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The question below pongs of antisemitism and was rightly closed.

Are there any kernels of truth in the Jewish story of Purim?

Currently we have a policy which spells out that any Holocaust-related questions have to be irreproachably on-topic or they'll be closed. This has been quite effective, as far as I can tell, in preventing Holocaust denial from being pushed in ordinary users' faces. The same policy applies to all ww2 and Nazi questions.

The question linked doesn't ask about any of those topics, but does try to smuggle in antisemitic libels. Whatever deeply tedious person keeps making new accounts to push racist crap is not going to stop doing it. But we don't have to make it easy. I think we should broaden the policy to include any question relating to Jews.

Do you?

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    To be honest, I didn't see the selected question as being anti-Semitic and it was closed because it was too basic; that is the asker hadn't done their research. In this case, I think you need to apply Hanlon's Razor - Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. If we apply a higher bar to all questions relating to any Jewish history then we risk keeping people ignorant.
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 26, 2022 at 20:37
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    I think my comment there shows I'm rather suspicious of that question. That doesn't mean I think I know the headspace the poster was coming from. But it does seem odd, and I'd like to know.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 26, 2022 at 20:59
  • There is 0 questioning the subpar quality of the example Q. But while I certainly am for raising the quality bar in almost any case, for all Qs and moreover do also agree that tags like 'jews' etc might benefit from vigilant scrutiny in general, here I'd like to see how the 'smuggling is supposed to work'. IE: what kind of 'libel' you (potentially?) see in the question? I've commented below said Q & CVd, mainly for other reasons, but if there're these problems; I think we need to spell them out here on Meta? Without concrete subject matter, I find it hard to follow your argument. Jun 28, 2022 at 14:54
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    'Did Jews infiltrate the government' is an incendiary question which implies that Jews are Machiavellian and treacherous. That is so blatantly antisemitic to me that I don't even know how to explain it. I don't mean that with any side to it - like I said, the question just smells bad - really bad.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 28, 2022 at 17:41
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    Ah; in isolation this sounds even worse indeed. But apart from word choices, the orig-story's context (eg Esther becomes queen of Persia, Mordecai saves the king's life and advances to important position…) prompted me to read the Q at first as much more innocent. Since I still doubt your clear verdict as 'more muddy than that', I'd conclude that (apart from still suggesting you include the details of grievances here) that for the specific example you mention an edit to the original Q on main would be quite in order? Your reasoning if read for/as 'should improve word choice' I'd fully support. Jun 28, 2022 at 18:46
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    The asker showed a disinterest in historical facts, which no amount of editing can resolve. You helpfully pointed him towards the relevant article on Wikipedia - instead of challenging it, he ignored it. He implied that there had never been Jews in Persia before modern times, and seemed to suggest there were no Jews at all in the territory of modern-day Israel between the diaspora and the dawn of Zionism (both utterly wrong). Add all that to 'infiltrating the government'; and if you actually solve all those problems you're not editing a question, but writing a new one.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 28, 2022 at 19:30
  • Lack of edits of course is disappointing, very. May miss some deleted comments by now, but info presented in Q only gives weak clues for your allegation (other info on SE'd give more?). Don't forget the frustration one experiences when any Q gets flak (deserved or not). The comment you allude to was in reaction to a previous 1 that indeed questioned motives & gave in a sense a 'demotivator for even asking'—and with an indeed weak on its own reasoning… As much as we disagree on the details for that one, I'll still support your move for 'higher bar' in general; because we had to argue… Jun 28, 2022 at 21:44
  • I can't deny the barrage of negativity in comments -at seemingly any of my questions- grates on me immensely. And I have a lot of questions that didn't get deleted in the end. Perhaps the worst thing about trolls is they teach us not to be generous.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 28, 2022 at 23:08
  • Seems like a consensus in the answers that the policy should be broad. How do we document that consensus in a way that we can refer the community to it? Shoudl we update the referenced met a question with some of the discussion below?
    – MCW Mod
    Jul 7, 2022 at 17:50
  • I think we need to convey that trolling can take the form of tendentious posts, on topics which are only tangentially related to whatever axe the troll is trying to grind. Example: the question about whether Italy was conquered by blond people. Doubtful a non-troll would ask that question, but also someone unfamiliar with Nazi pseudoscience may not grasp what the querent is really getting at.
    – Ne Mo
    Jul 8, 2022 at 21:36
  • The only problem I have here is that many questions in good faith that could benefit from a good answer would be closed. For example, I've never really met any Jews or neonazis. I have no idea about the racist tropes regarding Jews. So, I could see me coming across some well-hidden racist propaganda, and having questions about it. Then, because it seems racist, it's closed, and I never have the opportunity to have it explained to me why it's racist or false, etc. I think assuming malice when it could be ignorance, causes the Stack to lose some its potency. Jul 9, 2022 at 20:17
  • @MCW Seems to me that we have not reached any clear and meaningful consensus on this, yet? (Plus: Remember the many discussions Sempaiscuba and I had about 'how do we reach consensus?'). Currently: The way I read them the answers are two short opinion pieces, useful as first waypoints in a debate/discussion, but way too unclear, missing guidance for either community moderation or 'violators' (when is 'higher bar' to be met, should be enforced, how to fix; imo that doesn't follow from 'trolled'; (opaque concept, impossible2know for benign newbies) imo that 'needs a positive list'.) Jul 14, 2022 at 10:45
  • To my eye we have consensus; no dissent against the two concurring answers. The site policy is for any heavily trolled topic, which includes {tag:Jews}. Apply the highly trolled topic policy. (admitting my morning caffeine deficit) Can you clarify what else needs to be added? If you've asked questions that didn't cover, can you help me see the gap?
    – MCW Mod
    Jul 14, 2022 at 10:55
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    @MCW That would mean two things: 1. who knows & how does one get to know what that is, 'trolled' (in my view:near impossible to know beforehand, that suboptimal) 2. Your last comment reads to me as if there would be zero change to the existing policy, linked above? (How should the 2018post be updated? It already quote-links to' Hitler, Nazis, Jews & Holocaust'? So: What would this meta change? As a marginal clarification of minor issues? Or is Robert's 'controversial topics' (Crow etc) now 'making 'the list''? (which TED says doesn't exist). Imo, at least we need more clarity. Jul 14, 2022 at 11:08
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    I am thinking about the issues you raised.
    – MCW Mod
    Jul 14, 2022 at 13:48

