New Rules for Politics and Elections – January 2020

Moderation in Great Debates and Politics and Elections

In general, Great Debates and Politics and Elections are the most contentious fora on the SDMB. Because of that, you’ll find that moderation is more active and prone to sanctioning posters. You can compare it to sitting at the holiday dinner next to the crazy uncle who can’t help being unpleasant. Please don’t be that guy.

Be aware that most rules are not ‘bright line’. This is intentional on our part as we believe such encourages poor behavior in some posters. It is not difficult to follow the rules - the vast majority of posters have no problems working inside the hazy confines we set - and if you find you need to know exactly where that line might be, you should look at why this is so meaningful to you.

In the end, we all get out of Great Debates and Politics and Elections what we put into them collectively. Try not to be the person who harms it for all the others. Treat all the posters, even ones with whom you disagree, with respect. If you must be disrespectful or insulting, please visit the BBQ Pit and do so there.

A few basic guidelines:

  • Everyone who comes to the SDMB presumably does so to enjoy themselves. Don’t take it so seriously. Keep it friendly.
  • As with academic politics, the passion is high because the stakes are small. We’re discussing and debating among like-minded people. No matter how good your solution to taxation issues might be the Dept of the Treasury is not reading the SDMB looking for silver bullet solutions. Be proactive with your passion. Support your arguments with zeal. But be polite when criticizing an argument you oppose. Pejorative language that comes across as jerkishness will be moderated.
  • Posters stating things you don’t like are not necessarily trolling.
  • Posters disagreeing with your posts are not necessarily trolling. Try to listen to the other side. Don’t try to shut them out because they have a different opinion or belief.
  • Posters you don’t like - or have a history with - are not necessarily trolling.
  • Posters and their opinions may offend you. This does not necessarily mean they are trolling.
  • You are here to discuss the issues. If instead your goal appears to be to ‘bring liberal tears’ or ‘bash fascist conservatives’ you may be sanctioned by the moderation staff.“
  • Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” - Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Posters in Great Debates and Politics and Elections should take this statement to heart. Be aware of your own opinions and how they shape your thinking. Do not confuse your opinions with facts.

Behavior of Posters:

In our new world of Great Debates and Politics and Elections, posters are expected to encourage and enhance the ability to participate in discussions without distracting or discouraging others from reading and participating. We want open and honest discussion to occur. Things that promote that are encouraged and things that detract from those goals are discouraged. What adds and detracts is at the discretion of the moderation staff.

Follow moderator instructions. Participants in threads are responsible for knowing whatever mod actions have occurred in the thread. Ignorance of guidance is not an excuse. Moderators will make an effort to make guidance clear so that posters can follow in-thread guidance. This may include bolding text, font size or color or other options. Nonetheless, absence of such is not an excuse. In general, only Great Debates and Election moderators will issue guidance in those areas.

  • Hijacks. This is, perhaps, the single largest and most important change to the rules in Great Debates and Politics and Elections made in 2020. Staying on topic is a strong goal of Great Debates and Politics and Elections moving forward. Threads exist for a reason. Presumably, the original poster wants to discuss a specific topic. Posts which pull the thread away from that topic are hijacks. Some of these are inadvertent, some are not. Posts that seem intended to steer a discussion away from the original topic may be sanctioned. Hijacks may be, but are not limited to, posts that lead away from a topic, endless questioning, repeatedly asking the same or similar questions once they’ve been answered, and other maneuvers. Whether or not such is occurring is at the sole discretion of the moderation staff and may lead to official sanction.
  • Attack the post, not the poster. We’re here for fun, not harming others. Personalizing posts is usually a bad idea. Comment on the content of the commentary and not on the person making it.
  • Accusations of trolling. Do not accuse posters of being trolls or trolling.
  • Accusations of lying. Do not accuse other posters of lying. The fundamental basis of debate is the assumption that other posters are debating honestly. Due to that, accusing another of lying is detrimental to good debate and is forbidden.
  • Breaking the law. Do not encourage illegal activity or describe means by which to engage in illegal activity. The Straight Dope Message Board is a USA-based business and USA laws prevail. We reserve the right to honor non-USA laws and issues at our discretion.
  • Linking to Insults. Do not link to insulting posts or memes either in the BBQ Pit or off the SDMB as a means of getting around the ‘no insults rule’.
  • Threats of legal action. Threatening other posters or the SDMB itself with legal action will get you banned.
  • Threats of harm. Posters may not threaten nor wish harm on other posters. This includes groups of which other posters may be a part of. “All X should be shot! Oh, you’re an X? Who knew?” is not a wise choice.
  • Sexualizing posters and their arguments. Do not say or imply that your fellow posters achieve sexual gratification or soil themselves in glee/distress due to recent news reports, political iconography, contemplation of ideological positions, etc.
  • Hate speech, racist epithets and racism The use of racial epithets, pejoratives, slurs, and other similar items is forbidden. Hate speech as a whole, however, can be defined broadly or narrowly depending on the context of any individual thread. The definition of context is entirely at the discretion of the moderation staff.
  • Junior Modding. It is not the task of posters to enforce the rules. Doing such can derail debate. If you feel a post is breaking a rule, report it and allow staff to determine if this is a issue and how to deal with it. The staff may or may not agree with you.
  • Harassing other posters. Bringing up a poster’s history in unrelated threads for the purpose of harassing them is not allowed. Following a poster from thread to thread to mock them about older, off-topic posts could be considered harassment and is potentially sanctionable.
  • Private Messages. PMs can be reported as if they were regular posts and may be moderated accordingly.
  • No betting. Gambling between posters in GD and Politics and Elections over debate outcomes or real world events is forbidden. In the past we’ve had posters use this as a rhetorical device to abuse other posters and accuse them of lacking the courage of their convictions. It’s a jerk move we have decided to no longer allow.

