Study of tactics: Duck, nitpick, vilify

That Newsweek story Hit the Road really got some folks riled. Niall Ferguson Defends Newsweek Cover: Correct This, Bloggers. He says

“the spectacle of the American liberal blogosphere in one of its almost daily fits of righteous indignation is not so much ridiculous as faintly sinister. Why? Because what I have encountered since the publication of my Newsweek article criticizing President Obama looks suspiciously like an orchestrated attempt to discredit me.

My critics have three things in common. First, they wholly fail to respond to the central arguments of the piece. Second, they claim to be engaged in “fact checking,” whereas in nearly all cases they are merely offering alternative (often silly or skewed) interpretations of the facts. Third, they adopt a tone of outrage that would be appropriate only if I had argued that, say, women’s bodies can somehow prevent pregnancies in case of “legitimate rape.”

Their approach is highly effective, and I must remember it if I ever decide to organize an intellectual witch hunt.”

The tactics have been identified and they are common: duck the issue and argue something other than what was on the table; turn fact checking into fault finding by ignoring relevancy and significance; and assume a mantle of morale outrage.

Ferguson takes on the complaints about his veracity and shows where his conclusions came from. That just raises the ante as it means those trying to deny the reality have to get yet more creative in their defense of what they want to believe.

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