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Anne M: Argumentum Ad Hominem – How Not to Comment on Blogs

Anne M

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On September 5 last year, I argued on this platform that we don’t give rich kids as much credit as they deserved. I was inspired to write the post because two brothers  from a prominent and wealthy family had both recently graduated from the Nigerian Law School with Second-class honours, upper division. Less than 3% of Nigerian law school students achieve that level of success. One of the brothers also won an award for the highest score in one of the courses. Given how prevalent nepotism is in Nigeria, I imagined that if the young men got hired by top law firms, people would attribute their success to their family name, disregarding that, all things being equal, the brothers  studied harder than 97% of their mates. I was a student of the law school ten years ago. To the best of my knowledge, the institution is free from corruption.

I didn’t use the preceding example on that September post, but I wrote, among others, about a young Nigerian who still braids her own hair despite her wealthy background and Youtube success.

Several of the over fifty comments made on the “Rich Kids” post reasonably disagreed with my opinion. However, some commenters, rather than focus on the substance of the post, attacked my character. Some were sure I had been paid by the people in whose defense I wrote. Others were certain I wrote the post just to get the comments. But none of the allegations was true — I love to play the devil’s advocate so that people can understand views and perspective that are different from theirs. Lacey’s comment, ” This Lady always writes senseless articles that lacks depth! I will not be wasting my time reading anything from her anymore!” affected me the most.

Argumentum ad Hominem is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

I find that although BellaNaija has well-educated readers, many of us tend to make our points by name-calling and making personal attacks on people. Here are some examples I recall.

-A young mother wrote about balancing work and life (She’s also a successful lawyer) and we told her to shut up and go focus on her home since the words on the street was that her husband is a philanderer.
– A modest woman who makes a living from documenting her life on YouTube weekly,  and whose all 99 episodes I have watched,  we called a narcissist. (She now appears on Youtube billboard ads in Nigeria).
-A fit mother of three wrote a book  about healthy living and we assumed she must have had a tummy tuck and that her pearly whites couldn’t be natural.
-A Nigerian beauty vlogger who lives in U.S. we told that she has a village and Igbotic accent.
– Someone wrote about her view on Brexit (an article I found insightful as I don’t live in the UK) and a commenter here, using his real him, passionately told her to never ever write again. This, because his political views were different from hers.

Some of these content creators have addressed the negative comments and its effect on their platforms. If we knew the harm we cause others by our seeming innocuous comments, we would be more careful how we express ourselves. Recently, BN Contributor, Eva Funsho wrote about such consequences here.

While words have the ability to destroy, they can also build. For our words to be effective, they must be true, kind, and necessary.

Our comments are not founded on truth when we premise our opinions on assumptions and stories that are false. For example, someone took to Instagram to criticize a black female Youtuber who is married to a white man. The poster was sure the Caucasian dude was an unemployed loafer and that the successful black woman married the young man only because of his race. But had the author of the post did a quick Google search, she would have found that the young man is an employee of the company that owns the eponymous search engine. False derogatory comments are destructive. We shouldn’t make them; we shouldn’t “like” them.

When our comments pass the truth test, we then have to consider if they are also kind. The golden rule that we treat others as we would like to be treated is relevant in the digital age more than ever. When a story about a celebrity’s adultery or addiction is reported on TMZ, do we gloat over their failings or do we pause for a moment to consider that what ails them ail us? If we think things through, we would realize that Lamar Odom is no more an addict than the diabetics among us who consume inordinate amount of carbs, or those with high cholesterol who can’t skip a suya at a party. Similarly, if you are a Christian, before you make a general comment about how Muslims are terrorists, remember that you are a Christian probably by of accident of birth–that if you were born into a Muslim family, a fate you have no control over, you would have been one of those you condemn. Next time, we are tempted to pass moral judgment on people online, most of whom we have never met, may we remember that there is so much ill in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us.

When we have considered our words and they are true and kind, we should then consider if they are necessary. For example, it would be unnecessary to disclose facts about a celebrity which they would rather keep private.

