This is sort of a follow-up to two past discussions:

  1. Toward a philosophy of Chat
  2. Does the Be Nice policy require SE users to "be nice" to people who are not SE users (e.g. public figures)?

Over the past year, there's been an uptick in discussions of politics in chat. JUST LOOK AT THIS CHART!

messages containing the word "politics", by month

...ok, that's not terribly scientific. But we've certainly had a marked increase in complaints about otherwise-sensible folks being... Well, straight-up rude when the topic turned to one political event or another; British Politics, United States Politics (or involvement elsewhere), Russians Politics (or involvement elsewhere)... Seems everyone's got Opinions, and damn anyone who might not want to hear them upon dropping into chat to discuss their favorite movie or programming language.

...And, that's gotta stop.

If y'all wanna talk about politics, good on ya - this is important stuff, and deserves to be discussed. We have an entire site dedicated to the topic, and even sites that aren't dedicated to politics can still have civil political discussions.

But if you want to do that, if you've found others who also want to have that conversation, then make a room for the topic, welcome anyone interested who is willing to be civil, and then actually take it seriously.

  • Make reasoned arguments.
  • Back them up with facts.
  • Avoid cheap shots (esp. making fun of someone's appearance or command of English).
  • Listen at least as much as you talk.

In particular, don't hijack a room dedicated to some non-partisan topic with throw-away jokes and memes at the expense of some politician. Even at best, that's just silly:

Bernie is really not happy about the lack of duck in duck overalls

Look at how distracting that is. You're not even paying attention to what I'm writing right now, your attention being entirely consumed with writing angry comments about the lousy perspective transformation in that image. If I was hoping to start a serious talk about the politics of textile manufacturing, I'm in the wrong place and put the wrong foot forward; any hope of an intelligent response is lost.

And yet, every day my chat feeds are clogged with similarly irrelevant images, tweets, and ill-considered statements. We've had flags, suspensions, complaints about flags that weren't handled, complaints about suspensions... All for nothing. They're every bit as irritating as my image above, and as unworthy of any comment.

Being nice to everyone, especially the folks you don't know

Ultimately, this all boils down to something that's come up repeatedly in past discussions of chat: respect. You can't effectively talk about anything in chat if you despise the folks you're talking to, and politics by its nature tends to bring out topics where people find it impossible to respect opposing views... or the people who hold them.

It's human nature, and... We're not gonna change that here. But we don't have to tolerate the worst of it either. If you can't talk about Brexit without insulting the intelligence or integrity of those who disagree with you, then don't talk about Brexit. By the same token, don't force others to leave a room dedicated to some other topic by forcing the conversation toward politics, even if - especially if - you're just making a throw-away joke.

Remember, there are an awful lot of folks who come here just to ask and answer questions on some topic that's dear to them. If they drop into chat, it's to find out what their peers are talking about and maybe join in the conversation; if you make that a hostile place, you've hurt the Q&A site that provides the venue for your conversation in the first place.

And if you see someone you know making this mistake, please, invite them into a separate room and gently remind them that if they actually care about the topic, they're doing it a disservice by being rude about it.

Written with love and hope and just a bit of irritation.

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    Thank for for the plug to Politics.SE! Where people who are curious about StackExchange elections can ask STV questions and get expert answers! More seriously, the example chat you linked to was indeed a model of civilized and polite political discourse, and your efforts to shape it that way are greatly appreciated! – DVK Jan 6 '17 at 3:12
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    But... There is no question in this post, is there? You just broke the key rule of Q&A. If the moderators start doing this, we're doomed! Aaaaargh! – dim Jan 6 '17 at 8:17
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    @Shog9: "Reasoned arguments backed up with facts" in a public political debate is an impossible dream. Suggestions such as yours (however good the intent is) lead to censorship: any dissent outside specific limits is suppressed under the pretense of maintaining "civil discussion". r/politics is a good recent example. – jfs Jan 6 '17 at 12:30
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    "Considering one side of these debates relies on cold hard facts, while the other relies entirely on politicians' lies, I can see why some people become upset. Just remember the old quote about arguing with idiots." This is exactly the kind of thing being forbidden here. – MissMonicaE Jan 6 '17 at 13:46
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    @IanKemp The problem is that everyone is on the side that relies on cold hard facts, while everyone else is on the side that relies entirely on lies. – endolith Jan 6 '17 at 14:55
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    "those Russians" - being a Russian I am already a little offended. – user4035 Jan 6 '17 at 15:02
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    My apologies, @user4035. I'm writing with a very US-steeped PoV here, and unfortunately discussions of US politics have brought back a lot of bad habits from the '80s lately; I've revised that sentence. – Shog9 Jan 6 '17 at 15:05
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    Fixed this for you: "you must feign respect for those who disagree" It's pretty tough to respect bigotry or those for whom bigotry in a candidate is not a deal-breaker. I'm reminded of all the people who opposed the tolerance, inclusion, and harmony promoted by the temporary rainboverflow logo... – canon Jan 6 '17 at 15:46
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    You don't have to feign respect for anyone, @canon. If you can't respect others in a conversation, then either ask them to take the conversation elsewhere, flag it, or leave. Or all three. What doesn't work here is spewing vitriol and expecting that to be ok because you're "Right". And... Yeah, lotta deleted stuff in that rainbow thread 'cause folks couldn't get that idea through their heads. – Shog9 Jan 6 '17 at 15:50
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    I'm so sick of the "you should respect me and/or my view" movement...there are so many people/views that I absolutely don't respect and I know many people don't respect me or my views. I'm fine with people 100% disagreeing with my views on things...open and honest communication is much more important to me than my feelings (or anyone elses).... – Zack Macomber Jan 6 '17 at 16:12
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    So don't respect 'em then, @Zach. And also don't talk to them here. If you wanna have a bitter shouting match, Twitter is a much better venue. If you want honest and open communication, you have to grant others that as well: if you want to dish out hard truths, then be willing to listen; if you want to express your PoV then let others do the same. If you can't do that - and I'll be the first to admit, there are topics where I cannot - then that's not a conversation that's gonna produce anything of value here. – Shog9 Jan 6 '17 at 16:27
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    The problem comes when one takes their disagreement with an opinion and translates that into disrespect for the person holding it, @Zach. "Candidate X's policies cause harm - they should be killed and their supporters exiled", etc. It's a slippery slope from "my words are justified because of my opponent's inherent wrongness" to "anything is justified because my opponent isn't a real person"... Yeah, talking to each other like people is hard; so is everything else we do here. – Shog9 Jan 6 '17 at 16:51
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    I'm gonna refer you to Machavity's answer, @TravisJ - he addresses this line of thinking pretty effectively. Once you decide to put away civility and respect just for this one crisis, you're lost; there's no point in talking at all. – Shog9 Jan 6 '17 at 19:18
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    Of course it's relevant to anything, @10Replies. The problem isn't that folks don't realize it's relevant to, say, religion or... gardening; most folks know that calling someone who uses a rototiller instead of a hoe "literally Hitler" is not a constructive form of debate; the problem is that folks forget that standard etiquette still applies when you're discussing your government. Were that not the case, this post wouldn't be necessary. – Shog9 Jan 6 '17 at 20:58
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    +1 It amazes me when people say "I don't understand why they think/act so" and at the same time have really no genuine interest in actually understanding why they think/act so. – Kaveh Jan 7 '17 at 18:40

12 Answers 12

TL;DR: Don't go into chat without thinking about the other side.

