23

I'm sort of at a loss here.

An answer was deleted by users because it was deemed offensive.

A moderator undeleted and "improved the grammar" of it and locked it as undeleted.

All the while, a debate has been brewing in the relevant meta about whether or not some user's decision to use their earned privileges to delete the offensive content (which has not once been edited to be less offensive), including discussions about whether or not Hitler's actions were being defended or minimized.

I'm trying to figure out exactly why this should matter? Is our site, whether Main or Meta, really the place to debate and rank the atrocities committed by our political leaders. Especially when it's not being used in any way to do a meaningful analysis of fictional work. What's the point of this ranking? To establish a level where we can say "making light of this genocide is okay because here's a different set of atrocities"?

Why is this happening on our stack at all?

(Just to clarify, the debating was happening in comments. I'm not sure the existing answers really address that, as they're hung up on an answer with politics in it. The ensuing debates in something like 3-4 comment threads on posts was always more what I was concerned about.)


Here's a log of some of the discussion:
https://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/66202/discussion-on-answer-by-rand-althor-why-was-my-answer-deleted

and the meta where it took place:
Why was my answer deleted?

27

Generally no. Atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and other powers are history and are generally not on-topic here.

However, works of science fiction and fantasy often draw from political history; a discussion of history may be on-topic if it is necessary "to do a meaningful analysis of fictional work". For example, an alternate history in which the Axis won World War II might inspire someone to ask why a particular Nazi character in that work supported the Nazi regime despite the regime's atrocities -- and the correct answer might be that the character viewed the Nazis' atrocities as less severe than atrocities committed by the Allies during World War II.1 A blanket ban on political discussions would prevent such a question from receiving the correct answer. A post may discuss politics if such a political discussion is necessary for the analysis of an on-topic work of science fiction or fantasy.


1 An example that springs to mind is The Man in the High Castle. One could ask why the character Obergruppenführer Smith (an American who joined the SS after the war) joined the Nazis despite the Nazis' atrocities. An answer, which may or may not be correct, could be that Smith viewed the Americans, British, etc. as just as evil as the Nazis based on the Allies' real-world actions which also occurred in-universe. Such an answer would have to explain why Smith thought the Allies were just as evil in his mind (regardless of whether or not the Allies were just as evil).

  • 10
    While I do agree with this answer, and I'm not terribly interested in deleting the answer in question, I wish there were a little recognition here that the answer in question is not a thoughtful and pertinent analysis relevant to the work, nor adopting any sort of tone neutrality, nor terribly good to begin with. Suppose the question were about The Man in the High Castle. Compare the answer that you gave to one that said "Smith joined the Nazis because he wasn't brainwashed into seeing them as terrorizers of innocents. Also World War II had violence on many sides, many sides." – Adamant Sep 26 '17 at 16:25
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    @Adamant I interpreted this question as seeking a general policy regarding political discussions, not about the specific answer you are referring to (there's already a meta thread about its merits or lack thereof). Skooba seemed to take the same approach in his answer. – Null Sep 26 '17 at 16:32
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    @Null That is correct. There was posts that sparked this discussion, but in the end it is about establishing a guideline overall not about any particular answer. – Skooba Sep 26 '17 at 17:06
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    This doesn't address the (in my opinion) excessive commentary run underneath one of the answers. I could see it possibly having a place in a chatroom, but is it something we need to handle/allow/expose in our highly-visible, on-topic areas? – user31178 Sep 26 '17 at 17:33
  • @Null The stuff on the meta that was eventually moved to chat this morning (but was still visible under the answer). it's hard to say on the actual answer, because in some ways it's just an extension of the same discussion. All-in-all, it feels excessive to me, and a tangent to the real problem: a post some users found to be unacceptable as an answer, and some didn't, and how to resolve that disagreement without the political and ethical back-and-forth. – user31178 Sep 26 '17 at 17:46
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    @CreationEdge The same rules apply for political comments as all other comments: they are fine as long as they attempt to improve the answer (e.g. by criticizing it), and the discussion doesn't go on for too long. Long discussions will be moved to a chat room, and I generally leave a couple of comments from the moved conversation on the post so users have context as to what the chat room is about. I don't think there's any way to resolve such political disagreements without a lot of back and forth. – Null Sep 26 '17 at 17:56
  • Well, I'd say " I don't think there's any way to resolve such political disagreements with comments". I'm doubting any participant really expected to sway the political position of others on the matter. The discussion became less about any of the answers, and more just about the politics. – user31178 Sep 26 '17 at 18:13
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    @CreationEdge The objective of the comment discussion isn't necessarily to sway someone's political opinion. It may be to fix assumptions in the answer (made due to the answerer's political beliefs or what the answerer knows -- or doesn't know -- about the SFF work in question). If that's the case then I see nothing wrong with such comment discussions. – Null Sep 26 '17 at 18:34
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Null Sep 27 '17 at 14:51
12

No, this is not the place for these discussions.

