Mission Statement

This blog provides a regular critique of the editorial segments produced by Sinclair Broadcasting, which are "must-run" content on the dozens of Sinclair-owned stations across the country. The purpose is not to simply offer an opposing argument to positions taken by Boris Epshteyn and Mark Hyman, but rather to offer a critique of their manner of argumentation and its effect on the public sphere.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Apparently Epshteyn Failed Basic Math: 65.8 million is more than 62.9 million.

Epstheyn’s recent laudatory comments for Trump’s decision torecognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel are among the only words of admiration this decision has garnered.  Indeed, other than a missile launch by North Korea, there is no other action taken by a world leader that has shown the power to bring together the rest of the world together in almost unanimous condemnation

The president was very vocal throughout the 2016 campaign in his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem. The American people elected Donald Trump and his agenda to the presidency. Therefore, by fulfilling another campaign promise, the president is carrying out the will of his constituents. 
This is utterly at odds with the facts, and it’s important to note, since this is a rationale that is often invoked to defend Trump’s positions and even to suggest that the nearly two dozen separate accusations by women of improper behavior, including (by Trump’s own taped confession) sexual assault, are irrelevant.

Actually, it’s not at odds with the “facts”; it’s at odds with a fact…the fact: Trump lost the popular vote.

To the extent that the election was a referendum on any particular personal or policy matter, Trump lost by three million votes.

One can argue whether or not voters were voting in large part—or any part—on the candidates’ positions vis-à-vis the capital of Israel.  But if Epshteyn wants to suggest that the election was a determination of “the will of [the] constituents”, they were with her, not him. 

 That is just one reason for why the president’s action on Jerusalem  was correct.
Another is that this president is supporting a close and important international ally. Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East. It’s continued strength and survival are important to the United States not just symbolically but also in terms of America’s national security.
Further, the president is driving toward peace through strength. The president has been clear that he and his administration remain committed to peace in the Middle East.This decisive move shows that America and her allies are not going to back down to threats of violence.

The arguments against the president’s decision center on this concern that violence will be escalated.
Well, Jerusalem has not been recognized as the Israeli capital up until now and, sadly, there has been plenty of violence in Israel, the Middle East, America and the world as a whole.
This is a nearly-textbook case of fallacious, illogical reasoning: no recognition of Jerusalem at the same time as violence means that recognition of Jerusalem will mean less violence (or at least not more violence), not only in Israel, but the world.  It’s all the more breathtaking in its idiocy because Epshteyn doesn’t even pretend to have a rationale for suggesting that there is reason to suspect his thinking is sound.  Why will recognizing Jerusalem reduce violence?  Who knows?  Not, it seems, Epshteyn.
 Here is the bottom line: it is about time that the United States take bold and decisive actions in international affairs. The prospect of violence cannot make us, the only true superpower in the world, afraid to do the right thing. In this case, that right thing is recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of our close friend Israel.

Notice that Epshteyn has not provided a single actual reason for why Trump’s action is in any way “decisive” or will do anything to secure the Middle East.  Indeed, he has now seemingly turned on his own argument, saying that there might be a prospect of violence given this decision, but that it’s still “the right thing.”

The bottom line?  This is a tour-de-force in fallacious reasoning.  

Epshteyn Poisons the Well of the FBI

Epshteyn’s recent “Bottom Line” is a classic case of the “poisoning the well” tactic: if you don’t like facts, attack the source of the facts as somehow suspect, and perhaps you can get your audience to think the facts themselves aren’t what they are.

Fidelity, bravery, integrity. That is the motto of the FBI. These days it is that integrity which is being called into question.

Note the use of passive voice.  The FBI’s integrity is “being called into question.”  By whom?  By Epshteyn? It’s not clear.  By choosing the passive voice, Epshteyn avoids putting his own reputation where his mouth is while also implying that this integrity-questioning is “out there” in the public sphere in general, not that it is pointedly coming from specific parties who have something to gain from doing so.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Epshteyn Uses Loaded Language and Fallacious Reasoning to Defend the Indefensible

In his recent commentary on the GOP tax plan being rushed through Congress, Boris Epshteyn falls back on fallacious reasoning and loaded language to defend legislation that his unpopular with just about everyone except lobbyists.
We know they are necessary to fund the government, pay for our national defense and vital infrastructure. However, does anyone actually want to pay more taxes? If you listen to certain folks from the Democrat Party, and members of the media, you would think so.

First, “Democrat.” This is a long-standing cutesy label used by those who are criticizing the Democratic party.  It is not, as some have suggested, to include the word “rat” in the adjective.  Rather, it is a convoluted way to avoid using a word that has rhetorical resonance in American political discourse: democratic.  We take pride in our “democratic” institutions.  We believe in having a “democratic” government.  We hope that countries ruled by totalitarian regimes are replaced by a “democratic” system of rule by the people.

