Thursday, July 28, 2011

New "Behind 'Behind the Headlines'" Podcast out

A critique and response to Hyman's latest commentary (this one on the debt ceiling "crisis") can be had at the blog.  The podcast is available in iTunes.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

He's Back

In case you haven't noticed, Mark Hyman is back on Sinclair networks with "Behind the Headlines."  In terms of tone and content, it's simply "The Point" redux.  Fortunately, it only appears once a week.  I've started a new blog/podcast to offer both a critique and reply to "Behind the Headlines."  You can find it here:

You should also be able to subscribe to the audio podcast version in iTunes shortly.  I'll post a note to let you know when it's live.  I'll also post links to the new posts here.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hyman Rides the Swiftboat Again (Hi-Ho Sinclair, Away!)

I’ve joked in the past about “my scar tingling” in response to actions by Mark Hyman, former commentator for Sinclair Broadcasting. Last week it happened again, in rather disturbing fashion.

You might remember that Hyman left his commenting gig at Sinclair in order to spend “more time with his family.” This decision came only days after he was forced to issue an on air retraction of slanderous comments made about George Soros, the billionaire financier and long-time donor to liberal causes.

You might also remember that prior to his sudden departure, Hyman was waist deep in the Swiftboating of John Kerry during the 2004 election, pushing for the airing of sections of “Stolen Honor,” a “documentary” based on smears against Kerry.

Well, in a truly bizarre bit of coincidence, I had the sudden thought last week to Google Mr. Hyman to see if he was up to anything recently. I hadn’t done so for months and months; Hyman had vanished from the public scene. The last we had heard from him, he was ranting about the unfair “elitists” who dared to criticize the artistic merits of High School Musical 2.

No, I’m not making that up.

Anyway, I discovered after Googling him that Hyman
had published an op-ed in the conservative Washington Times only the day before! Sixth Sense? Sick Sense? I dunno.

Anyway, it turns out that my man Mark is at it again, attempting an eleventh hour Swiftboating of Barack Obama. And he’s based his attacks on that same paragon of investigative ethos, Jim Corsi. He doesn’t mention Corsi in his piece (plagiarism, Mr. Hyman?). But he’s once again serving as an open conduit for the misinformation Mr. Corsi has tried to spread.

Corsi was a leader in the Swiftboat gang back in ’04, co-authoring the book “Unfit for Command.” The book and its charges were roundly refuted, but Corsi, a longtime conservative activist, has returned to the bookshelves with “The Obama Nation,” a book-length diatribe against the current Democratic nominee.

In his piece, which he opens with a gruesome description of a mass murder in Kenya, Hyman regurgitates the most absurd and grotesque of Corsi’s claims, particularly that Obama is a political ally of Raila Odinga, the now-Prime Minister of Kenya.

Hyman accuses Odinga of complicity in genocide in Kenya, and then lays this accusation at Obama’s feet, based on Corsi’s claim that Obama supported Odinga. He even reiterates the long-since discredited claim that Odinga and Obama are cousins (something Odinga had claimed, but which Obama’s Kenyan relatives explained was simply a way of saying that their families hailed from the same region).

Hyman breathlessly concludes his commentary thusly:

Mr. Obama's judgment is seriously called into question when he backs an official
with troubling ties to Muslim extremists and whose supporters practice ethnic
cleansing and genocide. It was Islamic extremists in Kenya who bombed the U.S.
Embassy in 1998, killing more than 200 and injuring thousands. None of this has
dissuaded Mr. Obama from maintaining disturbing loyalties.

The problem is that none of what Corsi or Hyman allege is true.

The non-partisan PolitiFact, an ongoing investigation of campaign claims made by and on behalf of both the Obama and McCain campaigns, has found Corsi’s contentions to be utterly false. In addition to simply being wrong in all sorts of ways about Odinga himself (for example, claiming he is an Islamic extremist when he is in fact Anglican), Corsi’s alleged evidence of an Obama/Odinga connection is based on emails that have been found to not only be not from Obama, but not from a native speaker of English. The claim Hyman makes in his piece that Obama and Odinga were “inseparable” during Obama’s trip to Kenya in 2006 misrepresents the truth: Odinga was eager to ride the coattails of the newly popular and powerful American politician with ties to Kenya and followed him around the country as a groupie. Obama maintained a fastidious neutrality in the Kenyan political scene.

Yet Hyman persists in alleging the merits of Corsi’s claims, despite being based on obvious and sloppy forgeries that have all the plausibility of financial offers from Nigerian princes.
Make no mistake: this is race politics at its ugliest. Corsi, in claims that could only be taken seriously by the “Crazy Lady from the McCain Rally” suggests that all of this hints at Obama attempting to adopt sharia law in the U.S. and that he would engage in “tribal violence.” All that is left out of this caricature is the image of Obama wearing the shrunken skulls of McCain and Palin around his neck and demanding to be referred to as Shaka Zulu by congressional leaders.

Hyman’s attempt to piggyback yet again on the ugliest of unhinged conservative smears against the Democratic candidate for president would be laughable if it weren’t so ugly. One can only hope that this is simply part of the death rattle of the McCain campaign and perhaps (dare we hope?) of the acceptance of this sort of racist ugliness, which we may duly place in history’s dustbin.

