Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ad hominem

I was arguing with a friend about Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning). My friend did not think that Manning was a "hero" but rather that she was a tragic example of being so messed up by her transgender identity that she ruined her life by leaking all of that government information. It was hard not to think that my friend was just using Manning's trangender identity as an excuse to write her off and downplay her efforts.

People love to write other people off based on personal characteristics. I was reading an article about "journalese" (the jargon of journalists) that defined the word "coffers" as "Where organisations of which we disapprove keep money." Another recent article about someone the journalist clearly did not like described the subject's "dilapidated Victorian home," his "appearance more akin to Coronation Street’s hapless cafe owner Roy Cropper than a cutting-edge satirist," his "battered Toyota vehicle," and his "gap-toothed" maw.

We call these ad hominem arguments and they work because of our reductionist desire to simplify the world and people into clear cut categories of good and bad, troubled or heroes. From Wikipedia:

Ad hominem arguments work via the halo effect, a human cognitive bias in which the perception of one trait is influenced by the perception of an unrelated trait, e.g. treating an attractive person as more intelligent or more honest. People tend to see others as tending to be all good or tending to be all bad. Thus, if you can attribute a bad trait to your opponent, others will tend to doubt the quality of their arguments, even if the bad trait is irrelevant to the arguments.

Under this reasoning, of course we can't believe that Private Manning acted in what she considered the best interests of her country -- how could she when she was in the midst of a gender identity crisis? Similarly, Edward Snowden seems simply too "weird" or unpredictable to be a hero.

What is particularly self-defeating about this type of thinking is that it suggests that certain types of people are not capable of certain actions. Transgendered people cannot be patriots. Eccentric people cannot be acting in what they think is the greater good. Ugly people cannot have good or important or at least legitimately controversial ideas. Disabled people cannot be commander in chief. Sociopaths cannot do pro-social things? The more we know about people's personal lives via social networking and the eternal memory of the internet, the easier it will be for us as a society to get tripped up in these fallacies. But the truth is that we can never predict people's behavior, especially not based on their appearance or their feelings about their gender, or how eloquently they're able to articulate their beliefs. And we can never know someone's true motivations. All we know and all we can see is what they say and do. So why can't we judge those things based on their own intrinsic merits, without also "considering the source"?

39 comments:

  1. POLYGAMIST VEGITOPATH MADLY IN LOVE WITH PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKANSeptember 14, 2013 at 2:24 AM

    TEEHEEE























































    PEARSON. SKYE. MONEECA. UKAN. RAVISH YUU. TEEHEEE

























































































































































































































































































































































































































































    TEEHEE. BABEES. TEEHEE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. POLYGAMIST VEGITOPATH MADLY IN LOVE WITH PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKANSeptember 14, 2013 at 2:26 AM

      TEEHEEE. I WANT PWEGNONCEE. MEE WANT TOO BEE PWEGNANT. TEEHEE


































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































      PEARSON. SKYE. MONEECA. UKAN. TEEHEEE.




















































      TEEHEEE
      TEEHEEE TEEHEE
      TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEHEEE
      TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEEHEE TEEHEE


























      TEEEHEEEE

      Delete
    2. POLYGAMIST VEGITOPATH MADLY IN LOVE WITH PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKANSeptember 14, 2013 at 2:30 AM

      TEEHEEE. I WANT MAREEGE. MEE WANT TOO BEE RAVISHED BYE PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKAN. TEEHEE


































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































      PEARSON. SKYE. MONEECA. UKAN. TEEHEEE.




















































      TEEHEEE
      TEEHEEE TEEHEE
      TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEHEEE
      TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEEHEE TEEHEE


























      TEEEHEEEE

      Delete
  2. POLYGAMIST VEGITOPATH MADLY IN LOVE WITH PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKANSeptember 14, 2013 at 2:28 AM

    TEEHEEE. I WANT MAREEGE. MEE WANT TOO BEE RAVISHED BYE PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKAN. TEEHEE


































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































    PEARSON. SKYE. MONEECA. UKAN. TEEHEEE.




















































    TEEHEEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEHEEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEEHEE TEEHEE


























    TEEEHEEEE

    ReplyDelete
  3. POLYGAMIST VEGITOPATHSeptember 14, 2013 at 2:28 AM

    TEEHEEE. I WANT MAREEGE. MEE WANT TOO BEE RAVISHED BYE PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKAN. TEEHEE


































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































    PEARSON. SKYE. MONEECA. UKAN. TEEHEEE.




















































    TEEHEEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEHEEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEEHEE TEEHEE


























    TEEEHEEEE

    ReplyDelete
  4. POLYGAMIST VEGITOPATH MADLY IN LOVE WITH PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKANSeptember 14, 2013 at 2:29 AM

    TEEHEEE. I WANT MAREEGE. MEE WANT TOO BEE RAVISHED BYE PEARSON AND SKYE AND MONICA AND UKAN. TEEHEE


































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































    PEARSON. SKYE. MONEECA. UKAN. TEEHEEE.




















































    TEEHEEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEHEEE
    TEEHEEE TEEHEE TEEEHEE TEEHEE


























    TEEEHEEEE

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear M.E.,
    When I'm wrong I'm wrong. And I have to admit it. I owe you an apology.
    I thought I was personally being singled out.
    This demented individual who seems determined to destroy your blog, with
    his proclomations of love for someone, who is sabatouging your blog, I
    thought it was some kind of a ploy to stop me from posting because you
    wanted to drive me away. It didn't occurr to me that this person had
    "issues" and wanted to disrupt your blog. I don't guess that this is
    "normal" sociopathic behavior. It's more like psychotic behavior.
    Is there anything you can do to stop these disruptions? Others might
    feel the same way. Have you ever come across a problem like this in the
    years you've done this? It seems that others here know the persons'
    idenity. Are they just amused? Do they think it "comes with the
    terroitory?' I can't believe that there aren't "measures" you can take
    to tame this unwell person.
    I don't know whether this post will get through, but I wanted to tell
    you I was wrong and aplogise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, please stop that person. The insults and other play is not as annoying as that Vegitopath person. I am not only complaining because they have included me in their actions. I want to add my voice to this request of taking action. I like this blog and it has been disruptive and bothersome scrolling on my iPad. :)

      Delete
  6. The journalist talking about someone they don't like made me think of propaganda methods.

    First attack the facts to create confusion. If the facts keep coming out, inject feelings and emotion to undermine them. If that doesn't work, make false statements and then call for a compromise and never acknowledge the truth until the falsehood are accepted as equal.

    ReplyDelete
  7. There seems to be no way to escape Vegitopath, s/he appeared out of the blue while I logged in to move the topic here. Now way out. Is that you ME?

    Macha, I hope this has no negative connotations in US ears, but I prefer to shorten your handle. Thanks for trying to help to clarify the sentence I had problems to understand. I guess I still have them somewhat.

    MachavellianempathSeptember 13, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    MachaThose of us with overactive superegos in terms of romance only want to be with someone if we feel we are doing right by them

    It felt you suggested you want to know in the romantic setting that you are doing something you feel is good for him? Somehow help her to develop to his fullest capacities. Isn't that what the addition of romance somehow suggests? Here your response concerning "doing right by someone":

    Macha: To "do right by someone" is probably equivalent to the idea that you don't take more than you give.

    Hmmm? What would happen if you take this romance type of superego, or "moral demand" out of the duad setting? Could you possibly imagine to receive something you need from someone completely unrelated to the one you gave to? Once you move back and take in the larger reality, I mean? How do you keep your account of giving and taking and isn't it both material and immaterial? So how do you arrive, as I suppose you did, at the conviction the account was somehow unbalanced? Or did get that wrong?