The word in its small-“d” variety carries quite a wallop in our political discourse—one much greater than small-“r” “republican.”   So, to avoid semiotic bleedover (i.e. the positive connotations of small-d “democratic” being associated with big-D “Democratic,” this grammatically suspect shell game is perpetrated on listeners.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Epshteyn's Slanted Take on DACA

Here’s Boris Epstheyn’s recent “Bottom Line” editorial on DACA, with some corrective commentary interspersed.

Looks like the big meeting at the White House will happen after all. Last week, the Democrat minority leaders of the House and the Senate attempted a public relations gambit when they turned down the president’s invitation to discuss pressing year-end items. The biggest key, funding the government beyond the deadline of December 8th.

Notice the use of the phrase “public relations gambit.” This frames the interaction as a game with “players”, “winners,” “losers”, etc. 

One could make the same point and maintain a degree of objectivity by simply saying that they “declined the meeting,” but that wouldn’t skew the perspective, which is Epshteyn’s goal.
The reason given for the Democrats not heading down to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was the president’s tweet expressing skepticism that a deal is possible which includes both government funding and a resolution on DACA. Now, they are willing to talk it out.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Bottom Line? Boris Pulls a Brian

Boris Epsheyn’s recent comment on Brian Ross’s recent misreporting in relation to the Michael Flynn plea, is, as is typical with “Bottom Lines,” not terribly original or thought out.  It’s a rehashing of the “fake news” trope favored by Trump and his supporters.

Epshteyn attempts to turn Ross into a synecdoche for the media in general, suggesting that Ross is emblematic of a hostility to the president endemic in the media.

Not surprisingly, Epsheyn himself distorts the facts, even has he chastises others for doing so.  He supports his assertion by noting that Ross had erroneously reported that the Aurora movie theater shooter was a member of the Tea Party.  This is to establish the point that Ross is vehemently anti-conservative.  However, one of the other (of several) times Ross got a story wrong was reporting that Saddam Hussein was behind anthrax attacks in the U.S. after 9/11.  That goes unmentioned, of course, because it doesn’t fit with the narrative Epshteyn is weaving.  (For the record, even the Bush administration, to their credit, tried to steer ABC right on this story—that’s how far out it was.)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Hot Air

The actual substance of Mark Hyman’s latest editorial is almost beside the point.  What stands out is the degree to which it shows the price audiences pay for the Sinclairization of their local news.

Hyman’s thesis is that two particular and obscure bits of legislation are the key to rebuilding Puerto Rico.  The evidence of this is not forthcoming, partly because there’s not a lot out there. The two regulations, as with most things regarding Puerto Rico, were put in place primarily out of economic concerns for the continental United States, not the people of Puerto Rico.  The effects of permanently getting rid of the Jones Act are unclear, and reinstating Section 936 (tax breaks for companies who do business in Puerto Rico) is actually opposed by some in Puerto Rico, who feel that it allows the island’s resources to be exploited by outsiders.

It’s nice that Hyman is bringing up Puerto Rico at all, although it would be better if he were advocating more meaningful steps that directly assisted the people themselves, such as (oh, I don’t know) treating the humanitarian crisis there in a way commensurate with similar catastrophes in the United states.  Or, for that matter, suggesting that it would be nice to have a president who understood that Puerto Ricans were, in fact, Americans.

But the larger issue is that roughly two minutes of a Sinclair “local” news broadcast could be taken up by a discussion of arcane shipping law.  Why?  Because Sinclair feels this is more important (both politically and economically) than allowing truly local voices to be heard. 

This wouldn’t mean ignoring issues like Puerto Rico.  Have a segment on local folks who have gone to Puerto Rico to help.  Talk about concrete ways viewers might be able to assist through donations.  Heck, have a segment on arcane shipping laws, but have it be something that is discussed because the journalistic voices of that community feel it’s relevant and of interest to them.

The colonization and exploitation of the public space that is local news airwaves by Sinclair impoverishes our discourse.  By giving empty corporate suits the luxury of bloviating about their pet hobby horses, the voices and views of their audience go unheeded.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bottom Line with Boris: When There's no "There" There

In the most recent “Bottom Line With Boris”, the most startling argumentative failing is obvious: no argument is made. 

His thesis is that if Congress passes the (wildly unpopular) GOP tax plan, positive economic indicators will go up.  Yet, he does not make a single argument to that effect, even in broad strokes.

Rather, he touts recent positive economic numbers and then asserts, without support, that we should “expect for these positive trends to not just continue but to accelerate.”

This is akin to a member of the Jellybean Manufacturers Association saying, “Over the last decade, life expectancy has gone up.  If our proposal to include jellybeans at every meal is heeded by Americans, expect this trend to continue.”

In other words, it’s as elementary a rhetorical “fail” as one is ever likely to see.