Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Truth is to Hyman as Kryptonite is to Superman




It’s nice when Mark Hyman makes my job so easy.

In
his most recent attack on the ACLU, Hyman makes a number of ham-fisted blunders that barely need to be pointed out. (By the way, don’t even people who like Hyman get a bit bored with his fixation on the ACLU? I’m just wondering.)

The gist of the attack is that the ACLU is hypocritical for supporting protections for whistle blowers while at the same time
considering organizational rules that would discourage members of the leadership from publicly criticizing each other.

I happen to agree that any regulations on how members of the ACLU should or shouldn’t speak undercuts its ethos. Many members of the ACLU agree. But Hyman’s own ethos is nonexistent in his piece.

First, let’s note that Hyman is attacking the ACLU on a rule that doesn’t even exist yet. It’s a proposal that will be debated this month. Apparently Hyman is so short of ammunition that he has to attack the ACLU for rules they might pass at some time in the future.

Second, Hyman’s analogy between the leadership of the ACLU doing self-policing of their statements and whistleblowers who reveal illegal activities of employers is ridiculous. What the ACLU is contemplating is a guideline about PR strategy. It’s a mistaken one, and I hope they don’t adopt it. However, it has nothing to do with actual whistleblowing, which involves the ability of employees to report the illegal or unethical dealings of employers without fear of retribution, not enforced public unanimity among an organization’s leadership in their public statements.

A related point is that Hyman intentionally distorts the facts to force this analogy. He says the proposed ACLU rule “includes the firing of any board member who speaks out -- that is, blows the whistle -- on ACLU actions that violate its own charter.”
But that’s not the case. The controversy is about leaders of the group airing their differences with each other. Here’s the language at issue:

“Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on
matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly
highlighting the fact of such disagreement . . . Directors should remember that
there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will
affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising.”

I think this is a poor policy, but it doesn’t remotely resemble the Draconian measure Hyman is inventing. And it doesn’t have the first thing to do with the issue of whistleblowing.


Next, Hyman connects his attack on the ACLU with an earlier one he made about the ACLU’s policy of shredding documents. This, he argues, is another case of ACLU hypocrisy.

But as we saw the first time around, the controversy over the ACLU document shredding comes down to a conflict between two legitimate values: public accountability and protecting privacy. One can argue about whether the ACLU’s guidelines on this issue are correct or not, but you have to ignore the entire point of the controversy, the relationship between two important values, to frame this as some sort of abject hypocrisy. Oh, and as we also saw, Hyman’s attack on this issue wasn’t even his own;
he plagiarized from a post on a right wing website.


Lastly, Hyman avoids the underlying issue: should whistleblowers be protected? Even if one were to grant his analogy, he doesn’t come down on whether or not he thinks the ACLU is within its rights or not to put a damper on dissent. He only pushes the attack to the point of saying that the ACLU is hypocritical. But the question left hanging is which of the conflicting positions he attributes to the ACLU does Hyman support: the right of the individual to speak out against the organization, or the right of the organization to protect itself from the individual?

So Mark, don’t be a flip-flopper! Do you truly support rights of whistleblowers, or are you just making a false analogy and an insincere argument because you enjoy attacking the ACLU?

And that’s The Counterpoint.


Hyman Index: 4.12

7 Comments:

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ACLU - Do As I Say Not As I Do - Part 2

The American Criminal Liberties Union has been an outspoken advocate in favor whistleblower protections. In a press release earlier this year, the ACLU noted "[W]histleblowers often suffer retaliation for disclosing embarrassing information."

But those hypocrites don't want protections for whistleblowers in their own organization. The group's national board will review new rules this month, one of which includes the firing of any board member who speaks out -- that is, blows the whistle -- on ACLU actions that violate its own charter.

Ignoring rules it calls others to meet is not new for the ACLU. The group has been shredding documents in violation of the organization's own policies. At the same time, it has demanded public agencies preserve their departmental records.

The ACLU has a public responsibility to preserve its records since it co-mingles money, resources and services with the ACLU Foundation, a tax-exempt, charitable organization -- meaning that taxpayers are subsidizing its activities.

Somehow I think these hypocrites see themselves as having special rights not available to anyone else.

And that's The Point.

-----
I concur.

 
At 12:02 AM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Without adding anything to what Hyman says, you're committing all of the same fallacies he did. Would you like to add anything to buttress your position?

tjr

 
At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect Ted, your response is based on the notion, and that's all it is, that Hyman's bit is indeed fallacy.

Quite frankly I don't see where you have properly refuted what he said.

 
At 1:59 AM, Anonymous hyman's turtle said...

that post was the weakest thing i've ever seen. you better bring something better than "yeah, what he said", otherwise, you're just wasting everyone's time.
anyway, ted, I think i can answer which side of the debate hyman is on. i'm going to fire up the "counterpoint way-back machine" for readers who may not know this story.
in 2004, Sinclair fired its washington bureau chief John Lieberman for speaking out about what he thought was a gross misuse of the public airwaves; specifically, the forced airing by sinclair affiliates of a one-sided hit piece against john kerry just weeks before the '04 election.
sinclair, in a very vindictive act, then filed a challenge with the md dept. of labor that resulted in Lieberman's unemployment benefits being revoked, and in him being forced to repay $1000. sinclair challenged on the grounds lieberman broke his contract by speaking to the media, what the dept found to be "gross misconduct".
Lieberman himself admitted that he breached his contract in an excellent october 19th washington post article, but clearly, hyman is coming down on the side of squelching dissent/truth-telling within the ranks and for punishing those who speak out.
the post article also points out that hyman had refused to "back off a charge that the other networks 'are acting like Holocaust deniers' in ignoring the former POWs [featured in the documentary].
so to recap, employee speaks the truth and is fired for "gross misconduct".
company v-p likens swift-boat liar denial to holocaust denial and gets own t-v segment in 60 markets and million dollar paycheck.
in yiddish, that's known as farkatke.

