Comparing apples and ottomans: Topic Diversion

A friend criticized Mike Pence on Facebook the other day. Most of the responses were what you’d expect, until this one:

“But Harvey Weinstein!”

That person – let’s call them Douchecanoe – kept harping about Weinstein’s wrongs as a response to a criticism of Pence.1

This kind of topic diversion happens in political, religious, and relationship discussions, and is a huge red flag in any of them.

Topic Diversion is a tactic where a criticism or critique is responded to by a true, but irrelevant fact.

Because the person using topic diversion is saying a true thing, it can give the appearance that they’re “right”, or make it harder to refute the argument, or just simply move the discussion away from the thing they don’t want to talk about.

REASONABLE PERSON: “Our roommate acts oddly toward me.”
DOUCHECANOE: “But they do all the things on their part of the chore list!”
RP: “Yes, I know, but…”
DC: “If they do everything on the chore list, why are you complaining?”
BACKGROUND: ROOMMATE stabs nails into Voodoo doll of RP.

In such a situation, if you think the other person is still acting in good faith, you can acknowledge their point while still focusing on what was originally brought up.

RP: “I hear your point that they do all their chores. We can talk more about that later. Before we talk about that, I want to discuss the Voodoo doll she’s holding over my head.”

Pointing out the redirection may help you get the conversation back on track. What it will also do is let you know how intentional that redirection was.

If the other person/people won’t address your concerns and keep doing this kind of topic redirection, that’s a huge red flag and an indication that they’re working to “win”, not to reach a resolution.

1 He later said it was awful to compare the two men’s actions, even though he was the one who did so, FFS.

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