Tag Archives: ad hominem attack

From The “A Nation Of Assholes”* Files:

Stay classy, Democrats!

The protester is Jim Gargan of Akron, Ohio as the President arrived in Youngstown for his campaign-style rally yesterday.

For the unenlightened, this is what we call an ad hominem attack.

*Reference here.

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Pointer: Other Bill

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

The New York Times’ Lies About “Trump’s Lies”

In a grandstanding stunt that was even beneath the fallen role model of U.S. journalism, The New York Times printed what it claimed to be “the definitive list of Donald Trump’s lies” since his inauguration. To say the the list was itself full of lies, and that the over-all assertion that these were “Trump’s lies” was a misrepresentation, is not in any way to excuse the President’s lazy, careless, incompetent use of language, impulsive habits of communication, shockingly inept reasoning and  reckless tweeting. Almost all of the statements quoted by the Times contain misinformation, irresponsible opinions  or unwarranted conclusions, and it is dangerous and disruptive for any leader, indeed anyone, to express themselves this way. Nevertheless, the statements are not all lies. Most of them, in fact, are not lies.

Does it matter? It does. When the New York Times call a list “definitive,’ that list should at a minimum meet the definition of what the New York Times claims to be exposing. It does not. The definition of a lie is a “a deliberately false statement designed to deceive.”

If we assume that the New York Times knows what a lie is, and if the Times does not then it should have no credibility at all, since a journalist’s mission is to report the truth, then the list proves that the New York Times deliberately set out to deceive its readers.

At one point, the Times says,

“We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.”

This is a self-contradictory statement. If a falsehood isn’t deliberate, then it isn’t a lie.

In presenting this unethical project, the Times took unethical advantage of its readers’ confirmation bias. When the “Lie” list was printed, the Times made certain that it would require super-human dedication and extraordinary eyesight to read it, through the devices of listing every item and the Times commentary in horizontal sequence and in half the usual size type-face. (See above) This ensured that almost no readers would make the Herculean effort to read the whole thing , especially since the well-trained Times readers already “knows” that Donald Trump is a liar. In addition, the explosion of tiny words created the visceral response of “Wow! Look at all those lies!” which is exactly the effect the Times editors wanted.

But that isn’t reporting, and it isn’t journalism. The “list” was a page-size, visual, ad hominem attack. The Times wasn’t seeking close scrutiny of its list, nor was it interested in making any rebuttal easy or likely.

We have learned that the Times list was largely assembled from various fact-checker columns. That is a red flag, and explains many of the most embarrassing inclusions on the list. None of the fact-checkers are trustworthy. All of them are biased, Snopes and PolitiFact worst of all, and they consistently register opinions that the writer disagrees with as “false.” Many, many of the items on the Times list are in this category.

I’m not going to go over the entire list here and distinguish between the lies and non-lies, though I have done the analysis. My template for an undisputed Presidential lie would be Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”—he did, and he said this deliberately to deceive; and Barack Obama’s “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” declaration that he made repeatedly to sell Obamacare to the American people in 2009. The “women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job” is a fake statistic that both Clinton  and Obama (and Hillary and Bernie) used, but that would not qualify as a lie on my scale.  I think they believe it, or believe that it’s close enough to true that they aren’t lying when they refer to it. Many of the “lies” on the list fall into this gray area. Of course, the Times never set out to list all of Obama’s lies, or Clinton’s, because they never wanted to suggest either of them were untrustworthy, though a good argument could be made that Clinton was, and Obama regularly engaged in deceit and misrepresentation. To its credit, the Post’s Factchecker did create a list of outgoing President Obama’s “Top Ten Whoppers.”

Many statements that Obama made that were much like dozens of the items on the Trump list were never called “lies” in the mainstream media, as when he attacked the Supreme Court and the Citizens United ruling in a State of the Union address by saying that the decision “will open the floodgates for special interests”…“ including foreign corporations”…” to spend without limit in our elections.” (Justice Alito was seen mouthing “not true” and shaking his head.”)

Unfortunately for the Times, listing “Trump’s lies” chronologically exposed the dishonest and biased nature of the exercise from the start. The first three “lies” are not lies.: Continue reading

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Incompetence Saturday’s Unethical Quote Of The Day: NBC News Reporter Daniel Arkin

“President Donald Trump returned to one of his most derogatory insults Friday, referring to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” — a jab at her Native American ancestry.”

