Archive for the ‘Ad Hominem’ Category

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Hitler was a Vegetarian

January 30, 2010

Joy of joys, Osama bin Laden has just gotten all up in our shit about our failure to act on climate change. It is a ticklish pleasure whenever history’s great super-villains lecture us on our moral failings.

Best part about this? It demonstrates, beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt — a doubtful shadow of reason? — the moral depravity of caring about the earth. Either that, or it illustrates just how cozy the enviros are with Al Qaida. Veritable jihadists next door, I tell you.

Meanwhile, it may have escaped the world’s attention, but both Hitler and Osama bin Laden are heterosexuals. Mighty curious, then, that the NFL would deign to ban this ad from the Superbowl. Coincidence? I think not.

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Attacking the Man

November 5, 2009

Now is the time to initiate a discussion of one of the great stand-by rhetorical tricks in politics, law, and advertising: the ad hominem argument. Bloggers love to throw the term ‘ad hominem‘ around, charging one enemy with lobbing ad hominem arguments, and then falling subject to nasty counter-charges that they are the ones instead who have made a “personal attack.”

It is clear to me, at least, that a good portion of those who throw out the charge of ad hominem often don’t understand the fallacy.  Joe Romm falls for the prank in his recent post in which he comes to Al Gore’s defense. Romm spends a fair number of words explaining that Al Gore isn’t poised to become the world’s first carbon billionaire.

My thinking? So what if he is? Whether Gore is or isn’t poised to profit off of climate change is a distraction, an irrelevance, a stupid sophistry used by ideologically-driven hacks to push their agenda.

The ad hominem is one of many fallacies of relevance. I spoke earlier about fallacies of relevance in the Cherry Ping Pong thread. Ultimately, fallacies of relevance are tricky li’l buggers, because some claims that smell like a fallacy of relevance are, in fact, relevant. What’s tricky is that when one encounters a fallacy of relevance, what has to be demonstrated is the relevance of the charge, not that such-and-such a charge is true. One has to demonstrate that it matters that Little Bunny Foo Foo is an alcoholic. One can’t just demonstrate that Foo Foo is an alcoholic.

So there’s that. And then there are other confusions as well…

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