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“Adopted or Abducted?” an initial set of shall we say highly critical impressions

So Dan Rather and HD.net ran Adopted or Abducted? this evening.

Completely wrong framing from the get go, seeing as to how the very title posits an “either/or” false bifrication rather than ‘in so many cases, globally, history and experience teaches us they are completely synonymous.’

To add insult to injury, the show’s website is now linking rebuttals by the the very organizations responsible for these crimes, Catholic Charities, Crittenton Foundation, Salavating, errr Salvation Army, and the National Association of Social Workers.

No statements from any Mothers’ organization nor any Bastard organization are included, though apparently they were not even approached.

I grew up watching Walter Cronkite, and years later, Dan Rather anchor the CBS evening news. Many important stories of the day first came to me through his reporting, years before he came to anchor. In the end, CBS’s cowardly and purely political removal of Rather was a pathetic crumbling of whatever journalistic integrity they might have had left.

His eventual move to HDnet was something I watched from early on.

Yet when it comes to adoption, no one gets the story right.

Despite some shining moments of bringing truths through the footage to an American audience that they have likely never heard or even imagined before, the piece ultimately fails, not only in its final form, but also in the missed opportunity it represents- the same missed opportunity seemingly every piece of American media that touches it misses.

People asked my initial impressions upon watching it. These are multi-part posts I’ve stitched back together that I scrawled (typos and all) on facebook tonight.

(part I)

1. anything that starts from the premise that these things happened in the past and are not current is a problem, is continuing the mythos, and contributes more to how this ’story’ cannot punch through than what good it does.

2. the important footage for the most part got left on the cutting room floor- but the places where the history told in first person voice by those who live it is important documentation, many of these womyn won’t be around all that much longer.

3. if over and over again, the question is raised as to why this happened, and person after person whose footage actually made it into the final cut talk about the ‘best intentions’ or ‘cultural expectations of the time’ or ’shame’ etc AND never get through to the direct financial benefit to individuals and institutions in the course of the crimes being committed, viewers are left with the impression that there was no motivation, just mistaken actions done in accord with the ‘best practices’ of the time- this despite yes the admissions of systematic document falsification and tampering (as but one example).

4. important though it was to have Rickie Solinger and others addressing some of the history, Rickie’s entire point of “wake up little Suzie” was the that the system was bifricated by race, and saleability of resultant product/children. NONE of that was addressed in the piece, leaving the impression that either ALL womyn were treated the same way in such, or that, from the pictures used anyway, all womyn were white and that african american womyn never entered anyone’s mind in relation to reproduction of the period, let alone adoption practices (’of the baby scoop era’) at all.

5. Ann Fesler is an adopted person (who has her own inner turmoil about such and has built a career off such) who has co-opted the voices and histories of mothers (and again built a career off such) desperate and grateful to have anyone willing to listen/to tell their stories. She is once again, speaking FOR those at another point on the adoption pentagon (and again speaking more generally, triad language was the only framework here, even as the show spoke to both the role of agencies- particularly relgiously motivated agencies and services) and the state. Ultimately, no adoptee can speak in place of mothers about what mothers endured, the fact that Rather turned to her to speak on behalf of that other point on the pentagon re-solidifies her co-opted role.

6. The initial American segment did a fairly good job apart from some of the historical tangles and motivation tangles of covering wage homes (how womyn were treated as house slaves) how maternity camps were as one surviving mother put it essentially to her view “concentration camps” wherein womyn had no control over their circumstances or lives, no support and nothing but coercion pushing them toward adoption as the sole possible outcome of their pregnancies.

7. to the show’s credit, it did name names, early and often when it came to what institutions womyn were imprisoned within and who did this to them. BUT again, it was almost always framed as all being in the past, that 50’s- early 70’s period- which is utter crap.

