In Defense Of The Tone Argument

The tone argument is a really common thing discussed in Internet social justice. For those who don’t know what “the tone argument” is, this is a fairly typical definition:

The tone argument is where you object to someone else’s argument based on its tone: it is too angry, too hateful, not calm enough, not nice enough, etc. It is a logical fallacy because none of those things has anything to do with whether the truth was spoken. It is used to derail and silence.

Here’s the thing: I agree with the mainstream social-justice position on the tone argument, as far as it goes. You should try to listen to the logic of people’s position, regardless of what tone they say it in. It is deeply unpleasant to be called a racist, misogynistic asshole! However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a point about you doing something racist or misogynistic. Also, if someone is being all “you’re a racist misogynistic asshole!” and you respond with “I have considered your points and you’re right. I’m sorry and I will not do it again. Thank you for educating me,” you look like a real class act.

However, that only covers half the etiquette problem here: the listeners. What about the speakers?

See, it’s the listener’s job to listen to the argument regardless of what form it’s presented in. And it’s the speaker’s job (remembering, always, that it is not a requirement to educate people and if you’re too angry or busy or tired to do it properly you don’t have to do it) to present it in a form that listeners will find convincing.

It is a rare person who responds well to being insulted and yelled at. Hell, I’ve been inculcated in social justice etiquette for years, I know how to take a callout, and I still feel my back arching and my teeth gritting when someone calls me an asshole. Even if they have a point, my first reaction is “fuck you and the horse you rode in on!” I can, often, take a deep breath and actually listen, but there are lots of times I just respond with a mental “fuck you,” even if the person might be right. There are lots of people who never get beyond the fuck-you stage. It’s hard enough to admit that you’re wrong (there are, in fact, scientific studies that prove this), there is no sense in making it even more difficult.

This is not about ‘civility.’ Fuck civility. I reserve the right to call Romney a femmephobic queerphobic doucheface as much as I like, because:

1) He’s not reading my blog.
2) Even if he were reading my blog I’m pretty damn sure he’s not going to change his mind based on it.

Similarly, if I’m pretty sure my most airtight, logical, rationally presented argument will not change your mind, I’m going to call you an shit-for-brains asshat. At that point we’re not in a rational discussion and my goal is simply to illustrate for the peanut gallery that being an asshole who refuses to change their mind is unacceptable, as well as to show off my swearing repertoire. Civility is overrated.

It is not about civility. It is about effective argumentation. And effective argumentation is well-cited, logical, and clear– and very rarely involves calling the people you are trying to convince assholes.

It’s fairly common for social justice types to say, as a response to someone making the tone argument, “if you’re stepping on someone’s foot, you should stop stepping on their foot, not say ‘I’ll stop stepping on your foot if you ask nicely.’” This is true! However, that metaphor can also be reasonably extended:

1) If someone is stepping on your foot, and they don’t have a history of stepping on your foot and refusing to stop stepping on it, it is reasonable to respond with “hey, dude, get off my foot.” It is not reasonable to respond with “FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE GET OFF MY FUCKING FOOT I BET YOUR MOTHER WAS A HAMSTER AND YOUR FATHER SMELT OF ELDERBERRIES.”
2) It is particularly not reasonable to respond with “FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE,” as the people will probably have no idea that they are even stepping on your foot, and thus not know to stop stepping on it.
3) If someone is stepping on your foot and you say “FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE GET OFF MY FUCKING FOOT I BET YOUR MOTHER WAS A HAMSTER AND YOUR FATHER SMELT OF ELDERBERRIES,” they are well within their rights to stop stepping on your foot and then say “hey, would you mind asking nicely next time?”

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About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.

Comments

  1. Other issues of tone might also be worth examining. For example, some have this kind of odd, ‘radical’ or ‘revolutionary’ tone which both repells anybody not interested in tearing down everything AND stinks of academic Milquetoast Lenins.

  2. I assume ik is talking people who may have read Lenin, or Marx, or whatever, but not really understood them. Sort of a Communist equivalent of TVTropes’s ‘Nietzche wannabe’ or what I call ‘Dimestore nihilists.”

    People who take the basic thoughts of the philosophy without considering it in any deep fashion.