Don't be a Sith.

I've never been particularly involved in politics. Sure, my age is a major factor in that, but I consider myself pretty well-read in what's going on in the world - outside my house, my state, and even my country. And in years past, I had stances on some issues, and some that I felt strongly about, and the few times when I talked about politics to someone - anyone, online or offline - I was able to rein myself in if the conversation got heated. I was able to think of it as a difference of opinion, so to speak, a discussion based on relative points on view.

This past year, what with the various things politicians have been doing, I found myself taking a much stronger stand on issues, in real life. I talked about issues, and when I got heated with someone, I started to justify it by thinking, I'm right, this position is right, and my opponent is absolutely wrong. I started to view things in absolutes. But as Obi-Wan tells us, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."1

I was better online, at first in part because I knew that as a mod, I kind of had to. There's no way you can justify enforcing a policy if you violate it yourself. So I watched my tongue, bit back one or two things I was tempted to say that would have been unwise to type, and tried to deal with issues as they came up (that's the great thing about chat - you have time to think before you press Enter). And I realized that there's absolutely no point in discussing something if you're unwilling to see the other side. It's a waste of everyone's time.

The problem was, I saw the same thing in other users. In other people. Some spoke as if they were dealing in absolutes, and they were right and everyone else was wrong. Can I judge them? Maybe not. I felt the same way, at times. But I held it back.

In 2017, a new bunch of American politicians are going to take the stage, and bring the country - and the world - in new directions. Love 'em, hate 'em, they're probably going to rile you ('you' as in you the reader, not 'you' as in Shog9) up a wee bit. And you may want to share your opinion online, on Stack Exchange, in chat. Any you may think that there is absolutely no way, no way, no way on Earth that someone could be so pigheaded as to disagree with you.

But before you do that, please talk to someone who disagrees with you. You know, an actual human being who has thoughts and feelings and emotions and hopes and dreams (avoid the spambots), preferably face-to-face. Do not go into a chat room and try to talk politics without knowing about what folks who disagree with you think.

Because as Randall Munroe has taught us all, there's a human being on the other side of that screen, and trust me, they may feel the same way you do: So secure in their convictions and beliefs, and ready to bash anyone who disagrees - like you. And if you understand why they disagree with you, and why they think what they do, and why they might have a valid point, your conversations in chat will be much more productive.

This isn't to say that you can't disagree with these people, and tell them that you disagree. Talking to those on the other side hasn't changed my own opinions about the controversial issues in question. It's still a bit frustrating, and sometimes I still don't agree with their logic. But I find that it lowers the overall sense of antagonism.

It's a lot easy to respect those who disagree if you already respect at least one of them.

Be prepared.

Now, let me say a thing or two on respect, because there have been a lot of comments on posts here that are effectively reduction ad absurdum attacks on Shog's premise. I think it boils down to what respect actually is.

In my view, respect is . . .

  • Entering a room and not interrupting a conversation with your own ideas.
  • Refraining from calling someone "stupid" or an "idiot", or saying that their position is "bull****".
  • Not portraying the discussion as a good-vs.-evil debate, because that once again leads to absolutes. You're not Luke Skywalker taking on the Emperor here.
  • Not flagging something just because you don't like it.

However, respect does not have to mean . . .

  • Actually agreeing with what the other side says. You respect the person, not necessarily the ideas.
  • Thinking that hate speech is allowable (it is not, and is the single greatest way to get a chat suspension faster than you can say "chat flag")

So let's all be clear on what Shog's actually asking for, and what I'm trying to defend (I think they're the same; I hope he'll correct me if they aren't). Don't complain that you should be allowed to insult people because "respect" implies you have to like what they say, the premise is therefore faulty, and you can ignore it. It doesn't, it isn't, and you can't.

It just means you don't walk into a room and start punching people - even if they aren't there yet.


1 Yes, that's an absolute in itself, but still.

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    What have you got against Sith? Building Death Stars provides infrastructure jobs and will make the Empire great again. – Martin Beckett Jan 6 '17 at 3:54
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    +1 for you have time to think before you press Enter – Twisty Impersonator Jan 6 '17 at 14:30
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    Obi-Wan's claim that "only a Sith deals in absolutes" is itself an absolute statement and therefore self-defeating. Don't be a Jedi, either. – Null Jan 6 '17 at 14:43
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    @Null There are two conclusions to draw from the fact that Obi-Wan's statement is an absolute. 1. The statement is wrong, because a non-Sith made an absolute statement 2. Obi-Wan is a Sith. – Servy Jan 6 '17 at 15:10
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    @Servy It's (1), because Obi-Wan lies all the time. – Null Jan 6 '17 at 15:13
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    Playing SWTOR you'll very quickly find that the Jedi order is comparably corrupt to the empire, they just pretend they're all high and mighty while the siths stopped caring about appearances like that. – Magisch Jan 6 '17 at 16:02
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    What if my side is publicly recognised as good guys and we're outnumbering the other side hundreds-to-one (or even thousands-to-one)? Should we still think that we are the oppressed side? Because there's a boy who we believe will bring the balance to the situation... – Daerdemandt Jan 6 '17 at 20:11
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    Sith? Jedi? Man, do I hate this two-party system... – Paul Brinkley Jan 6 '17 at 20:39
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    @PaulBrinkley - Blame Darth Mickey :). Before they ditched Extended Universe, there were Gray Jedi, Aing-Tii, Dathomir Witches, and a whole beautiful parlament full of assorted Force users. – DVK Jan 6 '17 at 23:45
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    @MaxHodges There's a difference between politics and hate speech. Someone who says, "Let's go out and kill all homosexual people" is going to get suspended faster than you can say "chat flag". You don't have to respond to something like that - and it's generally best not to. – HDE 226868 Jan 7 '17 at 14:59
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    You appear to have the attitude that when someone says something along those lines in chat, you have to rebut it, @MaxHodges. And you don't. Chat was never designed to be the boxing ring for getting into arguments about things like this. Yes, I think that some opinions of those who disagree with me are unfair and even dangerous. But I know that raging in chat and escalating things is not at all productive. – HDE 226868 Jan 7 '17 at 15:25
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    @MaxHodges: That's a pretty good thread, but the ranty portions are absolutely useless noise which, if removed, leave only the good parts, which of course is what Stack Exchange is (or should be) all about. – Robert Harvey Jan 7 '17 at 17:29
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    @HDE226868 Someone who says, "Let's go out and kill all homosexual people" is going to get suspended - and it is correct to suspend them. But there are people who would want to suspend those who say "I defend these arguments which are against legalizing gay marriage", and treat "kill all gays" and "don't recognize gay marriage" as the exact same thing, and the people saying it as the same people, even though there is a very clear difference. – vsz Jan 7 '17 at 21:36
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    @HDE226868 Just remember some of us consider "man made climate change" as an absolute that liberals use. How dare anyone even hint that science has opposing opinions on the matter. And don't tell me it's a matter of science because when science supports life beginning at conception the liberals get real quiet on that one. – Helzgate Jan 7 '17 at 21:47
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    @aroth, you put that rather nicely. "This is not the place for that kind of thing" is precisely the reason that one should not feel that they need to go on a crusade to convince others. It's not what Stack Exchange is for. Thank you. – HDE 226868 Jan 8 '17 at 13:51

