In a previous post I talked about how I approach opinions that differ from my own. Well, I’m going to use Michael Reagan’s recent column White House Website Gone Wild (if you don’t like that link, just Google the title) as an example of what makes me stick my fingers in my ears (or eyes, as the case may be). The column uses unstated assumptions and ad hominem arguments everywhere. I’m not complaining about his opinions, I’m complaining about his rhetorical dirty pool.
I’m not going to pick apart his column line by line. If you’ve ever taken a course in critical reading, these things should jump out at you. If you haven’t taken such a course, you should educate yourself a bit.
We’re all familiar with the concept of the “red herring”, which covers a broad category of rhetorical fallacies such as ad hominem arguments. There are many others: “begging the question”, which really means saying that something is true because it is true; sweeping generalizations; non sequiturs; and that old favorite, the “loaded question [Have you stopped beating your wife?].”
In symbolic logic these fallacies are susceptible to objective proof (or disproof). In the bafflegab that passes for common discourse, you have to be alert or you will be snookered.