Talk:Tone argument

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Cf. "shrill." However, I have often seen this term used to excuse hurling torrents of verbal abuse at an opponent. Such is the bottom of the internet. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 23:19, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Tone Policing[edit]

This actually can be expanded or made part of a larger article.

Tone policing is when an argument, or even a personal experience, or even EMPIRICAL DATA, is dismissed because the presenter has a discerned 'nasty tone' or is angry about the issue. Basically, it's an unrealistic equation of unemotional, 'neutral' writing and rationality; if a person speaks or posts angrily about something, even if it is a thing that should logically make anybody angry (say, the murder rate for transgender individuals, for example; that's rage-inspiring) if you want to talk about it you aren't allowed to be angry. Even worse is when a suppressed group is told that their anger at being treated like dirt 'hurts their cause' even if it they are speaking out in actual pain. While it's OK to call somebody out for being just an unpleasant person, using their anger as the only foot their argument stands on, or for harassing other people, it's not OK to step on other people for not being perfect Vulcan philosophers of their pet cause. In reality it's often used as escape button, 'You are too angry so I won't talk to you.'

It's kind of like a modification of 'I THOUGHT THIS WAS RATIONAL WIKI!' except instead of trying to end the discussion with 'you guys are nuts,' the escape hatch is 'you guys are too angry.' ±Knightoftldrsig.pngKnightOfTL;DRgoing galt: the literal crazy train 13:36, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

I am guilty of this sin. I am currently chewing out a guy on a different website because I find his writing obnoxious and self-righteous. I'm not trolling, because I mean every word of it. I'm so fucking sick and tired of people right now. --TheLateGatsby (The end of the dock ) 16:44, 2 July 2013 (UTC)
I gotta be honest, the traditional definition of "troll" doesn't cover the fact that most trolls are sincere in their beliefs. It does kinda make you wonder what outcome they expect though -- when Zander Borthwick was infesting the Facebook page, he once up and said he expected to change minds, but of course it didn't work (at least partly because Zander's world view was most diplomatically described as "insubstantial"). Honestly, I think most trolls are on some kind of crusade. EVDebs (talk) 23:31, 2 July 2013 (UTC)
I do not agree that most trolls are sincere in their beliefs. The traditional idea of an internet troll was that they were cynically anoying people for the fun of it. What we are seeing is "definition creep" whereby anybody who is somewhat annoying is now a "troll".
I don't even think that "tone troll" is a good phrase. What is being described is a bad way of arguing - not trolling.--Coffee (talk) 06:21, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree that the definition of troll seems to have morphed from "someone who is deliberately misrepresenting themselves to annoy people" To "someone who annoys people". Overall I am ambivalent to the change, except that it means that sometimes internet policies are misinterpreted as the old definition of troll is much more specific than the new. Here at RW this means that people are often blocked for being "trolls" when they actually don't meet the original criteria. Tielec01 (talk) 06:52, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

How about writing something on "grammar policing"? We've all met that irritating grammar nazi who immediately refuses to acknowledge any points you might have had based on the fact that your grammar and spelling are off. When you then tell them you're not an English native speaker they just retort with "English is the language of the internet, deal with it". Same thing, eh. Nullahnung (talk) 14:56, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

Can I just point out[edit]

While it is stupid to say that angry/mean/whatever = wrong argument, that does not mean you should go around being a complete fucking dickhead just because you are (or at least think you are) right. I mean, let's face it, one is probably not going to actually take in an argument that is essentially "fucking [argument] fucking proves [conclusion], you fucking shitty piece of pussy-fucking, tit-licking, cock-humping, anus-snorting, fist-swallowing, cunty cunt cunt cunty cunt faggotini monster moron idiot fuck braindead blood-filled subhuman antithesis of everything that is not the epitome of a really shitty shit! GAAAAAAAHTDFBUTGYRESSESGHNCARJBDSIDIDYOURMUMYOUFYCKINGSLUTMANWOMANPENISVAGINAPIRNOFUCKDILDOWEEDCRACKBLAZEIT420YOLOSWAGHASHTAGMLGPRONOSCOPE360HEADSHOTWRECKEDYEAH1!1!!!!" So, anyway, while I think it shouldn't be used to say an argument is bad, it is better to just not be an arrogant bastard in the first place. MESSIAH OF DOOM The epitome of Gods and Men alike Dolan.png 14:36, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

jon stewart rally[edit]

what d'yall think about the big stewart/colbert rally of 2012 or whenever that was. the one where they made the claim that all sides need to lay down the extremism in order for the national conversation to return to civility. bill maher had a beef with this stance: any merit in mentioning how center-left guys like stewart et al. call for balance? EauDeCologne (talk) 21:38, 22 August 2014 (UTC)


