As I think I mentioned in a comment, it's hard to evaluate this properly without seeing concrete examples. I've gone over the Science Fiction & Fantasy election page, which I'm assuming is the source of this whole thing, and I've read all the comments that also appear to be the source of this. So I'll have to work off of those.
One user - who is a moderator on another site - wrote a comment on a user's nomination that was critical of said user. S/he brought up a point that I think is valid regarding the candidate's prior and current history and suspensions elsewhere on Stack Exchange.1
There is another nomination that appears to have been another source of this. The same user who commented above commented here, as did other users, at least two of whom are moderators on other sites. In this case, the candidate did respond negatively, despite the fact that other users who are highly active on Science Fiction & Fantasy concurred with the criticisms.
I've also seen a couple other comments from users who are moderators on other sites, but they did not appear to have caused a stir. Additionally, of course, there were comments by Shog9, which have been discussed in detail in another meta question.
With the exception of the phrase "that I think is valid", the above is indisputable. I hope everyone can agree on that.
Response, Part 1
Without any prior knowledge of the situation - and it has been claimed that moderators are trying to twist the situation as viewed by outside observers - it would seem ridiculous that these comments should have caused such a stir. In the first case, the candidate did not respond nastily; in the second, it was clear that the candidate was not taking the criticism constructively, as a person reasonably should. Therefore, it should be clear that something is the problem.
Before I go on to what I'll say, I'd like reiterate what has been said by Mad Scientist and others:
- You don't have to be incredibly active on a site to give good advice in an election.
- Yes, moderators are commonly active on multiple sites and often have good network experience. They know what it's like to moderate.
- Moderators do not have the ability to wildly change the outcome of an election. Diamonds don't show up next to our names2, so you have to either already know the user or go through their profile to find out. Most users do neither, I would imagine.
The above seems reasonable, no? There have been disagreements about what I've written in the last bullet, and the debate can never be 100% proven. But I would hope that common sense supports it.
Response, Part 2
This stuff may be a bit controversial, as it diverges from the previous two sections. Some of it is a bit blunt, I warn you. Additionally, it is a meta-Meta view of the situation.
Lemma #1: There is an "us-vs.-them" mentality at work here.
This should be easily apparent, no matter whether or not it is justified. There is clearly a group of users who are attempting to cultivate this mentality by isolating the moderators as another group. There are negative implications associated with their claims, including
- Voting rings.
- Trying to negatively effect democratic voting.
Read through the comments, and some of these will pop up.
Lemma #2: There is polarization.
The eventual result of Lemma #1 will be polarization, which is, interestingly enough, one of the 8 stages of genocide - although I would argue that it is present in any conflict. However, I think it has existed from the beginning. There's been a slew of meta issues on Meta Stack Exchange and Science Fiction & Fantasy meta. I'm not trying to connect specific users or implicate anyone in past wrongdoings or blow things out of proportion. But I think this is the case.
Lemma #3: There are other motivations at work here.
Here is where I'm venturing into deep water - and I'm a terrible swimmer. I'm in deep because I'm saying that users who are making some of these accusations are annoyed about past disputes. This is not the case for everyone who thinks a certain way - of course not. But it is the case that there are people who are supporting the accusations because they do not like what has happened in the past.
Putting the three lemmas together - and regrettably, they are not lembas - the conclusion can be drawn that this is a complaint that has arisen not because of the comments on the election page. I know; a lot of people here already knew this. But I'm going to state it fully, and draw heavily from Lemma #3.
That's all well and good, but I stated something that many people already know or think. That's not productive. What is productive is a solution.
Is there a solution? After all, I claim to be dredging up an old problem that clearly has not been solved in the past. There may not be anything good that will come out of this thread - well, maybe and maybe not. Good answers have already been written. So I'll boil it all down to one thing:
Moderators are not malicious.
This has escalated from a couple of comments on some election nominations to a full-blown Meta Stack Exchange thread. It has escalated because assumptions were made of continuous ill will and automatic maliciousness. It has escalated because people continue to think that Stack Exchange is out to get them. It has escalated because people will not think about the situation in and of itself, but only look at it under the lens of biased perception.
This can be stopped in the future, by people not assuming that anytime a moderator is critical of a user - even outside the site they moderate - the moderator is being critical. This only leads to ugly disputes.
So, please, can we let the past be the past on Science Fiction and Fantasy, and let moderators who have never been involved in disputes there actually do something productive without getting pounced on? That's the point my answer is making about this specific discussion. People were trying to be helpful, and they were succeeding. Unless their actions get blown up, they can continue to be successful.
Just as is the case with CMs, I think there is no issue here.
1 The candidate appears to have commented in return, and neither party has attacked the other.
2 Yes, I am a moderator on HSM and Mythology.