Friday, October 29, 2004

An Open Letter to Mark Hyman from "The Counterpoint"

Mr. Hyman,

You’re correct in your
latest commentary that the First Amendment ensures Americans the right to free speech. But with any right comes responsibility and accountability. The First Amendment does not ensure the right to speak without being criticized. In fact, the purpose of the First Amendment is to allow people to loudly and vocally disagree with speech they find abhorrent. The storm of criticism that descended on Sinclair Broadcasting is exactly what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when drafting the First Amendment.

You bemoan the complaints made by members of Congress about the decision of Sinclair Broadcasting to air the film “Stolen Honor.” But remember that these are the elected representatives of the people. They speak for their constituents. Do we not have the right as citizens to have our elected representatives speak on our behalf? Moreover, as you well know, these complaints came to nothing. The FCC, headed by a man who has shown a great deal of friendliness to Sinclair Broadcasting, did nothing in response to these complaints. You leave the impression in your editorial that these complaints limited the right of those who made the film to speak out. They didn’t. It was Sinclair Broadcasting who ultimately altered plans to air the entire film commercial-free. Sinclair was not forced to make this decision. It’s disingenuous to suggest others are culpable for a decision that you made.

Which leads to the following question: why did Sinclair change its plans regarding the airing of “Stolen Honor”? You lay the blame at the feet of Democrats in Congress, other media outlets, and the Kerry campaign. But the criticism came from many more sources than this. Even your own chief political reporter, Jon Lieberman, said that airing the film was a political, rather than journalistic, act. And what did Mr. Lieberman get for voicing his honest opinion? A pink slip. Apparently the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment stop at the door of Sinclair Broadcasting.

I know from personal experience that the groundswell of protest came from the grassroots. Of the dozens and dozens of people I know who signed petitions, wrote letters to advertisers, and picketed stations, none were told to do so by the Kerry campaign or anyone else. They spoke out because they believed what Sinclair was doing was wrong. That’s why advertisers pulled their spots. That’s why more than 100,000 names appeared on a petition protesting Sinclair’s actions. That’s why the value of Sinclair stock dropped like a stone. And that, ultimately, is why even Sinclair decided that their original plans to run the equivalent of a 60-minute campaign spot for Bush/Cheney ’04 were untenable.

Of course, that did not stop Sinclair from running a slightly altered version of the documentary. But why was it aired in the first place? What was newsworthy about this piece? You claim the charges in the film were new. But assertions that Kerry’s 1971 testimony had prolonged the war and led to mistreatment of prisoners had been bandied about (and refuted) for months. You claimed the men in the film were “credible.” But several of them
have contradicted their own testimony in previous statements. You claimed that the group behind the film was unrelated to the discredited Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But they had in fact become part of the very same group, going so far as to release a statement to the media detailing the merger. How can it surprise you that the viewing public would find Sinclair’s actions overtly political and highly objectionable? No one says these individuals shouldn’t be allowed to speak out in any forum that will have them. But we the viewers object to having our public airwaves disingenuously used for private political purposes. And although it seems (to paraphrase the title of your recent commentary) that Sinclair is telling America to “shut up,” we won’t.

And this is ultimately the problem with Sinclair’s actions and their subsequent attempts to place the blame on others. You seem to have no feeling of accountability to your own viewers. You treat them as targets, not clients, aiming your political rhetoric at them in an attempt to alter their thinking and actions in a way that benefits you. According to your own viewer poll, roughly two-thirds of your audience said Sinclair shouldn’t run the documentary. Are they all part of the liberal elite? You refuse to acknowledge Sinclair’s responsibility for the controversy by coyly referring in your commentaries to the “brouhaha” over Senator Kerry’s “snub” of veterans, or the “spotlight” on critics of free speech. But the spotlight is on Sinclair Broadcasting, and the “brouhaha” is about a huge media company’s decision to use its ownership of television stations as a means of political activism.

If you believe in the rightness of your cause, why not publicly acknowledge your role in this controversy? Stop hiding behind the faux “local” feel you attempt to give “The Point,” as well as the rest of your newscast. Tell your viewers that you are a vice president of Sinclair Broadcasting, that your company runs the station on which you’re appearing, and that your editorial is coming from Baltimore, not Cedar Rapids, Madison, or Asheville. Describe and defend your company’s decision in the first-person, rather than obfuscating by making your commentaries appear as coming from a disinterested third party. What have you got to hide?

Let’s end where we started: on a point of agreement: yes, the recent controversy over Sinclair’s airing of “Stolen Honor” should give us “shivers up our spine” concerning free speech. But what’s scary is not that people, including some elected representatives, voiced concerns about Sinclair’s actions. What’s scary is the situation that prompted these concerns. We should be frightened about the idea of a single company owning multiple television stations in markets across the country. We should be frightened that this has occurred because of the relaxing of long-standing regulations by an FCC controlled by the political party to which Sinclair has given huge political donations. We should be frightened that for reasons of personal profit, Sinclair has destroyed the “local” voice of its stations and replaced it with a single, monotonous drone. We should be frightened that Sinclair makes every attempt to mislead its viewers into thinking they’re getting a local product when they are not. We should be frightened that our local stations are owned by a company that fires its employees if they voice an opinion they honestly believe reflects the best interest of the viewers. We should be frightened that Sinclair editorializes to its heart’s content, but doesn’t allow for anyone to offer an alternative point of view. Most of all, we should be frightened when a powerful company such as Sinclair uses its unprecedented control of the nation’s airwaves to force the political opinions of the handful of individuals who control it on its viewers, and then doesn’t even have the decency to be honest about its actions.

But the light in the darkness is the fact that no matter how much Sinclair bullies or hides, the people can and will speak out on its abuses. Although you might like to believe the deluge of criticism you’ve received is some left-wing plot, the truth is much more frightening for you: we’re catching on to your game. And as much as you might try to avoid it, you will have to take responsibility for your actions. Through the First Amendment, the very thing you claim to be fighting for, you will be held accountable by we the people.


Ted Remington
“The Counterpoint”

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hyman Coughs Up a Hairball

In the latest "Point," Mark Hyman regurgitates a recent rant on Theresa Heinz Kerry’s taxes without adding anything new. For the Counterpoint response to this (as well as a link to Hyman’s original commentary that’s nearly indistinguishable from his latest offering), go here.

We’ll just add a brief comment:

If Mark is for making it impossible for wealthy individuals to shelter their money, we’ll gladly work with him to lobby Congress to pass such tax reform. While we’re at it, let’s roll back the Bush tax cuts that slashed the tax rate on dividend income and tax capital and labor at the same rates (the only fair way to run a capitalist economy). And let’s reinstitute a truly progressive tax system in which those who have gained the most from living in a free and open society contribute a higher percentage of their earnings to that society’s upkeep than those less well off. This is an idea literally as old as democracy itself, and has been the hallmark of healthy democracies throughout history.

So, Mark: have we finally found something to agree on? Are your ready to fight for a truly fair tax system?

Nope, we didn’t think so.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

The Company that Dares Not Speak Its Name

Mark Hyman continues to violate every known rule of journalistic integrity even as he lectures others about their supposed shortcomings.

In the
latest "Point," Hyman goes after the New York Times, specifically Andrew Rosenthal, editor of the Times’ op-ed page. (This is the same New York Times that now admits it willingly bought into the Bush administration's claims about WMDs and repeated them uncritically during the lead up to the invasion—gosh Mark, where’s the love?).

It seems like a small point, but we have to begin with the context Hyman conjures up for his piece. He claims he talked to Rosenthal in connection with the “brouhaha” over John Kerry’s “snub” of Vietnam vets. This is a classic Hyman technique that he’s used several times in connection to Ted Koppel and Nightline. When Sinclair drew fire from pretty much the entire nation for refusing to let its stations air the episode of Nightline that honored fallen troops in Iraq last April, Hyman referred to the incident as “Koppelgate,” as if the controversy involved Ted Koppel and ABC, not Sinclair.

