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Derailing for Dummies
August 14, 2009 5:48 AM   Subscribe

Derailing for Dummies: A helpful tome for any time you want to win an Internet argument.
posted by TrishaLynn (75 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Typical liberal whining.

Did I win yet?
posted by MuffinMan at 5:52 AM on August 14, 2009


One of the privileges I enjoy as The Oppressor is to ignore this sort of thing. So I do.
posted by Scoo at 5:59 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


The For Dummies media franchise began in 1981 with the book DOS for Dummies. Since then it has moved from technology manuals to books, software, and video on a wide array of topics.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:01 AM on August 14, 2009


Don't You Have More Important Issues To Think About?
posted by gman at 6:01 AM on August 14, 2009


Somebody put a lot of work into that.
posted by Shohn at 6:03 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Person Makes Website, Film At 11.
posted by DU at 6:04 AM on August 14, 2009


As someone who works for the publisher of the Dummies books, let me just say: ha. Good one.
posted by papercake at 6:06 AM on August 14, 2009


Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone.
posted by gman at 6:09 AM on August 14, 2009


Love it, love it, love it. It's funny when you see people trot out the same shit over and over and they always somehow think it's super brilliant and original.

(btw I got your message on LJ)
posted by kathrineg at 6:20 AM on August 14, 2009


Seriously, though, it's nice to have all these in one handy, linkable spot. I look forward to their reference in future MeFi threads on sexism/racism in videogames, SF and science. (To name a few recent ones.)
posted by DU at 6:21 AM on August 14, 2009


Pointed, funny stuff. The kicker at the end is particularly appropriate:

But never fear, for all is not lost! You can still worm your way out of this one!

Simply say:

It was all a social experiment!

This makes it okay, you see! Not only does it imply to the Marginalised People™ you’re really not the ignorant, obnoxious bigot you might be beginning to realise you are, you successfully communicate to them that you are that insensitive, that arrogant and that much of a douchebag you would take very real and serious issues that affect their lives and treat them as nothing more than a theoretical discussion for your own detached amusement!

posted by mediareport at 6:30 AM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


What DU said. Some links to this would have come in handy, for example, during the sweet potato vaginal suppository discussion.

I'm going to have to admit, there was a time, not so long ago, when I would have gladly bet everything that I would never put those five words together in exactly that order in my entire life.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:33 AM on August 14, 2009


I'm pretty sure these people won't be happy until straight white upper-class males are the only group "marginalized".

Am I doing it right?
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:35 AM on August 14, 2009


It's so trite how the author put the trademark sign next to "Marginalized People." I couldn't get very far into this highly aggrieved and unfunny rant.
posted by Edgewise at 6:43 AM on August 14, 2009


This thread is going to drive me insane. EVERYONE NEEDS TO TEll ME RIGHT NOW IF THEY ARE BEING SERIOUS OR NOT
posted by kathrineg at 6:44 AM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


The author at least is very serious.
posted by smackfu at 6:47 AM on August 14, 2009


The fact that Marginalized People is merely trademarked while Privileged People is a registered trademark is deeply offensive.
posted by Shepherd at 6:50 AM on August 14, 2009


And of course the concept was compleatly stolen from the 1969 book, "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, A Guide for the Compleat Idiot"
posted by bitslayer at 6:51 AM on August 14, 2009


You have to consider the source here. I mean, why did they write this page anyway? We need to find out who's funding these people.
posted by octothorpe at 6:53 AM on August 14, 2009


Hey I have a cool idea, this thread is about how to be a jerk and derail things, so I am going to be witty and original by pretending to derail it except it is not really a derail because I don't mean it except it really is a derail because a derail is as a derail does. Derail.

It is nice to have an organized list of ways that people can dismiss other people's concerns. Here are some of my favorites:

You can treat a concern as a complaint, framing the concerned person a whiner.

You can imply that something about our culture is natural or inevitable, thus it is foolish to try to change it ("every culture in history has always opressed women and hated foriegners, that can't just be a coincidence!")

Pretend that by saying offensive things you are being more real, or manly, or honest, than all those pretentious pansies who don't dare call the black people niggers.
posted by idiopath at 6:59 AM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure these people won't be happy until straight white upper-class males are the only group "marginalized".

Am I doing it right?


