Tone-Policing and the Assertion of Authority

If tone policing is anything at all, then it is bad. This is pretty much a truism on and off the internet; the term is only ever used either pejoratively or sarcastically. No one defends themselves by saying, “well, in this case, it was justifiable tone policing” or “things were getting a little out of hand, but after some sensible and appropriate tone-policing we were able to move forward.” Instead, you’re more likely to hear denial: “that wasn’t tone policing!” or “not everything is tone policing, you know…” Implicit in these responses is a normative claim: if what you’re doing does count as tone policing, then you’ve already gone wrong.