Polemic journalism was common in continental Europe when libel laws weren't stringent. The Research Support Libraries Programme "Pamphlet and polemic: pamphlets as a guide to the controversies of the 17th-19th centuries", co-managed by the University of St. Andrews, the University of Aberdeen, and University of Wales Lampeter, collected and placed thousands of pamphlets on-line as a study of polemic rhetoric of that era. There are other meanings of the word as well. Polemic is also a branch of theology, pertaining to the history or conduct of ecclesiastical controversy.
The word is derived from the Greek word polemikos (πολεμικως) which means "warlike", "hostile". Plato uses a character named Polemarchus in his dialogue Republic as a vehicle to drive forward an ethical debate.