Wednesday, April 26, 2006

That Hum You Hear is Aristotle Spinning in His Grave

Aristotle famously defined the art of rhetoric as recognizing “the available means of persuasion.” Could there be any less artful rhetor than Mark Hyman?

Whatever your personal take on the merits or lack thereof of medicinal marijuana or laws restricting smoking, we can all agree that Hyman’s latest editorializing about these issues is pointless.

Reading between the lines, Hyman apparently is against strong no-smoking laws and is at least skeptical about medicinal marijuana. But his commentary doesn’t make an argument about either of these. Instead, it showcases Hyman’s utter lack of argumentative skill.

Hyman focuses on a recently-passed city ordinance in
Calabasas, California, that bans smoking in most public places. Rather than make a coherent argument against this type of restriction based on the merits of individual freedoms, Hyman makes an utterly bizarre turn:

The Point asked a city official, "What about medical marijuana?" He had no clue.
He promised to get back to us. He didn't. But when we followed up he said
second-hand smoke is second-hand smoke. However, marijuana advocates claim the
drug poses less health risks than tobacco. We'll observe with
interest the first time a medical marijuana user publicly lights up his blunt
where his buddy can't enjoy his smokes. He'll whip out his doctor's prescription
as a defense. Imagine the irony. Smoking a legal product is banned but using an
otherwise illegal product might be okay.

There are any number of ways in which this argument is silly, but first among them is the fact that, as Hyman himself notes, the Calabasas ordinance makes no distinction between cigarette and marijuana smoke. Yes, “imagine the irony” -- because there is no actual irony there!

I can only assume Hyman was primed to jump on the fact that the Calabasas law didn’t restrict medical marijuana smoking, only tobacco smoking, and when he found out this wasn’t the case, he was so fixated on this line of argument (“those wacky left-wing Californians, etc., etc., etc.”) that he couldn’t let the facts get in the way of his argument. Never mind that there was no argument to be made.

Of course, even if such a distinction had been made, Hyman’s argument would still be ridiculous. The idea that hordes of cancer patients on chemotherapy would be flaunting their right to smoke marijuana by lighting up in public as they enjoy the Calabasas nightlife is laughable.

Once again, we see that what makes “The Point” such a horrendous use of public airwaves is not the positions taken by Hyman. After all, one could make reasonable arguments against restrictive smoking laws and/or against the use of medicinal marijuana. Instead, it’s that part of our public forum has been taken over by a man with no ability to make reasonable arguments at all.

Yet Sinclair foists his commentaries off on viewers through the public airwaves and, in so doing, denies access by those who might make good use of it.

For that, we’re all the poorer.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.42


At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The illogic and self-contradictions inherent in Hyman's screed (I like your part about "Imagine the irony") shows why Hyman could never have a real "Mailbag" or other segment where counter opinions could be heard from the annoyed public (which has to be the majority of people afflicted by a Sinclair station).

A four-function calculator has infintely more logic -- and wisdom -- than does Herr Hyman.


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