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Refuting the distortions

By Scott Tibbs, March 24, 1998

The letter to the editor page in the Bloomington Herald-Times can be very interesting. Sometimes, you will find well-written letters to the editor making a solid point. Other times, you will find letters to the editor like Tama Abrams' March 24 letter. This letter, in response to my March 16 letter to the editor, amazed me due to Abrams' apparent desire to respond without ever reading my letter.

Abrams asks, "who appointed Sen. Coats, Sen. Lieberman, and Scott Tibbs as the V-Chip Committee for the hearing impaired." Interesting point, given Lieberman's clear record of advocating government mandates such as the V-Chip and rating systems for both television and video games. Even Coats has advocated such limitations to the disdain of civil libertarians. Too bad Abrams ignored my point about how I believe Jerry Springer has the right to broadcast his program without government intervention. I also did not oppose closed captioning of the program in and of itself: I suggested Springer use the profits from his program to close caption it himself.

Abrams goes on to suggest, in what she would likely consider a "logical extension" of my viewpoint, that we have closed captioning for "only one of the 6 p.m. news programs? After all (the hearing impaired) can only watch one program at a time - lets give them Dan Rather." She also suggests we would deny closed captioning to sitcoms because they "hint about, you know, ..x. Thumbs down!"

This is a clear "straw man" if I have ever seen one. Please, attack my arguments on their merits, but don't go off into issues I never raised. In this case, though, Abrams is right in assuming my opinion: with the exorbitant profits Hollywood makes, it can surely afford to add closed captioning to its programs itself. The issue I raised in my letter is not one of advocating government censorship of Hollywood, but of corporate welfare. NBC could easily closed-caption "Friends" for a tiny fraction of the salaries it pays to the actors on the programs.

Abrams' final two points are completely off topic. First, she suggests closed captioning is valuable for reasons other than helping the hearing impaired. True, but that still does not address the issue of corporate welfare.

Finally, Abrams suggests closed-captioning for a year costs about one-fourth of the cost so far of the Whitewater investigation. Which expenditure do you think the taxpayers would choose?" Again, this really adds nothing to the argument of why we should have corporate welfare. It's just a red herring to distract from the real issue.

I enjoy getting responses in the newspaper. The fact that Ms. Abrams took the time to respond to my letter to the editor shows that I am effective. And it's even more heartening to see people apparently cannot refute my arguments directly, but must use straw men and red herrings to distract from the real issue. So keep responding people, it only makes my arguments more credible.