A Nice Example of Ad Hominem

Ad hominem, adding or attacking the man as opposed to the argument, is on display for over nine minutes in this hilarious Fox News interview with Reza Aslan. Professor Aslan, you see, is a Muslim who wrote a book about Jesus. And if you say that enough–if you drive that meme like a bulldog–then, of course, no Christian need attend to anything he has to say.

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Another thing I find amusing in the clip: the presumption that the opinion of a Christian scholar from the Christian tribe (such as William Lane Craig) necessarily trumps the opinion of a Muslim scholar from the Muslim tribe before any arguments have been fleshed out. This too is a kind of ad hominem, but in reverse: a “positive” man as opposed to a “negative” man has been added to the argument so as to lead the audience toward one bias as opposed to another. (This, of course, is also known among the so-called logical fallacies as “appeal to authority”–an appeal. as substitute for argument, to someone or something the audience presumably likes, respects, trusts, or obeys). If William Lane Craig says the thesis of Aslan’s book (whatever it is) is tired and old hat, then the fundamentalist Christian viewers of Fox News need think no more.

In short, the interviewer’s whole performance provides nice examples of how fundamentalists of whatever stripe–Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or Muslim–shield themselves from serious dialogue, doubt, and inquiry, and why they’re so dangerous. As Voltaire put it, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

And to dampen the positive ad hominem spell that might be brought on in atheists by quoting the secular hero, Voltaire, I’ll add that just because Voltaire said it, it doesn’t make it true. Other things might make it true, but not that. We all need to be attentive to the uses of rhetoric and keep thinking.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to A Nice Example of Ad Hominem

  1. Mikels Skele says:

    What’s really appalling is the incompetence of the ad hominem. Surely they could have found someone better at it.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      It would have been nice if she had at least read the book and then asked her own questions, but who has time for that? The goal of the interview was to catch eyeballs and generate a discrediting meme to volley around the right-wing blogosphere.

      Obviously, she’s “eye candy-and-mouthpiece” for some Fox News Iago who made notes for her and whispered in her ear throughout the interview what to emphasize and hammer away at. What a cheesily produced bore Fox News is! And how great must be the contempt of the executives, the writers, the producers, and the directors for the rationality of their audience.

  2. Pingback: Brent Bozell’s Defends Ad Hominem Attack on Reza Aslan’s Jesus Book | Prometheus Unbound

  3. dust850 says:

    This is very difficult to watch. It is so over the top. I dont know why FOX does this. Do you think they are trying to pander to the religious Christian right wing? Why do serious people keep doing FOX interviews? Publicity cant be worth these childish antics.

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