This is where I came in — writing for the Wednesday Tribune many years ago.
There always are so many things to write about it’s hard to know where to pounce. Syria — is WWIII in the works? BC Hydro — will it be sold? What about pesticides killing bees or the issues with the Fukushima nuclear plant? Lots of local stuff, too, but while I was deciding, ad hominem raised its ugly head. Again. The dictionary defines ad hominem as “appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason; attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.” In other words, if you can’t, or don’t want to discredit the message, discredit the messenger. Spew misinformation, bury the merits and de-merits of the issue, damage reputations, and throw logic out the window. Throwing mud at the adversary is easier than justifying your own position. Working for the newspaper, I met and interviewed people from all walks of life. It taught me to be careful about making judgements, and one thing I’ve learned is people who have the least share the most.
Most of us live in social silos with family, friends, co-workers, people who share our lifestyles and beliefs. Circles do overlap, and I don’t like to generalize, but we usually don’t know much about the people outside our circles, and we can get the wrong ideas. For instance, how do we really know who pays taxes and who doesn’t? Who volunteers or who gets paid? Does it matter?
Ad hominem used to make me angry. It’s such a cop-out. Maybe it’s my old age, but now it makes me sad that even in small communities we don’t get to know each other better. Or worse, even try.
Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.