Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Not-So-Bold Statement: "The Point" Makes No Sense

Mark Hyman often states his opinions as if they’re facts. But another favorite technique of his is to state facts as if they’re opinions.

A recent example comes in Hyman’s commentary about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame and the Washington Post’s treatment of the story.
One of Hyman’s ongoing battles is his assault on established news sources (a.k.a. the “liberal media”). If he can convince viewers that all news, even from the most revered sources, is equally slanted, it gives him (and fellow right-wing conservatives) the freedom to operate in a fact-free environment, where everything that doesn’t fit into their worldview can be explained away as bias.

Among Hyman’s favorite targets is the Post. In his commentary, Hyman claims the Post did an abrupt about face when it filed a brief with a federal court supporting journalists from the New York Times and Time magazine who face prosecution for not revealing the name of the Bush administration official who leaked Plame’s name to the press. The Post, as well as other media outlets, point out that until it’s been established that a crime has been committed, prosecuting journalists for not revealing information about the crime is out of order.

Hyman says he agrees with this, but charges the Post with hypocrisy because the paper supposedly had asserted a crime had been committed, at least until journalists began being threatened with legal action:

In 2003 and 2004, the paper published numerous articles and
editorials that favored an investigation and argued strongly that a crime had
probably been committed. The Post warned of "serious damage" from the
disclosure, which it called "a crime." And in an article about the leak there
was no mistaking the meaning of the Post's bold statement "The intentional
disclosure of a covert operative's identity is a violation of federal

Not true. A Lexis-Nexus search of all stories on the outing of Valerie Plame that appeared in the Post shows that the paper consistently emphasized the fact that no crime had been established, but that it would be a crime if a name of a covert operative had been revealed.

For example, although Hyman says that the Post claimed “serious damage” could result from the leak, the complete quotation in context reveals the hypothetical nature of the Post’s statement:

[A] specific criminal law prevents disclosure of [undercover
agents’] identities. If, as reported, Ms. Plame was such an operative,
then the disclosure of her name and the name of her CIA front company may have
caused serious damage. [Emphasis added]

In fact, articles and editorials in the Post consistently made a point of saying that no crime had been established. In an October 5, 2003 column, Ted Gup wrote:
"But many crucial facts are still unknown: how and why information was disclosed, by whom, to whom, even whether a crime was committed."

Gup went on to suggest that those chomping at the bit for a criminal investigation of the Plame affair might be in the wrong:

Those who now so passionately demand that the administration come
clean, who call for a robust investigation, who cloak themselves in the flag,
may unwittingly be making the same mistake as the presumed leakers -- that is,
seizing a short-term political advantage at grave long-term expense.

Because this article doesn’t fit Hyman’s caricature of the Post, he pretends it doesn’t exist.

A January 2, 2004 article noted that even if an administration official knowingly leaked Plame’s name to the media for political purposes, a crime might not have been committed:

The Justice Department investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity
could conclude that administration officials disclosed the woman's name and
occupation to the media but still committed no crime because they did not know
she was an undercover operative, legal experts said this week.

A November 15, 2004 article stated that, “The leak of Ms. Plame's status may have been a crime -- though that is not yet clear.” [Emphasis added]

In fact, a perusal of the dozens of Plame-related articles in the Post revealed only one case in which a statement was made that asserted a crime had been committed, and that appeared in the context of a direct quotation from Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson.

Perhaps the most bizarre attempt to paint the Post as a rabid scandal-mongering rag is Hyman’s claim that “[I]n an article about the leak there was no mistaking the meaning of the Post's bold statement ‘The intentional disclosure of a covert operative's identity is a violation of federal law.’”

There was “no mistaking” the meaning of this “bold statement”?

Even out of context, this sentence is simply a statement of fact; it *is* a violation of federal law to disclose an operative’s name (a fact that is important to include in order to explain the motivation to call for an investigation into the leak). As I tell my students, there’s a big difference between making a claim or assertion and simply stating a fact. Maybe Hyman needs to go back to college. (To see this statement in its original context, go

The fact that Hyman has to stretch to such ludicrous lengths in his attempts to portray the Post as hypocritical suggests what an examination of the actual Post articles and editorials confirms: there’s no hypocrisy in the Post’s take on the Plame affair, which amounts to simply noting that a crime is alleged to have occurred, but that until one is proved, locking up reporters for not talking about it makes no sense.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Hyman is a Pussy!!!

Just like one of Geobels foot soldiers with respect to hannity or limbug


Post a Comment

<< Home

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.