In rhetoric or logic when one person responds to a claim or an argument from another by simply insulting the other instead of trying to answer the claim or refute the argument it's called the fallacy of ad hominem abusive. This article contains a textbook example of the tactic:
Kerry spokesman David Wade issued the following slap down today in response to Rush Limbaugh, who said on his radio show that Kerry's Swift Boat attackers in 2004, "were right on the money and nobody has disproven anything they claimed in any of their ads, statements, written commentaries, or anything of the sort."
Now set aside the question of whether Limbaugh is correct in saying this and look instead at the Kerry spokesman's response. Rather than seeking to show that Limbaugh is wrong Mr. Wade launches a stream of insults aimed at Limbaugh. Here's what he said:
"At first I thought, that's not Rush, that's just the OxyContin talking. Nonetheless, this is a despicable but unsurprising new lie from a man whose closest brush with combat came when customs officials tried to take away his Viagra.
This portly peddler of hate is once again wrong on the facts. John Kerry served his country with honor in Vietnam, and has fought for his fellow veterans ever since. The lies and smears of the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush were disproved conclusively in 2004 by the men who fought by John Kerry's side in Vietnam, by the military's own records, by investigative journalists, and by the incredible contradictions that exposed these right wing smear artists. It is long past time that we end the politics of fear and smear that we have seen used against decorated veterans from John McCain to Max Cleland and John Kerry.
Rush Limbaugh's ignorance and determination to divide Americans is just another reminder that you can't spell 'Rush Limbaugh' without the letters L-I-A-R."
Wade engages in much name-calling but he offers not a single rebuttal to Limbaugh's claim. He simply states that it has been rebutted by others and proceeds to prove it by calling Limbaugh a liar. Wade evidently possesses a black belt in the art of ad hominem. He has mastered the technique of filling the air with sufficient invective so as to convince the listener that the person on the receiving end of the insults must surely be wrong because he's apparently so despicable.
One of the sad things about this tactic is that it often works.RLC