It seems to me that a substantial number of the objections one hears to Dawkins are are tone arguments.

But our article says: "It is generally used by a tone troll against opponents lower on the privilege ladder, as a method of positioning oneself as a Very Serious Person."

It's unlikely that Dawkins is lower on the "privilege ladder" than most people who criticize him. I know our article says "generally" but is the statement really generally true?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:34, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

Intersectionality = multiple privilege ladders. In this case, the lower social privilege afforded to atheism - David Gerard (talk) 23:22, 4 September 2014 (UTC)


Out of curiosity, may I ask what the issue was with the nature of my edit? Noir LeSable (talk) 17:38, 5 September 2014 (UTC)

Best guess: the tone was wrong for a summary. Ironic. Ikanreed (talk) 18:53, 5 September 2014 (UTC)

"You Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar"[edit]

Being needlessly offensive is counterproductive self-gratifying bile ejaculating.

And, far more often than not, casting about for validation of offensiveness as needful is really just giving in to the urge to validate one's tendency or authority to lash out. Folks are wont to rationalize emotional lashing out at others. And often they don't even consider the harm of needless offensiveness, but instead think that so long as they're "playing by the rules" of being rational, flinging contempt is allowed. And this article is in greater part asserting this is the case. This article is half a monument to rationalization in service of emotional urge. The extent of awareness of the benefit of calm, not-needlessly-offensive discussion is evident in only a single sentence fragment couched in mitigation of that fragment. Wow.

If it's accepted among those who exalt reason that emotionality hampers clear thinking and progress, why is so much effort spent on validating freer reign of offensiveness, that which exacerbates emotional response? It's hard, emotionally, to refrain from lashing out with contempt. I sympathize. But if you hold as one of your goals encouraging others to think differently and see reasonably, you would do better to leave off the needless offense. Don't you agree?

What I think is needed is a distinction between kinds of offensiveness. Then we can discuss which kinds are needful. Then we can encourage or discourage the kinds as suits our intellectual, rather than our emotional, goals.

Thanks for your concern! - David Gerard (talk) 20:47, 23 July 2015 (UTC)


...Powell in his Desert Island Discs interview (there is a podcast of it) said that Edward Heath did not like the 'tone' of #that# speech and the use of 'tone' was significant as Heath was a musician.

Related or different usage? (talk) 15:33, 16 October 2015 (UTC)


Right or wrong, this is not what Raymond means by "kafkatrapping" in his essay. At all. He says it's the rhetorical claim "Your refusal to recognize your racism/sexism etc. mean you really are racist/sexist etc.", with some variations on that theme. So again, that can certainly be criticized but I don't see what it had to do with how kafkatrapping is defined on the page.Mcc1789 (talk) 20:29, 23 March 2016 (UTC)

