Unsuitable GD Topics: All people who take position X have an ulterior motive

I suggest that the question of whether all people who take a certain position have some ulterior motive is unsuitable as a topic in the Great Debates category. One side of the supposed debate necessarily argues that the majority of the other side acts in bad faith. I think this is counter to the spirit if not the rules of that forum.

The opinion, “all people who take position X have an ulterior motive”, is itself a legitimate opinion. I think there are times where it can be raised during debate. I just do not think the question should be presented as the debate.


Do you have some example threads in mind?

And is there a reason this is in ATMB, rather than the dedicated GD thread for new rules (which I know is locked, but you can PM the mods)?

“Is there a reason you didn’t post in the locked thread, other than the fact that it is locked and cannot be posted to?”

You can raise new topic bans in GD by PMing the mods, is what they said. Rather than making an ATMB thread about it. I was thinking of this bit:

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.

Although I see now that’s more tired topics versus unsuitable ones.

I wouldn’t mind such claims/positions being used for debate, if it weren’t that they’re almost always wrong.

“Pro-lifers don’t actually want to save unborn lives, they just want to control women’s bodies.”

“Conservatives are motivated by a desire to kill people” (an actual thread title)

“People who support Trump LOVE evil”

“Socialists just want to snatch everyone’s property”

Etc. etc.

I agree with the OP that they often are unsuitable for GD. I think the problem can be resolved by those threads being moved to the Pit. The most recent example I’ve seen is the one below.

Fine for the Pit but doesn’t seem like a good topic for GD.

What does my post about a post I did not actually post have to do with this topic?

Apologies, TriPolar. I meant to link to the actual post rather than your reply. I can no longer edit it.

No biggie. Didn’t even mean to sound offended. The post I removed might have been an example of this issue. But I don’t know why there should be such a ban on topics. If any debate topic goes off the rails the mods can direct it back on course or shut it down. Such action shouldn’t be based on a particular type of content.

Specifically, I had this in mind:

It has always been this: Conservatives believe they have the right to kill everyone else

I can also think of topics that came close, for example:

“Pro-lifers want to control women’s bodies” - Okay, but………why?

which pre-dates the new rules about keeping strict focus. The original question would be ‘what motivation would they have to control women’s bodies’, but the premise was instantly questioned. And I think debate of that premise, whether Pro-lifers have an ulterior motive, is inappropriate for GD. Despite my participation in the thread…

But I can think of tons of topics which don’t necessarily exist, which I would rather not see. I do not endorse any of the viewpoints; to different degrees, they all suffer from the same fatal flaw:

“Transsexual women are really just homosexuals who want to have sex with straight men”
“People who oppose low-income housing are actually racists”
“Women lie about rape to cover up their infidelity”
“People who don’t support advanced interregation techniques are traitors”
“Those who support universal health care hate doctors, like seeing people die from lack of care”
“Environmentalists don’t care about the environment, they just want to rebel against authority”
“Declawing your cat means you are an animal sadist”
“People who say they like Pepsi do so only because they’ve been paid off”

Oh, and I think it’s fine to talk about politics as an ulterior motive in the Politics & Elections forum, for example this topic:

Ex-Republican strategist: Republican Party conservatism was always a lie


“The fundamental basis of debate is the assumption that other posters are debating honestly.”

We have a lot of members. For most positions, there are probably at least a few members who hold that position. How can it be appropriate to question the honesty of people who hold a certain position, and to present that question as a topic of debate?


I agree, 90% of that thread is more suited for the Pit than GD. I flagged that thread as unsuitable but I’m not sure what threshold the mods use to take action. It’s pretty obvious that the OP and a large % of the posters to that thread are just looking to rant instead of debate.

So your proposed rule just breaks down to “No well-poisoning”? Well, better hope they’re all as clear-cut as your examples, because I foresee a lot of work for the mods.

“No well-poisoning” is more broad than what I’m suggesting. I am merely saying that “is the well poisoned?” should be inappropriate as a topic in Great Debates.


I still don’t see the problem. If you posit “All people who take position X have an ulterior motive” there can be a perfectly reasonable response that it is untrue, that not all such people have an ulterior motive. Or if there is not then the point is true and there can’t be much debate.

But anyway, what is the point? If a debate can’t be held under the rules the mods will deal with it.

Meh. Just make the thread in IMHO, like the trans thread. Despite being about something as big as bigotry, it’s not been moved to GD. Same with a thread on political correctness–thought that one at least made it a poll, so maybe add that.

