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Ad hominem comments & flaming

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Tuesday July 10, 2007 )

I’ve struck the term “ad hominem” a couple of times recently in blog threads that have degraded into flame fests and was curious as to what it meant.

Firstly, flaming is the practice of posting of hostile and insulting comments about another person participating in a thread. It’s a real shame when this occurs- I’ve seen many initially information-rich threads wind up becoming flame wars and my respect for all those involved drops sharply.

It becomes somewhat of a immature game – who can deliver the most cutting comment and those involved tend to become what the Dutch would call “Mierenneukers”. I won’t translate that here as this is a family friendly blog.. I think :). Anyway, it basically means that anything and everything is picked on between the combatants; even if it’s not related to the original topic. All quite childish.

That’s where “ad hominmen” comes into play. It’s a Latin term that translates to “argument to the person” or “argument against the man”. It’s the practice of personally attacking someone expressing a point of view, rather than addressing the substance of the claim or argument. It’s become all too common since the advent of the Internet, mostly due to the somewhat anonymous nature of the medium.

Some people who wouldn’t say boo usually suddenly become ten foot tall and bullet-proof in an online environment. But even the most well-controlled and seemingly logical people can get drawn into such flame fests, such is the fragile nature of our egos.

This entry on Wikipedia on Ad hominem is really interesting and was a good reminder to me about engaging in such silly battles. Our time is much better spent on other things. Every minute you waste on tussling with these people is a minute of your life you’ll never get back.

There may be people egging you on from the sidelines, but ask yourself – do they pay your bills? Who are these people in your life? Stick to the addressing the argument or point of contention rather than the personality flaws of those you’re up against. You’ll gain a lot more respect from those who *do* matter that way.

Remember that what you post may stay a matter of public record for many years to come; so stop and think before you hit the “submit” button if you’re feeling particularly passionate – your business or your career may depend upon it.

Next time you’re being flamed by someone; perhaps instead of posting a venomous rebuttal, simply post this link:


2 comments for Ad hominem comments & flaming
  1. You’re right on Michael, people find it much easier to post flaments when they can hide behind a wall of supposed anonymity. The jabs they throw are usually just to boost their own self-esteem, and the posts degrade the respect of the community.

    Comment by Steve Pohler — July 28, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  2. Hi Steve, welcome to the blog! Flamers need to understand too that sometimes their anonymity is somewhat shakey at best:

    Comment by Michael Bloch — July 29, 2007 @ 4:54 pm

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