This time, Hyman laughably suggests that controversy over Sinclair’s airing of “Stolen Honor” was actually about John Kerry turning down an empty offer by Sinclair to participate in a “panel discussion” of the film. So, I guess in Hyman’s world, Kerry not only single-handedly lost the Vietnam War, but also is responsible for the death plunge that Sinclair’s stock has taken in recent weeks.

One would think that if Hyman and the Smith clan who run Sinclair actually had the courage of their convictions, they’d be straightforward about the issue, and simply say, “During the controversy about Sinclair’s decision to run “Stolen Honor,” we spoke to Andrew Rosenthal . . . etc.” Such a statement doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing, so why doesn’t Hyman have the guts to own up to his company’s decisions rather than lamely trying to shift responsibility onto others?

There are two answers. The first and most obvious is a simple lack of any intellectual spine whatsoever. Hyman makes a living spinning facts, and taking responsibility for what one says and does tends to make this more difficult.

But there’s another, more subtle, reason as well. If Hyman actually addressed Sinclair’s decision to run “Stolen Honor” (or not to run Nightline’s “The Fallen”), he would have to say the word “Sinclair” on the air. Of course, that’s a non-starter. It would be virtually impossible to do this without acknowledging his own connection to Sinclair, as well as that of the stations on which he appears. Remember that Sinclair’s modus operandi is to give viewers the illusion of local news, while actually giving them nothing of the sort. Calling attention to his own attachment to Sinclair would break down the façade he tries so hard to keep up. Notice that in fact “The Point” never identifies who Mark Hyman is, that it’s coming from Sinclair’s Baltimore headquarters, or even that it’s not local. That’s not an accident. It’s all part of the systematic dishonesty that’s at the heart of Sinclair Broadcasting’s approach to what can only loosely be described as journalism.

Given this inherent shadiness, it’s not surprising that Hyman abuses his fellow journalists in unfair ways, this time taking a conversation he had with Rosenthal and distorting it into a strawman to be abused. Even given that Hyman pulls quotations out of context, it’s painfully clear that he’s conjuring his interpretation from thin air. He quotes Rosenthal as saying that he’s “tired of hearing about Vietnam” and is sick about the way the Right wingers are doing to this war (i.e., Iraq) what they did to the Vietnam War.

Hyman then simply says that Rosenthal and the New York Times hate our troops and our veterans.


Even in these Hyman-picked quotations, all Rosenthal is saying is that Vietnam isn’t an important issue in the current political race (or shouldn’t be) and that conservatives are using any objection to the policies behind the war as “evidence” that those voicing the objections “hate America” and are “against our troops.” Hyman makes no attempt to actually explain how these comments suggest that Rosenthal and “his liberal friends” have anything but the highest regard for the actual men and women serving in Iraq.

But in doing this, Hyman proves Rosenthal’s point more clearly and eloquently than even Rosenthal himself could.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Sinclair Broadcasting: Unnatural and Perverted

Sorry for interrupting our usual daily postings refuting "The Point" with larger issues, but this one is worth it. You owe it to yourself to check out this article from on Sinclair broadcasting as well as the individual behind "Stolen Honor."

Among the many interesting bits of information:

Carlton Sherwood, creator of "Stolen Honor," was disgraced in the mid 1980s when he did an elaborate series of "news" stories claiming funds for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington were being misused and stolen. The charges were later revealed to be completely without merit.

David Smith, CEO of Sinclair, used his news division to work off his community service (stemming from an arrest for solicitation for prostitution) for him by doing stories on a drug rehab clinic.

Frederick Smith, brother of David and a vice president at Sinclair, owns a trailer park under investigation for racially discriminating against African Americans.

A former Sinclair employee says there was a "hostile" work atmosphere at the company that created an atmosphere of permissiveness when it came to sexual harassment.

And these guys have the nerve to lecture about ethics in journalism?

And that's yet another extra "Counterpoint."

"Counterpoint" Extra: Lying or Incompetence?

God Help Him If He Ever Had to Face Mike Wallace!

Forced to answer questions in the public spotlight, Mark Hyman withered under the unyielding interrogation of . . . Deborah Norville.

Deborah Norville is to television interviewers what “It’s a Small World” is to amusement park rides. But even she managed to scrape through the Sinclair façade. During an October 21 interview, Norville questioned Hyman about the “newsworthiness” of “Stolen Honor,” given that the Swift Boaters had gotten tons of airtime and newsprint devoted to them.

Hyman assured her that, no, this was an entirely new group of people completely unrelated to the Swifties.

But Mark, what about this press release from September 29th officially announcing the merger of the Swift Boat vets with the group who put together “Stolen Honor”? It’s not just that these two groups have had contact or share some members; they’re officially the same group, and had been for nearly a month before Hyman told his whopper to Ms. Norville.

So either Mark Hyman knew about this and willfully misrepresented the facts (which makes him a liar), or he wasn’t aware of some basic information about the source of Sinclair’s “exclusive” news story, which makes him journalistically incompetent.

Which is it, Mark? We’re just wondering.

And that’s an extra Counterpoint.

Check out the Media Matters site for the full scoop on this, as well as several other well-documented articles taking apart the falsehoods behind “Stolen Honor” and Hyman’s recent encore of his distortion-filled rants about John Kerry’s war record.

New Name for "The Point:" Night-lies

Mark Hyman again lectures us on journalistic ethics in an edition of "The Point" that’s humorously ironic for just about everyone except Mark himself.

This time, Hyman chastises ABC’s Nightline for not replicating his own right wing spin on John Kerry’s Vietnam service. The ABC news show sent a team to Vietnam to look into the specifics of the incident for which Kerry won a Silver Star. The journalists actually find not only the village where the action took place, but also Vietnamese survivors of the fight. As Ted Koppel himself says, the resulting interviews don’t prove Kerry’s side of the story, but they are consistent with what Kerry, his shipmates, and the Navy itself have said about the incident.

That’s not good enough for Hyman. After claiming (ridiculously) that the media was not investigating Kerry’s record and allegations made by the Swift Boaters, he condemns exactly such an investigation because the information they gathered doesn’t support Hyman’s own twisted version of things. Who knew Vietnamese peasants were part of the liberal media elite?

Hyman’s not in much of a position to throw around criticism. Even in this commentary, he gets basic facts wrong. He makes much of the fact that Kerry received “three citations” for his Silver Star. Hyman darkly hints at something improper in all of this. In fact, it’s common for veterans to request copies of their citations if the originals get lost or damaged, or if they simply want extra copies.

Here’s an excerpt from a nationally-known newspaper on the subject:

A third charge [concerning Kerry’s Vietnam service]: Mr. Kerry got his Vietnam War medal citations reissued in the 1980s because he was stripped of them for misconduct.
Navy officials say that there is no evidence that Mr. Kerry's Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts were ever rescinded and that there is no evidence of misconduct in his records.
He did receive new medal citations in the mid-1980s. Officials say the Navy receives scores, and perhaps hundreds, of such requests each year from veterans who want a second copy or have lost the originals.
The citations are simply put through a machine that implants the signature of the current Navy secretary. John Lehman's signature, via a machine, appears on Mr. Kerry's new citation for his Silver Star.

The source of this liberal propaganda? That famous left-wing radical rag, the Washington Times.

Of course, maybe ABC should have done their journalism the Sinclair way: Instead of sending a team of reporters halfway around the world to interview eyewitnesses and then to report objectively what was learned, they could’ve just found a propaganda film and forced all their affiliates to air it under the heading of “news.”

