Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ad Hominem Ad Hominem Ad Infinitum Part 1

This post is coming about in reference to a comment by Nagarjuna regarding our previous discussions about posts & comments at Gagdad Bob’s One Cosmos and Gagdad’s blogging style. Nagarjuna made several points, I want to select two key topics from his list to address,

"Should "taking a stand one way or the other" mean ad hominem attacks on those who take a different stand, or should it mean substantive and respectful discussion of your differing stands? And once we take our stand, should we cling to it no matter what new facts and insights come our way, or should we keep our ears open to the different stand of others and our minds and hearts open to the possibility that they might contain some truth?"

I want to approach this in two Post parts (since one extended spaghetti-styled comment I typed on a pocketPC wasn’t near enough – and will make me shake my head at myself for ages to come).
1- What is an appropriate approach to such discussions on a blog, and
2 - What is sufficient info to form a concept and when is it appropriate to dismiss someone (based upon their public statements) out of hand.

I’d intended to establish a larger base of posts on issues fundamental to concepts as a whole, before attempting to post on any of these subjects, so I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, but... (I'll just say I’m being fancy by jumping "in medias res" and pretend it's justified and intentional).

Take a look at this first:
- "should it mean substantive and respectful discussion of your differing stands"

I’d say first you’ve got to consider the context. In a Blog, to a certain extent, you can assume that readers have some degree of familiarity with your general points of view, particularly if your Blog has been posting for months and years. And within that context, the audience you’re targeting are going to be familiar with common points of view on people, trends & events; they are neither going to need or want, to have to wade through justifications and explanations of all the terms and issues, particularly if they’ve been posted on heavily over the lifetime of the blog, and or if you’ve favorably linked to articles & other blogs that have delved deep into the subject.

As for quips about derisive comments on another Blog or article – no I don’t think those need substantive and respectful discussion of them or the stands involved. As I said previously, quips about rival blogs points of view, tend to take a tone of the belly up to the bar and good naturedly slam the rival team with in-jokes and cheeky insults that will be winked at amongst the blogs community. I really don’t think such “Yankees vs Red Sox” type put downs are worth much more ink than they cost to put up on the screen, and it’s a bit silly to behave as if they do. Quips are quips, they’re not intellectual discussions.

When a subject is the topic of a post, and not just a quip, then yes, it should be dealt with in a substantive manner, and given the respect that depending on it’s familiarity within your blog, and its community and their expected familiarity with it – it may or may not deserve. The subjects that Gagdad Bob posts on, I think he gives a well rounded digging into – again assuming a certain level of understanding from his community.

Blogs are a new and unique literary form. They blend aspects of the 17th & 18th belles letterix, where people in a certain field or clique would circulate letters among themselves and their Salons, expounding on some new ideas, commenting on familiar ideas or individuals. They also can be a means to dig into new ideas, or new perspectives on an existing idea, they also can be a clearing house for breaking news, and much, much more.

Where the readers find the post to be lacking, they can comment, criticize & link to further discussions to their hearts content – often producing quite remarkable discussions, and sometimes light fluff. The Poster & Commentators have the ability to go as in depth as they feel they need to, and those who don’t feel that they’re getting what they need from it can express their dissatisfaction and or move on.

Blogs are neither primarily intellectual journals, water-cooler chats nor gossip columns – but a new blend of all those and more. In the case of One Cosmos, I think Gagdad Bob provides plenty of information in his posts for interested readers to be able to follow his train of thought, how he reached those conclusions, and the Google next door is readily available for me to supply any and all means necessary to help me clarify or counter any of those thoughts I might question.

I first happened upon One Cosmos, by way of one of his comments on American Digest. I thought his perspective was interesting, I clicked over to his site and read a few posts – some of it I got, some seemed a bit odd, some very intriguing, and some baffling. Vertical? Horizontal? What the heck did directions have to do with an otherwise intellectual discussion?

I clicked further, read some other posts & comments, and over a short period of time, found it to be such an excellent illustrative image for essentially how I used “Higher level Concepts” and “Perceptual Level thoughts” that it’s become favorite terms in my own thinking.

Provided that the Blog supplies some level of explanation within its several posts & related links, then I don't see any problem with the Blogger using an appropriate amount “sizzle” in its posts to say what the Blogger thinks needs to be said. What level is appropriate to both the Blogger and the reader is going to be worked out between them in the comments section. It really is the perfect Informational Free Market, sans the Cash transaction.


