Saturday, June 30, 2018

Tone Policing Used as an Anti-debate Tool by Left Right and Center

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. condemned this type of silencing, writing that he was "gravely disappointed" with the "white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than justice."[3] ... Wikipedia
On NPR's "On the Media" this morning I heard a discussion of tone policing and how attacks on protestors who are viewed as "going too far" has been used to subvert the message.

The Problem with Civility

 It is worth listening to.

I'll admit I also react badly to what looks like uncivil behavior. Like I wasn't for tossing Sarah Huckabee out of the restaurant. The owner who did that also killed her business. So there are consequences.

But having just been through years of being lectured about my tone by the tone police in MORE and seeing Mike Schirtzer purged under the cover of his "tone" when in fact it was a political purge, this story struck a note. I had not heard the expression "tone policing" as a way to deflect debate and yet I saw this in action in MORE on numerous occasions, with the final straw being taking an open discussion listserve and putting it under moderation which has in essence killed all debate in MORE.

Mission accomplished.

It was funny as the same faction, all aligned politically, tried to control the listerves when we were in GEM, so I had an inkling that some form of political policing was behind the tone attacks. But this morning I heard it discussed in the main stream media for the first time. 

The wiki item below focuses on tone policing as being used against women and minorities and the left, but it also comes from the left, especially from the sectarian left which always tries to control voices that don't align with their particular sect. On the other hand, to be fair, people do have a right to complain about tone if they are offended - that is fine. But what I found is that I would put out a serious argument and the tone police would ignore the entire argument and chastise me on tone. Sure, tell me I could avoid using a certain tone -- good friends have told me that curbing my sarcasm would strengthen my arguments.

So I tried very hard to avoid giving people an excuse to avoid my political points. The result? They just ignored what I was saying altogether. Dead silence. So now I avoid commenting at all inside the MORE bubble and will use Ed Notes to make my points.
Tone policing (also tone trolling, tone argument and tone fallacy) is an ad hominem and antidebate appeal based on genetic fallacy. It attempts to detract from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself.

Tone policing - Wikipedia


In Keith Bybee's How Civility Works, he notes that feminists, Black Lives Matter protesters, and anti-war protesters have been told to "calm down and try to be more polite". He argues that tone policing is a means to deflect attention from injustice and relocate the problem in the style of the complaint, rather than address the complaint itself.[2] In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. condemned this type of silencing, writing that he was "gravely disappointed" with the "white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than justice."[3]
While ad hominem fallacies of relevance are often autologies, critics have argued that tone policing is a flawed concept simply because it is autological. As discussed by The Frisky's Rebecca Vipond Brink, the act of labeling tone policing may itself be considered tone policing:
The problem with telling someone that you have a right to express yourself as angrily as you want to without them raising an objection is that you’re also inherently telling them that they don’t have a right to be angry about the way you’re addressing them.[4]
— Rebecca Vipond Brink, Calling Out Tone-Policing Has Become Tone-Policing
Bruce Byfield has written that steering observers away from the validity of an argument is only one of many possible motivations for raising concerns about tone during a heated debate.[5] An article on The Good Men Project has argued that moderating tone, whether or not one cares about civility, is useful for increasing persuasive impact on the listener.[6]

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