Category Archives: Ad Hominem

Judged by your fans

Pope Francis I has criticized corporate greed and capitalism’s systematic failure to ensure that people are not exploited.  Despite the fact that the communists have a longstanding critical attitude toward the Catholic Church, Mark Gruenberg at The People’s World, has applauded the new pope’s statements. (More on the pope’s views regarding the church’s “worldliness” here.)

When communists agree with the Pope, it’s time for conservatives to get antsy.  Especially conservative Catholics.  Cue Paul Kegnor at AmSpec.  Kegnor is careful to note first that:

The article quoted the pontiff several times. To be sure, few of us would disagree with any of the quotes.

So not it’s that the communists agree with what the Pope says that’s the problem.  It’s that communists agree with pope says.  That’s the problem.

Communists, of all people, finally believe they have a pope who agrees with them, that they like, that they can embrace, that they can encourage. I knew that Francis’ controversial interview on abortion, contraception, and gay marriage had thrilled liberals, liberal Catholics, dissident Catholics, secular progressives, agnostics, atheists, and socialists. You can read their websites. They love this guy. But communists?

Oh, yeah, I hear you.  When I find out that I endorse views held by a group I hold in contempt, I never take that as evidence that I may not have an accurate representation of that group.  I always take it that their agreement with me (or with the things said by another person that I agree with) is either strategic or based on their misunderstandings.  Never ever should, say, a Catholic think that Luke’s social justice doctrines have any resonance with concerns about capitalism.  Kegnor’s clear about it:

It seems to me that this is not the kind of praise that the pope should want.

Of course, the problem is that if Kegnor thinks that few people would disagree with what Pope Francis said, then aren’t there many, many others who’d be trouble, too?  For sure, politics makes strange bedfellows.  But why is one’s credibility in question when there are many who take you as credible?

 

Ad tyrannem

glenn_beck

OK, the old Godwin’s Law observation with Ad Hitlerem is standard.  And we’ve here noted the Ad Stalinem.  But Glenn Beck just used, in his NYT interview, an analogy with Mao Tse-Tung with similar effect.

 I think these guys (progressives) are the biggest danger in the world. It’s the people like Mao, people that believe that big government is the answer, it always leads to millions dead — always.

For sure, Hitler analogies deserve their own name, but they are of a specific class of arguments by analogy roughly captured as the argument by analogy with some tyrant, so I’ve proposed Ad Tyrannem as the general class.

Oh, another irony is that not but a paragraph up from the implication that progressives will be putting people to death, Beck wishes that the American people could just get along.

Tu quo… um, what?

Here’s the setup for a meta-tu quoqueStage 1: A makes crazy claim.  Stage 2: B criticizes A for crazy claim.  Stage 3: A defends A’s claim by noting B’s criticism is based on a double-standard. Stage 4: B notes that A, in charging a double-standard, employs a double standard. I’ve noted elsewhere here at the NS that some forms of double-standard arguments are relevant and argumentatively appropriate.  (And John, Colin, and I also published a paper on it a year ago.)

OK, so here’s application.  Stage 1:  Brian Kilmeade of Fox News said he wouldn’t support the Syrian opposition groups, because they say “Allahu Akbar” when they score military successes.  Stage 2: John McCain criticizes Kilmeade for Islamophobia.  (Here’s the Huffpo review of the exchange.)  Stage 3: George Neumayr at AmSpec defends Kilmeade noting that McCain’s criticism deploys a double standard:

When Fox News host Brian Kilmeade said on Tuesday that he didn’t want to back Syrian rebels who scream “Allahu Akbar!” after bombing buildings, McCain, revealing the Islamophilia behind America’s Arab-Spring foreign policy, replied that those chants don’t bother him. “They are moderates,” he said, dismissing the chants as no more “offensive” than a Christian who says “thank God.” Too bad Kilmeade didn’t ask McCain to give examples of Christians yelling “thank God” after slitting someone’s throat.

The first trouble is that Kilmeade is taking the speech act performed after a horrible deed to be identify the perpetrator as representative of the group that speech act indicates.  So because a Muslim terrorist says “Allahu Akbar” after a terrorist incident, those who say “Allahu Akbar” are dangerous radicals.  McCain’s reply is by way of counter-examples – Christians say “Thank God” all the time… that’s what the phrase is analogous to.  Neumayr’s case is that McCain’s double standard is not to take extreme behavior as representative.

Here’s stage 4: Religious man murders his friend after his friend tells him he’s an atheist.  We don’t take that as representative, do we?

That’s not hypocrisy

Actor Matt Damon is an advocate for public schools. He also is currently sending his kids to a private school.  When asked why his kids aren’t going to public schools, his answer was that they were not progressive enough.  The conservative media went crazy.  Sean Hannity in this VIDEO says:

If you love public schools so much, why don’t you send your own kids there, Matty?