Yeah, I was disappointed not to see "But that leads to 'reverse' discrimination!" I know that the conversation is supposed to be with a Privileged Person who purports to be more sympathetic to Marginalised People than those who typically trot out this canard, but it's so ubiquitous I think it's worth inclusion.
posted by Beardman at 7:02 AM on August 14, 2009


@ idiopath ("Pretend that by saying offensive things you are being more real, or manly, or honest"): nthing this. Ooohh how I hate it. I have a friend who does it and it drives me up the fucking wall.
posted by Beardman at 7:04 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, somebody needs a nap!
posted by FuManchu at 7:09 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


The best way to win an argument is not to get in one in the first place. (sorry, I'm feeling Zen this morning)
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:09 AM on August 14, 2009


This is my favorite entry in the related "Complete Idiot's Guide" series.
posted by EarBucket at 7:13 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank goodness there's an indignant self-righteous person out there doing the hard work of pointing out the failings of others! We need more of that.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:19 AM on August 14, 2009


Yeah? Well, what if you're wrong?
posted by grubi at 7:24 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I first encountered this back during Racefail 09 (1st. iteration) this spring on Livejournal, so I'm glad this is up and ready for Racefail 10 next year. Or maybe Racefail 09-3 this fall...or in fifteen minutes, depending on how this thread turns out.
posted by happyroach at 7:26 AM on August 14, 2009


This led me to the Great Livejournal RaceFail of '09 which I find pretty interesting, especially as it confirms what I already knew about Teresa Hayden. Yay!
posted by waraw at 7:26 AM on August 14, 2009


"You're Arguing With Opinions Not Fact"

That's a derail? I don't think that word means what they think it means.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:31 AM on August 14, 2009


More comprehensive, better written, fewer needless &trade s and less smug superiority is Schopenhauer's 38 ways to win a argument. (and in book form).
posted by shothotbot at 7:40 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was disappointed not to see "But that leads to 'reverse' discrimination!" ...it's so ubiquitous I think it's worth inclusion. (Beardman)

You can always email the author of DfD. The author welcomes feedback on the introduction page.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:46 AM on August 14, 2009


If there is one thing that has never failed to make me unsympathetic towards anti-racism activists (they themselves, not necessarily their goals), it's anti-racism activists.
posted by silby at 7:57 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


And another thing: why are all unique, special snowflakes white?
posted by lalochezia at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


If there is one thing that has never failed to make me unsympathetic towards anti-racism activists (they themselves, not necessarily their goals), it's anti-racism activists.

See, I see something like this and now I don't know if you're purposely trying to parrot one of the derailments in the article or you sincerely feel that way.

ARGH
posted by kathrineg at 8:01 AM on August 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


This whole winning arguments via derail thing is approaching things from the wrong perspective.

Surely people of superior intellect will pre-empt dissent by trolling or take the high ground of rhetorical metacommentary. Shift your tactics; stop derailling.
posted by honest knave at 8:03 AM on August 14, 2009


Oh hey... it looks like race fail 09 has run its course.
posted by Kattullus at 8:09 AM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wow, that is an amazingly comprehensive history of racefail.
posted by kathrineg at 8:20 AM on August 14, 2009


"You've Lost Your Temper So I Don't Have To Listen To You Anymore"

Actually, I think this is a pretty good one and should be applied regularly to the Teabaggers, Deathers, and Fox news pundits. The next time O'Reilly snaps or Beck starts sobbing, everyone should just go, "Well, we're done wasting our time on you. Bye."

The world would be a better place.
posted by quin at 8:25 AM on August 14, 2009


Kumbaya!
posted by blucevalo at 8:34 AM on August 14, 2009


Wow, that is an amazingly comprehensive history of racefail.

As far as I can tell, it is impossible for anyone to summarize this thing. Even the attempted summaries end up saying "read these 19 long LJ posts".
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it is a lot of scifi writers with inflated senses of importance saying ignorant, racist stuff that makes people mad then getting mad that people are mad and then saying more ignorant, racist stuff

with bonus flounces/threats/enemy lists
posted by kathrineg at 8:42 AM on August 14, 2009


The next time O'Reilly snaps or Beck starts sobbing, everyone should just go, "Well, we're done wasting our time on you. Bye."

This already seems to be happening.
posted by hippybear at 8:42 AM on August 14, 2009


Oh, a flounce is when someone takes their ball and goes home, complete with a whiny post/post by proxy about how mean everyone is and how much they could have contributed so much more if everyone wasn't so mean!
posted by kathrineg at 8:44 AM on August 14, 2009


"You've Lost Your Temper So I Don't Have To Listen To You Anymore"

I think the realities of institutionalized racism give someone a lot more cause to be angry than, say, imaginary death panels
posted by kathrineg at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2009


Kattullus: Thanks for that; I had wondered what the "scorecard" was.
posted by TrishaLynn at 8:48 AM on August 14, 2009


Here you go, lalochezia.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:49 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're this close >|   |< to the point where a serious comment would be considered a derail...
posted by twine42 at 9:01 AM on August 14, 2009


Funny thing, if used appropriately and with caution in individual cases, some of these points can be valid at times. Other points are surefire willful obstructionism no matter when used. But, overall I think it's well done.

