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Just Saw [Insert Movie Title Here]...

...or how my MFA in screenwriting ruined any chance of enjoying a movie like a normal person. If I apply what I've learned to existing films, would it have made a better film?

SPOILER WARNING: Please be advised, I plan to discuss plot points in detail so if you haven't seen the movie and don't want the surprise ruined, stop here.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

The Rhetoric of Sean Hannity

I was flipping through the news channels and heard Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes interviewing Dan Dewalt, a Selectman in the Vermont legislature who voted to pass a resolution to use an obscure procedural rule to impeach the President. Mr. Colmes let him state his position and then Mr. Hannity joined the conversation.

Well, it wasn't much of a conversation. Mr Hannity insulted Mr. Dewalt, got him off topic and insulted him again. It might have been entertaining if it didn't feel so much like a mugging.

What troubled me the most was Mr. Hannity's admonition at the end that Mr. Dewalt's opinion was a selfish act that hurt our troops.

I'm ashamed to admit it but I've used Mr. Hannity's argument technique when I wanted to make a fool out of someone in public. Insult them about something personal to get them emotional, force them to accept a premise I know to be true regardless of its relevance to the topic of discussion, and then dismiss their entire argument based on their acceptance of the premise.

I must also add, the last time I used this argument technique was in third grade after which I got the shit kicked out of me on the playground. From my teachers then and now, I learned that name calling was not a proper way to argue, even if you believe they are blatantly misrepresenting your position or the facts behind their own position.

However, Mr. Hannity's admonition did send chills down my spine.

While Mr. Hannity's opinion is his own, does it represent a sentiment shared by many who believe that dissent is harmful to the well being of our society? If an elected official can be admonished for his dissent, what about someone with a video camera or a blog who expresses an unpopular or controversial opinion?

Is it possible to measure the harm that dissent causes? If dissent does cause harm, does it require a remedy? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that freedom of speech does have restrictions. Do the actions of Mr. Dewalt violate those restrictions?

I don't believe that the resolution of a state committee impacts the morale of our troops. I have more faith in our troops than that. Mr. Hannity did not attack Mr. Dewalt's position as much as he attacked his motive and right to express it and he did it in a way that was disrespectful, regardless of the justification.

Freedom of speech is something we take for granted in this country. I was reminded by a fellow writer about the time a writing workshop I was in was visited by a group of artists from Communist China.

They asked us what we were writing and were shocked at our descriptions. They remarked that it would never occur to them to write about such things because they would surely be subjected to imprisonment if they attempted such projects.

What good is sacrificing lives to defend our Constitutional rights if we are not freely able to use them? Mr. Hannity's opinions may be consistent with some Republicans in government, but he has no government sanctioned authority to prevent anyone from exercising their Constitutionally protected rights.

What if no one heeds his admonition and similar admonitions from those who would use their own sense of morality, microphones and video feeds to bully people into silence?

I've included the transcript of the entire segment below if you wish to form your own opinion about the exchange.

I will write something about screenwriting soon. I promise.

* * *

Hannity and Colmes: March 31, 2006

Alan Colmes: Welcome back to Hannity and Colmes. A Vermont Democratic State Committee will decide whether to urge Vermont lawmakers to use a little known provision in U.S. House rules to file for the impeachment of President Bush. Democratic committees in at least fourteen of the state's Democratic counties have passed resolutions calling on Vermont lawmakers to use this little known provision from Jefferson's Manual, a book of Parliamentary philosophy and procedural guidelines written by Thomas Jefferson. Joining us now, one of the Vermont Selectmen who voted to impeach President Bush, Dan Dewalt. Dan, welcome to our show.

Dan Dewalt: Thanks.

Colmes: I'm not sure if this is really do-able unless you have a Democratic house. What bothers me, whether or not we agree, should or should not be impeached, that you have been personally attacked simply for offering, going forth with your free speech rights. The Washington Times reported your income as I understand it and mentioned you wear Birkenstocks. Just trying to typify you.

Dewalt: I didn't realize Birkenstocks were an attack. But you're right. You're right.

Colmes: And in an AP story, I think, was posted on the terrorism knowledge base that says it's a comprehensive databank of terrorist incidents and organizations. So they're trying to type you a terrorist simply for offering what is a controversial point of view.

Dewalt: That's true.

Colmes: Why are you doing it?

Dewalt: Why am I doing this? I'm doing this because I'm ashamed of the actions of my President and my country. I feel that I'm a patriotic American. I feel that as a patriotic citizen of this country I need to stand up for what the country stands for. And the country stands for rightness, the country stands for living up to the Constitution and the rule of law. This President, through lies and deceit has broken the law, has led the country into a war, which has led to countless tens of thousands of deaths, and I am not willing to stand by and say, "This represents me, this represents what I believe in.

