"We were not compassionate, we were polite."

A friend of mine just posted a quote that really resonates for me about how our current SDMB moderating philosophy may be failing:

I think too often we’ve decided that if people are polite and well-behaved, their posts must be tolerated.

That doesn’t always work. Sometimes what someone says is so revolting that the politeness in which their words are framed cannot raise their words to the level of appropriate discourse.

Want to throw these ideas out there: perhaps the “Don’t be a jerk” rule needs to re-orient away from a focus on politeness and more toward a basic respect for other posters.

How do you discuss stances like minimum wage sucks or freedom of speech for Nazis is acceptable or Trump is alright which people are going to say aren’t good or acceptable to debate or advocate if one must be perceived as good? Slightly different sets of moral axioms or interpretations of commonly accepted moral axioms can lead to vastly different standards on what is good or evil.

The reason for civility is to have a functioning forum where great debates or political differences can actually have some chance of productive discourse. If you have to only portray views which the local majority accept as “good” you now have an echo chamber.

I don’t see much difference between treating someone with respect vs. treating them politely.


Bless your heart.


I’ll use this as an example rather than painstakingly address each.

If you want to argue the minimum wage sucks, there are a couple of ways to do it while following the civility rules currently in place:

I don’t think I can describe the difference, in this case, any better; if you don’t see why I consider this a material, substantive difference, I’m happy to agree to disagree with you.

Be that as it may, this would surely make the job of moderating all the more difficult and opaque. I am not and will never be a Straight Dope mod but I have been a mod on other message boards before and sometimes the only thing you can do is go after the clear and obvious stuff. Things aren’t always clearly black and white but to differentiate between a hundred varying tones of greyness would be impossibly taxing.

Unless we want to pay mods to the point of a full-time job, offensive but polite discourse will just have to be allowed to get by most of the time.

If you can’t discuss a topic without sounding like a heartless scumbag asshole then, and I know this is a stretch so read slowly if you need to, maybe a bit of reevaluation of your core values is in order. If you just simply WANT to be a heartless scumbag asshole and are finding fewer and fewer places in the world where your views are tolerated or encouraged then, well, sucks to be you, I guess. If the only places you can find to express your “unpopular opinions” are places where only assholes hang out savaging each other, then just accept the fact that’s where your natural level is and adjust to your new reality. If you don’t like that new reality then accept the fact that change is part of life and maybe you need to adjust your way of moving through the world so you aren’t seen as some sort of moral leper. Evolution is a fact and organisms that don’t adapt die out. Oops. Too bad, so sad.

That’s exactly enough of that. No warning issued but more can earn them. By anyone.

I see the difference and those are well written examples. So what about posters who advocate shipping Republicans to re-education camps? Or posters who say no one with any sense of morals, ethics, or conscience could vote Republican? Or that when old, white males start dying off the world will be a better place?

I’m all for civil or polite discourse from all parties. But I’d like to see some consistency.

The problem is when certain locally unpopular positions are used as sufficient evidence, with circular logic, to discredit and deplatform people. Why do you think in college campuses the very concept of free speech is being mislabeled as hate speech? We are seeing, in front of our eyes, a regression from classical 18th century, liberal thought and a rise of intellectual fascism which is made appealing by a shell of proclaimed tolerance, progressiveness, and social justice.

Thought experiment:
Is there a difference between:

Nazis are a blight on the Earth, and it’s a good thing they were nearly wiped out back then.
Jews are a blight on the Earth, and it’s a good thing they were nearly wiped out back then?

If so, what’s the difference? And how would that same difference apply to some of the divisive groupings here?

Women spend their whole lives learning how to slide through the world without angering men or drawing their unwanted attention so they can remain alive and more or less undamaged–if you don’t like being expected to watch yourself so you don’t get bad consequences, well, welcome to our world. Pardon me if I don’t have even the slightest bit of “Aww poor baby” left to coddle the hurt feewings of straight white men. Pendulums swing, it’s what they do, and it’s kinda too bad if you’ve been on the positive side of the swing and don’t like the other direction. We didn’t like the swing that advantaged you and have no sympathy for the squeaking and beeping over how terribly unfair it is to have to watch your mouth to avoid having it slapped off your face. You’re right, it has been terribly unfair and now it’s your turn. Bummer, isn’t it?

I’m sure that some of the Nazis were fine people.

Emphasis added. This might a good example of a difficulty with the proposal of the OP.

I recognize that the “you” means "generic you’, and is not aimed at any specific Doper. Is this polite? Does it show basic respect for other posters? I don’t see how one can give a different answer to the two questions.

Do the same sort of juxtaposition, but about someone who supports Trump’s immigration policies.


And some Jews were assholes. Doesn’t answer my questions.


Quoted for truth.

Moderator Note

ATMB is not the proper forum to debate social issues.

Either bring this conversation back around to where it is relevant to the OP, or take it to Great Debates.

Exactly this.

If you can create a ‘compassionate poster’ version of Trumps immigration policy, have at it. I think the point is that one CAN discuss policy in a manner that expresses compassion and decency for people, even if you disagree on the policy itself. If one is unable to take a particular policy and craft a reasonable, compassionate defense of it, perhaps it doesn’t have one.