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

That's an excellent point, Turtle. You're right--we don't need to wait for Hyman to answer the question because, as you point out, he's answered the question in no uncertain terms.

And Anon, I've given you more than a "notion." I've put together an argument to support my assertion. That argument might be flawed or mistaken, but it *is* an argument. If you disagree with it, perhaps you could explain how my argument breaks down.

tjr

 
At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Bradley said...

Anon--

I think the problem here is that you don't understand the word "fallacy"-- as evidenced by your claim that Ted has suggested that Hyman's Point was a "fallacy." A fallacy is an error in reasoning that results in a flawed argument; in other words, it's not that Hyman's position is a "fallacy," but he has not proven his point because his argument suffers from logical errors.

I'd like to direct your attention to the Nizkor Project-- a group dedicated to fighting Holocaust denial who have created a list of common logical fallacies (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ ). In particular, I think you might be interested in this description of arguments, logic, and logical fallacies:

"In order to understand what a fallacy is, one must understand what an argument is. Very briefly, an argument consists of one or more premises and one conclusion. A premise is a statement (a sentence that is either true or false) that is offered in support of the claim being made, which is the conclusion (which is also a sentence that is either true or false).

"There are two main types of arguments: deductive and inductive. A deductive argument is an argument such that the premises provide (or appear to provide) complete support for the conclusion. An inductive argument is an argument such that the premises provide (or appear to provide) some degree of support (but less than complete support) for the conclusion. If the premises actually provide the required degree of support for the conclusion, then the argument is a good one. A good deductive argument is known as a valid argument and is such that if all its premises are true, then its conclusion must be true. If all the argument is valid and actually has all true premises, then it is known as a sound argument. If it is invalid or has one or more false premises, it will be unsound. A good inductive argument is known as a strong (or 'cogent') inductive argument. It is such that if the premises are true, the conclusion is likely to be true.

"A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an 'argument' in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support. A deductive fallacy is a deductive argument that is invalid (it is such that it could have all true premises and still have a false conclusion). An inductive fallacy is less formal than a deductive fallacy. They are simply 'arguments' which appear to be inductive arguments, but the premises do not provided enough support for the conclusion. In such cases, even if the premises were true, the conclusion would not be more likely to be true."

So you can't really say that Ted's response rests on the assumption that Hyman's entire essay is a fallacy. You could try to point out errors in Ted's reasoning, or areas where he's dishonest or wrong about his facts. Here's what you'd have to do:

1) Ted says, "The gist of the attack is that the ACLU is hypocritical for supporting protections for whistle blowers while at the same time considering organizational rules that would discourage members of the leadership from publicly criticizing each other." Do you disagree with this statement? Has Ted misunderstood Hyman's argument? If so, please tell us what Hyman's argument is, and how Ted has misrepresented it.

2) Ted says, "First, let’s note that Hyman is attacking the ACLU on a rule that doesn’t even exist yet. It’s a proposal that will be debated this month. Apparently Hyman is so short of ammunition that he has to attack the ACLU for rules they might pass at some time in the future." Is Ted wrong here? Are you (and Hyman) in a position to know that the ACLU has secretly already adopted this rule?

3) Second, Hyman’s analogy between the leadership of the ACLU doing self-policing of their statements and whistleblowers who reveal illegal activities of employers is ridiculous. What the ACLU is contemplating is a guideline about PR strategy... [I]t has nothing to do with actual whistleblowing, which involves the ability of employees to report the illegal or unethical dealings of employers without fear of retribution, not enforced public unanimity among an organization’s leadership in their public statements." Has Ted erred somewhere in his definition of the term "whistleblowing?" Do you think that, actually, an organization trying to project an image of unity and solidarity is in the same ethical area as a company firing a worker who reveals that the chemicals it's dumping into the river leads to lymphoma and leukemia? If so, why? (You'll need to be detailed with this one, as common sense suggests that one of these things is much worse than the other).

4) Ted says, "[T]he controversy over the ACLU document shredding comes down to a conflict between two legitimate values: public accountability and protecting privacy." Has he misrepresented this controversy? How?

5) Ted says, "Lastly, Hyman avoids the underlying issue: should whistleblowers be protected?" Is this a lie? Has Hyman actually articulated an opinion on this point? (Again, you'll have to be detailed-- and creative-- since we all know the answer to this one already).

As Hyman's Turtle says, simply posting an essay we've all read (or seen on TV) and saying, "I concur" does not refute Ted's rebuttal. Nor does mischaracterizing Ted's response by suggesting that his argument all hinges on the acceptance of a presumption that you do not accept. Ted uses logic and reason to point out the flaws in Hyman's arguments. If you want to be taken seriously when you disagree with him, you're going to have to do the same.

 
At 4:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, brother,

we're back to sos-like tactics. nothing so boring as a completely cut-and-paste comment

 

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