How to Spot and Deal with a Sea Lion

I have been on a rampage for more than a month now! And during this span of time, I have been relentlessly baited by people (mostly affluent white men in tech) to engage in some inane debate on the current state of things.

What is a "Sea Lion", you ask?

A Sea Lion is one who intentionally attempts to rile up someone who is fighting for a cause in public by baiting them with questions that could easily be answered via search engine query, taking another look at the original post, or by "scrolling up" in the thread.

Sea Lions are known to play the "ignorance" card and claim to not see the issue at hand (i.e. dismissing the existence of racism, sexism, ageism, etc.). A famous line they enjoy throwing around is, "I don't see race or color."

They mostly run on the desire to engage one in a pointless "debate" and thrive on flexing condescension, attempting to appear "more intelligent" and "better than" their targeted victim-- usually an outspoken Black Indigenous Person of Color.

TL;DR: This comic by Wondermark should sum one up quite nicely:

How do I spot a Sea Lion?

Look for a post (or even write one yourself) that specifically calls out white men in tech/tech bros on their bullshit.
Within an hour of posting, there will usually be at least one Sea Lion who thought it necessary to comment with their shitty opinion.

If you do not respond to the Sea Lion's comment, someone else will reply to the Sea Lion's post, refuting their claim and shutting down said shitty opinion. The Sea Lion will usually respond with a ridiculous question. Most often it will relate to the obvious current state of the landscape.

These Sea Lions were the ones who established this system, reaping the benefits, rendering them blind to their inherent privilege.

Some examples in the wild:

A fun line they like to use is, "Show me the evidence/proof/stats" etc.

They try to turn it around on you by asking you to define what terms mean to you:

Or they goad you into attempting to "enlighten" them.
Fun fact: they're not listening nor are they willing to.

How do I deal with a Sea Lion?

It is best to not engage, but if you want, you can have a ton of fun throwing their bullshit right back at them.

Here are 3 ways to directly deal with a Sea Lion:

  • The Boomerang
  • The Name and Shame
  • The Slam Dunk^tm

The Boomerang

Partially an intentional misnomer, this method usually riles up the older set of Sea Lions. Answer their replies with something short and sweet to show you really don't care for their opinion.

In the past, I have used "lol ok" or "k" or terse neutral responses.

The Name and Shame

Outright call them out on their bullshit. Be sure to take a few screenshots of the incident, Quote Tweet, and attach the image of the screenshot in case they take the usual coward's way out: they either delete their Tweet or their entire account.

If you want to employ a modicum of mercy, you can make a new post, attach the screenshot, cover their name and profile pic with a clown face sticker.

In this case, no punches were pulled.

The Slam Dunk^tm

Look: most of these Sea Lions are just out to troll and take us down. They think themselves clever, articulate, and always right.

There always exist several fatal flaws in their logic. You must find the flaw, and you have to exploit the hell out of it.

In this example, he posted tweets that obviously make him out to be a racist bigot:

He tried to play the victim card by citing his experience, to which I challenged him to think about his situation if he were not white.

Sometimes, the attempts to dunk are futile.

Sometimes, you don't affect the Sea Lion at all, and that's okay.

In this next example, this Sea Lion really tried to twist my words and intentions by first posting screenshots of an incident with context taken out.

I replied with the post that was missing. My proof checked out, and his didn't.

Since I knew the telling signs of a Sea Lion, I refused to answer his request for more context, and instead, strip him of willful ignorance.

He then claims that he has no idea what I was talking about. To which I then call them out on another attempt at further bullshit.

The Sea Lion will either block you or continue to feign incomprehension. At this point, you must stop replying to the original thread. If you wish, you can proceed to either blocking or employing the Name and Shame method and eviscerate the Sea Lion by breaking down step-by-step why he is wrong.

Even though this didn't resolve much, at least the community is now aware of this Sea Lion.

I do have a warning: enacting any of these methods upon a Sea Lion may result in them claiming victory, but in reality, they just made themselves look like an even bigger asshole.

The most important asset you will need, though, is a group of true allies and friends who will back you up no matter what. Not just back you up, but also keep you accountable and call you out on your own bullshit.

What are some ways you deal with Sea Lions?

Thank you for reading!!

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Spicy. Very spicy.