Tone policing in the Tavern

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Dungeon Master

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Post Monday, 12th September 2016, 15:32

Tone policing in the Tavern

In a recent thread, duvessa raised (not for the first time) a complaint about posters (particularly devs) complaining about other posters' tone. For those not familiar, here's one summary of the idea of "tone policing": wrote:A tone argument is an argument used in discussions, sometimes by concern trolls and sometimes as a derailment tactic, where it is suggested that feminists would be more successful if only they expressed themselves in a more pleasant tone. This is also sometimes described as catching more flies with honey than with vinegar, a particular variant of the tone argument. The tone argument also manifests itself where arguments produced in an angry tone are dismissed irrespective of the legitimacy of the argument; this is also known as tone policing.

The tone argument is a form of derailment, or a red herring, because the tone of a statement is independent of the content of the statement in question, and calling attention to it distracts from the issues raised. Drawing attention to the tone rather than content of a statement can allow other parties to avoid engaging with sound arguments presented in that statement, thus undermining the original party's attempt to communicate and effectively shutting them down.

Tone arguments are also often entwined with privilege, especially when a member of a oppressor group (oftentimes in a position of power) abuses said power to shut down concerns raised by a marginalized group, irrespective of whether the concerns are valid through invoking the tone argument. This is especially true when the marginalized is a newcomer to the discussion and is afterward ostracized by the groupthink when their tone differs from those preferred by the group.

The tone argument is also used as a silencing tactic, where someone invariably becomes angry due to their opponent (often in a position of power) dismissed or ignores their repeated requests or well-reasoned arguments, and said anger is then used to justify removing them from the discussion, thereby silencing them.

Distilled, the idea is that it is obnoxious to completely ignore a valid point by only discussing the tone of the argument being raised rather than the argument itself. This is a valid complaint, and tone policing should be avoided in general.

However, in the particular case duvessa referenced, and in this forum in general, complaints about tone are in the same post as actual responses to the content of the argument as well. People are trying to have a respectful conversation with others who are being intentionally disrespectful or obnoxious. Tone policing to silence people is bad. Asking people to try to talk civilly to create a better and more healthy community is good. There are some thoughts you can't express without being rude -- especially thoughts about what is considered polite or impolite and why -- and people will sometimes be frustrated with others, but it's generally easy to distinguish between that and people who have no interest in behaving civilly in general.

There are a vast number of ways to make a post worse without making the argument contained within the post worse. The idea that tone is completely off the table for discussion is like saying a condescending, overly terse, spiteful, axe-grinding, self-aggrandizing post on a subject is just as helpful to the community as one that makes the same point without those obnoxious features. A community full of the former is going to be a terrible place to spend time, and asking someone to communicate without being a jerk about it is not the same as telling them to shut up.

Edit: People with consistently abusive or obnoxious tone are not entitled to have others uncomplainingly put up with that tone. It's a chore at best, and if you want people to do that chore, you have to be offering a whole lot of value in the content of your posts.

Edit2: I don't think there are any posters here who can legitimately claim that their views aren't being heard due to their tone. If anything, we tend to err on the side of letting people consistently use an abusive tone.

Edit3: Cleaned up some rough edges.

For this message the author Lasty has received thanks: 4
Airwolf, all before, Brannock, chequers
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Pandemonium Purger

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Joined: Saturday, 18th June 2016, 13:57

Post Monday, 12th September 2016, 18:58

Re: "Tone arguments"

Lasty wrote:self-aggrandizing

I think this is the point. I have the impression that many on the Internet think that writing aggressively looks cool. It doesn't, it actually feels whiny. If it actually wins over the respect of the community, then it is a problem, because it means that respected members actually are those who bully posters to make them look like asses.

Which is the social interaction I'd expect from fifth graders. No offence to eventual fifth grader members, but I think a few of us are a little older and capable to also act older.

It's not like we are being smothered by this phenomenon, I don't see it as a large thing, but, since there already is a discussion about this, I thought I'd post my two cents.

Add bonus pieces like "laugh with, don't laugh at", "you can be funny without being insulting", "you can be insulting without being funny", "aim your communication to be sex instead of onanism", i.e. "go for reciprocal pleasure with the chance to build something instead of fleeting self-fulfilment", and, if you want to set yourself apart, "elegance > arrogance". Or "content > contempt". Or "rage comics > comical rage", whatever.
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For this message the author Shtopit has received thanks: 3
Brannock, chequers, duvessa

Snake Sneak

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Joined: Friday, 27th September 2013, 23:59

Post Monday, 12th September 2016, 23:19

Re: "Tone arguments"

Shtopit wrote:"aim your communication to be sex instead of onanism"
idk if this is targeted at me, but if it is, it's really not the right metaphor to use when you're talking to an asexual person

For this message the author minmay has received thanks:

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