He probably thinks this song is about him

In Ben Shapiro, Resisting Jihad, Vox Day, WorldNetDaily on August 29, 2005 at 10:58 PM
Verse I
The first rule of holes: stop digging!

Vox Day wanted someone to show him where he was wrong in criticizing Ben Shapiro’s arguments. In my critique of Day’s original article, I very generally noted that Day was at points misrepresenting what Shapiro obviously meant; here I will point out specific errors and misstatements:

Mr. Shapiro’s first argument against the appellation is that it is nothing more than a leftist attempt to silence debate. This is partially true….

No, Day’s mischaracterization of Shapiro’s comments is partially true. Shapiro wrote, “The bulk of the left in this country refuses to argue about foreign policy rationally, without resorting to ad hominem attack” (Day does not refute this–he agrees with it). Shapiro is here writing about most on the Left; he is not addressing the Right, the Middle, or Vox Day (wherever he might be; judging from the generally condescending tone of his rhetoric, he would probably place himself Above).

Regardless of from where the personal attack comes, argumentum ad hominem is in itself almost always used either to distract, obfuscate, prejudice, manipulate, or shame; it is never relevant to the merits of a particular argument (unless that argument is about a specific person).

His second and third arguments are that the insult is dishonest and “explicitly rejects the Constitution.” But there is nothing dishonest about calling into question the credibility of one who does not practice what he preaches.

It is dishonest if one is to honestly represent or rationally evaluate the merits of a specific argument.

(As noted previously) Besides that, Day is not referring to the definition of “dishonest” Shapiro apparently was using, who wrote:

” It is dishonest because the principle of republicanism is based on freedom of choice about behavior (as long as that behavior is legal) as well as freedom of speech about political issues….Representative democracy necessarily means that millions of us vote on issues with which we have had little practical experience. The “chickenhawk” argument – which states that if you haven’t served in the military, you can’t have an opinion on foreign policy – explicitly rejects basic principles of representative democracy.”

Perhaps Shapiro should have used in place of “dishonest,” something like, “inconsistent with an important aspect of representative democracy.”
Day continues:

If a CNBC analyst urges viewers to buy a stock he is secretly shorting, he will rightly be dismissed as a hypocrite unworthy of further regard.

The appropriate value in raising questions about a speaker’s credibility lies only in that any doubt regarding their integrity should cause the hearer to discern even more carefully the merits of the argument; a speaker’s questionable credibility does not necessarily reflect the merits of what they say.

The unconstitutional argument is spectacularly silly, since no one in Congress has proposed a federal law barring such hypocrites from office. One can only assume that Mr. Shapiro’s first Constitutional Law class lies ahead of him.

Here again, Day is either reading carelessly or intentionally misrepresenting Shapiro’s language (so that he might take another cheap shot at Shapiro?).

In referring to the Constitution, Shapiro was referring to the Left’s position that unless one has served, one cannot have an opinion on the use of military force. This contradicts the Constitution’s provision for civilian control of the military. Shapiro did not say the use of “chickenhawk” was unconstitutional in the legal sense, as Day implies. Here are Shapiro’s actual words:

The “chickenhawk” argument also explicitly rejects the Constitution itself. The Constitution provides that civilians control the military. The president of the United States is commander in chief, whether or not he has served in the military. Congress controls the purse strings and declares war, no matter whether any of its members have served in the military or not. For foreign policy doves to high-handedly declare that military service is a prerequisite to a hawkish foreign policy mindset is not only dangerous, but directly conflicts with the Constitution itself.

Day continues:

His fourth argument, which asserts that use of the term is somehow “un-American,” reveals a similar failure to understand the First Amendment and American history. Mr. Shapiro might wish the Constitution prevented people from calling him names, but it actually protects their right to do so and American political history is littered with an abundance of inventive insults.

Obviously, Day is taking the term “American” in a sense different from that intended by Shapiro. This is in itself either intellectually dishonest or [just] lazy. Shapiro’s actual words make this clear:

Last week, I explained why the “chickenhawk” argument undermines fundamental values of representative democracy, as well as the constitutional idea of civilian control over the military.

Essentially, Shapiro was defining “un-American” in terms of two of his earlier points.

Day goes on:

His fifth and final argument – that use of the term “chickenhawk” is an attempt to avoid substantive debate – is easily disproved.

Shapiro was talking about the Left’s use of the term; he was not discussing Day’s use of it.

In Day’s implicit endorsement of the comments from a reader of his ‘blog which include the observation, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day,” he demonstrates the (usually) fallacious nature of argumentum ad hominem–a person’s argument should be judged on the merits of the argument, not on who is making it.

