Sea lioning: In social media, pestering a target with unsolicited questions delivered with a false air of civility.
Via Chez Apocalypse.*
“Sea lioning” is a very recent neologism inspired by a September 19 cartoon, “The Terrible Sea Lion,” by David Malki, who blogs at Wondermark.
“This comic is the most apt description of Twitter you’ll ever see,” wrote Dina Rickman in The Independent (UK) in late September. By early October “sealion” (verb) was appearing in tweets, and on October 23 Malki proudly announced that “‘sea lion’ has been verbed.”
The context for Malki’s cartoon and the subsequent verbing is Gamergate, a controversy involving misogyny and harassment in video-game culture (and also, sometimes, ethics and video-game journalism). On October 27, the technologist and blogger Andy Baio wrote on Medium:
Anyone who’s mentioned the #Gamergate hashtag in a critical light knows the feeling: a swarm of seemingly random, largely-anonymous people descending to comment and criticize.
I’ve been using Twitter for eight years, but I’ve never seen behavior quite like this. This swarming behavior is so prevalent, it got a new nickname — “sea lioning,” inspired by David Malki’s Wondermark comic.
It’s possible to interpret Malki’s comic in more than one way, as commenter David Hopkins observed:
The most interesting thing about it to me is that it’s quite ambiguous to me which of the parties is supposed to be “in the wrong”. The general reception of the strip seems to be “oh yes, I recognise that archetype, sea-lioning is an obviously terrible thing to do”. But that’s not at all how I read it originally.
* In the Chez Apocalypse definitions, “gaslighting” is derived from the title of the 1944 George Cukor film Gaslight, in which the Ingrid Bergman character is psychologically manipulated by her husband, played by Charles Boyer; the verb officially entered the lexicon in a 1969 psychological textbook, but had been circulating for more than a decade. “Gish galloping” is “the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that their opponent cannot possibly answer or address each one in real time” (RationalWiki), more conventionally known as “spreading.” “Gish gallop” was coined in 1994 by Eugenie Scott, the director of the National Center for Science Education, and is named for creationist Duane Gish.