Ad hominem -
"An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin, literally "argument against the person") or attacking the messenger, involves replying to an argument or assertion by attacking the person presenting the argument or assertion rather than the argument itself. It is usually, though not always, a logical fallacy..." - from Wikipedia
I paid full retail at the airport (you are welcome, Ann). Started reading on the four hour flight back, and finished it in the afternoon at home between naps. I started on the plane while simultaneously listening to the new album by the Dixie Chicks. Bad idea. Almost immediately my nose started to bleed from the contextual conflict and I ripped off the headset. "Focus! Focus!" I thought to myself "One screed at a time." The Dixie Chicks will have to wait.
I enjoyed my first Coulter read much more than I expected, although I would not actually describe "Godless" as a conventional book. It is a collection of essays, with a thin thematic coat of "Church of Liberalism" metaphorically painted across the surface to create the impression of a single coherent theme. The theme does not work. The essays stand on their own, but the attention grabbing title (Godless - The Church of Liberalism) does not come together as a theme, as the case supporting the title is never made. In the first chapter she makes an effort to build the foundation, and her conclusion is explicitly stated at the end of the chapter: "Liberals can believe what they want to believe, but let us not flinch from identifying liberalism as the opposition party to God." Problem being, her only support for the conclusion is a hodge-podge of interesting but disconnected anecdotal anti-liberal diatribes. She then leaps the logical canyon in a single breathtaking bound to this grand but unsupported conclusion. After that chapter, she does not even really try to get back to the theme except as catchy subtitles for the remaining chapters.
Remaining chapters (essays) are on the topics of: Liberal failure to deal with Crime (Chapter 2); Willie Horton and the 1988 Presidential Campaign (Chapter 3); Abortion (Chapter 4); Liberals using victims as spokespersons to deflect debate (Chapter 5); The Failure of Public School Teachers and Education (Chapter 6); Liberals using Science as a Political Football (chapter 7); and an extensive "debunking" of the Darwinian theory of evolution (chapters 8-11).
To be fair, Anne Coulter is not writing a doctoral thesis here. "Godless" is simply a well executed bit of political propaganda, and I mean that in a good way. Coulter has an agenda, she writes in the service of that agenda to entertain and sway opinion to her objective. In that regard, she is one of the top tier of propagandists working in the in political cotton field that is an election year, harvesting the hearts and minds of the American electorate.
She joins her fellow high profile propagandists, Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken, and "Baghdad Bob"(Remember him? Saddam's Information Minister cracking wise with Arab reporters "Americans? What Americans? There are no Americans here." as the Baghdad airport was being overrun by coalition forces on TV.)
All are/were highly effective entertainer/propagandists that play primarily to their base of supporters/audience, working in different media but always in the service of their propaganda agenda.
A primary tool of all propagandists, is the use of facts - documented, provable carefully groomed and selected facts - to create an impression of overwhelming evidence in support of one's point. Operative word is "selected". It is also useful to ignore inconvenient facts that contradict the agenda. As an example, If I wanted to make the case that Ann Coulter's primary propaganda weapon of choice is the logical fallacy of "Ad Hominem" attack, I would support that agenda by first coming up with a clever title for the blog post, then barrage the reader with a long list of actual quotes from her book where she employs the "Ad Hominem" attack.
It would look something like this:
Chapter 1: Liberals SchemedThis list does not include chapters 8-11 which are a pretty good set of essays on the topic of Evolution and Intelligent Design, and include a minimum of Ad Hominem arguments. The section stimulated my curiosity, but I'll need to do a little more research on the subject before commenting further. There is food for thought here, and I hope to revisit this topic at some unspecified time in the future.
