Anvil of Reason Award Winner: Lawrence O'Donnell

April 16, 2011|By Luke Broadwater

Last night I made the mistake of accidentally leaving the channel on Lawrence O'Donnell's show. This turned out to be a much greater error than I originally thought.

Prior to this, I mistakenly believed O'Donnell's show would be something similar to Rachel Maddow's. I like Maddow. I don't always agree with her, but she's smart, funny and treats her guests with respect. 

But O'Donnell was much, much different. He was completely humorless. He was pedantic and moralizing. He managed to be shallow, didactic, illogical and myopic all at the same time. 

On the show, O'Donnell took on that toughest of opponents: the British royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. 

What followed was a meandering diatribe bashing the history of the British empire and the state of American media. It contained, by my count, no less than a half-dozen logical fallacies. It was like listening to an insane person raving on the street. 

Logical fallacies Nos. 1 and 2: Not only did O'Donnell make the basic mistake of grouping "the media" together as though thousands of individual journalists all act with one mind (a tactic commonly employed by Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives) but he ignored the fact that he, too, is a member of this media. 

Logical fallacies No. 3 and 4: O'Donnell then went on to make empirically false statements about the "American media" using "virtually all of its resources" to cover the royal wedding and committing "itself to the idea that nothing more important will be occurring that day in this country or the world than a wedding." 

These are broad generalizations that are easily proven false. Open any newspaper or turn on any radio or television show the day of the royal wedding and see if there are any non-royal wedding stories available for consumption. if there are (and you can bet the house there will be) O'Donnell is wrong. 

After falsely grouping together all media organizations and falsely claiming they were using all their resources on a wedding, O'Donnell then attempted to perform some group psychology on this newly formed unit. 

Logical fallacies No. 5 and 6: He claimed this now-singular unit has "buyer's remorse" over ... the American Revolution? I hate to break it to O'Donnell, but no one in the media is 300 years old. He then claimed the current American media would root for the British in that war.  

This has to be one of the most insane conspiracy theories said on the airwaves since, well, the last time I heard Donald Trump talk. Actually, it sounds even crazier than the birthers' claims. 

All American journalists are covering the royal wedding in England because they want the U.S. to revert back to a colony of the British Empire? 

Lawrence, please: Back away from the crackpipe. 

But this assertion provided the perfect chance for O'Donnell to present a very elementary (and politicized) overview of British history.

Logical fallacy No. 7: He spoke of how the British "crown" has "spilled more blood" and caused "more oppression and suffering than any other regime still standing." Nevermind the fact that the British "crown" no longer has any power and is certainly not a regime.

Logical fallacy No. 8: But O'Donnell wasn't done there. He spoke of how some people might hold a grudge against the British for "hundreds" of years. What is he talking about? The oldest person on record lived to be 122. 

O'Donnell's diatribe was so insane partially because it was so unnecessary. People are interested in Prince William and Kate Middleton, as Jerry Seinfeld correctly pointed out, because they find it fun to pretend. They find it fun to play dress up, act like children and think of Disney princes and princesses.  

It's not some exaggerated wish of all American journalists for the United States to be back under British rule. 

Lawrence O'Donnell, for your insane conspiracy theories and your lack of humor, logic, and basic understanding of how the news works, I'm happy to present you with this week's "Wile E. Coyote Anvil of Reason" award. 

Let's hope the cartoon anvil knocks some sense into your brain. 

* The "Wile E. Coyote Anvil of Reason Award" is given to that person in the news most needing a dose of common sense in the form of brutal cartoonish enlightenment.

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