As a further comment on this fallacy (described below), the Weekly Standard helpfully provides a classic example this morning.
As a mouthpiece for the the Republican Party and the neoconservative community, this publication, though sophisticated and representing the upper end of rightwing media intellectual activity, pretty commonly utilizes logical fallacies to forward particular political narratives. They do so this morning as part of their attack on Chaz Freeman and on those who are now speaking out in support of him, one of whom is Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector. There’s more than one ad hominem in this piece but we’ll look at the biggy.
Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector who was arrested “after allegedly communicating with an undercover officer posing as a 16-year-old girl,” has joined six other fairly fringe figures to endorse Dennis Blair’s appointment of Chas Freeman. (A source told CNN that “Ritter had arranged in an Internet chat room to meet with the girl at a Burger King in Colonie, a suburb of Albany, so she could witness him masturbating.”) The rest of these guys are on record saying all sorts of crazy things over the last few years, most of them exhibiting some kind of paranoia about the “neocon cabal” (Ray Close). Ray McGovern even served “symbolic war crimes indictments on the Bush White House from a ‘people’s tribunal.'”
Again, the function of an ad hominem (“against the person”) is to attempt to discount the truth or reasonableness of the claim or argument being made by making a personal attack on the person making the argument or claim. Obviously, the suggestion being advanced in this piece above is that we ought to ignore anything and everything this person says, quite regardless of relevant matters such as knowledge, experiencce, familiarity etc because he was alleged to have committed a sexual crime.
People who use logical fallacies in this manner are properly understood as either fools or as propagandists. The first category is merely a bit stupid. The second category wishes to make you that way.
To read the full piece (and more from this publication on the Freeman appointment, go here