Disagreeing Without Personal Attacks



By David Robertson / 06.25.2016


One task that the legal guardians of children have is the task of teaching children the art of disagreeing without engaging in personal attacks.

This particular art form is often missing in the comments sections of website articles and blog commentaries.

For example, Gretchen Carlson states the following in one of her commentaries:

Yesterday I startled many, and pleased tons of others by saying, I believe the assault weapons ban in this country should be reinstated. That’s because I believe the gun control issue is not simply black and white — but complicated. I said I was still in favor of the Second Amendment and even concealed carry. Still, I knew I’d get comments like these. “@GretchenCarlson’s whinny (or is that supposed to be whiney) ass should leave the air waves forever.” “Your anti American comments today were among the stupidest I’ve ever heard.” “I did not realize she was that stupid!” I also had comments with tons of f bombs, but it’s not the first time I’ve faced criticism for standing up for what I believe in.

Certain people were not just disagreeing with an opinion expressed by Carlson. They were attacking her as a person.

Granted, people who share their opinions with the general public need to have thick hides, because criticism is certainly going to come their way.

However, constructive criticism is one thing; ad hominem is another.

Carlson is correct when she says that the gun-control issue is complicated.

Right now, the majority of Americans polled have expressed their displeasure about the gun-control status quo.

The late conservative judicial icon Antonin Scalia said, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

So, Americans of all political persuasions are wanting lawmakers to come up with legislation that would be effective in hindering the ability of individuals to engage in mass shootings regardless of their motivation for doing so.

The general question to be answered is this: What would be effective?

In order to get an answer, other specific questions are being asked, such as, “Would banning further retail sales of the AR-15 and like firearms work?” and “Would limiting the capacity of gun magazines work?”

Those latter two questions are an example of public brainstorming.

Some Americans (such as myself) really don’t know the answers. They have seen some evidence of the lethality of such things, and, thus, they are questioning the need for them.

There may be legitimate reasons for not banning further retail sales of the AR-15 and like firearms.

There may be legitimate reasons for not limiting the capacity of gun magazines.

Those who know such legitimate reasons can explain them without attacking the people who ponder about such things.

Instead, the latter are often subjected to this:


Those who engage in such ad hominem often do so within the cloak of Internet anonymity. Such anonymity tends to bring out the worst in people. Having one’s actual identity revealed tends to keep one’s behavior in check. (For that reason, I use my real name while writing, instead of hiding behind a pseudonym.)

Granted, a person can be using a real name and still be uncouth.

Anyway, disagreeing without personal attacks is an art that adults should be modeling while online.

(I strive for it, even though I mess up occasionally.)

Disagreeing without personal attacks is what convinces people to change their minds about subjects. Using ad hominem simply causes people to put up their defenses.

Gretchen Carlson has her way of responding to personal attacks. I have my own – the use of humor.

So, if you have decided to take offense in response to something that I have said, then here, take it.