Sealioning Explained by The Last Psychiatrist and Louie
December 17, 2014 7:24 AM   Subscribe

When Was The Last Time You Got Your Ass Kicked? The viral Wondermark sealion strip confounds many by casting its villain as polite with ostensibly reasonable demands, but four years prior, Alone thoroughly explains the tenets summed up in the strip, and the mechanics of bullying in general, with some help from a scene from Louie.

From the article:
An observation about the middle class: they have it deep inside their psyche that though they are taught to make prejudicial judgments based on hearsay, they are not allowed to show that they made them. The middle class think they are lawyers.

That kid was up to no good. You knew it as he walked to Louie's table, even before he opened his mouth. You knew it. But Louie/we were constructed to act only on what happens, not what you think is happening. Since the kid was polite, Louie had to be polite back, even though the kid was obviously being a bully-- you're not allowed to respond to that. "Hey, I was just being friendly!" And prove he wasn't. The kid offers to shake Louie's hand, "Hi, I'm Sean," and Louie has to shake it because so far the kid is being polite. We relate things to our future cross examination: "isn't it true, sir, that sticks and stones can break your bones but names can never harm you?"
posted by deathmaven (149 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
The embedded video doesn't work - it's 'private'.
posted by unixrat at 7:32 AM on December 17, 2014


Is TLP still actively writing/posting somewhere? I find their work fascinating.
posted by sibboleth at 7:35 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Last Psychiatrist makes my head hurt, and not in a 'it really makes you think' way, but in a 'You've obsessively over-analyzed your own personal neuroticisms, and then attempted to generalize them as something universally applicable.' way.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:40 AM on December 17, 2014 [42 favorites]


Any high school teacher could have told you that Louie would have avoided the whole situation (and the subsequent over-analysis) just keeping his mouth shut in the first place.
posted by Nevin at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I find TLP fascinating too, and equally fascinating that a lot of people think the guy's often super off-base (if plausible-sounding to the layman)? I think it's here I've seen that complaint - if anyone wants to elaborate I'd be very interested.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2014


No, we're not sexist, we're narcissists: it's not about you, it's about us....You think you can convince her you're tougher than you are, but you worry you can't fool another guy because he "knows" toughness.
When the narcissism breaks down along gender lines, isn't this a distinction without a difference?
Back to Louie. When that kid appeared at his table, everyone knew why he was there. So this is how the scene should have gone, though I'll admit it wouldn't have been theatric enough for TV:
"Hi, my name's Sean, what's your name?"

"Get your punk-ass away from me, I don't want to know you."
Except that this is too early in the conversation not to set off the whole "lawyering" thing TLP just attributed to the middle class as a whole, which would presumably include Louie's date.

There's a good point about passive-aggressiveness in here, but it's not particularly novel. The part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
posted by kewb at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah that was a sort of muddled mess really. Sometimes it's OK to play along with a situation, knowing what's going on, because you're in NYC and something can happen to defuse it at any moment (cop, waitstaff, panhandler).

So, while I would not likely respond in the same way as Louie (in fact, I doubt I would have taken the actions that precipitated the situation), I don't blame him for the path he chose. Yes, I know he is playing a character in a TV show.
posted by Mister_A at 7:43 AM on December 17, 2014


Actually having read the article in full now, I can begin to see why people might be less enamoured. Hm.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:45 AM on December 17, 2014


Are y'all able to see the video? How can you discuss a clip without being able to see it?
posted by unixrat at 7:45 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but the guy that wrote this article is a sexist, racist toolbag.
posted by empath at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


I can't find another video of the scene but he explains everything that happens in it.
posted by deathmaven at 7:47 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's a sense that blacks are violently unpredictable, that's what TV told me, anyway. You know that white kid in the Louie clip isn't going to murder you with the same certainty that you know this black kid might murder you.

What.
posted by Huck500 at 7:48 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Are people really reading that article and coming away believing that he thinks black people are dangerous rather than that he thinks white people believe black people are dangerous? Especially given that that whole section is him talking about the mentality of middle-class white men?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


Holy shit, do not go into the comments. Or click that link to the entry about the "Cognitive Kill Switch."

On preview, empath has it down cold.
posted by kewb at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2014


Sorry, but the guy that wrote this article is a sexist, racist toolbag.

I don't think so, but the fact that his stuff seems that way on the surface explains his popularity with reactionary types. They never understand what he's saying (I've read their comments on the reactionary forums where they share his articles -- they literally say "I don't understand it") but I think he's trying to reach the people least likely to have ever questioned their expectations about masculinity, race, sex roles, etc.
posted by deathmaven at 7:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or, what Pope Guilty said. I find the "I am speaking the voice of you, average schlub" thing to be quite clear.
posted by deathmaven at 7:53 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


That Last Psychiatrist was terrible.

"Hi, my name's Sean, what's your name?"

"Get your punk-ass away from me, I don't want to know you."

Now the kid's either going to fight you, or back down-- which is the same thing that was going to happen anyway, but at least you stood up for yourself. She noticed.


Life isn't a video game. If you get in a fight you don't just heal up in a few minutes or take a potion. There are actual consequences to getting beaten. Louis even talks about that in this scene and it's bizarre that the article doesn't mention this. (I can't watch the clip so I don't know if that part is included).

When his date expresses disappointment, Louis points out that he has kids. He has responsibilities. If he gets hurt badly, what happens to them?

That's why people don't fight, not this bullshit about identity and sexism. I don't want to get into a fight because I can't afford to be injured. Me, personally, I don't have medical insurance right now. If someone put me in the hospital, I'm fucked. How would I keep my job? If I were in Louis's situation, I'd do what he did because I don't live in a fantasy world and getting into a brawl serves no purpose other than to possibly harm my life.

You'll take verbal humiliation over a beat down not because it hurts less but because (you think) it lets the question "am I a man?" rest unanswered. Plausible deniability.

No, I'll take the verbal humiliation because it doesn't have the potential to break my jaw. This isn't some mental exercise, it's almost always a better choice to just take it or leave if you can than fight to prove yourself.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2014 [35 favorites]


Life isn't a video game. If you get in a fight you don't just heal up in a few minutes or take a potion. There are actual consequences to getting beaten. Louis even talks about that in this scene and it's bizarre that the article doesn't mention this. (I can't watch the clip so I don't know if that part is included).

That's why people don't fight, not this bullshit about identity and sexism. I don't want to get into a fight because I can't afford to be injured. Me, personally, I don't have medical insurance right now. If someone put me in the hospital, I'm fucked. How would I keep my job?


Since TLP uses the Louie episode, it seems odd to ignore the rest of that installment, where Louie goes and talks to the kid's father and discovers there's a mutligenerational cycle of abuse going on there. The point is not about identity or authenticity even in the show, but rather about the cyclical consequences of both violence *and* the screwed-up ideas our culture has about it.
posted by kewb at 8:00 AM on December 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


There's a sense that blacks are violently unpredictable, that's what TV told me, anyway. You know that white kid in the Louie clip isn't going to murder you with the same certainty that you know this black kid might murder you.

My problem with TLP isn't his ideas, per se - what he's trying to say here is "let's be real, [the vast majority of] middle class white people hold [this stereotype] and I will use my tone and phrasing to show that it's pathetic and ignorant". My problem is that he assumes that he's not doing any harm to readers by this style of writing - that it doesn't harm women or people of color to have to read this kind of stuff reiterated as a satiric "of course" moment, and that it does not actually stabilize and normalize these ideas for white men, making them into a sort of "eh there is nothing I can do about this, because all humans have stupid ideas" situation. He relentlessly depoliticizes and dehistoricizes every subject. (Also he unconsciously assumes that all people everywhere are straight - whenever he talks about "all women" or "all men" they are always doing things that only straight people do, eg preferentially seek out members of the opposite gender to fuck.)

He also takes the worm's eye view, which means that no one can win an argument with him - basically the equivalent of saying "Oh, you're talking about Kant and Hegel? Well, you're just a meat bag full of shit like all humans so everything you say is already pre-determined by your meat-bag nature, the end".

I will say that his relentless "you are trying to disavow the very things you do and are committed to doing" theme is pretty useful to me.
posted by Frowner at 8:01 AM on December 17, 2014 [32 favorites]


If I were in Louis's situation, I'd do what he did because I don't live in a fantasy world and getting into a brawl serves no purpose other than to possibly harm my life.

Win the fight: Might wind up in jail. Also, even if you win, you may still lose enough along the way (broken glasses/cellphone/etc, torn clothes), damage enough property around you and/or wind up with embarrassing cuts and bruises that you'll regret the whole thing. And the jackass you beat up might sue you.

Lose the fight: Any or all of the above, plus worse physical harm.

I think I'm okay with The Last Psychiatrist thinking less of me for avoiding fights.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:02 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I will say that his relentless "you are trying to disavow the very things you do and are committed to doing" theme is pretty useful to me.

Isn't this just a version of Freud's repression hypothesis?
posted by kewb at 8:03 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Are people really reading that article and coming away believing that he thinks black people are dangerous rather than that he thinks white people believe black people are dangerous? Especially given that that whole section is him talking about the mentality of middle-class white men?

I know what he's saying, I'm just questioning why he's saying it when it has nothing to do with the clip. He's all over the place.
posted by Huck500 at 8:04 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


My problem with TLP isn't his ideas, per se - what he's trying to say here is "let's be real, [the vast majority of] middle class white people hold [this stereotype] and I will use my tone and phrasing to show that it's pathetic and ignorant". My problem is that he assumes that he's not doing any harm to readers by this style of writing - that it doesn't harm women or people of color to have to read this kind of stuff reiterated as a satiric "of course" moment, and that it does not actually stabilize and normalize these ideas for white men, making them into a sort of "eh there is nothing I can do about this, because all humans have stupid ideas" situation.