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman's Up Past His Bedtime

Mark Hyman has a troubling relationship with the issue of race. Recently, he’s mocked African American concerns about racial profiling and equated Hispanic illegal immigrants to terrorists. Now, Hyman trivializes the disparity in public schools attended by minority children in urban areas and those attended by their white, suburban counterparts.

Citing a study that claims that minority children get less sleep than white children, and that this may affect their scholastic performance.

This may be true. There are any number of reasons why minority children (who are also disproportionately poor) might get less sleep. Hyman implies, however, that it’s simply a matter of sending kids to be earlier (no mention of possible issues such as being in a single parent household, caring for younger brothers and sisters, malnourishment, or any of the other possible causes of sleep deprivation). Put in the larger context of Hyman’s oeuvre, the subtext isn’t hard to pick up: minorities should stop whining about needing more money from the government for schools and get their kids to bed.

Hyman leaves himself with a rhetorical escape hatch, saying that the sleep issue should be studied “aside from other factors,” allowing him to say he’s not simply blaming minority parents for the divide between white and minority scholastic performance. But again, regular viewers of “The Point” have no trouble understanding what’s being said.

Anyone who’s concerned about the actual causes of minority underperformance should read Jonathan Kozol’s book Savage Inequalities. Maybe we’ll a copy to Mark for Christmas.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

The Hyman Always Lies Twice

We don’t often comment on "Mailbag" editions of “The Point,” but a couple of brief comments are in order.

First, we should note that although Mark Hyman often touts the fact that “The Point” airs viewer response, the only time this happens is on Saturday night, traditionally the period that receives the lowest ratings for local newscasts. Coincidence?

Secondly, Hyman often uses the “Mailbag” segment to voice opinions with even more nastiness than he usually does by quoting from letters of his choosing. A case in point comes this week when he cites the following remark from an admiring viewer:

"Liberals won't listen to or tell the truth."

Hyman will quote from letters that disagree with him, but they are almost entirely ad hominem attacks that suggest there is no coherent opposing point of view, just members of what Hyman refers to as “The Angry Left.” This week, after reading a number of emails that lavished praise on Hyman’s editorial about the draft, we have only one true voice of dissent, and that’s one that offers only a caricature of those who disagree with him:

Finally, Paul in Pittsburgh relayed "your commentary is as enlightening as a festered, ingrown toenail. Please seek a career more in your field, like one of those annoying voiceovers at golf [tournaments]." He shoots, he scores. Naw, it doesn't work.

We know that Hyman received feedback on his editorial pointing out that the bills concerning the draft that were introduced by Democrats were simply ways of pointing out the inherent unfairness of the draft system that’s traditionally been used that sends a disproportionate number of poor, working class, and minority youths to fight and die in America’s wars. How do we know this? Well, as we always do, we sent a copy of “The Counterpoint” refuting Hyman’s commentary to “The Point.” We’re sure we’re not the only ones to have brought up these facts, either.

Of course, Hyman gave no airtime to comments that countered his misrepresentations with the truth. Why? Because even Hyman doesn’t believe his own spin. He knows his commentary was disingenuous, and doesn’t want to be busted on his own show.

Hyman is a classic bully: he can dish it out, but when someone fights back, he won’t rise to the challenge.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, October 25, 2004

"Short Takes" Short on Facts

Just a brief note on some unusually lax fact checking in the latest "Point."

In an effort to embarrass John Kerry, Mark Hyman talks about Kerry’s supposed ownership of a “Chinese assault rifle” as mentioned in an “interview” with Outdoor Life Magazine. If Mark had
looked into it a little bit further, he’d have learned that the “interview” was really a creative summary of information given to the magazine by campaign aides who filled out questions submitted in writing. In fact, Kerry owns a bolt-action rifle used by the North Vietnamese, not the illegal assault rifle Hyman suggests.

But the question still remains: why would Kerry have an interest in some antique gun from Vietnam, of all places, that he doesn’t even shoot? Oh yeah, he actually went to Vietnam and served in combat.

Hyman also cites “recent polls” that show that African Americans support racial profiling of Arabs. He asks mockingly, “Don’t they know it’s not politically correct?”

Well, this poll was taken more than three years ago, within a month of the 9/11 attacks. Given this (coupled with the fact that African Americans are more likely to live in the urban areas that would be the most likely targets of similar attacks), we suspect this “recent” poll just might not represent an objective position on the issue. Of course, that doesn’t keep Hyman from using this “news” to lampoon African American objections to racial profiling. Here’s a link to the
Clarence Page article Hyman appears to be referencing (take a note of the date).

Was “The Point” fact checker on vacation? Is there a fact checker for “The Point”? We’re just wondering.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Party Platform Pretzel II

In his latest "Point," Mark Hyman continues his “examination” of the two party platforms, with the focus this time on Social Security. Not surprisingly, he ignores and spins facts to editorialize while still keeping the façade of an even-handed analyst.

In talking about the Democratic platform, Hyman says nothing about plans to ensure the health of social security. He only mentions the “promises” the Democrats make to seniors to not raise the retirement age or to offset Social Security with other retirement plans. Toward the end of the piece, Hyman says that if something isn’t done about Social Security, “younger workers will have nothing but empty promises.” Hyman’s implication is obvious: Democrats only offer empty promises on social security, rather than a plan.

Hyman’s rhetoric takes a decidedly different tone when talking about Republican plans to partially privatize Social Security. Positive verbs abound:

Republicans support workers voluntarily choosing between the current Social Security system and supplementing Social Security with a personal retirement account in which they can make their own investment decisions with a portion of their money.

Meanwhile, Republicans oppose (not promise) decreasing benefits or raising taxes.

The problem is that it’s the Republican plan that offers false promises. Hyman joins with the Bush administration in using the language of empowerment when talking about workers having some Social Security money directed into private savings accounts. But Hyman doesn’t point out that Social Security deductions don’t go to “accounts” where they’re saved for workers until they retire. They go to pay benefits to seniors today. Even diverting a small percentage of Social Security contributions to private funds (and no feasible plan suggests more than 3-5% could be used in this way) would necessitate immediate cuts in benefits for today’s seniors, or the raising of taxes. But Hyman is silent on this subject.

Hyman does his best to spin the issue through word choice while seeming to offer his viewers an objective analysis, but even a cursory glance at the facts shows that, as usual, he’s just full of hot air.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

For a brief look at how Republicans spin the Social Security issue, take a look at
this link from Spinsanity.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Triviality, Thy Name Is Hyman

As the election approaches, we expect more media attention than ever to be focused on the two candidates. We want the media to offer us analysis of the positions of the candidates on issues such as national security, the economy, education, war and peace, so that we as voters can make the most informed choice possible on election day. And Mark Hyman obliges us . . . a commentary about which candidate looks better on high definition TV.

Actually, the nominal topic of Hyman’s commentary is the participation of obscure groups in the election process, such as a web site that offers detailed analysis of how the candidates appeared during their acceptance speeches when viewed on high definition television (the site also features lists of what celebrities still look “hot” and which don’t in the unforgiving format of hi-def). He also mentions “Football Fans for Truth,” “Rednecks for Kerry” and an association of strip club owners.

There is, as we might expect, the requisite slanting at Kerry’s expense. We hear that George Soros has contributed billions of dollars for ads “attacking” George W. Bush, while “military veterans have challenged John Kerry’s claims.” Hyman tells us that the claims of Kerry getting botox injections “appear validated” by the hi-def (the website itself is agnostic on the subject). There’s more detail on the sillinesses of Football Fans for Truth than there is on Rednecks for Kerry. And then, of course, there’s the claim that John Kerry is the candidate of choice for strip club owners.

It’s not surprising that Hyman would slant things against Kerry, even in a commentary that’s about the triviality of the groups he mentions. That’s par for the course. But there’s absolutely no sense Hyman’s aware of the irony in devoting a commentary less than two weeks away from the election to such unimportant fluff. In attempting to mock the vapidity of election discourse, Hyman becomes the very thing he derides.

