Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Survey Says: "The Point" Makes You Dumber

A few days ago, I noted that Mark Hyman’s survey question about the use of unmanned surveillance drones to spy on selected groups of Americans was worded in highly slanted way. Rather than a question on the appropriateness of such tactics, Hyman framed the issue as a referendum on the ACLU as an organization (a group Hyman has long disparaged, including in the same edition of “The Point” in which he posed this poll question).

Surprise, surprise:
Hyman unveiled the results of the poll and what do you know? When presented with this stacked version of the question, seventy percent of respondents voted in favor of spying on their fellow Americans.

But what’s even more interesting are the quotations Hyman selected from the responses. One favorite of mine came from “George” from Portland, whom Hyman quoted as saying, "The heck with the ACLU[.] Their subversive activities need to be watched." I think sending George from Portland a copy of 1984 would be a doubleplusgood idea.

Even better was “L.D.” from Millersville, Maryland, who, according to Hyman, said, "The ACLU want to dictate what I can do in private. Now they…protect those who…intrude on the life of the general public."

Just let the ignorance of that comment wash over you for a bit.

Keep in mind that this is a comment Hyman cites as one in favor of the use of surveillance drones. Where do you even begin unpacking this one? Perhaps you might start by pointing out that the ACLU as an organization is focused on protecting the rights of people to do what they want in private, not dictating what should be done (it’s the other side that wants to tell you want you can and can’t do). Alternatively, you could note that those who “intrude on the life of the general public” are the people piloting the drone—the very people the ACLU is fighting against.
Poor L.D. is a very confused individual. Perhaps the proximity of Millersville to Sinclair Broadcasting headquarters in Baltimore is having some sort of negative intellectual/environmental effect on his synapses. (I’m beginning to suspect that emissions of unfiltered ignorance such as those coming from Sinclair are contributing to “global dumbing.”)

But let’s not blame the victim. The more interesting issue is why Hyman selected this quotation. First, is this really as good an argument as Hyman could find in all of the 70% respondents who supported the use of surveillance? Or does Hyman actually think this quotation makes sense? Did he alter the quotation to make it say what he wanted it too (those ellipses are Hyman’s, not mine)? Or was this quotation even less coherent before Hyman cleaned it up? Or Did Hyman simply choose this quotation because, as moronic as it is, it attacks the ACLU (albeit in an utterly hapless way), and Hyman’s whole point in this exercise was to attack this organization, with the issue of surveillance simply being an opportunity to do so?

My suspicion is that it’s the latter, although my head hurts too much at this point to think much more about it. I’m open to any interpretations others of you in the blogosphere might have.

Two broader points I’d like to make briefly in closing. First, a number of the more coherent responses Hyman quotes suggest that unmanned drones are just like cameras at banks and airports. Not true. The unmanned drones are not location specific; they are group specific. They are deployed against certain groups of people that the government believes need to be spied on. In the example Hyman cites, the authorities decided that a group of 8,000 motorcycle enthusiasts were automatically suspect simply by nature of who they were. It’s this preemptive supposition of guilt that pushes the use of unmanned spy planes into the realm of a violation of Constitutional rights. Cameras placed at banks and airports are there not because they assume that people using these facilities are criminals; they are there because it is assumed that people with criminal intent would be likely to seek out such locations for unlawful activities. The unmanned spy planes target people because of who they are. That makes a world of difference.

The fact that the example involved the use of a spy drone by Maryland state authorities is also telling. As with the recent commentary about the Maryland government and Walmart a few days ago, this edition of “The Point” betrays its geographical bias. Hyman again uses his access to national airwaves (his “sully pulpit”) to yammer about issues that are essentially his own local concerns. True, both the Walmart and spy plane issues have far-reaching consequences, but it would be so much better if local news stations could have local commentators discussing these issues from a local level. For example, in the Sinclair market in which I live, there’s currently a debate in our community about the possibility of a new Walmart being built. It would be a much more productive use of our airwaves to have a local voice (or two) offer opinions on the relative merits of Walmart from the perspective of our own community rather than allowing a pontificating blowhard half a continent away to use airtime on our station to offer cover to a political ally of his corporation.

If we don’t insist on local content from our local stations using our local airwaves, we’re in danger of having this Chernobyl of ignorance in Baltimore mutate us all into “L.D. from Millersville.”

The horror . . . the horror.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ted,

Thank you for your insightful and humorous take on an otherwise dreadful topic: the Hymanization, Quaylification? Dumbdeedumdumdum? of our airwaves.

I hope ol' Mark secretly reads your musings, perhaps while under his blanky.



At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I wonder about the following:

What if the "8,000 motorcycle enthusiasts" in question were Rolling Thunder (see website: http://www.rollingthunder1.com/) who ride to publicize the POW/MIA issue? In fact, on that website there's a link to one of Hyman's pet issues, the POW Scott "Spike" Speicher. Do you think Mark would be enthusiastic about having Big Brother hover over Our Brave Service Men & Women?

As for the Ehrlich-Hyman connection, see my comment for the 5/19 post. Ehrlich and Hyman are buds from the old days, before Ehrlich became Maryland's governor, and still keep in touch.


At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real horror is that the continuous flow of mindless right-wing rhetoric oozing from Hyman and his Neo-Fascist cohorts, is creating an army of brain-dead idiots like George in Portland and L.D. in Millersville, who are all too ready to give up their personal freedoms for a false sense of security, and end up with neither freedom nor security for not just them, but for all of us.
Thanks Ted, and keep bustin' Hyman!
Mike B. in SC

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent point, P.D.D. (P-Diddy?) about both the motorcycle gathering and the Ehrlich connection. The quid pro quo of donations for lobbying is I think more damning ethically speaking, but the Hyman-Ehrlich connection from way back when is certainly damning in it's own right. Good catch!



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