Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Tale Told by an Idiot . . .

More than the fact that Hyman is often wrong in what he says, I find his tendency to dumb down the level of public discourse particularly troublesome.

A case in point is
his recent editorial expressing outrage over the light sentence handed down to a convicted child rapist in Vermont. Mark Hulett, convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl, was given a sentence of 60 days plus mandatory psychological treatment. If he does not successfully complete the treatment, he could face a life sentence.

The 60 day sentence certainly seems outrageous, and Hyman provides viewers with Judge Edward Cashman’s phone number, encouraging them to vent their spleen on him.

But Hyman leaves out important facts in order to foment outrage, and this omission denigrates the legitimate public debate that needs to take place around the issue of crime and punishment.

The key point is that in Vermont, only those sex offenders classified as being “at high risk” to re-offend receive psychological treatment while in prison. Hulett is classified as being at low risk to repeat his crimes. Given that even the sentence asked for by prosecutors would have likely only been 8 years, it would mean that Hulett would be back in society, still young, and without having received any treatment for his perversion.

The prosecutors, defense, and the judge in the case are united in their condemnation of the state’s Corrections Department for their no-treatment policy for those deemed at low risk of re-offending. The judge was essentially given the choice of giving Hulett either treatment or a lengthy prison sentence. The judge, citing his belief after 25 years on the bench that punishment by itself does nothing to rehabilitate criminals, chose treatment.

That’s a decision that’s certainly open to counter argument. Reasonable people can disagree. And it raises the much broader issue of how we should handle criminals. Is the purpose of the justice system to punish, or to rehabilitate and prevent future criminal acts? Is it better to punish criminals with harsh sentences, even if it means they will likely emerge from prison more anti-social and more likely to commit crimes, or is it wise to try to treat and rehabilitate criminals, even if it means that “just punishment” might not be done?

This is an important argument to have in any democracy. But Hyman, by blaming the judge rather than the arbitrary rules of the Corrections Department, and by distorting the issue in order to make it appear that the Judge was simply giving the 60 day sentence out of a lack of concern about the crime of child molestation, degrades the public forum with a Point-less harangue that, in stirring people up, only succeeds in muddying the waters.

As is typical, Hyman’s commentary is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.65


At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What's really sad is that, by now, we have a whole generation of Americans who think that debating issues means having two sides (with, of course, diametrically opposed views) go at it, importantly, with no motivation to actually reach a synthesis.

Any marriage counsellor (not that I would know, of course!) will tell you that to get two parties to actually solve problems, one must stop posturing, be willingly to listen, be willing to say "yes, you have a valid point", and be willing to try something new.

Unfortunately, with the way our media is now structured (with right-talk-radio and a little left-talk radio), the "two sides" never ever really do what a counselor would advise. There's no real discussion, no advancement of ideas, no problem solving.

How could there be cooperative behavior when all the insults fly?

So, while this country ridiculously spends 16% of it GDP on health care (see Wash Post this week), has no long-term energy policy, and has a money infested national government, Hyman ridicules extreme (and rare) college courses and other events at the fringes (wink at Ted). All for TV theatre and further extremism.

This is what pisses me off. Problem solving requires cooperation and work. As long as there are talking heads galore that merely pillory the other side, work's not gunna get done.

It's that stinking simple. Any parent of kids knows this, any spouse who has had to work out problems knows this, any supervisor at work with employee "issues" knows this.

But the chattering class sees no need for cooperative behavior. They must feel that they are sitting on top of the world, owning the airwaves, and at least until up til now (ref: Abramoff), they've owned many of our elected officials.

I know that there are apologists for this sort of "might makes right" world-view, but, in my opinion, that view makes for a highly unlivable world.

Heck, we've seen -- just on this blogsite -- what happens when invective and name calling replaces real and substantive discussion.

As Charlie Brown would say:

- sigh -

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm off-topic here, but I just read that Sinclair Broadcasting is slashing another one of it's station's newsrooms. This time, it's their Pittsburg station, WPGH. 35 employees will be laid off. Sinclair is buying its news from another station, while sharing the adverstising revenue.

Details here:

Once upon a time, broadcasters would subsidize their news departments with other revenue. Now, news programs have no distinction, in the eyes of such greedy owners, from such great programming as FearFactor.

Broadcast television, as a business, has one of the highest profit margins (40%) of any business.

Where the hell is any notion of the "public good" anymore? Why is it, that groups that use public resources and could do good, choose simply to line their own pockets at the public's expense?

I'm with the other bloggers who say: bring back regulation of television.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Wow, thanks for the note. I hadn't heard that, although I suppose it's not surprising. Just business as usual for Sinclair. I've had a number of contacts with employees (both former and current) at Sinclair-run stations, and they all basically say that the company doesn't give a damn about actual journalism. It's all about the Benjamins.


At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if the "pro-business-at-any-cost" crowd has ever actually thought about the whole notion of letting businesses do whatever the hell they want.

The ultimate consequence is ultimate greed and ruination of any meaningful notion of civilized society. I find it very troubling. The same "pro-business" folks are typically anti-regulation. So, then, let some people (business owners) do whatever the hell they want with our resources while forbidding the rest of us citizens with any counterbalance to this greed.

It is just greed. Period. And we are all suffering for it ("Your call is important... *click*")


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