This is sort of a follow-up to two past discussions:
- Toward a philosophy of Chat
- 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!
...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:
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.