David Swindle wrote a great post recently about the importance of using the strongest arguments possible when defending a position. He went on to lament the tendency of some conservatives to employ “musket arguments” instead:
Just because an argument is correct it doesn’t mean that it’s the best one to use. A musket might be able to win in a fight but it’s hardly the most effective choice.
I would only add – because David’s overly generous view of humanity probably prevented him from stating what he thought was the obvious – that whatever weapon you finally decide on, it should probably be loaded. A weak argument is bad enough; a non-existent one is downright embarrassing.
Consider for instance a post currently metastasizing across the internet warning darkly of an "FDA ban on injectable vitamin C." The use of the singular case here is not accidental; of the bazillion or so hits obtainable by Googling “fda injectable vitamin c” the vast majority are either wholesale copies or cosmetic rearrangements of a Jan 4 article by the Alliance for Natural Health, demurely entitled Action Alert—Now the FDA Is Going After Vitamin C!
The FDA has just notified one pharmacy that it will no longer be allowed to manufacture or distribute injectable vitamin C—despite its remarkable power to heal conditions that conventional medicine can’t touch. Please help reverse this outrageous decision!
The government, instead of banning intravenous vitamin C, should instead be supporting research into it.
Please take action immediately! Please contact the FDA, and tell them to take their job of protecting our health seriously—by allowing injectable vitamin C, magnesium chloride, and vitamin B-complex 100 to continue being manufactured and sold!
You can almost hear the many bloggers who immediately repackaged these assertions, without further investigation or scrutiny, sighing loudly: “You had me at ‘FDA’!”
And why not? To any red-blooded conservative this is fresh meat. We have noted with alarm the over-reach of federal regulatory agencies (recent examples include the EPA’s de facto imposition of Cap and Trade and the FCC’s self-awarded authority to regulate the internet) and have no doubt the FDA is fully capable of similar arrogation of power. We want this story to be true.
But, there are a few problems.
We've already touched on the first point. This entire story seems to emanate from a single source, and within that source there are no specifics on the one incident with the one small pharmacy alluded to. Additionally the author never quite gets around to explaining how a single incident with a pharmacy he won't name, with circumstances he won't elaborate on, with references he doesn't provide, somehow becomes an actual or impending nationwide ban. Breathless announcements such as these -- light on references, long on exclamation marks -- should set off Klaxons in anyone's head. Unhappily there are hundreds of pages of Google links, again basically reprints of this article, pointing to people who clearly forgot to change the battery.
I am grateful that Robert Rister at SteadyHealth.com was not among them. I was well into my own due diligence bug-hunt -- searching the FDA web site for a document of unknown type, regarding an unnamed pharmacy, on an undisclosed date, occasionally checking my in-box for a response from either the FDA or ANH that I knew could only be moments away -- when I found his post in the haystack of ANH clones.
Why on earth would the FDA want to stop a miracle drug?
It doesn't. The warning letter didn't apply to all small pharmacies. It applied to just one small pharmacy, which was having problems with the possible microbial contamination of the intravenous solution. Stopping the sale of contaminated products is something the FDA is supposed to do. The FDA only sent the warning to the pharmacy after a bad batch of vitamin C was sold. The freedom to sell vitamin C and the freedom to sell bacteria-contaminated vitamin C are two different things.
Oh ... so no national conspiracy ... no clammy FDA operative squinting into the klieg lights resigning "for the good of the agency" ... no props from Glenn Beck ... no hat-tips from Drudge ... well that's boring!
And it’s precisely the kind of thing the Left will bring up the next time a legitimate issue regarding the FDA or any other regulator surfaces. It may never rival the birther canard but anything the Left can employ to depict its critics as irresponsible, bovine and/or mostly crazy serves the purpose.
This won’t work against people like Rister of course who seems to know his business and researches his subjects before holding forth on them. It’s possible he and I have nothing else in common politically, but on the basis of this piece at least he seems to care more about the truth than making a quick political point. This in turn affords him a measure of (now what’s the word I’m looking for) … credibility, and increases the likelihood that I will consider his remarks more carefully, perhaps on a future subject where we might not see eye to eye. Do you see how that works? Maybe more the model we should be pursuing?
To paraphrase Jack Tapper, there’s no trick to being wrong first. I would add there is even less distinction in being a human Xerox for such "firsts". This is probably something, by virtue of training and temperament, we should leave to our opponents.
(Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog.)