Friday, September 15, 2006

Hyman Flip Flops

I often wonder whether Mark Hyman is a man of bad principles, or a man of no principles.

This question emerges again in
his most recent editorial in which we get yet another book recommendation from the H-man.

This time around, Hyman is endorsing The Politics of Abortion by Anne Hendershott, a professor at the University of San Diego. Claiming that it’s valuable reading for anyone, “no matter where you come down on the subject of abortion.”

He then goes on to sum up some of Hendershott’s main contentions, including her claim that the Democrats have become the party of “abortion on demand,” that prominent Democratic politicians have conveniently switched to pro-choice positions for political reasons, that Planned Parenthood “targets” minority women for abortion, and that the organization's founder, Margaret Sanger, was a racist.

If it seems to you that this is a less than the evenhanded historical treatment of the issue Hyman claims it is, you’re probably right. It turns out Hendershott is a darling of the far right, despite being an academic (apparently she must have slipped through the cracks of the liberal stranglehold on academia that Hyman claims exists).

She wrote a
scurrilous anti-Kerry harangue for the National Review, clumsily juxtaposing Kerry with “Hanoi Jane” Fonda (one would have hoped an academic would be a bit more subtle in using the guilt by association fallacy). She wrote an op-ed piece for her hometown paper championing the now-discredited notion that “values” issues turned the 2004 election (as if Iraq, stem cell research, health care, etc. didn’t involve values).

Her previous book, The Politics of Deviance, tried to make the case that, among other things, we’ve just become far too accepting of gay people (which she seems to equate with pedophilia) and don’t shun mentally ill people enough.

A review in Washington Monthly said this about the book:

Calling for a "willingness to discuss behavior such as homosexuality, teenage
promiscuity, adultery and addiction," Hendershott writes that we should "adopt
standards of conduct that derive from reason and common sense." Alas, this is
pretty much the last evidence of either. The rest of The Politics of Deviance
merely apes the blundering, shoddy polemics that dominate the bestseller lists
today, from the paranoid rants of Ann Coulter and Bernard Goldberg on the right,
to the lame hyperbole of Michael Moore on the left. Between them, these
straw-man-battering tomes prove that the culture war has been fought to an odd

The whole scathing review can be found here.

So although I haven’t read the book (and couldn’t find an actual review of it from a neutral source), I feel comfortable saying caveat emptor.

Even the claims Hyman summarizes from her current book are studiously ignorant of some important context. Have Democratic politicians changed their position on abortion? Sure. But so have Republicans including
Jim Nussle, Mitt Romney, and the President of the United States, all of whom have changed their position on abortion when seeking higher office.

Are Planned Parenthood clinics predominantly in inner-city, poor, minority neighborhoods? Yes. That’s because the people who live there are the people who most need the free clinics for comprehensive women’s and reproductive health that the organization provides. Suburbanites go to their insurance-covered gynecologists.

Did Margaret Sanger have racist views? Definitely, but what does that have to do with the abortion issue today? Most of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, but I doubt Hyman (or Hendershott, for that matter) would say this means the country and government they created are systematically evil. In fact, they would almost certainly be appalled at anyone who suggested such a thing.

All of this is to simply point out the obvious: Hyman is trying to sell his audience yet another far-right screed by peddling it as disinterested research.

The more interesting issue is why he might be doing this.

Is Hyman himself, as one would suspect, avidly pro-life himself? Is he simply fighting the good fight by helping sales of a book that shares his deeply held convictions?

Gosh, I wish we could ask him.

Oh wait! Somebody already has!

Thanks to
this interview Hyman did a couple of years ago, we know that Hyman, although Roman Catholic, is pro-choice:

“I really do believe in this issue, I believe in a woman’s right to choose.”

Not only that, but he claims not to see much point in discussing the issue of abortion on his commentaries, since “I don’t think there’s people whose minds are un-made-up or anything, or whose views are going to be changed.”

He also seems to disagree with the view held by some on the pro-life side that our society has created an atmosphere where abortion is seen as no big deal:

“I think that the caricature of that we’re very cavalier about getting abortion
today, I think that’s probably a pretty small percentage of the people.”

So why would Hyman sell out his views to peddle a book that takes a hard pro-life position and that attacks those on the other side of the issue as opportunists at best and practitioners of genocide at worst?

Might it be that Hyman’s comments are politically motivated? Might he be trying to fire up the conservative base by throwing them some red meat in the run-up to a midterm election that could be disastrous if the GOP base doesn’t get active?

Might it be that Hyman is a flip-flopper?

You can answer that one for yourself. As for me, I did find one statement Hyman made in the interview that I concur with wholeheartedly:

[Abortion has] been dissected and discussed so many times, I don’t think I have
any value added to it [sic].


And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 4.76


At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right Ted, red meat for the theocrat dopes. As I have said before, Hyman has no principles and doesn't believe much of what he says, which makes what he is doing so much more damnable.
He is truly just a media whore for Bush and the Republican party. We should send him a set of knee-pads to make his work for Bush a little less painful, and maybe we should check his suit jacket for a stain like the one on Monica's blue dress!
On another note related to the media, you should check out this AP story over at TruthOut regarding media ownership.
Below is the link and an excerpt -

Media Ownership Study Ordered Destroyed
The Associated Press

Thursday 14 September 2006

FCC draft suggested fewer owners would hurt local TV coverage.

Washington - The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.

The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report "indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public," according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

(Note: In June of 2006, the FCC announced the start of a new review of media ownership, including a "series of public hearings on media ownership issues at diverse locations across the nation". That review is still ongoing.)

"Every Last Piece" Destroyed

Thanks Ted, and keep bustin' Hyman.
Mike B. in SC


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