Not Quite Flipping the Script: Word Help!
April 26, 2014 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Wordsmith assistance. After reading this, I wondered is there a concise word or phrase to best describe a person or situation when Person B is hearing valid criticism, i.e., "You left the front door unlocked," and Person B's response is to not respond to that criticism and to instead point out a flaw of Person A (or anyone else), "Well, you never lock up your bicycle outside." It's kind of tit for tat, kind of flipping the script, kind of misdirection, kind of going on the attack, but I'm looking for something that concisely expresses when someone completely refuses to acknowledge criticism and instead looks for fault in anyone else, but ideally, the person who had the initial criticism. Ideas? The more elegant the better.
posted by kinetic to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Tu quoque.
posted by asterix at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

ad hominem attack
posted by htid at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2014

It's a combination red herring (changing the subject) ad hominem (attacking the interlocutor), and potentially the special ad hominem case of the tu quoque (if Person B is attempting to highlight hypocrisy rather than just change the subject to Person A's failings in general).
posted by valkyryn at 7:35 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

the ad hominem defense
posted by Dashy at 7:35 AM on April 26, 2014

Poisoning the well.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:57 AM on April 26, 2014

Ah, never mind. "Poisoning the well" has a temporal component; the ad hominem attack comes before, not after.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:59 AM on April 26, 2014

posted by oh yeah! at 8:31 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by cooker girl at 8:52 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tu Quoque is so close ("an argument that intends to discredit the opponent's position by asserting the opponent's failure to act consistently in accordance with that position. It attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it.") but I would love to find something that addresses these elements:

1: The person receiving the criticism does not in any way acknowledge the criticism and;
2: The person receiving the criticism goes on to criticize someone/anyone else in a completely unrelated area.

Imagine this conversation when I am speaking to one of my teachers about leaving campus during school instead of lunch duty:

Me: (first I say something nice and then...) Claire, it's expected that all staff spend the first ten minutes of every lunch period in the cafeteria with the students. I have noticed that you leave campus daily instead of doing this and I need you to adhere to this expectation or I will have to note this in your performance review, and you may be subject to disciplinary action.

Claire: Elizabeth parks her Hummer in the compact car space. Is she getting into trouble for that?
posted by kinetic at 8:59 AM on April 26, 2014

I don't think this is a "set phrase" in psychology, but deflective counterattack seems like an accurate, concise description.
posted by drlith at 9:01 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

What you describe is not quite projection, but it certainly shares some things in common: "Psychological projection is the act or technique of defending yourself against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in yourself, while attributing them to others."
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2014

Ignoratio elenchi, also known as irrelevant conclusion or fallacies of irrelevance?

"...the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may or may not be logically valid, but fails nonetheless to address the issue in question."

But somehow with implied aggression.
posted by kinetic at 9:17 AM on April 26, 2014

We call that smoke and mirrors around our place.

(We're rather visually oriented, I confess)
posted by Lynsey at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2014

I suppose this is a mixture of Deflection (not 'officially' considered one of the major defense mechanisms, but nonetheless used colloquially in psychological parlance), basic Anger/Frustration stemming from perceived injustice, and when the criticism of the other is invalid, Projection.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be one catchall word or phrase for the idea in English. It would be something like Quid Pro Quo Deflection or Boomerang Deflection

"Deflection – When you change the subject and focus on someone or something else, instead of speaking about yourself. For example, when someone is asking about your behaviors in the relationship and you change the subject and focus on the negative behaviors of your spouse instead."

"Projection is the misattribution of a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings or impulses onto another person who does not have those thoughts, feelings or impulses. Projection is used especially when the thoughts are considered unacceptable for the person to express, or they feel completely ill at ease with having them. For example, a spouse may be angry at their significant other for not listening, when in fact it is the angry spouse who does not listen. Projection is often the result of a lack of insight and acknowledgement of one’s own motivations and feelings."
posted by cotesdurhone at 11:12 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by rpfields at 4:19 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's a particularly passive-aggressive version of the red herring, "a seemingly plausible, though ultimately irrelevant, diversionary tactic".

The fact that it's also maddeningly passive-aggressive doesn't actually affect the species of fallacy. Pretty much every fallacy can be passive-aggressive or not depending on the specific way it's deployed.
posted by valkyryn at 6:57 AM on April 27, 2014

« Older Seductive pants for male objectification?   |   I want to rebuild my grandparents' house... in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.