Which brings up a larger issue: who can possibly not be offended by this appropriation of local airwaves, no matter what their political persuasion. Here we have a precious minute or two of local airwaves being used to offer political commentary. Given the lack of information facing most voters about local elections (few state house candidates can blitz the airwaves with ads), wouldn’t it be nice to use this public resource for news or commentary on local races? Instead, all 62 Sinclair stations are forced to squander this time so Mark Hyman can attempt to be witty.

Talk about triviality.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Sinclair Broadcasting as finally admitted it can't get away with airing "Stolen Honor" in its uninterrupted, commercial-free entireity. Pressure from a variety of sources (shareholders chief among them) have forced the Smiths and Mark Hyman to scale back their plans. They now want to air a "special" on POWs, documentaries, and their affect on the election.

This is basically just a way of putting a more friendly face on what is still clearly an attempt to influence the outcome of the election (hence the qualifier of "minor" in "minor victory"). Our position is that this is a call for more action, not less.

What we're dealing with is precisely what those of us worried about media consolidation have been concerned about for a long time: the ability of a small group (in this case, a single family), to use their media holdings as a platform for propaganda. In other words, we're on the slippery slope right now. We need to keep the pressure on Sinclair on the "Stolen Honor" issue, as well as press the larger issue of media consolidation. There's a chance to use this episode as proof that the loosening of media ownership regulations (championed by Sinclair and ushered through Congress by their Republican friends) have a demonstrably negative effect on the democratic process.

Here's a link to a story on latest Sinclair waffling. Now, it's time to put them away.

Hyman Makes a Platform Pretzel

Perhaps it’s cruel to point out errors and misrepresentations in Mark Hyman’s commentaries these days. Frankly, were surprised he has the time or energy to put together a commentary at all. Sinclair’s stock continues to plummet, advertisers are pulling out, and stock-holder lawsuits and allegations of insider trading by Sinclair’s owners are now surfacing.

But as Sinclair continues sink, Hyman seems content to go down with the ship, firing away haphazard and misguided shots as he goes.
The latest is what appears to be the first in a planned series comparing the party platforms. His focus this time around is Iraq.

Pointing out a few similarities between the
DNC and RNC platforms, Hyman then goes into a series of differences he sees in the parties’ approaches to Iraq (which he conflates with terrorism generally).

There are a number of distortions here, but a few pop out as particularly noteworthy. First, as one of the “similarities” between platforms, Hyman says both the DNC and RNC agree that building coalitions is important. The difference is that the idea of building coalitions is a central part of the Democratic platform’s plan to fight terrorism, while it is mentioned briefly in the RNC platform, and even then mostly in shoring up the lame assertion that the “coalition” now in Iraq is broad-based. Moreover, the Republican platform uses the “with us or against us” language that helped build up barriers to begin with. As any parent of a child serving in Iraq can tell you, it’s Americans (and Iraqis themselves) who are doing the fighting and dying. The “coalition” is a paperwork fiction.

Hyman then pulls a rhetorical fast one by saying that the Republican and Democratic platforms disagree about “the U.S. military’s effort to topple Saddam Hussein.” Note that the active agent in this construction of the war becomes the U.S. military, not president Bush. The effect here is to suggest the war was not a politically motivated act precipitated by the policy agenda of the administration, but simply an act of the military that was to be supported or opposed. Not only does this downplay the president’s role in starting the war, but it also subtly continues the insinuation that John Kerry and/or the Democrats are “anti-military.”

This is followed up by the claim that Democrats feel that further “foreign political approval” was needed before acting militarily (shades of the “global test” canard that Republicans have clumsily tried to used against Kerry). Of course, this isn’t true. Democrats (and a lot of other people) wanted more conclusive proof that Iraq had WMD capability and to therefore have the evidence needed to win the support of a broader coalition before starting a preemptive war that would certainly result in thousands of deaths. Out of interest for future political stability and the lives of our soldiers who would (and did) end up doing most of the dying in a war waged almost solely by the U.S., the Democrats feel more diplomatic groundwork should have been done before launching headlong into a war for which there was no end-game planned. In fact, the Democratic platform specifically states that the U.S. should not be restricted by any foreign government or global alliance when it comes to defending itself, even preemptively. The platform does say, however, that America must lead others rather than going it alone.

Hyman also makes the claim that the Democratic platform does not support carrying out U.N. Resolution 1441, the resolution that called for Iraq to disarm and was then used as a fig leaf to legitimate invasion. Everyone (even the French!) was all for Resolution 1441. The problem was that the resolution, contrary to Hyman’s characterization of it, did not authorize force. It gave Iraq a deadline for turning over information about its weapons programs. Iraq provided information. It then was up to inspectors to verify whether or not Iraq’s actions constituted compliance with 1441 or not. But the Bush administration was unwilling to wait. Had they, perhaps we would have learned long ago that there were no WMDs in Iraq, and we wouldn’t have lost more than 1000 soldiers (and counting) to find out.

By the way, Resolution 1441 was only about WMDs. Nowhere was there any statement by the U.N. about ties to al-Quaeda or human rights issues being a cause for using force against Iraq. As noted, the resolution did not even specifically authorize force in the case of WMDs. This is significant because of the revisionist history done by Hyman and other Republicans who say (in the absence of WMDs) that it was ties to terror and Hussein’s brutality that were the moral pretext for the war.

Hyman closes by saying that Republicans see the war on terror as essentially a military effort, while the Democrats see it as law enforcement. To the extent this means that the Democratic platform emphasizes intelligence gathering far more than the Republican platform does, that’s correct. But in fact, the Democratic platform specifically spells out a strategy on terror that incorporates military, law enforcement, diplomatic, and economic aspects combined.

Here’s the relevant passage from the DNC platform:

Improving intelligence to find and stop terrorists. We will train and equip the military to enhance its capabilities to seek out and destroy terrorists. We will strengthen the capacity of intelligence and law enforcement around the world by forging stronger international coalitions to provide better information and communication. Third, in addition to our military might, we must deploy all that is in America's arsenal – our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and the appeal of our values and ideas. Fourth and finally, to safeguard our freedom and ensure our nation's future, we must end our dependence on Mideast oil.

In fact, the most glaring difference between the RNC and DNC platforms is that the Democrats see energy policy as inextricably linked to foreign policy, particularly when it comes to the Mideast. The Republicans barely mention energy policy, talk about it exclusively in the context of domestic economic concerns, and champion more oil drilling as a long-term solution.

Might that have anything to do with who the guys are at the top of the G.O.P. ticket? We’re just wondering.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


As we noted yesterday in a Counterpoint extra, Sinclair's lead politics reporter Jon Lieberman openly criticized executives' (re: David Smith and Mark Hyman) decision to run "Stolen Honor" as "news." Today, he's out of a job, personally fired by Hyman himself.

In a move of Stalin-esque efficiency, the online archives for Lieberman's regular segment "Truth, Lies, and Red Tape" have already disappeared from the website, as has Lieberman's photo and bio.

We wish we could say we're surprised at this gutless (and possibly actionable) move by Hyman & Co., but it's sadly in keeping with everything we've come to know about the way they do business.

You can read about this, along with more information about Sinclair's stock continuing to auger in, at Here's the link:

The Counterpoint

Getting lectured by Hyman on journalistic ethics is sort of like . . .

. . . being lectured about law and order by Tony Soprano (to borrow an analogy from the 44th President of the United States).

The whole “Stolen Honor” fiasco seems to be taking a toll on poor Mark Hyman. In his latest "Point," Hyman flails wildly at journalists in general, but fails to land a punch. It’s been a while since we’ve had a thoroughly bizarre Hyman commentary (rather than one that was merely simple minded, poorly argued, and false), so we must admit to particularly enjoying this bit of schadenfreude as the Sinclair implosion continues.