Does Gagdad Bob engage in biting statements, one liners & zingers? Yes in deedy! Do I consider any of them "Ugly"? No, not at all. Do I think that anyone with the least bit of initiative would be at a loss to find more detailed explanations within One Cosmos and its related links to back them up? Not at all. And of course those who disagree with his (or my) thinking can comment, ask for clarification, or just move on. Not a problem.

Again, for examples of Ugly, refer to Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Do I feel a need to expand further on what I find ugly or despicable about either? No, not in the least. I trust that any reader, who is unfamiliar with them, will be fully capable of checking them out & judging for themselves.

Nagarjuna also stated "I have never seen Bob take any of Chomsky's statements or opinions and rebut it. Instead, he engages in ugly name-calling."

Ok. Try this.

At the top of One Cosmos's blog (and I think all Blogger Blogs) there is a little search field, and if you type in "noam chomsky" and click "Search This Blog", which will return hits from 21 different posts involving varying degrees of detailed discussion of Chomsky, including this clicked at random:

From Monday, June 19, 2006, "We are Endowed by our Biology with Certain Unalienable Illusions and Appetites" , there is a lengthy post on Chomsky regarding an article he wrote (which is linked to), including:


"But you knew Chomsky was going to say that. He doesn’t “think” so much as apply a template over reality so that it always comes out looking the same: U.S. bad, enemies of U.S. good. Chomsky, of course, is one of the intellectual luminaries of the far left, and the far left is increasingly becoming indistinguishable from the left (which long ago abandoned liberalism). "

This is followed by 37 comments by those involved in the conversation taking the opportunity to work it over to their hearts content.

What more do you want? And to indulge in a minor return zing, how could you make such a statement without even the simplest steps to check your facts?

Once again, for examples of Ugly, refer to Huffington Post or Daily Kos.

21 comments:

Gagdad Bob said...

Van--

I'm glad you clarified this, because I almost never engage in ad hominem--which means, of course, to "attack the man," unless the man is truly vile, as is a Noam Chomsky or Jimmy Carter or Yasser Arafat. And even then, I generally provide reasons for why they are so loathsome.

When I do make fun of someone, it's almost always because they have attacked me in some unfair or ham-handed way--take the guy from the wacko new age website who bizarrely refered to me as a "blue orange authoritarian," or to Wolcott, who literally knows nothing about psychology, not to say philosophy or theology. How can you take such lightweights seriously?

I don't. I usually respond with a lighthearted put down. I certainly don't go out of my way to pick fights with people who believe in "spiral dynamics," which is a load of shallow new age rubbish. It will die of its own accord. But if someone who understands nothing of my work is going to use the theory as an excuse to mischaracterize me, then I enjoy flinging it back at them--but only for its entertainment value to my readers. Never because I'm actually angry or offended by it.

Serious criticism from serious people, I take seriously. Wolcott and sprial dynamics are not serious.

Gagdad Bob said...

PS--

The proprietor of the wacko new age site has since gone on to memorialize his pristine ignorance by "diagnosing" me with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. How does one even repsond to someone who wouldn't know DSM from an MP3?

It just demonstrates the shallowness and passive-aggressiveness of the whole new age crowd, which has a major problem with superego projection.

Van said...

I'm with you. I don't know that I know much about the difference between a DSM and an MP3 (other than the MP3 will probably sound better on my PocketPC), but I think I'm pretty good at realizing whether something warrants further consideration or recreational slamming.

Gagdad Bob said...

"Recreational slamming." I like it. It's about all you can do with so much of leftist thought, because it really isn't thought but felt. It's actually a tragedy, because we need a vibrant two party system, not one party with all the adults, the other party with all the hysterical women, children and adolescents.

Nagarjuna said...

"I almost never engage in ad hominem--which means, of course, to "attack the man,"

You attack people instead of refute their arguments almost constantly. Nobody's saying you don't have a right to do it on your blog or anywhere else. But people also have a right to point out that you do it. Of course, you won't allow them to do it on your blog. Yet, unless Van is a true Bobblehead, he will allow it here, even if, in all likelihod, you will evade the issue except, perhaps, to slam me personally for raising it.

