Dear John Jacob,
Character Assassination- the age old technique by which political opposition is muted or eliminated in any number of clever rhetorical ways usually by some form of ad hominem attack.
Consider this brilliant chestnut from an early 20th Century Stump Speech (Courtesy of Professor Al Gini, Loyola University):
My opponent is an acknowledged philatelist! He is a known sexagenarian whose wife is a thespian! He has been known to keep phonographic literature in his possession and has been observed masticating in public!
And of course the classic example of the loaded question fallacy:
Ask my opponent a simple question: Are you still beating your wife? See if he has the courage to give you a straightforward yes or no answer.
Both superb examples of charges nearly impossible to challenge, rebut or refute with a short simple answer.
Unless, of course, you are Ronald Reagan:
“I want you to know that I will also not make age an issue of this campaign. I will not exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
Reagan’s innovation was to answer the question about his advanced age before it was posed and use the answer to suggest by innuendo his opponent, Walter Mondale, was too green to be President.
Now comes one Glenn Beck, talk show host and celebrity, who in his oafish way contributed yet another new wrinkle to the universe of ad hominem logical fallacy political character assassination when he interviewed Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Debra Medina.
His innovation is to introduce a slang term -truther- that has no formal meaning, cobble it together with a definition of his contrivance and use it to bludgeon a candidate with a performance worthy of good old Joe McCarthy himself:
ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN A TRUTHER? HAVE YOU EVER ASSOCIATED OR WILL YOU EVER ASSOCIATE WITH A TRUTHER? IT’S A SIMPLE QUESTION, ANSWER YES OR NO!
They say the old jokes are truly still the funniest.
Truther, a word everyone automatically thinks they can exactly define while, in truth, there exist a wide range of definitions in the public domain.
Really, Wikipedia says so, CLICK LINK HERE.
And oddly, with the exception of a somewhat inane and perfunctory discussion on Free Republic, I can find no chatter about the rhetorical implications of this incident anywhere on the Worldwide Web.
Where are all the learned Rhetoreticians? Political Science Professors? Toastmasters? Bloggers? Anyone?
Texas Governor Candidate Debra Medina and her supporters intuitively understand something out of kilter occurred in the Beck Interview but are unable to catalog the details.
The good news: only serious threats to the status quo get this Royal Treatment. Congratulations to the Medina Campaign! You are now officially a high value target in the eyes of the Oligarchy!
Meanwhile, has our civilization fallen so far to this low estate we no longer collectively recognize a hatchet job when occurs directly in front of us?
Forbid it Almighty God!
The resources are available to those who choose to learn about fallacies and their importance.