Lately I’ve been hearing about Sealioning again. I finally saw an actual stated definition, rather than just someone dropping an accusation to signal applause lights from their side.
Sealioning: A subtle form of trolling involving “bad-faith” questions. You disingenuously frame your conversation as a sincere request to be enlightened, placing the burden of educating you entirely on the other party. If your bait is successful, the other party may engage, painstakingly laying out their logic and evidence in the false hope of helping someone learn. In fact you are attempting to harass or waste the time of the other party, and have no intention of truly entertaining their point of view. Instead, you react to each piece of information by misinterpreting it or requesting further clarification, ad nauseum. The name “sea-lioning” comes from a Wondermark comic strip.
First off, that’s just plain old arguing in bad faith. But here’s the comic that inspired this term, from Wondermark:
The Sea Lion is demanding that a racist person put up (evidence) or shut up. But the sea lion is being an ass. The message of the comic seems pretty clear—even people who say racist things deserve some privacy. Don’t harass them nonstop, or you are the one being the ass. That’s a good message, TBH.
You’ll notice there’s no actual arguing in the comic though, which makes “arguing in bad faith” impossible. It seems like the term “sea lioning” is being used to by people to say “If you disagree with my assertion and ask for supporting evidence, that in itself is doing something bad.” I’ve seen it be used that way before, and a lack of reading comprehension applied to the comic in question could easily support that interpretation. This is rock-bottom in the Hierarchy of Disagreements. It’s entirely social shaming (“a demand for listeners to place someone outside the boundary of people who deserve to be heard”). Going forward, seeing the term “Sealioning” being used is going to be a big red flag for me that the other person isn’t worth talking to.
I also think it’s weird that the racist is the good guy in this, but hey, it’s the internet.