The genuine flaw in the use of the “chickenhawk” label is that in most cases it is being applied years, even decades, after the fact, and inherently attempts to equate two different historical situations.

The real flaw in Day’s article (whether or not Shapiro is actually a chickenhawk), is that he took up the pen at all to give him (as he puts it) a well-deserved “spanking.”

I am only one of many non-pacifist, non-leftist Americans who believe that Mr. Shapiro would do well to heed his own words of Aug. 26, 2004. “Now’s the time: Either put up, or shut the hell up.”

Perhaps Mr. Shapiro can sign up to serve with Mr. Day wherever he is currently stationed (unless VD’s currently enjoying a “bath” somewhere on the California coast).

Verse II
Speaking of protesting too much…

Ben Shapiro wrote two columns arguing why the anti-war Left’s use of the term “chickenhawk” is improper. The first article on “chickenhawk” argued that using the term is intellectually dishonest in discussing the merits of the Iraq War, and the Left use it because they don’t have anything substantial to add to the public discourse.

It is and they don’t.

In his second article, Shapiro continued his argument against the Left’s use of name-calling.

Vox Day wrote an (apparently unprovoked) article calling him a “chickenhawk” and trying to point out why Shapiro’s arguments against the term are invalid.

After reading both of Shapiro’s articles, one must wonder, “Where did the author criticize (or even mention) Vox Day?” Mr. Shapiro specifically cites the emptiness of the anti-war Left who resort to ad hominem attacks out of desperation, mean-spiritedness, and their hatred for President Bush. Unless there are some behind-the-scenes insults or reproaches to which I am not privy, Day’s response to Shapiro is unjustified.

[Guest MikeT courteously points out that Day is responding to Shapiro’s call for more pre-emptive action in other nations–for an American Empire; he should criticize that instead.]

And rather than admit he went too far (or just stop), Day tried to justify his inappropriately public and uncharitable rebuke of one of his colleagues in a response to some of my comments.

The use of “chickenhawk” he defends is only valid against particular persons, nothing else. Its use does not demonstrate that person’s arguments to be false, which was Shapiro’s point in the two columns cited in Day’s tirade. That sort of a false argument[ation] is unbecoming someone of Day’s [. . .] stature.

No matter how valid his criticisms of any expansion of our “War Against Extremism” might be (or any other action Shapiro might advocate), Day’s personal attack against him only weakens the moral force of his own arguments and damages his own reputation.

If the point of the debate is whether or not the military should engage in a certain operation, then make that argument. If the point is that those who do not serve should refrain from calling for more warfare, then make that argument. If the point is that Shapiro is a hypocrite and should do something about it or be quiet, state that (privately).

But Day seems more interested in pushing around someone for whom he has little or no respect than addressing whether or not ad hominem attacks are morally-defensible (in almost all cases, they are not). Day’s attack of an apparently decent young man comes off as nothing more than vulgar and petty.

His criticism of Shapiro’s character would be more appropriate in a private exchange or even on his own ‘blog; WorldNetDaily Commentary does not seem the right forum for the puerile schoolyard bullying evident in Day’s article. (And no, an imprecise use of language does not make one deserving of public disembowelment. Grammar lessons, perhaps).

If Day’s intention was to criticize constructively, he should have done that privately (and if he did do it privately, he should have kept it private).

As for refuting Shapiro, that VD cites himself as an example of where some of Shapiro’s arguments fall short only supports his opponent: Day is an exception that proves the rule. He is not part of the vacuous anti-Bush [anti-American] Left, whose use of the tactic Shapiro was criticizing. Neither is he part of the (as Day claims) 95% of people too stupid to get out of their own way (and therefore susceptible to such fallacious argumentation).

Argumentum ad hominem does nothing to further a particular position (unless, of course, the argument is about a specific person); it only cheapens the worth of comments that otherwise might be deserving of consideration, and it lowers the esteem of the speaker in the eyes of fair-minded observers.

So (ironically), in trying to weaken Shapiro’s credibility, Day lessens his own.

Verse III
A line-by-line response

Following is my response to Day’s critique of my original post…

I wrote:

If Day’s argument is that Shapiro seems defensive, and that this defensiveness reveals a lack of courage, then that is the argument he should make. But the intimation of physical or moral defect on the part of his target is childish and inconsistent with Christ’s example.

To which Day responded:

Amil gets right out of the blocks with a blown reading comprehension test. First, that’s not my argument. Second, the suggestion of the possibility of a physical or moral defect is far from childish, it is absolutely necessary in order to admit the real possibility that the entire argument does not apply…..