It's not harmful to state what POC already know unless they've never heard it put straightforwardly or wanted to pretend these prejudices don't exist. It was actually refreshing to read an admission that white people expect black people to be unpredictably violent, instead of just witnessing whites treating blacks as unpredictably violent without ever commenting on it.
posted by deathmaven at 8:06 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


My problem with TLP isn't his ideas, per se - what he's trying to say here is "let's be real, [the vast majority of] middle class white people hold [this stereotype] and I will use my tone and phrasing to show that it's pathetic and ignorant".

I'm not too familiar with TLP, but my problem with this article is that his tone/phrasing never really significantly differs what actual bigots think. He's lazily putting it on the reader to figure out that he wants to show that bigots are pathetic and ignorant.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:07 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Any high school teacher could have told you that Louie would have avoided the whole situation (and the subsequent over-analysis) just keeping his mouth shut in the first place.

My teachers taught me that when you're in a shared public space you have a right to assert you needs. Most people aren't bullies and will respond like reasonable humans.
posted by maxsparber at 8:08 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Please don't "underthink" the article and besmirch the guy for it, the man is definitely not telling people to get into fights.

Louie started the confrontation by telling the teens to "quiet down" instead of just leaving. That's also middle class. Pretending your act of aggression ("I asked nicely") isn't an act of aggression.
posted by deathmaven at 8:09 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Isn't this just a version of Freud's repression hypothesis?

Yes, it is - but TLP is a Freudian, as far as I can tell. Who reads Freud now, though? (I mean, I have, up to a point. At least TLP isn't asserting that women invented weaving because of penis envy.)
posted by Frowner at 8:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I know what he's saying, I'm just questioning why he's saying it when it has nothing to do with the clip. He's all over the place.

A teenage boy trying to start a fight with a middle-aged man in New York City has everything to do with race.
posted by deathmaven at 8:11 AM on December 17, 2014


Louie started the confrontation

He could have phrased it nicer, but he didn't start the confrontation. Requesting that someone keep their voice down is entirely reasonable; threatening assault is criminal.
posted by maxsparber at 8:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


My teachers taught me that when you're in a shared public space you have a right to assert you needs. Most people aren't bullies and will respond like reasonable humans.

IOW, stop doing what they want to do and start doing what you want them to do.
posted by deathmaven at 8:12 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't paraphrase me, please. But I do appreciate that somebody in this thread has decided that somebody needs to stand up for the bullies' point of view.
posted by maxsparber at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


Is TLP still actively writing/posting somewhere?

The last I read a year or two ago, he was working on a book "on/of" pornography, but as far as I can tell it hasn't seen the light of day yet. Every time we have another one of these threads about his writing on MeFi (or as I like to call them, Festivals of Poor Reading Comprehension as a Means of Projective Disidentification) I go and take another look around for recent traces, but there haven't been too many signs of life recently.
posted by RogerB at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's not harmful to state what POC already know unless they've never heard it put straightforwardly or wanted to pretend these prejudices don't exist.

See, this isn't what I've heard from friends of color, which is what's shaped my experience. What folks have said to me is that hearing the same old "oh yes of course, I a white person am going to describe white racism in a satiric way" feels really self-satisfied and repulsive, like a way of centering white people in a discussion about things that are harmful to people of color. Like all those conversations about Ferguson where white people are all "and I did this ridiculous thing and I didn't get shot, see the system is racist!" What people have expressed to me is that it's not the content - which isn't novel - it's the angle from which it's described and the emphasis. But I know that people feel differently about this.
posted by Frowner at 8:14 AM on December 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm with kewb. That one scene is really a set up for what I thought was the most interesting part of that episode-Louie following the kid back to his house (because when watching it the first time, I had no idea what he was going to do when he got there) and the subsequent conversation he had with the father.
posted by wittgenstein at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Don't paraphrase me, please. But I do appreciate that somebody in this thread has decided that somebody needs to stand up for the bullies' point of view.

Is this ironic? Are you intentionally making the point that there are no "the bullies" (or more importantly, god of "in the right"), just people with conflicting desires who use different tactics to enact their will and assert their dominance on others? Such as demanding that their own words remain sacrosanct while putting words in the others' mouth in the very next sentence, using a pert and righteous tone of voice?
posted by deathmaven at 8:20 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was wondering where the phrase "sealioning" came from. That strip is a masterpiece.
posted by maxsparber at 8:20 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


There's nothing even slightly racist or sexist about what TLP says.

That said, I think he's a fascinating writer but facile, and his analysis is wrong.

Life isn't a video game. If you get in a fight you don't just heal up in a few minutes or take a potion. There are actual consequences to getting beaten.

This is the real point, it is what drove Louis' calculations, and it is glibly left out of TLP's post.
posted by shivohum at 8:20 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


A teenage boy trying to start a fight with a middle-aged man in New York City has everything to do with race.

In the sense that almost any social interaction has race as a subtext if we define the context broadly enough, perhaps, but even so the "everything" is hyperbolic. Are you claiming that NYC is a uniquely, pervasively racialized space in ways that no other sorts of public/municipal space are? Or that adolescence and middle age are inherently racialized? Would a teenaged boy trying to start a fight with a middle-aged man in rural Pennsylvania or Cedar Rapids, Indiana have everything to do with race, or not?

He could have phrased it nicer, but he didn't start the confrontation. Requesting that someone keep their voice down is entirely reasonable; threatening assault is criminal.

Well, no, Louie did start a confrontation. What he didn't do was start a violent confrontation, which is a whole 'nother ball of wax. There's a continuum between confrontation, which is aggressive but not always overtly violent, and violent aggression. It's little more than a slippery slope argument to claim that any verbal confrontation -- even one that amounts to asking for respect for one's own space in a quasi-public setting -- is actually the inevitable beginning of a slide towards inevitable violence.

If we're going to conflate violence, aggression, and confrontation so easily, then why aren't the loud kids taking over the space coded as the initial aggressors? And if they are, then how is Louie's response not actually a deescalation, a delimiting gesture?
posted by kewb at 8:21 AM on December 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


I also think the episode is a great example of why people often do NOT ask for courtesy like Louis did when people talk obnoxiously loudly or do something else that is incredibly rude; it's too risky.

It's disgusting that we need to be afraid like that.
posted by shivohum at 8:23 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Are you intentionally making the point that there are no "the bullies" (or more importantly, god of "in the right"), just people with conflicting desires who use different tactics to enact their will and assert their dominance on others?

Er, no. Perhaps we have things back to front. When you said "IOW, stop doing what they want to do and start doing what you want them to do," I presumed you were claiming that Louie was somehow responsible for his own bullying because he dared assert himself in public.

There is bullying. The boy who came over the confront Louie was a bully. His tactics were borderline criminal. Louie was a pretty typical New Yorker, making a public demand for considerate behavior in a shared space in perhaps not the most tactful but entirely ordinary and non-aggressive way. So he was not the bully, and did not deserve the bullying he received.

Not sure where the confusion happened, but I hope this clears it up.
posted by maxsparber at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Is this clip (or entire episode) available to watch online somewhere?
posted by 23skidoo at 8:26 AM on December 17, 2014


That's why people don't fight, not this bullshit about identity and sexism. I don't want to get into a fight because I can't afford to be injured. Me, personally, I don't have medical insurance right now. If someone put me in the hospital, I'm fucked. How would I keep my job? If I were in Louis's situation, I'd do what he did because I don't live in a fantasy world and getting into a brawl serves no purpose other than to possibly harm my life.

What ticks me off more than anything in these kinds of scenarios is the idea that the path of nonviolence is the weaker position. I try to avoid fighting because I consider it to be the higher road, not because I'm scared, and if done correctly, takes more resolve and forward thinking. A solution that doesn't come to blows in the face of someone who is belligerent and clearly looking for something to happen sometimes comes by way of cowering. But it can also come about by being socially savvy, being a peacemaker in life, and sometimes allowing a jerk to fizz out when they are being transparently pathetic. That the woman in this scenario is interpreted so as to frame this as possibly some kind of inevitable weak position is too bad. It probably makes for a more interesting scene, but it perpetuates the idea that a peacemaking ideal just isn't even an option, probably because we just don't value much what that looks like. The article sets up the horns of a the dilemma as being a no win no matter what, unless Louie is a an immediate jerk. Another way to possibly split the dilemma is to be kind, unflappable, and clever, and to encourage a society that likes these things. But to be morally interesting these days, it's too often about power struggles as if other options do not exist.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:30 AM on December 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Is this ironic? Are you intentionally making the point that there are no "the bullies"

See, irony, or the perception that something may be ironic, may not be the best possible way to communicate. You can't tell if the comment was ironic (and so does it really matter if it was intended to be or not?); I don't care if someone intends their racist or sexist statements to be "ironic" when they don't communicate any differently than sincerely non-ironic racist or sexist statements.
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


And, to be clear, I was not being ironic, and I wasn't communicating whatever the hell was minsinterpreted there. If somebody suggest that "Louis started it," that seems to me to be the viewpoint of the bully in the scene. No irony there.
posted by maxsparber at 8:34 AM on December 17, 2014


Is this clip (or entire episode) available to watch online somewhere?

It's on both netflix and hulu.
posted by valkane at 8:34 AM on December 17, 2014


because they are amateur lawyers: "he didn't do anything bad to me first."

I think this is an important insight for anyone being bullied or observing bullying as a bystander. If you're analyzing it in a rules-oriented, intellectual way, it can look like the bully has done nothing technically wrong (until they do), and if/when the victim responds, it can look like the victim started it. It's one reason victims don't stand up for themselves sooner or more effectively. It's one reason bullying is difficult to address using legal remedies. It's one reason threads about a bullying incident can go on and on parsing the little details.

