The Difference Between Personal Attacks and Personal Information

Some people get upset when you bring up personal information during an argument or discussion. I do believe there’s a time and a place where that is okay; if there is something in their background or life that casts their position in a different light.

Let’s take the case of a former friend I had named “Bill”. I met “Bill” through a website we were both writing for. We lived near each other and met up several times for a good discussion. I enjoyed his company. Then I started noticing a conservative lean to his positions. It’s not something I would automatically stop being friends with someone over, especially back in the mid 2000’s.

When I lived on Long Island, a complaint among almost everyone there was the taxes (it still is). Some of the reasons are the average salary for a Nassau County Police Officer after 9 years on the job is $120,000-$130,000. The average teacher’s salary is $161,000 per year. The average property tax in Nassau County in 2017 was $11,415.

You can see why we moved.

Back on topic, Bill’s wife was a retired schoolteacher. She had a nice retirement package, courtesy of the taxpayers. Her healthcare covered him. Yet he would get on discussion boards and argue that we had to cut the pay of police, transit, schoolteachers, etc. because it was too expensive. He would say they didn’t deserve health care and should pay more for it. I knew abut his wife and it struck me as completely hypocritical that he would argue for this while not saying he should be contributing more to his own healthcare or have his wife’s retirement package renegotiated. It was a case of “I got mine, now screw the rest of you.” Bill wasn’t hurting for money. They traveled often. He bragged about how much they ate out. All that is fine with me, until you start trying to make the argument that everyone else should cut back.

I finally had enough and pointed out one time that Bill was benefiting from the high taxes he was crying about and not volunteering to tighten his own belt to get them lowered. He called foul and said I was making it personal. I don’t believe pointing out hypocrisy in someone’s position based on what you know about their life is “making it personal.”

Today I had a similar situation. Someone I unfriended but haven’t blocked was engaged in a discussion where everyone was pointing out that she was wrong in her position. She was exclusively blaming protesters for spreading the virus and the spikes that we’ve seen lately. I pointed out that the last protest we had here was before Memorial Day and our small spike happened last week. The spikes are happening in Florida and Texas, neither of which have seen much in the way of protesting recently. The spikes are mostly happening in the south and west where people refuse to wear masks and are acting like it’s business as usual. She refuses to see anything other than her narrow point of view and I made the comment that at least her biased point of view was consistent.

She’s always taken a position lock-step with Fox News and their talking points. She’s pro-business to the point that she blames her business failing on the fact that she had to pay people minimum wage and if she didn’t have to pay people “that much” she’d still be in business. Minimum wage is below-poverty wages. She seems that people owe it to her to work in a business like a slave if that’s what the market would bear. In her view, it’s okay to take advantage of people who are desperate to further herself.

I think her business deserved to fail.

And at least five other people commented that she was wrong on her argument about the protesters spreading the virus, but she’s like a kid with her hands over her ears saying “I can’t hear you.”

I didn’t bring up the issue of her wanting people to work for her for slave wages because it didn’t have a bearing on this argument. I would, though, if it was appropriate. I don’t think that’s “making it personal.” I think that’s pointing out hypocrisy when necessary.

To get back to Bill, he used to love to point out what a wonderful person he was in his own mind A typical thing he bragged about was his once-a-year trip to Haiti where he did missionary work with his church. I don’t discount the work he did there – that’s a very poor country that does need help. However, I pointed out to him one time that one trip a year doesn’t make you “a good Christian.” That week doesn’t mean a thing if you come home and cast votes that make it so your neighbor has to choose between rent, heat, healthcare, and food. The current right-wing likes to compartmentalize. They believe as long as they don’t do certain “bad things” all the other things they do don’t count. They’ll sit there and demand the government butt into people’s lives when it comes to a woman’s right to choose and who someone has sex with, yet if you ask them about things like SNAP and AFDC they will say the government shouldn’t be a part of that; it should be up to charities. I see it time and time again where the argument is it doesn’t matter unless it effects me, and then “that’s different.”

So yes, I do believe it’s okay to bring up personal information in a discussion or argument if someone is being a hypocrite. It’s not okay to say “I hope your spouse leaves you cause you’re an idiot.” It’s not okay to wish harm on someone – and I struggle with that sometimes because I think a lot of people could use a good dose of karma. However, if someone who is getting a good pension is then saying they should stop giving them to other people, or if they are saying we should eliminate healthcare as a perk when they are getting it courtesy of the taxpayer, it’s perfectly fine to point that out.

7 replies »

  1. Bill pissed me off too. I unfriended him and blocked him when he started talking about how we didn’t need coverage for pre-existing conditions. If your child has a pre-existing condition he said it was God’s will and whatever happened happened. He tried to bring up his daughter who died in an accident has an example. I basically told him FU and then unfriended him and blocked him

    • I had already unfriended him at that point so I didn’t see that. His daughter was driving drunk – again, something I knew and did not bring up but would have if I saw this. He’s not really a very nice person, no matter what he thinks of himself (and he thinks a lot of himself)

      • I made the mistake of unblocking him and get into last night with him on a post of “Tim” (I think you know who). Actually he got into with me. He just does not want to stop. He thinks we’re all wrongly blaming Trump for the troubles we’re in right now. Well, duh, of course, we are.

      • Of course we are. For someone so “religious” they can’t see how everything they support is the antithesis of what Jesus taught. That’s why I can’t deal with the likes of them. Hypocrisy 101, they’ve drunk the kool-aid

      • Of course not. You’d have to be a WikiLeaks-level “hacktivist” to be able to find the digital evidence that “Bill” was the main culprit. Getting into Facebook’s inner workings and separating the wheat from the chaff – as it were – would be easy for a hacker with the right tools and skills set. I’m not a hacker, nor do I wish to become one. So…we’ll never know for sure.

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