Ad Hominen is a form of argument that occurs a lot on Twitter. This is the long winded definition:
Ad hominem (Latin for “to the person”), … typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, …, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem
I prefer the much shorter one: intimidation.
Too strong? Think about it. Why do people argue in the first place? To win. So if you can make your opponent back down, or back off, you will have won the argument…right?
Wrong. The argument has not been won. The argument has not been addressed at all. It’s still there. All you have achieved is to scare your opponent off by attacking them personally.
Isn’t this precisely what happens when a woman is sexually harassed but remains silent because she fears for her job if she speaks up?
Isn’t this precisely what happens when people in an organisation witness wrong doing but don’t speak up for fear of ruining their careers, or even ending up in jail as ‘whistleblowers’?
Intimidation can take many forms, but at its heart it is the need to win at any cost. Correction, the need to appear to win at any cost because intimidation doesn’t actually change things. It doesn’t solve any problems. It doesn’t persuade. It doesn’t change hearts and minds. It simply sends them underground where they fester.
In my head I see a weedy little guy shouted down by a big, burly guy. Mr Weed slinks away in humiliation, but in the privacy of his own mind he knows he’s right. And so the anger builds. The next time he sees the big, burly guy, he’s got a gun in his pocket. Bang. Take that. And so it goes.
I grew up respecting facts and logic, courtesy and genuine debate. To me, name calling was the last resort of a loser. I guess I really have become an old dinosaur because these days, name calling has become the first resort of many people on Twitter.
I shouldn’t be surprised. Western democracy is in trouble, people are becoming more and more polarised, and we all feel as if we’re not being listened to, or even heard. But intimidation only escalates the problem.
Intimidation also has the capacity to turn potential allies into foes. I discovered that yesterday on Twitter. I thought I was having a polite discussion with someone I follow when The Pack descended and launched a personal attack against me for daring to disagree with something. I became angry at the form of the attack and any sympathy I may have had for their cause went flying out the window.
The people carrying out this attack belong to one of Australia’s smaller political parties. I’ll simply call it party X because the followers of the bigger ones are no better.
I’ve never voted for party X, but I actually agree with some of their principles. But not all, and that was the problem.
“O con noi o contro di noi”—You’re either with us or against us. [Benito Mussolini]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27re_either_with_us,_or_against_us
Group think demands that there be no dissent, or else. As a result of yesterday’s ‘or else’, any chance party X had of winning my vote in the future is gone. That is the flip side of intimidation.
As an individual, my vote counts for very little. But there are a lot of people like me. We may not subscribe to the ‘group think’ of a particular party, but we do care about significant issues. We are potential allies in the fight for those issues, so using intimidation tactics against us is the equivalent of cutting your nose off to spite your face.
If we are to have any chance of saving the world, and ourselves, we have to start treating everyone with respect.
p.s. this post was written using Guttenberg for the first time.