    For whatever reason, superego, triggered memory traces of a book from the post 911 universe by a very old spiritual friend, which I have read twice, since it is very complex, and maybe I have to read it yet again. In any case it would make me very, very hesitant to deal too lightly with Freud's idea of the superego, Lacan's spiritual realm, or Kant's duties. Although it may be an interesting idea to combine it with "romance", the topic that is probably one of the most favored here: "love".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @ LeaNder-
      I consistently enjoy your input- very good food for thought. And no problem with the name shortening- someone nicknamed me "Mach" a while back and it seems to have stuck. You are the only one who seems to have noticed the deliberate misspelling of my screen name here- I omitted and i in the middle of the word Machiavellian to lessen the chance of anything I write popping up in someone's random search. The stuff I post on these walls is very much stream of consciousness, trying to figure things out as I go along. ME's thought provoking posts and the comment streams provide food for thought like no other website I've ever encountered. I am happy to see that you seem to be in the new rotation of regulars.

      So today- you make me think with:
      "Hmmm? What would happen if you take this romance type of superego, or "moral demand" out of the duad setting? Could you possibly imagine to receive something you need from someone completely unrelated to the one you gave to? Once you move back and take in the larger reality, I mean? How do you keep your account of giving and taking and isn't it both material and immaterial? So how do you arrive, as I suppose you did, at the conviction the account was somehow unbalanced?"

      And this question is helping me break out of a personal rut- one where I continually experience diminishing returns because I stubbornly hold onto the notion that "I am the giver" because I find security in that role. From what I gather from your question, you seem to be suggesting that in some situations we give, some we take, but both exist within a larger reality - a "chain" of human interaction that drives (in whatever small way) the whole of humanity in a certain direction. And that giving and receiving are both parts of that new reality that is created. What matters is the spirit in which actions/objects are given and received when one wants to perceive the essence of what an interaction meant. The act of giving is not somehow more "holy" than the act of receiving.

      Thank you. LeanDer, for giving me something to ponder.

      Delete
    2. It is actually not some type of new reality, but my reality. Think positive experiences, accidents, or accidental encounters. In some you give in some you receive, whatever it may be.

      To the extend I grasp yours earlier reality, it feels as a wonderful rule in the pursuit of unhappiness.

      I stubbornly hold onto the notion that "I am the giver" because I find security in that role.

      Warm, supportive, helping, always thinking of others first? Image or reality? Convention or superego? Would you really suffer if this is exactly who you are? Some type of mother Teresa. If that gives you security, would you complain you did not get enough in return?

      The act of giving is not somehow more "holy" than the act of receiving.

      Definitively not from the larger monotheist ethical frame. The ultimate source of our "ethics" it feels, or humanist thought. What else should feed into the superego?

      Let me return to something you offered, I had a "Mother issue", was your impression. It has been suggested to me by a female psychotherapist once. It did not satisfy me, and I left her since I felt AND and knew she used some type of one-size-fits-all for her female clients. She also suggested to all of them, to embrace their inner child. ...


      The problem with it is, I hardly missed the struggle with my mother as she indicated, even if it was of a completely different nature than my struggle with my father. It's easy to talk to my mother, she is a reader, and interested in all kind of things, difficult to talk to my father about anything beyond the purely conventional. I have huge problems with people that are firmly in the grasp of convention or dominated by "what people think". That is my father in a nutshell. But I respect them both to the extend my superego demands and I am not always on one side if I witness their own struggles. ;)

      Delete
    3. Here is another article for you Machempath:


      http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201306/virtue-and-the-four-types-character

      Delete
    4. @ LeaNder-
      Perhaps I expressed myself inadequately- I didn't mean to imply "mother issue" as a sort of black mark. What I meant was, when traditional mothering has not been your frame of reference (was not mine and I inferred, perhaps incorrectly, that yours was not conventional either) then it often causes a young woman to be more freethinking and independent in her adult personality- you definitely seem like one who is comfortable challenging stereotypes. There was no offense intended, even if the inferences were incorrect.
      As for the giving/receiving issue- I think I am wrestling with how much of this bias in my nature and how much of it is a result of formative experience- still figuring that out. But your point brought a shift in my thinking which was that giving is automatically better. No doubt giving from an authentic place is good, but giving in and of itself is not inherently virtuous, was my take away. For virtue to exist, the manner of the transaction (including the motivations/orientations of both giver and receiver) also matters. You made me think and I like that. So thank you.