8. That motherfucker search-leech Troy Dunn. See my point further below.

‎(part II)

9. Rather than focusing in tightly on some of the American crimes, they decided to run with the headlines and go to the Australian “apology” segment. I’ve already been highly critical of the “apologies” and how such are being utilized as stand ins for actual criminal prosecutions and how many of the Australian womyn who brought the evidence forward reject the “apologies” as placating pablum. None of that was addressed.

10. While they traveled the globe to explore the Australian evidence, they did a poor job of telling the story at anything other than the most superficial level, AND importantly, failed to make the connections. What happened in Australia happened out of many of the same U.S. organizations and tactical honing experiments run both here and a number of other countries globally, both during the same period and after. None of the connections were made, and both the US and Australia were treated almost as if in isolation to one another.

11. They did do a good job of presenting pieces of the evidence and testimony concerning womyn being drugged, shackled during delivery, denied acccess to their children, signatures being forged, womyn being told their babies had died, and the eventual medical experimentation being done on Australian Bastards, leading to lifelong medical and fertility issues. There was no real discussion of how Bastards came to be used as human guinea pigs, but at least the fact of it having happened was presented to the American audience, which is likely new news to most Americans, and for that matter, many Bastards themselves.

12. This may have been back in the American segment, but as always happens, “open adoption” (the almost always legally unenforceable agency marketing tool was conflated in with ideas of open records in adoption. Noise about how almost all adoptions are open now (see, everything’s better now, we’re just talking about the bad old days in this, safely in some ‘past’!) was once again used to shut down any genuine discussion of where we sit now.

‎(part III)

Lots of time given over to a woman who was involved in American adoptions on the professional end. Her agency and religious affiliation were intentionally obscured.

13. First let me point out, this took time away from the voices of the directly affected, and served as a ‘not exactly repentant’ voice on behalf of industry ‘of the time’. The industry has enough apologists fuck you very much, her being brought in not as some kind of ‘fair and balanced’ voice to weigh against the womyn, but rather as a ‘we did the best we could, given our knowledge of the period’ sort of a voice while reassuring to many was still a negation of the voices of the victims of the adoptions she herself was involved in. There was lots of noise about how after years of listening to Mothers and Bastards ‘practices have changed now’, without any follow up questions that would have required actual fluency in adoption- how ‘open adoptions’ are not a fix, they are a new and improved crowbar concocted by the industry to continue the process of strip mining womyn for their babies while giving the illusion of consent and control.

14. She did admit to the systematic paperwork fabrications and a number of the industry’s other tactics, and no doubt that was why Rather had her on in the first place, she was someone who was there at the time on the industry end committing these crimes. But in terms of her name, her agency, her responsibility, she remains unprosecuted, and not approached as a criminal, but rather as some brave, what, whistle-blower? Give me a fucking break.

I’m going to cut this a bit short, but let me at least touch on how search and reunion and emotional ‘healing’ was thrust front and center into the narrative and how such was intentionally conflated into the rest of the show which was more focused on the (criminal) actions and decades long cover up.

15. We couldn’t have a single show about adoption without the sobbing crying emotionally manipulative “we found your daughter” Troy Dunn bullshit being splattered all over it as some sick means for viewers to ‘empathize’ with and ‘humanize the consequences of,’ now could we? Nope.

16. Dunn is a mormon search-leech who sold off a portion of his business to, you guessed it, ancestry.com. Dunn, ancestry.com, and the LDS church are flat out, no friends to Bastards or our families. If you walk away from this with nothing else, understand that putting mormon Dunn alongside the voices of womyn who endured these crimes is precisely that equivalent of a Faux-”news” fair and balanced bullshit gambit. Every microsecond that mother-fucker (a term I use intentionally with great precision) is on the screen became a moment either leaving a womyn’s voice on the cutting room floor or cutting and negating the womyn on the screen’s voices.

