Zero Dark Thirty is a decent movie whose depiction of torture in the search for Bin Laden has touched off a series of accusations/protests against the film. Here is one such example, a letter from Senators McCain, Feinstein and Levin directed to Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures: “With the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the filmmakers and your production studio are perpetuating the myth that torture is effective. You have a social and moral obligation to get the facts right.”
This is a flawed argument in a number of ways. First and foremost, movies are under no obligation, moral or otherwise, to get the facts right. This is silly. Movies are at their core, Adam Sandler and otherwise, art, and art knows no obligations save for itself. That’s what makes it art. The marketplace determines whether the movie will sink or swim, critically and commercially, so encouraging filmmakers to censor themselves for the social good is an idea on par with letting Tim Tebow start at quarterback.
There is a fundamental difference between the worth of an election and voting. People make this mistake all the time, most notably with some version of the phrase, “This presidential election is really important, so make sure you get out and vote because every vote matters.” This is the wrong way to look at it. Elections are indeed very important, or at least have the potential to be, but an individual’s vote in that election is staggeringly inconsequential.
The electoral college only furthers the pointlessness of voting for president, since certain states (Ohio) may ultimately play a larger role in deciding the election than others (North Dakota), which does indeed shake the odds that an individual’s vote will matter, but also further illustrates the pointlessness of casting a ballot. Taken as a percentage of the whole, a single vote for president is somewhere in the 1 in a 115 million range of deciding the election. In a particular state, however, that number might potentially decrease to perhaps 1 in 12 million. Better odds, to be sure, but one might as well go out and buy a lottery ticket for all the good their vote will do.
I caught New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of President Obama today. Two things in particular stood out. First:
“Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
It’s not that I look the other way on sensible environmental policy, I’m not China after all, but I also have a healthy respect for rational thinking. Public policy should not be enacted to combat thing (A) because of thing (B) that may or may not be the result of (A). Bloomberg’s argument is kindergarten stuff. It’s a bit like the school that serves chicken in the cafeteria, half the kids get food poisoning three days later, and the PTA decides to endorse the incumbent superintendent of education because he will work harder than his opponent to stamp out protein in school lunches.
Tim Tebow is a terrible NFL quarterback whose value at that position comes from his size and strength, which allows him to run short-yardage situations with some success. He completed a pathetic 46% of his passes for a league worst 124 yards per game in 2011. His incredibly popularity, wildly disproportionate to his skills on the field, is based largely on his public profession of faith and the fascination the public has with someone who appears so different from the typical American professional football player (think Ray Lewis).
Perhaps it’s a dramatic oversimplification of his place in the spotlight, but Tebow is generally regarded as a good guy, and there are many puff pieces like this that can’t stop gushing over what a good guy he is – puffiness incarnate. Yeah, he’s not that good of a guy.