      Delete
    5. @ anon 12:49
      Thank you! the article makes me want to read the book.

      Delete
    6. You're welcome.

      Delete
    7. There was no offense intended, even if the inferences were incorrect.

      That's why I hesitated to answer, it felt you could take it that way. And to a certain extend you probably have to. I have no problem to accept that the "Electra Complex", if there is such a thing, didn't completely work out in any conventional ways, and that this has to do with the person my father is. And obviously I am a product of their symbiosis. ...

      As for the giving/receiving issue- I think I am wrestling with how much of this bias in my nature and how much of it is a result of formative experience- still figuring that out.

      Not so much a bias, as a general custom. You give birthday presents to your family and friends with the expectation to receive something on your own birthday. Think about X-mas, beyond childhood. Think about the shopping frenzies with the date approaching. ;) To remain for a moment in the material world. Overall patterns of account keeping of give and take out there.

      Now in the couple setting this give and take tends to be more complex, both material and immaterial.

      This was the law, another "custom" that reigned my mother's life up to 1977:

      § 1356 BGB (Federal Code of Law), paragraph 1: "[1] The woman runs the household on her own responsibility. [2] She is entitled to be employed, to the extent consistent with her obligations in marriage and family. "[3] Based on that the wive needs the consent of her husband, if she wants to take up a gainful employment. A written consent has to be handed to the employer.

      Notice, gainful, no problem with working in whatever non-paid honorary capacity.

      So yes, what does mother issue mean in this context, if we remain outside the complexer emotional family issues for a while? Which may have drawn your attention in earlier comments I made concerning my mother's fate as representative of her generation. ...

      In other words, I have no problem with your trying to put me into the "mother issue" box, all I would ask: What exactly does it mean?

      Delete
    8. Ok, this is not a good translation: BGB

      It's the German civil code

      Delete
    9. Hmmm. I don't know what the "mother issues" box means entirely either. I agree that there is something to it because I know I have always been aware that my mother and I were not a good fit, and that during my formative years it caused me a great deal of pain. She has a very dominating personality, but also expects to be taken care of, however, which seems markedly different from your experience, so perhaps all parallels drawn were false- and more due to my stream of consciousness thinking at the moment.
      What I picked up on was that you seemed to be independent with a good head on your shoulders and that you were not emotionally needy. The "strong daughter of a difficult mother" is a pattern I have observed on an anecdotal basis (certainly not through formal research) and it was more your self possession than anything else that made me see you in this light.
      It's interesting to me to consider the different outcomes of parenting behaviors on different personalities. As a highly rational woman who identified more with her father (at least that was my perception) it seems that you are not the sort to pity yourself or look to be rescued when in different circumstances. I hadn't really thought further about this beyond that observation.

      Delete
  8. This is a great post today.
    Ad Hominem attacks are the quickest, most effective way to undermine a heroic message. I think the point made is on target, and I think the way Chelsea Manning has been undermined on an ad hominem level is reminiscent of the attacks on Edward Snowden the man. The story of the incredible leaks he risked (and that risk is ongoing) everything by turning over classified documents to "The Guardian" in an effort to expose the extensive invasions of privacy that are perpetuated by the US government. Very quickly- the story shifted from the leaks themselves to a complicated and flawed young man (with an exotic dancing mournful ex girlfriend) who was on the run from the powers that be. To make the story about a person, you distract the world from the message.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not sure if this notion is relevant or not, but this brings up something I cannot understand. Back when searching for weapons of mass destruction and responding to 9-11, that is what the whole idea was for going into Iraq and such. They had said it was not the goal to go in there and affect the culture or government. Somewhere along the way it became "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Now it was about helping free people from a tyranny and threat to the indigenous population. "Oh my! There are no WMD, but look at this mess guys! When did this get here? Tsk tsk, might as well do something while we're here, right boys?" It was slightly more acceptable for us to poke around a little longer in the neighborhood, of course. I am not sure this is ad hominem, but I wondered if it could be similarly applied in concept to groups and such.