One of the problems with political discussion is that they tend to escalate to heated debate and eventually insults and personal attacks. In some cases, people may be offended enough to flag political messages, even if they read like mere parody or fall just short of offensive to the general audience.

I responded to two sets of flags on political messages on The Bridge, Arqade's main room, dismissing all of the flags as invalid. On review, at least some of the messages in question should have been deleted, though some still remain (and one was deemed okay by a local mod). Regardless of whether my decision to counterflag was correct or not, the fact that flags were being raised, even if only for political disagreement, indicates that the discussion was getting out of hand.

It's vital that we follow the Be Nice policy and not let political chat reach the point where people start to feel offended. If this continues, we could wind up with a blanket ban on political discussion altogether.

Nonetheless, it's important to flag content that you find is genuinely offensive. At the same time, it's just as important to not flag non-offensive, non-spam content that you simply disagree with.


This answer was completely rewritten due to fundamental issues with my original position.

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    Don't flag frivolously. But... If it offends you, please do flag. The folks handling flags are expected to do the same. That's how we resolve these things; there's no abstract measure of offense, it boils down to what the folks using the system find objectionable. On main, we renamed the flag to "rude or abusive", which is probably a bit easier to evaluate. – Shog9 Jan 6 '17 at 15:09
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    Wanna discuss this answer? There's a chatroom! – Shog9 Jan 16 '17 at 2:40

I don't think this behavioral pattern is limited to politics at all.

Generally, in respectful discourse, it is unacceptable to denigrate others because of their opinion if you want to continue to have respectful discourse.

In my experience, Stack Exchange is one of the best places on the internet for respectful discourse. The level of maturity and relative absence of baseless mud slinging that's oh so common in other otherwise decent corners of the internet has been amazing and refreshing, especially in times like right before and after the american election, where basicly everywhere else on the internet was completly unbearable for a month.

So SE must be doing something very right for that.

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    Agreed. This is largely due to the Be Nice policy. But things got so out of hand that it needed its own subchapter I guess. – Mazura Jan 6 '17 at 10:02
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    "especially in times like right before and after the american election, where basicly everywhere else on the internet was completly unbearable for a month." Oh, boo-hoo! You should try actually living in America during this time! :-) – Cody Gray Jan 6 '17 at 12:14
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    @CodyGray I like my free health insurance too much for that :p – Magisch Jan 6 '17 at 12:14
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    @Magisch Free at point of use. Important distinction. (And: Me too. :-) ) – T.J. Crowder Jan 7 '17 at 16:05
  • Respectful discourse ... relative to the Internet, which sets a really low bar. – dyasta Jan 9 '17 at 4:02

Isn't there a limit though?

If someone says 'You know, Hitler (yeah, Godwin's law...) had a point - maybe we would be better off without the Jews...'

The notion that I should somehow go 'Hmm, that's an interesting point of view. Have you considered that maybe genocide is a bad thing and we should avoid it?. But of course, you're free to think that, and I totally respect your anti-Semitism as a legitimate point of view...'seems somehow completely wrong...

  • One site I know declared that promoting the Nazis (or anti-Semitism in general) was trolling. – Stephen Leppik Jan 6 '17 at 14:00
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    To play devil's advocate... from a purely academic or scientific point of view, yes this kind of discussion would be fine. But in reality, humans are always the one doing the talking (at least so far), and they have emotions and, importantly, morals (though not always the same morals). A discussion around this premise is decidedly amoral to most nations of the past 65 years. But to be clear, I would almost certainly never entertain such a discussion or premise in chat here and would consider it trolling, per Stephen's comment. I would flag or use RO powers where available to handle it. – TylerH Jan 6 '17 at 14:21
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    From a purely academic or scientific point of view, this "discussion" would not be fine. It's exclusionary and horribly offensive. You would be forcibly removed from any academic or scientific forum if you tried something like this. I can guarantee it because I've seen it happen. Go to a conference and try it yourself if you don't believe me. – Cody Gray Jan 6 '17 at 14:26
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    A comment like "Hmm, thats an interesting point of view. Have you considered that maybe genocide is a bad thing and we should avoid it?. But of course, you're free to think that and I totally respect your anti-semitism as a legitimate point of view..." would sound completelly sarcastic for me. – Victor Stafusa Jan 6 '17 at 15:17
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    I don't think the point is to feign acceptance. I think the point is to have a constructive debate. In a constructive debate even the worst of arguments can be used to build upon and reach an improved conclusion. You can reject an argument politely and state your reasons. Compare "I see how the media may have influenced you to feel that way, but it's a massive stereotype. I disagree with your reasons or that it would solve anything. Racial discrimination and trampling of human rights is never a solution" with "yeah you would you effin Nazi scumbucket wouldn't you, go back to your gas chambers" – Tasos Papastylianou Jan 6 '17 at 18:36
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    The point here isn't that you have to respect anti-Semitism in chat. You can, and should, flag that sort of thing, and quickly steer the conversation away from it. What you shouldn't do is have a big debate about it in chat. Similarly, you should be wary of less obvious but still controversial topics: don't bring them up unless you're really sure everyone's okay with it and capable of reasonable discussion, and if someone brings them up despite that, be ready to steer conversation away and flag for help if necessary. – Cascabel Jan 6 '17 at 19:05
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    Just to muddy the waters even more, what about the multiple instances of genocide in the Old Testament? Consider how you might go about having a respectful discussion with a deeply religious Christian. – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '17 at 0:23
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    @VictorStafusa "... would sound completelly sarcastic for me." That's because being nice is found rarely and you rather want to believe in the opposite. Sarcasm and truly nice behavior is indistinguishable. – Trilarion Jan 7 '17 at 11:56
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    @StephenLeppik - Just to prove Shog's point to you: there's a lot of people who - with good reason - consider Socialism about as bad as Nazism (I won't bother offering arguments as that's not the point of this comment - but the point is, right or wrong, they have a valid point). If you're allowed to ban promoting Nazism based on your reasons, are those people allowed to also ban promoting Socialism based on theirs? Not so simple now, is it? You can't simply say "this is good politics, this is bad politics" precisely because there are no neat objective lines no matter how you pretend. – DVK Jan 7 '17 at 22:34
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    @DVK I don't mind not talking about politics but "right or wrong they have a valid point" is not a sensible thing to say about anything. – Araucaria Jan 9 '17 at 1:21
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    @DVK Nazism is about hate speech. I would disagree on them being anywhere near as equally harmful as socialism since we have a mixed capitalist/socialist society, as does most of the rest of the world. – dyasta Jan 9 '17 at 4:06
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    @angorsaxon - as I said, "I won't bother offering arguments". This isn't the venue. If you want to know the reasoning behind this, Google. Or ask on Politics.SE if you can fit it into SE-answerable question. – DVK Jan 9 '17 at 6:06
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    How about "Vaccines cause autism" in an SE forum? Less instinctively problematic than Nazis, but still quite a dangerous bit of misinformation. Just going along with it causes problems for herd immunity and really does encourage diseases directorsblog.nih.gov/2016/03/22/… – SRM Jan 10 '17 at 5:04
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    @DVK - Yes. Of course promoting either Communism in the form of suppressing or murdering civilians in the same way that Nazism suppressed and murdered their own civilians should be banned. And in the context of chat at SE, it is most certainly in violation of the "Be Nice" policy. Your example is rather simple, and I can simply say that when a Government enacts policy to murder its own civilians that is bad politics. Furthermore, if you can locate a Nazi politician, let the local authorities know. Banning would be getting off easy. – Travis J Jan 10 '17 at 22:13
  • @CodyGray, and yet eugenics was widely accepted by "scientific" communities and intelligentsia before (and even during) World War II. Be cautious about assuming any society is "past all such hatred now." Mostly, they just choose new "acceptable" targets to discriminate against. – Wildcard Sep 9 '17 at 1:16

