over that person, her body, or her decision-making. I guess in this instance I am willing to give people like that lady the freedom to do what they want and/or feel is the appropriate thing for them to do. I don’t see not wanting to control her as having it both ways.

    To your final point on unwanted pregnancy, I agree that there are many steps that can be taken to prevent such things. Perhaps if these measures were more widely adopted, then debates like ours would be nonexistent.

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