The popular media is renowned for portraying ad hominem. On most occasions, the media is not responsible for the fallacy, but instead, they are just reporting the events which have an element of a personal attack on a character. Occasionally, the popular media also come up with controversial stories based on the opinions of the reporters to gain more traffic and views. Whenever the media propagates a fallacy by airing personal opinions, the aim is to appeal to the customers as opposed to the provision of unbiased account of events.
Media and Politics
It is almost impossible to dive into politics without identifying a fallacy. After all, many will be of the opinion that politics is a dirty game. For this reason, the sources chosen for this essay are from political publications. Primarily, the evidence is retrieved from CNN politics and are based on the United States presidential elections of 2016. The campaigns could be termed as a mud smear by some of the candidates as well as their political aides. During the campaign period, the popular media such as CNN reported several events that were based on character assassination as opposed to the presentation of a clear manifesto to the people. President Donald Trump has always been the focal point of the fallacy ad hominem either as the culprit or as the perpetrator. It is evident that he had to adopt personality attacks to the opponents both within his party and the Democrats and independents as well (Stack, 2016).
According to an article by CNN Politics, Trump was forced to defend the size of his penis following an altercation with Marco Rubio. It is reported that Rubio had made a public statement that Trump was always calling him little Marco due to his short stature. He also threw a punch by ridiculing his small hands by likening them to those of a person who is five feet two inches. Rubio even went further to say And you know what they say about men with small hands? You cannot trust them." (Krieg, 2016). Being a political campaign period, it was expected that the focus would be on the ideologies and the economic plan for the country but instead, the forums were turned into slander and attacks on the individuals physical appearances.
Way before Trumps candidature for the presidency, Spy Magazine had referred to him as a Short-fingered Vulgarian. The choice of words is clear with the aim being to demean Trump. Grieg, 2016 elaborates that Trump was then forced to address the public based on the Rubios statements. It is like despite being a presidential candidate, he had the mandate of assuring the people that despite having small hands, there was no problem elsewhere. As much as it is justified to argue on the basis that Trump himself loves such personal attacks, this is fallacy ad hominem at a very high level.
Rubios reference to Trumps short fingers is only a Citing Trumps' journey to the Whitehouse, the campaign period saw the media taking sides with the aim of discrediting him. Many would argue that his lack of a clear roadmap was enough to campaign against him. This was, however, not the case as the media went into a frenzy giving accounts of criticisms aired against Trump. Some of the personal issues regarding his character were based on his looks, especially the appearance of his hair.
As much as Trump has suffered a good share of fallacy ad hominem against him, it is also true that he is not entirely innocent. His strategy during the campaign as well as during his tenure is filled with cases of ad hominem. It is arguably true that Trump has made accusations against every opponent he has faced using the strategy of fallacy. The most obvious victim of this strategy is Hillary Clinton who suffered several sexist remarks. It is this strategy that has spread to the other politicians as they were forced to respond. The media, too, seems to be excited by such remarks because it gives them a compelling story for their audience.
The popular media, and mainly, the print sector is renowned for having a fascination to report ad hominem. This is probably in a bid to ensure they have a good flow of subscribers. In the cases cited, it is evident that the form of ad hominem that is prevailing is Abusive. Politics has often been regarded as abusive fallacy due to the nature in which the parties make attempts of discrediting their opponents (Hitchcock, 2017). It has reached the point when the public is forced to make decisions on who is better for a political position based on the winner of the name calling competition or the refutation by caricature. The abusive ad hominem has been proved to be effective by Trump forcing the media to refer to him as the King of ad hominem (Stack, 2016).
The popular media's role in politics is evident, and I believe that it is them who promote the use of this strategy by politicians. The extensive coverage of the topic has ensured popularity to the perpetrators. This then forces even those people who have been playing a clean game to get in the mud to salvage their careers. I believe that the media is not wrong to document the accounts of the story especially since they are the actual occurrences. It is, however, a different case when the TV stations and printing newsrooms decide to make a mountain out of a molehill of circumstantial ad hominem. This could result in abuse and bullying. For instance, the greatest headline of 2016 was "Donald Trump Defends the Size of his Penis." Such a headline gives an exaggerated view of the situation since Rubio had not made such a direct reference neither had Trump. It is only the media and in this case, CNN Politics who chose to come up with their final interpretation in a manner that would spike their sales and improve the number of retweets.
It is therefore evident that the most significant weapon offered by the popular media during the 2016 United States presidential elections was ad hominem fallacy. The encouragement of such tactics is apparent in the discussion of controversial and abusive topics lengthily. Had the media focused more on the candidate's agenda and manifesto for the country, then it is probable that the results of the election would have been different. This is an era whereby the public welcomes any form of amusement even if it is at the expense of making informed choices and therefore, the print media scores highly when it comes to providing this for their customers.
Hitchcock, David. "Is There an Argumentum ad Hominem Fallacy?." On Reasoning and Argument. Springer, Cham, 2017. 409-419.
Krieg, Gregory. "Donald Trump defends the size of his penis." CNN, Cable News Network, 4 Mar. 2016, https://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/03/politics/donald-trump-small-hands-Marco-rubio/index.html.
Stack, Garret. Trump: King of the Ad Hominem. The Silver Tongue, 14 Mar. 2016, Retrieved from https://www.silvertonguetimes.com/2016/03/14/trump-king-of-the-ad-hominem/.
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