And that’s the Counterpoint.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Scar Tingles Slightly

It's been several months since the fall of He Who Shall Not Be Named, but there's the slightest of signs that he might be attempting to reinvent himself and get back onto the scene.

He has published columns in the conservative mag Human Events on the budgeting process (basically a recycled rehash of a some stale "Point" commentaries) and (wait for it!) the Fairness Doctrine ! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

While you're enjoying a chuckle over that, you'll also be amused to hear that he also popped up recently as an interview subject in a story posted on the right-wing news site

The topic of the story? Editorial political bias in the news media! BARHARHARHARHAR!!

Needless to say, if my scar starts burning, HWSNBN will be dealt with over at my new digs at Unfrozen Caveman Rhetorician, and if, God forbid, the campaign season lures him out into the light of day, we'll take The Counterpoint out of mothballs and break him over our rhetorical knee.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Counterpoint 2.0

Just wanted to leave a note here at The Counterpoint that I've got new blog with a somewhat broader scope (but hopefully some of the same spirit) now up and running. It's very much in a "beta" version at this point, but I'm working on getting it up to speed.

Hope to see you there!

The Rhetoric Garage



Monday, December 04, 2006

And That's The Counterpoint

And so “The Point” is done, going out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Hyman’s last commentary took one last Parthian shot at John Kerry, repeating the canard that in Vietnam, Kerry shot a “wounded soldier fleeing the field of battle” (stop hating the troops, Mark!). We also have a mention of the many “major awards” garnered by “The Point,” (no mention of the fact that the awards the segment won were “pay-for-praise” awards in which virtually anyone who submits the required paperwork and meets a minimal standard of quality gets an award).

I’d love to provide a link to the commentary, but almost as soon as Hyman delivered his final “Point,” the website took everything connected with “The Point” segment down.

Ultimately, what Hyman said in his last final bit of blathering isn’t as important as the fact that he’s off the air. While one shouldn’t make too much of this one small victory, it’s important to acknowledge the symbolic importance of Hyman’s ignominious departure.

The communication theorist Jurgen Habermas writes that the role of the public sphere in a democracy is, ideally, to be an open forum where people engage in rational discourse that acknowledges differences and attempts to forge consensus. Part of this public sphere is the media, whose main purpose is to scrutinize those in power and report accurately the facts necessary for an informed public discussion of the issues of the day.

As Habermas has noted, the situation today is far from this ideal, particularly in regard to the media, who increasingly operate to protect the private interests of their owners rather than acting as a public corrective on private interests of those in power.

I have a hard time imagining a better example of this degeneration of the public sphere than Sinclair Broadcasting and Mark Hyman. Sinclair’s tactics involve gutting local news organizations and replacing them with pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all “news” to maximize corporate profits. In the process, they strip away an important part of the public sphere in the communities in which they set up shop.

It would be bad enough if Sinclair simply took away from the public sphere in this way in pursuit of economic interests, but they distort the public sphere through their unashamed lobbying for their own narrow political interests (which are, of course, connected to an extent with their economic interests).

We have the owners of Sinclair giving tens of thousands of dollars almost exclusively to Republican candidates. They’ve created their own corporate PAC, which also gives money almost exclusively to Republican candidates. We know that Sinclair executives have used their journalistic resources to support candidates of their choice in elections. We also know they’ve given illegal “gifts in kind” to candidates they support (in the form of free helicopter rides). And they’ve engaged in quid pro quo relationships with the now-lame duck governor of Maryland.

We know that they’ve made major decisions on what to cover and how based on the political interests of the owners. Sinclair refused to provide its viewers with network programming when that programming was deemed (inexplicably) to be politically biased (i.e., the refusal to air ABC’s “The Fallen”). Yet, they chose to air large chunks of a propaganda film that attacked a candidate with whom they disagreed and labeled it “news” in an attempt to influence an election (i.e., the Stolen Honor fiasco).

And then, of course, we have Hyman himself, whose personal soapbox, “The Point,” often took up more broadcast time than the lead story on the news had. That would be bad enough, but Sinclair forced its stations to carry Hyman, regardless of the local community’s desires and needs. Rather than free and open discourse, “The Point” gave us a closed, monopolistic, and self-interested monologue.

Rationality? You didn’t find it on “The Point,” which regularly engaged in ad hominem attacks, deck stacking, appeals to fear, and a nearly endless number of other stock propaganda techniques.

Acknowledging differences and forging consensus? Again, “The Point” did the opposite. Hyman regularly dehumanized and smeared any who disagreed with him, saying that they weren’t simply mistaken or wrong, but were bad people who hated their country and fellow citizens. He wasn’t even above suggesting that people he considered antagonists were criminals or traitors.

All this would be bad enough, but it was all done not simply through the media, but through the publicly owned airwaves—airwaves owned by the people of the United States as a means of creating a thoroughly public sphere. Sinclair and Hyman appropriated these airwaves to advance their own private economic and political agenda, and did so in a way that demonstrably impoverished the public sphere.

