Tag Archives: “gotcha!”

Now THIS Is An Ad Hominem Attack! or “Boy, Is Howard Dean An Ass, or What?”

 

"True, Harry didn't go to college, but he's a Democrat."

“True, Harry didn’t go to college, but he’s a Democrat.”

People commenting on Ethics Alarms constantly accuse me of making ad hominem attacks, when what they mean to say is “You’re name-calling.” I’ll cop to name-calling. It’s can be a bad habit, but it has its uses, best illustrated when President Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” The description was true, and it immediately focused values-based criticism on a government and culture that needed it and deserved it.

Ad hominem, in contrast, is a logical fallacy in which one attempts to counter a substantive argument by attacking the character or other aspects of the advocate that can’t possibly have any bearing on the argument’s validity. For example, “you’re uglier than a pug” does nothing to disprove the substance of your adversary’s position, even if he is. Similarly, Bill Cosby has argued, even before 34 women accused him of raping them, that his advocacy of black community responsibility should not be undermined because of questions about his own rectitude.

There is nothing inherently fallacious, however, about diagnosing the conduct or statements of someone as proof that he or she is a fool, or a liar, or a jerk. It may not be civil, and it may be unfair, but it is not an ad hominem attack. As I have  explained it before, if I say you are an idiot because I think your comments are idiotic, that is a legitimate, if rebuttable assumption. (I may also be using “you are an idiot” as shorthand for “you are talking/sounding/acting like an idiot, and should avoid that.”) If I say you are an idiot, and therefor everything you say must be dismissed and ignored as the rantings of an idiot, that’s an unethical debating technique, ducking the argument by impugning the advocate.

Distinguishing between these very different but similar-appearing phenomenon can be a problem when trying to be fair to someone whose prior statements and conduct have already generated a negative diagnosis, and thus a bias. I have concluded, for example, that Joe Biden is a dolt, that Michele Bachmann is not playing with a full deck; that Sarah Palin is intellectually lazy and irresponsible, that Newt Gingrich is manipulative and untrustworthy, that Bill Maher is a pompous, none-too-bright blowhard and that Howard Dean is a vicious and unscrupulous ideologue. Nonetheless, I have to fight to assess what they say on the basis of merit, not my well-considered assumptions. It’s hard. When an idiot asserts something, is it unreasonable to be more skeptical of the statement than one would if, say, a brilliant, credentialed, unbiased observer said the same thing? (Wow—I can’t think of a single one!) No. And this is why ad hominem attacks, especially coy, subtle, clever ad hominem attacks, work so well in politics.

This brings us to that vicious and unscrupulous ideologue, Howard Dean. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney’s Apologizes For Saying “All Lives Matter”: Is There A Problem?

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.

There is a problem, all right, but not the one you might think—at least not this time.

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney attempted to  show support for her students  protesting racism and police brutality by sending a campus-wide email titled, “All Lives Matter.” But the official slogan of such protests is “black lives matter.” McCartney immediately came under fire from black students and others, accusing her of minimizing the specific nature of her concerns. “No, Kathy. Please do not send out an email saying ‘All lives matter.’ This isn’t about everyone, this is about black lives,” Sophia Buchanan, a Smith student, in a typical critique.

The college President apologized several hours later, saying that she hadn’t thought about the fact that “all lives matter” was being used by some as a rebuttal to “black lives matter”:

“I regret that I was unaware the phrase/hashtag ‘all lives matter’ has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against Black people…. “It minimizes the anti-blackness of this the current situation; yes, all lives matter, but not all lives are being targeted for police brutality. The black students at this school deserve to have their specific struggles and pain recognized, not dissolved into the larger student body.”

That statement put her in the cross-hairs of the “conservative media” and others, who treated it as a full-fledged “gotcha!” What??? Saying that all lives matter is offensive now? What next Orwellian proposition will political correctness bullies demand from spineless college administrators? Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Ethics Quiz: A Sexual Assault By The President?

"Kiss me, you saucy wench!"

“Kiss me, you saucy wench!”

I owe blogger Ann Althouse big time for this:  What an alert and accomplished troublemaker she is!

This seems like a “gotcha!” and it is certainly that. It is more, however, and raises both illuminating and difficult issues. Here is the video of Obama’s encounter while voting in Chicago today:

Here is Althouse:

“I thought only “yes” means yes: Did Obama get true, verbalized consent from that woman before he kissed her?  No. He did not…Obama orders her to kiss him: “You’re gonna kiss me. Give him something to talk about. Now, he’s really jealous.” As you see in the video, he makes that declarative statement and immediately grabs her and kisses and hugs her. Why is that acceptable? He’s using her in an effort to regain dignity and to humiliate the man who humiliated him. It might all be dismissed as play humiliation and play counter-humiliation. But the woman’s body was used as an object of that play, a means of communication between men.”