    • Ah, I think I see. You mean the kind of people who think they know everything that really matters about a particular subject, but really only know just enough to make fools of themselves, and tend to dismiss the real experts as idiots who make up weird crap for no reason.

  3. Why didn’t that go through where I wanted?

    A large amount of human conversation is nonverbal. Consider how much different people act online and IRL, when they’re robbed of things like, well, tone of voice.

  4. “Similarly, if I’m pretty sure my most airtight, logical, rationally presented argument will not change your mind, I’m going to call you an shit-for-brains asshat. ”

    I wonder what kinds of people you assess as capable of having their minds changed, and thus entitled to not be abused? Does part of it depend on their own tone? What makes you think you couldn’t convince Mitt Romney?

    I also find it interesting that you seem to feel it’s OK to use abusive language when the people you’re abusing can’t read it, e.g. Mitt Romney doesn’t read this blog.

    • zuiyomaru says:

      “I wonder what kinds of people you assess as capable of having their minds changed, and thus entitled to not be abused?”

      I would say that’s pretty easy to judge. The kind of people who start a discussion by referring to all feminists as feminazis, for instance. Or describes being gay as a sin against God. No matter how reasonable, passionate, and convincing your argument, you aren’t going to change the mind of a person like that who is determined to not change their mind despite all evidence.

      “What makes you think you couldn’t convince Mitt Romney?”

      I mean, have you listened to what Mitt Romney has to say on social justice stuff? It it not particularly reassuring.

      • “I would say that’s pretty easy to judge. The kind of people who start a discussion by referring to all feminists as feminazis, for instance.”

        So it is a tone thing, then.

        • I think that there are a lot of closer calls than “feminizis.” We can all name a few blogs where having a certain privilege (racial, gender, cis, etc.) makes you automatically incapable of understanding an argument.

          You draw your line, they draw theirs. It has nothing to do with accepting arguments and everything to do with creating a space culturally defined by who it is acceptable to rail against.

    • YMMV, but in my personal experience, a person gets maybe one or two chances per year to Not Be An Asshat. I will calmly, rationally explain something to someone the first time, but if I get abuse in response, then that person clearly isn’t interested in what I have to say–they’re interested in Being Right At All Costs.

      A refusal to respond to the actual argument, especially when questions are asked, implies that you don’t have a good answer and don’t care to come up with one. “I don’t know” is an acceptable response. I’ll even take illogic like “It’s always been this way” over “FUCK YOU FOR HAVING OPINIONS THAT DIFFER FROM MINE!! CLEARLY THIS MAKES YOU THE SPAWN OF SATAN!!”

      Once you attack ME instead of my arguments, you indicate a present unwillingness to learn, and the gloves are off.* After I’ve explained my position again, in more detail and with more cursing, I tend to wash my hands of that person for the foreseeable future.

      Since I rarely encounter the same asshat repeatedly within a short span, this approach tends to work well.

      * On the Internet, at least. I can’t really afford to go around insulting people in real life, given my career choice, and I certainly don’t make threats. There is a difference between “You’re insulting me. Stop it,” and “You deserve to have XYZ done to you.”

  5. Arg! I had written a long comment and the page just reloaded. That is ducking annoying. Let me try to repeat what I was trying to say…

    I’ve actually only come across the concept of “tone argument” recently and I have to say I’m still struggling with it. I’ve seen discussions on social media that are lead with anger turn toxic and vitrol, causing everyone to be caked with the shit and burning bridges everywhere (if there were bridges there in the first place).I guess it’s important to note that I’m really thinking about this in terms of discussions on open forums or social media, places that are not specifically for SJ.

    I get it though. I get that oppressed people have been silenced or gaslighted or they struggle with internalised oppression and that they may not be able to articulate their anger reasonable. I get that people have suffered traumas and wounds and that certain topics and issues can trigger those wounds. The tone argument is like permission or forgiveness for getting angry, a way of saying “it’s okay to be upset”.

    But I find the metaphor of “stepping on someone’s toes” is pretty weak. Normally when you step on someone’s toes you probably realise you have and when someone points it out, you apologise and move on. There is a big difference then when you’re walking along and someone starts shouting at you and saying you hurt them and then refusing to explain in what way and you’re not really sure why they are angry. And apologising for causing them harm is sometimes not enough. The human reaction is to be defensive and angry back or try to diffuse the situation, which can lead to asking for civility. One might even arguing that someone calling for civility is trying to understand the other side.

