Sealioning is a type of polite, persistent trolling, in which the sealioner endlessly asks, in a civil manner, for more information and evidence.

The term comes from a strip of the webcomic Wondermark by David Malki. In the comic a character in passing mentions that she does not like sea lions, only to have a large sea lion confront her and demand reasons for her dislike... following her home and politely pestering her night and day in an honest attempt to understand her prejudice. The original comic can be found here.

This is a common enough sort of trolling, but no one had come up with a good word for it yet -- so they made one up. Sealioning is any case in which a person claims an honest desire to understand another person's viewpoint, but is overbearing in their insistence that the person single-handedly explain the issue in detail, with no real evidence that they are learning anything.

This is perhaps a comparatively new form of trolling, because in Real Life the person asking pestering questions is then required to sit around and listen to the answers. Text-based communication allows one to skim and respond without having to be present for the time of composition, without fully processing the response, and often without social consequences for appearing dumb. If you find yourself talking to a sealion, the internet solution is to send a link to further reading, with a polite comment along the lines of "this explains it much better than I can". Then be ready to ignore them, because if they are really a sealion, that won't work.

The term first gained popularity during GamerGate, in which this tactic was frequently used to troll and waste opponents time and energy. It has since gained fairly widespread usage among people who spend way too much time on the internet, to the point where accusations of sealioning can be used to trollishly dismiss valid questions.

A more extreme form of badgering with accusing questions is sometimes referred to as monstering.

»Monstering. Fine old journalistic art. Like kung fu. [...] It's the art of abusing people. Of ambushing them with questions, following them with questions, hounding them with questions, driving them to their fucking graves with questions. It's sort of like being a photographer, except we've never yet killed any royalty doing it. Yet. Good things come to those who wait.«
Warren Ellis, via Spider Jerusalem

I am obliged for once to disagree with my learned colleague; sealioning is not trolling, at least not in any negative sense. Perform this experiment in your own home: read the comic. Mentally substitute »blacks«, »Jews«, »Communists«, »women« for the sea lion. Does it still look reasonable? It kind of doesn't, does it? The persistent querent actually seems to have sanity and justice on his side against an extremist maniac? In fact, even desiring the extinction of literal sea lions is pretty reprehensible when you think about it!

Of course the sea lion is a metaphor, but it's a metaphor for something just, unjustly derided. Indeed the label of »sealioning« is used exclusively by a kind of authoritarian, not to say incipient totalitarian, who wants to get rid of legitimate criticism of their own despicable values, especially when the objects of their hatred are the ones criticizing. But of course, even if these objects »learn« nothing — and really, why should they, what on Earth requires someone to learn about the reasons someone else wants him eradicated, for all love? — they are totally justified in driving their enemies into their fucking graves with questions.

After all, if it's war between you and me, well and good, but don't expect me not to fight.


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