Ad-hominem in general is a very effective weapon for Dissidence Management, but there are a few advanced forms of it that are even more effective. In the 21st century, one of these forms has been honed to perfection.
This advanced form of ad-hominem is called the Insult Trick. It is a targeted and more intelligent form of ad-hominem, and much more devastating.
The main idea behind the Insult Trick is to baffle the mind of the target to an extent that he will be likely to lose his bearings and be not even able to come up with a coherent response. In fact, the very idea of giving a coherent response will seem to be embarrassing. But to not give a response (as can be done with the normal ad-hominem) might seem to be (or easily made out to be) self-incriminating.
People, and particularly dissidents, can easily get used to being called idiots, charlatans, nihilists, cynical etc. This kind of name calling may be very irritating, but it may not stick and it may not have the same effect.
The Insult Trick overcomes this limitation by taking advantage of the knowledge of human psychology. What can be most disturbing than being accused of something that you have always opposed very strongly? And, as a variation of this, what can be more disturbing than being insulted by those very people whose side you are taking on any particular issue (or in general)?
The Insult Trick is not completely new. It is, in fact, a generalisation of the old Anti-Semite trick. People who were the most ardently opposed to all kinds of Fascism were (and still are) often called anti-semites. The charge is, naturally, infuriating, but the great thing is that, with just a little effort, it can be made to stick.
The Insult Trick takes this much further. You want a dissident to be neutralized who defends the rights of the poor? Well, get him insulted by some poor people. Or call him anti-poor. A dissident defending Muslims? Get him insulted by Muslims. A dissident defending women’s rights? Get him insulted by women. A dissident aligning himself with the blacks? Get someone with a black skin to insult him. Students’ rights? Insult by students. Teachers’ rights? Insult by teachers. Public services? Insult by public service employess. And so on.
Here is the best of them all. You have a dissident? Get him insulted by other dissidents! Hurrah!
Is it difficult to arrange, this last one? No, it isn't. For the simple reason that most dissidents are likely to be some kind of lefties. And, hey! aren't they the most fractious lot on the planet. They are always eager and over-ready to insult one another. There is not much you need to arrange, unlike the other cases.
The idea is to send the dissident reeling, thinking, Why are they insulting me?! I am on their side!
Which might, after some time, make him into a cynic, saying nothing ever changes. No one is any good. Let everyone go to hell. Let me try to just live my life.
He might even be tempted to take arsenic instead of bearing with this.
If the dissident is already isolated, the effect will be exponentially higher in relation to the degree of isolation.
To give a more specific form of insult, here is the newest rage. You don’t like someone criticizing the system that benefits you as a liberal or neo-liberal? Is that person opposed to neo-liberal (and neo-conservative) Capitalism, privatization of everything etc.? Well, call him Romney! Make him out to be the kind of man that Romney is. That will blow his mind! If he tries to defend himself, he will only make himself look ridiculous.
The less similarity there is between the name you call him and himself, the more effective the insult. The concreteness of the name (as opposed to the vagueness of something like ‘idiot’), combined with this total travesty of similarity creates the desired effect.
Make no mistake all you pro-Establishment liberals and neo-liberals (Capitalist also, but we don’t say that here). The Romney insult is the insult of the day (or of the year or of the election cycle) right now. Go ahead and make full use of it!
Earlier, it was Newt Gingrich. Before that, it was George Bush.
Just think about it. A leftist trying to explain to other leftists (or other anti-conservatives, because conservatives do not go out of their flock to listen to leftists or anti-conservatives), trying to point out and list what is wrong with Romney. Think of the absurdity! What a waste of words! It is so self-evident! A self-respecting leftist would rather spend time on pointing out what is wrong with Obama! Or better still, what is wrong with electoral democracy. Isn't it? What a blessing for Dissidence Management! Wasted if they do, damned if they don't!
The conservatives and neo-conservatives (and others to the right of them) may also use this trick, but they will have to use other names. Indeed, some might argue that it is they who first perfected this trick. Such as by taking on someone who was (and is) a well known neo-liberal corporate-friendly Capitalist and calling him a socialist, a radical (leftist), even a Hitler (that last one goes into very unsophisticated territory and loses its effect). That sent him and his supporters reeling for quite some time. The reason it didn't work was because the target was far from being isolated.
Always, always, never forget first isolating the dissident before trying to finish him off.
And also, before you launch such attacks, make sure that there are enough people ready to do the same against the same person. A lonely attack of this kind is not going to be that effective.
A Hefty Bonus
By the way, when you do manage to finish off a lefty dissident, there is a good chance that those waiting in the right-most wings can easily take over the legacy of that dissident. Remember Gorge Orwell? Establishment: Safe and Secure.