17. Note that in the ‘we found your daughter’ segment with both long searching mother and Dunn on phones both in front of HDnet cameras, zero proof is EVER offered that his “match” is an actual genuine, biologically based match. Dunn and other search-leeches like him all too often (as he’s shown on his TV show repeatedly) resort to process of elimination “it must be a match” assumptions, sometimes leading to false ‘reunions’ for the cameras. Search-weasels all too often rely on selling desperate and separated individuals a “match” rather than providing anything verifiable, from the state or via a DNA match.

18. At this point, the show devolved into that all too usual “I found her” porn where the audience is vicariously treated to something both personal and private- yet being on camera through said phone call is all too often the ‘cost’ for mothers or family members to have Dunn’s “searches” provided free to them.

19. Just as the removal of children was a deeply private act done for ’societal benefit’ now reunification porn is offered up to the viewing audience in the quest for ratings, making what for at least many of us is a deeply private and personal thing into ratings fodder and reuniontainment for society’s voyeuristic couch potatoes. It’s another means by which we and our families are commodified and sold back, and others profit off us, be they the search-leech industry, or tv crews passing a mother’s tears off as ‘hard hitting investigative journalism’

20. Bottom line on segment 4, our lives are more than ratings fodder. The crimes we as classes of people have endured deserve more than 1 hour tv ‘educational/entertainment’ pieces. We deserve the ability to bring charges against those admitting guilt in these pieces, anything else is utilizing all this for set dressing and ratings.

Genuine investigative journalism does more than borrow other’s stories. When the shit is uncovered, real reporters and whistle-blowers once upon a time brought the shit to light. They didn’t hide to it protect the self confessed’s identities, nor utilize our tiny communities for their own purposes yet again.

We’ve been used enough, and we all deserve more.

(part IV)

‎21. Oh, and I left off the extra bonus, that only those who have either seen the show or endured a Dunn-”search” can appreciate-

Mothers and their efforts towards reunions ARE NOT SPACE SHUTTLES trying to find a correct approach for re-entry.

None of us “burn up” it we do it “wrong” according to Dunn’s notions of the script everyone’s supposed to follow.

That kind of false metaphor/objectification of all of us, Bastards, Mothers, families, is precisely what led to us being treated as objects/blocks the state and agencies could move at around and reorder at whim in the first place.

13 Responses to ““Adopted or Abducted?” an initial set of shall we say highly critical impressions”

  1. Joy Pantelis Says:

    I have not watched this. But I could see every point you made and will most likely agree when I do see it. You make
    the points that I usually see when watching an adoption show.
    Thanks.

  2. Melynda Says:

    Brilliant analysis. BRILLIANT.

  3. Fran Scalise Says:

    Maybe I will not bother to download this on iTunes. I am a mother of loss who’s been reunited for 12 years with a son, now 52, who doesn’t believe “my story.” I was interviewed by Sean Herbert by phone but was not chosen for the show, I believe, because I have no records whatsoever. I don’t want to be “triggered” again by the misrepresentation of adoptiion in the BSE. My son was removed from my womb on 12/18/59. I was never allowed to touch or hold him. He was placed into the arms of strangers by March 1960. he was “adopted down” and did not have the “love and opportunities” I was able to provide for my 3 subsequent children. I’m angry at Catholic Charities. What they did was wrong…

  4. Stef Says:

    Excellent review of this travesty of a supposed “hard hitting report”. It seems like the same old shit re-spun.
    Thank you for this post…I couldn’t have ever said it better.

  5. Priscilla Sharp Says:

    Thank you! I couldn’t have said it better. As you probably know, several of us begged the producer, T. Sean Herbert, weeks ago not to let Troy the Bloodsucker Dunn be involved in this report. We could see the exploitation-fest coming like a runaway train. As I’ve said on my Facebook page and directly to Mr. Herbert: You’ve turned what could have been a truly in-depth expose on adoption practices and the trauma it has wrought on generations of mothers and lost children into a promo and self-aggrandizement for someone who has himself been bilking these same members of the adoption community for years and making millions off of their pain and heartache.