    I’ve read that the best way to deal with an angry person is actually simply to listen. And that’s what I take from the “tone argument”. If someone is angry just listen and accept that they are angry. But that’s a form of patronising, particularly if you don’t know why they are really angry at you. While we say it’s not the oppressed persons requirement to educate them, then the purpose of the anger is just to vent. So why the fuck vent at the person, when their only reaction will be either anger back or ask for an explanation?

  6. Here’s the thing with the Analogy From Foot-Stomping: the way you described it, the angry reaction is not reasonable. But I think to understand why well-meaning guys like you and me are always getting in trouble in the comments of feminist blogs is that while we personally might not have a history of stepping on this person’s foot, she has been standing in a room all day while a parade of guys has been walking by her stepping on her foot. Some of them have jammed on it pretty hard. Some of them, when she asked them to stop, stepped on the other foot too! Or laughed, or told her she should have been wearing closed-toed shoes, or said she was in the wrong room, or insisted that the correct response to foot stomping is always more feet and never less feet, or denied that it was even possible for that to hurt. That foot is damn sore and you have behaved similarly enough to all those other foot stompers that her angry and decidedly uncivil response seems a lot more justified. She also probably knows she has just been not exactly charitable and doesn’t actually need somebody reminding her about manners to know that it’s not a sustainable response.

    If this were a person you spend a lot of time with on a regular basis, and you started facing anger from them on a regular basis, it would be worth bringing up with them at a calmer time. For most interactions, though, I really think it’s our place to accept that we screwed one up and not seek vindication that we are still good people by claiming a mini-victory on grounds of civility. It’s ok… YOU know you are one of the “good” ones, and the right way to prove it is by not stepping on the next person’s foot, not by taking it on yourself to convince this one lady that the foot-stompers are people too.

    • Thanks Lucas for the reply and I get the point about being stepped on all the time.

      I was referring to social media though, less than feminist blogs, where I know a large amount of folk with a smiliar/shared interest (that’s not SJ). There is a difference between jumping on a friend’s post about SJ and stepping on their toes compared to jumping on to someone else post or identity and accusing them of stepping on their toes and that they are a bunch of idiots.

      What gets me is watching these back and forths is that often both “sides” have a point. They may not be equal points, but there is truth on both sides. At least as far as I can understand. But the “I’m angry at you” and “I’m going to be angry back” which becomes a form of “ad hominem” attack on both sides and they start arguing against straw men (no true scotsman) or reductio ad absurdum, which turns toxic for everyone. Everyone’s toes are being stepped on. Nobody learns anything. People are still angry. Nobody listens to anyone. And most recently I’ve seen it disolve into picking sides, passive aggressive stuff and mob mentality and even hate campaigns against each other.

      In these sort of evolving distrubed discussions, I’d like to be able to say, this point here has value without someone saying… well you’re stepping on my toes to say that. And they may be true, but the point still has value/truth without saying I’m dismissing your pain or frustration.

      My opinion is never fixed in stone, so I’ll think about it some more.

    • I should have read the thread before commenting… You’re extension of the metaphor was much more eloquent than my own,

  7. In some cases, the foot stepper in question may not know they are stepping on my foot… But if they’re they 27th person to step on my foot that day, I may be inclined to freak the fuck out. Which, I think, may happen a lot. I find in these debates, especially online, someone comes in and says something inadvertently egregious and people flip the fuck out because they have already had the “please kindly get off my foot” 26 times already and at some point people snap because is it really that fucking hard for people to watch where they are standing?

  8. Soullite says:

    Historically, the ‘tone’ argument has always been used by people with power to dismiss the righteous indignation of those without power. I see nothing different here. You’re the guy who runs the blog, you’ll decide what is and isn’t the proper ‘tone’, and anyone who disagrees with you is just bitter.

    That about right?

    • No, the tone argument is used by people interested in having a discussion with someone without being yelled at or abused. By someone who is trying to actually help. Saying ‘the tone argument is only used to silence’ is creating a strawman of what the other person said. You have to actually hear what they say before dismissing it as ‘the tone argument.’

      If your insult is actually RELATED to the argument, for example, versus if your insult is simply venting.

