What exactly is sealioning?
It’s a false pretense of an honest debate, it’s very common in social media and basically a sub-set of trolling.
Basically the troll constantly peppers the victim with seemingly sincere requests for further discussion, further evidence, further reasoning without any desire to actually engage in a good-faith conversation. They’re just trying to pester and annoy the victim to the point of frustration. If at any point the victim seeks to leave the cycle of debate the troll will declare victory, they they are actually the genuine “thinker” and that the victim was the troll or fool or wrong.
Maybe the original cartoon will help: [http://wondermark.com/1k62/](http://wondermark.com/1k62/)
It’s being surface level civil while demanding that their questions be answered, and to a certain extent, avoiding owning up to an opinion by “just asking questions”
Here’s an (imperfect but real-life) example: A person in a subreddit asked “Is it sketchy if a guy in his 50s is dating a woman in her 20s?” And I posted a comment saying, “It’s sketchy. That’s not the same as wrong, but yeah it’s sketchy. It’s a yellow flag for sure.”
And somebody who was not OP commented, saying, “What’s your source? What studies did you base this on?”
I replied that there’s often a power imbalance between older men and younger women that can be exploitative.
“Do you have proof for that? You are making baseless claims! As the person who is making claims, you bear the burden of proof.”
I asked, do you think these relationships are generally healthy? Is that your experience?
“I’m not the one making claims! I have made no claims of any sort, and bear no burden of responsibility. YOU are the one who brazenly accused these people of having an exploitative relationship. YOU are the one who has judged them guilty without so much as a shred of evidence. I’m only asking for you to provide any evidence–any at all–that this person is doing wrong. And if you have none, then your conscience must direct you to desist. And may I be so bold as to suggest you mind your own business rather than making baseless accusations?”
In my book, this is sealioning. It was an aggressive form of sealioning, but note the “I’m just asking for evidence! I’m just asking you to bear the burden of proof for your claims, which is established need in our society!” flavor of it.
Wait, is this what the song sea Lion by sage Francis is about?
Its where you attempt to “win” an argument by drowning out the other side’s arguments by repeated demands for more evidence of their statements. It’s a disingenuous form of debate – on the surface it appears legit, but no matter what argument – with or without supporting evidence – you make they just demand additional ‘proof’. But while being civil and “just wanting to have an intellectual debate”.
Its like anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers. “Well what proof do you have that vaccines work” so you show a peer reviewed study or something from the CDC to which they reply “well how do you know THATs legit? More proof!”…. to which the answer is … uh.. the entire academic community and the whole body of scientific knowledge? Since you can’t succinctly summarize _that_ in a paragraph on Facebook, they point to that as an inability to back up the claim that vaccines work.
I think the quote from the Wikipedia entry says it best: ” has been likened to a denial-of-service attack targeted at human beings” – you spend all your time/energy in trying to throw legitimate sources of information at them, but they’re just gonna ignore it anyway and demand more.
[It comes from a Wondermark cartoon by David Malaki.](http://wondermark.com/1k62/)