Attorney General William Barr Fails Chemistry (and Trial Advocacy)

On CBS’s Face the Nation, United States Attorney General William Barr offered his scientific assessment of the use of pepper spray, by contending that “pepper spray is not a chemical irritant…it’s not a chemical.” (See transcript, Face the Nation, 6.7.20).

As science — This is false – and wackily ignorant: of course pepper spray is a chemical irritant, as pepper spray is of chemical composition and irritates those against whom it is used. Barr must think – or hopes others will think – that the natural world is not composed of chemicals. Chemicals are part of the natural order, and are not merely of human design.

Victoria Foster writes AG Barr Says Pepper Spray Is Not A Chemical Irritant. Here’s Why That Is Incorrect:

The claim that substances from ‘natural’ sources are not made of chemicals is patently incorrect. Pretty much everything around us is made of chemicals, an apple, for example naturally contains around 300 different chemicals. These include formaldehyde and cyanide which are well-known to be harmful to humans in quantities far larger than found in a single apple.

Does Barr think that chemistry describes only the products of Bayer or Dow, and so there were no chemicals before those companies were founded? Under this reasoning, perhaps he thinks that there was no water before Aquafina and Dasani.

As rhetoric — Barr’s interview on Face the Nation would only usefully appeal to those who might be persuadable about Trump’s policies (those already committed will likely stay that way). It’s futile – and counterproductive – to advance a false claim about chemistry when all critics need show is what happens when people are exposed to pepper spray and pepper balls.

When they’re exposed, they experience pain and discomfort. See Trump calls tear gas reports ‘fake news,’ but protesters’ eyes burned just the same. Barr can twist the meaning of simple scientific concepts all he wants, and in reply one would only need show the effects of pepper spray —

A few minutes of video refutes his claims. (It’s also notable that one could show damage from pepper spray and defeat Barr’s claims that tear gas was not used. See Park Police spokesperson said it was a mistake to deny tear gas was used to clear Lafayette Square and Tear gas canisters were found at the scene.)

As either understanding or advocacy, Barr’s interview remarks are deficient.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Another category he fails at is being a human being. At first, I was willing to give Barr a chance to prove himself. My reasoning was that Barr, by then, knew exactly what he was dealing with and was going to be a Trojan Horse with a real human inside who would burst out and restore sanity to Trump.

Boy, did I blow that irrationally exuberant assessment! Instead, he turns out to be a humorless, empathy-less, cyborg with a nasty disposition and a willingness to lie, cheat, and beat that rivals Trump.