News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Monday, October 8, 2007

Bloggers Rush (as in Limbaugh) in where fools fear to tread

At a recent gathering with academic colleagues, someone mentioned that I write blogs. The reaction was nose-wrinkling disdain as if someone had dropped a malodorous posy at a church altar or got caught with a Playboy centerfold in the hymnal. In an attempt at good-humored tolerance, one person said it is fun to go slumming once in a while and instructive to visit the way other people live.

Blogging has earned a reputation as the province of illiterate outcry and scurrility. That reputation has, indeed, been earned. Some national blogs are operated on a journalistic basis with some attention to literary components of honest and effective writing. A few local blogs provide voice for differing perspectives and even show evidence that their authors did not skip or fall asleep in their English classes, They are literate. Literacy is much more than "correct" grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It is having some notion of how sentences relate to other sentences within a paragraph, and how paragraphs relate to other paragraphs in an effective composition. Literacy also discerns the distinction between human communication, which establishes cognitive contact between senders and receivers, and the cries in the night of the lower orders that assume their howls dispel chaos and form the center of the universe.

But most local blogs are based upon the constant commission of a fallacy of rhetoric and logic. The ad hominem fallacy comprises almost their total range of utterance. Ad hominem is Latin for "to the man or person," and the term refers to the tactic of shifting an argument away from the issues at hand by attacking the person or people associated with a viewpoint being expressed. The use of the old, Latin term for the practice demonstrates that attacking people instead of critiquing arguments has been recognized as fallacious reasoning and a debased irrelevancy from the time humans first recognized that productive and useful communication had standards that can be defined. Aristotle wrote a definitive treatise on what comprises legitimate rhetoric and what comprises fraud.

The ad hominem fallacy can be a very effective tool to use on those who are not educated in the functions of language and the laws of reasoning. Those people tend not to understand or find any interest in issues, but they experience human society as a state of resentment. For them language is simply a means to growl and howl in their struggle to be of some consequence on the dog pack level of existence. Reason and competent communication are not considerations where the total motive is to find some power-niche in the hierarchy of the dog pack.

Forms of ad hominem attacks are essential to the establishing control and maintaining power in totalitarian regimes. The Nazis used the constant defamation of the Jews and other minorities to whip their countrymen into a hateful frenzy that was a cohesive force among those who longed to be part of a “super race.” The Soviets, especially under Stalin, also used the systemized defamation of minorities and social classes to keep the people in a state of mind-numbing hatred and anger. America has used odious stereotyping in its ad hominem propaganda against people it regarded as enemies. The supplanting of intellect with the destructive flames of hatred is used with devastating effect by Islamists. George Orwell portrayed the ad hominem fallacy as the major component in the propaganda that held people in intellectual bondage in 1984. It is all part of attacking people and defining individuals or groups as depraved and deficient and inferior.

The disdain and revulsion for blogs among educated and culturally discerning people stems from the fact that a preponderance of blogs accept and practice the ad hominem attack as the only form of political discourse.

South Dakota blogs are particularly afflicted with the personal- attack-as- discourse syndrome. In fact, some blogs celebrate their defamations and scurrilous personal attacks as their claims to eminence and fame. South
Dakota Politics, for example, was largely devoted to a systematic pogrom of character assassination against Tom Daschle. It was a paid component of the political campaign against him. The authors of the blog claim to have been the deciding factor in John Thune’s winning the election, which is a dubious claim because of the few voters who were aware of blogs at the time. But the blog revealed the tactic of personal attack and defamation that was the dominant strategy of the campaign. No doubt, it worked.

A major part of the ad hominem creed is to insult, abuse, and defame the credibility of any person or medium that carries news or expresses opinions that the ad hominoids do not like. They accuse individuals of mental derangement, moral perfidy, sexual perversion, national subversion, and affronts to God. You know, communist secular humanists who constantly lie and hug trees and are anti-Christian because they may have read a book or two on Buddhism or Islam and are in constant need of medication.

