Even all these years later, his honor is still worth defending
Tumblr feminism pioneered that particular obnoxious ad hominem approach that the woke use to shut down dissent and avoid having to defend their positions. Not very clever or coherent, but very impressed with itself. It was a jarring departure from liberal norms then. Now it is, sadly, the air we breathe.
I really think that terms like this were invented by people who, on some level, are fully aware that they aren't able to justify their opinions in an adversarial debate. If you assert "I believe X", someone asks you to explain why you believe X, and you can't, it will be very embarrassing for you. To preempt this, you have to develop a norm that even asking people to justify their opinions somehow constitutes "harassment" or "bullying" or "gaslighting" etc. (but only if this request is being made of people who hold the "correct" opinions, of course).
This is the downside of ideologies which spread, not via reasoned argument, but via conformity and the implied threat of ostracisation. You end up with millions of people who know exactly what the opinions they're supposed to hold are, but who are powerless to actually defend those opinions in a debate.
I was an avid xkcd reader for a long time, until that First Amendment comic came about. I was first gobsmacked on just how awful it was, and xkcd fell out of my daily rotation for a while and just never came back, even when I saw many subsequent comics that were fantastic.
Seriously, the fact that people can't distinguish between what the FA legally protects and the much more expensive culture of free speech that society needs and is increasingly attacked by all sides is depressing.
As with many concepts, Sea-Lioning (and JAQing) both usefully identifies a set of behaviors and is also overused. There really are people who will abuse (more or less) liberal discursive norms
The real issue of course is that mass online discourse--especially Twitter centered--is just irredeemably broken. Bad faith begets bad faith, it's just shitposting all the way down.
The thing that's always made my head hurt about the sea lion comic is that the woman's first and only reaction to the sea lion, who has overheard her say something rude about sea lions, is to say "shut up and go away." Which makes her seem off-puttingly hostile, and kind of an asshole, even before the increasingly ridiculous harassment. Isn't she supposed to be the one who earns the reader's sympathy? And if the point was to criticize the sea lion for refusing to give up the argument, shouldn't her first response been some kind of attempt to explain or apologize or something like that?
The way it's drawn, it really seems like the argument being made by the strip is "it's fine to be an asshole online, but attempting to engage with an asshole constitutes harassment, of the asshole." Which maybe really WAS the message, given how the strip has been used, but not the one the artist intended?
For an old person such as myself, reading about the behavior of the denizens of social media is like being introduced to the mores and folkways of some distant tribe. I cannot help but wonder where people find the time and energy to engage in this type of pointless conflict. Please take a moment if you can to elaborate on why people on social media enter into these bitter, pointless arguments with people they don't know. What is the payoff?
Thank you for being a guide in this bizarro world.
I can't be the only one who read that "apology" from the original strip creator and found it to be a sniveling mess?
"The people in the strip have cars and a home" ??? This is the problem?
"Why did you focus on the genocide and not the annoying asking of questions?" Because one seems more relevant than the other, an odd element to include if it's not relevant.
I appreciate Jesse's use of the Hugbox here. The logical conclusion of a lot of these kinds of norms seem to be to completely avoid upset or insult, which of course can't be done in all disagreements, and only gets applied in a selective fashion. It's a road to absurdity.
"I could do without sea lions" does not imply the woman is calling for the genocide of sea lions. If someone said that to me, I would take it to mean she is interested in other animals and would prefer not to see sea lions at the zoo, when scuba diving, hanging out near a San Francisco pier, or other sea lion venues. "I could do without Paris" means I have no interest in visiting Paris, not that I think Paris should be bombed into oblivion.
I make that ridiculously banal point because I think it's important to understand the point being made by the term sea lioning (though I confess that this piece is the first time I have become aware of the term).
If someone is calling for genocide, aggressively following up with questions strikes me as appropriate, regardless of whether the other person wants to engage. On the other hand, if they're tossing off a random opinion about why they prefer one thing to other, pursuing them after they indicated they have no interest in engaging with you usually is problematic behavior.
It's fine for you to respond to someone who says they don't like sea lions or Paris with an explanation of why you do. But no one owes you an explanation for why they believe what they believe.
I've never heard this term before now, but after pondering it and reading this article I am now sure of one thing: that comic strip is terrible. I have no idea what point the artist wanted to make but whatever it was they really failed
This is an interesting case of a creator writing something other than he intended.
Even if you replace the sea lion with a specific group of people it’s still wrong. In fact, way way worse. Like you said, you have to change the nature of the complaint from something genocidal to banal.
Also I tried to write eliminationist above and my iPhone tried to correct it to “Eliminate Israel” so that was some shit.
I've definitely heard "I could do without" used in a fairly broad set of ways. If one interprets it as "I do not, personally, desire to interact with them", as I think the author intended, the sea lion is rather more obnoxious than if one interprets it as Jesse does.
...which does not change the fact that "sealioning" is a classic version of the "oh no my menchies" shit that makes Twitter an abominable thing that the entire human race, by any definition, could do quite well without.
There has always been a way of dealing with aggressive, bad-faith questioning, which is to ignore it.
But ignoring it (by design) doesn’t call attention to itself and is therefore unacceptable in the internet economy, where only things with attention have value.
I think the comic underlines an inconsistency in how many users of social media would like speech norms to work. In the "sea lion" comic, the Victorian folks would prefer social comments to be treated like small talk in a public place. Yes, someone can say something upsetting in public, it's fine to challenge that, but don't follow someone home and continue to pester them about it (presumably, the equivalent in social media would be to continue to comment about it long after the initial poster has made it clear that they don't want to engage). I think that's a fine norm in and of itself.
However, it can't be the case that we need to treat social media like small talk in public while simultaneously treating speech on social media like sincerely held beliefs recorded in letters that we can mine for offense when we're upset with someone. It can't be the case that it's incredibly rude to call someone out on their Final Sea Lion Solution in the moment, but it's fine to use said comment as the basis for a HuffPo call-out article 10 years later (presumably, because Victorian Lady was publicly seen reading Harry Potter and The Two Sexes). Yes, I know that such articles will only get written about Bad People, but it's a schizophrenic way of handling speech.
I was aware of the comic long before I ever heard the expression “sealioning.” I have to say I always found the comic pretty funny, but to me the key to its humor was that I could understand where each character was coming from. Everyone was being an equal mix of reasonable and unreasonable. Sorta disappointed to learn that the author preferred a more one-dimensional interpretation.
There’s a public figure who likes to call effective altruists genocidal eugenicists and then accuses them of sealioning when they reply to that ludicrous accusation on social media.
I'm going to defend the use of sealioning as a slur, on the grounds that it is stupid to engage with idiotic statements in the first place. Secondly, it always invites the respondent into an old old debate. Thirdly, people should have better things to do than 'debate' online. Down with sealioning.