There's two similar but very divergent views in discourse on a contentious issue

That viewpoint is wrong

Lots and lots of people are wrong on a great many things. This is neither new, nor uncommon. But, of late, there's been a growing move towards a more aggressive, and extreme, viewpoint of the "other side"

That viewpoint is dangerous

Now, some viewpoints are dangerous. Militant racism, as seen in the 1960s, is a sterling example (it's an easy example that few would disagree with). But we've taken to a new low of late, in which people are running around stating that certain viewpoints are not just wrong, but dangerous. Once you cross that line you stop listening to the other side. Or you ascribe some accepted dangerous viewpoint to the other person. Rational arguments then fall flat because, at best, you admit they might have a point, but it's negated by these other dangerous views (i.e. "We think they have this dangerous view on another issue, therefore anything they say about this issue is invalid").

The core problem is that we tend to not criticize our own ideas. So when others criticize them, it's easier to say "That's dangerous" than to put forth an argument why you think it's just wrong. Or, as Lifehouse put it, "Everybody talk, nobody listen". Stop assuming the worst in other people and a lot of the problem goes away, because you can listen to a person you think is simply wrong.

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    A lot of viewpoints expressed lately really have been dangerous though. Like, they've literally resulted in ordinary people beating and torturing each other (I hope you don't need me to pull up the news for you). You don't seem to be taking that into account? – Mehrdad Jan 7 '17 at 5:10
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    @Mehrdad Let me share another principle that needs to be put in play: you can't judge any movement by its extremes. You're always going to have trolls who will say things they know will "trigger" you. I don't think the political Right is like Dylan Roof any more than I think the political Left is like the Portland rioters. Have people done stupid things in the name of a political cause? Sure. But I have yet to see anyone condone it. You're falling into the trap of saying that because one person said/did those things, everyone thinks that way. That path leads to bigotry. Be careful – Machavity Jan 7 '17 at 16:10
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    There's no such thing as dangerous viewpoints. There are only dangerous actions. – Robert Harvey Jan 7 '17 at 18:10
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    @Machavity: There is such a thing as inciting violence though, and there certainly are viewpoints that do that. Again, it is demonstrably true that a lot of Trump's viewpoints have let to violence. I'm pretty damn sure I haven't seen a democratic viewpoint do the same this election cycle. How can you think viewpoints can't be dangerous? You really think every viewpoint is fine? If my viewpoint was that all members of my race need to kill members of yours, and I had a lot of followers, but I never took any actions, you wouldn't think that's dangerous? That seems completely absurd. – Mehrdad Jan 7 '17 at 19:59
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    @RobertHarvey: "There's no such thing as dangerous viewpoints. There are only dangerous actions." When you're dealing with robots, sure. For humans, when someone in a position of influence expresses views, it can incite his followers to take actions in line with his views, making his views potential dangerous regardless of whether he ever actually takes any actions himself to that end. At that point he doesn't even need to do anything himself... others just execute his wishes. That doesn't make him less dangerous; that makes him more dangerous, since he's not putting himself at risk. – Mehrdad Jan 7 '17 at 20:34
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    @Mehrdad Thanks for proving my point. I never said all viewpoints are fine. I even gave a generally accepted example of a dangerous viewpoint. You're projecting anger at Trump onto what I said. This is why Shog9 made this post in the first place. Not all viewpoints (even those by Trump) are dangerous. – Machavity Jan 7 '17 at 22:16
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    @Machavity: "Not all viewpoints (even those by Trump) are dangerous" Huh? where did I ever claim otherwise? – Mehrdad Jan 7 '17 at 22:21
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    @Mehrdad: For humans, when someone in a position of influence expresses views, it can incite his followers to take actions in line with his views -- That is a robot. – Robert Harvey Jan 8 '17 at 0:09
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    @RobertHarvey: Have you not been reading the news? – Mehrdad Jan 8 '17 at 0:14
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    @Mehrdad: Politicians have been accusing us of this for a millennia... that the great unwashed masses are too stupid to think for themselves. If anything, the dreck coming out of politicians' mouths nowadays is having the opposite effect. – Robert Harvey Jan 8 '17 at 0:17
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    @RobertHarvey: You didn't answer my question. I asked you if you have been reading the news? Have you seen how much violence Trump has triggered in ordinary people just because of what he's said? This is not a question of opinion. Either you have seen these, or you haven't. Yes or no? – Mehrdad Jan 8 '17 at 0:23
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    @Mehrdad: And now we enter the twilight zone that this very question is discussing. – Robert Harvey Jan 8 '17 at 0:26
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    @RobertHarvey: That's a brilliant way to dodge the question! I'll be sure to use that next time. – Mehrdad Jan 8 '17 at 0:43
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    @Mehrdad - have YOU been reading the news? – DVK Jan 8 '17 at 14:58
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    No. It's perfectly ok to say that some ideas are dangerous. To not allow people to say that is to curb freedom of speech. However, what does need to be remembered is that not every platform is a forum for discussing politics. – Araucaria Jan 9 '17 at 1:25

My 2 cents: I largely agree with what Shog9 said and I'll add a different perspective, being a non-US citizen living in another country.

