Category Archives: Ad Hominem Abusive

On the attack. . .

It’s perpetually entertaining to me when writers for argumentative partisan publications fail to understand or appreciate the basic idea of an argument. An argument, as any freshman in philosophy 101 knows, is a series of statement meant to establish some other statement. Rational people make them in order either to convince themselves or others of some proposition. Arguments constitute the very basis of rational discourse between people of differing viewpoints. When those fail, the chanting can begin.

Take these two examples from two National Review Online writers. Cliff May complains:

>I enjoy a good debate as much as the next guy but, increasingly, the next guy doesn’t want to argue — he wants to demonize me. He doesn’t want to win the debate; he wants to shut it down.

>Whether the topic is global warming or Saddam Hussein’s links to terrorists, daring to contradict the “consensus” brings hoots and hollers and worse. My most recent experience with such intolerance of diversity of opinion may be instructive.

He then goes on to point out an instance in which Glenn Greenwald argued with him–I mean, “went on the attack”:

>Glenn Greenwald, at the online magazine Salon, went on the attack — but what he had to say was oddly non-responsive to my question. To establish that the voters’ message in November had been “Get out of Iraq!” would require showing that candidates, particularly in competitive races, had pledged to support what Greenwald calls a “Congressionally compelled withdrawal of troops from Iraq by a date certain.”

And it continues. But it’s obvious that the evidence May gathers for people not wanting to argue makes exactly the opposite point. May didn’t argue anything. He asserted some claim that was challenged by someone else. That’s what an argument is. He’s not attacking you, he’s questioning whether what you say is true. The difference ought to be clear.

The second item comes from Jonah Goldberg, writing for National Review Online as well. He writes:

>I try not to let the lefty piling-on of late bug me. But that doesn’t mean it’s not nice to have someone stick up for me every now and then. So many thanks to Steve Burton over at Right Reason for recognizing that, whatever my faults, there is something like a Goldberg Derangement Syndrome out there (as one reader puts it).

As May points out in his piece, some people (an emailer in his case–nutpicking again) won’t engage. But many do. And it’s wrong to lump all of your critics in the same group. Learn to tell the difference.

Three part invention

I can only be bothered to come up with three. There are many many more problems with this abysmal piece by George Will today. While it does make sense to adjust gas prices for inflation, the rest of his conclusions show a manifest ignorance about the nature of the energy problem and a reprehensible tendency to ridicule anyone who takes it seriously.

Here’s the first part:

>The next wave of stories about “soaring” gas prices will predictably trigger some politicians’ indignation about oil companies’ profits. The day after Exxon Mobil’s announcement that it earned $39.5 billion in 2006, Hillary Clinton said: “I want to take those profits, and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy, alternatives and technologies that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence.”

Here’s the second:

>Clinton’s “take” reveals her confiscatory itch. Her clunky “toward the direction of” suggests that she actually knows that independence is as chimerical a goal as Soviet grain production goals were.

The third:

>America produces about one-quarter of the 20.6 million barrels of oil it uses a day. Unfortunately, just as liberals love employees but not employers, they want energy independence but do not want to drill in the “pristine” (read: desolate) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ( potential yield: 10.4 billion barrels) and are reluctant to countenance drilling offshore.

Read the rest. There’s more.


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.

It’s not a fallacy if you do it

Reasoning fallaciously is like lying–it’s not wrong if *you* do it. On that topic, I stumbled across this from the blogosphere:

>Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. [Sigmund Freud – unsubstantiated attribution]

>Then I get this email telling me that when I apply the epithet “idiots” to those with whom I disagree, I am guilty of using the logical phallacy, oops, Freudian slip, I mean using the logical fallacy of “Ad Hominem”. Instead of attacking the arguments and premises of my opponent, I attack on the basis of some irrelevant fact, like his intelligence.

>So I ask my dear readers, what do you make of this? [with a tip of the turban Hat Tip to GOP and College]

[missing here is a picture of a protester with a sign that reads: “If Hezbollah hides among civilians, the IDF has no choice– It must hold fire”]

>liberal idiot moron imbecile

>For the life of me, I tried to think of the correct appellative to apply to this leftwing nutjob and after hours of excruciating and rigorous exercise of my little grey cells I could not come up with anything more accurate, more descriptive, more truthful than Liberal Idiot. And although, in the main, it is a shabby argument to use, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a liberal is just an idiot.

>Anyone else out there want to give it a try?

I’ll give it a try. And yes, Jimmy, you are guilty of the fallacy of ad hominem. If you don’t know what that is, then click that link for other examples. Or just go here for an explanation.

The reason–yes there is a reason–you’re guilty of this fallacy is this. If the fellow with the poster makes *an assertion* you consider idiotic, then it’s (a) up to *you* to show the assertion is idiotic and (b) conclude as a result that the person making the assertion is an idiot. (a) is easy. You only need an argument. (b) is harder, because idiots say smart things all of the time, and smart people say idiotic things even more often. So the idiocy of the sign-holder, you see, is irrelevant to the idiocy of the sign, unless you show, as you probably could, that they’re linked.

So, just because you can’t think of of an argument against a sign-holding protester (a pointless endeavor in our estimation–argue against people with arguments for Chrissake–doesn’t excuse you from the basic rules of rational discourse.