First off, yes I am going to Skepticon. It’s free admission, a few hours drive, and my partner gets a employee discount at the hotel. Plus, I’ve always had a good time before. :)
But that’s not really the point of this post. It’s more to point out a
new (to me) tactic in silencing I experienced in the comments of the linked blog post: preemptive humorous self deprecation. It basically goes like this [in 1st and 3rd person for clarity]:
Person: “<insert ableist statement here> which I’m sure you’re going to say is ableist, haha.”
Me: “um… well actually…”
Person: “SEE, I KNEW IT! That means the problem is you!”
It’s clever, because it really does shut down conversation (which is the point of silencing). The person uses the power of hipsterism to emotionally innoculate hirself against the word by using it first. That way, when anyone else uses the word, it has already lost its “sting”. This doesn’t mean that the word has actually lost its rational meaning, but when the only way a person can connect with the word is emotionally, it might as well have.*
Then the conversation tends to devolve into “you’re so predictable” and “you just have an ideology” to deflect the conversation away from what the person is saying onto how I’m reacting. Nevermind whether I’m actually correct or incorrect (as proven through facts and reason), what matters is the principle of FIRST! If ze says it first, that means ze gets to feel in control of the conversation.
Make no mistake: this is about control. This is not about mutual understanding or error correcting. Empathy and communication skills have no place here.
So what’s the proper response? On PZ Myer’s blog, the silencers hold the power, so really they get their own way. (No, that doesn’t mean I think PZ is a FTBully, he and his commenters are just too invested in his current way of thinking to bother with little things like self-correction anymore.) The best one can do is recognize that power structure and decide for hirself if it’s worth the effort to stick around in self-defense or to simply walk away in search of greener pastures.
For me, that means yes, the silencers get their way a lot of the time. Fortunately it’s a world wide web with plenty of other places for more productive and enjoyable conversations [shameless plug].
*Note: I reject the logic/emotion dichotomy, since the brain relies on a mix of both, but when someone is dedicated to using one as a substitute for the other, it’s worth recognizing that fact.