“Swiftboating” is a new term for me – and for science, I guess. But it is part of US political jargon.
To quote Wikipedia:
“Swiftboating . . is used as a strong pejorative description of some kind of attack that the speaker considers unfair or untrue—for example, an ad hominem attack or a smear campaign.
The term comes from the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth (formerly “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” or SBVT) and that group’s widely publicized campaign against 2004 US Presidential candidate John Kerry.
Originally, terms like “swiftboating”, “Swift Boating”, “Swift Boat tactics”, etc. were mostly used by people who disapproved of the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth. It is now in mainstream use. Some American conservatives have strongly objected (see below) to the criticism of SBVT implied by such negative usage.”
It appears, mainly, to be a tactic of political conservatives. So it’s not surprising they describe the process differently. This from Conservapedia:
“Swift-boating is an idiomatic catchphrase generally taken to mean exposing hard truths about Democrats who have distorted the truth or lied about their own activities.
Here on Conservapedia, the term is used to mean exposing hard truths about liberal editors who censor, distort the truth, or engage in deceit.”
So – its a synonym for “character assassination” and “smear.” With particular connotations of calling into question one’s honourable status.