arguing, attacking, exposing, refuting

Ed Whelan writes:

When I first ran across publius’s Friday post, I decided just to ignore his latest act in a pattern of irresponsible conduct. But I changed my mind when I discovered that John Blevins is a law professor. I think that law professors especially ought to be held to minimal standards. As regular Bench Memos readers know, I have developed a particular antipathy towards law professors who behave badly—or, rather, who argue poorly: who don’t present opposing arguments fairly, who don’t get the facts right, who don’t reason logically, and who don’t acknowledge and correct their errors.

But — and this is a kind of follow-up to the comment I made on Conor’s first post on the subject — how does revealing the blogger’s name show that he treats opposing arguments unfairly, or reveal what facts he gets wrong, or indicate his errors in logic, or illustrate his failure to acknowledge and correct his errors?

The answer is that it does none of those things. Perhaps Ed Whelan feels that he has responded to publius’s arguments elsewhere, but even if he has, no one will notice that now. Everyone — or rather, everyone who’s not already firmly on Whelan’s side on the issues concerned — will see Whelan as a guy who simply tried to humiliate his interlocutor, and will assume that he did so because he had no substantive arguments to make.

That’s why personal attacks on the opposition rarely do anything more than rally the base. And if you only care about the base, or want the base to be even smaller than it already is — e.g., if you’re Mark Levin — then you won't have a problem with that. (When Sarah Palin told the people at her rallies that they constituted the "real America," what did that say to people who weren't inclined to attend Sarah Palin rallies?) But if you want to win a few folks over to your way of thinking, Ed Whelan’s tactics are not the ideal ones to employ. Whelan keeps talking about “exposing” publius, but what he fails to see is that exposure is not refutation.

UPDATE: Ed Whelan has very graciously apologized to publius.