Archive for July 31, 2007

Newsflash: Hering Lacks Reasoning, Capacity to Write Editorials

July 31, 2007

He’s managed to do it again. This time, in regards to a recent bill signed by the Governor designed to fight increasing obesity among children.

First, the bill according to Hering:

…the bill calls on schools to require students through the eighth grade to have gym classes, at least 150 hours a week for elementary schools and at least 225 minutes in grades six through eight.

I’m not actually sure what Hering is saying here, since this sentence doesn’t even make sense. Does he mean to say that schools are required to have 150 hours/week of gym classes total? Per student? Per grade level? I’ve stared at this sentence for way too long, and I think it’s making less sense now than it did the first time I read it.

Next, Hering’s “argument” regarding this bill:

But taking gym, while certainly a good idea, is unlikely to make a dent in the obesity problem affecting the people of this state as a whole.

In order to solve that problem, the legislature would have to enact laws that go far beyond its power to impose or the willingness of citizens to obey.

Lawmakers would have to start by limiting the amount of time that we all are allowed to sit watching a video screen. This would include outlawing remote controls.

Then the legislature would have to ban or restrict fast food and other prepared food. This would be accompanied by a mandate to buy food that had to be cooked, preferably at home, before it can be consumed.

He goes on, but really, what’s the point? This reads like another example of Hering’s usual tortured attempts at logic, since I don’t recall anyone seriously suggesting – and Hering doesn’t provide evidence of this either, he just implies that it’s the case – that gym classes alone will solve the obesity epidemic.

This is what’s called a “strawman” argument: You set up a really bad, poorly constructed argument that’s easy to take down, attribute it to your enemies (who would, of course, say no such thing), and when you take it down, you claim victory. Hering works it to perfection here, revealing once again his penchant for intellectually bankrupt hackery.

Note: This is not the same as trying to persuade people that your point of view is correct. This is a series of lies by omission, misattributions, and flat-out bullshit. It might be effective at persuading someone, but that doesn’t make it ethically correct, especially for a newspaper editor. Does anyone at the Democrat-Herald, especially the publisher, ever read the crap he spews?

Seriously – if Hering is going to spin a tale about how “lawmakers” (notice he names no person or party, allowing the reader to attribute these nonsensical ideas to whomever they want) are planning to go on a rampage of authoritarian social control, he could at least try to make the claims a little more plausible.

Finally, there is a pair of assumptions that Hering makes, but never justifies or explains. The first is this: That gym classes will do NOTHING to increase the health of children. Honestly, depending on the way the class works, I could believe this – but it would require actually talking about what happens in a gym class, rather than just assuming he is correct. The second assumption is that since gym classes alone won’t solve the problem, they should be rejected as a solution – yet Hering notes that any solution will have to be multifaceted. So why does he reject this one component?

I don’t really know, but I can guess it’s because he has an ideological aversion to public solutions to problems. An aversion that’s grounded in some mistaken beliefs, but hey, at least he’s consistent on this one.

On the other hand, there is the ending to his editorial:

In short, a legislative answer to Oregon’s weight problem would have to include changing our lifestyle for the better. Since in many ways this would require rolling back social, economic and technological developments of the last 50 years, you can guess yourself how soon this will come about.

Yes , it would require for us to change our lifestyle for the better. I don’t see the problem with that, but I am very confused as to how it would require rolling back 50 years of development. Does he really think that the only way to be healthy is to emulate Leave it to Beaver or that television and cars necessarily make people obese? I hope not, though I would not be surprised.