Argumentum ad David Duke

March 22, 2006
This is an absolutely
outrageous example of "journalism" from the New York Sun. According to the article, the supporters of the excellent piece by Mearsheimer and Walt are listed as David Duke (= KKK = Nazi), the PLO, and "a senior member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization." Obviously a bad lot. On the other hand, the opponents include prominent ex-government officials, academics, and media people: Marvin Kalb, Dennis Ross, and Mort Zuckerman, and Daniel Pipes—all well-known members of the Israel Lobby. A previous article, titled David Duke Claims to be Vindicated by Harvard Dean, did the same thing, but the opponents in that one included a different set of Zionist operatives: Alan Dershowitz, Malcolm Hoenlein (executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations), Martin Peretz, Aaron Miller, Andrea Levin, and Morris Amitay. The main technique is to find fault with some quibble and thereby discredit the whole thing. The classic is the statement in the article that Daniel Pipes has offered a reward to anyone who can prove that he started Campus Watch at the behest of the Lobby. But M & W simply point to Pipes being a member of the Lobby—someone with a long record of pro-Israel activism (perhaps fanaticism is a better word in Pipes' case). Rather than debate the truth of this, Pipes interprets M & W's to imply some sort of secret organization giving Pipes his marching orders. But of course, this can't be proven, and is probably not true anyway. So the implication is that everything M&W say is tainted.

Not to be outdone, James Taranto picked up the David Duke theme in his op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. This piece does deal with some of the actual arguments in M & W (although it leaves an awful lot out), but Taranto just can't help tying it all together by emphasizing the Duke angle. I guess the idea is that if you embed your arguments in the Duke stuff, maybe people won't look too closely at the arguments. Think of Duke as a tool for focusing the mind and simplifying the issues.
Too bad Hitler isn't still alive so the Sun and Taranto could find out the Fuhrer's attitude on this one. I guess we'll have to settle for the argumentum ad David Duke.

PS: Sept. 20, 2007: This type of attack continues. Mearsheimer and Walt gave a talk at UCLA on Sept. 19. A flyer distributed to audience members by "Stand With Us" has a page titled "Extremists Endorse 'The Israel Lobby.'" On it are listed David Duke, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's guidance council, Abdulmo'em Abulfotah, Hamas, and Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review. The first page sums up their critique: "Fails to Meet Academic Standards; Includes Factual Errors; Carries Anti-Semitic Overtones.