Chapter 2: The Perp
- "Ugly feminists... impotently rail against "sexist men" and "sexual harassment" while simultaneously promoting the view that sex has no sacred purpose." page 9
- "Like most people who enjoy talking to strangers about sex, Miss Landophi, to put it as charitably as possible, is physically repulsive in appearance." - page 13
- "... Professors are the most cosseted, pussified, subsidized group of people in the U.S. workforce. - page 14
- "The stupidest of their students become journalists..." - page 15
Chapter 3: Willie Horton
- "I think Justice Goldberg had a few screws loose." - page 30
Chapter 5 "Sobbing Hysterical Women"
- "The Greek midget vetoed it. " [referring to Michael Dukakis] page 64
- "This shows what idiots liberals like Michael Dukakis are like." - page 71
- "In the history of nation, there has never been a political party so ridiculous as today's Democrats. It's as if all the brain-damaged people in America got together and formed a voting block." Page 84
- "Dean, being a raving lunatic, said "No doctor is going to do an abortion on a live fetus..."" - Page 87
- "Maybe there's a better committee for Senator Drunkennedy to sit on ..." page 90
- "...Unlike Durbin, Kennedy, and Schumer, she's not a hack, she never drowned anyone, and the Anti-Defamation League isn't trying to put her in a lockbox. " Page 91
- "... in Senator Drunkennedy's famous phrase." - page 94
- "The day before Kerry won the Democrat's Best Fake Patriot contest in Iowa..." - page 97
Chapter 6: Spoil the Teacher
- "... all Democratic spokesmen these days are sobbing, hysterical women." - Page 101
- "One wonders how exposing anything about Cindy could discredit her more than the poor imbecile's own words have. - page 102
- "...Cindy Sheehan, with that weird disconnect between the viciousness of her comments and her itsy-bitsy, squeaky voice." - page 103
- "These self-obsessed women seemed genuinely unaware that 9/11 was an attack on our nation ..." page 103
- "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arrazzis, I've never seen people enjoying their husbands death so much. The increasingly rabid widows ..." page 103
- "... the Democrats were able to ensure a whitewash of Clintons' utter incompetence, cowardice, and capitulation to enemy regimes ..." page 104
- "Mostly the witches of East Brunsweick wanted George Bush to apologize for not being Bill Clinton. Like Monica Lewinsky before here, Breitweiser found impeached president Clinton "very forthcoming"." - page 112
- "Out of love for his country and an insatiable desire to have some-one notice his worthless existence, Wilson wrote a column ..." - page 115
- "He had been sent by his wife , Valerie Plame., a chair-warmer at the CIA who apparently wanted to get him out of the house." - page 118
- "For the really insane stuff you have to go to bush-league newspapers where reporters have all the venom of the big-city newspapers, combined with retard level IQs." - page 119
- "... the only provable conclusion of which is that Joe Wilson is a nut and a liar." page 119
- "... How does a publisher react to some pompous jerk who wants to call his book The Politics of Truth? - page 151
- "The Democratic Party's became Cindy Sheehan, loon." - page 128
- "The only sort of authority Cindy Sheehan has is the uncanny ability to demonstrate, by example, what body types should avoid wearing shorts in public." - page 128
- "Despite having a screwball for a mother, Casey Sheehan was a great American ..." page 150
- "There is no plausible explanation for the Democrats' behavior other than that they long to see U.S. troops shot, humiliated and driven from the field of battle. They fill the airwaves with treason... These people are not only traitors, they are gutless traitors." page 135
- "... as long as Democrats are going to be jock sniffers for war veteran's, let's at least be equal about it." - page 137
- "I have a right to call Democrats blowhards, moral cowards, and traitors... they are liars and cowards and traitors." - page 141
- "Perhaps liberals will claim Moore is a "covert" agent with the CIA, - assuming a big, sweaty, behemoth like Michael Moore could actually be concealed..." - page 143
- "In real life these taxpayer-supported parasites [teachers] are inculcating students in the precepts of the Socialist Party of America - as understood by retarded people." - page 148
- "In 2004 former vice president A Gore gave a speech on Global Warming... this is the philosophy of a madman." - page 190
The essays I found most interesting and thought provoking were the very essays that Anne Coulter did not broadly utilize the "Ad hominem" attack - Including chapters 2,4,6. and 7.
Hmmmm. You don't suppose that she reserves the "ad hominem" technique to obfuscate and obscure arguments where she actually does not have adequate facts to support her case? I wonder. If so, Chapter 5, buried in the middle of the book, regarding the Jersey Girls, Cindy Sheeehan, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson is her weakest essay, since it is the chapter where she is completely unrestrained in her vitriolic personal attacks.