  6. April Says:

    Hi! I really appreciate your detailed commentary about Dan Rather’s piece. Although I didn’t watch it, I can imagine the commercialization of it, from what you said. It makes me shiver to think of Troy Dunn’s participation in the program. His voice does not represent the womyn about which the programmed was intentioned to represent (or was it not their intention in the first place?? Maybe it was Dunn’s intention to get a plug-in for ancestry.com-which he got!)

    As I agree with your vivid and honest commentary, I must say that I am overall appreciative of the piece, although they screwed it up royally. Because some part of it, if only the title itself-abducted or adopted-could and will perhaps evoke some shift and waking up in birth mothers and adoptees awareness. That they will quit denying the reality of what happened to them in order for more healing and connection and integration to occur.

    That is my hope anyway. I guess I am also coming from a place of hoping that my own birth mother (who will not acknowledge me as hers because of her own experience at the Florence Crittendon home in 1973), will have seen or read about the piece and something would have stirred within her to wake up to the pain she endured (I’m assuming she went through by the testimonials of other birth mothers) or waken up to her experience in general that she did indeed relinquish a child. Also, because her family and herself was sworn to secrecy and they never, ever talk about my birth mother’s relinquishment (which I know from talking with her sister who swore to the family that she would never bring it up. She never talks to her sister about it and if she found out she had spoken with me, she would have been upset and cut her out of her life. That was the unspoken threat anyway) my hope is that someone in the family or a family friend would break the silence and begin that dialogue with my birth mother. This is all my hope though for my own personal situation but perhaps other adoptees have the same hope as well.

    Thanks for listening and offering such a great forum to express my views!!!

    Much appreciation,
    April

  7. Baby Love Child Says:

    Thank you all for your comments. I have very little to say to them, in that I’d prefer they speak for themselves, I think they speak volumes.

    The one thing I will add, though is that I was unaware, but not in the least bit surprised that Mothers involved in the project begged the producer not to include Troy Dunn.

    That their concerns were ignored also speaks volumes about this production.

  8. Lisa Marie Says:

    thanks so much for this. I haven’t had a chance to watch it and I was completely wondering what it would be like, and what messages would be getting sent out there. I always appreciate and look forward to your perspective, and in this case, particularly the idea about ‘not happening right now / only in the past’ message. bah.

    cheers
    LM

  9. Robin K. Westbrook Says:

    You made all the points and they are spot on. I am trying to look at the show as a baby step towards revealing the truth through the media. The producer has said they are considering doing further shows, more in-depth. I just hope that doesn’t mean the next one will concentrate on the people who adopted our babies.

  10. Lisa Says:

    Troy’s piece on the California case was a complete lie from beginning to end. I want to punch him in the face.

  11. Von Says:

    I’m so sorry it came to this after the high hopes of those involved. I can’t say I’m in the least surprised. I’d guess Dan knows a good victim story when he sees one! As touched on. adoption porn, the vouyeurism in reunion stories and the current love of trauma will have made this a winnner with some.
    As I have cautioned elsewhere it is important to remember that forced adoption is not just about mothers. Some, a very few mothers, here in Oz initially rejected an apology because they want compensation for our loss. I note they are now going along with apology both in each individual State and Federally. Here in SA our apology is set for June 13th and adoptees are making their input to get the wording and event right. Federally adoptees are at the table too and were recognised, acknowledged, validated and included in the recommendations of the Inquiry.The vast majority of adoptees are not interested in compensation believing that nothing can ever compensate for the adopted life we were forced to live.

  12. Mary in Austin Says:

    Thank you for this. I am deeply hesitant as a mother to download this thing via iTunes because I think it will be very triggering.
    Dear April, I hope with all my heart that your mother changes her mind.

  13. Joan edel Says:

    Hi, It is wonderful what is being expressed here.

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