The piece is, of course, titled “Hollywood Hypocrite?”.  First, there’s the obvious problem with the tu quoque fallacy – hypocrisy is rarely relevant to the acceptability of the conclusion, and is more a matter of turning our attention to the person speaking and less to the matter at hand.  Hence we call it a specie of ad hominem.

But I don’t see Damon’s case as hypocrisy.  Being a public school advocate means that you want the public schools to be better and teachers to be treated with dignity.  If you live in a place where those ends aren’t being met, it’s not hypocrisy for you to send your kids to private schools.  You may not be buying in by sending your kids in, but you still pay your property taxes and can still look out for teachers.  That’s not hypocrisy, because there’s no inconsistency there.  It’s like saying: We should fix the refrigerator, but move the food to your portable cooler in the meantime.

No, YOU calm down!

Ron Ross’s piece over at The American Spectator is really a mess.  AmSpec usually does a pretty good job of keeping the tinfoil hat brigade off the page and only in the comments.  Not so this time.  The core view is that liberalism is a lie propped up by lies and executed by liars.  Why would these folks lie so much and be such liars? Well, because they want power.  Most of Ross’s examples aren’t examples of lies per se, but more cases of either confusion, just being wrong, or are matters of reasonable disagreement.  For example, Ross holds that President Obama lied when he said he’d uphold the Constitution.  But because Obama’s interpretation of the Constitution conflicts with his, Ross takes this as a lie.

Barack Obama took a sacred oath to uphold the Constitution. He never had the slightest intention of adhering to the Constitution, as we now well know.

Oy.  That’s not a lie.  That’s a disagreement about what the Constitution allows for the executive branch (between an opinion journalist and a man who taught Constitutional Law), and using ad populum (“that we all know”) to cover that over is more in lie territory than what he’s accusing Obama of.  Regardless, Ross’s view of liberals culminates in the following assessment:

Liberals cannot tell the truth, and in this context the word has two meanings. They cannot tell the truth because what they want to accomplish isn’t what most people want. And they cannot tell the truth because it’s become habitual not to. It is so much a part and parcel of their being that it’s become second nature. They do it without thinking. They actually enjoy lying. It’s their favorite pastime.

What’s particularly irritating about the piece is Ross’s regular complaint that liberals can’t even see any conservatives as reasonable.

They cannot imagine any legitimate reason anyone would disagree with them. If you disagree there must be something wrong with you.

First off, the lying view and this No Reasonable Opposition view are inconsistent.  If you must lie to get your view out, you must think that reasonable people will reject it.  That’s why you must lie.  So the lying thesis requires reasonable opposition.  But that’s not the real problem here.  Look at how Ross has painted the liberal, as someone who has no interest in truth or rational exchange, but rather as someone looking for raw power, someone who has something wrong inside.  I just wonder if Ron Ross’s house has any mirrors.

The problem with No Reasonable Opposition views is that they actually have a very heavy burden of showing how the opposition actually fails to even be in the hunt for truth.  It’s taken to be an all-to-easy burden, but it’s actually a very demanding burden to handle.  No wonder those who make use of it (perhaps because it’s rhetorically very powerful) never properly deploy it.

 

 

Your argument’s fine, but I don’t like your friends

Gideon Caplin, Benjamin Gourgey and Josh Goodman over at AmSpec have piece on the “lawfare” of Muslim student associations and the Councilon American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  The issue is whether Muslim students should have permission to pray during school hours. Caplin, Gourgey, and Goodman concede that the case can be made for student-led prayer under certain conditions. But then they turn ad hominem circumstantial:

Despite the fact that student-led prayer in public schools that adheres to the above criteria can be carried out within the law, Muslim students undermine their cause by directly inviting the assistance of CAIR, an organization that has been accused of financially supporting the terrorist activities of Hamas.

The trouble is that it doesn’t matter who CAIR has given money to (or has been accused of giving money to). If the students have the right, they have the right.  It’s not clear what the implication is or how this circumstance is supposed to undermine a case.  If the implication is that CAIR gives money to Islamic exteremist groups, and this student rights group gets support from CAIR… so they must be extremists?  Or is it that their case is undermined by the fact that they lose their rights to free religious expression because they have someone standing up for their rights that also supports Hamas?  Can someone lose their First Amendment rights of free expression just because they have radicals for friends?  Can someone’s argument be worse by virtue of the company they keep?

Support abortions, but don’t have them? You must be a hypocrite

Rick Perry tried the old tu quoque with the Texas state Senator and abortion rights defender Wendy Davis the other day.  (Reported here at SALON.) Davis, as it turns out, hasn’t had an abortion.  Even when she, like, could have.

… she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example ….

First, one can support abortion rights and still not have one.  Second, if Perry is trying to make the point that having children isn’t all that disruptive of a life by pointing to one woman who made it through law school with a child… The answer is that at least she chose that option.  That makes a big difference.