Oddly enough, the commentary is framed around the revealing of Valerie Plame, the C.I.A. operative who’s husband, Joseph Wilson, discovered the shadiness of the “yellow cake” uranium rumors that served as a central part of the Iraq/WMD myth that the Bush administration used to lead America to war. We say “odd” because Hyman has in the past limited his comments on this episode to attempts to assassinate the character of Wilson. Now, however, Hyman claims to be aghast that the press would hide behind its privilege to protect sources in order not to reveal who leaked the Plame information to the media.

But it’s not “journalists” who are at issue. It’s one journalist: right-wing pundit and resident talking head at CNN, Robert Novak. And although Novak has called for other journalists to be compelled to reveal sources in other cases, he has refused himself.

So, Hyman seems to be taking on a fellow member of the Angry Right for protecting the Bush administration. But he never uses Novak’s name, and he never says a word about the treasonous outing of Plame (something that could only have been done by a high level member of the Bush administration). If Hyman was truly concerned about national security, he’d use his platform to publicly call on President Bush to ask all members of his administration whether they gave Novak this information and to fire the person who did. Of course, Hyman doesn’t do this.

Instead, Hyman launches headlong into a convoluted attack on the right of the press to protect sources. Claiming that journalists feel they have rights no one else has, Hyman goes after what he sees as the arrogance of the press in thinking they deserve protection that aren’t afforded other professions. Journalists should “accept the risks” involved in their profession and not seek protection from being sent to prison if they refuse to divulge the identity of sources who themselves might have committed crimes. Hyman suggests seeking this sort of privilege shows that journalists believe they have more rights than any other profession, including police officers and fire fighters, who accept the risk of their jobs.

Hyman then offers up as “proof” of journalism’s double standard the fact that the editor of the New York Times protested when a reporter was held in contempt of court for not revealing a source, yet immediately informed authorities when an envelope arrived at the Times’ offices containing an unknown white powder.

It’s hard to know what’s going on here. Sure, the commentary allows Hyman to take passing ad hominem attacks on Wilson and the editor of the New York Times, two favorite Hyman targets. But the logical contortions involved hardly make it worth the effort.

First, the Times episode: here, we have more Hyman apples-and-oranges fruit salad. The envelope with white powder wasn’t a source. It wasn’t information. It was a possibly lethal substance that could conceivably poison dozens, if not hundreds of people. Telling the authorities about it didn’t compromise journalistic integrity or make it any less likely that the Times’ reporters would be able to cultivate future sources for stories. Comparing this action to revealing a confidential source is simply idiotic.

Of course, Hyman doesn’t believe the Times shouldn’t have reported receiving this white powder; he believes they should report names of any sources whenever they are asked in order to help protect the “safety” of others.

But it’s precisely the public good that’s at the heart of the long-standing rights of journalists to keep sources confidential. Without such rights, almost no one with any inside knowledge of criminal wrongdoing would ever talk to the media. It’s the promise of confidentiality that makes it more likely that those who know of criminal acts (perhaps because they themselves were a party to them) will come forward and give the press information that will bring these actions to light. Low-level terrorists are more likely to give information about their bosses. Corporate officers are more likely to talk about board-room corruption. Government officials are more likely to reveal abuses of the public trust (remember Watergate, Mark?).

Confidentiality isn’t a right journalists made up because they think they are better than everyone else. It’s a right we as a free society have made sure they have so that we the people have a truly free press to serve us.

Moreover, confidentiality, contrary to Hyman’s rantings, is hardly a right singular to journalism. Clergy, lawyers, therapists, and doctors all have understood rights to protect the identities of those they speak with. Why? Because this confidentiality is central to their ability to do their job. Does Hyman think your local priest should be made to tell authorities what is heard in the confessional, if asked?

Hyman has a “complicated” relationship with the field of journalism. As we’ve noted before, he takes on the trappings of a journalist himself when it suits him, and he obviously works for a media conglomerate. Yet he trashes the profession liberally (if you’ll excuse the expression) as part of his ongoing attack on anyone who dares question the Bush administration. Given this schizophrenia, not to mention the claim by a fellow Sinclair Broadcasting employee that he’s “certifiable,” it might be time for Mark to spend some time on the couch. Let’s just hope for his sake that his therapist has a more thorough understanding of the purpose of confidentiality than he does.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, October 18, 2004


Advertisers started pulling out, the stock fell even more, and now the Sinclair implosion continues, this time from within. Their own chief political reporter criticizes the company for pushing propaganda as news. And guess who's one of the two major personalities at Sinclair who are fingered as the leading voices championing "Stolen Honor" . . .

Read the story here:


The Counterpoint

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Deconstructing Hyman

Who knew Mark Hyman was such a fan of poststructuralism? We’ve given Mr. Hyman a hard time in this space as someone with limited argumentative abilities and a rather ham-fisted rhetorical style. Yet he suddenly turns in a deliciously subversive and subtly playful text that intellectually and linguistically turns in on itself, revealing the indeterminacy of language and the infinite play of meaning. We can only surmise that this is Hyman’s elegy to the father of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, who passed away earlier this week.

At least, we assume this is what Hyman had in mind, because it’s the only way what he’s come up with makes any sense (ironically enough). It’s just too bad so few people will pick up on the cleverness.

The genius begins with the conceit Hyman bases the entire piece on: in the immediate aftermath of Sinclair Broadcasting announcing it will force all of its stations to run an anti-Kerry propaganda film, Hyman uses Sinclair airwaves to lament that “bias in the media has reared its ugly head again” and bemoan the dearth of “balance and fairness” in journalism. What a witty use of irony to undermine our assumption of a textual “ground” on which to base an interpretation!

Some might point out that the “bias” identified by the vast majority of news consumers is not political but the bias of self-interest and sensationalism, and therefore conclude Hyman is manufacturing a false issue. But that’s just Mark’s point! What issue isn’t inherently “false” at some level, and why should we necessarily privilege the “true” over the “false” anyway?

Hyman goes on to suggest that the problem isn’t too many liberals or conservatives (again, that would be to fall prey to binary thinking), but rather the lack of “ethics.”

Of course, the sensitive and astute reader will see that this is merely Hyman’s way of showing the entirely subjective notion of any “ethical” standard at all. Speaking as the mouthpiece for a company devoted to forcing propaganda on its audience and labeling it a “news” story, and as someone who accuses those who disagree with his political views of being morally derelict, Hyman certainly doesn’t advocate for any abstract sense of journalistic ethics. His argument is ironic, pointing out the entirely subjective and ephemeral status of any “standards,” which, after all, are merely discursive constructs with no grounding in what stick-in-the-mud Enlightenment-philes refer to as “reality.”

Then, in a brilliant move revealing the impossibility of separating the agent and the act (or the subject and the discourse that it produces and which in turn produces it), Hyman slips from saying that the majority of those who work in newsrooms self-identify themselves as liberals to claiming that journalists admit that their reporting is clearly slanted toward liberal positions. Of course, no journalists have said this. But what Hyman is suggesting is that what we are and what we do are all the same. Our identity is itself a political act, and our political acts are our identity. It would be just as impossible for a journalist to describe herself as politically liberal in her private views and be objective in her professional capacity as a reporter as it would for Mark Hyman to acknowledge that he occupies the public social position of a white male, yet does not hold racist and a misogynist views privately. Of course he does!

Again, some unenlightened folks might suggest that personal feelings and professional motives are quite different things, particularly when it comes to the press. But our outer social roles and inner convictions cannot be neatly separated, and always inform one another in ways that defy our control. So many people miss this elusive point, but not Mark.

