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How Ad Hominem Attacks Work

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat at 12:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ad Hominem

Summary: The shame tactics and pressure on people to not mention particular people is very much evident, more so in social control media (which is publicly accessible for scrutiny); don’t be surprised if it soon becomes a taboo to express support for the very people who gave us GNU and Linux (while still fashionable to worship a famous criminal who co-founded Microsoft)

AD HOMINEM attacks (or “to the person”) shift focus from ideas/issues to personalities. It’s not a novel trick. It’s hardly limited to software or technology debates, either; the Latin words correctly remind us of the old roots and breadth.

We recently discussed attacks on the people perceived to be leaders of Free software, notably the founder of GNU and the founder of Linux. People are supposed to feel ashamed about supporting them, as if they endorse chauvinism or something (and need to apologise upfront for such support). Failing that, maybe they’ll compare Richard Stallman to Osama bin Laden and Linus Torvalds to Hans Reiser (it’s going to be a disaster when he’s finally freed from jail, which almost happened recently, wanting to rejoin development of the filesystem named after him). Days ago in Twitter someone insisted to me that Stallman was a practicing pedophile; maybe they’ll soon tell us that the Reiser crimes (or failed attempts to reinstate his role) somehow prove Linux “misogyny”, inevitably causing the murder of wives. Guilt by association is on the rise in this generation.

“People are supposed to feel ashamed about supporting them, as if they endorse chauvinism or something (and need to apologise upfront for such support).”Ad hominem tactics are cheap but very effective, as whenever an argument may be made which is strong enough (difficult to factually refute) you find a ‘shortcut’ such as criticising the messenger’s appearance (oh look! A beard!!), lifestyle (OH! MY! God! Linus works in his bathrobe sometimes! How rude! The code must be terrible! The bugs will be awful!) or some other nonsensical aspects. Who can blame these people for wanting more privacy in their lives…?

Ad hominem tactics are a nasty, nasty thing. When we slam the EPO we always try to focus on the nature of the abuses rather than the ethnicity or appearance of people like António Campinos and Benoît Battistelli (when we speak about their nationality we typically highlight nepotism, a conflict of interest, or money-laundering aspects). We’d rather focus on what won’t change with a mere change of leadership (like Battistelli choosing Campinos as his successor because he’s a longtime friend and ally of his).

“Not too shockingly, slurs tend to come from IBM/Red Hat staff (regarding articles that deal with IBM/Red Hat) and one IBM/Red Hat employee surprisingly blocked me even though I had never ever interacted with her in any way (that I can recall).”One reason (a last straw) I’ve just decided to 'quit' Twitter is this bunch of ad hominem tactics; it would take time to explain all the context (I’d also have to log back into Twitter to take screenshots), but the gist of it is, some people refuse to comment on the actual content of my articles and instead just throw an insult at the site, the messenger, or both. No substance needed; just an insult. That’s it. Not too shockingly, slurs tend to come from IBM/Red Hat staff (regarding articles that deal with IBM/Red Hat) and one IBM/Red Hat employee surprisingly blocked me even though I had never ever interacted with her in any way (that I can recall). So why block?

It’s possible to incite people based on deliberate distortions. Days ago someone lied about what I had claimed, causing an outrage over something I never even said! Oh, thanks Twitter! Facts optional…

IBM is often not given enough credit for F.U.D. tactics (coined by a former employee); Microsoft ‘steals’ credit for that, too. But the way I see it, IBM/Red Hat is now engaging even in ‘cancel culture’-like tactics. There’s no need to actually counter anything presented here in this site; instead, attack Roy. And then attack people who merely mention Roy.

“IBM is often not given enough credit for F.U.D. tactics (coined by a former employee); Microsoft ‘steals’ credit for that, too.”How very mature. What’s wrong with Roy anyway? Nothing. They specify nothing. It’s all innuendo. As one of them put it just hours ago: “I’m mad at myself for clicking that link before I realized what site it goes to.”

OK, what’s wrong with that site?

No, nothing specified. Maybe upset that the employer is being criticised for something there (never mind if about 80% of the things we write or wrote about both IBM and Red Hat are positive). What possibly upsets me more is actually attempts to make other people (even bots!) untweet mentions of Techrights. This is how ‘cancel culture’ works.

Congrats, IBM. You’re just acquired a bunch of angry children (and grossly overpaid for them).

Like layers of an onion or a social graph-based elimination strategy these people target the ‘circle’ sympathetic to those whom they try to oust, silence, discredit. Remember what was done to Alex Oliva months ago because he had long supported Richard Stallman? He has been relatively quiet since then. Intimidation leads to self-censorship, which in turn enables bad things to continue unabated, without critical voices causing outrage/backlash.

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