Tuesday, 29 March 2016

A slightly ad hominem note on ad hominem


* RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

You know, Alinsky was wrong. Not at the tactical level - a glimpse at US politics tells us attack advertising works - but at every other level. No I'm not making some sort of moral judgement, I'm a politician for heaven's sake and prattling about morality is best avoided. No, Alinsky is wrong because your supposed enemy might be your actual friend. Plus, of course, what's sauce for goose is sauce for the gander.

A week or so ago, I had an exchange on Twitter. It could be described as friendly fire since most folk would place us on the same side. I was pretty disappointed by the way in which the interchange went.

It starts with me suggesting (in response to a tweet) that perhaps Iain Duncan Smith's resignation wasn't all displacement activity intended to stop the media talking about #Brexit. Indeed, while IDS's long-standing scepticism about our EU membership may indeed have been one factor, all the evidence suggests that he'd finally had enough - and being outside the cabinet gives a load more scope to campaign on issues that concern a politician.

This was the response:

"Says a Tory who likes nothing better than superficial party politics - saves having to deal with the real issues."

Not even the faintest effort to engage with the argument. Going from a moderately friendly exchange to a straight up ad hominem without even stopping for breath. So I wasted ten minutes or so trundling through the particular Twitter account and came onto a revelation - it is mostly ad hominem. You know, this person's a liar, that person is stupid, another is ignorant. A dribble of the snarky, snide and downright nasty interspersed with patronising know-everything links to the account's well-established blog.

It rather explains why the blog in question, for all it's good work, for all the years it has been plugging away at the EU question, has to keep wittering on with 'read my book' it's better than that one you're talking about. It may well be better but if your approach is to attack anyone who asks even the most harmless of questions or raises the mildest of criticism then don't expect people to flock to your banner when battle is drawn.


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