—-NBC reporter Daniel Arkin, reporting on the President’s speech to the NRA in Atlanta this week.

Now, you might argue that this is very competent smearing by Arkin, abetted by NBC. But let’s assume, just to be nice, or naive, that Arkin wasn’t intentionally falsely suggesting that the President was engaging in racial denigration of Warren’s ancestry. This would mean that he either has done no research on his subject or that he credulously accepts whatever Democrats say.

Now, I will stipulate that calling the Senator playground-level names is unprofessional, uncivil, obnoxious, un-presidential and an ad hominem attack by President Trump. This is one of his many terrible and apparently unalterable habits. Nevertheless, calling Warren “Pocahontas” is not Trump denigrating her “Native American ancestry,” but rather a reference to Warren’s well-documented false claims of having Native American ancestry, claims that she used to get the benefit of affirmative action when she was seeking a position in academia. Warren has no actual Native American ancestry to mock. What is worthy of mockery—though not by the President of the United States–is her fake assumption of a minority personal to benefit her career at the expense of others.

Arkin misrepresented the facts—Warren can produce no evidence that she is even a smidgen Cherokee, as she maintained for years—either to make the President appear to be racist, or because Arkin is a completely incompetent journalist, influenced by confirmation bias to the detriment of his readers.

Dishonest or incompetent? The result is unethical journalism and fake news either way.

_____________________

Pointer: Instapundit

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Bias Makes The News Media Stupid, But It Makes Politicians Untrustworthy Jerks

Dad warned me about people like you, Al...

Dad warned me about people like you, Al…

The Stupid: Journalists

Let me begin by saying how happy I am that the mainstream news medias “fake news” gambit, where it attempted to blame President Trump’s election on ridiculous hoax stories spread on social media to distract from its own biased, dishonest and incompetent reporting, has blown up in its metaphorical face like those Acme booby traps do to Wile E. Coyote.

Here’s a new and especially stupid example of the biased, dishonest and incompetent reporting, although “dishonest” wasn’t in play.

The website Pop Suger posted an extremely inept and confusing story concerning U.S. Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who made history in the 2016 Olympics as the first female Muslim American to medal for the United States and the first American to compete in the Games wearing a hijab. The site and the reporter signal their untrustworthiness and Bias Makes You Stupid (BMYS) credentials by writing of the controversial immigration halt Executive Order,

“The executive order blocked thousands of refugees, immigrants, and visitors from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States before it was struck down by a judge many days later.”

No, you ignorant dolts, the order was not and has not been “struck down.” It has been subject to a temporary restraining order, which is absolutely not the same as being struck down, as any second year law student intern could have told you if you cared more about accurate reporting  than bashing the President.

The story described Muhammad’s statements when she took the stage at a conference last week  and answered a question about the “travel ban” by saying that she had been personally “held at Customs for two hours just a few weeks ago.”  The athlete is not as adept at time sense as she is at her sport, because she eventually had to clarify that “just a few weeks ago” meant “in December.”   The website followed  with an update, but never mind. TIME saw her statement, didn’t check the time frame or notice the update, and tweeted yesterday (remember, the story was clarified two days before, and was wrong to begin with) the headline in TIME’s “Motto.”

“Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad was detained because of President Trump’s travel ban”

The U.K.’s Independent went with a story titled, “US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad says she was detained by Customs after Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban.’

The Hill published an article whose opening paragraph read, “A Muslim-American Olympic medalist says she was detained by Customs for nearly two hours without explanation after President Trump’s travel ban was instituted a few weeks ago.”

Sports Illustrated and ESPN also published stories implying that Muhammad’s Customs detention was triggered by Trump’s immigration order,  and other journalists and pundits expressed indignation on social media.

Remember,  Muhammad was detained in December of 2016. Barack Obama was President. Trump’s Executive Order was just a twinkle in his eye. Continue reading

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Women’s March Ethics: Now THAT’S Ad Hominem!

ashley-judd

Ashley Judd, indulging her inner Trump.

