Thursday, April 16, 2009

Silencing Mechanisms

  1. Bursting into tears during a rational discussion and claiming that your opponent's valid point that was neither a personal attack nor overly-confrontational is really hurting your feelings. This is manipulative and generally a way to avoid either responding to their point or conceding that their claim was compelling. (I realize this one may be a bit controversial...)
  2. Accusing your antagonist of being politically correct as a way to avoid acknowledging the ignorance or hate or privilege behind your words that your antagonist has just pointed out.
  3. Attributing the claims of another participant in the discussion to emotion or hormones in order to avoid addressing them.


  1. My only thought is....

    .... what prompted this post? Out of all the things in the multiverses that could have been posted upon...?

  2. Anonymous4/17/2009

    You forgot one. Calling others right-wing-nuts or ignorant racists as Janeane Garofalo did when referring to the tea party protestors.

  3. @ Anonymous

    ...or a bleeding-heart-liberal or a left-wing-wacko or an out-of-touch-elitist...

  4. Steven,

    I actually talk with my critical thinking students about this all the time, since many of the fallacies are also silencing mechanisms. But #1 has always irritated me, and it happened to a friend of mine in a class the other day, so I've been thinking about it and schemin' on compiling a list of silencing mechanisms. The issue, of course, is that the tears may be genuine and simply based on a misinterpretation of what you said. In that case it's not an attempt to manipulate, but still results in silencing.

    Also, I'm just really invested in constructive dialogue, and it pisses me off when people take an obstructionist stance, so I think it should be pointed out each and every time.

  5. Gynormica4/17/2009

    On that note, I've always thought false dilemmas are often used as silencing mechanisms when two unsavory options are offered because it does serve to end the discussion.

  6. ...unless you're smart enough to identify it as a false dilemma, choose a third option, and move on with the discussion. That's what we were told to do in the critical thinking class I took.