Premise

I don't use chat; not only on SE network. Maybe because I like to think to what I'm going to say to people who I don't know personally, and maybe because I'm not too young! :-)

I really prefer slower communication media over the Internet (mail, forums, Q&A threads like on SE network, etc.). This is because chat is a medium that tries to mimic the quickness of speech, but lacking all the meta-linguistic information that can avoid misunderstandings between two speakers talking to each other (body language, eye-contact, voice tone, etc.).

Even during phone calls, with no visual cue about the other speaker, our voice can convey some information about whether we are angry, joking, serious or whatever. Chat communication lacks all of that.

Ok, you may say, there are emoticons and other ways to express nuances in writing style. Compare:

You are a Sith!

You are a Sith! ;-)

You are a Sith! :-D

You are a Sith! :-P

You are a Sith! :-|

You are a Sith! :-(

You are a Sith! :-O

You are a Sith! >:-(

But the big difference is that all these means of putting emotional content into writing must be used consciously. I must remember to type an emoticon after an ambiguous sentence to convey the exact meaning. This, IMO, is easier in media that allow rethinking what you are going to "say" (write). In chat you (try to) type as you would speak, so you may forget to reread what you are saying and you could end up conveying something you didn't mean.

Moreover, given the rapidity with which the chat window scrolls up, especially in crowded and/or heated debates, you may also miss the chance of seeing that's you that said something that could have been misinterpreted, and so this is prone to misunderstanding escalation.

Usually this is not a big deal on subjects that aren't that emotional in themselves: if I say "Maxim chips are crap because of Maxim's customer service", this may lead to some discussion, but I doubt it would reach white heat. When talking about politics, or other intrinsically emotional topics, it's easy to "press the wrong button" and let a flame war begin.

Beyond all what I said before, I suspect (but I've not hard data to back this up) that that sort of escalation might be exacerbated when native English speakers are involved. Being used to communicate in their own language, they might be more prone to forgetting the linguistic barrier the medium represents.

As non-native speaker I always try to remember that a word that I may think is appropriate in a context may be misinterpreted in another (false friends and linguistic interference are always lurking!), and that cultural differences and backgrounds may make a perfectly acceptable (for me) word or sentence offensive.

BTW, it would be interesting to see if such escalations are effectively more common between native English speakers or not. Maybe SE has a quick way to determine that on the basis of the declared country of the users.

As I said, just my 5 eurocents. No easy solution here, but I hope this could be useful and provide some more insight in a different perspective.

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    The emoticons color the message only up to a point, the extent of which is not something that you control. I've had people throw vile things at me but accompany it with a ;-) thinking that it makes it okay. (I'm talking about the Internet in general, not SE specifically.) – Louis Jan 7 '17 at 0:53
  • @Louis exactly the point I was trying to make. It is extremely difficult to convey the same emotional content in writing than it is in speech. Let alone when you have to type faster and cross cultural/linguistic barriers! – Lorenzo Donati Jan 7 '17 at 0:59
  • Chat has a major flaw built into it, therefore ... – Araucaria Jan 9 '17 at 1:17

I'll add one aspect that wasn't mentioned here yet, the whole chat flag system still sucks. Especially for the grey areas, messages that are not blatantly offensive, but more in the "not constructive" area.

If a regular user flags those, odds are it will end with a bunch of users from all across SE chat barging in and just adding their opinion. Some will argue that this isn't worthy of a flag, some with take sides in the discussion, others will complain that chat flags suck, and we'll have far more attention to a situation that would have been solved almost silently if it had happened in comments on the main site.

There is no good way to flag problematic, but not really offensive content. You don't always want to suspend the user, especially if they're not intentionally disruptive, the only thing you achieve there is pissing them off for no good reason.

Of course a better flag system won't solve the issue, but at least it wouldn't broadcast the drama across the entire SE chat and could help to deal a bit more efficiently with this kind of issue.

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    "There is no good way to flag problematic, but not really offensive content." - what about custom moderator flags? – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '17 at 18:24
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    @randal'thor many people don't even know they exist because the chat UI is very confusing (there are two ways to flag, and only the less obvious one has moderator flags in it, again in a less obvious place than the offensive flag). And even just mods is often more attention than necessary and might inflame the drama. It also draws attention mostly from people that are not necessarily familiar with the situation. – Mad Scientist Jan 7 '17 at 20:06

When faced with a quality problem with a subset of posts from a larger topic some people say, "I know, I'll make a dedicated place with it so that only people who care about that sort of stuff have to be exposed to it."

That is nice in that you just took the problem and moved it out of your backyard. It however does nothing to address, or actually harms, the quality issue. The dumpster fire is still there; you just moved it a few inches, where less moderators see it, and where people will start and get territorial — this is a politics room, this is a RealPolitics room, this is a TrumpSupporters room, this is a The_Donald room. This, combined with non-existent community management, is how Reddit wound up where it is.

Of course we do have community managers so if we do start going there you will be there to stop things from going sour. However, we moderators didn't sign up to moderate chat, let alone a 24/7 politics only rooms. I mean, obviously, a politics rooms would have to only discuss politics, unless I rename the Bridge's room to "Politics" and your proposed rule is technically met?

Besides, where does politics start and end? Is Trump's views on nukes politics? Probably. Is a discussion on Tesla's self driving trucks politics? Kinda. Is a discussion about game publishers and preorder bonuses politics? Technically. Will some people find unwelcome when someone start asking about using specifics pronouns for themselves? It's gender politics! Out of my safe space!

The Bridge has been specifically called out above and elsewhere for its politics talk. Guess what, videogames are art, and like art, videogames are deeply political, in plot, themes and/or mechanics. Do we have to stop talking videogames on the videogame chatroom? What does this mean for television.SE? What about politics.SE?

Should we point people complaining about uPlay, people who want a singular they for themselves to the Endless Clinton Trump 24/7 Warzone?

Or maybe we shouldn't have an Endless Clinton Trump 24/7 Warzone in the first place?

