From Ask Figaro:
Thank you for an excellent website and book! I have a rhetorical news item for you. I’ve read at least three articles about Michael Moore’s “Sicko” that all say more or less the same thing: “Moore wants universal health care. But Moore is a fat, unhealthy slob — folks like him would suck the system dry. Therefore, Moore is wrong.” Isn’t this a classic ad hominem attack? That is, the rhetorical uberfallacy (note bound morpheme) that I learned about in 7th grade?
First of all, is “Clever” your middle name? (And is your last name “Byhalf”? ) To answer your question: Yes, Michael Moore is a fat slob.
Oh, wait. That wasn’t your question. Calling Mr. Fahrenheit 911 fat is like calling Paris Hilton an airhead; it’s true enough almost to dwell beyond the realm of ad hominem. Besides, the character attack lies within rhetorical bounds. Much harm, but no foul. (See page 157 of Figaro’s book.)
The Moore attack does qualify as a far more interesting foul called the Red Herring, aka the “Look! a bird!” fallacy. Its purpose is simply to distract, because it has little relevance to the issue. If Moore got fit, would his accusers then support universal health care? Give that man a Stairmaster, stat! Moore’s opponents may think they’re accusing him of hypocrisy. But he’s a health-care hypocrite only if “Sicko” advocates health. It doesn’t. It advocates health care.
Al Gore, on the other hand, is a hypocrite, because he fails to live like a Hobbit.
Got a comment? Click here.