On Argumentum Ad Hominem & Verbal Abuse

I think Jaron Lanier was exactly right when he suggested that anonymity on the Web has a tendency to bring out people’s inner-trolls. And I now have several anecdotes to support this belief.

This site has received hundreds of comments on posts in the past year. Almost all of them have been intelligent and thought provoking. Thank you for that! Lately, however, I’ve received several nasty anonymous comments on this site. Anonymity, in my opinion, removes the most interesting part of any comment, i.e., the person’s motivation for leaving it.

It’s painfully obvious that people who leave nasty anonymous comments (without even a hint of logical substance to them) likely have an ax to grind or a personality disorder. Instead of attacking my arguments, these anonymous individuals levied gratuitous verbal abuse at me. It’s as if these individuals foolishly believed that their immature rant somehow proves that their position is correct. This of course reminds me of one of my favorite aphorisms written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: “You never win an argument until they attack your person.” I think Taleb’s aphorism is especially true of arguments on the Web.

I guess I’m confused. What’s the point of leaving nasty comments without signing your real name? Does throwing out nasty words or false accusations on the Web really make some people feel better? Are some human-beings actually this pathetic? If so, I’m befuddled by this.

Anyway, I want to foster thoughtful, sincere, and truth-seeking discussion on this site, so I’m implementing a new comment policy (meaning I’m going to delete any and all nasty comments). Attacking ideas and arguments in a fair and civil way is highly encouraged on this site, but argumentum ad hominem and verbal abuse will not be tolerated.