You need to spend more time arguing with people who think that's an argument. It's a tone argument on steroids - David Gerard (talk) 20:48, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
I guess it's another term whose meaning is now completely different from the original.Mcc1789 (talk) 02:49, 23 May 2016 (UTC)
Insofar as "the original" is the view from inside ESR's head, and the article describes how it looks from the outside, i.e. your answer is not even wrong - David Gerard (talk) 11:28, 23 May 2016 (UTC)
Well that wasn't clear to me from the article, so I'm not sure how my answer's "not even wrong". I've added his definition for clarity.Mcc1789 (talk) 02:29, 7 August 2016 (UTC)
Is it only me that sees the absurdity of having the Kafka Trap entirely dismissed by ad-hominem against the person who coined the term, compounded by an actual Kafka Trap of the form "pointing out my manipulative, deceptive argument for my previous accusation against you only constitutes evidence of you being stupid (and presumably therefore also guilty of the thought-crime I'm accusing you of in the first place)"? Were the boot on the other foot, and this tactic were being abused 20 years ago by creationist/climate-denial dogmatists, would there seriously be no acknowledgement of the snake-like nature of this approach? Aphirst (talk) 09:00, 6 February 2019 (UTC)
yes, it's only you, which is why you're answering a discussion from 2 1/2 years ago - David Gerard (talk) 14:57, 6 February 2019 (UTC)
My old comment was a load of rubbish. To be honest I don't even understand it any more. A lot's changed in the last two years for me. Aphirst (talk)
I think you're doing this term a disservice. While you will readily admit that things like "sealioning" are real and undisputable practices, with "kafkatrapping" I'm getting the impression that the article is very dismissive of it, as in "some old wacko got butthurt that he got called a racist, denied it, but called one regardless because he probably is one". Look, many people these days are going to call you a racist these days for the most innocuous of opinions outside of the acceptable woke rhetoric, and obviously you are allowed to not appreciate the suggestion. Kafkatrapping is the insistence that you're racist regardless and that your denial somehow corroborates it - used as a rhetorical tool to shame you into refusing to continue the discussion. Basically a shut down and shame scheme. (talk) 16:31, 16 July 2021 (UTC)
And what have you been called racist for? ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 17:17, 16 July 2021 (UTC)

The fuck?[edit]

The quote at the top is a terrible example of the tone argument as defined in this article, which is dismissal of an argument based on the tone in which it was expressed. But I don't think it needs to be pointed out that "the fuck" is not an argument of any kind. Cornucopia (talk) 03:52, 29 July 2016 (UTC)

Feel free to replace it with a better one. But that kind of thing actually happens. It isn't really necessary to type up a detailed refutation of some PRATT every time someone repeats it. So someone posts "Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist!", someone responds by saying that's stupid, and then the original poster or others berate the respondent for name-calling. Many cranks love to try sidetracking an argument into discussions over tone, attitude, wording, etc. to distract from their bad arguments (and so they can feed their persecution complex). --Ymir (talk) 04:24, 29 July 2016 (UTC)
Undoubtedly true. I think the problen is the unspecified "bigoted statement" especially sinced "bigoted" is ridiculously misused to mean any opinion that someone thinks disadvantages some "marginalised" group (which often equates to "any disagreement with leftwing ideology"). But if it's meant to mean "a totally and obviously irrational and moronic statement" then I agree. Cornucopia (talk) 04:50, 29 July 2016 (UTC)
So you don't like the ... tone? - David Gerard (talk) 08:02, 29 July 2016 (UTC)


Can we at least have *some* recognition that there are valid and invalid uses of the term? On the one hand, the emotional content of a statement doesn't affect the factual accuracy of said statement. However, the form I inevitably see the phrase "tone troll(ing)" used is the following:

Person on left: [assertion]

Person on right: I disagree because X.

Person on left: Fuck off and die alone you dickless neckbeard piece of racist homophobic misogynistic diseased hippopotamus rectum.

Person on right: ...okay, wow, that was needless.

Person on left: TONE TROLL! Therefore I am right about everything and I win.

Of course, this makes me a "concern troll" and immediately invalidates everything I say for exactly the same reason, and I'm probably writing this inbetween bouts of murdering transwomen of color. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs

On talk pages, please sign your comments using four tildes (~~~~) or by clicking on the sign button: SigButt.png on the toolbar above the edit panel. You can also indent successive talk page comments using one more colon (:) for each line. Thank you. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 13:19, 21 December 2016 (UTC)
The article appears to say what you're asking for, though with not as much straw - David Gerard (talk) 20:05, 21 December 2016 (UTC)

When the Argument Itself is All "Tone"[edit]

I understand why tone-policing is a fallacy when used to dismiss a logical and empirical argument not by addressing the arguments' merits but by attacking the way it was presented. However, what if there is no logical argument to be found and all that's being expressed by the person is a "hateful" tone?