Effectively addressing bullying, whether as victim or bystander requires a different skillset, as SpacemanStix puts it: being socially savvy, being a peacemaker in life, and sometimes allowing a jerk to fizz out.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:36 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


We live in a world of violence and that is extremely unlikely to ever change. You need to choose your own way of navigating it. I don't really think there's an ethically or rationally correct way.

I probably would have said: "Dude, you're not welcome at this table. Step back, if you don't mind."
posted by 256 at 8:38 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


That the woman in this scenario is interpreted so as to frame this as possibly some kind of inevitable weak position is too bad.
SpacemanStix

I think that one thing Louie does, or tries to do, is show the world we live in, warts and all. The show often puts Louis in hard positions where there's either no clear right thing or doing the right thing still results in him being hurt/humiliated in. Other shows might have either shown him being rewarded and praised for being smart and avoiding violence, or had him kick the guy's ass, but this show chose the more realistic result.

People shouldn't judge you for taking a non-violent route, but the fact is some people will think you're weak for not fighting. I think the article is wrong that this was about saying women prefer "strong" men, but about society having the message that strength is violence and punishing people who don't follow that message. Because, in real life, you will often be judged for it.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:41 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think I've mentioned this before on mefi, but hands-down, the greatest example of Refusal To Engage i've ever seen on the internet was from Mallory Ortberg, first here:

Q: @mallelis got a question for ya. Why do you jump straight to mob-leading?

A: because I have a mob @AlanHogan

and then summed up here:

"why won't you engage with my argument in good faith"
lol because i dont have to

posted by Greg Nog at 8:46 AM on December 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


I totally get that. I guess I was opining about the warts part of the world we live in and wish we at least had better ethical categories so as not to collectively look down our noses at nonviolent options as if it's only either about cowardice or about avoiding harm. I wish nonviolent options could be couched in somewhat winsome and clever ways such that it actually becomes the more "powerful" option.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:49 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's a thing about real sealions: they're cute and funny and all from a distance, but up close they smell horrendous. Imagine poop from a dog that ate nothing but fish and also the dogs roll in that poop.

Up close, you'll smell a sealion long before you hear it's reasonable, calm, constant barking.
posted by bonehead at 8:53 AM on December 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


In short, I find the analogy apt and hilarious.
posted by bonehead at 8:55 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


And, to be clear, I was not being ironic, and I wasn't communicating whatever the hell was minsinterpreted there. If somebody suggest that "Louis started it," that seems to me to be the viewpoint of the bully in the scene. No irony there.

I wasn't saying that he "started it" in an "at fault" sense, just in a rational sense that precluded him from pretending he couldn't understand why the teen approached him at his table. Despite his request being socially reasonable, absent some sort of all powerful social judge, it was a thrown gauntlet.

Louie was humiliated in the scene by being forced to beg not to be beaten by the teen, because he allowed the teen to control the situation by being "polite". An extension of Louie's "asking nicely" for the teens to quiet down.

Despite TLP offering only an aggressive line to respond to the kid, there are plenty of other ways for Louie to have ducked out of the conflict without abject humiliation by not allowing the teen's "sealioning" to take hold, eg "Let's get out of here".
posted by deathmaven at 8:57 AM on December 17, 2014


Or even, "I'm going to call the cops if you don't get away from us".
posted by deathmaven at 8:58 AM on December 17, 2014


The thing that is missing is that Louie is NOT depicting "real life." I find that the show explores Louie's worst fears as a white single father in New York. Of course, his date was turned off, that is his worst fear and threatens his masculinity and adulthood. Louie is rarely the hero of a story but a guy in constant anxiety.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:59 AM on December 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


"why won't you engage with my argument in good faith"
lol because i dont have to


Yes, that is always what power says.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:59 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wasn't saying that he "started it" in an "at fault" sense, just in a rational sense that precluded him from pretending he couldn't understand why the teen approached him at his table.

I think everybody understands why the teenager approached him at the table. To bully him because fuck that guy for talking shit to him.

But nothing Louie did necessarily caused the teen to approach the table. That was all on the teen.
posted by maxsparber at 9:00 AM on December 17, 2014


"why won't you engage with my argument in good faith"
lol because i dont have to

Yes, that is always what power says.


That was not power speaking. It was an individual woman on Twitter who refused to engage with someone sea lioning her. And she actually didn't have to.
posted by maxsparber at 9:01 AM on December 17, 2014 [32 favorites]


Are you claiming that NYC is a uniquely, pervasively racialized space in ways that no other sorts of public/municipal space are?

Not that no others are, but yes, NYC, and other US metropolitan outposts of the Great Migration racialize all the other aspects of that exchange.
posted by deathmaven at 9:02 AM on December 17, 2014


So, I haven't seen this show and it isn't really discussed in the article's summary of the clip. When Louis told/asked/yelled at the kids to be quiet - Was that not to show his date how take charge he was? Is there not a Freudian level at which that was challenging the teens, demonstrating his manliness, as well?
posted by maryr at 9:03 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Now do beanplating!
posted by edgeways at 9:05 AM on December 17, 2014


When Louis told/asked/yelled at the kids to be quiet - Was that not to show his date how take charge he was?

I'm not getting that from the scene. I suppose it is always possible to dig through any behavior for questionable motivations, but I'm not clear on the point of doing so.
posted by maxsparber at 9:06 AM on December 17, 2014


Yes, that is always what power says.

this wild, unchecked abuse of power that is a woman having the TEMERITY to not talk with a man
posted by Greg Nog at 9:07 AM on December 17, 2014 [53 favorites]


But nothing Louie did necessarily caused the teen to approach the table. That was all on the teen.

I'm not getting that from the scene. I suppose it is always possible to dig through any behavior for questionable motivations, but I'm not clear on the point of doing so.

You're mystifying the power structure that gives him the "right" to tell the teens to be quiet and the significance of bucking it.
posted by deathmaven at 9:07 AM on December 17, 2014


[deathmaven, it's fine that you thought this was something worth a post but you need to not use your own post as a place for having an argument about it's content; once you put something on the front page of Metafilter, you need to step back and let the thread be it's own thing.]
posted by cortex at 9:09 AM on December 17, 2014


It was an individual woman on Twitter who refused to engage with someone sea lioning her. And she actually didn't have to.

Looked like 2 people being assholes in turn to me
posted by Hoopo at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Looked like 2 people being assholes in turn to me

All things being equal, the person who says "You must talk to me" is not exactly the same level of asshole as the person who says "I don't want to," no matter how they say it. And there is a gender issue, in that, when women raise any objections about male behavior online (especially on Twitter) they will be pecked to death by a million ducks (or followed by a million sea lions, as the case may be), who all want to have reasoned but strangely jerkish arguments and insist they must be heard.

So, from this perspective, it doesn't seem quite as simple as you make it out to be.

But that's how it plays out. I had a phone call from a telemarketer the other day. I asked to be taken off the call list. He started pitching to me again. I interrupted him and said, no, I don't want to hear your pitch, just take me off the list. He started to pitch again, and I interrupted and said "Am I off your list." He started to pitch again and I said "No, stop talking. The only thing I want to hear is that I am off your list."

"Why the attitude?" he asked.

Two people being assholes, I guess. Except I had to be an asshole, because it was the only way to be treated with respect.

That's the dynamic at work here. Except it isn't one telemarketer. It's a million men, all pitching simultaneously, all demanding immediate attention, all being somewhat aggressive and prickly. So I suppose I understand when women online refuse to engage, or engage jokingly, or slap down men who do this. It might be prickly, but as I always say, the hard sell gets the hard no.
posted by maxsparber at 9:17 AM on December 17, 2014 [51 favorites]


Looked like 2 people being assholes in turn to me

Yup. Because that's the only way to end that engagement. You have to be an "asshole" in return. The problem is that now the sealion gets to paint his target as an uppity bitch who won't talk to him. And make no mistake, the target is not going to get labeled an asshole. She is going to be labeled a bitch.
posted by maryr at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


The idea that "I don't have to listen to you being an asshole to me" is some sort of power trip is so ridiculously stupid that it's not surprising that it's the rallying cry of a group with the mentality of bratty teenage boys.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:29 AM on December 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Is TLP still actively writing/posting somewhere? I find their work fascinating.

It's always been a remarkable performance by someone who seems high on theory, meds, and private unexplained grievances.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:30 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


A little off-topic, but every time I've seen this scene (and I've seen it a number of times), I couldn't help but notice that it look like the bully had a rubber or prosthetic hand. I've looked it up in the past to see if the actor has one, but came up with nothing. Has anyone else ever noticed this?
posted by sourwookie at 9:36 AM on December 17, 2014


I was a doorman for many years. This kid is all talk. A really dangerous guy wouldn't say anything. He'd sucker punch you. Also, his buddies are gonna jump in for sure. Don't tell them to be quiet. Go somewhere else. You're on a date.
posted by judson at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


There are several comments in this thread that suggest that minimizing the possibility of violence (by submitting to the teen's domination) is an obviously more reasonable and mature choice than standing up to the teen, refusing to play along with him, and perhaps increasing the possibility of violence.

That disturbs me. There is a dignity in standing up for yourself, the value of which cannot be discounted. Dignity -- represented here by an unwillingness to submit to humiliation, an unwillingness to prostrate yourself to some random person who decides to pick on you in public -- is a human good. Your shame at not standing up for yourself is not just about that encounter, it's about what other situations you'll endure humiliation in. It's what your prostration to that random bully says about your self respect.

Obviously there are occasions where you submit to someone who threatens violence. But someone swaggering up to me while I'm peacefully enjoying a date and proceeding to try to dominate me? No, I will not be cowed by that person.
posted by jayder at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


and yes, I agree with Judson. go somewhere else.
posted by jayder at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2014


The choice between being "alpha" and fighting or being "beta" and meekly submitting is the false dichotomy offered by pop culture to men. It is destructive precisely because all it offers are bad answers for everyone, the participants, the observers.