I commend platforms like BellaNaija that try to be ethical in their reporting and the content they create. I now encourage those of us who contribute our opinions on the platform (Many of you are already thoughtful in your comments and I applaud that) to follow the lead and be thoughtful in how we express ourselves. This is the only way we can play our part in quelling the epidemic of cyber bullying.

While some of us draw power from a higher being (The Catholic Hymn “The Summons” helped me heal from Lacey’s words) and are less impervious to hate, some, especially young people, are vulnerable to destructive criticisms and bullying.

Consider this statistics: People who are bullied are nine times more likely to commit suicide. 800,000 people around the world take their lives every year.

Don’t make someone a statistics through your words. Silence is golden when we have nothing nice to say.

PS: I recommend Dale Carnegie‘s How to Win Friends and Influence People to those who seek to master the art of effective communication.

Photo Credit: Andrey Popov | Dreamstime

37 Comments

  1. Cozygal

    July 27, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Way to go!

  2. Cozygal

    July 27, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Way to go!

  3. I love Nigeria

    July 27, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    I wish there was a way one could change how we comment as Nigerians.
    I read a lot of people giving advise on facebook and at least 90% are vile, mean , judgmental in giving solicited advise. These vile , know it all commenters jump to hasty conclusions about the poster whom they don’t know from anywhere.
    I look up their profiles and I am not so shocked anymore when I see they are religious on their Facebook walls and horrible in Facebook groups.
    I have reached the conclusions that they are not happy with their lives and have to be bullish to others. They are seriously unhappy ,lack self esteem and need to work on themselves.
    I’m still trying to write an article on how not to be a Nigerian Judgina.

  4. Missande

    July 27, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    so, you took time out to write a cry me a river post, which i stopped reading half way. bite me. As for the rich kids post, abeg you don’t bring that up again. Thieving politician apologist that you are. They have robbed millions of their future, reduced the age for office so they can pave the way for their children to be the next generation of thieves and you want us to keep hailing the lifestyle their children flaunt in our faces. Adanna used to attend a university in nigeria. she moved abroad after her father became governor, met her husband (he doesn’t work for google, but consults for google, moving on) and voila the citizens of imo can be watching her youtube channel and be praising her. my word why don’t we like telling ourselves the truth in this country.

    the two lawyers who did well, please, bikonu, abeg you ask where their first degree was from? if you were well educated abroad, getting a 2:1 in a nigerian law school should be a breeze for you. out of those 3% go and check the number that were educated abroad, and out of those 3% also check those who left law school with connections and got the top jobs. i’m not downplaying their effort but lady, find me better examples for the love of Christ and don’t write another pity party article.. life is never fair don’t get me wrong, but the disparity in nigeria is just too much which is why when i left, thanks to a scholarship on merit, i have done so well for myself that when the “rich kids” i went to school with come back on holidays with the keys to their parents house bought with stolen money, they are shocked to find that i live in the same neighbourhood or we are on the same first class flight or as one said to me with derision, soooo our children attend the same private school. hahaha. newsflash darling, yours was paid for with the lives of people back home, you have no right to feel superior, mine was paid for on merit, the degrees, the jobs, the promotions and the lifestyle the salary and business le hubs and I brings.

    If Donald Trump can be harassed on social media, who is immune? We learn to co-exist alongside those that don’t agree with us, and those that don’t like us. If you want to preach about something, can you write about the ills that politicians have caused the country instead and not about how we should consider the feelings of privileged people when the multitude is suffering. You are full of yourself aunty. referring to an article from september 2016 for goodness sake. add my comment to the list of things you will write about in 2018 you hear

  5. AceOfSpades

    July 27, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Ouch! If you don’t want to be hurt by words then you should stay away from comment section. People like A Real Nigerian and Hadiza go on and on about how men are animals blah blah and because of the large female readership, they get tons of likes and BN doesn’t censor them.

    Nkem Ndem is a female version of a sexist but she is applauded because she has a voice bigger than one random Mr Egghead or Lemmerant. Some of her articles are straight out trolling comments of a regular (male) commenter.

