Trolls will try to discredit arguments online with tangential requests for "proof!"
Sealioning is defined as:
Sealioning (also sea-lioning and sea lioning) is a type of trolling or harassment that consists of pursuing people with relentless requests for evidence, often tangential or previously addressed, while maintaining a pretense of civility and sincerity ("I'm just trying to have a debate"), and feigning ignorance of the subject matter. It may take the form of "incessant, bad-faith invitations to engage in debate", and has been likened to a denial-of-service attack targeted at human beings. The term originated with a 2014 strip of the webcomic Wondermark by David Malki, which The Independent called, "the most apt description of Twitter you'll ever see".
The term resonates with me, as during a guided tour boat ride in Alaska, the tour operator told us about sealions. They are fat, lazy, smell bad, and will take over a dock or marina if you let them. They will stuff themselves with so much fish as to deplete the fishing stock. They make an annoying, "a-hurk! a-hurk! a-hurk!" barking sound. They remind me of some humans, particularly the overweight "gamers" and online trolls, who patrol the Internet while in their underwear, looking to start arguments.
The original comic where this term was coined, illustrates how trolls can harass people for "facts" to backup their "claims" - all the time trying to make it seem like they are having a "civil discussion" and that the party being thus challenged is unhinged. The comic above, which I saw recently and motivated me to finish this post - is more succinct. The two men offer their opinions (which are, of course, wrong) as to whether it is a Bird or a Plane. But when the woman offers her opinion that it is Superman, of course, she has to "back up" her opinion with source material.
Fortunately, Superman comes and saves the day. That rarely happens in real life.
I wrote a long time ago about a posting a guy did online (I can't find my posting, buried under 5,000+ posts) where a guy exposed some kind of scam on his blog. Professional trolls inundated him, attacking his arguments and even him (the ad hominem attack). And he fell for it, feeling the need to "respond" to these comments on his blog rather than just deleting them. His original posting was buried under hundreds of comments, and as he tried to respond to each one, well, he started to look more and more unhinged.
The trolls won. They couldn't get him to take down the posting, but they could blunt its arguments by nit-picking and sealioning.
And that, in short, is why I don't have comments enabled on this blog. Some folks have asked me about this, and I tell them that if they feel strongly about it, to create their own blog (it takes minutes to do). But then again, since no one reads my blog anyway, why do they feel so strongly about it?
Sadly, since so many people today get their information from Tweets, Memes, and Facebook postings, there isn't a lot of critical thinking going on anymore. It is all about "owning" the other party by making a snarky comment that today is seen as "winning" the debate. And this goes back to pre-Internet days, when news organizations would reduce an hour-long debate to a five-second soundbite that would be re-played again and again on the evening news.
The Internet and Social Media have just taken this into high gear - and made everyman into a newsman. Cute quips and memes are considered "arguments" while reasoning is deemed "unsupported" unless backed up by "research."
"You need to do the research!" says the troll who watched an anti-vaxxer video. Going to medical school and working in pharmaceutical laboratories isn't deemed "research" anymore. Looking crap up on Google, is.
But again, the sealion demands proof while providing none of his own. Why people fall for this shit is beyond me.
And no, Superman won't save us. Other than reality eventually supplants fantasy, once it is too late.