Recently Eric Anderson started a series on Darwinian Debating Devices, to which I submit the following contribution: “turnabout.”
KF has a great explication of this debating tactic at his website, which I summarize: This fallacy turns on blaming the victim by implying or asserting (a) moral equivalency through pretended equality of blame for the cycle of attacks; or (b) trying to give the false impression that the victim trying to defend himself is the one who started the quarrel.
Yesterday a long-term guest gave us a pristine example of the turnabout tactic. It started when william spearshake posted a comment noting that he was “no longer with us.’ As this is frequently the terminology used when a troll has been banned from the site, I added a note to the comment stating that william, not I, had posted the comment. I added: “We will miss him. As we said in one of our posts, he certainly provided us with a rich vein of materialist error to mine.”
DK called me a liar. He wrote: “This is bogus. WS would not have shouted like this.”
I took umbrage with being called a liar.
DK then went into full turnabout mode:
#1: “Indeed, I do understand that I questioned your veracity. People question other peoples’ veracity all the time, without the questioned person having a fit about it. Why are you so obsessed with establishing your honesty with disparagement of the questioner?”
#2: “in this instance you seemed relieved to have one of your recent perceptive critics out of your hair.”
#3: “Or is it your ambition to run a self-contratulatory echo chamber ad infinitum?”
Note how DK, caught in his outrageous and inexcusable behavior, tries to turn the tables by accusing his victim (i.e., me) of being the one in the wrong.
In subsequent comments I pointed out that he was lying if he says people don’t usually get upset when they are called liars. I noted that #2 was the exact opposite of the truth; I expressed regret that WS had left, not relief. Finally, I said #3 was ironic coming from a critic who has posted hundreds of comments on this site since 2006.
DK responded with the outrageous accusation that I had been “surveilling” him since 2006. [ The truth is that WordPress makes it easy to find out how many comments a poster had made and when he started posting.] DK ended his tirade with this: “Barry, have you no decency?” The sheer audacity of this turnabout tactic is breathtaking, and I have to admit that when I saw it I just sort of stared at my computer screen for a few minutes, slack jawed in astonishment at the scale of DK’s mendacity. I thought about posting a further defense and then thought better of it. I decided that reasonable people would see through DK’s tactics for themselves, and if they did not there was probably no help for them. I was gratified when StephenB posted the following summary of the exchange:
Barry, have you no decency?
Since DK keeps pushing it, it think we should revisit the events as they happened.
BA says that he will miss William Spearshake and the opportunity to expose his errors.
DK challenges Barry’s honesty and insinuates that he has other motives [*false charge #1]
Barry takes umbrage
DK shrugs it off by saying the people challenge other people’s honesty all the time.
Barry points out that no one likes to be called a liar
DK repeats the charge without a shred of evidence (It “seems” as if Barry was glad to “get WS out of his hair.”) [*False charge #2]
DK implies that Barry want to preside over a self-congratulatory echo chamber. [*False charge #3]
Barry issues a reminder that DK has been posting his objections here for nine years without interference.
DK ignores the refutation and characterizes Barry’s allusion to the written record as an indicator that Barry has been “surveilling” his activities. [*False charge #4]
Barry calls attention to DK’s false charges.
DK takes umbrage, arguing that what he did was no different than what Barry did. [*false charge #5]
It is difficult for me to wrap my head around the sheer vindictive nastiness of the false accusations. Even now at a day’s remove I am astonished and overwhelmed by his verbal violence. I don’t understand (and perhaps never will understand) why someone would, unprovoked, launch such a vicious verbal assault. But with this post I am trying to make a little lemonade; because I could hardly hope for a better illustration of the turnabout tactic.
Update: DK has apologized for his behavior. I consider the matter closed.