      “Mitt Romney is a homophobic, femmephobic asshat,” vs “Willard is a moron with a small dick and a bad haircut.”

      Mitt Romney IS a homophobic, femmephobic asshat. His homophobic, femmephobic nature is actually apparent if you look at his behaviors. His penis size and haircut are not.

      Additionally, insults that you can actually show to be true,

      “Mitt Romney is a homophobic, femmephobic asshat,” vs “Mitt Romney supporters are homophobic, femmephobic asshats.”

      I can show behaviors by Mitt Romney that show him to be a homophobic, femmephobic asshat. If I say that all Romney supporters, to a man, are homophobic femmephobic asshats then someone who I know who supports Romney and isn’t a homophobic femmephobic asshat, but simply wrong, would at best think that I’m misinformed about the reason for their support. Whereas if I explained what his homophobic, femmephobic behaviors have been, I can then convince that person not to vote for Romney.

    • Ad hominem. It doesn’t matter who’s using the argument or why. What matters is whether it is valid.

      Most of the SJ discussion of it does not actually discuss the argument itself. It’s not a logical fallacy unless you somehow expect people to always react logically to being insulted. Moreover, it’s only one way; SJAs dismiss arguments based on their tone all the time. As well as the perceived agenda of the speaker, whether they’re part of a majority, or any other reason. If I addressed a woman and I kept using “bitch”, no one would question her right to stop listening to me. But a feminist can call me much worse, and I’m just supposed to ignore it?

      • Dorkboy says:

        Ad hominem is always a fallacy. It’s an attempt to discredit your opponent with things that are irrelevant to the argument at hand. You can be rude and abusive without invoking ad hominem (such as calling someone nasty names while explaining that the scientific meaning and the colloquial meaning of the word “theory” are not the same) and you can invoke ad hominem without being rude or abusive (such as calmly claiming that since the other person is not a professional climate scientist, they’re not qualified to say that global warming exists).

        With regards to your example, if you’re calling someone a bitch every sentence, no decent person would blame her for not wanting to discuss anything with you, but that doesn’t automatically negate every non-insult thing that you’re saying. And that’s the point that the “tone argument” opponents are trying to make, though in their defense and not yours.

  9. Luy ya, Ozy! (making the Hawaiian “Cool!” sign with my right hand)

  10. What’s funny about the ‘tone argument’ is that it should work both ways if it’s true. If someone offends you, you don’t have to be kind to them in response, *but they don’t have to be kind to you either*. If all that’s important is their ideas, they should be free to phrase them as callously as they like, and you would have no right to complain.

    This has happened to me every time I’ve disagreed with the majority on social justice forums. Someone voices their displeasure and I respond with the most carefully crafted apology I can think of. Inevitably, someone will tell me I wasn’t polite enough.

    To hell with the whole ‘tone argument’ crap. If you can’t bring yourself to wait a moment and really consider what you’re typing, maybe your opponent is not the one with the problem.

  11. It is not about civility. It is about effective argumentation.

    Actually, it is about civility because the way you present an argument often whether it is effective. Yes, there are plenty of people who will never be swayed no matter how polite you are. That does not mean that you get to throw out civility because doing so shows that you are not interested in presenting a reasoned argument, but only “winning” the argument. If you have a reasoned argument, whether someone agrees with it or not is irrelevant. You do not need to insult them because they will make themselves foolish with their own responses. By insulting them, you simply make yourself look the fool, and suggest that your argument may not be as sound as you thought it was.

  12. It’s usually not a case of “getting to” – people don’t “throw out” civility because they can’t wait to insult someone. A person’s civility LAPSES because they are tired, triggered, or out of patience. Now do you think it HELPS the situation to change the subject to manners, just at the moment when this hurt person finally was able to get all their feelings out on the table?

    Well… I guess it helps whoever is winning in the manners department to feel less bad about stomping on the person’s foot, because hey, at least they’re not getting all worked up about it. But don’t forget: that person’s been stomped on all day. You just got kicked in the shins this one time. And yeah, it’s not fair that you are the one guy out of all the foot stompers who is genuinely sorry about it and interested in putting a stop to stomping and yet you happened to be the one that got kicked for it (maybe even BECAUSE you are the only one who stopped to ask why it hurt when you stepped on their feet! For you that was a heartfelt expression of concern, but to her the answer is painfully obvious and her foot freakin’ hurts!! NOW do you see why you’re getting kicked in the shins?)