Maybe you think programming should be a politics-free zone, but you can't escape the reality that choosing to work in Silicon Valley, or for Oracle, is still a political statement with political ramifications. You think you can ignore politics, and then people picket at your bus stop on the way to work and your CEO is now in the Trump administration. WOW! "Keep your politics out of my codes!"

No can do.


I can understand if you didn't quite like the tone of the political discussion in non dedicated rooms, but I can also see dedicated rooms getting much much worse. After all, if a politics discussion is what you individually seek as you decide that you want to join a politics room, you probably have a bone to pick and a rant to write. You want a soapbox, a write-only space in which to vent.

If a politics discussion is something that you stumble upon in a room you're normally in, well, that's completely different. You didn't start the discussion, you didn't seek the discussion, the only thing holding you back is the Dogma that You Don't Politics Online Ever.

At the end of the day you can segregate politics away, but that won't really make The Bridge or any other place any more or less polarized, because the room has people in it and those people still hold those polarized views.

If I hold strong political views, I do BECAUSE I have made the mistake to talk to some people in the wrong context and pretty much lose hope in giving others the benefit of the doubt. Context is essential and politics only rooms do not provide adequate context.

  • 2
    There are lessons to be learned from what resulted when the comp.os.*.advocacy newsgroups were created. – JdeBP Jan 6 '17 at 8:17
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    'Politics' in the scope of Shog's post refers to governmental politics. – TylerH Jan 6 '17 at 14:27
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    @TylerH it isn't that simple: the way you react to Deus Ex preorder schemes probably reflects the way you think about politics: do you side with enterprises innovating in the way they generate value and create jobs for the industry, or with the customers and their right to a complete product that is fit for purpose and actually adheres to what is advertised? Should customers just not buy those games? Should this be regulated? If so, who should regulate this? Is this something the FCC should get involved with? Is this politics yet? – badp Jan 6 '17 at 19:03
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    @badp Once the discussion turns to government involvement, it's politics as Shog's post describes it. If you talk about office politics, coding politics (vim or emacs, tabs or spaces), or whatever, that's not the same, and isn't actually a part of how you identify as a human. There's no need to take the analysis that deep, just don't talk about politics. If you need clarification on what that entails, you're just being pedantic, or likely you aren't capable of holding a mature discussion with someone without it devolving into political "i'm right and you're a pile of human sludge" territory. – TylerH Jan 6 '17 at 19:31
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    @TylerH No, what you are doing now is disrepecting me for disagreeing with you. Things are very much not as black and white as you depict them, and treating political learning as though they were as immutable as sexual orientation is deeply troubling and probably untrue. "I was born left-wing, you were born right-wing, and it can't be helped" only drives a wedge between people and increases the polarization that is at the root of Shog's post. – badp Jan 6 '17 at 19:59
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    To use your dumpster fire analogy: a dumpster fire in an alley is a problem; a dumpster fire in a living room is a much bigger problem. Best course of action is to avoid the fire in the first place, but if you're gonna dispose of a bunch of oily rags, the dumpster is preferable to your living room carpet. Dropping the analogy: if we have to shut down a chat room because folks couldn't be civil, I'd much prefer to minimize the collateral damage. – Shog9 Jan 7 '17 at 18:28
  • @badp Neither of my comments suggested political learning is immutable or in any way similar (or different) to things like sexual orientation. My comments suggest that it's clear what Shog meant by "politics", that your argument that "everything is politics at some level" doesn't advance the discussion in a meaningful way (nor is it even correct). The "you" in my previous comment was a 'royal' you, e.g. "one", not "you, badp". – TylerH Dec 4 at 21:16

Oh no, we catched a bad case of politics...

You interpret the recent increase in political references as one annoying symptom of people being uncivilized or disrespectful. And I can't disagree that at least two annoying things are happening here.

Please don't start a post about (meta)politics with the stereotypical "look at this chart", asserting a causal correlation between two observations just because that explanation would support your cause... that's hurting your otherwise noble appeal.

Yes, a lot of people behave disrespectful and always have. And yes, it probably only gets worse whenever our efforts in keeping it civil stagnate. But no, the increased cross-references to contemporary politics - by itself - are NOT necessarily cause or even symptom of people being disrespectful or uncivilized.

And no, this isn't fixed by just condemning every cross-reference into the field of politics as derailing, distracting or plain disrespectful. In pure science, one can define fairly strong barriers between individual fields and sort them apart. Here you have an algorithm, and here you have a political opinion. Over there, a falsifiable theory, over there, that's policy.

Yet we are living in that borderland here! People come here all the time with practical ideas/questions/theories. The question more often than not is "How do I solve problem X?".. NOT "How can problem X be solved on a X-complete machine?"

When we discuss how to do things in real life, policy DOES matter. We can not just apply blindfolds and act like things like "privacy" don't exist in the world of purely-technical problems. We can not act like "nation-state actors" don't exist. Those things DO have an influence on how we solve problems - maybe even avoid having to solve issues, by applying policy.

Policies can range from fairly generic "privacy by default / privacy by design" to fairly specific "wouldn't this algorithm get into conflict with applicable law in state X". And here comes my big deal: I don't think anything has changes about that, before and after dank memes came.

What has changed and enabled the problems you outlined, people pay a little more attention to contemporary politics again. But in general, that's a good thing. If I don't have to do Nazi comparisons or refer to Willem Arondeus, but instead can talk about the NSA + Edward Snowden or lost emails, a lot more people will understand what I mean and how it is relevant to the policy that is influencing their current decisions.

So let’s limit the lecture towards just condemning truly being a dick, and not immediately head towards condemning something that's happening in a slightly changed way, but isn't even bad per se: Politics.

TL;DR: Yes, please don't be a dick, but NO, saying "politics is over there, please don't have politics here it attracts the flies" is absolutely not among the advisable solutions

Lastly, about flagging..

See something that makes you uneasy? Don't hesitate to flag it.

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    The problem with that last advice is that, while theoretically 100% correct, in practice it runs smack into the attitudes expressed in this answer. The same kind of people who post less than polite content, are able to (and do) decline the flags because they personally don't find anything uneasy, never mind offensive, when their personal opinions agree with less polite content. – DVK Jan 6 '17 at 18:12
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    Thanks to @Peter Mortensen, making all this discussion more readable. – J. Bruni Jan 7 '17 at 13:35

I ran across this article a while back and I think it's a good set of rules/guidelines that is very relevant to this discussion.

We need to, as much as possible, take out the emotional response and get to the heart of the disagreement. If someone is wrong, you should be able to prove it through logic and/or facts. Calling people names and otherwise insulting them is what we are trying to avoid (here and elsewhere). This behavior doesn't prove anything other than you don't know how to defend your belief and/or prove a point.

