You hear a lot of people, mostly Liberals and Progressives, whining about supposed ad hominem attacks. They just don’t, from what I can see, have a firm grasp on what that term means.
A Hominem ( Latin for “to the man” ) is short for argumentum ad hominem, a logical fallacy that is an attempt to negate the validity of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.
While Leftists of all sorts do get abused regularly be citizens of the Civilized World, especially Americans, I see only a small minority of the occurrences being truly argumentum ad hominem.
In political discussions and across the blogosphere – neither a place known for staid and polite discourse – I see comparatively few instances where people have tried to negate the validity of a Leftist’s claim by pointing out the Leftist’s negative characteristics or beliefs.
I have, on the other hand, often seen examples of what I’ll call argumentum ad factis ( Latin for “to the facts” ). Very often people try negate the validity of Leftists by pointing out the negative characteristics of their arguments.
It’s not the same thing to say that they’re wrong because of their arguments (“ad factis“) as it is to say that their arguments are wrong because they said them (ad hominem).