It takes a nation to protect the nation
I've said several times that the 'logical fallacies' often have a valid and an invalid side. So it is with Ad Hominem, there are times when this is a valid attack against an opponents position. So, there are times when it is pertinent and relevant to say "Cast out the beam in thine own eye ..." and "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones", etc - for example, if the opponent is supporting a position which is so difficult or impractical that they themselves are incapable of performing it.
In any case, the Fascist Left subsist on Ad Hominem attacks, and this method is a part of rhetorical skill, so it is necessary to employ it anyway.
A common and tiresome tactic we all face now is the rapid descent into Identity Politics. So, lazy and stupid debaters just pull out their 'racist' or 'islamophobe' card, and think that they've thereby won the argument, with no further proof, even of the allegation, needed. Also, people will proudly ascribe a label to themselves, with which they thereby gained the higher moral ground, and put you at a disadvantage.
What has become apparent to me through recent reading is how those labels often have origins antagonistic to their commonly understood intent and meaning, and how the antonym of those labels is not what you expect. So I will now list the labels which can be flipped over, so the dirty tricks Leftist user, can be left on his back, like a turtle, with his legs waving helplessly in the air. Please add to this forum any other label equivalences you can discover!
Accused of being a Conservative by a: Progressive = Cartelist
This is explained by Murray Rothbard in his enumeration of the history of the Federal Reserve. The Progressive Movement was created by the top bankers of the time as a cover for supporting the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank. Thus JP Morgan and others in the Power Elite already had cartels in railroads, manufacturing, insurance, meat packing, etc, but were blocked in their attempt to get cartel control of the money supply. You can cut to 24mins in to get the basics.
So when someone rejects you as a conservative because they are a Progressive, you can say
"Ahh, so you are a Cartelist - you support the creation of cartels and monopolies that remove personal choice!"
Accused of being an Elitist by an: Internationalist = Interventionist = Managerialist
Someone can accuse you of being an elitist for a variety of reasons:
However, their positions are a lie. They say they are against the 'elite', but they mean just the old conservative elite, hidebound in its respect for tradition, culture and nation. In fact, they themselves want to become the new elite, only the Managerial Elite, as explained by Burnham in The Managerial Revolution and succeeding books. All their talk about the poor 98% just masks their desire for the enhanced benefits to them personally, of joining that expanded Managerial class.
That's why they wish to amalgamate into larger units, because each larger unit gives them more positions of power and privilege to migrate into (or others will migrate their and they can move up the ladder a step).
They want to dissolve the nations borders, because they realise that they aren't just up against the residual conservative elite, but also against a vast swathe of normal working people that just want to keep their life the way it is. So, they seek to destroy their sense of culture and identity by encouraging immigration and leaky borders. Thus we have Tony Blair's desire to "rub the Right's nose in diversity", was just a dirty trick to weaken that constituency.
So the next time someone accuses you of taking an Elitist position, you can say:
"Oh I see, so you are a Managerialist, - that's like a Marxist, but instead of the proletariat taking control, you want to see the Managerial Class take control."
Accused of being an Essentialist by a: Leftist = Islamophile = Essentialist
If someone accuses you of being an Essentialist, they mean that you are using a limited definition of categories, which omits all the shades of gray and nuances of expression that real life admits. For example, an Essentialist critique of Islam would be that it promotes violence, and the anti-essentialist rebuttal to that is that "Islam is many things", combined with a supercilious grin, as if they have just farted.
But the definition of Essentialism is itself an Essentialist definition. There is only one quality required to define Essentialism, and if any more qualities are added to the definition, or the one quality is diluted in any way, the definition no longer works. Thus the person that rejects Essentialism, has to employ an Essentialist argument to do it.
So the next time someone accuses you of being an Essentialist, you can say:
"Well, I'm glad to meet you, a fellow Essentialist, because you are clearly taking an Essentialist position in making your accusation!"
