Derailment occurs when discussion of one issue is diverted into discussion of another issue, often by the group who were being called out about their bad behaviour in the first place.
Derailing versus intersectionality
People attempting to introduce intersectional aspects to a conversation are sometimes accused of derailing. The difference is this: say for example a feminist is talking about improving women's access to a community, but she proposes methods that will not work as well or do not consider the needs of women of colour or queer women or disabled women. It is not derailing to say so, because considering the needs of these women is still considering the needs of women.
Typically, derailing will instead centre the needs of the relatively privileged group and ask the activist to reframe the conversations or actions around members of that group.
Examples of derailment
- In discussions of the Flashbelt slide show, conversation was derailed into discussing threats of physical violence (made via Twitter) against a man who had given a particularly offensive presentation at a technical conference. The original offender's official response post, which should probably have been an apology for his fuckup, was instead mostly focussed on wrongs done to him, not by him.
- Derailing for Dummies includes a (tongue in cheek) list of types of derailment