Hyman then beautifully undercuts any pretense to his own authorial authority by praising the rise of “new media” as a watchdog on the “old media” outlets that once were the primary sources of news. On the surface Hyman celebrates diversity in the media, but he counts on his audience’s understanding of the underlying context of his comments: Sinclair Broadcasting has led the fight for relaxing media ownership rules by allowing large companies to buy up multiple television stations in the same market. Sinclair themselves now own more than one station in a number of cities, often staffing the newsrooms with identical reporters, or simply using their Baltimore-based news team to simulate local news in the same way on the same stations. (After all, what do we really mean by “local,” anyway? Is this not yet another textual construct?) Some might call this rank hypocrisy, but only those who lack the intellectual rigor to see how Hyman complicates our very idea of concepts such as “diversity,” “consistency,” and “coherence.”

Lastly, Hyman’s tour-de-force takes aim at the basis of its own creation, foregrounding the indeterminate nature of the very means by which we produce discourse or “meaning.” He suggests perhaps financial pressures will bring news organizations back to a more centrist political position. Yet, even this straight-forward assertion slips through our desperate desire to have it “make sense,” given that Sinclair Broadcasting itself has seen its stock value fall by half in just the last calendar year and currently trades at near its all-time low price. Its stock has been downgraded by any number of trading companies, and it carries a debt ratio that dwarfs that of almost any other similar company.

Some might say that the fact that most news organizations are owned by a small handful of conglomerates adverse to taking risks, and who are institutionally conservative in their outlook, suggests the idiocy of believing the media is intentionally slanting its coverage far to the left of mainstream America. Some might also point out that Sinclair’s financial shakiness suggests it is they, not those Hyman criticizes, that are out of the mainstream. But again, that’s just the point! Hyman’s very assertion calls into question its own authority, and we find ourselves chasing our tail, only to see that our friend Mark has had the last laugh by making us think that he ever meant to be coherent rather than demonstrating the always-already deferred nature of a constructed “meaning.”

So, at the end of the day, the deconstructive joke’s on us . . . It is a joke, right Mark?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hyman & the Fruit Salad II

Earlier this week, Mark Hyman compared the votes of Senators on a series of bills on Iraq, claiming to find hypocrisy in those who voted against authorizing the president to invade Iraq in 1991 and 2002, but for a resolution calling on the president to bring Iraq into compliance with U.N. resolutions in 1998.

This time around, Hyman
makes the same comparison with members of the House. As we did last time, we’ve made a much better comparison that compares the 1991 and 2002 Iraq votes with the 1999 vote authorizing the president to use air strikes in Kosovo (see the previous “Counterpoint” for a more detailed explanation of this comparison). Here’s a list of House members who voted to authorize a ground invasion involving tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers in both 1991 and 2002, but against supporting the president in using air strikes against Slobodan Milosovic in 1999:

Armey (R)
Baker (R)
Bartlett (R)
Barton (R)
Bilirakis (R)
Boehner (R)
Burton (R)
Coble (R)
Combest (R)
Cox (R)
Cunningham (R)
DeLay (R)
Doolittle (R)
Dreier (R)
Emerson (R)
Gallegly (R)
Gekas (R)
Gillmor (R)
Goss (R)
Green (R)
Hall (D)
Hefley (R)
Johnson (CT) (R)
Jones (R) (Switched from Democrat to Republican after 1999)
Lewis (R)
McCrery (R)
Miller (R)
Nussle (R)
Petri (R)
Ramstad (R)
Rogers (R)
Rohrbacher (R)
Ros-Lehtinen (R)
Saxton (R)
Sensenbrenner (R)
Shaw (R)
Shays (R)
Smith (NJ) (R)
Smith (TX) (R)
Stearns (R)
Taylor (R)
Thomas (R)
Upton (R)
Weldon (R)
Young (AK) (R)
Young (FL) (R)

[Votes cited: HJ Res 77 (1991), S Con Res 21 (1999), HJ Res 114 (2002)]

By the way, we said last time that maybe Mark Hyman flunked the analogy part of his SATs. We now suspect that trauma is even deeper than that. In a
must-read piece on Sinclair at, we hear from a fellow Sinclair employee (who understandably wishes to remain anonymous) that Hyman should be getting fitted for a straightjacket:

"He's certifiable," says one Sinclair employee. "At least that's all coming out now. It's like the Wizard of Oz; the curtain gets pulled back and there's this
weird guy running things."

You know Mark, they’re doing wonderful things in the field of psychiatry today.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman & the Fruit Salad

Poor Mark Hyman. He must’ve flunked the analogy section of his SATs. That’s the only conclusion we can reach given the apples to oranges comparisons he makes in his examination of Senate votes.

Claiming to be looking even-handedly at which members of Congress base their votes on using military force on politics rather than the situation,
Hyman looks at the votes of current members of the Senate who voted against using force against Iraq in 1991 and 2002, but voted for a resolution authorizing the president to bring Iraq into compliance with U.N. resolutions in 1998. This results in a list of senators (all Democrats) whom Hyman charges with caring more about politics than national security because of the supposed hypocrisy of voting for military force only when a Democrat was in the White House.

Here’s the problem: the 1998 vote had nothing to do with sending U.S. forces into Iraq. It was simply a resolution saying the president should attempt to bring Iraq into compliance with U.N. resolutions. President Clinton hadn’t even suggested an invasion of Iraq. At most, this vote simply reasserted that the president should continue to enforce no fly zones, send in an occasional cruise missile when needed, and continue to work with other nations to bring Iraq into compliance.

We’re guessing that the fact the 1998 vote wasn’t going to result in tens of thousands of U.S. troops being put on the ground in Iraq probably had something to do with it getting near unanimous support, including by some who voted against authorizing the president to deploy troops in 1991 and 2002. Hyman ignores this difference, however, to score political points.

A much better analogy would be to compare the 1991 and 2002 votes to the 1999 resolution to authorize U.S. participation in air strikes in Kosovo. True, Iraq wasn’t the issue, but the circumstances are much closer to those in 1991 and 2002 than those surrounding the 1998 Iraq vote. We were dealing with a ruthless dictator who was responsible for killing civilians en masse. He had started a war of aggression. It was conceivable that he might pose a threat to regional stability. Diplomacy hadn’t brought him to justice. Most importantly, the vote was closely tied to the actual deployment of U.S. forces to a combat zone.

Of course, there were also significant differences. Unlike Iraq in 2002, there was an ongoing war in the former Yugoslavia. Genocide was going on at the time. We hadn’t supported Milosovic in the past, as we had Hussein. Milosovic wasn’t boxed in by no-fly zones. Unlike Iraq, there was widespread international support for striking the Serbs, and the U.S. would be participating jointly with its NATO allies, not taking on more than 90% of the effort itself. Finally, the 1999 action involved air strikes, not a massive invasion using more than 100,000 ground troops.

But it’s still a much better comparison than Hyman’s. The Counterpoint took a look at those members of the Senate who voted to send U.S. troops after a brutal dictator in 1991 and 2002, but voted against using force against a brutal dictator in 1999 (when, coincidentally, a Democrat was in the White House).

Here’s the list. (We’ve left on the names of those who are no longer in the Senate; we figure they still deserve to have their hypocrisy recognized).

An “*” indicates that the 1991 and/or 1999 vote was made as a member of the House.

*Allard (R)
Bond (R)
*Bunning (R)
Burns (R)
Craig (R)
Gramm (R)
Helms (R)
*Inhofe (R)
Murkowski (R)
Nickles (R)
*Roberts (R)
*Santorum (R)
Smith (NH) (R)
Stevens (R)

[Votes cited: S.J. Res 2 (1991); S.Con. Res. 21 (1999); H.J. Res. 114 (2002)]

Gosh Mark, where’s the outrage about these politically motivated votes?

