Thursday, March 17, 2005

The "Straight Talk Express" Doesn't Stop at Sinclair

After using and abusing the post hoc fallacy in his previous commentary, Mark Hyman moves back to more familiar fallacious stomping grounds: the ad hominem attack.

Going after the Republican that right wingers love to hate, Hyman smears Senator John McCain because of the Arizonan’s aggressive approach to campaign finance reform. In fact, Hyman begins his piece by gratuitously labeling the McCain-Feingold reform bill “infamous.” (According to whom is it infamous? Why would it be considered infamous? Hyman doesn’t say.)

Hyman then claims McCain is known for “squeezing campaign contributions from industries that came under the purview of his committees.” Again, Hyman offers no evidence or corroborating opinion for this charge. We’re just supposed to trust him.
Then, picking up a red herring with which to smack the Senator, Hyman brings up McCain’s connection to the savings and loan debacle during Bush I’s presidency. It’s left to the viewer to manufacture a connection between this and the subject at hand. (And by the way, Mark, you might want to think twice before delving into the
financial shenanigans of prominent Republican politicians.)

Hyman ends with suggesting that McCain improperly sold influence to a cable company that contributed a significant chunk of change to a nonprofit company that works with McCain on election reform. Cablevision, the company making the donations, favors “a la carte” programming options, in which viewers can pay for channels they want (say, CNN or C-SPAN, for example) while not having to pay for those they don’t want (Fox News, just as a for-instance). McCain says he has favored such choices for years, but only formally took a stand after the first donation. Hyman offers no proof of any quid pro quo; simply raising the suspicion is enough for him.

Hyman ends by warning that:

McCain's campaign reform approach has been to silence certain
groups third party groups that can hold candidates accountable. What we need in America is transparency so we know just who is giving money to whom and for what reason. That is real campaign reform.

Apparently Hyman is referring to 527 groups, entities that emerged through a loophole in McCain-Feingold and which the Senator is now looking to close.

Why would Hyman feel so strongly about the importance of 527s? Perhaps because Sinclair became the de facto publicity arm of one such group when it ran significant segments of a propaganda film smearing John Kerry and labeling it “news,” despite the fact that it was riddled with inaccuracies and distortions.

When asked about the credibility and newsworthiness of such charges, particularly in the wake of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth being exposed as a right-wing Republican group, Hyman claimed that the folks behind the propaganda piece were a completely separate entity from the Swifties.

Only one problem with that assertion: it was utterly false. In fact, the month before that interview, the Swifties and the group behind Stolen Honor announced their formal merger. Hyman was either inexcusably ignorant of the group providing his network with its “news” programming, or he was lying.

Perhaps rather than smearing McCain, Hyman and the folks at Sinclair should begin by becoming a bit more “transparent” about their own motivations for keeping 527s in business.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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