You’re gonna be a hypocrite

The tu quoque argument is  the argument from hypocrisy or inconsistency: S says that p, or that we should do a, but then turns around and says not-p or fails to do a.  It’s usually not clear what the consequences of the tu quoque are – either evidence of insincerity, evidence that the proposal is too difficult to follow, or that the person can’t keep his story straight.  We’ve at the NS had a variety of discussions about tu quoque, ranging from conditions for its acceptability to the breadth of its form.  Our best discussion was started by Colin with his observation that sometimes, tu quque arguments needn’t be in the form of actual hypocrisy, but rather hypothetical hypocrisy.  Hence, subjunctive tu quoque. (See Colin’s post HERE) I’ve found a close cousin to the not-actual-but-hypothetically-relevant form for tu quoque.  It’s the predictive tu quoque.

Witness Jonah Goldberg’s recent posting at NRO.  He says: young voters have supported Obama and his policies overwhelmingly.  But now that the Affordable Care Act is starting to be implemented, they will be required to buy health insurance — at rates greater than they would have to on other systems.  That’s because they are keeping the larger system afloat, as they are supporting the old, sick, and dying.  He predicts that they will then bolt on the issue.  First, he presents the dilemma.

You’d insist that millennials are not only informed, but eager to make sacrifices for the greater good.  Well, here’s your chance to prove it: Fork over whatever it costs to buy the best health insurance you can under Obamacare.

Then he sarcastically presents the decision:

[S]ince the fine for not signing up is so much lower than premiums, lots of people will just wait until they’re sick before buying insurance.

Now, that might be the smart play — for cynics.

But you’re not cynical. You didn’t vote for Obama and cheer the passage of Obamacare because it was the cool thing to do. You did your homework. You want to share the sacrifice. You want to secure the president’s legacy.

And now’s your chance to prove it.

I think it would be best for these lines to be read out loud.  When he says “But you’re not cynical,” it has to be delivered with that special tone of voice one has when one’s caught another in a reductio.  He’s not being hortatory – as though he’s saying: I predict that you will not be cynics.  No, he’s saying: I expect you to be cynics, as you’ve been cynics all along… because your votes were bought by Obama’s policies regarding student loans and extended coverage under parental health care.  Now that you have to bear the burden, you’ll resent it.

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OK quoque

Just in: James Inhofe  (R- OK) is now plugging for federal disaster aid for the tornado damage in Oklahoma.  That’s fine.  Ah, but he and his colleague, Tom Coburn (R-OK) were famously against similar aid for the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy. Oh, that’s weird.  I wonder what Inhofe has to say about that:

That was totally different. . . . They were getting things, for instance, that was supposed to be in New Jersey. . . . They had things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there, they were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma.

First, off, he’s opposed to funding help for those battered by a storm because he’s worried about grift?  Sheesh.  Second, if it does happen in OK, is he on the hook then?  Oh, and Inhofe and Coburn have a long history of opposing funding FEMA (despite the fact that OK has among the most disasters).

Senator Coburn wants the help, too.  He proposes to pay for it by cutting other federal programs.

Again, we have a case where we must ask whether we have a case of acceptable tu quoque.  We’ve regularly here at the NS argued that cases of tu quoque that show double standards are appropriate and relevant.  Similar cases should be judged similarly, and it zip code is not a relevant reason to change one’s view on whether funding is deserved.  So reveling in the hypocrisy charge here isn’t for the sake of feeling hate toward someone or to score points on a vice, but to show that someone’s not been an honest arbiter with reasons.  That’s what’s happening here.  It’s not schadenfreude, it’s not ad hominem abuse.  It’s evidence that someone doesn’t proceed fairly.  That’s what it shows, and when your constituency is suffering, you understand the role of government support.  That’s what the hypocrisy charges amount to.

 

 

You would have noticed this hypocrisy… if you weren’t such a hypocrite

Jonah Goldberg at NRO rings up a fantastic subjunctive tu quoque:

Yes, it’s extremely unlikely he ordered the IRS to discriminate against tea-party. . . . And his outrage now — however convenient — is appreciated. But when people he views as his “enemies” complained about a politicized IRS, what did he do? Nothing.

Imagine for a moment if black civil-rights organizations, gay groups, or teachers’ unions loudly complained to members of Congress and the press that the IRS was discriminating against them. How long would it take for the White House to investigate? Answer honestly: Minutes? Hours?

The overall form of subjunctive tu quoque is not that you have actual inconsistent behavior or double standards, but that you would have them.  You just know it!  Of course, this form of tu quoque requires, for the subjunctive to be accepted, that the audience think the President is a hypocrite and an employer of double standards.  So, often, the subjuctive form of the tu quoque isn’t an argument from hypocrisy, but one to it.

**A later addition to the post 5/21/2013**

For other discussions of  subjunctive tu quoque, see Colin’s original post HERE, and John’s got a lengthy discussion HERE, and we three co-wrote a paper that appeared in INQUIRY about a year back, which I’ve posted on my Academia.edu page HERE. For cases that tu quoque arguments are regularly relevant, see one of my recent posts on it HERE, and my essay in Informal Logic HERE.