For example, I witnessed the other day a person online arguing that Ellen DeGeneres's tweet of a Photoshopped picture depicting her riding Usain Bolt wasn't racist. In response, a group of people (some black) told this person that she was anti-black and a white supremacist. This person pointed out how reactionary and absurd that accusation was and how the group were being bullies instead of addressing her arguments, and then she was accused of "tone-policing" black people. And on an anecdotal basis, this is the most common way I see the term "tone-policing" used.

Is it tone-policing when there is no empiricism or logic to the argument and it's dismissed on the grounds that the person is lashing out emotionally with no substance? This wouldn't be a case of style over substance. It would be a case of, "You have no substance and to boot your style is irrational and inflammatory." I feel like under the "Exceptions" tab this is a very important distinction to make and should be added. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs

As I understand it[edit]

The tone argument fallacy is as often misunderstood as the ad hominem fallacy.

To use ad hominem as an example; most people seem to think that "ad hominem" means "it's an a priori logical fallacy to make any inferences about a person's character". This is not what the "ad hominem" fallacy is about, though.

The logical fallacy of ad hominem is only committed if you infer something about a claim based on the person making it — but not the other way around!

The ad hominem fallacy, in other words: inferring that a claim is wrong because the arguer is an idiot. That's a fallacious inference, yes — the genetic fallacy also comes in to play here. From a rhetorical standpoint, inferences like these may also amount to both poisoning the well and the appeal to motive.

What is not inherently fallacious, however, is to infer that: the arguer of a claim is an idiot because the claim is wrong. That's not fallacious.

You being wrong all the time may or may not lend credence to the inference that you are an idiot — there's certainly no law of logic preventing this from being possible, a priori.

Claim X does not become invalid based on the protest "but the arguer is an idiot!" — that would be an instance of the ad hominem fallacy. However, X might be wrong for other, valid reasons. And the fact that someone has repeatedly been making idiotic claims may indeed be an inductive ground for atleast making the case that the arguer is a moron (vague as that term is — but that's another discussion).

Now, assuming idiocy could be proven — all we know it's not a priori impossible — the fact of someone being a moron may not be used to counter any of their claims, as that would — again — constitute the ad hominem fallacy.

Now then — a similar scenario of confusion seems to unfold with the tone argument.

Pointing out that an argument has a poor tone is not fallacious. Infering things about the arguer based on the content of the arguer's remarks — see above — is not a priori fallacious, either. Reacting powerfully to a perception of poor tone is not inherently fallacious, either. Making value judgements based on tone is not fallacious, either. Indeed, all of these things are the domain of rhetoric, not logic. This stuff is about emotions and psychology, not logic.

All that logic states in this context is the fact that: protesting the tone of claim X is not a valid refutation of claim X.

So, does this mean that we have to submit to accepting disgusting phrasings of certain points (true or untrue)? Nope — the principle of charityWikipedia in fact prevents us from doing so. Why? Because the same principle demands that we "upgrade" the tone of all claims to the clearest, fairest and most truthful that we can think of.

Note that this same principle also demands that even the arguments of an idiot be treated as if not idiotic. The principle also reaffirms what I write above about the ad hominem fallacy.

And if you think someone's tone is offensive, then that just means that the impetus is on you to reconstruct the argument fairly in a way that preserves its points without preserving its baggage of nasty rhetoric (or of any rhetoric, for that matter). The principle of charity means that tone cannot ever be a problem of logic per se, just "problems" of rhetoric and psychology.

All logic maintains is that the tone used by you — and the tone percieved by anyone else — are both irrelevant to the truth value of a claim.

You have to reconstruct arguments in order to understand them. When you reconstruct arguments, you have to shave off the gunk per the principle of charityWikipedia.

Thus, to logic, tone never becomes a factor — and if you refute the claims or refuse going through the mandated process of reconstruction with reference to the nasty rhetoric you'd have to wade through by doing so, then that's your problem, and you refusing the play by the rules — nothing more. Problem solved, as far as logic is concerned. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 16:29, 25 December 2016 (UTC)

Also, see a 90 second example of the principle of charity here. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 16:48, 25 December 2016 (UTC)