A post or two ago I made the claim that columnists and arguers in general ought to have some lattitude in defining their opponent's argument(s). One only has 750 or so words, so one can't possibly be expected to provide thorough references.
The breadth of this lattitude, however, ought to be determined by reality. This means one ought to use the means available to pin the argument to an actual person or institution whose view is under discussion. In the days of linkage, this is not very hard: online versions of columns can and often do have links. When you say something about some person x's view, you can write it as a link ot the place where that person says what you say she says. Once we have these, then we can discuss the degree to which they are representative of the opposition's case.
The weird thing about this is that you'd also think in the days of linkage the readers' demands for such precision would increase, not decrease. I don't have empirical data on this, but I think it's decreased.
In his Aug. 27 column, Charles Krauthammer offered negative generalizations and accusations about "liberals" — referring to their "promiscuous charges of bigotry" and saying that they give "no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument" and resort "reflexively to the cheapest race baiting," without citing as an example one statement from any so-called liberal person or organization. Surely with liberals running amok and using such baseless and terrible rhetoric, he could have cited a few examples to better make his case.
He stated also that liberals have lost the debate on every issue he cited in the court of public opinion by often lopsided margins, without citing any polling data. My reading of the polls on the issues he listed is that public opinion is much more nuanced than he acknowledged.
By his polemical, over-the-top attack on liberals in general, Mr. Krauthammer practiced what he condemned — giving no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument.
Hurray for this reader. The reader makes another very important observation at the end. Columnists–right wing ones especially–work dialectically. They're allegedly trying to convince the unconvinced. But then again, maybe they're not and maybe that's the entire problem.