Attack The Source

AKA: Ad Hominem, Personal Attack


Basically, this fallacy entails declaring that an argument or statement is wrong or flawed simply because of who it came from, or by casting unfounded aspersions upon the person who made the statement or argument, rather than addressing the validity of the statement or argument itself.

For example, let's say that Susie states that the characterization of Princess Peach in the Mario franchise is misogynist. Bob retorts with "Well, of course you'd say that - you're just one of those man-hating feminists!" The implication is that because Susie is (allegedly) a man-hating feminist, then absolutely nothing she says at all could have any merit whatsoever.

Alternatively, let's say that Susie states that she believes that the portrayal of Princess Peach is misogynist, and Bob, who disagrees, writes out a list of reasons why he disagrees with Susie's opinions. Susie immediately retorts with, "Well, of course you'd say that - you're a misogynist! Your opinion doesn't count!" As above, the implication is that Bob's alleged misogyny means that nothing he says could have any validity at all.

Declaring the other party a man-hater/misogynist does nothing to address or refute the core issue being addressed, and in fact has no bearing on whether Bob or Susie is right or wrong. Even if Susie was a man-hater and even if Bob was a misogynist, it wouldn't preclude either one of them from having at least some valid and reasonable arguments.

Another example of attacking the source would be to proclaim that information must be innacurate because of where it came from - eg, "Oh, you read on Wikipedia that some apple are yellow? Give me a break, everyone knows you can't trust anything you read on Wikipedia!" (Yes, it's true that Wikipedia often is full of inaccurate information, but it doesn't follow that all information from Wikipedia is false.) Now, it would not be an attack against the source to say, "I am going to remain skeptical of the existence of yellow apples until I can find a more reliable source, as Wikipedia is often known to be inaccurate."

And finally, a very widespread form of this argument is to try to delegitimize any and all criticism of certain books by pointing out that the critic has never written a book, and therefore has no right to comment on the quality of the book. This is like saying that a non-chef who received burned or undercooked food in a restaurant would have no right to complain to the chef about the quality of the food.



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