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Over at This Is Thin Privilege, we’ve been getting a lot of people objecting to our handling of trolls by insisting, “They were just asking a question!” And a lot of trolls who insist that we must answer whatever question they’ve come up with this time, because we owe it to them, or it’s the polite thing to do, or whatever the hell else. This is, of course, bullshit.

What they really want is for us to accept the premise of their questions, because the premise is that fat is bad and fat people are bad. There is no way to give them a response they will accept as an answer to the question unless it accepts the premise.

Don’t know what I’m talking about?

Sort of the classic example is the question, “Have you stopped beating your dog yet?” You can’t answer yes without accepting the premise that you used to beat your dog, and you can’t answer no without accepting the premise that you not only have been beating your dog, you’re still doing it. The only way to get out of it is to say, “What the fuck are you talking about, you complete shit, I have never beaten my dog, how dare you say such a thing?” We call this rejecting the premise of the question.

A little more directly applicably, trolls ask things like, “Given that being fat is completely unhealthy and places a horrible strain on the health care system, how can you justify being fat?” They want us to just grant that being fat is unhealthy and puts a strain on the health care system, when it doesn’t. That’s their premise, though, and the only way to reject that premise is to address that. So we say, “What bullshit, being fat is not automatically unhealthy, and so it doesn’t place a strain on the health care system, and anyway we don’t need to justify being fat any more than we need to justify being short.” And then they scream that we haven’t answered their question, they deserve an answer, we haven’t been polite enough. (This attack almost always comes with a side order of tone argument.)

And then other people jump in and tell us that we shouldn’t assume they were being horrible, they were just asking a question, there’s nothing wrong with asking a question, how dare we say there is.

This, obviously, is more bullshit. When the premise of the question is that fat is bad, and fat people are bad and deserve to be treated badly, then the question is not “just a question,” the question itself is a statement of bigotry and is harmful. The entire idea that there’s never anything wrong with asking a question, and that a question that doesn’t openly use bad language is automatically polite, is nonsensical. The question itself is damaging and insulting, and treating it as if it is a “legitimate” (people keep using that word; I do not think it means what they think it means) question is accepting its premise and does its own damage.

Insisting that these questions deserve to be treated as innocent questions accepts the premise as a valid one, and reinforces fatphobia. Period.

ETA: Oh, this is too perfect. I took the time to dissect a question the trolls were just insisting we hadn’t really answered well enough, and another of the regular trolls came back with this oh-so-eloquent response:

Stfu and stop all the “Intro to Fat Identity for Social Change” jargon, gain some interaction skills, and rid yourself of the assumption that u can avoid tough questioning just because you have a FAQ — ain’t nobody got time to sift through that shit.

This is precisely what I am talking about. We have answered that question thoroughly and repeatedly, but we have done so by rejecting the premise, and since the whole point of the question is to force us to accept that premise, we still haven’t answered.

Oh, and “rejecting the premise” isn’t “Fat Identity for Social Change” jargon, whatever the fuck that means. It’s a widespread phrase that means exactly what it says. National politicians of both major parties use it, people in the media use it, here’s someone using it about soap operas. It derives from formal logic, where premises are the truths one starts to build a syllogism on. If the premises are false, the syllogism fails and the conclusion is unsupported.

This troll is so ignorant he doesn’t understand what a premise is, or apparently what a conclusion is. He’s also so self-deluded he thinks he can force us to answer completely nonsensical questions by flaunting his ignorance.

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