On the February 16 edition of "The Point," Sinclair Broadcast Group vice president Mark Hyman smeared two university professors and a college's women's studies program, distorting statements and taking them out of context in order to argue that American universities are home to "unemployable individuals [who] are paid to proselytize intellectually bankrupt viewpoints."
Hyman claimed that University of Iowa adjunct assistant professor of rhetoric Ted Remington condones plagiarism. Though Remington authors a weblog titled "The Counterpoint," which features near-daily refutations to "The Point," Hyman identified Remington simply as "The University of Iowa's Ted Remington."
Hyman said that Remington "cautions that while plagiarizing work shortchanges the student's own learning it doesn't really hurt anybody." Then he quoted a single sentence from the course guidelines for an online rhetoric course that Remington co-teaches. Hyman excerpted these guidelines out of context to make it appear that Remington regards plagiarism as harmless. Here's the out-of-context quotation Hyman used:
While plagiarism is often defined as 'stealing' someone else's words or ideas, it is rarely the case that published writers or public speakers are harmed by having their words or their thoughts 'stolen' by a college student.
In fact, the guidelines were intended to discourage plagiarism, as is clear from the sentences immediately before and after the excerpt that Hyman used (in italics):
Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that entails presenting the words and/or ideas of others as though they were original to you. While plagiarism is often defined as "stealing" someone else's words or ideas, it is rarely the case that published writers or public speakers are harmed by having their words or their thoughts "stolen" by a college student. On the contrary, the real harm of plagiarism is the harm that students do to themselves. Encountering new ideas and information, thinking about them critically, and finding effective language to express independent thinking is the central activity of a college education. When students "steal" the words or thoughts of another and present them as their own original words and ideas, they shortchange themselves educationally.
Moreover, the guidelines Hyman quoted do not list Remington as an author, and Remington claims he had "nothing to do" with writing them. Indeed, while Remington is listed as the "Course Instructor" on the course homepage, four other professors are listed as "Coursewriters."
Hyman also claimed Michael R. Ball, professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin-Superior, "announced in a published paper that he discovered the common thread of hate groups: Christianity." Then Hyman quipped: "I'll make certain to mention this to all of the Christian suicide-bombers in the Middle East." In fact, Ball's 1996 paper focused specifically on American hate groups, and it did not identify Christianity in general as a motivation for hate. Rather, Ball identified a particular ideology, "Christian Identity" -- a distinct and extremist ideology that has little to do with mainstream Christianity -- as one of several "common threads" among the groups he studied. Here's the key excerpt from Ball's paper:
Although each hate group had its specific emphasis, we found common threads of ideology which were woven through all. (note 7) These included Christian Identity or similar religious beliefs, white separatism as a part of the "natural order," religious justifications for violence, the "right to keep and bear arms," opposition to political "liberalism" in any form, strict separation of male and female roles, opposition to Affirmative Action, welfare, or other "governmental meddling."
Space limits me from explaining each of these in depth, although I would like to briefly discuss Christian Identity because of its centrality and its pervasiveness among racist groups.
Christian Identity (note 8) is a modern version of the "British Israelism" espoused by Henry Ford and others in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (note 9) This belief holds that in the beginning, God created the "beast of the field," including many resembling humans. These beasts (referred to as "mud people," or "mud races") were not human, lacking a soul. Finally, God created the "Adamic (white) race" and instilled its members with souls. ... British Israelism held that members of "the British race" were the true Israelites, while current Christian Identity believes that the true Israelites are members of any of the ten "Aryan nations" including the major countries of western Europe, the United States, and Canada. In their view, whenever the Bible speaks of conflicts, war and evil, it is in reference to maintaining their "race" from contamination or annihilation.
Finally, Hyman warned that "there is no diversity in the University of Illinois at Chicago's Gender and Women's Studies program." * As proof, he explained: "The department's official newsletter includes extremist positions such as advocating sexual identity protest marches, offering a first-hand account of giving an abortion to a 16-year-old and informing readers that pro-life positions are tied to domestic abuse."
In fact, the article entitled "Why Come Out" (p. 8) was a firsthand account of an event at the university marking National Coming Out Day. The Human Rights Campaign website alone lists dozens of events for National Coming Out Day 2004, suggesting that such events are hardly "extremist."
The newsletter's "first-hand account" of an abortion was a single sentence of a 1,200-word article (p. 6) in which the author described her work as a Planned Parenthood family planning counselor. The author describes how she "reviewed options" with the 16-year-old after informing her of her positive pregnancy test.
The newsletter did not state that "pro-life positions are tied to domestic abuse." Rather, one article (p. 4) described a reproductive rights conference at the university that a student group had organized. The article highlighted several notable presentations, including one titled "Anti-violence, Pro-choice." Here's what the article said:
At a workshop entitled "Anti-violence, Pro-choice," presenter Cara Thaxton (Horizons Community Services) talked about the connection between being against domestic violence, rape and violence against women, and being pro-choice. She argued that until women are seen as independent human beings capable of making their own choices, including the complex decisions of whether to have an abortion or not, they will not be considered equal to men and will continue to be controlled through physical or legislative violence.
"The Point" is a two-minute conservative commentary by Hyman that airs nightly on the 62 television stations Sinclair owns or operates. Media Matters for America leads SinclairAction.com, a coalition of groups and individuals protesting Sinclair's continued misuse of public airwaves to air one-sided, politically charged programming without a counterpoint.
Correction: The transcript of the February 16 edition of "The Point" on Sinclair's News Central website incorrectly quoted Hyman as claiming that "there is no diversity in the University of Illinois at Chicago's Graduate Women's Studies program." This misquotation appeared in the original version of this item, which relied on News Central's transcript. In fact, Hyman used the program's correct title, the Gender and Women's Studies program. As Media Matters for America has noted, this transcript and the accompanying video have vanished from News Central's website, but the Google cache of the missing transcript reveals the transcription error. The video is available here.