When I ran an all-female staff for a mostly rich old guy association, I gave a standing order that no staffer would submit to a kiss from a member, no matter how “playful” and no matter how high-ranking the man was. There can be no consent in such situations, and a man saying “You’re going to kiss me” and doing it a) without free and open consent and 2) under the duress and the compulsion of superior power (Gee, do you think the President of the United States automatically carries that with him? Not sure? Ask Bill Clinton.) has engaged in textbook sexual assault and battery. This conduct, which has been the subject of a major initiative by the Democrat feminist base this year, counts encounters just like the one in the video as the kind of campus sexual assault that gives them the “one in five women are victims” narrative to stoke this skirmish in the “war on women.” So your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz—and I suggest you reflect a while before you answer—is this:

Is what Obama did in the video ethical, in the sense that it was responsible, respectful, fair, acknowledging autonomy, not an abuse of power or position, and most of all, meeting the strict standard of male-female interaction that is being aggressively and pugnaciously advanced by his feminist supporters?

Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society

Obama’s Coffee Cup Salute “Gotcha!”

Scotty SaluteSome controversies instantly inspire everyone on all sides to be petty, stupid, and unfair. This is just such a controversy.

The White House  posted a video of President Barack Obama awkwardly saluting a Marine as Obama exited the presidential helicopter, Marine One. He did so while holding a styrofoam coffee cup, which he brought to his forehead as well. This sparked critical comments from Republicans, conservatives and veterans that Obama was showing disrespect for the military.

This is the epitome of a petty “Gotcha!” that guarantees sympathy for the President. I would be surprised if there are not  examples of most Presidents botching return salutes, especially those, like Obama and Clinton, who had no experience in the military. (President Eisenhower presumably never had this salute problem.) Obama also was pretty pathetic when he had to throw out the first pitch in a major league baseball game. Oh, so what? Republicans really think that these deficiencies prove Obama is disrespectful of the military, or of the National Pastime? There are so many stronger indications. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Leadership, War and the Military

Sen. Gillibrand and The Pigs

"I yield to the distinguished gentleman from the sty..."

“I yield to the distinguished gentleman from the sty…”

People magazine revealed an intriguing bit of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) new memoir, “Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice to Change the World” that suggests that members of the Senate are not the “Distinguished Gentlemen” they are supposed to be, at least when it comes to basic manners involving female colleagues:

“Gillibrand isn’t especially offended by her coworkers’ remarks. ‘It was all statements that were being made by men who were well into their 60s, 70s or 80s,’ she says. ‘They had no clue that those are inappropriate things to say to a pregnant woman or a woman who just had a baby or to women in general.’ ”

Now some critics on the Right are using this as a “gotcha!”, suggesting that Gillibrand is protecting Democrats from negative attention for the same kinds of conduct that Gillibrand’s party and colleagues are quick to use against Republicans in its “war on women” strategy.

This accusation is beyond disingenuous, not to mention stupid. If Gillibrand were to publicly accuse a GOP colleague of such conduct, she would be accused, by these same critics, of being a hysteric, a bad colleague, unprofessional and petty—and they would be right. No professional woman responds to this kind of crude, obnoxious, “Look! I’ve-been-hiding-in-since-1970,” training-wheels harassment by making a public accusation that embarrasses not just the individual at fault but the organization they both work for. For Gillibrand to do this in the U.S. Senate would instantly make her a pariah even in her own party.

More importantly, it would be wrong. Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Workplace

The Harry Reid Asian Jokes “Gotcha!”

margaret cho_lead shot

Sen. Reid’s crime: Pretending to be a white, old, male, unfunny Margaret Cho.

I cannot pass up an opportunity to come to the defense of Senator Harry Reid regarding a supposed ethical breach that doesn’t exist.

The Democratic Senate leader was addressing the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, and at one point told the audience, “I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are.” Later, when another man named Wong came  to the podium, Reid took the microphone and ad-libbed, “One problem I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”

The horror.

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Race

Donald Rumsfeld And The Irony Of Hair-Trigger Race-baiters

chimp-jackLook around the web, and you will find some vituperative leftist bloggers and tweeters condemning Donald Rumsfeld as a racist, based on his criticism of Barack Obama. True, any criticism of Barack Obama is presumptively racist—did anyone predict that an unintended consequence of the first black President would be de facto suppression of legitimate political criticism?—-but Rumsfeld, we are told, really proved he’s just like all conservatives, Republicans and teapartiers because he recently said, criticizing the Obama administration’s eminently criticizable  policies in Afghanistan:

“A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement. It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.”

GOTCHA! Comparing a black President to an ape! Proof positive of racial bigotry!

Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race