    Everyone is guilty of trolling and BN is not excluded. You need to learn how to get stand the heat because trolling will not stop.

    • A Real Nigerian

      July 27, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      You are just throwing around the word trolling. You don’t know what it means.
      Because people disagree with you does not make them trolls.. Neither are people trolls because they pen utter nonsense that actually reflect their mindset like Nkem.
      You are just another insecure, misogynistic coward whose only pillar of esteem rests on the silencing and suppression of women.

    • AceOfSpades

      July 27, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Ok maybe troll is not the right word to use but instead of you ARN to point someone in the right direction, you just start going off like you just did. It’s not even about disagreeing with someone or not. I remember when she said Asa’s song was ‘tasteless and classless’ and people educated her, no one even called her names but look at what we have up there…..names upon names. Imagine thrashing Asa’s music. A whole Asa.

      No one is silencing women here but why must you call someone misorgynist and all what not just to get your point out (not like I care if you call me that anyway). I think John and Paul Adeyemo are in the same category as A Real Nigerian too.

    • AceOfSpades

      July 27, 2017 at 4:50 pm

      Misogynistic*

    • Wendy

      July 27, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      Now you casually refer to Paul and John. John that said the black womans womb is the worst place a child could be… directly implying your mother. You’re now just thinking of adding them to your list? Tfoh with your pseudo-intellectual bs. You’re a silly boy.

      P.s. We all know when ARN is trolling on purpose and she’s usually tongue in cheek about it. What I find interesting are here tribalistic views. For someone who is clearly as intelligent as she is, the only explanation for her extremism is mental illness. And that I can’t judge or make fun of.

    • Seriously

      July 27, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      I agree. As a writer, be ready and open to different opinions. We can’t all be the same and think alike. Wtf does we don’t give rich kids as much as credit they deserve mean when Majority of wealthy Nigerians acquired their money through corruption, cheating and stealing. It’s not like average Nigerians have opportunities like average Americans. So, expect the comment section to be filled with anger, frustration and truth.
      Nigerians are real with no filter. That’s a good thing. Everybody can’t be phony and politically correct all the time.

  6. Mannie

    July 27, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    “Argumentum Ad Hominem ” reminds me of As E Dey Hot. That programme is hilarious.

  7. Bubu

    July 27, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    No no no, i totally disagree i think the real issue is we as humans focus on more of the negative than the positive. As they say bad news travels faster. Most of these people you mentioned have a thousand and one positive comment as against negative comments, but they pick out the one negative comment and focus on it. The moment you decide to be in the spotlight then put on your thick skin and choose which one you want to focus on. i will always refer to Toke Makinwa if negative comment could kill then i m sure you know where she will be right now but guess what she focuses on what she wants to focus one which is her brand. This is the media and ‘social media’ gives everyone an opportunity to express themselves whether you like it or not there always be those that will say negative things the more ‘we’ ignore them the better. I think turning a blind eye to such people is the solution not responding to them and making them the talk of the town.

    • Newbae

      July 27, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      I agree with you Bubu.Although it doesn’t hurt to remind people to just be a little kind sometimes, words have a way of eating g deep also not everyone can be thick skinned.

    • TeeCee

      July 27, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      You’re right. As we have different backgrounds, so are our approach to issues and invariably the words we use. If you really cannot stand the heat then do not enter the kitchen. You write articles and expect only sweet reactions? That’s not even healthy for a writer or any creative content provider for that matter. Or you could be like Ed Sheeran-delete that soci media account. But then, how about the trolls you will meet in real life. So, oops!

  8. Weezy

    July 27, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Awww. You didnt like the comments.

    I get what you’re saying about the insults. However you need to put things into perspective. Your post title was “in defense of rich kids”. What else were you expecting? This is Nigeria. Do you know how people are struggling. Lets not even talk about the extreme poor – just the middle class. I think you know that your post was provocative. Its a bit disingenuous to start talking about cyberbullying – unless people actually emailed you with insults. Is that what happened?

