Friday, February 23, 2007

A Bad Ad Hominem Day?

Is it just me or am I right in saying that the frequency and ferocity of ad hominem attacks in fora, blog comment sections and other arenas of Internet discussion is actually strongly increasing? No, this piece isn't about my sensitivity, me having been at the receiving end of personal attacks or my bleeding heart for that matter. But for the purpose of illustration, I will show one comment which I consider to be one of the longest and most vituperous I've come across in a while, directed at me or anyone else for that matter. It's worth quoting in its entirety because obviously some work went into composing such a diatribe:
The source, a comment made on this Jultra blogpost
Gert, you hairy Troll

You haven't got anything to say about WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT you simpering bollock-less troll.

If you have something to say about the subject, i.e., you have SEEN THE DOCUMENTARY IN QUESTION and have come to a different conclusion, then by all means, OFFER THAT you TWAT, instead of your lilly livered puked up pabulum of TWADDLE.

Jultra says Iran is next. You say, in a condescending tone, "its more complicated than that". You utter arsehole, just what the HELL does that mean? Do you have SOMETHING TO OFFER to demonstrate why Jultra's conclusion is wrong? Of course not, you are just a simpering troll, you have nothing to offer, you are an empty vessel, a pathetic debunker, an idiot, and frankly, a part of the problem, because you try and shut up people who DO have something to say, which is their absolute right. And by the way MANY people believe that Iran is next, what the hell, cant you even READ the internet that you claim to be able to sell services for?

Uneducated types like you are the cause of all our problems. You are small thinkers, concerned only with the form of a thought and not its content. You and your grammar checking rats really make me sick.

I know your type. You have a whining nasal Yorkshire accent, you think you are cultured, intelligent, reasonable and worldly, and yet, you are as thick as shit, put ketchup on your food, are insular as they come and deeply resentful of the 'southerners' who own and control you.

You are a Skeptic, the worst type of inhuman beast on this planet. You science cult followers, without independent thought are the type that burned the early astronomers. Now we can put your comment that 'its a little more complicated than that' into perspective. You are a PATERNALIST just like the BBC garbage eaters who made that program. Anyone who doesn't think like you is a threat. That is why you slavishly follow crappy little sites like BadScience. You are an atheist, and against people following religion. You are a rancid fanatical follower of the 100% evil scientist Dawkins, witchfynder general of modern science.

We know your number Gert, we read your blog! [this bit does actually come across as slightly menacing, my edit]

Typical of your rabid foam mouthed blathering is your slavish repetition of the standard attacks on Dr Gillian McKeith, who has more money than you, helps more people than you do and is a female, hence your utter contempt and hatred for her. You parrot the garbage of other 'science' people in your attack piece on her. How sad you little northerners are, and that pathetic image is multiplied and exacerbated by your dribbling fawning fanboy 'scientific' posturing. What a joke. You are as easy to read as a puppy that has just pissed its owners lap. You are a monumental simpleton and a fucking jackass.

Please bugger off back to your religion you bastard, and leave the real science and debating to the people who are actually interested in the facts, and not dogmatic proclamations from your slimy science pulpit.

You utter tosser.

It's worth looking into the phenomenon of excessive and baseless name-calling that so pervades the blogosphere because it seriously stands in the way of a frank but respectful exchange of ideas and the latter is one the Internet's goals and in many respects one of its achievements. No-one cannot be tempted to simply break off the 'conversation' when the point of mudslinging is reached, or alternatively the target of the attack will merely retaliate with similar filth and the whole thing then spirals out of control and into a meaningless cacophony of slanderous epithets.

The truth of the matter is that things get written that most bloggers or fora members would never dare say when face-to-face with a person, or in the presence of friends, peers, parents, work-colleagues or other people for that matter. For one, the person at the receiving end might just put your nose out of joint and if not, you'd look in any case mostly foolish in front of the audience.

It kind of reminds me of the
Milgram experiment which clearly showed that people are more willing to dish out 'punishment' when they are physically further removed from the 'punished'. And where can you be further removed from the object of your dislike or even hatred than in the anonymity of Tinterwebs? The absence of any consequences of what one writes or says about another person, this complete absence of deterrence is what makes it possible to be offensive to a degree that is broadly speaking unimaginable in the 'physical world'.

In the name of dialogue, I urge anyone to reconsider when tempted to resort to mudslinging: it stands in the way of reasoned debate and achieves nothing at all...


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