The author provides an intro, part of which is quoted below.

If we're all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well? Most readers can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages. So here's an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy:

He then goes into the different levels of disagreement, provides examples and commentary. I found it an interesting read and I think discussion on the internet and elsewhere would be a lot more productive if we all (including me) followed these rules more successfully.

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    The attempts to prove things, unfortunately, can be part of the problem: often two people may very deeply believe conflicting things, and both believe the facts are on their side, so sufficient explanation and proof will convince the other, and if it doesn't they must be wilfully ignorant. So even in attempting to be rational, people often quickly slip into causing offense. I agree in general, I just think being respectful in a fast-paced conversation is in practice a bit more complicated than this makes it sound. – Cascabel Jan 9 '17 at 15:24
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    @Jefromi - While you're correct in what you are saying, the issue for most part isn't accidental causing of offense when genuinely trying to discuss issues. It's deliberate insults, that frequently aren't even part of discussion in the first place (as in, they aren't replies to someone's arguments being disagreed with). – DVK Jan 9 '17 at 15:49
  • @DVK I'd say both are significant problems: the obvious insults, and the casual statements of "fact." And even if the obvious things have been more common so far, part of my point is that if people try to solve it by being very rational, it may not actually help. – Cascabel Jan 9 '17 at 15:59
  • @Jefromi - Shog's Election2016 chat room was quite civilized and respectful. It may take effort, but it seems doable if effort is taken :) But yeah, some statements of "fact" are not helpful, even if not outright offensive. – DVK Jan 9 '17 at 16:03
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    Yup, it's doable. I just think it takes way more effort than most people realize, and I've too often seen inconsiderate things said and defended under the guise of reasoned disagreement. – Cascabel Jan 9 '17 at 16:06
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    @Jefromi I realize that what I stated was probably not worded the best... my intent was to state that you should make the attempt to provide logic and/or facts (as opposed to insults, etc.). I completely agree with you in that some people don't accept "your" facts as facts. The point here isn't how to win an argument (some can't be "won"), it's how to conduct one civilly. – JeffC Jan 9 '17 at 18:35
  • Maybe I wasn't clear either: this is definitely good stuff about how to have a civil discussion, but since chat is open, you have to be aware that not everyone will have these things in mind, so even if you're being super duper careful, other people may get emotional about it. That is, you have to also exercise judgment about whether it's appropriate to attempt a rational discussion in the first place. – Cascabel Jan 9 '17 at 18:42
  • @Jefromi Agreed. At some point I have to learn when the other person isn't going to be convinced and stop trying. A former boss taught me... "Make sure that you've been heard and understood. Once that has happened, that's all you can do." – JeffC Jan 9 '17 at 18:50

The part of this post that sits uneasy with me is that it's asking everyone to adjust their behaviour just because some don't know how to behave.

And that seems the wrong way 'round to me...

I understand that this sort of thing is a balance between managing the practicalities of every-day moderation and giving people the freedom to talk about what they want. Moderators have better things to do than jump from brushfire to brushfire.

But ... it still sits uneasy with me that now it's apparently required to "make a room for the topic" just to have a normal adult discussion about e.g. Brexit. I have no real answer at the ready to solve this better, but stuffing it in a dark corner doesn't seem like much of a solution to me...

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    That's not what this is. If you're already a normal, respectful human being, then you don't need to change how you behave; this post is here to remind those who forget what respect is that they need to exercise it. Also, it's not being suggested that you make a separate room for a discussion just because it's Politics. You should make a separate room for any subject that isn't the room's main topic that is likely to go on for more than a few messages - that's also about respect for the people and the topics of existing rooms. – ArtOfCode Jan 7 '17 at 20:20
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    I'd argue most folks don't know how to behave at least some of the time. Regardless, I'd rather have everyone being careful than setting up a witch-hunt. – Shog9 Jan 7 '17 at 20:32
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    @ArtOfCode You should make a separate room for any subject that isn't the room's main topic that is likely to go on for more than a few messages -> In my experience with chat, this is a change from how it's used now. As every room I've frequented talks about a host of topics that aren't its primary "topic" at length, and no one seems to complain about this. – Martin Tournoij Jan 7 '17 at 20:36
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    @Carpetsmoker As a regular and mod in Mos Eisley, I agree that it's fine to include conversation on a whole host of topics ... but maybe what Art means is that in such cases, all those topics are in some sense already part of the room. If we interpret "the topics of existing rooms" to mean the topics which are regularly discussed and considered acceptable there, rather than just on-topic subjects for that room's associated site, then I agree with Art's comment. – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '17 at 20:40
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    Also, to the main point of your answer: I think you've misinterpreted the OP. Shog said "don't hijack a room dedicated to some non-partisan topic with throw-away jokes and memes" and "don't force others to leave a room dedicated to some other topic by forcing the conversation toward politics, even if - especially if - you're just making a throw-away joke", but I'm pretty sure that if people have a mature and respectful discussion about politics, by mutual agreement, in an existing room which doesn't have a strict 'on-topic' policy, that's not going to be considered a Bad Thing™. [cont] – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '17 at 20:52
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    [cont] As I understand it, this post is more about reminding those who aren't behaving properly that they should, rather than telling everyone to change the way they behave, never to chat about politics except in side rooms especially set up for the purpose, and so on. Essentially it's a reminder of how to respect others, rather than a change in the rules of SE chat. (I'm sure Shog will correct me if I'm wrong.) – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '17 at 20:52
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    The specific problem with politics is that folks seem to suffer from a peculiar sort of amnesia when discussing politics, @rand - one in which they suddenly forget the vast amount of topics on which they hold only superficial knowledge and consider themselves well-informed experts on the topic at hand, with their opponents playing the role of ignorant rube. This tends to discourage the sort of etiquette that would normally apply in uninformed debate – Shog9 Jan 7 '17 at 23:24
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    Of course we're being asked to adjust our behaviour; those who have good behaviour are asked to extend certain measures to help facilitate everyone else picking up good behaviour. We can't expect the people with poor behaviour to pick this stuff up, that's not how it works, their behaviour doesn't magically improve on its own. I'm happy doing this stuff. On RPGSE Chat we already long ago added extra measures around handling contentious subjects and it pays off beautifully and it's a privilege to have those measures to work with. – doppelgreener Jan 8 '17 at 2:56
  • @doppelgreener That seems like a reasonable point of view I hadn't considered; thanks! I tried looking for the "extra measures around handling contentious subjects" you mentioned on the RPG chat, and couldn't really find something easily. Do you happen to have a link or more information? – Martin Tournoij Jan 10 '17 at 19:42

Moderation note: This answer has attracted numerous flags, but I'm locking it and leaving it visible because I think it effectively illustrates the exact problem this discussion exists to address:

  • It raises controversial topics in a venue where they cannot be effectively debated.
  • It mocks others' beliefs and insults those who hold them without making a sincere effort to refute or change them.