Accused of being an Egalitarian by a: Socialist = Leveler = Collectivist = Anti-Individualist
Someone who accuses you of being against Egalitarianism, wants you to feel guilty at not wanting to make everyone be equal. Murray Rothbard does a brilliant destruction of this concept in this talk. You can skip the first 5 minutes of intro, and the last 5 minutes contains a good summary of the whole talk.
The Socialist flatters himself that he is morally superior to others because, like Robin Hood, he will steal from the rich and give to the poor. These people were called Levelers in the time of Cromwell, and I think that's a good word. But, as Rothbard describes, their project of 'equalisation' apart from being impossible, is fundamentally unfair, and is an attack on our natural human individualism, and the natural state of the universe as we find it.
So the response to someone who accuses you of being not fair enough, not socialist enough, not supporting a process of equalisation of society is to say:
"Oh I see, you are an anti-individualist, you don't believe in the individual and individual freedom"
Accused of being a backward Constitutionalist by a: Populist = Obama = Executive Privilege = Democratic Caesarist
This is hard to express in single word labels. Basically, Obama has ridden roughshod over the constitution, and gone so far beyond the limits of his executive authority that the Supreme Court has intervened. However, he started this years ago with "Yes we can" and the philosophy of change, so that there doesn't need to be a respect for the authority of Congress. He uses his executive authority to over-ride Congress and the constitution, acting like a Caesar over-riding the juridical constraints of the constitution.
Burnham distinguishes between two types of democracy: Constitutional Government and Democratic Caesarism. Democratic Caesarism is a notional democracy in which the executive has centralised power into itself, justified on the grounds of the popular will (Power and History by Samuel T Francis, p76). Burnham gives a perfect description of Obama's M.O., 50 years before it even happened.
So, if an Obama supporter protests that you are an old fogey, obsessing about the constitution when it needs to be upgraded to modern times to allow the holy Obama emperor to do good for the sake of the people, you can say:
"Oh I see, you are a promoter of Democratic Caesarism".
Ad Hominems against the Anti-Sociobiology Marxists
The philosopher Philip Kitcher has said that when people mention the Marxist beliefs of anti-sociobiology - or “not in our genes” - scientists it effectively amounts to an ad hominem attack. (Well an analytic philosopher like Philip Kitcher - who's also a critic of sociobiology and a colleague of Richard Lewontin at Columbia University - would say that, wouldn't he....umm?)
In other words, rather than tackling the scientific arguments and evidence of these scientists, people like myself rely on ad hominem arguments/attacks instead.
So, I suppose, the following piece is one large ad hominem.
Nonetheless, why can't we do the ad hominem bit (if that's what it truly is) of mentioning, say, Steven Rose's virulent Marxism; and then get on with the arguments against his scientific positions?
It's not as if I'm going to be saying the following:
Steven Rose, who was part of the 'radical science movement', is a Marxist. Therefore I won't even bother reading what he has to say about genetics and sociobiology.
In addition, when I say that Steven Rose is a Marxist, is that strictly speaking an an argument “against the man” (ad hominem)? After all, Rose classes himself as a Marxist and Richard Lewontin (one of the founders of “against sociobiology” group) has freely admitted that his ideological views have influenced his scientific work.
What Philip Kitcher must also realise is that most people (Left, Right and center) can't deal with the fine detail of genetics, sociobiology or evolutionary psychology because they aren't qualified to do so. (They aren't qualified to speak on the “a priori” or other esoteric areas of Kitcher's analytic philosophy either.) Yet surely that doesn't mean that all of us non-professionals should keep our mouths shut on all these issues. Indeed is Steven Rose himself qualified - a neurobiologist, not a political scientist or economist - to pontificate on “capitalism” and the “Tory government”, as he sometimes does?
