Perhaps the easiest logical fallacy to identify is the personal attack, a.k.a. “ad hominem” (to the man). Again, having a formal label helps us to remember it is widely recognized as not a good way to support your argument. That makes it easier for us to stay focused when it’s thrown at us.
This one’s so easy you might wonder why we’re bothering with it. Well, all I can say is basics first, LOL! I am following the chapters in the book The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn. I’m adapting their lessons to the context of martial arts blogging and commenting, and I’m not going into nearly as much depth as the book. OK, so here’s this week’s laughably easy lesson…
Daniel: Mr. Miyagi and I came to your dojo in peace to try and solve the problems between you and me. Your Sensei shouldn’t have threatened Mr. Miyagi.
Johnny: You’re a scrawny little pipsqueak.
Clearly, Johnny is having trouble thinking of a good sound reason why his Sensei was justified in threatening Mr. Miyagi. Ad hominem is very much like Red Herring. Both fallacies dodge the real issue. Ad hominem is more personal than Red Herring, but the counter is the same – don’t let it throw you for a loop and don’t let it get under your skin. Choose your fights wisely! Here’s some counters Daniel could throw. Not all of them get the argument back to where it ought to be! It should be easy to spot which ones show that Daniel is staying centered.
Daniel’s Counter #1: Yeah? Well your mother wears army boots!
Daniel’s Counter #2: So I’m scrawny – big deal. But enough about me. Your Sensei didn’t respond appropriately to me and Mr. Miyagi. What’s your opinion on that?
Daniel’s Counter #3: All right then, I’ll see you at the tournament just like our instructors agreed. I was hoping we could settle some things before then, but I guess that’s just not possible.
Daniel’s Counter #4: I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.