    Anyway, in my opinion, it is a good thing that people no longer just swallow what they are fed by Nigeria’s elite. We are under no obligation to ooh and ahh over the fabulous life of wealthy people. Times have changed.

    • Cynical

      July 28, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      Give Weezy a cold bottle of something pls……

  9. Spunky

    July 27, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    When you put out materials out there, people with diverse opinions and backgrounds express their views. I get your point but we can’t control how people interpret a message. It is left for the poster or writer to sieve out what they want or get as feedback. On a light note, Nigerians get a lot of thrill from opposing one’s view especially with a comic infusion.

  10. Bolaji

    July 27, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    I have found the majority of my fellow Nigerians to not be receptive to feedback. If you do not like what they do or say, they interpret it as you not liking them personally and then try to undermine or ‘troll’ you. And I know the context that I am using with the word troll. It happens a lot. That is sad! It is quite okay to have a different opinion but it should not mean war. Our ‘I will show you’ mentality has to stop.

  11. Nkem

    July 27, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    You really cannot convince people to be logical and constructive in their arguments and criticisms. As much as that does not justify their use of vile words against writers and online content creators, you must learn to develop a thick skin.

  12. Nkem

    July 27, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Vile words on*

  13. Manny

    July 27, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    As for me, I loved the responses to your rich kids post. But I don’t see you just don’t get it. Most of those comments disagreed with you without calling names. One person said you were paid, ONE person. Please don’t exaggerate like the bulk of the commenters were attacked your person or motive and committed “Argumentum ad Hominem”.
    I think what it is is that you can’t get beyond believing that your argument was right.
    I don’t know why you felt the need to include the part about the black female Youtuber of no name whose husband works at Google. It’s no secret that Adanna’s husband works at Google. Fine, you like Adanna but you have to realize that not everyone does or will.
    You have chosen a fine topic to write about i.e. cyberbullying but this post is so wrongly executed.

    • Anon

      July 27, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      Manny – word!.

      BTW, from your examples –
      A modest woman who makes a living from documenting her life on YouTube weekly, and whose all 99 episodes I have watched, we called a narcissist. (She now appears on Youtube billboard ads in Nigeria)….This is Sisi Yemmie and comments about her are more positive than negative. Just a few days ago or maybe yesterday, someone said she keeps it real and speaks without a foreign accent.

      A Nigerian beauty vlogger who lives in U.S. we told that she has a village and Igbotic accent….Omabelle. Comments on her posts are more positive than negative too and anytime someone goes on about her accent there’s always someone ready to shut that person down.

  14. Aunty Pempem

    July 27, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    A word is enough for the wise!!

  15. zzzzzzzzzzz

    July 27, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Dear Anne, all I can say is that trolls abound every where, it is not everyone that reads your post that comments. The important thing is that you passed your message across. There are some who even insult others that comment not to talk of the writer of the post. Mind you this is not peculiar to Nigerian blogs, it is allover. I have posted experiences on facebook and the comments from supposed friends become very nasty and judgemental

  16. Dr.N

    July 27, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    When people who don’t matter annoy you and you come to them seeking apology and repentance you give them a loaded gun to aim at your already wounded pride. Even worse you do not seek cover you stand there waiting for the shot!!!
    Kai!
    Don’t give anyone such power
    E-hugs poster

    • Cynical

      July 28, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Add Dr. N to the list of people who deserve a cold beverage……

  17. akama

    July 27, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    “I commend platforms like BellaNaija that try to be ethical in their reporting and the content they create.” Really?

  18. Sheri

    July 28, 2017 at 12:14 am

    I haven’t read the “Rich kids” post. I’m not familiar with the author…but this article just sounds like someone who can’t take criticism so plays the victim card…that way everybody feels bad and doesn’t comment negatively under their post again. Suicide rates? Really? “I wrote an article that people don’t like so I’m going to kill myself”. Really now? As for those bloggers who get a few nasty comments, trust me when I say the most of them have themselves figured out, they are confident and READY for backlash. In fact it prompts them to do the more and be all up in our faces. I know I have a pointed nose, but guess what? The guys “LAIK E LIKE DAH”, it’s not when I start blogging and somebody mentions that I will now want to “kee” myself. Anyways I could be wrong and I like to try be sensitive when talking about suicide. I do agree Nigerians can be quite horrible sha. Lol, but so can Americans, and British, and everyone else, that’s life for us.