"Who Wins Gold in the Oppression Olympics?" is particularly funny to me, and I could have seen using it on both sides during last year's primary wars.
posted by edgeways at 9:15 AM on August 14, 2009


@katherineg:
See, I see something like this and now I don't know if you're purposely trying to parrot one of the derailments in the article or you sincerely feel that way.
I sincerely feel that way. Like, that's just me honestly reporting my reaction pretty much every time I've been confronted with the rhetorical brilliance of the anti-racist movement. It's almost as if putting people instantly on the defensive is likely to make them annoyed and unwilling to engage in a meaningful dialogue.
posted by silby at 9:19 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pretty much every time you've encountered an anti-racist activist they make you mad?

Hmm.

It's almost as if putting people instantly on the defensive is likely to make them annoyed and unwilling to engage in a meaningful dialogue.

Have you considered that some people might go on the defensive no matter what people say about race or racism?
posted by kathrineg at 9:26 AM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


The abandonment of reasoned discourse in favor of accusatory snark and the whole "you're either with us or oppressing us and if you're white you're oppressing us even if you're with us" are two of the things that have annoyed me in the past about the anti-racist movement (at least as it has made itself known to me; there may be less annoying elements out there). Also someone once said to me that "Jews are a kind of white people".
posted by silby at 9:37 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there really something called the "anti-racist movement?"

Honest question. I have an immense amount of respect for Civil Rights activists, who work to change specific injustices. Going around being an "anti-racist" sounds to me like those people at the WTO protests who say with a straight face that their goal is to "end greed."
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:40 AM on August 14, 2009


drjimmy11: Is there really something called the "anti-racist movement?"

So there is. It's origins as a movement seem to be in the Rock Against Racism movement, which started in the late 70's. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that a lot of activists are awfully proud of themselves and this goes as well for the anti-racist activists. That said, I feel that they're on the side of the angels in this one. There is a lot racism in modern society, whether casual, overt and institutional, and it is important that there are people who do bring it up.
posted by Kattullus at 9:55 AM on August 14, 2009


Going around being an "anti-racist"

So, you're... what? Racism-ambivalent?
posted by regicide is good for you at 10:20 AM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Good Christ. I'm glad I missed out on that. What a clusterfuck.

> There is a lot racism in modern society, whether casual, overt and institutional, and it is important that there are people who do bring it up.

Yup, and it's quite reasonable to be suspicious of the motives of people who mock or object to the activities of those who do bring it up. If there are any such objectors here, you might stop to consider, next time you find yourself annoyed by the people who keep bringing it up in what seem to you irrelevant places, how very much more annoying it is to be on the wrong end of the racial stick. (If you think racism is over and those people should just Get Over It, you need to go educate yourself.)
posted by languagehat at 10:55 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a recovered anti-racist activist and I think that this stuff is both utilitarian and hilarious.
posted by kalessin at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2009


Er, I should clarify. I am a former anti-racist activist, now recovered to what I feel is a more reasonable mode of interacting with our society's fucked up bias and discrimination issues.
posted by kalessin at 11:01 AM on August 14, 2009


This is also hilarious for the quote:

"Paul Di Filippio responded [with a long quote about heterogeneity, homogeneity, statistical genre population and with metaphors about fields and woods] and was roundly castigated for calling black people lettuce."
posted by kalessin at 11:11 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Going around being an "anti-racist" sounds to me like those people at the WTO protests who say with a straight face that their goal is to "end greed."

I can't say I see anything wrong with wanting to end racism or greed, but I think the main point is ending the practices that stem from these attitudes first, in the hopes that at some point in the distant future, the concepts themselves fade away. So while "ending racism" is not likely to happen anytime soon, there are racist practices that can and have been severely curtailed.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:35 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the context of Racefail09 this If You Won't Educate Me How Can I Learn seems to mean "I won't bother to explain why I find what you wrote offensive you should be able to guess." I blew a couple of days reading all the surviving Racefail posts after it came up in the context of another post. Then I read Blood and Iron to see if maybe the original poster to Bear's website might have had a point. There is no possible way a reasonable person could have construed the text to mean what she claimed it did. Racefail09 looks like a long, well constructed, troll.
posted by Tashtego at 11:39 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


@Tashtego, I'm starting to feel paranoiacally like what you say is true. I don't think it is, though. The anti-racist activist contingents do seem to mean sincerely that they're/we're being oppressed. The old dogmatic formulations that victims of oppression should not be expected to educate their oppressors, which started out, I think, on a firm philosophical ground turned into "I won't bother to explain why I find what you wrote offensive; you should be able to guess", which is NOT what it originally meant, and is not a good summary of the original point of the assertion.

