Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much to reveal the intellectual vapidity of Fox News characters like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly. When their arguments are not devoid of logic, they are devoid of facts. Most of the time they manage to include neither. But leave it to Rachel Maddow to escalate a debate with a Fox Newsie to the point of employing Latin definitions to make her case.
In this video, Dr. Maddow had to correct an earlier appraisal of Bill O’Reilly’s attacks on her as “ad hominem.” To be accurate, the attacks were “ad populum.” The distinction is important, as Maddow says, because the former is an attack based on personal insult, while the later is an attack based on popularity. In this case, it was Bill O’Reilly asserting that he was right and Maddow was wrong because more people watch his show.
I made the point years ago that this was an irrelevant measure. It would be like saying that since McDonald’s is the #1 restaurant it must have the best food. In truth, McDonald’s just delivers the cheapest crap that is loaded with filler and seasoning to appeal to the largest number of consumers with the least sophisticated taste. Which, by the way, is exactly what Fox News does. Now, thanks to Dr. Maddow, I now the Latin term for it.
This segment from Maddow’s show is significant for another reason. After straightening out the rhetorical matter, Maddow went on to the substance of her debate with O’Reilly. It began when she quite correctly observed that Fox News makes a habit of presenting (or inventing) stories, the purpose of which are to incite their predominately white audience (only 1.38% of Fox viewers are black) into fearing black people. This is what O’Reilly objected to, but had no substantive response for. He merely boasted about his ratings and said that Maddow had no evidence. Of course the evidence is readily available: Van Jones, ACORN, New Black Panthers, Shirley Sherrod, etc.
At this point Maddow gets down to brass tacks. She describes O’Reilly’s assertion that she had no evidence of her claim as “…something stupid. Something stupid enough that it doesn’t even get dressed up in Latin phrasing.” Whereupon Maddow played a brilliant highlight reel of just O’Reilly’s contribution to these phony so-called news items.
Lest anyone complain that Maddow has now engaged in the very sort of ad hominem attack for which she criticized O’Reilly, just settle down. The evidence to back up calling O’Reilly’s position stupid is plentiful. And since there are millions more people that do not watch O’Reilly than do, we can also make an ad populum argument as to his stupidity. So there.