Disagreement and Derailment

by johnathanknight

Has this ever happened to you?

A group of folks are talking online about a subject you find interesting, so you read what they have to say.  Let’s say, for example, they’re talking about the taste of ice cream.  As the shape of their opinions begin to take form, you realize that you disagree with the group consensus.  For some reason they don’t like the taste of ice cream, but boy, you sure do.  So, naturally, you say, “Gosh, I disagree with you on that.”

Then there’s a pause.  Oddly, it seems the wave of agreement isn’t used to being challenged, and a little moment of stillness floats by as everyone takes in your apparent audacity.  Then it starts.  One of them lets out a gasp.  “You’re a troll!”

Others point fingers.  “He’s derailing!  Oh my god, he’s derailing!”

I ask because I’ve had this experience, not specifically with ice cream, but with varied topics, more than once, and always with the same bunch of nitwits and activists.  And by activists, I don’t mean the bold noble types who used to stand in front of tanks to stop wars.  I mean the poorman version, the kind who pat themselves on the back for sneering at anyone who isn’t PC enough.  Yeah, those assholes.

Anyway.  When disagreement = derailment, there’s a major problem with discourse.

It worries me.  I worry that too many folks in the world are conversing this way.  I’m beginning to fear that accusations of groupthink and thought policing are more realistic than polemic.

Derailing.  It’s when someone changes the actual topic of the conversation.  And if, in those conversations, I was legitimately derailing, it must mean I misunderstand the topic.  We weren’t actually talking about anything remotely close to the taste of ice cream.  No.  Instead, we were talking about: “In What Ways Does The Group Agree?”

Which is fine for the participants, I suppose, but it’s not a topic I want any part of.  It’s a conversation built for morons.