Monday, July 25, 2005

Catching Up Short Takes

Apologies again for the week off. We’re still waiting for our furniture to arrive at our new place, but the computer is here, the modem is up and running, and even though I’m typing while lying on a floor with no desk or chair in sight, it’s time to get back to Counterpointing!

In looking back over the week that was in “The Point,” I wonder about the following things:

Since when does institutionalized group prayer equal “teaching religious tolerance”?
In his commentary on the request of the Anti-Defamation League to have mandatory pre-meal prayers halted at the U.S. Naval Academy, Hyman claims the group prayers teach midshipmen religious tolerance. Hmmmm…I’m just spitballing here, but wouldn’t a better way of teaching the importance of religious tolerance be to not have mandatory moments of group prayer in which students must either participate or else stand out as “different”?

Doesn’t Hyman read “The Counterpoint”? I was a little hurt when Hyman took yet another gratuitous swipe at the ACLU in the above-mentioned commentary on prayer at the Naval Academy, saying the issue “could attract” the ACLU which, Hyman claims, “has a long history of fighting against publicly acceptable religious observance.” I had hoped Hyman read this blog. If he had, he’d know that the
ACLU is a long-standing supporter of individual religious expression. In fact, the ACLU supported a Jewish member of the Air Force in his petition to wear a yarmulke while on duty. The ACLU supports individual religious observance; what they don’t agree with is mandatory participation coerced or fostered by the government. You don’t suppose he might have actually known this and just decided to misrepresent the facts because it suited his purpose, do you?

Why doesn’t Hyman give a shout out to his friends? In
a recent commentary advocating that the Senate adopt more timely disclosure policies when it comes to 527 group funding, Hyman offers a curious definition of what a 527 group is:

527s are groups such as MoveOn.Org and America Coming Together that spent
hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to influence the November

Hyman is a bit schizophrenic when it comes to 527s. Sometimes, he derides attempts to limit them as unfair restrictions on political speech. But when it serves his purpose, as it does here, he paints them much more negatively. In Hyman’s world, this means painting them liberally. Therefore, we have two liberal/progressive groups listed as examples of 527s, and we’re told that they had attempted “to influence the November election.”

As we know, however, one of the leading (and most infamous) of the 527 groups was “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” [sic], a group funded by conservatives to produce ad hominem attacks on John Kerry. More damning is the fact that Hyman and Sinclair Broadcasting were in bed with the Swifties when they ran anti-Kerry propaganda and labeled it “news.” Not only that, but Hyman lied on national television about the connections between the Swifties and the group behind the anti-Kerry hit piece “Stolen Honor” that Sinclair wanted to run as a news program. A few words of wisdom, Mark: it’s difficult to persuasively argue Senators should be more forthcoming with ties to 527s when you refuse to do so yourself.

With friends like these, who needs enemies? Hyman seems to come to the defense of Andy Stern, a labor leader who has run afoul of the AFL/CIO on a number of occasions. Stern is a progressive political activist, so why is Hyman coming to his defense? Is it because Hyman actually cares about the fate of organized labor, or the plight of workers in general? Nope. As we know all too well, Sinclair Broadcasting routinely fires employees, from local reporters to their main political reporter, whenever it feels like it. And, according to the Rolling Stone expose of Sinclair, employees at the company report “a pervasive climate of fear” at the company. Rather, this is just another case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Sinclair and Hyman are anti-worker, so they go after the biggest organization that represents worker concerns: the AFL/CIO. If/when Stern gains more clout, he will undoubtedly come under fire from Hyman as well.

And where is David Smith registered? Hyman spends
a recent commentary talking about the need for a more hard-nosed approach to sex offenders. Hyman would be more credible on this topic if he wasn’t working for a man convicted of a sexual offense himself. As the Rolling Stone piece notes, Sinclair CEO David Smith was arrested for having a “lewd and perverted” sex act performed on him by a prostitute (while driving a Sinclair company car, by the way). Rather than paying his debt to society, Smith worked off his “public service” by having Sinclair employees produce news pieces on the local drug problem. And this is all on top of the fact that Smith’s first foray into the wonderful world of media was as a distributor of bootleg pornography. According to Smith’s partner in this venture, the company even had ties to the mob. Given all this, is Hyman really concerned about sexual crime and violence, or do you think he might just be using this issue to demagogue about “liberal” judges, etc.?

What about the kids? Speaking of demagoguery, we have another excellent example of it in Hyman’s
riveting commentary about a joke calendar that some teachers produced for a retiring colleague at a Massachusetts school. Apparently, the fact that the joke calendar featured teachers clad in towels was a bit too much for the priggish Mr. Hyman. Even though there was no evidence the calendar was made on school time, that it was a private joke among a group of teachers, and that the school superintendent had concluded that no wrongdoing was done by anyone involved, Hyman says the real question should be whether administrators would have turned a blind eye to all this had the calendar featured children instead of teachers.

