Ad hominem

David Aaronovitch, in today's Times, includes a remarkable summary of an argument between the human rights lawyer, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, and George Pascoe-Watson of the Sun.

It may be that Aaronovitch has been unfair to one or both. I didn't hear the radio interview of which he writes. But if he is being fair, Lord Lester's main point seems to have been that Rupert Murdoch, and therefore his employees (Pascoe-Watson and also Aaronovitch) have a financial interest in the case being argued.

Why is that some people - in the UK, almost exclusively on the left - think that ad hominem attacks are a substitute for argument? "You are wrong because you have bade motives and are a bad person" is not a valid argument.

We saw it over the war with Iraq. "It's all about money and oil", they said. It turned out that they were partly right. Prominent opponents of the war, including Vladimir Putin and Jacques Chirac, had their own financial motives for wanting to prop up Saddam. By contrast, the last I heard is that Halliburton - a company which once employed Dick Cheney, and is therefore forever suspect in the eyes of the left - was losing money.

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