"And even then, I generally provide reasons for why they are so loathsome. "

Why is Jimmy Carter loathsome? Why is Noam Chomsky loathsome? Please provide specific examples of what Jimmy Carter and Noam Chomsky have said or done that make them "loathsome" and explain what is loathsome about them. If I asked you this on your own blog, you'd delete it. Hopefully, Van will allow it here.

"I certainly don't go out of my way to pick fights with people who believe in "spiral dynamics," which is a load of shallow new age rubbish. It will die of its own accord."

What do you really know about spiral dynamics, Bob? Please enlighten us with your informed opinion of WHY you say it's "shallow new age rubbish."

"take the guy from the wacko new age website who bizarrely refered to me as a "blue orange authoritarian,"

Why do you call it a "wacko new age website," Bob? Why is it "bizarre" to call you a "blue orange authoritarian"? Isn't that what you are according to the spiral dynamics model? If you can't explain why not, then it seems that you're left with the mission, should you decide to accept it (which I don't expect that you will) of explaining why the spiral dynamics model itself is bizarre.

"But if someone who understands nothing of my work is going to use the theory as an excuse to mischaracterize me, "

Why do you say that Bill doesn't understand your work, Bob? Because he says negative things about you after reading it? Can no one who understands your work say anything bad about it or you? What has Bill said about you that mischaracterizes you, and how is it a mischaracterization? Saying it is doesn't make it so.

"The proprietor of the wacko new age site has since gone on to memorialize his pristine ignorance by "diagnosing" me with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. How does one even repsond to someone who wouldn't know DSM from an MP3?"

Again, you attack the person who says something you don't agree with rather than explain HOW what he says isn't true.

"I'm with you. I don't know that I know much about the difference between a DSM and an MP3 (other than the MP3 will probably sound better on my PocketPC), but I think I'm pretty good at realizing whether something warrants further consideration or recreational slamming."

Van, did you read Bill's post in question before offering this opinion? Would you like to explain why you dismiss it as "recreational slamming" rather than an accurate characterization of Bob's personality as revealed by his writings and conduct on his blog?

WH said...

Spiral Dynamics has been used -- and is being used -- on the world stage by leaders from Vincente Fox to Jeb Bush to Tony Blair to Bill Clinton. Who is using Bob's theories besides Bob?

Will Spiral Dynamics survive the test of time? Who knows. Will Bob? Alas, he will one day die and be forgotten.

If Bob knew the first thing about Spiral Dynamics, he'd know there is nothing New Age about it -- in fact it perfectly incorporates his little worldview within in its larger canvas.

Spiral memetics recognizes that each lower worldview can only see its own viewpoint as correct. All others are wrong, ignorant, evil , or loathsome. Bob and his blog are the perfect example of this limited form of thinking.

Van said...

First off, unless I misinterpret your use of "Bobblehead", it seems you are engaging in a bit of the ol' ad hominum yourself.

Take a breath, relax, it's only a movie. I think we can hash this over & I'd like to take it as far as it's useful for each of us to, with out putting our keyboards at risk of damage through adrenalized key punching.

I do intend to get into the whole "Loathsome" business and when I do & don't consider it ok, or at least understandable for dismissing someone as such.

And yes, I did "read Bill's post in question before offering this opinion", and I intend to address that as well in my next post, which with any luck, I should be able to put out tonight or in the morning.

I doubt seriously that you'll agree with me, but I think you'll at least be able to follow my reasoning and be able to agree to disagree on it.

If not, then adrenalized key punching is always an option. I just recommend that you don't try it on a PocketPC. Not pretty.

Van said...

WH,

"Spiral memetics recognizes that each lower worldview can only see its own viewpoint as correct. All others are wrong, ignorant, evil , or loathsome. Bob and his blog are the perfect example of this limited form of thinking." Careful, that also seems like the perfect example of this limited form of thinking.

Nagarjuna said...

"Take a breath, relax, it's only a movie. I think we can hash this over & I'd like to take it as far as it's useful for each of us to, with out putting our keyboards at risk of damage through adrenalized key punching."

Van, my typing was not "adrenalized." It was actually quite "relaxed."

"I misinterpret your use of "Bobblehead", it seems you are engaging in a bit of the ol' ad hominum yourself."