Whaaaaaaaaaa????????? Having followed Hyman’s shenanigans for some time, I’ve developed fairly good legs for making logical leaps, but this is one is beyond me. How on earth the question of how administrators would react to children in such a calendar is relevant to how they should react to an inside joke among adults is beyond comprehension. After just having done a commentary on the evils of sexual predators who target children, you’d think that Hyman would have a clearer sense of how and why standards of conduct regarding anything sexual are different when it comes to kids than they are with adults. Is Hyman saying such differences don’t exist? Is he saying that adults (or at least those who have jobs involving children) should not participate in any activity, even in private, that they would not feel comfortable having children do?

Obviously not, but that still leaves the question of why this is a commentary-worthy issue. The answer to this question is one that touches on a recurring theme in this collection of commentaries, and Hyman’s modus operandi generally. There are certain groups of people whom Hyman feels it’s good to say negative things about on general principle. It doesn’t matter what the context is, if the argument he makes is valid, or if there’s any immediate short term political payoff. As doltish as he often is, Hyman does have a big-picture mentality that is effective. He knows that his privileged position as a talking head on millions of TV screens every night allows him to plant rhetorical seeds that will mature down the line. What Hyman often does is simply juxtapose those he feels are worthy of condemnation with negative epithets and descriptions. Even if these don’t have an obvious tie to a particular political issue, the constant drumbeat of negativity, when associated with chosen political targets, can get an audience to begin to march in lock step.

So, in this recent collection of commentaries, we have negative comments about the ACLU (never mind that they aren’t involved in the Naval Academy controversy), and Americans Coming Together (never mind that Hyman supports 527s and that Sinclair has ties to them), members of Congress (never mind that these members are predominantly Republican), the AFL/CIO (never mind that it comes in the context of supporting a progressive labor activist), teachers (never mind that it’s only a handful of teachers at a single school who did nothing wrong), and Madeleine Albright (never mind that she hasn’t been Secretary of State for years; her connection with the Clintons makes her an enemy).

Hyman detests the ACLU, progressive groups, pro-worker organizations, educators, the Clintons, and government in general ( or at least he feels it’s in his political interest to rail against politicians; as we know, conservatives aren’t against big government—they just want to pose as anti-government to foster a pseudo-populist front that allows them to win support). None of the commentaries he gives necessarily have to make sense on their own or be ideologically coherent. It’s enough to link enough “devil terms” with groups who are seen as enemies. Hear enough accusations about teachers run wild and you become more susceptible to arguments that work against educators in general. If you hear “ACLU” linked with “anti-religion” often enough, it’s more likely that you’ll buy into the general notion that the group is on the lunatic fringe. Hear enough stories in which the AFL/CIO plays the heavy, and you’re more likely to be skeptical of labor leaders and pro-worker movements in general. Hear former Clinton associates called elitist and hypocritical, and you’ve become softened up for arguments that say that the Clintons themselves (and perhaps all prominent Democrats) have these traits.

This is why it’s important to keep busting Hyman (pardon the pun, and a tip of the cap to Counterpoint regular Mike B in S.C.) on his underlying agenda and on the larger issue of media ownership. It’s not enough to simply note that his commentaries are laughably sophomoric. Even in the most idiotic of “Point’s”, there’s a larger agenda at work. And as much fun as it is to mock Hyman’s argumentative skills (or lack thereof) and to point out his factual misstatements, we need to also remind ourselves that the agenda being pushed by Sinclair on a nightly basis does not necessarily depend on sound arguments and factual statements. If it did, Hyman would have been out of a job long ago. The true weapon isn’t Hyman’s intellect (would that it were!), but rather the ability of Sinclair to put on this guy on a nightly basis to repeat monotonous mantras whose purpose is not to enlighten or enrich the public forum, but to slowly and steadily influence public thought in a disengenuous way.

Supposedly, if someone hears music (particularly with a throbbing drumbeat), the body’s systems react, even without the listener being aware of it. One starts walking in time to the music. Breathing starts to mirror the tempo. Even the heart beats in time with the rhythm. This is the effect Sinclair is looking to have with Hyman. The music might be discordant, and the musician himself completely incompetent, but sheer repetition has its own seductive qualities that are hard to deny or resist.

Let us play a different tune.

And that’s a catch-up edition of The Counterpoint. Back to regular posts tomorrow, along with the return of the Hyman Index!


At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Glad to have you back in action!

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one more for your links section.

one more for your blog roll!


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