Thursday, July 06, 2006

(Still) Disgraceful

You might remember a couple of weeks ago when Mark Hyman, citing an article by Thomas Lipscomb, insinuated that Cindy Sheehan didn’t really love her son (a soldier killed in Iraq), citing the lack of a permanent headstone on his grave as evidence. In fact, a headstone was already there at the time of Hyman’s editorial, but as I pointed out, the far more unappealing aspect of Hyman’s comments was his choice to mock a mother’s grief rather than disagreeing with her on the issues.

I wrote
an open letter to Hyman on the blog, and sent a copy to him and other executives at Sinclair. I know that a number of you sent similar letters.

In his most recent “Point,” Hyman offers a response of sorts. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that it’s not exactly gracious (or even coherent).

So again, I write an open letter to Mr. Hyman. If the spirit moves you, sending him another note on the topic of his personal attacks on Cindy Sheehan might help keep the pressure on and make him accountable for his words.

To Mark Hyman:

Once again, I write to ask you to apologize to Cindy Sheehan for your insinuation that she didn’t really love her son.
Your recent commentary in which you defend the source of this innuendo, Thomas Lipscomb, is wrong on two levels, both factually and intellectually.

The fact is that the Pulitzer organization clearly defines who is and isn’t a “nominee.” According to their website, “The three finalists in each category are the only entries in the competition that are recognized by the Pulitzer office as nominees.” You even concede this in your defense of Lipscomb.

Your only rebuttal is that a lot of newspapers hype their reporters as having been “nominated” for a Pulitzer, when in fact they were only entered for consideration. Of course, by this meager standard, I could fill out the required forms and nominate myself for a Pulitzer. Heck, if you filled out the right forms and sent them in, you could probably “nominate” yourself for Miss Maryland.

The fact that news organizations spin their entries into “nominations” is not an adequate defense, Mr. Hyman. If, as you claim, the facts matter to you, then honor them. Don’t excuse your own spin by saying “but everyone else is doing it.” That’s the sort of defense I would expect from a 12-year-old kid.

Yet another fact is that even Mr. Lipscomb has conceded that claiming to be a Pulitzer “nominee” was unjustified. If you look at his bio on (the site where he is most often published), you’ll see that the phrase “nominated for a Pulitzer Prize” has been changed to “entered for a Pulitzer Prize.” The same change has been made on other online bios of Mr. Lipscomb. If the man himself can at least tacitly admit to his Pulitzer nomination being fictional, then I think you should do so as well.

These are the facts. Lipscomb was not a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize. His entry doesn’t mean anything other than he (or someone on his behalf) filled out the required forms and sent them in. These facts are undisputed, even by you. And the facts are not on your side.

All of this is above and beyond the more elementary factual dishonesty regarding Lipscomb. While you tout his “exposing fabrications” by John Kerry, you provide no examples., a non-partisan group, looked into charges of supposed exaggeration and fraud involving Kerry’s war record and found that eyewitnesses and Navy records refuted these charges.

And even if one were to forget the facts and believe every word Lipscomb has written about John Kerry, and at the same time forget the facts and believe that George W. Bush served every day of his stint in the National Guard, the uncontested truth would remain: Kerry volunteered to serve in Vietnam and was in combat, George W. Bush did not.

These are the facts . . . facts that you choose to ignore.

And this brings me to the intellectual dishonesty in your defense of Lipscomb. One of the unintentionally comical aspects of your commentary is how it commits the very sins you charge others with. You title your comments “Anatomy of a Smear,” and then you smear Cindy Sheehan by calling her a “nutty protest mom” (cleverly avoiding mentioning whose mom she is). You claim to lay out the facts, but as we’ve seen (and as you practically admit), the facts contradict your claims about Lipscomb rather than support them. You say the “Angry Left” is not interested in facts, but you defend Lipscomb not with facts, but with the lame assertion that other newspapers fudge the facts just as much as both he and you do. You claim that the facts in this case are “indisputable,” but then claim that the facts say something completely contrary to what they actually show.

You say a tactic of the “Angry Left” is to attack the messenger. But of course that’s exactly what you do with Cindy Sheehan. Rather than argue with her assertions, you call her names and suggest she didn’t love her son. You say that the “Angry Left” doesn’t like Lipscomb “because he doesn't march in goose step to their line of extremist thinking.” But both you and Lipscomb attack individuals deserving of at least some basic respect (a veteran and a mother of a dead soldier) because they don’t agree with your politics.

