Comment Type #31
But this isn't the only place someone can pull rank. Parents can do it with children, bosses with employees, and so on. All that is required is a position of recognized authority. In the context of commenting, this can take a lot of different forms.
But most often, it's simply an ad hominem appeal to authority that is without logical weight and simply an attempt to shut up the opposition.
At An Army Lawyer, commenters ran into an interesting event in the armylawyer's examination of a recent decision by a district court on the NSA surveillance program. A commenter tried to pull rank and shut up discussion in this manner:
OK, I missed the Sealed Case, but the “take for granted . . . ” is footnoted by contrary opinion.
I agree that’s it’s time for me to do something more useful, trying to dissuade you from your worship at the Church of Statism seems futile. You’re very arrogant for a newbie
O-3 JAG who’s never been deployed, and it grates on me, as I have been deployed and have a couple of grades on you.
I’ll let you play in your sandbox undisturbed from now on. I will look forward to your posts when you go to Iraq, though - hopefully you’ll be assigned to some civil affairs work so you get outside the wire once in awhile. War often causes the scales to fall from innocents’ eyes.
Pulling Rank should only be done to help, clarify, and assist, not to simply shut up someone. If you cannot manage to use logic and facts to convince and change a mind, then that person isn't likely to heed your attempt to pull rank in any case. Further, in an anonymous forum, anyone can claim any manner of authority and experience, valid or not. This sort of weakens the impact, because Pulling Rank only works if the rank puller actually has recognized authority. You cannot successfully assert authority without some sort of backing from society or law any more than a stumbling lunatic walking down the sidewalk can convince you he's the voice of God rather than a MD20/20-reeking bum.
Don't Pull Rank just to shut someone up, don't assert authority you don't have or cannot demonstrate online. If you must Pull Rank, only do so to help clarify or assist, not to crush opposition; to benefit the commenting community.
This is part of the Profiles in Commenting series.