Attacking the man for who supports him

I am attempting to thread a needle here:

This comes in response to reports, made public just before the Nevada Caucuses, that Bernie Sanders is receiving help from Russia as part of a program likely meant to sow discord in U.S. politics. It is possible that some of the attacks made by Sanders “supporters” that other candidates have blamed Sanders for are in fact the product of Russian disinformation.[1] We see the predictable outrage, both in support of Sanders and opposed to him, on Twitter, and Eugene Scott, a reporter for the Washington Post, defends the coverage:

With the fallacy I am attempting to define, I want to be clear that if you are a capitalist libertarian opposing Sanders because billionaires oppose him, I disagree with you, but I am not accusing you of this fallacy. I have little sympathy for billionaires and that which they have wrought.[2] I find their complaints overwrought and their self-adulation pathetic.[3] You, on the other hand, think highly of Ayn Rand’s so-called “objectivism” and think the rest of us are leeches who should be grateful for what we get.[4] It’s possible other fallacies are involved here but not the one I’m attempting to define.

Actually similarly, I seek to exclude myself for amplifying (however weakly)[5] Charles Blow’s tweetstorm against Michael Bloomberg:

Charles Blow is a Black man who lives in New York City. He lived there when Bloomberg was mayor. (He’s also a columnist for the New York Times and hardly needs my help.)

As a white male, I want to acknowledge Blow’s experience and to amplify his voice. To the extent that I would substitute my own voice, I should do so only in coordination with him and with other Blacks.[6] They, certainly not me, have expertise on “stop and frisk” and its pernicious effects on their community and I am trusting that expertise. Accordingly, I support Blow’s attack on Bloomberg, whose policy this was, and I mean to exclude this support from the fallacy I am attempting to define.

The attack on Sanders is different: Folks are attacking him because the Russians are attempting to sow discord. That’s not a legitimate attack on Sanders’ policies or his campaign positions. It’s an attack upon the man, but not because of who Sanders is, but because of Russian trolls. This is the fallacy I seek to define.

  1. [1]Shane Harris et al., “Bernie Sanders briefed by U.S. officials that Russia is trying to help his presidential campaign,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020,
  2. [2]Bess Levin, “Cranky Billionaire Warns Bernie Sanders is ‘a Bigger Threat than the Coronavirus,‘” Vanity Fair, February 18, 2020,; Helaine Olen, “The decade of the billionaire victim,” Washington Post, December 26, 2019,; Lia Russell, “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” New Republic, January 16, 2020,
  3. [3]John Arlidge, “I’m doing ‘God’s work’. Meet Mr Goldman Sachs,” Times, November 8, 2009,; Jim Dobson, “Inside the World’s Largest Underground Survival Community: 575 Luxury Bunkers for 5,000 People,” Forbes, October 7, 2016,; Bess Levin, “Cranky Billionaire Warns Bernie Sanders is ‘a Bigger Threat than the Coronavirus,‘” Vanity Fair, February 18, 2020,; Tom Perkins, “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?” Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2014,; Chris Reiter, “BMW Billionaire Heirs Say Their Lives Are Harder Than You Think,” Bloomberg, June 20, 2019,
  4. [4]Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Plume, 1999).
  5. [5]David Benfell, “A billionaire likely loser,” Irregular Bullshit, February 16, 2020,
  6. [6]Linda Martín Alcott, “The Problem of Speaking for Others,” in Who Can Speak? Authority and Critical Identity, Judith Roof and Robyn Wiegman, eds. (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1995), 97-119.

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