And the most comic (or perhaps tragic) claim you make is that it is the Left who is “Angry.” But the entire time you make this claim, you are using the most hateful of personal attacks, using the overheated rhetoric of vilification and applying it to anyone and everyone who doesn’t share your political views.

Once again, I ask you to take a step back from the precipice. Once again, I ask you to look objectively at what you’ve done. You have reduced yourself to claiming that a mother doesn’t love her son. You mock the grief of a parent for a child lost far too young. You’re doing something that is obviously and innately wrong, by anyone’s standards.

And you’re doing it without any good reason. You can certainly disagree with Cindy Sheehan and editorialize to your heart’s content about her ideas. You can even call her ideas wacky, out-of-touch, and just plain stupid. That’s fair. Attack her positions.

But don’t attack her love of her son. If there’s anything that all of us, liberal or conservative, can believe in and respect, it’s a mother’s love for her child. What could be political about that?

I don’t understand the level of hatred and viciousness that could lead someone to attack someone in this way, and I hope I never do. I don’t want to understand that level of maliciousness. But apparently, it’s something you feel compelled to do.

So, in the end, I’ll simply appeal not to your decency, but to your self interest. Making arguments such as this weakens your case. It makes you look petty and foolish. As I’ve pointed out, even your defense of Lipscomb ends up becoming an exercise in unintended comedy, as the substance of your editorial undercuts every assertion you make in it.

If you want others to give you and your ideas consideration (at least the vast majority of us who don’t already share your particular view of the world), you’ll do much better by being reasonable and intellectually honest rather than by attacking mothers of dead soldiers.

And by doing that, you’ll not only make your arguments better, but you’ll make the world just a bit more civil in the process. And that’s a fact.

You can start by apologizing to Cindy Sheehan.


Ted Remington

And that’s The Counterpoint

Hyman Index: 7.14(!)


At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Bradley said...

Great commentary as usual, Ted, but I was a little surprised that you didn't comment on what struck me as the most glaring example of Hyman's hateful rhetoric-- his invocation of Nazis in reference to liberals' disdain for anyone who does not "march in goose step" with their ideology. The more common phrase, it seems to me, is "march in lock-step" to describe people who think and act alike without thinking. However, Hyman has employed a phrase that doesn't really fit with the phenomenon he's describing, but instead has some really ugly associations.

I'm tempted to say that Hyman isn't smart enough to realize that he chose the wrong phrase-- he's certainly proven himself vulnerable to odd diction and poor word choices before. But somehow, I think he knew exactly what he was doing this time-- he was associating those who disagreed with his dopey ideas Nazis.

Maybe I'm wrong about this-- maybe people do use the phrases "goose step" and "lock-step" interchangeably. But I've never heard goose-step used that way before. And I just checked with my wife, and she agrees with me too.

Anyone else?

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

I tend to agree with you, Bradley. That's definitely a point worth bringing up, and I should have noted that. In particular, the observation you make about how "goose step" is a much more specific word than the more common metaphor of "lock step" is a great insight.

You're absolutely right that whether the choice was deliberate or not, there's a world of difference between the two terms (despite the fact that, as you point out, they are often used interchangeably). One is a metaphor that links the ideas of someone with the act of marching; the other is a metaphor that links the ideas of someone with the ideas of a very particular group of marchers.

Thanks for the great point (pardon the pun)!


At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted, I noticed that the "Hyman Index" was nearly off the chart at 7.14 for this one! I started to wonder, is this a new high (or a new low as it were) for Hyman on the "Hymanometer"?
Then it struck me, that what we need is a line chart or a bar graph of the "Hyman Index" over time, maybe at the top of the site, so we can see at a glance how bad it is, and compare it to other events of the day.
You know, things like the stock market, the terror threat level, elections, war casualty numbers and the M3 money supply - Sorry, I forgot that they don't publish M3 anymore, but you get the idea.
Thanks Ted, and keep bustin' Hyman.
Mike B. in SC

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous matchpoint said...

Too much.

The Pulitzer organization specifies that the ONLY entrants it recognizes as nominees are the three nominated finalists.

The Pulitzer organization (allegedly) tells Mark Hyman that it "prefers" that people not lie about being nominated, but acknowledges that it can do little to stop people from doing so.

Good enough for Mark Hyman. Anyone who doesn't agree with his low, low "everybody does it" standard is "lazy or dishonest."

(PS, I love Steve Smith's analogy that one might as easily claim that because an academy member entered your name, you were "nominated" for an Oscar. LOL.)


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