thearbiter wrote:Secondly, I really wish internet forum users would once and for all learn what constitutes an ad hominem attack. I was not negating Randall's point by objecting to him personally - I was merely expressing great doubt that he actually has a book in mind.
I think that you're being incredibly disingenuous, sorely underestimating other people on the internet, or adhering to an incredibly strict definition of "ad hominem attack." To me (and most other people, I think), if you spend a post arguing against someone's point, and then you randomly insert some sort of seemingly unrelated character attack, then it looks like you're trying to make sure that when the audience is weighing the merits of the two arguments, the fact that your opponent has whatever character flaw is fresh in their minds. If I said, "Bob is wrong about particle physics. This is why. On an unrelated note, Bob is a pedophile," I'd consider that an ad hominem attack even if I don't explicitly say the words, "and you shouldn't trust anything he says about physics because everyone knows pedophiles have no moral compass and would say anything."
From the perspective of an audience unable to read your mind, I didn't see any other reason to make that last comment. The most obvious would be to say "Randall's argument has no support, note that he doesn't cite any verifiable examples--that's because they don't exist." However, you acknowledge that the problem does exist, which was essentially what the non-example would prove, so what purpose does it serve to bring it up?
Oh and Randall almost certainly has no book in mind whatsoever but incredibly he's made himself look knowledgeable about some unknown topic! xkcd is just a lot of hot air these days.
The only logical relationship I saw at this point was "If author is full of hot air about X, then he may be full of hot air about Y."
Of course, all of this is based on an assumption that I now realize is fundamentally wrong: that most of us are here primarily to talk about some obscure, geeky subject matter we like, to comment on the comic, or to argue about some topic or another, and not to make personal attacks, and that those few of us who are here to put others down tend to do just that, and nothing else, within the same post. When you see a passionate argument about something you are clearly invested in juxtaposed with a personal attack that has nothing to do with that argument with no explanation, you tend to try to find a relationship between the two. Depending on how you look at it, I either overestimated you or underestimated you.
Also, I may be biased because I've done this on cross before, bringing up pretty much any sort of character assassination I can under the rules of evidence to impeach witness testimony. Even if I don't say "this guy is a convicted felon, don't believe anything he says," most people will put two and two together and doubt his testimony much more than if they did not hear said character assassination. I'm guessing from your post that you face a lot of people accusing you of making ad hominem attacks when you don't intend to do so--all I have to say is that even if you sincerely mean for your argument against the idea and your personal attack against the person to be completely unrelated, when you put them in the same post most people will see it as a marginally subtle attempt to discredit the idea by discrediting the person.