Here’s one more analogy for you--

Hyman: hypocrite as Pope: Catholic

And that’s The Counterpoint


Particularly with the shameless decision to force stations to air anti-Kerry propaganda, I’ve gotten a number of requests asking what we can do to respond to Sinclair. With that in mind, here’s a brief list of some things you can do to throw a wrench into the Sinclair machine’s works.

  • Write a letter or op-ed piece for your local paper: there’s a lot of people out there who still don’t know what Sinclair is or what their relationship is to stations that seem “local.” Even politically-informed folks often aren’t aware of who Mark Hyman is and why he’s on their airwaves. Telling your neighbors about this in a public forum will help get allies in the anti-Sinclair battle.
  • Make a complaint to the FCC: Don’t expect much from Michael Powell & Co., but the more complaints that are filed, the more attention and pressure will build up for something to be done.
  • Write to your local Sinclair station: true, local stations have almost no power when they’re owned by Sinclair, but if you make your voice heard by your local stations, they in turn may feel compelled to tell their corporate masters that they’re feeling the heat from their viewers.
  • Contact your representatives: your representatives have a duty to you, and even if they’re Republican, they’re going to want to be responsive to their constituents in the run-up to an election. Tell them you’re angry and want them to fight for local control of local airwaves. Remind them that the broadcast spectrum is owned by the people, not by corporations. The airwaves are a public resource. Let them know if they aren’t willing to fight for local control of this resource, they shouldn’t be representing you.
  • Contact advertisers on Sinclair stations: local businesses depend on local customers. Write, call, or email businesses that advertise on Sinclair owned stations and let them know that Sinclair is abusing local viewers by forcing the political views of their corporate leaders on their audience. Ask them to consider advertising on truly local media. Regardless of their political affiliation, local business owners will likely be sympathetic to this argument against Sinclair.
  • Boycott local businesses that advertise on Sinclair stations: If local businesses continue to advertise on Sinclair stations, let them know you won’t do business with them. This is especially effective if the businesses are those you currently patronize. Let them know you’ll go out of your way to do business with those who advertise in the local media, but that you can’t support a company that defrauds and abuses its customers in the way Sinclair does. You don’t have to be mean about it—let them know that it’s Sinclair you’re upset with, not them. But given that Sinclair isn’t responsive to the wishes of its viewers, the only option you have is to not patronize those who do business with them.
  • Organize. With the upcoming airing of “Stolen Honor,” there’s an opportunity to get mobilized. Find people in your area who feel the same. Picket your local Sinclair station or hold a demonstration. Put some money together and buy an ad in a local paper or on a local television station. Even a few people can get a big reaction if a demonstration is done right. Let other local media know about your action. This whole “Stolen Honor” thing has the possibility to backfire in a major way for Sinclair by getting people aware and angry about how they do business.

Here’s a great website where you can sign an anti-Sinclair petition, as well as find all sorts of helpful information, such as who advertises on Sinclair:

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Local ownership? Not when it comes to the airwaves.

The most recent “Point” takes on the issue of “eminent domain,” arguing that the Supreme Court should rule in favor of residents of a Connecticut town who have appealed the seizure of their homes. Their city government has claimed it can take possession of their homes as part of a development project that will provide economic expansion and jobs for their financially strapped town.

Hyman argues that the government has a responsibility to protect the ownership rights of citizens. Believe it or not, we actually agree. Sure, Hyman couches his argument in terms that suggest the city officials are acting out of greed and doesn’t acknowledge that there might be a legitimate argument to be made that the financial good of the community outweighs the individual rights of a handful of homeowners, but the idea that government shouldn’t serve the interests of large corporations by allowing them to exploit what is owned by citizens is sound.

So, we’re just wondering: what does Mark think about the FCC allowing corporations to own multiple television stations in the same market and using the publicly-owned airwaves to spread political propaganda? Why should a Baltimore-based company have the right to force stations in North Carolina, Iowa, and California to show the self-interested diatribes of a corporate executive? If Hyman actually believes in valuing local citizens’ ownership rights over corporate interests, surely he and his pals at Sinclair would allow their stations to make local decisions about how to best use the publicly-owned airwaves to serve their audience, right?

Apparently not. As we noted yesterday, Sinclair has dropped any pretense to journalistic credibility by forcing every one of its 62 stations to air an anti-Kerry propaganda film in place of normal network programming. The fig leaf they use to attempt skirting federal election law is that the documentary is “news” and that they’ve invited John Kerry to participate in a panel discussion afterwards. Great—after showing nearly an hour-long defamatory film, the fair-minded folks will allow Kerry a matter of minutes to respond. How big of them.

Here’s a link to a Salon piece on this latest Sinclair tactic.

Fortunately, this episode may end up backfiring by exposing Sinclair even more completely as the propagandists that they are. There’s already a move by several Senators to file a complaint with the FEC and the FCC about Sinclair’s actions. The media is also covering the story, often pointing out as part of the story’s background that Sinclair executives donate large sums of money exclusively to Republicans. Even the online poll on Sinclair’s news website,, shows that most of their own viewers think Sinclair should not run the film.

As the saying goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Pork Barrel Politics & "The Point"

Mark Hyman bemoans the spendthrift ways of Congress as it fails to individually pass 13 appropriations bills, paving the way for the usual remedy for budget impasses: an omnibus spending bill that’s vulnerable to pork barrel additions.

Hyman goes to great pains to suggest this is a bipartisan problem. At first blush, this sounds like a rare moment of principle, but we know better than to get our hopes up. The fact is that pork barrel spending of the sort Hyman decries has increased under Republican control of Congress. While they campaigned for fiscal responsibility in the mid 1990s, Republicans have blazed new trails in lining their own pockets have blazed new trails in lining their own pockets and those of their constituents as a means of holding on to power.

Even conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation have criticized this lack of discipline. With a Republican controlled Senate and House, along with a Republican administration, spending has gone through the roof. George W. Bush could use the threat of veto to keep things in line, but he’s been very much part of the problem. He, like his Republican colleagues, has learned that votes can be bought, and has given up any semblance of true “conservatism” for the sake of gaining popularity, winning votes, and maintaining power.

Hyman uses the issue to flame anti-Washington sentiment, but the problem isn’t the federal government itself. It’s who’s running it.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman's Drafty Argument

Mark Hyman again freely distorts facts to score political points, this time using the issue of the draft the issue of the draft.

Hyman accuses Democrats of using the issue of the draft to scare voters into opposing George Bush, even though there’s little chance of an actual draft being put into place (at least in Hyman’s estimation).

There are two problems here. First, there’s already a “back door” draft in place, forcing those in the armed services, including the reserve, to continue in active duty even though they are due to be discharged.

Second, Hyman uses exactly the same scare tactics he claims to deplore in order to disparage Democrats. At the end of his commentary, Hyman says that the only two proposed bills that would reinstate the draft were submitted by Democrats: Charlie Rangel in the House and Fritz Hollings in the Senate. According to Hyman, it’s Democrats who are chomping at the bit to fire up the draft again.

This ignores basic facts (surprise, surprise). In fact, Rangel proposed his bill not to actually reinstate the draft, but to point out that those who are serving now (and those who have been drafted disproportionately in the past) tend to be lower and working class people, and disproportionately black and Hispanic. His bill proposed a draft that did not allow for many of the exemptions that kept the sons of rich, educated, and influential parents from serving. It was a way of making an argument about the ethics of sending working class kids to fight a war planned by wealthy white men.

If you have any doubts about Rangel’s purposes, he voted against his own proposed bill. His goal was to get his colleagues to engage with an issue that’s often ignored. A
nice op-ed piece nice op-ed piece in the Seattle Times offers a cogent analysis of Rangel’s bill and its motivations.

