The ad hominem argument – Jim Cramer edition

Previously, I described the “straw man argument” as an example of one type of an error in reasoning known as a logical fallacy

Another such logical fallacy is the “ad hominem” argument (from Latin, meaning “against the person” – you’ll see why in a second).  It’s rather important to be clear on this one because it is rampant in rightwing radio rhetoric and more broadly in our political culture and discourse.  And it’s a staple of the propagandist as well.  It’s a really simple one and easy to spot.  The form of it is:

1. A person makes a claim that something is so (say, that Chevy makes the best cars)
2. An arguer attacks the first person for his hair or sexuality or friends or some such.
3. The arguer implies or suggests that, therefore, the claim is likely to be false.

“Name calling”, as contrasted with careful and serious discussion, is common instance of this fallacy.  “He’s a homsexual” or “they are all commies” or “of course he says that, he’s a liberal” would be examples.  Notice that any address to the actual claim or argument in question is avoided (as is the case with the straw man fallacy as well, it is just avoided in a different way).

Which brings us to Jim Cramer, CNBC financial screamer

I’ll just defer now to Eric Boehlert at Media Matters

Irony alert: Jim Cramer wants everyone to stop with the ad hominem attacks

Published Mon, Mar 9, 2009 3:41pm ET by Eric Boehlert

In his column, the CNBC loud mouth claims it’s time for a “serious non-ideological debate” about the economy, and to stop the name calling.

This, from the man who recently has:

repeatedly characterized President Obama and congressional Democrats as Russian communists intent on “rampant wealth destruction,” claiming Obama is “taking cues from Lenin” and using terms such as “Bolshevik,” “Marx,” “comrades,” “Soviet,” “Winter Palace,” and “Politburo” in reference to Democrats.


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