Nonetheless, if I were a scientist working in the field of genetics, neurobiology or psychology, then perhaps my mentioning the fact that these people are Marxists simply wouldn't be cricket. Similarly, if I were a student or professor at a philosophy departmental seminar (at Philip Kitcher's Columbia University) and I mentioned Steven Rose's prior Marxism, then I know full well that such a thing would certainly be taken to be a sacrilegious act against argument and philosophical debate.
It may also be the case that these people have done some good science. However, perhaps any genuinely good science they have done was simply a result of their not seeing seen any direct - or even indirect - political implications of that science. When politics or ideology impinged on their work, on the other hand, then it's very reasonable to assume (according to what they have said themselves) that politics/ideology will have been paramount; whereas science would have simply been its servant. And that may still be the case even if much of their academic - though still politicised - scientific work is chock-a-block with scientific jargon, charts, graphs, innumerable references and footnotes and all the other trademarks of academese (which, I'm suggesting, can sometimes hide or disguise deep ideological/political bias).
Consequently, surely it's conceivable that the prior Marxist theories of these anti-sociobiology scientists are actually extremely relevant to arguments and philosophical debates about sociobiology, genetics and the like!
So despite all those caveats, I would say that if you aren't a scientist (or a professional philosopher of science), then extreme scepticism about the views of these political-activist scientists is very wise indeed.
Biography (or Ad Hominem)
Even Steven Rose's fellow Leftists at the UK newspaper The Guardian have described him as a “polemicist of the left”. Another fellow scientist, Patrick Bateson, said that Rose “may be the last of the Marxist radical scientists”.
By almost anyone's standards, the Socialist Workers Party's Steven Rose is a fanatical ideologue. (The SWP is a self-described “revolutionary anti-capitalist party”.) Indeed Rose could hardly disagree with the fact that he, according to Richard Dawkins, gives “ideology priority over truth”.
That statement shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who understands even a little bit about Marxism.
According to most - or even all – Marxists, it is the case that ideology, politics and power can never be separated from science or indeed from truth itself.
And that fundamental Marxist position, no doubt, explains why Steven Rose sees politics and ideology in the work of so many other non-Marxist scientists: scientists who, on the whole, haven’t - unlike Rose himself - been activists in political groups and movements for most of their lives.
Thus is all this simply an example of one individual (Steven Rose) psychologically “projecting” his own ideological and political obsessions into the minds of other scientists?
Now for a small amount of words on two of the other well-known anti-sociobiology scientists.
Richard Lewontin has also described himself as a “Marxist”. Indeed he has happily admitted that his ideological views have affected his scientific work.
Gould Jay Gould (who died in 2002) said that he was “brought up by a Marxist father”. He described his own politics as “left of center”. Gould also said that Noam Chomsky's books had a great influence on him.
(Interestingly enough, Noam Chomsky once - sort of - came to the defence of sociobiology; though he did so only by committing exactly the sin I'm accusing his fellow Leftists of committing. Chomsky argued that there may, after all, be some room for sociobiological positions; though only because he thought that “it was important for political radicals to postulate a relatively fixed human nature in order to be able to struggle for a better society”.)
"I've said several times that the 'logical fallacies' often have a valid and an invalid side. So it is with Ad Hominem, there are times when this is a valid attack against an opponents position. So, there are times when it is pertinent and relevant to say "Cast out the beam in thine own eye ..." and "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones", etc - for example, if the opponent is supporting a position which is so difficult or impractical that they themselves are incapable of performing it."
I've heard a lot of analytic philosophers talk about "ad hominem arguments" and the like. To some extent they are correct. As is often said on 4 Freedoms, to many on the Left words such as "racist", "Nazi" and "Islamophobe" work as ad hominems. That is, if you class someone as a "racist", you don't need to listen to him or "respect his rights" (as Jonah Goldberg puts it.
Nonetheless, ARGUMENTS can be advanced as to why ad hominem arguments have some - sometimes a lot! - of justification. Indeed the people who pride themselves on their argumentative skills seem to ignore the possibility that there are non-ad hominem arguments in favour of ad hominem arguments. Being against "ad homs" has become an article of faith to them.