    Speaking as a guy with many a shin bruise, I think it’s possible to let the civility thing slide a little from time to time when appropriate. For those of us who occasionally find ourselves on top of a foot, the helpful thing is not to demand civility – because it’s not about civility and conscious choices, because if we could choose so easily we’d all just choose to get along. It’s not even always about logic, because pain is a fact, not an argument. Most often, stompers, your job is to hear the complaint, get off the foot, do your best to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and be available for help if it is asked of you (BTW: “hey what do you expect from me anyway and I demand you draw me a map right now pointing the way off your foot” is NOT an example of this last one).

    BTW I am so glad this conversation is finally happening somewhere that it can’t derail some other important conversation! I say “other” because it is in fact emotionally difficult for men to realize we have hurt someone, sometimes more so the more we care about it. That makes this a VERY important discussion for all would-be male feminists, but the place for it is at The Good Men Project, not in the middle of helping to reduce incidents of foot-stomping.

    • But none of us can know how much we’re hurting another person through the internet. I have had a two week breakdown from a “kick in the shins”. It turns out that calling me a rapist is a really nasty thing to do, since one of my greatest fears in life is accidentally hurting someone sexually. That’s not a little boo-boo that I should grin and bear because someone else *might* have it worse. (And given the people I was talking to, I suspect that they did not, in fact, have it worse. Yet, their tone was sacred.)

      • IDK – fear of being a rapist <<< being raped IMO.

        • elementary_watson says:

          Am I missing something? How do you know the people Tobias was talking to were raped?

          Honestly, if that response is the best you can come up with when someone (or rather, when a man) tells you they had a two week breakdown because of behaviour you approve of/defend (at least when it’s women who are the ones showing this behaviour), you really should take some time to reconsider *your* toe-stepping behaviour.

        • I agree with elementary_watson here. The “tone argument” is about dismissing someone’s pain or anger and it’s obvious that Tobias was hurt. Shouldn’t it apply both ways?

        • Wouldn’t that only apply if I were raping them? (Needless to say, I was NOT.)

  13. AnonymousDog says:

    The truth is the truth, regardless of ‘tone’.

    But if you reserve the right to call anyone insulting names, even if they are based in truth, then you have to be ready to accept that people will answer with truth-based insults.

    And I tend to agree with jacobtk, once you let civility slide, you are mainly just trying to shout down your interlocutors, regardless of the merits of your arguments.

    • Or even untruth-based insults. Because the funny thing about people is we don’t like to be attacked. When we’re insulted, we tend to double down rather than change our minds.

  14. But is the moment after you’ve just gotten off someone’s foot the right time to point that out?

    And isn’t it your job as a rational thinker to consider the sentiment alone and not its level of civility? Can’t you sympathize with someone who has something that needs to be said more than it needs to be nice? Sometimes the content itself is what somebody finds insulting, and then “be civil” covers for “don’t say stuff that makes me feel bad.” What if that uncomfortable, “uncivil” stuff is true?

    • All that would only make sense if it were applied both ways. It’s not. The SJA doesn’t have to consider your feelings, but you have to consider theirs? It’s pretty clearly a double standard. And what if the SJA is simply wrong? I’ve seen one insult someone who clearly didn’t know what they were talking about because they were cisgendered. They responded that they weren’t cis, and the SJA never responded.

  15. I think online “tone” can be even more important, really, because we don’t have all the other visual forms of communication. However, I also agree that sometimes rational argument just isn’t going to get you anywhere. Sometimes the only response left is to call someone out on their angry, bigoted remarks (or don’t), and then move on.

  16. PsyConomics says:

    I’ve always considered the tone argument to be most appropriate if one is in a more “therapeutic” circle. That is, if someone is in a community meant primarily for healing from gendered ills (support groups and such), then yes, one’s tone will likely be very angry/dark/hateful for a while, but hopefully get better over time as wounds scab over. Calling someone out due to this hate just seems like bad form. If it is your place help them work through it, but calling their tone blameworthy or bad is missing the bigger picture.

    What always made me upset was the tone argument used in egalitarian or teaching situations. If my job is to include everyone (as some sort of egalitarian conversation facilitator), but my tone is so hateful I’ve scared some off, I’ve failed. If my job is to educate some people and I am so hateful I scare away part of the group I’m trying to educate, I’ve failed.

