Posting too many comments is frowned upon, so here goes a proper answer:
Q Does claiming someone is dog-whistling go against “assuming good faith”?
No, generally, it does not. If done in the right way. A dog whistle is a dog whistle and needs to be dealt with. Clear language helps with that. The only problem with this question is that it may confuse criticising behaviour with criticising the person.
First, we need a common understanding of the term dog-whistle
Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different, or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.
Dog whistle politics usually refers to the use of certain code words or phrases that are designed to be understood by only a small section of the populace. Generally speaking, these are phrases that have special meaning to that subsection entirely independent of its meaning to others, and represent a particularly insidious use of loaded language.
Now for taking an example, fictional:
The United Nations is organised from the American East Coast.
That the UN headquarters is situated in New York City, on the American Eastern seaboard is factually correct. That an organisation 'is organised from' or 'controlled' from its headquarters seems logical. No problem with this sentence?
The post does contain something that is used as an antisemitic dog whistle:
Other antisemitic dog whistles in German language sources include bemoaning the huge influence of ("certain people" on) the "East Coast [of the US]".
Anti-semitism. Clear violation of multiple standards. So, how to address that?
A similar example that might be more clear to people from the US would be references to:
... the New York media ...
which could refer to the specific media environment in the New York City area, or it could be used as a dog-whistle to refer the:
... the New York [Jew-controlled] media
Analysing the situation: the example lacks context, we should judge posts by their content, not by who wrote it. We do assume good faith and even if the context still leaves this as ambiguous: that is a dog whistle, does the poster use it as such or is this an innocent slip done out of ignorance?
This is strange: If it is a dog whistle, then it needs to be called out, criticised, downvoted and/or removed.
To help someone improve. To see a change that we would like. To further the discussion. (src)
Crucially by criticising the post! But not the poster!
Why should anyone here 'assume good faith' towards a post? That should never be a priority. What we should do is 'assume good faith' towards the user posting that.
We do need to and should act on the first sight of a dog whistle for posts, and should re-act differently on a pattern (>3?) of posts coming from one user.
Criticising an action is not the same as accusing the poster of being anything. Just that the user has done something.
'Being' something is a permanent label that cannot be 'corrected' easily, especially not by any action the poster may take.
("The poster is a bigot. The poster will be doing bigoted things in future")
'Action' or 'did wrong' is easily corrected. Fix the post, avoid the error in future: do not use a dog whistle term in the future (that depends: some of these terms are just evil, some just need proper context or explanation)
("The poster did something wrong. Whether intentional or not: The poster corrected that mistake, learned something, hopefully avoids that behaviour in future.)
One is an essentialist accusation, the other operationalised conditional. Since this seems so popular here right now: one is 'identity' (a bigot), the other is 'behaviour' (committed an act we don't want).
These are really crucial semantics.
One way to address the problem would therefore look like this:
'The United Nations is organised from the American East Coast.' could be [misinterpreted](ideally link to concrete whistle criticism) as an antisemitic [dog whistle](basic explanatory link), as this kind of ambiguous language is used by racist groups to imply some sort of evil Jewish conspiracy. We definitely don't want to allow for that kind of interpretation of your answer. Can we change the language to 'The United Nations headquarters is on the East Coast of the United States?'
A helpful comment
- Is specific, concrete, constructive, calls the problem by name
- Criticism targets the possibly problematic content (which is (be) nice, according to policy) and not the poster (which would violate the CoC 'Be Nice'!).
- Offers alternatives as a way out.
One problem with that a approach is admittedly: If such 'criticism of action' is misread as 'accusing the poster'. Another one is that sometimes it is really just a bigot doing bigoted things: if you read dog whistle terms repeatedly coming from one account, then 'assuming good faith' still applies, but runs out much quicker than for a first occurrence.
It may be a fine line to draw, but we should agree that
- "What you just said is a racist thing" (stop it please)
is fundamentally different to
- "What did you just say? You are (a) racist!" (typical, please go away).
We must be allowed to voice factual criticism of actions with clear language. Actions can be changed in the future, easily (dumb thing, sorry, won't do that again) while essentialist attributions (labeling) are just an insult to stay (you are bad, nothing good can come from you, ever).
One can be used to de-escalate, the other to escalate things quickly.
So: "The word used is a dog whistle, (perhaps you didn't know,) please re-phrase that!"
We agree on that: a pattern of offensive behaviour cements the congruence of both versions and that being polite and insistent is necessary. We should also realise that the above is a useful tool in principle, but that is not a perfect tool: it may fail occasionally. Some people just can't take any criticism at all.
- People sometimes tend to not realise the difference as receiver
- People may be unknowing of the difference or ignoring it as sender.
1) Can be soften by the comment language itself, but posters might be in need of being made aware of the difference.
2) When we post a comment calling out a dog whistle we are the senders. This difference is what I try to get across here. The 4 modes still allow for facts to be transmitted. CoC mustn't mean: negative facts aren't allowed to write
–– How to Give Kind Criticism, and Avoid Being Critical
–– How to Accept Criticism with Grace and Appreciation