I agree with your points on Ad Hominem and thanks for fleshing it out. The topic is large and complicated, so I only gave a potted summary of Ad Hominem and how it could be valid, for the benefit of a reader new to the topic. Then I skipped on to this idea of flipping the labels, with example of how it works, because that's what I really wanted to talk about here.
It all depends on definition of concepts in the end. And to think that philosophers were slagged off for being so "pedantic".
I had a long and pointless conversation with a Jewish woman about the fact that the Nazis were socialists. She just couldn't or wouldn't accept it. She had a mental block. Partly because she's Jewish and also because her parents were "partisans" in Yugoslavia who fought against the Nazis in WW2.
She kept on saying stuff like; "But Hitler hated the communists and he was against Bolshevism."
I said, "I know", etc.
She really believed that I'd never read any history books about what happened in the 1920s and 1930s.
As I said, the conversation turned out to be literally pointless. There was no disagreement because there was no understanding to form a basis of disagreement.
Joe has pointed out somewhere that the manifesto of the Nazi Party (or was it Mosely's British Fascist party?) was very similar to the Socialist Workers Party manifesto now.
In future, maybe you should save your time and just point them at an article here. But people are pig headed. They will even deny statements from the Quran and Hadith when you point them at official websites, saying "I don't believe it says that or means that".
When she says "But Hitler hated the communists and he was against Bolshevism.", I would temporarily switch from Adversarial to Co-operative style, and say "Yes, the irony of it! So let's try explore this issue and see if we can make sense of that". Its is a genuinely fascinating question, actually, and one I'm not qualified to answer, but I'll kick it off.
They both believed in totalitarianism, but one believed in a fictitious 'dictatorship of the poeple' which in actuality reduced to a dictatorship by a ruling political elite of Stalinists; and the other believed in retaining the existing indistrial power elite and working with them to give the socialists state to the German people.
But more important than that is, I believe, a cultural difference. The Marxists just wanted to destroy all vestiges of the old society and build this magical and mythical perfect new society ("to each according to his needs..." etc). The Nazis were proud of their Germanic heritage and saw themselves as preserving and extending their inherited Germanic culture, and with it the whole idea of European civilisation.
I think what the question points out is the intellectual poverty in just focusing on "wealth redistribution" as the factor for evaluating and understanding political movements. Its like trying to understand all the different animals of the Serengeti based on foot size or total weight alone. Yes, the attitude to wealth redistribution is key to political movements, but so are many other factors. The review must not be done in a 1-dimensional manner, as she was trying to do, in order to protect her brain from the complexity of the issue.
When she says "But Hitler hated the communists and he was against Bolshevism.",
Sibling rivalry. Just like the Shias hate the Sunnis.
Bolsheviks were prepared to have an internal genocide against the middle class/aristocracy. The National Socialists chose instead to have a socialist revolution where they co-operated with the middle class/aristocracy. In every other respect, there was no real difference between Bolshevism and National Socialism.
It was on this basis that even someone like von Mises, whose political/economic position is one of the most opposed to any form of socialism, could say that fascism was preferable in the short-run to to communism.
Sibling rivalry or gang warfare.
The Crips and the Blues (in Los Angeles), or those two gangs in West Side Story, which fought each other would have been barely distinguishable (except for wearing different clothes). That never stopped them fighting. People fight to control power-blocks just as much as they fight over ideology.
If killing communists/socialists qualifies Hitler as a non-socialist, then Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc., between them, killed far more socialists/communists (as well as anarchists) than Hitler.
Hitler did kill millions of Russians and Russian soldiers; but that wasn't only about them being communists - it was more about Lebensraum for the Germans and the fact that they were "Slavs".
You could see the Essentialist argument as being a more generic form of the "No true Scotsman" argument, which is humourously depicted on page 28 of this compendium of fallacies: