Argumentum Ad Nauseum

The most common logical fallacy in fandom is not listed in Stephen’s Guide, but I keep running into it so I’m giving it a name. I’ll call it the argumentum ad nauseum. It’s a cross between the argumentum ad hominem and the fallacy of style over substance. A crossover fallacy is singularly appropriate for fandom.

The ad nauseum is the act of attacking a position, not for being incorrect nor for any other logical flaw, but simply for having been said many times before. There is, the man once said, nothing new under the sun, and even less new in fandom, so the ad nauseum is never a valid criticism. Usually it’s not even true - that is, the positions under attack have not been stated more frequently than anything else, nor than the opposite stance in particular.

Just as it’s only meta when somebody gets annoyed, it’s only boring when somebody doesn’t want to hear it. Maybe they feel threatened by opposing points of view, or maybe they aren’t intellectually capable of defending their own. The motives behind the ad nauseum are probably as diverse as those behind any other logical fallacy - it only holds the power it does because fandom is a literary community. Boring is a damning criticism when it’s leveled at fic, yet it is hollow when pointed at a blog or any other discussion forum.

If you really don’t want to hear it, you have the delete key and the back button. When instead you go on and on about how dull someone else’s blog is, questions automatically arise: Why did you keep reading it? Why are you pointing it out now?

I do book reviews in my blog, and I’ve never criticized a book without saying exactly how I thought it went wrong. Saying that meta is boring, dull, or “grey” is just a cop-out - a statement that the (allegedly) poor style negates the underlying substance. Ad nauseum is also a way to attack someone without having to justify, or even mention, your own position on the issue - that is its kinship with ad hominem.

So I really can’t get worked up over people who have nothing more insightful (or inciteful) to say about me than the standard ad nauseum “ho hum.” For an even better example of ad nauseum than my recent appearance on fandom_wank, I would refer you to Jintian protesting too much at the manifesto meme - for example: I don’t see the need for all of this sudden flag-waving and State of the Union speech-making. [The following has been edited.] I took this to mean, my opinions are interesting; your opinions are boring, unnecessary, or repetitive. The first half of the statement is merely implied, and isn’t necessary to ad nauseum. [end edits]

To recap, everyone has the right to be bored. If you’re bored, go away. If you attack me for boring you, it means you’re just faking the boredom - you’re really feeling threatened, guilty, or just plain hostile. Either learn to defend yourself without the ad nauseum arguments, or go away. Whining that something is boring is, for lack of a better term, boring.

3 Responses to “Argumentum Ad Nauseum”

  1. Jintian Says:

    Thanks for putting words in my mouth. Guess that means I don’t actually blog enough, since there seems to be some kind of deficit you feel the need to fill.

    I don’t want to argue with you about this issue or what the original intent of that LJ post was. Not because I think it’s boring or because your opinions aren’t worth as much as mine — but because frankly, it looks like you’ve already formed some pretty unshakeable opinions about it, and I can’t argue with a brick wall.

  2. Jemima Says:

    Sorry about that - I’ve taken the words out of your mouth. The original post isn’t at issue, just the method of argument. If someone else had asked “why are all the slashers suddenly having a parade?” it would have been just as appropriate an example. Your post was just one that struck me at the time, though I didn’t get the chance to blog about it then because freeshell was down for a week.

  3. Laughing... Says:

    nah I have to admit, for me its all about the hostility - its the boredom at times that brings out the attacks. There isn’t that much to look at online these days.

    [insult deleted -jp]