  19. Wendy

    July 28, 2017 at 2:25 am

    Lmaoo! I just read the rich kids post! You wrote an insensitive post in a country that’s split along economic lines due to corruption and you didn’t expect whiplash? Of which the comments weren’t even bad… as in AT ALL.
    Gurl cry us a river of salty tears ? boohoo ?

  20. Pere

    July 28, 2017 at 2:50 am

    – A modest woman who makes a living from documenting her life on YouTube weekly, and whose all 99 episodes I have watched, we called a narcissist. (She now appears on Youtube billboard ads in Nigeria).

    Nothing in the above point disproves the opinion that the person in question is a narcissist. I don’t know (nor do I care to know) who the subject is. Just raising a point. Narcissism is the bedrock of social media popularity. It is a proven fact. Success in any measure you choose does not disprove or negate that fact.

  21. Pere

    July 28, 2017 at 2:57 am

    PS: I recommend Dale Carnegie‘s How to Win Friends and Influence People to those who seek to master the art of effective communication.

    This above is a very egotistical line. People disagreeing with you does not mean they lack the ability to communicate effectively.
    I am all for a campaign against cyber bullying but shutting down dissenting voices is not the same as fighting cyber bullying.

  22. Jay

    July 28, 2017 at 3:15 am

    Diabetes especially type 2 is a multifactorial disease. Making assumptions about how much carbs a person living with diabetes might have consumed is insensitive and frankly ignorant.
    Sincerely, ….,MD.

  23. Mymind

    July 28, 2017 at 5:56 am

    “How not to comment on blogs”. LOL. And this sermon on the mountain is necessary becauuusseeee???? ?

    Someone is obviously still pained. ? So pained she spent precious time reading comments on several other posts on BN to analyze patterns and trends. Choi! I laugh in Greek. Girl, you are not ready for prime time.

    And what’s with veiling your frustration and anger with this phony “advice on civility”? You no try sha. Gahhh!!! This piece is rife with subtle undertones of passive aggressiveness, and a hodgepodge of whatever hurt/pain you are still dealing with from “that” post. It’s not that serious abeg.

    Opinions, as they say, are like buttholes, everybody’s got one. Can’t stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen.

  24. Mrs chidukane

    July 28, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I had to go back to the rich kids article. Madam you’re just being a cry baby,Mtcheeeew.

    • akama

      July 28, 2017 at 8:31 am

      Gross but spot on analogy.

  25. Mz_Danielz

    July 28, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Hmmm, I read the rich kids post and the comments were not that negative.

    The world was not meant for weak people, when I was growing up, I couldn’t tell my parents I was beat up by my mates cos that would earn me beating so I fought back as in haard and when it came to insults, I used to give it back.

    Then came teen years with mild sensitivity and crying in my closet though putting up a strong face. By adulthood (20), I just learnt to ignore, na you get your mouth, I’ll ignore you and keep getting better but if you now intrude on my personal space, I’ll deal with you but talk, who talk kill? By the time I succeed and keep getting better, na you go tire.
    What we need is internal strength to face each day reflect on both positive and negative feedback and move on. That your post was last year, you should have moved on by now.

    We cannot control people’s reactions but we can control ourselves. We need to raise our kids to be self assured, have a strong sense of self and a healthy esteem that does not think of itself higher or lower than we ought to but believes the word of God that we all are good in his eyes.

  26. ANon

    July 28, 2017 at 10:24 am

    I don’t know about your post, but I’d agree that Nigerians are sooo mean in the comment section. I wish you used better examples or none at all, because that would have brought better and more logical opinions. Clearly the rich kids thing still hits a raw nerve

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