There are worlds of options for confrontations (I haven't been able to play the clip, but). He could have deflated the kid with a joke. He could have talked the kid down. Adults are typically much, much better than teenagers at switching gears conversationally. Failing verbal judo, he could have just said to his date: "do you want to go somewhere else?" and walked out.

Why should a middle aged guy take peer pressure from a punk kid? Letting the kid define the script as black and white teenage bullying is the problem. The adult solution, in my view, is to reject those options and do something else to de-escalate, redirect, or failing all other options, simply to walk away.
posted by bonehead at 9:59 AM on December 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


That disturbs me. There is a dignity in standing up for yourself, the value of which cannot be discounted. Dignity -- represented here by an unwillingness to submit to humiliation, an unwillingness to prostrate yourself to some random person who decides to pick on you in public -- is a human good.

Actually, these are the kinds of dichotomies that make me pause a bit. It's not an either-or, I don't think. You can have dignity without moving towards a violent end. You can even stand up for yourself without thinking that it requires potential violence. It's the removal of dignity from a peacemaking process that creates the scenarios in Louie. It's a lack of moral imagination (not you specifically, jayder) that needs encouragement in culture at large.

This doesn't mean that violence won't happen, or shouldn't ever happen, or that standing up for yourself might bring that about. It's the automatic defaulting away from more imaginative thinking about complicated scenarios, often due to a lack of social ability to navigate some of these things. We just don't have conversations about it, so it becomes a stand-off between different types of power.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:00 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


> Life isn't a video game. If you get in a fight you don't just heal up in a few minutes or take a potion. There are actual consequences to getting beaten.

I've gotten out of some fights using this as a tactic. People don't like to be damaged. I'm also a confident fighter. I've looked at people I know could beat me and who wanted to fight and said things like, "We can do this, and you'll probably win, but you are going to get hurt. How bad do you want to keep your eye?" or "Fair warning, I'm a biter and I will go for your testicles."

It's also a lesson I learned at a fairly young age. You can "win" a fight and still lose teeth, have bones broken, eyes blackened, and your brain damaged. It's generally not worth it.

Problem with fights is often people think there are some kind of rules or that it will be "fair." You have no idea what the other guy is willing to do (a knife, a gun, or even a glassing). I have a decade of selfdefense under my belt, and it's given me the confidence to be able to deal with these sorts of situations, but I still would try to avoid an actual fight at all costs.

One of the good things about hitting 40 is generally no one still wants to fight you for dumb shit like you looked at them wrong or asked them to be quiet.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:00 AM on December 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


There's a million social, cultural, and situational factors that may make the whole "come at me bro" thing less viable or even impossible for many others, and that have little to nothing to do with your concept of "dignity."
posted by zombieflanders at 10:01 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


There are worlds of options for confrontations (I haven't been able to play the clip, but). He could have deflated the kid with a joke. He could have talked the kid down.

I am not clever when someone gets in my space out of the blue. I am.not suggesting escalating a confrontation. I am suggesting standing up for yourself, as a person with self possession and dignity has the right to do, and not let a bully force you into the role of stand-up comic or hostage negotiator. "Get out of my face," "walk away from my table, now," or "get your hand away from me" are all perfectly reasonable responses that require no cleverness or prostration.
posted by jayder at 10:11 AM on December 17, 2014


The older I get, the more I see "dignity" ("honor", "face", etc...) as a form of vanity. Forgoing it frequently leads to better solutions for everyone.

This doesn't mean you don't have principles, it just means you don't need to base your self-worth on public image in all situations.
posted by bonehead at 10:12 AM on December 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


Yup. Because that's the only way to end that engagement

I dunno. It could have ended at the "yes it is terrible" response because that's all it deserved. But I think when it gets to joking about his appearance as "boring" maybe you're getting a bit close to the line where someone might want to get another jab in. You see this online all the time, even here. That "mob" comment looks to me like it's coming from a place of wounded pride after seeing people mocking him on Twitter (he probably should have expected it, sure). I'm not arguing about who started it, it's pretty clear the guy did by telling her the article was terrible. I'm not even sure this was 'sealioning', but I'm not all that familiar with the term. Looks like what we'd call a "threadshit" here followed by people insulting each other. He wasn't really requesting she explain anything, I don't think either of them saw this a situation where someone was looking for an explanation of why she allegedly calls a "mob" or why she thinks 40-year-olds hitting on 28-year-olds a bit creepy.
posted by Hoopo at 10:13 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The older I get, the more I see "dignity" ("honor", "face", etc...) as a form of vanity. Forgoing it frequently leads to better solutions for everyone.

This doesn't mean you don't have principles, it just means you don't need to base your self-worth on public image in all situations.


What is your self-worth based upon besides your actions?
posted by deathmaven at 10:14 AM on December 17, 2014


I worry about outcomes, not what people think of me at the time.
posted by bonehead at 10:18 AM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Okay, here's a hypothetical.

Let's say you're Louie, and teenager comes up to you while you're out on a date and says "dance a jig right now, old man, until I tell you to stop, or I'm going to kick your ass."

Do you do it?

What I'm hearing from many of you is that yes, you would. And if you wouldn't -- how does that hypothetical differ materially from this situation in the show, in which you're saying Louie acted the right way?
posted by jayder at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2014


Would a teenaged boy trying to start a fight with a middle-aged man in rural Pennsylvania or Cedar Rapids, Indiana have everything to do with race, or not?

Small thing, but Cedar Rapids is in IOWA, not Indiana. You might do better answering these hypotheticals you pose if you'd learn a little bit about the country you're tarring with that brush of yours. The middle of the country isn't some interchangeable mass of corn, soybeans, and wheat. I should know, hailing from Idawaohionapolis, Idawahio.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


What is your self-worth based upon besides your actions?

Why should I allow someone I've never even met to define my self-worth, and worse, to do it by forcing me to believe there is only one way to preserve it?
posted by rtha at 10:29 AM on December 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


teenager comes up to you while you're out on a date and says "dance a jig right now, old man, until I tell you to stop, or I'm going to kick your ass."

This teenager is bad IMO
posted by Greg Nog at 10:29 AM on December 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


Why should I allow someone I've never even met to define my self-worth, and worse, to do it by forcing me to believe there is only one way to preserve it?

You shouldn't, but what is defining your self worth besides maintaining your "dignity", "honor", and "face" in a way that proves that you indeed have "principles"?
posted by deathmaven at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2014


deathmaven, it just means what others think isn't the most important thing to me when I make decisions.

In fact, that's why I call this sort of dichotomy of choice a vanity. It's only a trap because he's set it up* so that the most important things here are how he looks to the kid and his date. If he extinguished his ego, abandoned his vanity, the simplest thing would have been just to leave, with minimal contact. A better outcome might have been had with a better read and a bit of empathy to turn the situation into a teaching moment for the kid. Who knows. But all of that stalls in the face of his "dignity": that he must fight or submit.

*again, apparently, from my reading here and the linked article. Still not been able to see the original clip.
posted by bonehead at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Request for a link to people who are confounded by the Wondermark strip. I would like to see these people.

I don't think the article did a better job of explaining the strip than the strip itself.
posted by elr at 10:37 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


teenager comes up to you while you're out on a date and says "dance a jig right now, old man, until I tell you to stop, or I'm going to kick your ass."

Is it a dance off? Because I will win and he will be humiliated, as long as my jig is allowed to be a soft shoe slip jig, because I have a devil of a time with the treble jig.
posted by maxsparber at 10:39 AM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Request for a link to people who are confounded by the Wondermark strip. I would like to see these people.

Having trouble pulling a link, but I've seen a few tweets from non-gamergaters saying that they thought the woman sounded like a racist and not understanding why we should be sympathetic to her facing consequences for saying racist things in public.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:43 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


> It's not harmful to state what POC already know unless they've never heard it put straightforwardly or wanted to pretend these prejudices don't exist.

See, this isn't what I've heard from friends of color, which is what's shaped my experience. What folks have said to me is that hearing the same old "oh yes of course, I a white person am going to describe white racism in a satiric way" feels really self-satisfied and repulsive...
posted by Frowner at 8:14 AM on December 17 [4 favorites +] [!]


I just realized I have a bad habit of doing this. You're right of course -- self-satisfied and repulsive, exactly. Will stop now. Ugh. And thanks.
posted by officer_fred at 10:45 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


But all of that stalls in the face of his "dignity": that he must fight or submit.

That's not the dichotomy jayder suggested (it was submit or stand up for yourself). By the time Louie chose submit to humiliation, how he looked to others was definitely not driving his actions.

Request for a link to people who are confounded by the Wondermark strip. I would like to see these people.
http://www.metafilter.com/144813/Internet-culture-puts-trolling-on-a-pedestal#5831292

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/sea-lioning (the entire comments section)
posted by deathmaven at 10:45 AM on December 17, 2014


Yeah, that strip could mean something different if we saw the panel that caused her to say she didn't like sea lions.
posted by maryr at 10:46 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think there's a valid point about how people can make themselves vulnerable by focusing on text rathern than subtext in an interpersonal encounter, but it's all drowned in this meta am-I-racist-or-just-commenting-on-racism static that I don't blame anybody if the point is lost.
posted by jonp72 at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2014


I was fascinated by his offhand points on sexual politics, and the casualness by which he simply asserted that women know men better than men assume. It's interesting as well that that example is so different form how he brings up and addresses race - he simply asserts the feminist position, while using irony for the civil rights position (and using the age prejudices in a way which shows up in intra-civil rights/anti-racism discourse).

