Category Archives: Ad hominem circumstantial

Enemy of the state

Today the Washington Post has given Dinesh D’Souza a forum to defend his recent book from the near universal chorus of devastating criticisms (many of which concern obvious and colossal errors of fact). But D’Souza doesn’t have the faintest idea how to defend himself, because he does not appreciate or perhaps understand the nature of rational criticism. Sure, much of the criticism was put forward in harsh tones, but that shouldn’t distract D’Souza, a “scholar” at the Hoover Institution, from addressing its content. As he winds up his lengthy apologia pro sterco suo he writes:

>All my arguments can be disputed, but they are neither extreme nor absurd. So why has “The Enemy at Home” been so intemperately excoriated? I can imagine only two reasons. The first is given by James Wolcott himself. I am not, as he says, an unqualified right-wing hack. Rather, I am a scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, so Wolcott fears that I will be taken seriously.

When I read the reviews in the New York Times and the Post (Wolcott, as far as I know, hasn’t written a review of the book), I was struck by the arguments of the reviewers. They pointed out that D’Souza’s history was hallucinatory and his logic specious. Those are criticisms relating to the book’s content. But the best D’Souza can do here is attempt to divine the psychological motives of the reviewers. There’s no need at all for that. They have told you that your book is “a national disgrace”.

The second of D’Souza’s conclusion is even more delusional:

>The second reason can be gleaned from the common theme in the reviews: that mine is a dangerous book. But if a book says things that are obviously untrue and can be disproved, then it is not dangerous — it is merely fiction and should be ignored. A book is dangerous only if it exposes something in the culture that some people are eager to keep hidden.

Yours is a dangerous book, dear fellow, because–according to the reviews mind you (the content of which you seem to have ignored)–it has asserted many falsehoods and made appalling arguments. It has lowered the level of the national discussion and emboldened the enemies of civil discourse.


James Wolcott did read the book in galley form (click here for the review). Thanks to Vagabond Scholar for the tip.


We pulled the following from the comments of Mr.Mayo. It's an analysis of Bush's speech mentioned here. Here’s what i caught: >“The issue on the economy is a big issue in any campaign. And I want the people of this district to know, plain and simple, that if Richard’s opponent wins, your taxes will go up. Make no mistake about it. The Democrat Party is anxious to get their hands on your money.” False cause with perhaps a little ad hominem abusive thrown in at the end. >“The key issue in this campaign is the security of the United States of America. You got to understand a lot of my thinking about the world changed on September the 11th, 2001. I make a lot of decisions on your behalf, and many of those decisions were affected by the fact that we lost nearly 3,000 of our citizens, 3,000 innocent lives on our soil on that fateful day. I vowed then, and I’ve vowed ever since, to use every national asset at my disposal to protect the American people.” Perhaps it’s a reach, but there seems to be bit of suppressed evidence here, namely that the war he is positing as protecting the American people has claimed more American lives than did September 11th. If he’s going to cite the loss of lives on 9/11 as the basis for his war, then he’s ignoring the fact that the war has cost more than 9/11, monetarily and in lives lost. >“You can’t negotiate with these people. You cannot hope that they will go away. I like to remind people, therapy isn’t going to work. The best way to deal with these folks is to bring them to justice before they hurt America again. “ Classic Bushman (can i coin that term in place of the strawman? he uses the thing so often maybe it should bear his name). Has anyone proposed negotiating with Al Queda? Or having a “therapy” session with Bush, Cheney, Osama, and Zawahiri down at Bob Newhart’s office? Do we need to be “reminded” of this? Does he seriously believe this?! He’s created a whole new genre of political discourse. Rather than distort the argument of his opponent, he creates a whole new opponent along with the argument. >“Our fellow citizens ought to listen to the words of Osama bin Laden, and Mr. Zawahiri, who is his number two in al Qaeda. They have clearly stated that Iraq is a central front in their war against us. “ Again, suppressing the evidence. Islamism was strictly nefas in Saddam’s Iraq; then we march in, guns blazing, Texas-style and turn it into a breeding ground for terrorism. Yet once again, he pretends there was no antecedent cause to Iraq’s becoming Osama’s recruiting poster. >“Al Qaeda’s leadership has told us loud and clear in their own words their ambitions are to develop new safe haven from which to launch attacks.” Now he’s Bushmanning Osama! They don’t want to create a “safe haven” in Iraq, for the simple reason that they already have a safe haven in the Afghnai/Pakistani borderlands, which was made possible at least in part because we couldn’t press our attack there because we were gearing up for an invasion of Iraq. They just want to point to Iraq and say to disenfranchised Muslim youth,”Look! We were right all along! They do want to come over here and take your land, your oil, and your religion.” >“The House Democrat Leader summed up her party’s approach to the midterm elections. She said this — and I quote — she said this election “should not be about national security.” I strongly disagree. The security of this country comes first, as far as I’m concerned. And this government, with supporters like Richard Pombo, will do everything we can to protect you. (Applause.) Of course, to give the Leader some credit, given her party’s record on national security, I can see why she feels that way. (Laughter.) I wouldn’t want to be talking about the record, either. “ Ad Hominem Circumstantial. Perhaps what Pelosi really meant is there might be other pertinent issues that should occupy the campaign slate, but then again, she’s just saying that because she’s a Democrat and they can’t talk national security, because their poor record in this area predisposes them to focus on other areas.

The last refuge

We’ve been debating this for a while, but it’s time we took another turn through the internet tubes.

This from Instapundit, a right wing blogger, on 11/11/2005:

>The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way — and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it’s deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.

>And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they’re acting unpatriotically.


>UPDATE: Reader Kathleen Boerger emails: “Could you do me a favor and define ‘patriotism’ please?”

>I think it starts with not uttering falsehoods that damage the country in time of war, simply because your donor base wants to hear them.

>Patriotic people could — and did — oppose the war. But so did a lot of scoundrels. And some who supported the war were not patriotic, if they did it out of opportunism or political calculation rather than honest belief. Those who are now trying to recast their prior positions through dishonest rewriting of history are not patriotic now, nor were they when they supported the war, if they did so then out of opportunism –which today’s revisionist history suggests.

We’re intrigued that patriotism asks so little of the patriot: simply believe the irresponsible tripe you say. So, one might wonder, how does patriotism differ from just plain honesty?

And this underscores the general pointlessness of questioning others’ motives–the you’re just saying that because (you want to be on TV, you want sympathy, you want money, you want votes, girls, attention and so on): motives are private, often even to ourselves. The only things we can fairly and responsibly judge are *reasons*–yes, the things that compose *arguments*.

If we confined ourselves to arguments, we’d all be better off.