My comment above was obviously a response to Day’s introduction only (and I was trying to give Day the benefit of the doubt, of which he is quickly proving himself undeserving).

As indicated by the reference to Shakespeare, he implies Shapiro’s repeated criticism of the pejorative is an indication he feels it hits too close to home. VD later calls Shapiro “chickenhawk,” “chicken_ _ _ _,” and “hypocrite.” All of that is unnecessary.

Day here admits that he is attacking Shapiro personally to cast doubt on his argument! Essentially, Day’s argument here is: “Shapiro’s a chickenhawk, so he’s wrong.” That’s a non sequitur and powerful evidence that Day is victim to his own flawed logic–attacking a person’s character (even if the accusations are true) has no actual bearing on the merits of the argument made.

Again, to suggest that hinting at possible physical or character flaws as reasons for Shapiro’s lack of service is necessary in refuting his argument is defective reasoning.

Day continued:

I testify to what Shapiro said that was false. His assertion is largely incorrect and is only true in the single context of conservative media commentary, which, ironically enough, features a high percentage of people who many on the Left and Right would consider to be chickenhawks. I took a poll of some of the most extreme right-wing people on the planet – in the last election, Bush came in third behind the Libertarian and Constitution party candidates – and 85 percent believe that the chickenhawk appellation applies to Mr. Shapiro.

And I note that if there is anyone less interested in genuine debate than the conservative commentariat, I have yet to meet them. Malkin was afraid to show even when she was called out in public and asked live on the air to defend her book. I doubt Shapiro has the … to defend himself or his positions either. Hugh Hewitt won’t even permit libertarians on his radio show. Conservative commentators talk a good game as long as they think they’re dealing with brain-dead leftists, but they’re cowards for the most part. At least the lefties will show up and froth at the mouth for a while. Anyhow, the fact that leftists can’t debate properly doesn’t mean they won’t; you have to remember that to them calling names IS how you debate.

Calling names is how one debates if they’re five years old and not very bright, which is part of why Day’s public attack is inappropriate and embarrassing.

Day writes that Shapiro’s assertion is largely incorrect and only true in a very limited context. As evidence of this he cites the opinions of “the most extreme right-wing people on the planet.” Is this a sizeable group of people? If so, why did not the Constitutional or Libertarian candidates win the presidency?

Even if it is a large group of people, Shapiro was writing about the Left’s use of “chickenhawk.” I nowhere noted his use of the terms “Liberatarians,” “Conservatives,” or “Moderates” (or even “Vox Day”) in his two articles.

(And I doubt Shapiro would criticize its use by one who has served).

Perhaps Day should have read more carefully.

He goes on:

So, Shapiro is demonstrably wrong. My very willingness to debate blows his (and Amil’s) talking points-derived notion away. I’m right here… Shapiro and Lowry and all the other war cheerleaders know where I am. Shall we talk about the invasion of Pakistan? Or do you prefer Egypt? To quote our president, Bring It On. And what debate, precisely, is being stifled? From what I’ve seen, the left seems more than willing to debate the war. President Bush is the one who won’t answer any questions.

Here Day demonstrates his carelessness in both reading and reasoning.

I do not have a “talking points-derived notion.” I was merely making the point that Day’s public personal attack was inappropriate. Some of Shapiro’s language may need refinement; in addressing the Left’s use of the term (and in taking his words in the ways in which they were obviously intended), he said nothing deserving of the venom issued by Day.

I wrote:

But it is dishonest to personally attack someone rather than expose the fault(s) in their argument. And neither is military service a prerequisite to having a valid opinion on the use of military force…. He was not writing of legislation regarding hypocrites….

To which Day responded:

I did both, so why the word “rather”? There’s nothing dishonest about attacking someone, indeed, I’d think the openness would be rather refreshing in light of all the fake Crossfire-style friendliness. An opinion is one thing, a call to action is another. Shapiro wasn’t simply expressing his opinion about the war, he was telling Americans what their duty was and what sacrifices they have to make. And Amil is right, Shapiro wasn’t talking about legislation, which is precisely why that argument was so phenomenally stupid. Why does the Supreme Court so often wrestling with questions of constitutionality? Why? Because it is the judicial branch! (In other words, it usually involves laws.)

Day did not expose the fault in Shapiro’s argument (unless one calls legitimate the refutation of comments taken in a sense other than what the author obviously intended), since Shapiro was addressing the use of “chickenhawk” by the majority of those on the Left, not rare cases like Day.

It is deceptive to attack someone instead of attacking their argument.