I agree with the writer that I would find a man who beat up a seventeen year old - even a black one - significantly less appealing than one who played into a teenager's tune, but I would prefer a man who was clear and assertive without being aggressive and that doesn't appear to be an option in the Louie example. I think on a profound level there is a class of men for whom the options of "be aggressive" and "be passive" appear to be the only choices, and "be clear and kind" appears nowhere on the menu - and I'm unsure why. Maybe it has to do with the effects of Toxic Masculinity? I'd love to see men hash out their relationships with aggressive, passivity, gender, and power - I think there's a lot to learn there.

I try to avoid fighting because I consider it to be the higher road, not because I'm scared, and if done correctly, takes more resolve and forward thinking. A solution that doesn't come to blows in the face of someone who is belligerent and clearly looking for something to happen sometimes comes by way of cowering. But it can also come about by being socially savvy, being a peacemaker in life, and sometimes allowing a jerk to fizz out when they are being transparently pathetic.

This reminds me of a story told by an Akido student once about how he encountered a belligerent drunk man on the subway, and was self-consciously preparing himself for the man to "start something" so he could "finish it" (Akido is non-aggressive; the kid wanted a fight but clung to the veneer of his discipline) when another man walked up to the drunk/belligerent man like he was an old friend, greeted him kindly, and the interaction ended with the drunk/belligerent man crying about how he had been left by his girlfriend and was really upset.

That kind of assertiveness - kind, loving, nurturing assertiveness - is rare to find in stories, I think. I wish I saw it more.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


This guy makes so many good points on the way to being wrong.

Like: Don't you think she has her own perspective? Don't you think that she already knows whether you are tough or not? Unless you have a secret identity, she already knows who would win the fight. Do you think you can fool her with words?

and: the cuckold fantasy is a male fantasy.

and: the aggressive "Hi, what's your name, that's a nice shirt you got there" works because you're not willing-- you feel you're not allowed-- to respond to the situation for what it is: a bully trying to dominate the conversation. You feel obligated to reply to their words, and not the meaning.

Putting the specific Louie clip aside for a second, I recently watched a clip of Andrew Dice Clay on Conan O'Brien (EARLY Conan) and it was so strange because Dice was being all, "EYYY, ya motha's a hooah OHHH, but seriously, you're great, I love you" and I was waiting for Conan to eviscerate him because you know Conan's smarter and quicker and at this point in time it was apparent to EVERYONE how washed up and pathetic Dice was, but Conan just couldn't get his bearings.

It reminded me of a lot of interactions I've had/seen between men that are exactly what the author's talking about, where what's said carries an unacknowledged implication and it's incumbent on you to read and respond to it. I think there's a cultural blindspot for these sorts of interactions (or at least not much in the way of useful language about it), in that they are always assumed to be about PHYSICAL violence, which they're not. This is just the male social equivalent of Mean Girl-ness (is this still a thing? Maybe it is not). It's about social domination. It's not someone asking you if you wanna fight, it's someone asking if you can HANG. It's Diplomacy. It's someone bullshitting you.

If someone is trying to talk at you sideways and belittle you without just coming out and saying it, you have to be able to a) Recognize it and b) Respond in kind. Sometimes it is backed up by a vague threat of violence, but more often than not (or at least in my life, which has been xyz) it is a game and you don't win it by fighting (in fact if the only way you can show your power over another man is violence, it's sort of a loss), you win by beating the other person at the game or just acknowledging the game for what it is and blowing it up.

I think to understand the inevitable end result as being one of FIGHTING is wrong. Or like, "Might as well cast your fate to the wind and respond to implicit aggression with overt aggression cause that's how you stand up for yourself." That seems wrong too. But I do think there's value in being able to tell when someone is bullshitting you and to acknowledge that bullshit, as opposed to limping away from it or pretending that what happened on a surface level was real, and I think there is a lot of cultural conditioning that makes people believe that the right course of action is to take people's words at face value.

There is probably a better essay somewhere that links what I think(?) the author's point is to larger narratives about Bullshit and the destructive nature of playing all these games with the truth. Like, I would 100 times rather someone just call me a punk and tell me they hate my face than to have to get into some kind of pissing match with someone where we are dancing around the fact that we don't like each other.
posted by StopMakingSense at 10:59 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


[deathmaven, to be clear, you need to not keep commenting in the thread at this point. Posting to the front page of Metafilter is about saying "people might think this is interesting", not "I want to argue with people about this"; a comment or two is fine, ongoing arguing or holding forth is not.]
posted by cortex at 11:18 AM on December 17, 2014


I was reminded of a couple of classic responses to bullies from comedians.

Drew Carey, to a guy who wants to fight with him: "You know, I'm not in shape for a long fight, so I'm going to have to kill [or disable] you quickly."

Chelsea Peretti, to someone who is inordinately pleased with herself: [Looking into her eyes with concern] "Have you been ... crying?" Okay, maybe that's more like Chelsea being the bully.

I don't know that there are any better ways to respond, unless it's by throwing off their rhythm with non-sequiturs, but that seems to work best on drunk people.
posted by Flexagon at 11:21 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


The older I get, the more I see "dignity" ("honor", "face", etc...) as a form of vanity.

It is. In instances like this, it has everything to do with wanting the other party to respect you. That's a trap; why give a fuck what they think about you, especially when it's clear their starting marker is 'not much'?
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:33 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


What LTP gets wildly, shockingly wrong about this situation -- and Louie gets essentially right -- is the predicament of Louie's woman companion.

LTP seems to be operating under a delusion that she's in an invisible, bullet-proof isolation dome and free of all danger, but once the confrontation Louie initiates devolves into possible violence -- which no one not in their right mind would have failed to anticipate, by the way -- Louie has an absolute obligation to keep her from getting hurt, whatever the cost to his 'manhood', whether physical or emotional.

And he would have the same obligation to an equally innocent male companion.

I see discharging that obligation at the expense of a little humiliation as a triumph, albeit a bitter one.
posted by jamjam at 11:33 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Can I just throw in that it's fascinating that the threats Flexagon describes above threaten a man's physical well being and a woman's emotional well being as ways to cut them down a peg?

(I'm not calling you out at all, Flexagon, I just found the contrast striking.)
posted by maryr at 11:42 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think I've mentioned this before on mefi, but hands-down, the greatest example of Refusal To Engage i've ever seen on the internet was from Mallory Ortberg, first here:

Q: @mallelis got a question for ya. Why do you jump straight to mob-leading?

A: because I have a mob @AlanHogan

and then summed up here:

"why won't you engage with my argument in good faith"
lol because i dont have to


(I can't see the video and am relying on the description) That's not what Louie did, though. That's much closer to what the Last Psychiatrist suggests an alternative action. It's a display of strength. Leading a mob is strong, not having to engage is strong, telling someone's punk ass to get out of your face is strong.

People in this thread equate Louie's potential display of strength with initiating a fight. I think that's pretty interesting, because there's like ten more levels of strength to display between completely backing down the way he does and an actual, physical fight. And, Louie asking the teens to quiet down in the first place is a display of strength-not a very effective one, but there it is.

Sports teach you how to handle this kind of conflict-there's a big advantage to be gained to the person who is willing to work outside the rules so you are always being tested-some guy hits you a little late or holds your jersey, trying to see how you respond. These situations exist all over, in real life, that's the kids being loud in the diner. You have to learn to stand up for yourself in a way that doesn't escalate the conflict too much and also doesn't seem weak or you'll be walked all over the way that Louie was here. And like once in your whole life standing up for yourself will eventually lead to a physical fight, it's true, but that's the cost for standing up for yourself the whole rest of the time.

Being a peacemaker like some have suggested would have worked in this situation and is fine sometimes or most of the time even but understand that it's a way not to play the game, it's saying that you're not interested, that this conflict doesn't matter to me, it's a way of conceding. But you can't sit on the sidelines all the time, some conflicts are really going to matter to you. So it's not always going to work. And that move isn't available to Louie anyway because he engaged weakly. You can't politely ask your opponent to stop holding your jersey, that is a weak way to handle that situation.
posted by Kwine at 11:51 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think there's a cultural blindspot for these sorts of interactions (or at least not much in the way of useful language about it), in that they are always assumed to be about PHYSICAL violence, which they're not. This is just the male social equivalent of Mean Girl-ness (is this still a thing? Maybe it is not). It's about social domination. It's not someone asking you if you wanna fight, it's someone asking if you can HANG. It's Diplomacy. It's someone bullshitting you.

Eh, I don't think anyone will pull something like what the kid in this clip did without knowing there's a very real chance of violence. The threat is real and no one that's not confident that they can handle that eventuality is going to do that. It's not really someone bullshitting you, it's someone raising the stakes.
posted by Hoopo at 11:52 AM on December 17, 2014


Metafilter: Actually having read the article in full now, I can begin to see why people might be less enamoured.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:59 AM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


wish we at least had better ethical categories so as not to collectively look down our noses at nonviolent options as if it's only either about cowardice or about avoiding harm. I wish nonviolent options could be couched in somewhat winsome and clever ways such that it actually becomes the more "powerful" option.

The problem isn't that we don't value nonviolent options - we do value nonviolent options. We just demand they be inherently brave options. We value nonviolent resistance to police brutality, for example. We value the man who danced with a tank. We value people who are willing to put their lives and livelihoods on the line for their principles.

