Thursday, July 27, 2006

Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

More ACLU silliness from Mark Hyman, and stuff that he’s covered (and we’ve rebutted) before. Here’s a rundown of the particular rhetorical tricks and faulty arguments Hyman uses this time around:

He says there are “many scandals involving the ACLU” but doesn’t support this assertion with any facts or examples.

He says the ACLU was considering a “whistleblower rule” that would discourage board members from publicly criticizing the organization. In fact, “whistleblower” refers to someone who reports actual wrongdoing (usually criminal) to an outside authority in hopes of stopping or punishing these actions. This doesn’t apply to the ACLU proposal, which simply has to do with publicly disagreeing with the organization. It was essentially a proposition involving P.R. tactics. Hyman uses “whistleblower” to imply criminality when there is none.

Importantly, the ACLU rejected the very proposal that Hyman is criticizing. Hyman does not acknowledge this, since it would undermine his thesis.

Hyman suggests that the ACLU is hypocritical for opposing the Patriot [sic] Act and terrorist watch lists, yet complying with them. While it might undermine the ACLU in the minds of some and weaken their position, there’s nothing logically inconsistent with abiding by a law you disagree with and actively denounce, particularly if following the law is done to avoid punishment. A bit wishy-washy? Yes. Hypocritical? No. Hyman claims the ACLU’s actions were voluntary, but not following them would have had economic, and possibly legal, repercussions for the organization and its members (particularly involving its tax status).

He suddenly veers off topic and talks about how many defend the ACLU because of its support for neo-Nazis who marched in Skokie, Illinois, in the 1970s. But Hyman’s argument here is incoherent. It’s not clear if he is suggesting that the ACLU was wrong to support the rights of the neo-Nazis to march, or if he is saying that this was the sort of principled stand that today’s ACLU is incapable of. The truth seems to be that Hyman is simply doing his typical trick of juxtaposition here, pointedly referring to the ACLU’s connection with the neo-Nazi group without actually making a clear argument, in hopes that his audience will simply say, “The ACLU protected Nazis? They MUST be evil!”

Hyman closes with his usual coda to all ACLU-themed “Points”: that the group has “distinguished itself by attacking Judeo-Christian religion and for protecting pedophiles and other sex offenders.” He offers no evidence of this.

But as we’ve noted, the ACLU has done far more to protect the rights of Christians and Jews to freely practice their religion without government interference than Hyman ever has. In fact, they’ve done more than almost any single organization to promote freedom of religion for all faiths. The fact that this protection from government interference sometimes pits them against those who are all for governmental intrusion into religious matters as long as those intrusions take the form of advocating specifically Christian beliefs is what irks people like Hyman. But this reveals their own inconsistent and self-serving thinking on the issue, not any antipathy toward the Judeo-Christian tradition by the ACLU.

The ACLU was right to turn down a proposal that would stifle public dissent by its members. The P.R. damage done by such an action by a group that champions free speech would outweigh the P.R. damage of certain board members publicly disagreeing with others. Reasonable people can disagree, however.

But an actual debate about the issue is not what’s behind Hyman’s editorial, which is simply the latest in a long, yawn-inducing string of screeds that rely on lies and distortion to attack a group he has framed as the quintessential example of contemporary liberalism.

And again, Hyman’s reliance on such obvious rhetorical ruses speaks volumes about the intellectual poverty of his own position.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 4.29


At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks again for taking on The Incredible Numbness of Hyman.

I, too, resent this constant dumbing and numbing things down.

Can we hope for better times ahead? Will even pro-business people eventually ever see the harm that is done by excessive "corporate free speech"?

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Herbert Birdsfoot said...


I don't think pro-business people are going to see the harm on their own. These people seem to be out to win, regardless of consequences.

One thing that might help though, is to pay attention to the local companies that advertise on your Sinclair station, and call them and tell them you plan to boycot any business that advertises there because of their dishonest propaganda campaign.

Ted, thanks again for disassembling another one of Hyman's distortions. Its tempting to just laugh off such stupidity, but that fact is there are people who believe this stuff and vote based on it. Its great having a resource to show the truth behind it.

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually looked into the boycott angle, but was discouraged by the words of more world-wise people than me.

The problem is that the large majority of people simply don't care, leaving just those who care about principles (such as reasonable access to public airwaves) to wage the good fight.

Part of the problem, I think, is that people are too busy being entertained, while the basics of a healthy democracy slip away.

We are heading toward troubling times, I think. I thought that Bush might have risen to the occasion after 9-11 to rally people around public service, public interest, and just plain good citizenship. Instead, he told us to shop.

(but I don't want to depress us all with thoughts about the current administration)


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