But for Hyman, this is simply an opportunity to spread more disinformation. Like another intellectually challenged Republican we can think of, Hyman “doesn’t do nuance,” particularly when it gets in the way of hammering the conservative drumbeat.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


As regular readers know, we confine ourselves to responding to Mark Hyman’s “The Point.” However, a larger issue has come up involving Sinclair Broadcasting that we needed to address in this forum.

Sinclair Broadcasting is charting new territory in shamelessness. In an overt attempt to influence the elections, Sinclair executives plan to force their affiliate stations (many of which are located in swing states) to preempt network programming to show an anti-Kerry documentary days before the election. Here’s an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times article that broke the story:

"Sinclair's programming plan, communicated to executives in recent days and coming in the thick of a close and intense presidential race, is highly unusual even in a political season that has been marked by media controversies. Sinclair has told its stations -- many of them in political swing states such as Ohio and Florida -- to air 'Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,' sources said. The film, funded by Pennsylvania veterans and produced by a veteran and former Washington Times reporter, features former POWs accusing Kerry -- a decorated Navy veteran turned war protester -- of worsening their ordeal by prolonging the war. Sinclair will preempt regular prime-time programming from the networks to show the film, which may be classified as news programming, according to TV executives familiar with the plan."

"Sinclair stations are spread throughout the country, in major markets that include Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas; its only California station is in Sacramento. Fourteen of the 62 stations the company either owns or programs are in the key political swing states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the presidential election is being closely fought. Station and network sources said they have been told the Sinclair stations -- which include affiliates of Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, as well as WB and UPN -- will be preempting regular programming for one hour between Oct. 21 and Oct. 24, depending on the city. The airing of "Stolen Honor" will be followed by a panel discussion, which Kerry will be asked to join, thus potentially satisfying fairness regulations, the sources said. Kerry campaign officials said they had been unaware of Sinclair's plans to air the film, and said Kerry had not received an invitation to appear."

This cannot stand. I strongly encourage everyone reading this to file a complaint with the FCC, as well as write to your local Sinclair affiliate station managers, congressional representatives, and the editors of your local papers. These are all good options as far as putting the heat on Sinclair generally about the content of “The Point,” but this latest move makes action absolutely necessary, in our opinion.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Here’s the webpage with all the information you need for filing a complaint with the FCC:

Immigrant Paranoia II

In Mark Hyman’s ongoing rhetorical jihad against “illegal immigrants” (a term that in his thesaurus seems interchangeable with “poor Hispanics”), Hyman plays the scare tactic of illegal immigrants voting en masse thanks to motor voter legislation.

According to Hyman’s reasoning, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are lining up to vote in order “take away your rights” (i.e., the rights of white people).

How illegal immigrants could ever vote to take away “your” rights is something Hyman doesn’t bother to explain, since there’s no conceivable way it could happen. In fact, the whole paranoia about illegal immigrants flocking both register and then vote is based on paranoid fantasies (as this essay from, an organization devoted to fostering greater voter enfranchisement and participation, points out). It’s completely unrealistic to expect that illegal immigrants are going to voluntarily register themselves with the government in order to vote. The risks outweigh any conceivable benefit.

That matters little to Hyman, who traffics in fear, primarily (one assumes) because he, like many arch-conservatives, believes that encouraging people to vote is bad for Republicans. Hyman’s not worried that poor illegal immigrants will vote; he’s worried that poor, non-white, Americans will vote in greater numbers. Folks like Hyman pine for the days when tortuous and illegal procedures were put in place to systematically disenfranchise minority voters. Let's remember that Hyman recently equated illegal immigrants to terrorists recently equated illegal immigrants to terrorists. Fortunately, some more realistic Republicans, such as Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, have said that the fear of voter fraud is a “red herring” in the debate about “motor voter” legislation.

The odd part about is that there’s actually little to no reason for Hyman to get his shorts in a bunch over the increase in registration. As former President Jimmy Carter notes in a lucid essay on the need for easy registration, there are no studies that suggest the increased registration, and hence increased voting, will automatically help the Democratic party.

But then again, this would require Hyman to actually look at facts, and we know that’s not going to happen.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Hypocrisy #48,382

Yet again, Mark Hyman practices moral relativism as he bemoans the low effective tax rate of Theresa Heinz Kerry.

To this point, Hyman has staunchly defended the Bush tax cuts, at numerous points saying that they had set the economy “on fire.” But Hyman now adopts a populist stance, suggesting that Heinz Kerry doesn’t pay her fair share.

In point of fact, Heinz Kerry and Dick Cheney both pay about the same effective tax rate, and the truth is that both pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than the average American does because they, as members of the superrich, have access to all sorts of tax shelters, and by making money through investments rather than salary, they have much more flexibility in when they pay taxes on much of their income.

Hyman himself cites the fact that Heinz Kerry can afford the best tax lawyering money can buy in order to lower her taxes. This echoes a statement by George W. Bush himself, who said in August that, “The really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway."

Hmmm…that doesn’t do much to explain why Bush did so much to lower the taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Why waste political capital reducing taxes on people who won’t pay them? Oh, well . . . a topic for another day, perhaps.

The issue here is that Hyman’s attacks are centered on one person. The underlying complaint, that the tax code is unfair, is of course completely valid. But Hyman doesn’t actually buy into that point of view. He simply exploits it to score political points against John Kerry, who, according to Hyman, can’t even talk his wife into paying increased taxes to the federal government.

Putting aside the fact that Heinz Kerry invests huge sums of money in philanthropic projects, the point isn’t whether Heinz Kerry (or Cheney or Bush) pay enough in taxes individually. The problem is a tax code that’s been flattened and loopholed to such an extent that it’s regressive. In a free enterprise economy, labor and capital should be valued (and hence taxed) equally. Now, this isn’t the case. If you make your money working in a factory, you are taxed at an effectively higher rate than if you earn a living drinking martinis by the pool as your dividend checks roll in.

This, as we’ve pointed out in a previous “Counterpoint,” is antithetical to the very nature of democracy. John Kerry proposes some modest steps in the right direction. If Mark Hyman truly believes in the validity of his personal attacks, he’ll endorse Kerry’s tax plan. If he’s a hypocrite, he’ll continue to demagogue the Heinz Kerry issue while still supporting a candidate who slashes taxes for the superrich while sending the sons and daughters of the working class to die halfway around the world.

Gosh, which way do you think Hyman will go?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

We're Back!

Apologies for being a bit behind. The Counterpoint was out of town for a few days, but we’re back now, ready to hold Hyman’s feet to the fire on a daily basis! We’ll soon be caught up countering the recent “Points,” but it’ll take a day or two to do the requisite shoveling.

Monday, October 04, 2004

And the hits just keep on comin'

It takes a lot to shock us at “The Counterpoint.” There’s very little that Mark Hyman can come up with that seems outlandish or beyond the pale when compared to his typical outing. So it’s always quite the event when he manages to take his rhetorical bathysphere to new and uncharted ethical lows.

Such is the case with the recent "Point" commentary that bemoans (yet again) the problem of illegal immigration. There’s nothing new here—just more conservative xenophobia from one of the angriest members of the Angry Right. But just when you thought you had heard it all, there’s this:

Why would anyone think we stand a chance of keeping even a single terrorist out of this country when we can't get rid of 400,000 that we have in our custody and the immigration courts the have ordered to be deported, yet are turned free on our streets?

That’s right. Hyman equates the 400,000 illegal immigrants in custody to the people who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. Or, to put it another way, he equates people whose main crime stems from their desire to be part of the American dream to people whose sole goal is the destruction of that same dream.

To be honest, we thought we hadn’t heard Hyman right. But we went to the transcript at, and we downloaded the video and watched it several times to make absolutely sure some qualifying statement hadn’t been dropped out or missed. Nope. As the screen is filled with an image of Hispanic men and women walking up and down a busy public street, Hyman says that illegal immigrants are terrorists.


And that’s The Counterpoint.

Cost of the War in Iraq
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