I wrote:

An ad hominem attack is intellectually dishonest and therefore immoral. What is immoral is un-American. And Shapiro’s reference to the President’s daughters was in the context of the Left’s misuse of them. He was not misusing them himself.

To which Day replied:

Amil skips over the small matter of the First Amendment rights. And there is nothing intellectually dishonest about an ad hominem attack, it is merely irrelevant if it is not accompanied by a more substantive attack, as this was. Shapiro’s intellectual sloppiness appears to be rubbing off here, as the attempt to equate moral with American is a monumental failure of both logic and personal observation. Shapiro brought the daughters up as a red herring defense for himself, so my point is not only funny, but appropriate.

Vox Day is proud of sacrificing his integrity for a laugh? Beautiful.

Day likes to refer to the First Amendment, but that appeal does not make his point any more honorable, appropriate, or true, since the Constitutional guarantee also applies to most forms of immoral[, false, and stupid] speech.

Again, a personal attack is always irrelevant unless the person under attack is the subject of the debate. Shapiro’s arguments against the Left’s use of “chickenhawk” were the substance of his articles, which Day should have addressed instead.

Finally, Day’s intimation that I am completely ignorant of American history is absolutely silly. In this context, I obviously choose to define “America” in terms of its highest ideals and the historically good and noble character of its people.

I’ve seen only the most craven and wretched of the anti-America/anti-Christ crowd try to paint those actually proud of this nation as blind to its faults and failings; that Vox Day would do the same thing [reeks of desperation and a lack of character].

I wrote:

Name-calling is almost always an attempt to silence opposition or avoid debate (or to discredit the opposition in the minds of those who are easily manipulated). That Day has criticized the War is the exception, not the rule, as most who use such terms have no real intellectually-honest argument to make against the War, they just hate President Bush and/or the military (even if it results in our nation “enjoying” the reign of the Religion of Peace).

On which Day commented:

…Amillenial is only correct about the parenthesized bit, though he leaves out that this group covers 95 percent of the populace so it’s rather important if you have any interest in influencing them. Name-calling is primarily shorthand to harm the target for those casual observers, and the more accurate the name the more effective it will be. Given how panicked the chickenhawks are over getting successfully nailed with the name, it’s quite obvious that the label is both accurate and effective.

If so many people are so easily deceived, and if Vox Day intends to represent Christ honorably, he should point out falsehood without engaging in it himself. He wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite, would he?

The ends do not always justify the means. Using the dishonorable tactics of those who oppose what is in America’s best interest is unbecoming someone of honor.

I wrote:

The country needs more intelligent, morally-sound young people who can string together a coherent thought. Perhaps he better serves his nation on his current career path. If Vox Day wants to play with words, he shouldn’t do it at the expense of someone who seems to be a decent kid. And liberal use of a thesaurus is no substitute for intellect.

Of which Day observed:

I don’t think “coherent” is the synonym for “obvious” that Amil seems to think it is.

I used the term I intended. A cheap shot, now unsurprising from Vox Day.

Day concluded:

If Ben wants to play with the big boys, then he’d better learn to think more carefully and choose his words with more precision. My column today was nothing but a well-earned spanking, perhaps Mr. Shapiro will learn something from it and begin rethinking his asinine calls for empire and sacrifice of liberties.

And Amil, not only do I not use a thesaurus, I don’t even use a spell-checker.

It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.” -Fezzik

“Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.” -Westley

“Wait ’til I get going!” -Vizzini

“I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains. -Vizzini
“You’re that smart?” -Westley
“Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?” -Vizzini
“Yes.” -Westley
“Morons.” -Vizzini

-The Princess Bride (1987)

That Day feels the need to state this perhaps sheds some light on what motivates him to shamelessly attack someone in need only of some maturity and a serious talk, not public evisceration.

(By the way, has anyone else noticed Day’s fascination with “bathhouse ___,” “big boys,” and “spanking”? Perhaps Vox’s obsession with Ben Shapiro comes not from his ideas, but his — eyes.)

Vox Day is an intelligent person with a bully pulpit; he ought to use it to encourage and instruct, not to bully.

Originally posted 8/29/05 at 11:58 PM
  1. Vox Day’s new book led me to revisit this old post.

    I wonder about his assertion that more than 93% of all wars have nothing to do with religion. How can that figure possibly include jihad?

    It seems at least that much of today’s warfare/terrorism/genocide/systematic rape/slavery is carried out in Allah’s name.

    The percentage has got to be high historically, too. Jihad figures into even our two official World Wars in the form of the Ottoman Empire and Hitler’s mufti and Muslim allies.

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