Word of the Week

Riitta Suominen   

The word of the week is ad hominem.

How do you assess what you read? The writer's personality, the forum, and style can affect your attitude at least as much as the content. The media's kerfuffle of the week was instigated by Riku Rantala of the "Madventures" TV program, who showed up at the Treasury of Finland with a bag of money—to insure the continuation of the welfare state. Matti Apunen, director of the business policy forum EVA, fiercely criticized this stunt. In return, rhetoric professor Severi Hämäri wrote in his blog that Apunen was guilty of an ad hominem mistake, dismissing Rantala's views based on his hipster personality. The public figures in this case are arguing directly with each other. Much more often, attitude is hidden in the text. We seem to use direct or indirect quotation, based on our attitude or supposed fame of the one being quoted. Authors feel they increase the value of their own work by mentioning figures they themselves approve of. If the same ideas have only been expressed by someone they dislike, writers will incorporate those ideas without any citation. The same situation lurks in all forms of communication, from academic writing to newspaper articles to Twitter and Facebook updates.

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