I often have to correct commenters on Ethics Alarms who accuse me of engaging in the argument fallacy of ad hominem after I pronounced them jerks, fools, or idiots based on their comments. (I shouldn’t do that, but sometimes I can’t help myself, and if it stops me from going crazy from all the stuff I have to  read every day to decide what gets published, we all benefit. well, I do, at least.) No, I explain, with more or less patience, that’s not ad hominem. It would be ad hominem if I wrote, “Your argument can be safely ignored because you are an idiot.” Then I would be using an author’s presumed character, intelligence or acumen to discredit his or her opinion. That’s unfair and illogical. An argument derives its value and persuasiveness from its contents, not its messenger. It would also be an ad hominem attack if I responded to a comment with a stream of vile insults.

If, however, I read a comment, determine it to be based on bad facts, bias, poor reasoning and faulty logic, I may justly conclude that only a dolt would express such an opinion in public, and say so, as in, “You are a dolt.” That is a diagnosis—an insulting one, to be sure, but still just a diagnosis.

Now, thanks to actress Ashley Judd’s performance today at the Washington, D.C. version of “The Women’s March,” I can use her as an illustration of what an ad hominem attack is, and why it should be avoided.

Judd read a poem by an angry 19-year-old, that contained the lines..

“I am a nasty women.’I’m not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust…I’m not as nasty as your own daughter being your favorite sex symbol, your wet dreams infused with your own genes…”

Stay classy, Ashley.

You see, mocking someone’s appearance—it is a cardinal sin if it is a woman’s appearance that is being mocked, of course, adding hypocrisy to the mix—is pure, unadulterated ad hominem. It is also gratuitous meanness that has no communication value other than to say, “I hate you.” “I hate you” is not an argument. In fact, “I hate you” is a statement of bias. I can’t trust the assessment of an individual regarding what another individual says or believes if the critical individual hates him.

Additionally, the denigration is pure tit for tat, Rationalization 7.  That’s Donald Trump’s favorite rationalization. Stooping to Trump’s favorite method of debate, name-calling, isn’t persuasive or helpful. I’m sure it feels good, though. I guess that’s enough for Ashley and all the protesting women who clapped and cheered.

Morons.

See, now that isn’t ad hominem, because by behaving like this, Judd undermines the whole protest. And that’s just plain stupid. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Donald Trump (Of Course!)

“Take a look. You look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

Donald Trump, denying People Magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff’s claim that he “brought her into a room, shut the door, “and within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat.”

This is Trump accuser Cassandra Searles, who, Donald Trump wants us to know, IS the kind of woman he sexually assaults...

This is Trump accuser Cassandra Searles, who, Donald Trump wants us to know, IS the kind of woman he sexually assaults…

This comes as close to being funny as a man running for President who proves his sexism and misogyny even in the act of denying them can be. It is tragic, however.

Trump can’t help himself. He can’t help himself for two reasons. The first reason is that he really does, deep down, believe that women exist on earth for purely the carnal enjoyment of men, particularly wealth and powerful men. This is part of his world view, and he is incapable of changing or learning. When Trump said, in his second pseudo-apology for his recorded 2005 comments, that he had “changed,” implying that he had changed in regard to his enthusiastic endorsement of privileged sexual assault, he was lying, straight up. This comment, which is an ad hominem attack upon and insult to his accuser, proves it, not that the claim wasn’t an obvious lie when he said it in the apology video.

The second reason is that the man literally is incapable of thinking through what he says before he says it. We already knew this, too. He has pitiful self-control, de minimus common sense, and the  judgment of  Ryan Lochte.

In this instance, Trump reminded me of Fredo’s downfall  in “Godfather II,” when mere minutes after he pretends to not know Johnny Ola, Hyman Roth’s henchman (having previously denied to his Godfather brother that he had ever had any contact with him), Fredo loudly contradicts himself by telling the group including his brother that Johnny Ola had recommended the Havana sex club Fredo had brought them to.  Fredo, being an idiot, doesn’t even realize what he has done. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Naked Trump Statues

Naked Trump

Last week, five identical statues of a grossly caricatured nude Donald Trump  appeared overnight on street corners in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Seattle, and New York City.  The Washington Post reported that the anarchist collective INDECLINE made and placed the statues. It called the  project “The Emperor Has No Balls.” Indeed, the otherwise anatomically correct statues showed the Trump effigy missing those particular features, though not bright yellow pubic hair. If you really want to see these assaults on your consciousness and sanity, go here.

I advise against it.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

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