But sitting for ten minutes and letting yourself be bullied is not the brave option. The brave option would be saying, "You're disturbing my date. If you don't go back to your seat, I'll ask the restaurant to have you removed."
posted by corb at 12:08 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some thoughts:

1.) Hypotheticals don't necessarily mean much here, because that kids doesn't come up to Louie to begin with without knowing pretty much exactly how Louie is going to react.
2.) It's been a couple of years since I've seen the scene (though it burned itself into my memory) but Louie is already in a sort of alien, fragile place before the kid even comes over, just due to being on a date that seems to be going well, but he can't tell just how well and it's obviously been a while since he's done this sort of thing, and there's a whole tightrope he's trying to walk, so when Sean comes over to the table, Louie's fight-or-flight response kicks in and there's very little room for any thought, much less TLP's extensive Monday morning quarterbacking.
3.) This sort of interaction (i.e. adult man getting bullied out of nowhere) is exceedingly rare, in my experience, which is part of why it goes down like it does in the clip: Louie has had no reason to have a plan for this situation. Obviously that is sadly not the case for someone like, say, Mallory Ortberg.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:09 PM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


To be clear, I don't mean that when people say they're gonna kick your ass, they're lying or that there aren't social interactions that are underpinned with a very real threat of violence. I just don't buy the dichotomy of either "back down" or "punch him." Even if what the author suggests is sort of "calling the kid out," he suggests it in such a way that sounds pretty much like saying, "Try me, pussy!" which is gonna lead to a fight, versus, as someone said above, about 10 other forms of acknowledging the truth of what's happening. And sometimes, yeah, it ends in a fight.

I was more focusing on the "We're all FRIENDS here, RIGHT?" aspect of it. Which is a game, even if it's one that carries the weight of violence behind it, as opposed to someone just straight up saying, "Hey, fuck you, I'm gonna kick your ass." And in those situations, there's ways to meet the person who's testing you without either crawling away or fighting everybody who feels some kind of way about you. There are ways to be assertive that aren't inherently violent or asking for a physical escalation.

I think the sports analogy is really apt. In Basketball, there's a lot of talk of who's "soft" or not. Which is sort of dumb, but speaks to these issues. In sports, people will physically take advantage of you if you don't show that you can push back a little. You don't have to hard foul every guy who takes liberties with you, but you need to be able to hold your ground, just as a matter of course in being a good player. Maybe that means being able to make a shot even when someone elbows you, maybe it means being a good shit talker, maybe it means you can absorb the hits, maybe it even means being a really good flopper(???) but you can't just say, "Oh well, sorry guys, they're not playing fair."

It's like if someone intentionally shoulders you hard on the street as a way to fuck with you and tells you to watch where you're going. You probably should not fight them, but you should also not apologize or tell them it's okay, because then you're buying into their bullshit. And that's what I mean by Bullshit: The assertion that, "Whoops it was an accident" when it wasn't. To agree to that is to lose, too.
posted by StopMakingSense at 12:29 PM on December 17, 2014


Okay, for reasons I can't articulate I've been puzzling over this thread for half an hour. The first link is a series of statements which are made in such away as to suggest that they are all self evident. They all seem weird and off kilter to me, and I can't fit them to my understanding of the world.

What's the point of the second link exactly, and why is it obvious to everyone? Even after reading the know your meme link I still don't understand how people are reading this comic. This women says she doesn't like sea lions, which I take to be a veiled racist statement, and then this polite sea lion won't leave her alone, and then the whole thing seemed amusingly absurd. But instead it's a clear statement about someone feigning intellectual honesty?

What is going on here, exactly?
posted by Alex404 at 12:32 PM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Google "Sea Lioning". Here is something from the comic's author.
posted by ODiV at 12:34 PM on December 17, 2014


This women says she doesn't like sea lions, which I take to be a veiled racist statement,

uh I think this is where you went wrong
posted by almostmanda at 12:36 PM on December 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


Sealions are a direct proxy mostly for the MRA/red pill/GamerGate crowd, aggrieved, but with sprained privilege.
posted by bonehead at 12:38 PM on December 17, 2014


To be fair, if you haven't been keeping up with online discourse lately and you don't have to deal with that sort of behaviour, it's not self-evident.

Also, maybe read the comments on that link too (first time I've said that, I think).
posted by ODiV at 12:39 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, one problem with the comic is that if you're not hip to the phenomenon of gamergaters searching for gamergate-related terms on Twitter and "politely" "engaging" with anti-gamergate people, then you're much less likely to read the sea lion correctly. Another problem is that sea lions can't choose not to be sea lions, whereas gamergaters, if we don't take a radical position on moral responsibility, can choose not to be gamergaters. The analogy suffers for the sake of the humor in the image of a sea lion persistently bothering an upper-class couple.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:46 PM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I just don't buy the dichotomy of either "back down" or "punch him."

Me either. Sure, these things can be sort of a Kobiashi Maru, but generally, it is possible to de-escalate.

Just at lunch, strangely enough, I was enjoying my burger and fries when two "homefree" young men approached at asked if that was my bike locked up out front, and if they could "borrow" it. I said "No, Thank you" and they insisted that they really liked the bike and would like for me to give it to them to use. I said that would not be possible and I prefer not, and finally, rose from my seat, ostensibly to refresh my drink. Now that we were eye to eye (in fact, I was a bit taller and wider), they seemed less confident that the strategy of Ask-but-not-really-ask was going to work out for them. Honestly, I half expected a shiv in the ribs, but if they were gonna do that, they would have already.

So, yeah - there is lots of room between "please mister don't hurt me" and "stomping their guts out".

Generally, if they are talking, they have already conceded to you the upper hand. Or as Tuco would say "If you have to shoot, shoot! Don't talk!".
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:52 PM on December 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Thanks for all the feedback. Though I'm a gamer and I know about all this gamergate stuff, I've also never used twitter so I am indeed pretty ignorant to what that's actually like.

Yeah, one problem with the comic is that if you're not hip to the phenomenon of gamergaters searching for gamergate-related terms on Twitter and "politely" "engaging" with anti-gamergate people, then you're much less likely to read the sea lion correctly. Another problem is that sea lions can't choose not to be sea lions, whereas gamergaters, if we don't take a radical position on moral responsibility, can choose not to be gamergaters. The analogy suffers for the sake of the humor in the image of a sea lion persistently bothering an upper-class couple.

This is exactly what creeps me out, and I see that someone else in the comments on the author's explanation had the same reaction. Since the comic is about what the sea lion is, not about an opinion it holds, this woman's opinion seems like it's meant as an analogue for racism/homophobia. And since I'm not really a user of social media, the idea that someone could bother you at all times of the day in any place just sort of seems absurdly amusing, rather than an actual possibility.

Knowing the context though, I can't say that I think the comic gets a complete pass. I can easily imagine people using this as a justification for maintaining their prejudices and not engaging with themselves or others about them critically. Sorry if I'm bean plating this, but it rubs me the wrong way.
posted by Alex404 at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2014


Eh, I don't think that's a realistic danger. People invested in their prejudices don't all of a sudden have a valid justification for closing themselves to empathy because this comic has been published.

Your initial interpretation might be colouring it still, but since a sea lion isn't a stand-in for a minority either in general or in this instance in particular I think we're safe.
posted by ODiV at 2:46 PM on December 17, 2014


I'd strongly suggest that even if someone is being racist/homophobic, what-have-you, constantly hounding them is not the correct solution to the problem. Shunning? Fine. Telling your in common friends why? Ok. But that constant "I will not leave you alone and will follow from place to place making sure that I think you are bad person" behavior is just not acceptable. Seriously.

So yes, even if the woman was being sealionist, the sea lion was in the wrong.
posted by aspo at 2:56 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, TLP is a horse's ass and is a good example of people confusing "can write a rambling barely semi-coherent screed that uses big words" with actual insight. The bar shouldn't be that low people!
posted by aspo at 2:58 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe people are missing that in one of the panels the SeaLion literally followed the woman into her bedroom?
posted by Deoridhe at 3:46 PM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


At my work, I sometimes have to deal with people who try to come off as polite and "just asking" when in fact they are angry and only providing a thin veneer of manners over their definite attempt to alpha-dog me into doing something for them.

Because of this, the sea lion cartoon doesn't do much for me, because while the sea lion is definitely intrusive, it doesn't convey the barely-veiled hostility and contempt that actually lies behind the facade of politeness in these kind of encounters.

I'm not surprised that not everyone gets the sea lion cartoon.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:58 PM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is a kind of exchange I've seen men have on a number of occasions, and it always sort of baffles me. Especially the part where I, as a female observer, come into it because, like, emasculation or whatever.

I have exchanges like this on a weekly basis with men. My response is to ignore, deflect, and disengage. Because not to do so could easily lead to violence, sexual assault, or death. For a dude... emasculation? What? Who cares? And why do you think that women, of all people, care?
posted by Sara C. at 4:37 PM on December 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you don't understand coercion, it is probably because you have not been coerced all that much. It gets old.
posted by vicx at 5:56 PM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Alex404: "Knowing the context though, I can't say that I think the comic gets a complete pass."

Well, in this case it's not really about whether the comic gets a "pass" or not. What matters is that it's a useful category for thinking through the experience a lot of people have of being dragged mercilessly into so-called "reasoned debate" at the point of the "you're being an unreasonable bitch" gun. We're not really interested in giving the comic our stamp of approval as an unproblematic piece of art; we just want a word that makes it easier to talk about these things, and the idea of "sealioning" gives us that word.

jamjam: "Louie has an absolute obligation to keep her from getting hurt, whatever the cost to his 'manhood', whether physical or emotional. And he would have the same obligation to an equally innocent male companion. I see discharging that obligation at the expense of a little humiliation as a triumph, albeit a bitter one."

See, even here I have a problem with the scenario. And honestly I have to say that this is one of those scenes in the show that really grossed me out. Because TLP's is apparently the reading Louie and his date have of the scene: they view it as a failure of some kind, not a bitter victory.