      Delete
  9. Yes, Veg is annoying

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Veg's tactics reminds me of a those of small child who needs attention and pulls out all the stops to get it.. but I am unclear what point Veg is seeking to make.

      I am guessing that Veg wants to appear insane, stalkerish, and possibly homicidal. It does not appear that there is a desire for genuine interaction. Rather, only self expression of whatever Veg's perceptions of what a Sociopath might be seem to be the only note poor Veg can sing.

      That being said, it's a pretty effective "note" so I don't think Veg is an idiot. So- Veg- we are all ears- what's your take on things?

      Delete
    2. The part in a Family Guy episode where Peter gets obsessed with "The Bird Is The Word" song and is talking to Brian at breakfast, so Brian ends up saying something and then Stewie panics...

      "No, Bryan, don't--!"

      Is how this makes me react.

      Delete
    3. Mach, I respectfully disagree, I think s/he is most definitely an idiot, although the immaturity you ascribe to them is a certainty as well. Cramming the comment section with white space is not an original tactic. Someone's got a grudge and wants to drive down the blog's readership and participation. It's possible that the grudge is against M.E., or "spaths" in general, but I've another theory:

      Since they incessantly refer to Ukan and Monica, I'm guessing someone got their arse handed (conversationally, that is) to them by the above parties at some point. A reasonable person would merely say, "Good show!" and be sure to bring their A-game to the next discussion, but not our little vegetable-brain, oh no!

      The only thing that sets this would-be saboteur apart is that they appear impervious to the dreadful boredom that should accompany such a surfeit of repetition. Puts me in mind of the most dreary sort of bore: the person in love with the sound of their own voice, and inordinately amused by their own pathetic humour. A narcissist? Perhaps.

      I myself have grown bored of it quite quickly, and it is nice to know that I'm in good company. Now, if they would like to bring something more adult to the conversation, I concur, and say by all means...

      Delete
    4. Is Multiple Personality Disorder entirely ruled out of possibility. Probably more like multi-identity. I am not sure just how paranoid it makes me to consider any of you masquerade as this Vagina -- I mean -- Vegito (yeah, cheap shot). Perhaps the very people with the names in this nonsense, myself not included, are perpetrating it as some fucked up ego circle-jerk. I find it hard to believe that at the very least, this person needs to take some other drugs or meds, because these are probably side-effects. If the drug was one of those on tv commercials, then they need to start saying it in their warnings. "May cause inexplicable idiocy, forcing others to feed the fractured ego with some weird broken sympathy and disdain. DO NOT use negative reinforcement."

      Delete
    5. Sorry, I meant... "I find it hard to believe it couldn't be, at the very least, ..."

      Delete
    6. Vegitopath is Medusa! Everyone knows that...

      Delete
    7. Apparently, Medusa's troll is a cartoon character

      Delete
    8. "KAAAAAAA...MEEEEEEEE...HAAAAAAA...MAAAAAAA...HAHHHHHH!"

      Delete
  10. For some reason it made me laugh today. "Vegitopath" lol. How delightfully absurd...
    Oh and splendid post today.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I wanted to come back and say hello.

    I miss my old buddies, Ellicit, Eden( I hope),Medusa, Green Eyes, Mach and Edvard. Now, I realize I have too many to name.


    Miss you guys! <3

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Anon <3


    I would love to hear what is going on with everyone!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Welcome back, Monica darling. Although we've not interacted previously, I'm quite predisposed toward you, for reasons my reply to Anon @ 8:06 might illuminate. :D

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Fred

    Nice to meet you :)

    ReplyDelete

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