This site is about the works of science fiction and fantasy, and while works do draw from real world examples of politics, this is not the place to discuss the merits of those views.

Sometimes answers do draw parallels to real life history, but typically this is supported in the work or by interviews with the author/director. Stack Exchange as a whole likes to deal with facts not opinions and political views are largely opinionated. To place your own political views in an answer on this site is not acceptable.

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    Can I flag and get deleted other political views I find abhorrent too? Or is there only select set of views that are OK in answers? And who gets to decide which views are OK and which ones aren't? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 26 '17 at 15:08
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    @DVK-on-Ahch-To Yes, if they are the opinions of the user and not that of the author/director. If you want discuss the merits of certain political views tkae it to History.SE or Politics.SE. – Skooba Sep 26 '17 at 15:19
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    In the answer linked (with a massive downvote), the post author does not provide enough arguments to make it a valid in-universe answer, but rather tries to defend his opinion on WW2, which is absolutely irrelevant to the original question. There is a weak attempt ot attribute these arguments to the fictional character in question (Dumbledore), but it is not supported by any evidendce. So in this case, I agree that such answers should be deleted. – TimSparrow Sep 26 '17 at 16:43
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    "this is not the place to discuss the merits of those views." But deeming such views offensive and voting to delete them because of it IS passing judgement on the merits of those views. – Kevin Sep 26 '17 at 16:47
  • I agree, it's not the place. reading the debate about that specific answer i feel i am at politics.SE instead of my fav SFF.SE... – user68762 Sep 26 '17 at 17:01
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    @Kevin I disagree. I am passing judgement on the quality of the answer, not the view it expresses. Whether the post is "offensive" is largely irrelevant as well, expressing your personal political opinions is just that, opinion. – Skooba Sep 26 '17 at 17:03
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    I feel like divorcing political views or bias from an answer that might of necessity include political insights is a difficult if not impossible thing to do. I'm not necessarily concerned with that aspect of some politics entering into answers (we can vote accordingly). But the debate about whether or not it's "passing judgment on the merits of those views" feels completely out of place for me. The same debate is essentially starting again in these comments, which concerns me and was not my intent. We're not set up to be an ethics committee. – user31178 Sep 26 '17 at 17:40
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    But if at some point a sufficiently large group of users deems a post wholly unacceptable because it's low quality, abusive, trolling, or whatever... Is our only recourse to debate the merits and ethics of the post and be stuck with it, unable to vote on it or delete it in the interim? – user31178 Sep 26 '17 at 17:43
  • @CreationEdge - your (second to last) comment should come with Darth Vader sound effect :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 26 '17 at 23:02
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    I missed the initial kerfuffle, but I would have flagged that answer as "rude or abusive". Arguing that others were as bad as or even worse than Hitler would be on topic for History but not for this stack; suggesting or heavily implying that therefore Hitler wasn't so bad after all would indeed something "[a] reasonable person would find [...] inappropriate for respectful discourse". – SQB Sep 28 '17 at 10:34
11

I'd like to propose an addendum to Null's position: discussing political issues should be OK if it's necessary to analyse a SFF work, like Null says, but I want to add a constraint to that to better define the territory.

  • Discussing politics is acceptable when it's necessary to analyse a SFF work, to the extent it remains well-connected and justified by citing clearly relevant canonical evidence, and clearly used as a vessel for analysing the SFF text, and no further than that.

The idea here is that this is good:

  1. Here is a possible political view. This passage from this page of this book suggests this particular character very probably resonates with that specific political view.

    I'll now discuss that political view a bit further, to the extent that it remains fully connected to what we've just established that character believes, because it will help me better explain that character. As I mention new stuff that doesn't correlate to what we've already established, I'll take care to provide new strong evidence it's actually relevant to the character.

This is not good:

  1. Here's a deeply controversial political view. It's maybe vaguely possible a character might share it. [no citation]

This is also not good:

  1. Here's a political view. This character probably resonates with that view (book + page evidence).

    Now I'm going to go on a lengthier ramble about that political view, and most or all of what I'm saying won't be linked back to any evidence it's got anything to do with what we know the character believes.

Scenario 1 here is going into a political view while maintaining throughout relevance to explaining the character and/or story. At no point is a political view being discussed without clear relevance to that. Everything there is a clear means to an end of explaining the story itself.