    It seems like this might be able to be somewhat extended to participating in egalitarian or educational groups, though given how easy it is to re-open wounds, it also seems like there should be a good dose of leniency for those just discussing or trying to learn.

  17. glitterary says:

    I had an experience with the Tone Argument last year that basically made me lose all interest in engaging on a particular feminist website, where I’d previously been a fairly regular commenter. There was a fairly light-hearted post about sexy costumes and the geek community, and I thought some of it might be construed as slut-shaming, so I (tentatively and politely) brought that up. Someone immediately freaked out at me, shrieking that I was trying to silence and oppress them, without mentioning that the issue I had raised had already been discussed elsewhere. I had no idea why they were getting so angry, the argument escalated, and I got accused of making the tone argument. If they’d just said “Nah, it’s cool, we’ve discussed this issue in other spaces already” I would quite happily have said “Oh, okay. I’ll go learn before I comment more.” No-one said “this has been covered elsewhere” until six or seven comments into a heated argument, at which point I obviously understood and apologised.

    The thing is, as someone who’s been seriously reading and commenting on SJ for about seven years, that single pile-on was enough to make me feel unwelcome enough to abandon a website. If that response had hit someone with less experience–for example, a teenager who was just learning about body positivity, or a guy whose girlfriend had suggested he check out this cool blog she reads so he knows what she’s on about–I can see how that would make them very unwilling to engage with the movement altogether, because they asked what they thought was a fairly reasonable, polite question and got eviscerated without explanation. I think it would be useful for blogs to have a clear policy on whether they are intended to be learning spaces (in which case people need to be aware not everyone will have read every argument on the internet yet) or spaces for a small number of very clever people to expound on their specialisms on the understanding that they won’t be challenged on minutiae, and note that questions should be asked elsewhere.

    • I once got reamed out for phrasing something poorly. By one person. Not only did it make me physically ill, it was years before I could even think about feminism without qualms, and even longer before I could get back to the book series we had been discussing.

  18. >Similarly, if I’m pretty sure my most airtight, logical, rationally presented argument will not change your mind, I’m going to call you an shit-for-brains asshat.

    Problem is, that seems to be the default position of far too many SJAs, before they could reasonably glean anything about the person they’re talking to. This is coming from a guy who once had a feminist jump so far down his throat that it made me physically ill for several days. And it was based on a misunderstanding; I had phrased something poorly, and she had assumed the worst. An SJA is assumed to be operating from good faith, but not people who they disagree with. How many websites frame any questioning of the story of an alleged rape victim as misogynist? Feministing continued to do so even after the Duke case was dismissed and the boys were declared not guilty, long after most SJ websites had realized something was up with Gaile’s story and stopped talking about it.

    There is something horribly, horribly wrong with the idea that an SJA should be able to actively insult someone, then upbraid them for being insulted. It’s like tossing a bucket of water at someone and then mocking them for being wet. Even more galling is that this is only one way; SJAs are “allowed” to ignore people’s points because they’re upset by what they’re saying all the time. How many reblogs on Tumblr are just an outraged “I CAN’T”?

  19. Tone is the way in which we invite someone to enter a conversation or we run them out of town on a rail. An angry tone is CLEARLY designed to “derail and silence”. An angry tone is a sure fire way to insure that people who may be potential converts to your argument won’t be sticking around to hear it.

    • I’ve seen no evidence of this in real life. People react positively to emotional states close to their own. They react negatively toward emotional states that are far from their own. They do not automatically privilege some emotional states over others.

      Everything is an excuse. People who want to dismiss your viewpoints will dismiss them and then think up an excuse later. That’s what the tone argument is: an excuse. If you don’t give them that one, they’ll just find another.

  20. The issue is that the “tone argument” being discussed isn’t an actual function of formal logic as much as the twisted “logic” of Derailing for Dummies. As other have pointed out, what we’re really discussing is an ad hom. Further, the way in which “tone arguments” are employed as a rhetorical device is effectively a one-way street which assumes the primacy of one’s side’s argument and punishes the opposition for not agreeing. Civility is the key to any rational discourse, and encouraging anger and resentment leads to further anger and resentment.

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