Oliver Kamm gives us a nice illustration of the poisoning the well fallacy. In showing a"thuggish disregard for free speech" yesterday, he says, "Greenpeace has... given definitive evidence that its voice should be discounted and derided in public debate."
It has, of course, done no such thing. The fact that Greenpeace is wrong on one point does not show at all that it is wrong on other things (they may of course be wrong for other reasons.)
There is an irony here. Oliver is defending the right to free speech of a Prime Minister who is an enemy of that right. I'd have thought that attempts to outlaw inciting religious hatred and glorifying terrorism, and using the law to suppress evidence of plans to bomb a TV station, were more serious attacks upon the right to free speech than the antics of a few twats on a roof.
Now, if Oliver is merely saying that we should tolerate the intolerant, I'll applaud him. But I'm worried there might be something else going on here. It struck me whilst reading his Anti-Totalitarianism. He tends to attack relatively powerless critics of governments (not just Chomsky), or to ignore their suffering (such as that of Iraqi citizens), whilst - a few criticisms of Bush aside - sucking up to the powerful. This is dangerously close to power-fucking.
And herein lies a curious feature of the biography he gives in that book. Although he mentions several short-term affiliations (his chairing of Oxford University Labour club and a couple of his City jobs), he omits to mention that he went to school for years in Leicester, which one would imagine would be a formative experience.
Is there a pattern here? Is he a self-loathing provincial who is trying to ingratiate himself into a metropolitan elite by persistently attacking the powerless? I hope I'm wrong.