Scenario 2 is a major problem. It explains a political view, but most or all of it is not established as being relevant to explaining the character. We should expect strong evidence that the character definitely is connected to those political views: quotes, book names, page numbers, chapter titles, etc, whatever's helpful for a citation. In this case no evidence has been provided, just a brief acknowledgement that it's maybe possible (maybe just because there wasn't clear evidence to the contrary) — this isn't anywhere near our quality standards. The political view is not a means of exploring the character; rather, the pretense of exploring the character is effectively an excuse to explore a political view.

Scenario 2 doesn't meet our quality bars, and is more or less a thinly described political statement or ramble or rant. It should be removed or heavily revised.

Scenario 3 is a bit of both. Some politics is clearly linked back to the character, and can stay. Some politics is described without linking it back to the story, however, and it's not clear it's necessary or relevant to analysing the SFF work. That portion of political dialog should be deleted, since it's not actually explaining or analysing SFF text — it's just espousing politics, apparently for its own sake.

  • What about meta, though? The question's also about whether it's appropriate to discuss stuff in the context of whether it's offensive or not on meta, I think. – the dark wanderer Sep 30 '17 at 22:26
  • @thedarkwanderer I'm not sure about on meta -- I suppose this addendum might apply specifically just to main. The situation I'm trying to draw some guidelines around is one that's only occurring on main. – doppelgreener Sep 30 '17 at 22:27
  • These are good templates for how (or how not) to post a necessary and meaningful political analysis of a SFF work. I support this. – Null Oct 2 '17 at 1:53
-2

Meta is absolutely an appropriate place to discuss whether or not something meets a site's critea for offensive content (and thus needs to be deleted), and inasmuch as discussing real-life Truth is necessary for that, it should be allowed. For example, the belief that genocide is wrong is a real-life belief that might seem out-of-place here, but it's actually a rather crucial element of why we might consider making light of horrible atrocities offensive, and thus grounds for deletion. Of course, meta discussions on such things should be limited to topics that are actually relevant to site process! "Is anti-semitism grounds for deletion?", for example (answer: yes, by network-wide policy), rather than "Is communism stupid?"; the former is clearly tied into discussing how our site works and the latter is clearly not (whether or not something is stupid has no bearing on whether or not it's allowed to be expressed on this site).

Main is not an appropriate place for discussions of any kind. Chat is a fine place, but main is not, and comments are not to be used for that purpose anyhow.

So, basically, yes, but only in the context of discussing the extent to which an answer or question can fail to appropriately condemn Nazism before it is deleted, provided there are users that think the "the severity of Nazi Germany's atrocities" plays some role in how enforcement of that line should be carried out. Outside of that context, no, of course, random unnecessary and possibly offensive history discussions should happen in private chat, not main or meta.

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    Sorry, but no. I don't want to have a debate on whether anti-Semitism is grounds for deletion. To have a debate opens the possibility that someone and their sockpuppet army could stuff the ballot box with "No" votes. – Valorum Sep 30 '17 at 8:53
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    The only part of this I don't like is "fail to appropriately condemn Nazism". Supporting Nazism is one thing, but it should be acceptable to mention Nazism without having to include a disclaimer every time about how bad it is. Certainly we shouldn't require everyone to have to condemn Nazism to exactly the degree expected by current cultural mores (Hitler was the #1 most evil person ever, etc.) in order not to be flagged as offensive. – Rand al'Thor Sep 30 '17 at 21:47
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    @Valorum we aren't a democracy and that being grounds for deletion isn't up for debate. Meta is a place for asking about site policy, and that's a site policy, so I think it's acceptable to ask about it here, if unfortunate since we would hope that it wouldn't need clarification. – the dark wanderer Sep 30 '17 at 22:11
  • @Randal'Thor Sure! My point is just that there is a line drawn somewhere and it's reasonable to have to discuss where that line goes. I used that language in the hopes it would avoid backlash of the sort in Valorum's comment-- certainly advocating anti-Semitism is a violation of Be Nice, and certainly asking about on-topic literature that happens to involve Nazi's (like Carson of Venus) is not. But it's sort of a spectrum and it's reasonable that people might want to figure out an explicit policy regarding where the line is, and meta would be the place to do that. – the dark wanderer Sep 30 '17 at 22:20
  • @Randal'Thor Like, somewhere in the middle is 'wink-wink, nudge-nudge' anti-semitism, and I think that should be grounds for deletion but I imagine there are people that would be worried about over-censorship. And then there's the meta process that would be needed to get consensus on whether a particular post is actually wink-nudge anti-semitism or misogyny or whatever or whether it's just not super explicit about Nazis being bad. – the dark wanderer Sep 30 '17 at 22:23

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