Colmes: I may not agree with impeachment as being the way to go and we can debate that, what bothers me, though, is those who really, who oppose this will say you hate Bush, you hate America, I'm sure you're called a traitor--

Dewalt: No, this has nothing to do with--

Colmes: And this kind of rhetoric does not really allow us to have the debate that you're really offering to put on the table here, which we should be having as Americans right now.

Dewalt: I agree a hundred percent. It's not about hating George Bush. I haven't-- there's been lots of Presidents I didn't like. Reagan, I didn't like Clinton. I wasn't talking about impeaching any of them. This is talking about the rule of law and adherence to the Constitution. If this country does not adhere to what it was it was built to be based on, then we are not a country where [inaudible]

Colmes: [overlapping] By the way, you're not that fond of Democrats either as I understand it.

Dewalt: No, I'm not a Democrat.

Colmes: Where are you on the spectrum?

Dewalt: The party in Vermont which is closest to what I stand for is the Progressive party. It's, this isn't about politics. This is about citizens of the country standing up for what we believe in and what I have been gratified-- you're right, I have been attacked, but on a very small scale. I've gotten a few pieces of hate mail, poorly written, I might add. But we have been overwhelmed with letters of support from across the entire nation. Not just Vermont, not just New England, but Indiana, Arizona, Minnesota, Chicago, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey--

Sean Hannity: And what did you vote for, for President, sir?

Dewalt: Ralph Nader.

Sean Hannity: Ralph Nader. A lot of good that did. It was a wasted vote.

Dewalt: You know, you know, a wasted vote--

Hannity: It was.

Dewalt: A wasted vote--

Hannity: 'Cause he didn't have a chance to win, but that's fine. Let me ask you. So, so let me ask you a question.

Dewalt: Okay.

Hannity: The argument that the President made that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, did you think it was a purposeful lie? Is that your essence, the essence of your argument?

Dewalt: President Bush presented that argument, knowing, absolutely knowing that the evidence was not really solid. He knew--

Hannity: And John Kerry, and John Kerry made the same argument, did he do the same thing as the President?

Dewalt: I am not the least bit interested in John Kerry. This, this--

Hannity: I didn't ask you that question, if you were interested. I asked you if John Kerry equally lied like the President did, considering he said Saddam's WMDs and nuclear weapons are a grave threat to America.

Dewalt: I'm not privy to exactly who gets what information but I do know that there's nobody that gets more information than the President of the United States. And I also know that the President of the United States can control what information goes out to other people. What John Kerry knew, I don't know. That's not the issue. The issue is who is in control of this country? And who led this country to believe that there was a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda and there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11.

Hannity: [overlapping] Actually there is [inaudible] documents that have come out--

Dewalt: [overlapping] Well it's--

Hannity: [overlapping] There're actually new, If you look at the documents that we have now been, if you read the newspapers, you see that there has been a connection that was there, that Al Qaeda operatives were operating out of Iraq for a period of time leading up to 9/11 and that they were trained there. We have learned from the general that worked under Saddam Hussein that there were weapons of mass destruction his belief--

Dewalt: Wait wait, where were these weapons of mass destructions--

Hannity: Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me. The same weapons that Bill Clinton told us about when he bombed them but you didn't call for the impeachment of him. Here's the bottom line. I don't care what you write, I don't even care about your silly resolutions or your proposals, it's a waste of our time. But I'm going to tell you something you need to think about the next time you want to propose something as idiotic as this. Everything you say as a leader is heard by our enemies, it is heard by our allies and it is heard by the troops. When you call their Commander a liar, you are undermining their war effort, when you do it in such a political fashion and only go after Republicans, you do it to the detriment of them. And if you selfishly want to continue that you go right ahead, but look at who you're hurting.

Dewalt: Let me tell you what undermines the war effort, let me tell you what undermines the troops of this country, is telling them that we're going to war for a reason which is not true.

Hannity: You Liberals are a broken record--

Dewalt: Why don't you--

Colmes: And I thought I was--

Hannity: You're angry that you lost the election. You can't get over it. And the bottom line is that the President, you forgot we were attacked on 9/11, the President was authorized by Congress to defend this country and [inaudible]

Colmes: [overlapping, inaudible] I think it's important that we have this debate, we should be able to debate it on a fair and even playing field.

Dewalt: Why don't you give me a chance to respond?

Hannity: It's an idiotic proposal.

Colmes: You got ten seconds Dan, go ahead. We gotta go.

Dewalt: We have a President that misled these troops--

Hannity: Oh stop it.

Dewalt: He has not supported them, he has not equipped them. You guys are like Mickey Mouse and Tweedle Bird.

Hannity: Oh gee.

Dewalt: Honest to God.

Hannity: And you're a waste of our time.

Colmes: By the way, you got a band I understand. Good luck with the band, good luck with your Birkenstocks. Thanks you very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

Dewalt: You guys are losers.


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