The disappearance of “The Point” is only a small move back toward a more humane, civil, and productive public sphere. There is still much to be done in terms of rehabilitating this crucial part of our social existence, including making mainstream journalism more accountable to the truth than to its corporate interests, holding public officials to higher standards in their own public discourse, keeping alternative forms of media (such as the Internet) truly free and open to all, reinstating the fairness doctrine for broadcast media, and turning back the tide of media consolidation and conglomeration.

But we’ll take our victories where we can get them, and this is a welcome and wonderful first step, no matter how small it might be.

In closing, I just want to thank all of you out there who’ve read and contributed to this blog. It’s been a wonderfully affirming and exciting experience to have this little hobbyhorse of mine become something that has brought me in contact with so many thoughtful, insightful people.

Thanks in particular to those of you who’ve left comments and emailed me—you’ve kept me honest and kept me motivated. Special thanks to my friends at Iowans for Better Local Television (IBLTV) in Iowa City for their early and continued support, and their tireless efforts to make real changes on a local level. Thanks also to regular commentators and readers, some of whom I know in real life, and some of whom I know only via this blog. Special shout outs to Todd and John H. in Iowa City (buckle down!), Bradley, Hyman’s Turtle, and that tireless poster, “Anonymous.” And Mike B., I think I’ll miss you most of all! We busted Hyman!

Some of you have asked about the future of this blog. For now, it will go on sabbatical, ready to swing back into action if/when Sinclair-related news comes up or Hyman reappears. In the meantime, I’ll likely start up a blog that casts at least a slightly wider net but which has essentially the same purpose: being a watchdog keeping an eye on certain aspects of public discourse. I doubt I’ll start that before the end of the year, but probably not long after that, I’ll be getting the itch to take up my mouse and keyboard and blog anew.

If you want to reach me directly, you can email me at If you like, I’ll send you an email whenever I get my next blog up and running. I’d love to have you stop by. Also, please let me know if you have any tips or info related to Sinclair or Mark Hyman. Let us be ever vigilant!

Thanks again everyone!

And that’s been The Counterpoint.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A P.S. to An Open Letter to Mark Hyman

Almost everything important to say about “The Point” is captured in the statement in your penultimate commentary:

No doubt the most enduring foreign policy comment associated with
The Point is when the French were referred to as "cheese eating surrender

Indeed. What does it say about the impoverished nature of your editorials when *that* is your claim to talking-head fame?

Well, among other things, it serves as a microcosm of what “The Point” has so often been: infantile, mean spirited, unoriginal, and wrong.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the phrase you point to as the enduring legacy of your commentaries is a phrase cribbed from a cartoon, and which wasn’t even first used in a political context by you, but rather a fellow conservative pundit, Jonah Goldberg long before you uttered it. (Given your high standards when it comes to plagiarism, I assume citing the original source simply slipped your mind.)

While we’re at it, let’s take a whack at a few other items you’ve kindly teed up for me.
You talk about “checking in on the terrorist detainees” at Guantanamo Bay. I’m just wondering: how did you know all of the detainees were terrorists? Apparently, not even the government itself can be sure, since a number of people held there have since been released. And while you were “inspecting their cells” and “examining their medical care,” did you also give waterboarding a try?

You brag about going to Iraq, but oddly, in a commentary devoted to patting yourself on the back for your foreign policy insights, you don’t tout your support of the war in Iraq itself. Perhaps now that even those who were architects of the war are running for cover and disavowing responsibility for the disastrous policies there, you want to keep your cheerleading for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al, on the down low. Understandable. Not terribly forthcoming or honest, but understandable.

You talk about being threatened by viewer mail, but you don’t say anything about your own defamation of people like George Soros, who’ve you told outright lies about, or people like John Kerry, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, etc. who you have said hate the troops and support the terrorists.

You claim that the boycott organized against Sinclair after the Stolen Honor debacle “failed,” but you don’t mention that Sinclair’s stock plummeted, advertisers pulled ads from the broadcast of your propaganda piece as well as from Sinclair’s newscasts, and that the incident shone a bright light on the seamy underbelly of Sinclair’s business practices.

You also claim vindication in being allowed to show political propaganda as “news,” although you cynically refer to it as your “free speech position.” I can’t help but wonder: why does the Sinclair passion for “free speech” not extend to its own offices? When Jon Lieberman, your lead political reporter, argued that it was a mistake to air propaganda and label it news, you didn’t simply offer a thoughtful rebuttal in the spirit of open and free debate; you fired him. So much for Sinclair’s valuing of honest debate.

You say, "All in all, The Point has made an impression and a difference.”
Perhaps it would be better to say “The Point” has left a bad taste in America’s collective mouth.

As for a difference, I must admit that you have. Sinclair, and your commentaries in particular, have been the single best example of the dangers of media consolidation. Those who might have dismissed concerns about relaxed ownership regulations as unfounded have come to see that the threat is very real, and there’s been a groundswell of activism in the fight to take back the public’s airwaves. You’ve single-handedly advanced the cause of a more democratic media, despite the fact that this was the very last thing you wanted to do.

And for that, America *does* owe you its thanks.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Cost of the War in Iraq
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