As Ben Domenech noted on Twitter, if you’re a blogger it’s important to get your ad hominem insult up and public today if you want to guarantee that you’ll be keeping off of the Huffington Post’s front page. Background on this absurd story here: the short version is that the Arisian mind-lords over at HuffPo flailed about like lobotomized geckos to find an excuse to throw Andrew Breitbart off of their front page after they invited him on it, and came up with the novel excuse that he had ad-hommed elsewhere.
Hi-jinks, as they said, ensued.
But let’s be clear about something about ad hominem arguments, because the term is horribly misused on the Internet: it is not the same as a direct insult. Ad hominem is when you bring up a person’s character or actions in order to try to invalidate the person’s argument; put more simply, it attempts to suggest that being wicked means that you can’t ever happen to be right about something. Which is of course absurd.
So: if I write, say, that Arianna Huffington is wrong about health care rationing because she’s an easily-scared poopyhead… well, that’s an ad hominem argument. After all, her recto-cranial inversion has nothing to do with her (I assume) blind support of Obamacare, and it would be highly illogical of me to suggest that it did. But if I write that Arianna Huffington is a miserable person because she’s an easily-scared poopyhead… well, that’s a direct insult and a mean thing to say – but it’s not an ad hominem.
I hope that this clears things up for people.