Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Terrible Sea Lion: Persistent Politeness is Loved by Friends and Feared by Foes


A year ago, I shared this observation:
"Its 'sea lioning' when it's someone you don't agree with and 'calling out' when you do." —James 'Grim' Desborough
I noted,
There is one important difference: A sea lion must be polite, while a caller-out must be filled with (self-)righteous fury.
Sealioning came up in the discussion at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat. These are the parts that I hope are worth sharing:

In response to one person, I said,
I’m amused by your mention of sealioning. Someone said this today on Facebook: “I think people who are weak debaters throw these terms [sealioning and strawmanning] out at people like caltrops, hoping they will grind their opponent down by boring them to death.”

Greg Hullender said,
From the cartoon, I would gather that “to sea lion” is to continue to press someone on an issue past they point where it’s clear they realize they’re wrong in an attempt to force them to admit it. A polite person, having made his/her point, will simply drop the subject once it’s clear the other person can’t really defend it. Sea Lions never drop anything.

That said, to accuse someone of sea lioning is to admit to being wrong, no? Or at least to having an indefensible position. It’s like pleading the fifth amendment.
Hampus Eckerman told Greg, "Feels like you didn’t read the comic." Greg replied,
I saw that definition, but it doesn’t match the comic. Reread the comic, but replace “sea lion” with “homosexual” or other minority. (Better, use a derogatory word for a minority.) Then you’ll see where I’m coming from.

I do see the point that the sea lion proves her point, in a way, by being so persistent. In that case, though, the cartoon seems to be making fun of anyone who stands up to discrimination. That’s not a great interpretation either.
I said,
As for “sealion” as a verb, based on the cartoon, it means “politely persist”, a trait admired in friends and hated in foes.
JJ insisted that a sea lion is a form of troll, and Lydy said,
Is Will really arguing that sealioning is good behavior? I may never stop laughing.
I said,
JJ, of course the sea lion is terrible to the people who oppose it. I said so.

But if a sea lion was a troll, the word would not have caught on. Trolls appear with their own issues and insult people like a fifth grade bully. The sea lion is relentlessly on topic, even when others want to drop it, and perfectly polite.

Lydy, you missed this part of what I wrote: “and hated in foes”. But that’s fine. I’m fascinated by the manifestations of cognitive dissonance. Gandhi covered them well when he wrote that first they ignore you….
Hampus provided links to the artist's statements about his intention: Wondermark » Archive » “Sea Lion” Has Been Verbed and Wondermark » Archive » 2014 Errata.

I replied,
As for “sealion”, any comic strip is open to interpretation. Even its creator may not be fully aware of its implications, simply because artists are human. See Authorial intent - Wikipedia
And then JJ insisted a sea lion is a troll, so I added,
JJ, there’s no definitive definition of any word anywhere, of course, but Wikipedia has a decent definition of internet troll: Internet troll

Note that unlike a troll, a sea lion does not start the discussion, does not go off-topic, and is polite rather than inflammatory. However, language is mutable, so the definition of troll may expand to include sea lion.