Beyond the "ad hominem" fallacies she employs, I have a couple of other nits to pick with "Godless":
"...After the Democrats failed to get a majority of Americans to vote for them in the seventh straight presidential election - since Jimmy Carter won with 50.1 percent of the vote in 1976. - page 20Her language is fuzzy, so I am not sure whether she means a majority of the votes cast, or a majority of voting age Americans. However, giving her the benefit of the doubt, and assuming she means a majority of votes cast, I will grant that these statements are literally true. But, she has selectively used facts to create statement that are wildly misleading while literally true. In the same sense I can make the following statements using the same facts that are just as literally true and just as misleading:
"Of Course, if most people agreed with People for a Small Slice of the Upper West Side Way, Democrats might have won a majority of votes from the American people more than one time since Lyndon Johnson was president..." page 91
Since 1960:Finally, since 1960, there has never been more than 63% of the voting age population that actually cast a vote, so no President in that time has ever been elected by a majority of voting age Americans.
- There have been 3 Democrats (JFK,LBJ,JEC) and 4 Republicans (RMN,RWR,GHB,GWB) elected President with 50% or more of the popular votes.
- There has been one Democrat (WJC) and two Republicans (RMN,GWB) elected President with 49% or less of the popular vote.
- There has been one Republican (GWB) and no Democrats elected President while losing the popular vote.
As I said, a nit. I have a much bigger problem with this statement:
"Today's Republican Party stands for life, limited government, and national defense." - page 85I'll stipulate to "life" and "national defense", but "limited Government"??? Today's Republican Party??? NFW.
Maybe the Republican party of Ronald Reagan can make that claim.
Maybe the Republican party of Newt Gingrich can make that claim.
But today's Republican Party has surrendered the right to make any claim on the Reagan legacy or Libertarian foundation of limited government advocacy. This is a new kind of Republican: Big Spending, Big Deficit, Big Government Republicans. The only argument is whether "Today's Republican" single party control of the federal government over the last five plus years will unambiguously lay claim to being the Biggest Government, Biggest Federal Growth, Biggest Spending and Biggest Deficit party of all time, bar none.
Ann, please make these corrections in your paperback edition. Also, thanks for your support of the Divided Government case. I am saving that quote from your book for my next post... - mw
UPDATE (06/27/07): The paperback was published yesterday. I am not going to buy it. Someone else can tell me if she made any corrections in the book. I am not holding my breath, although she said something that took Howard Kurtz's breath away:
Yeah. Howard. Pretty close.
'Give me a moment to catch my breath. I just heard Ann Coulter say something remarkable. It wasn't one of her patented attacks on liberals and other heathens. It was a casually tossed-off line about the president of the United States: "We're all just waiting for this nincompoop to be gone. I think we're all finally on the same page on that." Did I blink and miss something? Is Bush now toast with the entire conservative movement? '
-----------------------A selection of additional Godless reviews and reactions:
Lady Jane at a Lady's Ruminations has a Godless review.
Larry at Blame Bush has a Godless review.
Ann Coulter reviews Ann Coulter.
Mrs. Betty Bowers reviews Miss Ann Coulter.
Scoobie has a Godless blog.
Newsmax has a Godless review.
Bloggers Rude Pundit and Truthdig rudely suggest there may be some Godless plagiarism.
Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post thinks the Media is paying too much attention to Ann.
Jill at Feministe has a Godless feminist perspective on Ann Coulter.
Larry Johnson at No Quarter is amused to be called the "leftist Ann Coulter".
Canadian Ian Maclean thinks Ann Coulter make some good Godless points about 9/11 widows.
I still have not had time to wade into Coulter's Evolution/ID screed but these sites have:
William Dembski at Uncommon Descent thinks Godless will advance the ID cause (and his moderator gets testy with my comments)
Ian Musgrave at the Panda's Thumb deconstructs some of Coulter's Godless Darwinian claims (thanks to anonymous commenter for the link)
Daniel Morgan at Get busy livin' or bloggin ' has some thoughts about Coulter, Dembski, and the Death of Godlessness.
Technorati tags: divided government, Intelligent Design, Creationism, Evolution, Godless,Global Warming, Ann Coulter.