The media that does not adhere to the regressive line also comes under attack. They, the main stream media, are merely the tools of liberal indoctrination and never, never aspire to an accurate and documented version of the news. Liberalism itself is defined as secular humanism, anti-Christian, and given to sexual perversion and political subversion. The word liberal has itself undergone an Orwellian redefinition to mean something intellectually deficient and morally repugnant. Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter. and their ilk, have made liberal the equivalent of the n-word rather the term that defines a political and social perspective.
An example of the attack on the media by an ad hominoid occurred on aKELOLand blog. The writer charges Sioux Falls Argus Leader columnist David Kranz with journalistic malpractice because he turned his column over to the loathsome former Senator James Abourezk, who the writer says “should be excluded from polite political company.” Kranz is irresponsible, according to the blogger, for giving Abourezk a place to “spout” his sympathies with the Palestinian people.

We went very quickly to the Kranz column expecting to find evidence of David Kranz melting down. Instead we found a column about the gist of the controversy generated by Abourezk’s pro-Palestinian views. Harvard law professor and advocate for the Israeli point-of-view, Alan Dershowitz is also cited and quoted. Kranz summarizes the conflicting points of view and by no means turns his column over to anybody. Even a newspaper column is a place where writers can express their own viewpoints. And so, David Kranz is vilified because he reported on a viewpoint that an ad hominoid disagrees with. His journalistic integrity and competence become the target of professional derogations because someone did not like what he reported. The charge that David Kranz allowed his column to be a propaganda platform is a false characterization of the content of the column. That charge is part of the tactic of defamation that shifts the focus from the viewpoints being discussed to a professional libel of David Kranz, largely because the charge is false.

To an old news dog and professor, this kind of defamation is particularly troubling because it violates a basic law of journalism and scholarship. When quoting someone, it is incumbent upon someone in those professions to provide a full and accurate context for the quotation. When paraphrasing what someone writes or says, it is incumbent upon journalists and scholars to be accurate and clear about all the content that is being paraphrased.

When an ad hominoid is challenged for misquoting and falsifying, the standard response is that what they falsified is their opinion of what is said. Opinion is not the mental facility involved in accurate and contextual quotation or accurate paraphrase. Competence is the issue. Often honesty is also at issue.

The attack on David Kranz is a prime example of the ad hominem at work. However, it is impossible to scan blogs, particularly from South Dakota, without finding evidence of the ad hominoids strenuously at work. It is the kind of tactic that gives blogs the reputation they hold among people who look for and expect higher standards of thought and expression from people who represent themselves as journalists and scholars.

It is what gives people the idea that reading blogs is intellectual slumming, although it is instructive at times to witness how other people live. And it is true that some educated people regard blogs with a kind of elitist disdain.

One colleague of mine calls most of what occurs on blogs electronic graffiti. Which is another genre for sending howls into the night.
Elitism has dangers of hubris, but it also keeps alive the essential traditions that grew out of studied human communication. But we are known by the company we keep. And it makes one consider how often one should go slumming.

We must give earnest consideration to whether blogs are something we should participate in. I have increasing doubts

1 comment:

Douglas said...

Well, those who view themselves as the "elite" ought to be able to sort out the attacks on person from the criticism of content.

There is an unfortunate tendency in SD for proponents or opponents of an idea to view actual criticism of their positions as argument to the man.

That said, there are blogs that are total trash. There are also magazines that are total trash. There are also books that are total trash. There are also TV and radio programs that are trash.

Just as at least some of us have learned how to sort through those kinds of media, we ought not put down all blogs as trash just as we don't claim all books, magazines, TV, and radio information is trash.

Those who view blogs as the domain deserving slumming are demonstrating arrogance. Of course, they might also have been pulling your leg a bit.

But keep on analyzing. There is an unfortunately large number of people who seem always suckers to the latest flim-flam whether it is about a hot deal in Nigeria or a new propaganda technique by a Republican president or a SD candidate and his blogger whores.

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