Start with the big one: why does Louie have an absolute obligation to keep her from getting hurt? In some sense humans have some obligation to keep other humans from getting hurt, but to phrase it this way about him in particular is to imply that it's specifically a man's duty to protect a woman. It feels - well, a tiny bit paternalistic to me. I guess I say this because very single woman I've ever dated seriously would not have allowed that conversation to go on for more than two exchanges before jumping in and telling that kid to shut the fuck up. Is it just that I am attracted to that type of person? I don't know. But it is really weird that the show assumes - and we assume along with it - that the woman is and ought to be a completely passive party to the exchange, someone in potential danger but not someone with the volition to speak up or do anything.

And then - well, again, the conversation with the woman afterwards weirds me out a bit because she basically says that she believes in patriarchal categories and is disappointed not to observe Louie as the man fulfilling the expected patriarchal categories. I guess it's easy for me to say this, though - I'm in a position of privilege, a (white) guy, so it's convenient for me to say that it's not fair for women to judge me on my assertiveness.

I guess it comes down to this: the whole idea that male expressions of social power in nonsexual situations are the necessary currency for purchasing women's attraction is really odd and nervous-making for me. It just seems so starkly patriarchal, and when people say that things that are starkly patriarchal are 'just biological fact,' I start to wonder.
posted by koeselitz at 12:48 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


FWIW, a working clip of the scene is online here, though it's missing the beginning of the confrontation and has more of the follow-through.

I think TLP's point about using politeness to manipulate people is apt. People have tried to mug me a few times, and each time they've come up with a smile, like maybe they wanted to ask for spare change, and then said things like "you're going to empty out your pockets." Always a smile, never an overt threat, just things like "you should give me what I want" or "I don't want to have to hurt anybody." The kinds of things it'd be hard to tell a police officer ("I gave him my money because, uh, he told me I was going to, and I thought... he might hit me.")

I'm not sure the comparison between this kind of threat of physical violence translates to the kind of sealioning we see online, though. One of the reasons women dealing with GamerGate can't just tell people to fuck off is because there are a thousand eyes scrutinizing them, and if they respond to a seemingly polite comment with spite, it's going to be used against them to recruit more sea lions.
posted by Peevish at 6:15 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you don't understand coercion, it is probably because you have not been coerced all that much. It gets old.

I think every woman alive understands coercion, and in particular kind of coercion by seemingly-acceptable behavior that's being discussed, so getting lectured about it also gets a bit old.

Seriously. Every woman has experienced having somebody (almost always male) try to pull this kind of thing. "Perfectly polite" on the surface, deeply manipulative and possibly harmful underneath. But they're not doing anything overtly inappropriate and one mustn't cause a scene, so put up with it until it's possible to escape.
posted by Lexica at 7:49 AM on December 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


the whole idea that male expressions of social power in nonsexual situations are the necessary currency for purchasing women's attraction is really odd and nervous-making for me. It just seems so starkly patriarchal,

You know, I am a feminist, and a lady who probably would have jumped in in that situation - but at the same time, I would have been turned off by the fact that I had to. Because male or not, expressions of social and other power are attractive. It's not about the patriarchy. If I was on a date with a lady, I'd expect the lady to stand up for her date as well. But submission is just really unattractive. (to me, at least)
posted by corb at 10:54 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm just going to go on record here and say that, if this happened when I was on a date, I would not care one way or the other or think less of my partner about it.

I mean, unless it did come down to fisticuffs, and then I would think my date was an aggro jerk and I'd probably never speak to them again. Like, seriously, you can't just tell a dumb kid to piss off? If I can defuse situations like this on the regular without breaking a sweat, someone who needs to resort to violence looks like a massive prick.
posted by Sara C. at 10:58 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because male or not, expressions of social and other power are attractive.

Yuck. I find displays of social and other power extremely off-putting. But the way you phrase it makes me think of people being rude to waitstaff, or trying to lord over others because they have more money, or trying to be socially dominant in public situations which don't call for any power displays at all.

I find that an enormously grotesque way to behave.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:45 PM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was on one date and the guy got this chocolate milkshake thing before a movie, and I was like, "they're not going to let you into the theater with that thing." And he was like, "it'll be fine, no one cares, and I love giving a stink about things like this." I was like, "ok, but this particular theater, you'll have to make that stink because they really care about outside food. Like a lot."

So then he tried to bring his shake in and the staff wasn't having it, and he didn't get physical but was kind of shouty and gross. No more dates with that guy. I mean a milkshake? What?
posted by zutalors! at 12:49 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Louie had the obligation to protect his date because his action precipitated the confrontation, Koeselitz, and because everyone I know would have realized before they said a word that it could go down the way it did (except that it's so unrealistically low intensity, in my opinion).

A long time ago now, I was sitting by myself at a bus shelter in the U-district in Seattle, when three white high school kids with recently shaved heads, and in matching studded leather jackets, showed up at the other end of the shelter, and after milling around and posturing a bit to the accompaniment of loud and abrasive laughter -- which I took to be a performance for my benefit and found irritating -- pulled out knives, three identical Gerber Mark I combat knives, and bent over the wooden bench to do a little carving -- which I found extremely irritating.

Without really knowing I was going to, I opened my mouth and said, in a deep and heavy voice "nice knives, boys -- if you want to keep them, put them away."

And they did, though they clearly weren't too happy about it.

When the bus came a few minutes later, I made sure they got on ahead of me, and when I sat down as far away from them as I could get, they jumped up, told the driver they'd gotten on the wrong bus, and stepped off again. I got up and told the driver as we pulled away that I'd stopped them from carving on the bench, and he picked up his radio mic and talked to his dispatcher, but I couldn't hear what he said. At that time there was at least a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anybody vandalizing buses or shelters, and I thought the blades of those knives were at least two inches longer than the legal limit for concealed carry. The next morning I felt a little bad about the trouble they might have gotten in if they were caught, because it was clear to me by then that they were just kids putting on an act.

That was a profoundly stupid thing for me to do, though, and demonstrated maturity not very far at all beyond the level of those boys' despite being twice their age, but even back then, if another person (much less my girlfriend!) had been present, I never would have done anything like it.
posted by jamjam at 1:03 PM on December 18, 2014


the way you phrase it makes me think of people being rude to waitstaff, or trying to lord over others because they have more money,

I should say, displays of power that are not needlessly dickish.
posted by corb at 3:05 PM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I know this is really late in the thread, but I'd love to see MetaFilter's take on The Last Psychiatrist's more recent article Who Bullies the Bullies? I'm tempted to make a FPP about it.
Keeping in mind that actual stalking has never been dealt with in any significant way ever, the desire of a few female writers to curb online anonymity wouldn't be enough to get an @ mention, except that this happens to coincide with what the media wants, and now we have the two vectors summing to form a public health crisis. "Cyberbullying is a huge problem!" Yes, but not because it is hurtful, HA! no one cares about your feelings-- but because criticism makes women want to be more private-- and the privacy of the women is bad. The women have to be online, they do most of the clicking and receive most of the clicks. Anonymous cyberbullying is a barrier to increasing consumption, it's gotta go.

What Hess didn't realize is that while she was fumbling impotently with the cops, the media company that she worked for could have crushed the troll if it was worth it to them ... If the founder of Religions For New Atheists Sara Miller McCune herself had received an electronic rape threat from some Fox News stenographer in a Kentucky man cave, you think she's dialing 911? From her apartment? She would have waited until she got to the office, waved her hands like in Minority Report and her lawyers would have midnight Seal Team Sixed him while he was overhand jacking it to interracial porn. Do you know what Hess's employers did for her? No, I'm serious do you know? It can't be nothing, right? That would be Bananastown. It was nothing? Really?
posted by straight at 2:06 PM on December 19, 2014


Freebsdgirl has been dealing with @Forcesargeras, who says she's got the rating (WoW PVP score) she does in because she has slept with her guild leader. Among other nonsense.

Turns out, he's not a very nice person.

In fact, Popehat outed him as a revenge porn sitemaster some time ago.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:32 PM on December 19, 2014


I love that fake gamer guy convo- getting carried as far as he's saying Randi got carried is in PVP basically impossible, and thinking that having killed Heroic Garrosh after four months is somehow an accomplishment is straight up hilarious. There's nothing wrong with being bad at games- hell, I sure am- but shitting on people who are and trying to pretend being a dude makes you good? Extremely pathetic. And turning out to be Craig Brittan? That's just amazing.

His Twitter right now is mostly him whining about @a_man_in_black and insisting that there's no such thing as revenge porn.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:00 PM on December 19, 2014


Like, seriously, you can't just tell a dumb kid to piss off? If I can defuse situations like this on the regular without breaking a sweat

the funny/baffling thing about this thread, if I'm reading it correctly, is that no one here has advocated any violence but somehow telling the dumb kid to piss off is somehow conflated with being violent and aggro?

My earlier comment, I thought, should be totally uncontroversial, that nobody in his or her right mind would sit there and let a person intimidate you and dominate you in public ... but there are peeps her who seem to think submitting to that is the civil, prudent, wise thing to do. Crazy.
posted by jayder at 8:42 AM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


jayder: " My earlier comment, I thought, should be totally uncontroversial, that nobody in his or her right mind would sit there and let a person intimidate you and dominate you in public ... but there are peeps her who seem to think submitting to that is the civil, prudent, wise thing to do. Crazy."

Engaging in the monkey dance is pointless, doesn't actually gain anything, and is likely to get you hurt or killed.
posted by Lexica at 10:07 AM on December 20, 2014


Engaging in the monkey dance is pointless, doesn't actually gain anything, and is likely to get you hurt or killed.

How is standing up for your right not to have your tranquility disturbed at your table while you're on a date, pointless? There's a very good point to standing up for yourself, isn't there? Namely that you don't get to invade my space and threaten and try to humiliate me. You think people should just let other people abuse them? Why does standing up for yourself against a stranger's public aggression earn the disparaging term "monkey dance"?

--

I meant to put this in the thread a few days ago but have been limited to only my phone for internet access and didn't feel like typing it.

