At the beginning of human civilisation, when man first managed to organise himself into substantial groups and quaint little social hierarchies, and language was becoming complex enough that it was possible to string a variety of words together to form some clump of meaning known as a "sentence", the human race began to lay the foundation for its greatest project ever. This was not some trivial superstructure like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, or the construction of the Early human empires of the Persians and the Chinese people. No, the pinnacle of the human race would be reached when individuals within it would figure out that they could make a pretty funny show as well as make friends and influence people just by insulting someone, in stupid, stupid arguments.
The personal attack on other human beings was a turning point for mankind. No longer did he have to hit is fellow man with a club or stab him with a sharp rock to cause him harm. He could cause him harm just by making noises from his mouth, and this verbal assault was especially effective when there were others around to witness it's destructive splendour. What an exciting time it must have been to be alive!
The personal attack on an individual or group, whether it be just casual verbal abuse or a more purposeful personal attack with the aim of discrediting someone or making them look the fool, existed without a proper fancy Latin term to describe it for many millennia. Fortunately for history's sake, the Greeks would show up and invent the Latin language, and give the personal attack its justly deserved fancy Latin name, the Ad Hominem, more or less meaning argument to the person, or argument against the man.
The Golden Age
The Personal Attack had finally come of age. Like some sort of awkward, slightly chubby teen with poor social skills, it had just scraped its way through its largely sex-starved pre-A.D. high school years, and it was ready to break out of its shell at University and begin fucking everyone in sight. Female, or male, this promiscuous fellow does not discriminate. Fuck them and leave them, that's the life of the swinging Ad hominem.
So we fast forward in history to the present day, where the Personal Attack is still at uni, but is seemly looking better than ever and no one has really noticed how long he’s been there, and he’s still fucking everybody, but now on a far grander scale than before, thanks to the relative proliferation of literacy amongst the Earth’s vastly vast population.
The Personal Attack in Action
Here’s the old school logical format of the ad hominem. Ad hominem is a logical fallacy by the way (not phallusey, that’s something else all together):
- person X makes a claim about ‘’something’’
- person Y says that person X is a silly billy
- person X’s claim about ‘’something’’ is therefore invalid
The point of the ad hominem is that in the argument/discussion/rant/dispute, the ad hominem has a go at the person making the claim, rather than at the claims, facts or reasons spurted by the person, in an attempt to discredit the claim and / or the person. Or because you stupidly think that attacking someone personally is logically relevant to whatever unrelated claim they're making.
Here are examples of the ad hominem in the real world:
|The Dodgy Argument||The False Conclusion and Explanation|
| Rupert: I say, Winston Smith’s new novella about post Victorian meta-pedagogy and the dialectics of Orsonian discourse is truly superb! You should read it Harold!!.
Harold: Why should I? I heard that you associate with common people and don’t even like croquet!.
| The false conclusion: You should not read the new novella by Winston Smith because Rupert associates with common people and doesn’t even like croquet.
Whether Rupert likes croquet and associates with common people is irrelevant to the quality of Winston Smith’s new novella and whether it’s worth reading.
| Fitzy: I reckon the Labor Party has some good points about why the new Australian Work Place Agreements the government has introduced ain’t good. I reckon we should vote for Labor.
Davo: Don’t listen to Fitzy, he’s a fag.
| The false conclusion: You shouldn’t listen to Fitzy or consider the Labor Party’s points on the issue because Fitzy is a homosexual.
Fitzy’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with all with the validity of the Labor Party’s points on Australian Work Place Agreements. Fitzy may not even be a homosexual either, given that the term “Fag” is also a commonly used as a derogatory term that’s thrown at people who aren’t homosexuals.
Ad Hominem on the Internets
Probably the absolute most popular form of argument on the internet is the Ad Hominem. Everywhere you go on the internet where there's a forum, message board, or some other type of text based communication, you'll find the personal attack trying to fuck someone.