I need to reassert (from other threads) that I am Elizabeth Bear's friend, so there is probably bias in here somewhere. From my perspective, and the reason I now no longer call myself an anti-racist nor participate in their group activism is that what I saw in RaceFail09 was a bunch of folks who were fighting the "good fight" asking Elizabeth Bear to do things that were frankly insulting and disloyal. And one of the reasons I am her friend is that she's fiercely loyal. I don't see the sense in asking honorable people who are doing work that can profit your cause to do things that they won't do. It only alienates them and pisses them off.

When I saw that happening, I felt I could not be a party to it.
posted by kalessin at 11:48 AM on August 14, 2009


Klessin,
It was with some trepidation that I posted the above comment because I am sure some people will think I am either endorsing racism or dismissing the feelings of the victims of it. I understand that a person who is subjected demeaning behavior or speech would not want to continually explain why they found it objectionable. That does not mean that they are privy to the thoughts or motivations of the other party. They can be mistaken in their interpretation of that behavior/speech/writing and their status does not make them the authority of the meaning of it. If they wish the other person to change something they have to talk about it. The gist of this list of derailments strikes me as a lazy, passive aggressive way to say, "I am right, you are wrong, and you are a bad person if you don't just agree."
posted by Tashtego at 12:00 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kalessin, sorry for omitting the 'a" in your name.
posted by Tashtego at 12:01 PM on August 14, 2009


It's cool dude.
posted by kalessin at 12:10 PM on August 14, 2009


Yeah, I saw this during RaceFail09. Useful in some contexts, totally counter-intuitive in others. It's true that some people will react defensively to any talk about race or racism, but that doesn't mean that isn't something to be said for communication that promotes mutual understanding and assumes good intentions. I get that not everyone wants to educate people all the time and that we have to make the same arguments over and over and over again, and that frustration is totally valid. But if you're going to take the time to talk about it, you might as well take the time to try and understand where the other person is coming from. Otherwise, why even bother?

I consider myself to be part of the "anti-racist movement" (if there is such a thing), but even I am sometimes frustrated with those that advocate strategies that effectively shutdown dialogue. That's no way to make change. It does suck to tread carefully and we shouldn't have to, but if we want to see change, we also can't resort to inflexible dogma.
posted by lunit at 12:14 PM on August 14, 2009


That being said, I support anything that snarks on asshats who aren't interested in taking the conversation about race and racism seriously.
posted by lunit at 12:16 PM on August 14, 2009


Kalessin, sorry for omitting the 'a" in your name.

No, no, Tashtego, you were right. You just left out K'lessin's apostrophe. They dropped that first "a" when he became a Dragonrider.
posted by not that girl at 12:45 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


@not_that_girl, That would be some trick, a dragon riding a dragon. I think you are confusing McCaffrey with LeGuin.
posted by kalessin at 12:51 PM on August 14, 2009


I saw a dragon riding a dragon once, and then later the mommy dragon had a baby dragon in her belly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:38 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


But if you're going to take the time to talk about it, you might as well take the time to try and understand where the other person is coming from. Otherwise, why even bother?

In the context of RaceFail, I saw a lot of people who were trying to communicate and educate. I don't think that you can say that they weren't.

That said, if someone says something harmfully (and perhaps willfully) ignorant that you've heard a million times, you don't always want to educate them. Sometimes you just want to mock them or irritate them or tell them to go read a book or whatever. Hence "The Daily Show" or any number of other forms of media.
posted by kathrineg at 2:21 PM on August 14, 2009


The most depressing book title I've ever seen. Ever.

Self-Esteem For Dummies

No lie.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:21 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Opposing racism is fine as long as it doesn't make me, a white man, uncomfortable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:49 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


There have been a number of huge blow ups involving race. Rather than treat them as a whole, this article breaks them down by race wank event.

J'adore the tone of the RaceFail summary pages at fanhistory.com. Dry, funny, distanced, measured - everything it looks like the RaceFail itself wasn't.

kathrineg: Pretty much every time you've encountered an anti-racist activist they make you mad?

Hmm.


Ha. Now *that* was well-played.
posted by mediareport at 5:19 PM on August 14, 2009


grapefruitmoon: Self-Esteem For Dummies - No lie.

I just *had* to check that out, and sure enough it's available...but for Jebus' sake don't buy it used, it'll just make you feel worse!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:27 PM on August 14, 2009


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