Not trying to sound as sarcastic as that does: I just means that it doesn’t really seem like how big and important/contentious the topic is a requirement for having a thread in GD anymore.

There are tons of posts in at least the trans thread that I don’t think would be allowed in GD, because they’d be too harsh. It’s why I’ve not reported the thread to be moved, anyways.

You are correct, a debate can be had.

I just don’t think we should have that kind of debate in the Great Debates forum. I think any resulting debate would be incredibly shallow. I think it discourages participation from other-minded posters and makes them feel (slightly) unwelcome.

If a person says, “I think all people who believe X have an ulterior motive”, and you believe X, it follows that the person thinks you have an ulterior motive. People ascribing bad faith to you at the outset of a debate is a good enough reason not to participate in that debate. Or that debate club, who thinks it is appropriate to offer up your good faith the subject of debate.

Moving past that, “I’m a person who takes position X, and I’m being honest” is the most intuitive counterargument for people who fit the bill, but also a trap that might indicate trolling: you can’t accuse another poster of being dishonest. So, why risk being branded as a troll - by moderators or by other posters? It’s easier not to participate at all.

You have said one can turn the debate into one over the honesty of some third party, paragons of position X who you think are being honest. This alternative was offered to me in private shortly after creating this topic. There is a point, I could argue that John McCain was a patriot who honestly opposed torture, or that Barry Goldwater really believed in state’s rights.

But that doesn’t seem appealing to me. I’m put on the defensive when implicated in a topic like the ones I have described. And the problem is that I’m implicated at all. That doesn’t change. Furthermore, I’m an expert on me, not Barry Goldwater. Defending him doesn’t necessarily mean defending me, and then I feel unfulfilled. Finally, chances are, any supposed champion of the cause did something which I disagree with, and white knighting might give off the wrong impression.

I mean, imagine trying to hold a debate but not being allowed to present your own arguments. Instead you can only pick somebody else and adopt all of their arguments. Your opponent can admit errors and adapt their position. You can only switch out your representative from a list of true Scotsmen that fit your opponent’s requirements. It’s a recipe for frustration.


Someone is always going to be on the defensive in any debate about real-world issues. That’s not a good reason not to have them.

Great Debates isn’t about leaving everyone feeling happy and fulfilled. Hell, it mostly used to seem to be about atheists telling religionists how wrong they were - the very opposite of that.

Good times, good times.

You’re still allowed to do that. Just because it’s in the OP, doesn’t mean you have to agree to their premises. That’s fundamental to debate. As long as it’s not hate speech, it’s just hostile debating. A valid form.

Or don’t debate them, just start an obvious rebuttal thread that isn’t well-poisoned, and link to that as your sole response.

Right, the reason not to have these kinds of topics is because one side of the debate implies that some board members on the other side have an ulterior motive. To the extent that I feel defensive when I read broad attacks on the motives of some group I belong to, I do not feel compelled to defend whatever trait I share with the group, I feel compelled to defend myself against accusations of bad faith. (The desire to point out illogic in general is secondary)

If someone told me, “Asians don’t love their children” part of me will take that as a personal attack. Is this person trying to tell me my parents didn’t love me? That I’m incapable of loving my (future) children?

It’s sort of the same if I come across, “[…]really this is what they’ve always wanted […] conservatives want the right to murder people who aren’t in their in-group”. The implication is that even my arguments are dishonest, and truly motivated by a desire to murder people who aren’t in my in-group.

Specifically, defending some third-party does not fulfil my desire refute the original post’s implication that I have an ulterior motive.

You are right, of course. I don’t have to agree with the premises for the topic… unless I want to post something on-topic.

What I am saying is that this kind of hostile debate should not be allowed. Because it calls into question the honesty of debators. Which is already not allowed, for good reasons.


I agree wholehartedly about the Conservatives thread. I have tried, repeatedly to get people to at least acknowledge that this is an absurd proposal, verging on actual hate, to say a group as diverse as ‘conservatives’ is universally evil and murderers is verifiably untrue statement, and all I have gotten for it was various personal attacks. I noted a single mod comment (not a warning) for a post that amounted to mild snark and criticism towards a poster, but zero review of what I would consider borderline hate speech.
I have reported the thread and gotten no response. I know we’re short of mods even after welcoming the new members, but come on guys.