Type of threads appropriate for Great Debates and Elections

  • Keep threads specific and debatable. No wide omnibus threads. We want to see clear, specific topics and thread titles. Large omnibus threads are actively detrimental to the long-term success of the boards. A thread entitled, “Tax Policy” is too broad. One entitled, “Should a National Sales Tax be enacted” is better. Keep it clear and specific. This also requires participants in the thread to remain on specific topics as well.
  • Thrice Told Tales are off limits. Over the last 20 years, posters in Great Debates and Politics and Elections have debated pretty much everything. As such, there are some contentious issues about which we are tired of hearing. We just don’t want to go around and around about these things any more. In general, we’re just tired of these subjects. It may, however, be that there’s something new under the sun. Posters may start threads on these subjects only with prior approval of a Great Debates or Politics and Elections moderator. If you think you’ve got a new angle on something we’ve discussed a million times and found unpleasant, please feel free to make your case. Getting one approved is a very heavy lift, however.
  • Scientific racism or any particular argument about why any particular group of humans is inherently better than any other group
  • Holocaust Denial. Seriously, guys. If someone wants to seriously debate whether the holocaust occurred, we can safely say they’re not someone we want here
  • Encouraging discrimination against any minority groups. This can include race, gender, sexual orientation or any other group into which a person might belong. Such depresses debate and discussion and in contrary to the goals of Great Debates and Elections
  • Men’s Rights Advocacy. This can include threads about how men are somehow disadvantaged in society, women are somehow genetically inferior or have a predisposition toward specific gender roles and other threads about the ways in which men are somehow naturally entitled to be in charge
  • 9/11 Truthers. This includes any information about how either 9/11 didn’t happen, it was a false flag operation by the government or any other idea that denies the events of that day.
  • Climate Change Denialism. We believe the science. While there is room to debate ways to deal with climate change, the existence of such is an observed fact.
  • Adding to ‘Tired Topics’. If you believe there’s a topic that should end up on our ‘tired of’ list feel free to forward it to a moderator and we can discuss it in the mod loop. Adding a topic is also a very heavy lift.

  • Witnessing and Religious Debates. Note that religious witnessing is entirely allowed in Great Debates.

Moderator actions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Warnings. Official Warnings that go on a posters permanent record (no kidding) and may lead to further action such as suspension or banning.
  • Mod Notes. Notes are moderator guidance that an action is veering towards official sanction or is otherwise derailing or leading discussion astray. Ignoring a mod note, repeating behavior that earned a note or arguing with such in a thread may escalate a situation quickly. No one wants that.
  • Thread ban. A poster may be banned from a thread. Ignoring such a ban may lead to further sanction.
  • Topic ban. Being too focused on one hobbyhorse topic to the exclusion of all else and bringing it up in threads not related to such may earn a poster a ban on discussing that topic completely. We’re sure you think that would suck if it happened to you. Best to not be monomaniacal on a topic.
  • Forum Banning. This is a new sanction for 2020 and beyond. If we find a poster is incapable of behaving properly, mod staff reserves the right to ban a poster from Great Debates and/or Politics and Elections. This banning may be temporary or permanent, depending on how large a pain-in-the-ass a poster has become.
  • Suspension. Due to repeated bad behavior, a poster may be temporarily suspended from all activity on the SDMB. This can be for a week, a month or longer. There is no set amount of time for a suspension and such is decided in discussion with all moderators, not just the mods of Great Debates and Elections.
  • Banning. In event a poster is banned they are no longer allowed to post on the Straight Dope Message Board for the remainder of their time on this Earth. If one returns from the dead – or somehow finds oneself in orbit - we’ll be open to revisiting the issue.

NOTE: If you feel you have received a sanction improperly or unfairly, you may appeal a ruling. You may do so either through Private Message to the Mod in question or by opening a thread in About this Message Board. We encourage feedback of this sort as it helps us examine issues and problems in the rules. It is, however, an extremely bad idea to contest moderator decisions in the threads in which they occur. Such damages debate and discussion and may lead to further sanction.