Hyman & the Sources
Often, countering “The Point” is simply a matter of revealing how Hyman’s commentaries refute themselves. Find the right string to pull on, and not only does Hyman’s argument dissolve into nothing, but an opposing argument takes its place.
An example is the most recent "Point." Still failing to get any intellectual traction, Hyman continues to spin his wheels in the spring of 1971 (apparently there’s nothing of importance going on in the world on which to base our choice for president). This time, he revisits the story of Kerry throwing his Vietnam medals away on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during an anti-war protest. The problem, according to Hyman, is not that Kerry threw the medals back, but that he has lied about exactly what happened. Hyman’s logic runs like this: Kerry has at various times said he threw his medals back, threw ribbons but not the medals themselves, and threw someone else’s medals. Thus, no matter which story is true, two must be false.
To his credit, Hyman cites an irrefutable source that confirms that Kerry threw his medals back at that demonstration. Hyman quotes from a 1971 Boston Globe article that says Kerry “threw his medals over the fence,” thus refuting Kerry’s statements about throwing ribbons or other people’s medals. Although he doesn’t name the author of the article, it was written by a young reporter named Thomas Oliphant who was already a well-respected journalist and has since been named one of the top 10 political writers in the country. We often chastise Hyman for his loose use of shady sources, but there’s no doubt he’s found a bona fide expert on this issue. Oliphant is acknowledged to be the journalist most well-versed in Kerry’s career, having covered him for more than 30 years.
But there’s more to the story. Another article appeared in the Boston Globe more recently that questions Hyman’s analysis. The article points out that, despite Hyman’s claims to the contrary, the use of the term “medals” to refer to any award or decoration was commonplace, and that Kerry did indeed throw decorations for others back as well (the article notes in particular that Kerry took ribbons from wheelchair-bound vets who wouldn’t be able to heave their decorations over the wall that was erected to keep them out of the Capitol). The article backs up Kerry’s story completely, and shows that the supposedly conflicting stories are not conflicting at all: Kerry threw his ribbons as well as those of others, and he referred to these ribbons on various occasions as “medals” because that term was used to cover any and all decorations. The author points out that this broader sense of the word “medals” was undoubtedly why Oliphant used that word in the article Hyman quotes.
It’s also worth noting that this source is at least as unimpeachable as Hyman’s is. The author was actually at the demonstration in 1971 and stood within a few feet of Kerry when he threw his ribbons back.
Additionally, the article debunks the notion, insinuated by Hyman, that Kerry was the acknowledged leader who masterminded this demonstration.
If you’d like to read this first-hand account of what actually happened that day on the Capitol steps, you can read it here.
Oh, and the name of the writer who penned this account that backs up Kerry’s version of events and demolishes Hyman’s interpretation of that 1971 Boston Globe article?
Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe.
And that’s The Counterpoint.