Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 9 of Diamonds, “Poison the Well”

i-ec1e058ca9d279d7ecc0a595fb9ed74b-9d.jpg You should all be familiar with this tactic–poisoning the well. You know the trick: provide derogatory information about your opponent to undermine her arguments.

And here’s a great example: In defending Channel One, Jack Abramoff’s lobbyist Dennis Stephens proposed that Peter Ferrara pen an oped that “hammered the ‘anti-technology’ crowd:” “When I talked with Peter this morning, he was planning to draft a press release hammering the “anti technology” crowd per Jeff B’s request and will also be distributing Grovers nice piece on Channel One. A nice balance, a positive piece on the good guys and a hit piece on the bad guys. Sound good?”

Find this and other illuminating documents on Jack Abramoff here: Senate Finance Committee Minority Report on Jack Abramoff (PDF) (2005).


3 responses to “Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 9 of Diamonds, “Poison the Well””

  1. Kapitano

    How is this different from using a strawman argument?

  2. Poisoning the well is usually used pre-emptively – that is, it is usually directed towards an audience that is assumed to be unexposed to the other side’s arguments.

    Besides, a straw man is a red herring (or change the subject) type of fallacy, poisoning the well is an ad hominem type fallacy.

    But the two are often used together for maximum effect, and often they are so interwoven that it can be hard to tell them apart.

    – JS

  3. What about the blogpost last week linking Democrats to 9-11 conspiracies courtesy of Goldberg/Rasmussen?

    Isn’t the effect similar — tar and question the credibility/motivations of a 150 million people based on leading questions and cherry picking the few sites that one uses to illustrate?

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