Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just the Facts, Please

Why is the recent trend in political disagreements to utilize ad hominem attacks? Ad hominem is defined as "appealing to the emotions and not logic" or "attacking someone's motives or character rather than their policy or position". So again I ask, why do arguments tend to be framed more around this sort of thinking rather than the issue itself?

Since George W. Bush's presidency (because that is when my political mind was more or less awakened), it seems that people who disagree with a stance, rather than use logic or fact-checking to argue against it, instead attack the character of the person with whom they are arguing. During the entire 2008 election campaigns, the common theme of the Democrat party was "We don't want 4 more years of Bush". When asked what that actually meant, most often the response resulted in a verbal bashing of the former president, including but not limited to some remark about his intelligence.

Even now that the Democrats hold the executive branch and control a majority of the legislative, the ad hominem attacks continue. Sarah Palin is constantly lambasted by the media and opponents because of her accent, hobbies, and familial issues. Mark Sanford immediately became a national celebrity when it was discovered he had an affair with a Brazilian woman. But where was the massive media coverage when he proved to be a fiscally conservative governor who did not want to throw his state under the bus after American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus bill) funds dried up.

The media focuses only on the emotional aspects of any news story. Whether that is because they know their audience is too dumb to handle a large influx of details or because so-called "journalists" are just getting lazier is hard to tell. One thing that IS certain is that this problem is not confined to just one side of the political spectrum.

Rush Limbaugh has made a living for twenty years attacking the Democrats and those he refers to as "leftists". Very rarely--of which I mean never if you've actually listened to his radio show--does he admit that the other side has a good idea or are capable of doing something right. If anyone calls into his show and disagrees with his views the caller is automatically dismissed as a "brainwashed liberal" or a "crazy leftist". Rush is just as guilty as the Democrats during the 2008 campaign of not attacking the argument, but instead rejecting the entire thing based upon the speaker's political position.

We need to return to the days of deconstructing the argument itself, and leave the person who argues out of it.

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