If you've read much of Bob's blog, you know what the word "Bobblehead" means. If you don't know what it means, you can search his blog for occurrences of it. You should get a good idea of what it means pretty quickly from that. Suffice it to say that those who embrace the label do not consider it a pejorative term. :-) I don't know what you consider it or will consider it to be.

I'll respond to your post shortly, if circumstances permit.

Nagarjuna said...

"Careful, that also seems like the perfect example of this limited form of thinking."

How so, Van? How has Bill not characterized Bob's conduct and blog very accurately?

WH said...

Van,

That is a reasonable comment. Spiral Dynamics is a hierarchical system for understanding human worldviews. As such, it places itself within a hierarchy from more limited thinking and feeling to more inclusive thinking and feeling. Clearly, it places itself higher on the hierarchy.

If I classify Bob's thinking as limited, I am simply revealing that I operate from another, competing worldview (memetic system) that is, in its own way, as closed as Bob's. This is the beauty of Spiral Dynamics.

Rather than attacking people (and I did attack Bob, but all in good fun), Spiral Dynamics allows us to attack worldviews and memetic systems.

Within the context of SD, Bob's dismissal of the system (and the language he uses) perfectly supports the original assessment that started this whole issue between the two of us. Those who are familiar with the system (my readers) understood that perfectly.

Just because Bob dismisses something as banal or loathsome or New Age doesn't make it so. Just because I dismiss Bob as an authoritarian rationalist doesn't make it so, either. It simply means we have different software running on our operating systems, and each software package has virus protection to prevent other software packages from taking over the operating system.

Which all amounts to me not taking seriously Bob's decision to not take me seriously. It's all good.

Peace,
Bill

Van said...

Nagarjuna,
"How so, Van? How has Bill not characterized Bob's conduct and blog very accurately?"

Although I've downloaded a very colorful pdf that I think is supposed to be an intro to Spiral Dynamics, I haven't read it yet, and so am not commenting on that.

I'm commenting on WH's comment here on this blog, which to a lay person's eye seems to either be trapped within the very spiral being decried, or coming from a position way above the rest of us lower worldview dwellers - which seems either pompous or too quickly dashed off.

Either way I'd take it as a quip & assume the meat can be ofund elsewere - which I do intend to give a chewing.

Van said...

My last comment came before seeing WH's, which I won't really have a chance to look at till later - gotta work!

Nagarjuna said...

Van, let me address some points of your post as concisely as I can.

As I've stated before, I agree that Bob has the right to use his blog to slam people and their ideas without giving good reasons for it. I'm merely pointing out that he does this, and expressing my opinion that he and his blog would have more credibility outside his band of Bobbleheads if he engaged in less name-calling and fewer ad hominem arguments without backing them up with sound arguments against the people and conduct he slams.

"Where the readers find the post to be lacking, they can comment, criticize & link to further discussions to their hearts content"

Not on Bob's blog. People who challenge Bob's dogmatic "Bobservations" are branded by Bob and his Bobbleheads as clueless trolls to be ignored ("gazed"), and their reasonable comments are often deleted. It's his and their right to do this, of course. But they DO do it. There is little to no substantive discussion of Bob's posts unless it essentially agrees with him or challenges him on only the most trivial points.

"At the top of One Cosmos's blog (and I think all Blogger Blogs) there is a little search field, and if you type in "noam chomsky" and click "Search This Blog", which will return hits from 21 different posts involving varying degrees of detailed discussion of Chomsky, including this clicked at random"

Do any of these "21 different posts" essentially say anything more than "Chomsky is a Leftist nutcase who hates the United States and loves its enemies."? Do any of them provide a reasonable and fair refutation of any statement Chomsky has made or position he has held? If so, where?

"Again, for examples of Ugly, refer to Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Do I feel a need to expand further on what I find ugly or despicable about either? No, not in the least. I trust that any reader, who is unfamiliar with them, will be fully capable of checking them out & judging for themselves."

If you call the Huffington Post or some other blog "despicable" or some other ugly name, it would be helpful if you'd provide some examples of its posts that merit labeling the entire blog this way, and explain why. Then the reader would be able to evaluate your opinion more effectively, unless, of course, you don't want him or her to be able to do this.

""But you knew Chomsky was going to say that. He doesn’t “think” so much as apply a template over reality so that it always comes out looking the same: U.S. bad, enemies of U.S. good."