Please, if you find yourself reading this answer and thinking, "this is fine", stop and think about why you're here and what you hope to accomplish.


If you're gonna talk Politics, you must respect those who disagree

Respecting idiotic, terrible, harmful ideas is a form of legitimizing them. It's saying: let's agree to disagree. there's no truth of the matter, just your opinion and my opinion.

Some ideas are just not worth respecting. Should we "respect" the practice and tradition of child marriage? Pedophila?

Child marriage facts and figures: https://iwhc.org/resources/facts-child-marriage/

There are a lot of stupid, dangerous ideas in the world, like the ideology behind extremists and hate groups. Or religious ideals which inhibit scientific progress (stem cell research). Or belief that homosexuality is a sin and AIDS is a punishment from God. Why must we respect other people no matter their opinions? Where's the sense in respecting idiotic ideas like virgin birth? I'm all for reasoned discussion, but when someone believes in arranged child marriages, slavery, "souls", or some abhorrent racial stereotypes, there's no requirement to respect them.

Some cultures of ideas have been extremely harmful to societies. Should we respect the culture behind collateralized debt obligations which resulted in a $700 billion dollar bailout? Or the culture which lead to the Challenger disaster? Or police stop-and-frisk racial profiling? Or the culture which tried Galileo for scientific observations?

Civil conservation is boring. Flame wars are so interesting because people just say what they really think. You can skim a flame war and learn so much about a topic quickly. The "civil" dialogs have a lot of words, but not a lot of interesting ideas.

Dangerous ideas can take over whole cultures with devastating effects. The spread of religion crippled scientific progress for hundreds of years. Most people born in 1900 did not live past age 50, life expectancy at birth now exceeds 83 years in Japan. Imagine if that trend started hundreds of years earlier? How long could we live today? But we can't live as long as we could because religion held back scientific development. Society needs ways of protecting against bad ideas. Disrespecting them is a start. Your loved ones are going to die sooner than they must because of bad ideas. Are those ideas worth respecting?

If you believe all opinions are equally worthy of respect, you don't really believe in anything at all.

share
locked by Shog9 Jan 9 '17 at 19:52

This post has been locked due to the high amount of off-topic comments generated. For extended discussions, please use chat.

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    Posting yet another example of anti-religion ranting is not a productive contribution toward how to deal with ranting. – Ben Voigt Jan 7 '17 at 15:11
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    If you can't separate and discuss the ideas themselves, without jumping to attacks on the people holding those ideas, you will never eliminate them, instead you become them. From a historical perspective, I'd like to point out what has previously happened when the same concepts you're pushing (that religious views are dangerous, and that scientific progress trumps ethical concerns about how those biological samples are acquired) crossed from opposing ideas to deciding that the people holding them have no place in society. – Ben Voigt Jan 7 '17 at 15:28
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    @BenVoigt also it's just dumb to think if we condemn religious thought as being incompatible with scientific thought that we'll turn into Nazis. – Max Hodges Jan 7 '17 at 16:08
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    The hypocrisy is strong with @MaxHodges, who can't even see he's zealously fighting against himself on many of these issues. Max, do you think the USA should deny immigration visas to those who hold, in your stated opinion, "dangerous" ideas such as "homosexuality is a sin" or "souls" or "abhorrent racial stereotypes"? If you think it's ok to keep them out, why did you just say "better to just condemn that idea" of refusing them residency? – Ben Voigt Jan 7 '17 at 16:28
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    @BenVoigt oh i see! ok i got you. You are saying i'm a hypocrite for protecting Muslims (not kicking them out) while saying we should condemn extremism. I see your logic. let me tell you why you are wrong: Many people confuse the statement “almost all terrorists are Muslims” with “almost all Muslims are terrorists.” Assume that the first statement is true, that 99 percent of terrorists are Moslems. This would mean that only about .001 percent of Muslims are terrorists, since there are more than 1.6 billion Muslims (23% of world pop) and only, say, tens of thousands of terrorists. – Max Hodges Jan 7 '17 at 16:45
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    This is a fine example of the problem I'm hoping to address here: folks who come to learn about math, or astronomy, or programming, or history, religion, philosophy... Should be able to do that without being told they're not respected or wanted. This is a place to learn, not smugly condemn others for their lack of knowledge. And on that note... you might wanna check the facts on some of these assertions here, particular the ones that predate your birth. Folks weren't necessarily as simple years back as we like to wish they were. – Shog9 Jan 7 '17 at 16:53
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    And, no, you do not get to assign meaning of your choice to other users' downvotes – Ben Voigt Jan 7 '17 at 16:54
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    @MaxHodges: I'm pretty sure the majority of the downvotes you got are for equating people with the ideas they hold. That you're on the wrong side of a couple of the ideas is beside the point. – Ben Voigt Jan 7 '17 at 17:02
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    Respecting idiotic, terrible, harmful ideas is a form of legitimizing them. -- Assuming that is even true, Stack Exchange has nothing at all to do with that; they're not in the business of legitimizing or refuting such ideas in any way, except insofar as such legitimization takes place within the voting mechanism of questions and answers that take place within a specific site scope. – Robert Harvey Jan 7 '17 at 18:11
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    "Agree to disagree" is one of those horrible phrases people use to end discussions without admitting their own failings, @Max. On the 'Net, you can walk away from a conversation at any time if you realize you can't participate constructively; you don't need any other party's cooperation in doing so, but you do need to recognize when you've stopped refuting arguments and started just attacking people. And on that note... This answer borders on troll-bait, and the comment discussions bear that out; if that keeps up, I'm gonna have to archive it. – Shog9 Jan 7 '17 at 18:21
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    Flagged as rude or abusive for suggesting that religious people aren't worth respecting. (I'm not going to get into a debate about that, or respond to any comments here - just wanted to be constructive and let you know the explanation for the latest downvote.) – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '17 at 18:52
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    If you attack people's character viciously when interacting with them, you're not liable to change their mind or get them thinking - quite the opposite, actually. The only thing you can realisticly hope for is that onlookers find you to be a douche, which does a disservice to your own ideals. – Magisch Jan 8 '17 at 0:19
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    -1 for conflating people with their ideas. Shog's post is about respecting people, which you don't address at all. – nitsua60 Jan 8 '17 at 0:56
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    The post is about respecting people with ideas, not ideas themselves. Perhaps you should spend a bit more time reading things before contributing. – Rob Jan 9 '17 at 3:19
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    Might I suggest that calling people "insane" and "nuts" is not exactly what "be nice" policy covers? – DVK Jan 9 '17 at 6:15

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