Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies, and Congressional Hearings

(((Roger Clemens; Brian McNamee; Chris Shays; Steroids are drugs, they are even illegal drugs, but insisting on calling McNamee a "drug dealer" is at best stupid and at worst an insidious category confusion)))

Gotta love congressional hearings, where two people sit virtually next to each other at a table (see this great photo) and call each other liars, even though they never once address each other, and elected officials take turns calling one, the other, or both liars. For some reason, it seemed to be the Republicans defending Clemens and going after McNamee, but I really don't get why that would be.

The best, though, was watching Chris Shays, dork extraordinaire, insisting that McNamee is "a drug dealer":

[Mr. Shays. . . . ] For you, Mr. McNamee, I believe some of what you say. But you know, it depends when. I view you as a police officer who is a drug dealer. [ . . . ] I read that comment and I think maybe [being or having been] a police officer would have made you not want to be a drug dealer. But instead it made you be wary of [Clemens].

Mr. McNamee. I understand your concerns. But as far as your comment about a drug dealer, I only did what players asked and it was wrong.

Mr. Shays. Mr. McNamee, you are a drug dealer. You may --

Mr. McNamee. That's your opinion.

Mr. Shays. No, it's not in my opinion. You were dealing with drugs.

Mr. McNamee. Okay.

Mr. Shays. You were dealing with illegal drugs. Tell me as a police officer how that is not being a drug dealer.

Mr. McNamee. That's your opinion.

Mr. Shays. No, it's not my opinion. I'm asking you to tell me. Tell me how it's legal to do illegal things and you not call it what you were. You were dealing in drugs, weren't you?

Mr. McNamee. Dealing in them, yes.

Mr. Shays. Were they legal drugs?

Mr. McNamee. No, they weren't.

Mr. Shays. Thank you.

This is a version of the classic pedant's two-step. It is often a good way to get people to stop being wishy-washy and to dump euphemisms. But it has its Orwellian uses, too.

Imagine the following conversation:

Mr. Shays. As for you, Mr. Fisher, I would think that as an American you would not want to be a godless commie terrorist-sympathizer.

Mr. Fisher. Sir, I object to that characterization.

Mr. Shays. But you are a godless commie terrorist-sympathizer.

Mr. Fisher. That's your opinion. [Okay, this is a stupid argument, too, but let's keep things simple.]

Mr. Shays. Do you believe in God?

Mr. Fisher. What do you mean by "god"? And while we're at it, what do you mean by "believe in"?

Mr. Shays. Right. And do you not argue that communism is preferable to capitalism?

Mr. Fisher. Isn't it obvious?

Mr. Shays. And do you not oppose the War on Terror?

Mr. Fisher. I sure do.

Mr. Shays. Then how are you not a godless commie terrorist sympathizer?

Mr. Fisher. Fuck. You got me. Pretty sneaky, Shays.

In the case at hand, Shays's use of this utterly transparent—but often very difficult to counter—maneuver is merely meant to tarnish McNamee. After all, who can believe a "drug dealer"? Why he wanted to do this in the first place remains a mystery to me.

Yes, yes, technically McNamee could be called a drug dealer . . . he made money administering illegal pharmaceuticals (aka, "drugs"). But let's be honest that this is bullshit. It's as if the guy were standing on street corners selling dime bags of cream and clear, or ran a run-down HGH house where people come to shoot up and stay there for days lying around on soiled mattresses.

The businesses of elite performance enhancing drugs, on the one hand, and recreational drugs, on the other, are totally different businesses, the only commonality being that both involve illegal pharmaceuticals. People don't prostitute themselves or take their child's baby-food-money for a hit of HGH. Brian McNamee doesn't have an army of street dealers or ties to Colombian cartels. Conversely, there isn't pressure from sports teams on players to do lines of coke the way there is pressure to take a shot of HGH on the sly in order to heal up for a game. How stupid does Shays think we are? Or does he just think he's that clever?

Shays's grandstanding is not just an affront to language and logic, but to the police he professes to respect, the narcotics officers who risk their lives undercover to bust up crack dealers. Busting Brian McNamee, "drug dealer," just doesn't have the same, I don't know, oomph.

But maybe he'll get a Law & Order spot out of it.

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