I think that's a simplistic "Bobservation." But even if it were true, how is it any different from Bob's "template" of "U.S. good, those who question or oppose the U.S. bad"? That is, isn't there as much support, if not more support, for this being Bob's template as there is for Bob's characterization being Chomsky's template? But doesn't Chomsky at least provide substantive reasons for his assessments that Bob fails to provide for his, whether you agree with those reasons or not?

Van said...

Nagarjuna,
"Van, my typing was not "adrenalized." It was actually quite "relaxed."
Then I guess adrenalized is in the eye of the reader ;-)

"If you've read much of Bob's blog, you know what the word "Bobblehead" means"
I've got the general idea, what I question though was the (eye of the reader) tone perceived in the way you were using it. One can say "Friend" in a way that leaves no doubt your about to "bash your brains in a little" when in a "Shining" state of mind.

No more time now, I'll address the rest later.

Gagdad Bob said...

Van--

This is part of your blogger initiation hazing. You have now inherited my trolls. Now you have to pass them along to the next new blogger.

Nagarjuna said...

Bob, when you call me a troll for stating and asking what I have here, could you explain what you mean? It seems to me that you use the word "troll" to belittle and marginalize anyone who disagrees with you or even asks sincere and legitimate questions about something you've asserted. So, when you say that I'm being a "troll" here, what precisely do you mean?

Van, would you agree that this is a reasonable question, and that, if Bob doesn't answer it, as he almost certainly won't, it lends credence to my assertion that he habitually slams people without explaining himself? Or do you concur with his assessment of me and believe that it requires no explanation?

Come on, Van, don't be a Bobblehead. :-)

Gagdad Bob said...

By the way--you can't just pull them out, because that only removes the body, while the head stays lodged under the skin. Try a lit cigarette on their rear end. This causes them to pull out and scuttle away.

Nagarjuna said...

I have to admit, Bob, that that was kind of funny, even if it reinforces the point I've made about you. :-) Actually, THAT makes it even funnier.

Van said...

Nagarjuna,

Back when I used to be a dregs of the earth musician, I was known as the Prince of Rude, because I really didn't give flip whether or not the fans liked "Me" or not, only the show. If I didn't like them, I wouldn't be pressured into trying to seem friendly. ANd trying to pressure me "If you won't sit with us, we'll tell everyone... you STINK!" would tend to make me ruder.

Course I WAS a bit of a jerk, but that's not the point.

Point is (actually I've lost it already, but that kind of supports this next comment, so I'll leave it in) I'm probably taking a risk trying to dash off an answer before zooming out of work, but - ah well.

"Bob, when you call me a troll for stating and asking what I have here, could you explain what you mean? It seems to me that you use the word "troll" to belittle and marginalize anyone who disagrees with you or even asks sincere and legitimate questions about something you've asserted. So, when you say that I'm being a "troll" here, what precisely do you mean?

Van, would you agree that this is a reasonable question, and that, if Bob doesn't answer it, as he almost certainly won't, it lends credence to my assertion that he habitually slams people without explaining himself? Or do you concur with his assessment of me and believe that it requires no explanation?

Come on, Van, don't be a Bobblehead. :-) "

Given what I said in an earlier Post, what I said about good natured insulting back & forth between rival Blogizens, which at a quick glance, WH seems to agree with, I don't think Bob's comment is out of line, it's a fine example of Recreational Slamming and attempting to give it more weight or responsibility than that is just... (this is kind of tough, because I'm not quite the Jerk I used to be)... Silly.

Your serious questions & comments I'm taking very seriously and doing my best to put together a serious reply - but as far as the quips go? [what's the 'giving a Rasberry' smilley? Darn can't figure it out - well then...] Phybbittt!!!

(you gotta know I'm typing that with a smile, Pilgrim!)

Back later

Nagarjuna said...

"Given what I said in an earlier Post, what I said about good natured insulting back & forth between rival Blogizens, which at a quick glance, WH seems to agree with, I don't think Bob's comment is out of line, it's a fine example of Recreational Slamming and attempting to give it more weight or responsibility than that is just... (this is kind of tough, because I'm not quite the Jerk I used to be)... Silly."

Van, I didn't ask if Bob's comment was out of line. And what I DID ask WERE "serious" questions, even if I also typed them and this with a smile. :-)