Should "Liar" Be Permissible In GD?

In our last travesty of quibbling and misunderstanding, tomndeb asks the mob about its preferences over the use of the word “liar” in Great Debates.

Ordinarily I would reject adding new rules because, well, I suppose I just do not like rules very much. But since we are already required to avoid direct insults, I think it is consistent that we also refrain from calling each other liars. Calling someone a liar undermines the good faith exchange of ideas, requires that the accused somehow prove that he is not a liar, and shifts the focus of the debate from the big picture to the picayune.

Accusations of lying and an accused’s self-defense tend to drive the kind of line-by-linery that obscures clear communication. It directly undermines our supposedly mutual desire to exchange ideas and absorb each others’ points of view. It creates an environment where people are more interested in winning or in undercutting the credibility of their “opponents”. Having to defend oneself against being called a liar utterly pejorates the quality of the discussion, and is something we should avoid.

Even if there is insufficient consensus to modify the rules, I really believe this is something that we as individuals should struggle to avoid anyway.

I think that if you call someone a liar, you should back it up yourself. Presumed innocent until proven guilty and all that.


I don’t think it is that simple. Calling someone a liar also disaparrages that person’s motivations, not just his actions. The accuser presumes that because he sees two claims he cannot reconcile that the accused must have intended to deceive him. In the context of a discussion, this is not an issue that can really ever be settled because no one can decide authoritatively what did or did not happen. A jury can decide on the facts whether or not someone perjured himself, but it does so by means of a pretty intense process and real evidentiary guidelines.

Fortunately, we do not have either of these things here. So argue over the written word, not over the other peoples’ invisible intentions.

Generally the accusation of ‘Liar’ is a tactic of the confused. Someone believes you were saying one thing, and then if you clarify to something other than what they understood, you must be lying.

I agree, that calling people a liar is uncouth and pointless. The stakes are so low on a message board that it really doesn’t make much sense to lie, and then if someone is lying it really doesn’t matter much.

I don’t know if anyone started a thread on this, but the subject recently came up in GD here (thanks the gods and Tom that the train wreck was finally halted and the bodies removed from the wreckage). Anyway, the crux of the problem is the use of liar or calling someone a lair in GD.

Personally I think calling someone a liar in GD IS a direct insult. In fact, it’s a pretty heavy insult in the circles I run in, especially among my extended family. What say the rest of you? Should we continue to be able to use liar or call people a liar in GD or should this be proscribed as well as other insults? Can anyone go into why they don’t think calling someone a liar is an insult?


I don’t usually start enough threads to stump for them. Nevertheless, look over here.

If you’re not allowed to call someone a liar in Parliament, where heaven knows it would be richly deserved by many, I don’t think you should call someone a liar in GD.

I’ve always believed requesting a Cite is often the same thing as calling someone a liar, albiet a much more tactful approach. ‘Liar’ goes beyond a statement of untruth, it’s an insult as well, and since it’s certainly direct I thought we already had rules about that in GD?

To me, if you call someone a liar, you are attacking the person, not their arguments. I cannot for the life of me see how “liar” isn’t name-calling, which is frowned-upon, if not downright disallowed, in fora other than the Pit.

Of course, it’s maybe a little different to say something like “Huckabee is a big fat liar”, because you’re not addressing another poster. But to call a poster a liar just seems like personal attack.

If I’m right about that, of course, there’s already a rule against it, as per my quote.

Sure seems like a personal insult to me.

Yeah, but “liar” is explicitly exempted from that rule.

I don’t see how “cite?” = “liar”. I think it more often means “I don’t think you have the facts right”-- ie, implying that the poster is uninformed.

As to the OP, I don’t think we should allow “liar” or “that is a lie” in GD, since it is directed at the person, even if it is also directed at the argument.

Would it be OK to say, “This is a lie”?

I don’t think it should be, since it’s still pointing at the poster.

It’s easy enough to say “that is not true” or “that is not correct”.

BTW, I’m for re-instating “liar” or “that is a lie” as direct insults, and therefore not allowed in GD. That forum is getting bad enough as it is.

I stated a thread on this in The Pit which Mods can close if they like. I’ll just answer here:

I will put my vote that calling someone a liar is a direct insult and should be treated as other insults are treated in GD. I don’t think it really helps the discussion to call someone a liar for one thing…if a poster IS lying then you can usually demonstrate this without resorting to calling them so.


Mods can close or better yet merge this thread with Maeglin’s thread in GD if they want. No point having two discussions about this. I DO think it should be in the Pit though as tempers could flair.


Well sure, but sometimes people make false statements with the intention of misleading others. What shall we call them, cantaloupes?
It seems silly to acknowledge the existence of lies, while intentionally not acknowledging the presence of liars.

Moderator’s Note: I’ve merged xtisme’s Pit thread “Use of liar in GD: A poll” into this one. And, since this is about “administration of the SDMB” I guess it goes here (the Pit), which of course means that people can still say “You’re lying about your opinion as to whether or not calling someone a ‘liar’ in GD should be permitted!”, no matter how this all comes out.

Well yeah, but the problem is when we try to guess peoples’ intentions from our impressions of what they say. This is hard enough sometimes to do in person. It is even more difficult in an intentionally antagonistic forum on the internet. It is more painless and conducive to good discussion to just assume that people aren’t intentionally being deceptive.

If someone is lying then asking for cites and intelligently debating the issue will weed them out. I would imagine we have enough decent interragationists here to spin all but the most devious of creatins until they succumb to the inquisition.

If someone is simply holding on to ignorance with all their might I would presume the same.

I do have to wonder how this ended up in the pit instead of ATMB though. It seems more of a policy issue than a mod issue to me.

Start a pit thread and call them anything you want.

In GD, just call them “incorrect”.