My sister had a few OKCupid dates with a guy a few years ago. He had said in his OKCupid profile that he loves to jog, but then when she terminated things with him (they had jogged a few times together) he sent her a pissy text saying something like "and to THINK I went out and bought running shoes just so you and I could run together ...." We have laughed about that so much.

Anyway, after one of their jogging excursions in a big city park, my sister was following this guy in his car, to a restaurant where they had agreed to meet. And I guess he wasn't paying attention and as he pulled out of the park, he almost ran into a spandex-clad baby boomer bicyclist who was walking his bike across an intersection. And the spandex warrior stood in front of the date's car and screamed at him very belligerently and my sister watched with mortification as she saw her date just shrink in his seat, in her words "frozen like a bluehair," and then when they got to the restaurant he acted very disturbed by the incident and was awkwardly acting like it never happened.

And she said that she never felt the same way about this OKCupid guy again. She said that the awkward, meek way that he seemed so stunned and ineffectual, not to mention not paying any damn attention as he drove, was an utter turn-off, and she jokingly said "it was the exact opposite of a panty-dropper." The situation pushed primal buttons in her. Even though the OKCupid guy was in the wrong by almost plowing into the bicyclist, she said he could have salvaged her esteem for him if he had shown just an ounce of spirit or defiance ... if they had gotten to the restaurant and he had chortled disparagingly about himself or the spandex warrior, that would have been enough. If he had flipped Spandex Man the bird and peeled out, even better.

I find this very hard to articulate, but the Louie episode, and the situation with the OKCupid guy and my sister, just underscores to me that not all ways of dealing with uncomfortable situations are equal. There are more effective, and less effective ways of dealing with these things. And to some degree, one's response to a public provocation is a signal of "who you are" as a person. To have responded with a bit of mirth, and defiance, and spirit of self-awareness ... not quietly cringing and pretending it didn't happen ... is a signal about what kind of person you are. Being an awkward, feeble, meek person was a valid signal to my sister that this OKCupid guy was not really up to snuff as a partner.

I believe that one should, as a matter of self-possession and being strong and dignified, stand up for oneself. One should not submit to humiliation, as a general rule. To say "well to value dignity is just, at bottom, a form of vanity" strikes me as very bizarre and awful. That would be like saying "to value freedom of choice in how to live your life is vanity ... why are you so special?" Some values are just defensible as part of a good life.

I hate conflict. I really do. It upsets me deeply. I got into a confrontation at a dog park that left me really rattled a few months ago, and yes, I was concerned with whether I had been strong enough, whether I had comported myself with dignity ... and I concluded that I had, that there was no stronger option that would have been reasonable. I concluded that I had stood up for myself acceptably. But at the same time, I questioned myself ... I was still upset ... and I was upset with myself for being upset. And finally I concluded that confrontation in public is inherently upsetting, and there was no point in second-guessing everything. I am not inexperienced with confrontation and conflict, having worked as a criminal defense law for almost a decade, where every day brought hostility and argument. And yes, arguing with people who have low impulse control and extensive criminal records and who aren't that scared of going to jail, and feel that I have somehow wronged them or a family member ... I was always aware that I could be hurt ... but I never once backed down from someone because of the chance that they could be violent, because shit, letting someone get their way by intimidation is no way to conduct oneself in the world. And somehow in that world I was able to be cool and calm, I was able to mentally step back and be abstract and detached about it. But that does not carry over into personal life, for some reason. I get upset by confrontation.

But man, letting someone stand over you and dominate you? No. Just, no.
posted by jayder at 10:27 AM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just to reinforce Lexica's 'monkey dance' comment, Macyoung on Pride and violence:
Two points are important.
First, just because you claim it was self-defense (or believe it was) doesn't make it so.

Second, your pride, ego, fear of humiliation, fear of loss of social status, insecurities and countless other 'monkey brain' (1) issues will turn you into part of the problem.

Those two points are the foundation of why most fights happen. They also are the root of why people are arrested for fighting -- when they adamantly believe they were defending themselves.

Your pride and fear of all kinds of imaginary social dangers can -- and will -- make you do stuff that seems perfectly reasonable at the time. In fact, your Monkey will tell you it is the right thing to do in order to defend yourself from this other aggressive monkey.

It's even better at telling you what actions to take to 'prevent' violence, except ... calling his mother that ... insisting on your 'right' not to be told what to do ... refusing to withdraw from a situation ... wanting to show this other monkey you're not afraid of him ... displaying how big and bad you are so he'll back off ... yelling parting shots over your shoulder...don't actually 'prevent' violence. In fact, they pretty much guarantee it.

ALL of those actions constitute your being a willing participant in the creation, escalation and commission of illegal violence. You may have thought you were trying to prevent violence when you did those things. But outside your own head, these behaviors look a lot different, especially to witnesses, cops and district attorneys.
[emph mine]
Next episode, Louie tells jokes to the fellow inmates at Riker's Island while awaiting manslaughter charges after the guy he shoved in a restaurant brawl slipped and cracked his skull on a table edge.

Personally, Im going with the advice from the experienced street thug re: what the realities and risks of casual street violence are, and how hard the legal system laughs at people who say "But it was self-defense"

That pool has been pissed in, my friend.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2014


The thing is, jayder, that, if you're a woman, men are coming up to you and trying to engage you in conversations you can tell aren't well-intentioned all the time. And you learn from a young age to just not even engage that stuff. To the point that it's sort of weird to imagine that the default response should be to go along with it because to do otherwise would be "submitting". It's not really a question of submitting. You just sort of pretend they don't exist.
posted by Sara C. at 10:32 AM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why does standing up for yourself against a stranger's public aggression earn the disparaging term "monkey dance"?

Again, MacYoung:
In his excellent book Meditations on Violence, Rory Miller coined a term describing behavioral patterns that lead to violence. He called it "The Monkey Dance."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:34 AM on December 20, 2014


Im going with the advice from the experienced street thug re: what the realities and risks of casual street violence are, and how hard the legal system laughs at people who say "But it was self-defense"

This article is full of some amazing bullshit. "Are they actually reasonable and acceptable? (Like leave the bar or there will be violence.)" No, in no world is someone else threatening you to leave a place where you have a right to be reasonable and acceptable.
posted by corb at 10:35 AM on December 20, 2014


Um, I don't disagree with the general drift of your comment, pirate, which is that one should avoid confrontations whenever possible. Obviously.

Kind of like the adage about how carrying a gun should not be a factor in where you feel free to travel ... "if you think you need a gun in a certain neighborhood, you need to not go to that neighborhood."

I do disagree with the idea that the legal system "laughs" at people who assert self-defense. As horrible as some assistant district attorneys are, self-defense as justification was never laughed at. We may have DISAGREED about whether something was self-defense, but shit ... everyone understands the need to defend yourself. And JURIES absolutely do understand self-defense. I have gotten some really incredible acquittals in jury trials that nobody thought were possible, by patiently establishing that my client's actions were justified as self-defense. So no, the legal system does not laugh at that.

The value of that webpage you linked to is that it may result in people just leaving situations that could become confrontational ... but in my view it is perpetuating a false impression of the legal system in the service of that purpose.
posted by jayder at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2014


because shit, letting someone get their way by intimidation is no way to conduct oneself in the world

I'm a woman*, and intimidation and threats of physical violence and how to react to those are all very much gender-dependent, but here's a thing that happened to me a few years ago: I was walking from my house to the drugstore a couple blocks away. I had a terrible cold and needed tissues and stuff; I had a headache and my brain was all blurry and I was just barely functional enough to get there and back.

Right around the corner from my house I ran into a group of four or five teenagers - on the younger side, I think - all boys, and it went from me being all fuzzily "Oh, sorry, pardon me," to them surrounding me and one of them got all "Watch where you're going!" hostile. I think it's good that my reaction time was so slowed by my cold, because I just stood there stupidly, truly unable to quite grasp what was happening. I started to say something, and then I sneezed, really abruptly, and mostly covered my face, but it was gross! And they all immediately stepped back - I probably had snot on me - and enough of a space opened that I just slid through and kept going to the store.

Did I "back down"? Did I destroy my dignity even more my accidentally snotting? It's funny, there, because one of the tips I got years ago as a technique to get a man to stop harassing me was to pick my nose or otherwise do a gross thing. I guess it's okay for women to be undignified in order to escape a confrontation? Or is it not considered undignified when a woman does that? Is that not "backing down"?

* but I'm often mistaken for male, and I can't always tell if people are reacting to me-they-think-is-a-dude or not.
posted by rtha at 10:50 AM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


rtha, I've diffused a lot of situations like that through humor, or by immediately placing myself outside the "sexually available vulnerable female" space.

Is this "backing down"? I don't know. I don't categorize my interactions with people on a scale of alpha to beta dog social structuring.
posted by Sara C. at 11:46 AM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


See, I don't think of it as backing down - it certainly wasn't on purpose that time, so I don't know that it can even qualify. But clearly some people might see the "do a gross body thing to avoid a confrontation" as a form of backing down, and I guess if you are a guy, that can be seen as Bad, even if a confrontation is a ready path to hospitalization or jail. Some people seem to definitely have a point at which things must be resolved in an alpha-beta kind of way.
posted by rtha at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2014


The thing is - backing down is a totally legitimate choice to make if you are afraid of violence and value your preservation from violence over pushing back on this stuff. But so is pushing back a legitimate choice - because if no one does, then these bullies and bastards will be able to keep doing this, keep letting the assholes claim the streets and harass women at will.
posted by corb at 5:05 PM on December 20, 2014


I agree that pushing back is a legitimate choice. What I take issue with is how some people frame it as The Way to prove one's self-respect or dignity - I think those things are orthogonal.
posted by rtha at 5:38 PM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


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