Definition of Ad Hominem Attack
What does the term "ad hominem attack" mean, especially as it applies to the world of politics? What is meant by an "ad hominem attack"?
An "ad hominem attack" occurs when a person's character is attacked, rather than the content of their argument.
For instance - let's say that we have two candidates for President. During a debate, the two candidates are arguing about the need for an oil pipeline that will travel throughout the country.
Candidate A supports the pipeline and believes that it will help to bring much needed jobs to the country. Candidate B, however, is against the pipeline, largely due to environmental concerns.
During the debate, Candidate B starts bringing up personal information about Candidate A in an effort to "win" the debate. Instead of arguing against the pipeline, Candidate B brings up an affair that Candidate A had 20 years prior.
This would be an "ad hominem attack", as Candidate B is not debating the merits of the oil pipeline. Instead, they are digging up old information in an attempt to discredit Candidate A. In this case, Candidate B is attacking the character of Candidate A.
This would qualify as an abusive ad hominem attack, as Candidate B is hoping to invalidate Candidate A's arguments by attacking their character.
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