The Ad Hominem Attack is Alive and Well on the Internet and in Politics

I just did something that I never do, which is comment on a website where people are mostly posting crazy, ad hominem attacks, but it was about the election and who would win and some woman had posted that we couldn’t handle four more years of Obama’s hand in the till (which struck me as a “huh?” kind of comment) and when I read the others…well, here’s what I said:

“Hand in the till? Your comment doesn’t actually make sense, and the rest of your comments are ad hominem attacks. In fact, many of these replies have very little substance. Name-calling and charges to leave the country if you don’t like it? Is this really the best that you can do to argue for or against a candidate? Perhaps those who claim that Obama is anti-American and has a socialist agenda could explain how and give specific examples that provide evidence of anti-American leanings and particular socialist policies that he has enacted. Be sure to explain how they actually fit into the definition of socialist, not just that you think they are socialist. I keep hearing terms thrown around, and the way that they are being used makes me wonder how those terms are being defined. If you are going to argue about a point and actually expect to convince anyone that your point is valid, you need to do more than sling names and repeat media hype. We have a responsibility as American citizens to put aside our prejudices, our emotions, and our knee-jerk reactions, and look at the facts behind this election. As voters, we should be examining each candidate carefully, not by relying on political ads and often repeated media hype, but by actually researching who they are, what they’ve done, and the feasibility of their plans for the future. Be informed voters. You owe it to yourselves and the rest of us.”

After posting this I had a surprising number of positive comments. However, one person posted that she had done her research and she did know the facts, which is why she is voting for Romney. Again, none of these facts or research were mentioned in her comment and since her other comments had been of the name-calling variety, I chose to respond:

I’m glad that you’ve done your research and have your facts, but all you said to [name redacted] was that she sounded “young and ignorant” and you hoped she wasn’t old enough to vote. How about passing along some of those facts to her instead or maybe just pointing her to a website that you think would be helpful. Otherwise, it’s just name calling.

I received no response after that. I realize that this is common among message boards and in commenting. I see it all the time and usually ignore it. Typically, it is a waste of time to engage people who clearly have no desire to do anything other than vent mindlessly. However, in this instance I felt that the stakes were just too high. This is a presidential election. If maybe, just maybe, one person reconsiders (and it would probably be a reader not a commenter) their position and decides to do a little research before voting then it will have been worth it. We not only need to “Get Out the Vote” but we need informed voters to get out there.