Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lance Berkman's Radio Interview: As Logically Questionable as His Radio Ad

When Lance Berkman first cut that radio ad urging a "no" vote on Houston's Proposition 1, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), many pro-HERO baseball fans on Twitter expressed a hope that he was just reading off a script and didn't understand the discriminatory nature of his remarks. Turns out... nope, not so much.

Berkman went on Houston's KTRH 740 AM radio on Wednesday to talk about HERO's defeat, and he was not particularly gracious in victory. He decried the "digital persecution" he felt after the ad was released without a hint of irony—ironic, because the ordinance he helped torpedo was meant to stop persecution of several protected classes. Berkman said:
"To me tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country. We’re tolerant of everything. You know, everything is okay, and as long as you want to do it and as long as it feels good to you then it’s perfectly acceptable do it. Those are the kinds of things that lead you down a slippery slope, and you’ll get in trouble in a hurry."
If any politician said "tolerance is the virtue that's killing this country," it would likely kill his campaign. Tolerance, of course, is part of what America was built on (e.g., freedom of religion and of the press), and you could argue that all of American history has been a march toward more tolerance (e.g., the civil-rights movement). But Berkman also uses the exact words "slippery slope," which is a well-known logical fallacy. Instilling fear about a hypothetical, future, extreme version of your opponent's position says nothing about the actual issue on the table today.

Berkman also told the radio host, "I didn’t expect the mayor to make a personal attack. I didn’t expect her to talk about my girls or my family." He was referring to a series of tweets wherein Houston Mayor Annise Parker, a HERO supporter, responded to Berkman's ads. She did bring up Berkman's daughters, but only because they were the very core of Berkman's argument in the ad. And the tweet in question was hardly an attack on them. This was the only mention Parker made of Berkman's family:

In the interview, Berkman tried to clarify his stance on equal protection. "I’m against depriving anybody of their civil rights, but by the same token the ordinance was so poorly written," he said. Except here is the full text of the ballot question:
"Are you in favor of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?"
Really dangerous language there! It's hard to take Berkman seriously that he's against depriving anybody of their civil rights when the ordinance he opposed is explicitly about anti-discrimination against all manner of people (not just transgender people) in all sorts of venues (not just bathrooms).

Finally, Berkman said he Googled around to see what the reaction to his ad was like. "A lot of the comments were not in favor of letting the HERO ordinance pass, which was a little encouraging," he said. So there is the final damning portion of the interview: Lance Berkman is dumb enough to read the online comments. Case closed!

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