Friday, August 11, 2006

Hyman Chews His Cud

Mark Hyman recycles so many of his commentaries and rides so many of his favorite hobby-horses into the ground that it we shouldn’t be surprised by it. But I was still startled to see that Hyman has decided to return to the thoroughly discredited conservative talking point that the New York Times “tipped off the terrorists” in an article a couple of months ago discussing the efforts of the government to freeze financial assets of suspected terrorist organizations.

In a long and labored analogy, Hyman compares the Times unfavorably with employees at Pepsi who, when approached by a former Coca-Cola employee with trade secrets of its rival, turned him in rather than take advantage of the situation.

Hyman claims the situation is “exactly like” the New York Times having information about tracking terrorists’ finances, except that the good folks at Pepsi were ”more ethical than the cultural elitists at the New York Times.” (Parenthetically, I can’t help but notice the utterly gratuitous use of “cultural elitists” in this context. It’s an epithet that has no bearing on the substance of the charges Hyman’s making; it’s simply thrown in as part of his ongoing name-calling campaign).

I can think of at least one way in which the situations aren’t exactly alike: the President of the United States hasn’t openly talked about Coke’s secret recipe:

I made it clear that part of winning the war against terror would be to cut off
these evil people's money; it would be to trace their assets and freeze them,
cut off their cash flows, hold people accountable who fund them, who allow the
funds to go through their institutions; and not only do that at home, but to
convince others around the world to join us in doing so.

President George W. Bush, October 1, 2001

In fact, as
Media Matters for America has pointed out, the administration has made a great many public statements about the tactic of tacking and freezing finances of terrorists.

And, as we also know, the information that ran in the Times was also published by the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. Aren’t they traitorous cultural elitists as well?

As the
Columbia Journalism Review notes, the hubbub about this supposed breach in security is not only nonsense, but represents a real danger to a free press, particularly when folks ostensibly engaged in journalism themselves repeat these bogus charges and, riled into a cannibalistic frenzy, call for limitations on the press as a result (e.g. the National Review, the Wall Street Journal, and of course our own Mark Hyman).

Yet, despite the detailed
debunking of all of the conservative talking points on this issue, Hyman regurgitates them, hoping and assuming yet again that his audience is too dumb to be aware of the facts.

It’s odd that Hyman is so vicious when it comes to the Times; after all, it was the
Times’ lazy reporting of the administration’s claims of Iraqi weapons programs that provided such valuable cover for champions of preemptive war. Perhaps if the Times had actually been a bit more skeptical of the Bush administration’s spin, the president wouldn’t have had such an easy time selling a war that has led to the deaths of more than 2,500 U.S. soldiers, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and the destabilization of an entire region.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: One giant example of false analogy.


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