2 Answers 2

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The site policy is for "heavily trolled topics". The way I tend to describe it is that the tag became the exemplar of "heavily trolled" the same way Harry Potter became the Chosen One: He didn't choose that status for himself, the baddies chose it for him.

This was mostly the enshrining of a pre-existing informal site policy. Its meant to be descriptivist, not prescriptivist. Its there to explain to new posters why everyone's being so hard on what may look like a simple question.

There has never been an official list. I'm of the opinion that would limit its utility for pointing to when an issue comes up. In other words, it seems like a status that should have soft borders, rather than hard ones. If there were a real list, would definitely be on it, but IMHO as an observer I'd say somewhat adjacent tags like and may qualify as well.

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  • I suppose the ocean of poor-but-genuine questions about the holocaust & nazis made it easier to smuggle through insinuations of holocaust denial. Since there are (unfortunately) not many questions full stop about other aspects of Jewish history, perhaps it's previous to apply the same hair-trigger to them as we apply to holocaust questions.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 27, 2022 at 9:28
  • @NeMo - There does seem to be an interesting fascination with the Jewishness of the Khazars. That one doesn't seem to be coming from a bad place, but I can be rather naive about these things.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 27, 2022 at 13:02
  • Why would an existing list limit us in any way? My guess is keeping this as informal is aimed to prevent Planet Litigaria lawyering? I'd favour an 'abstract concepts' post that explains this (better than the indirect inferences one has to cobble together as a new or older user from various comments and meta-posts) and then lists as concrete and practical examples a few of these topics. Transparency is imo a plus, and some appropriate leeway in evaluating/judging specific posts seems to me to remain quite possible this way? Jun 28, 2022 at 17:36
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    On 'Khazars': 'they' do 'feature' quite prominently in the most vile race-based antisemitic conspiracy theories ('bad' names around that: Theodor Fritsch, David Duke), like this one crazy link example (delete if too offensive). The earlier internet (incl early Google results) was primarily full of that really open conspiracy stuff and still has not just occasionally in its heavily censored version. Legitimate Qs & As exist, surely, but we might have to take a 2nd look on our posts? Jun 29, 2022 at 11:18
  • As such theories & stories go, they are colourful, varied and used for different things. Now, 'the bad ones' seem to be used to smear with a 'long history of bad behaviour'. Perhaps most prominently: "if Jews claimed a right to 'their' homeland in Israel, then, surely, 'only true Jews' were meant?—Therefore, Israel today would be full of non-truly-Jews again stealing the land…blablabla…" A quick glance over the 38 posts on H:SE seems not enough to scrutinise either Qs&As, as I see most answers as unaware of these (possible) aspects +a few Qs a bit smelly in exactly the angle of this meta? Jun 29, 2022 at 11:30
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    @LаngLаngС - Well there's some context I was missing. FWIW, I actually met David Duke in person once. Sort of. He was picketing a movie I was walking in to see. This was in New Orleans a couple of years before the infamous Vote for the Crook. Its important. election.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 29, 2022 at 14:53
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    My immediate reaction on the Khazar question was that someone was using the word 'Semitic' in a non-technical way, and therefore probably up to no good...
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 29, 2022 at 16:18
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I agree with T.E.D. that the rule is descriptive and not prescriptive. I generally interpret the rule to refer broadly to frequently trolled and controversial topics. This means that I consider questions about Jim Crow, Apartheid, the Atlantic slave trade, land possession in Palestine, etc. to fall under the same policy. This absolutely does not mean you cannot ask questions about them, but it means that questions need to affirmatively demonstrate good faith rather than simply not look terrible.

For those with some knowledge of legal concepts, I consider the rule to relate to procedural matters rather than substantive matters. For example, a question doesn't automatically become off-topic if it veers into the Holocaust just because the Holocaust is somehow off-topic, it just receives extra attention and care and moderators are less likely to give it the benefit of the doubt. As a moderator, I generally defer the closure of most questions to the community (even if I believe they should be closed), hammering closed only the most egregiously bad questions (e.g. "O hi, what is George Washington's birthday??? Also, was he a good person? I need it for school thx."). The main exception to this is for questions on controversial topics, which I will evaluate and close if I am not convinced they are on-topic, specific, and asked in good faith.

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  • I'd pretty much like 1. to make eg holocaust touching Qs obligatory to close if they fall short (ie: let's make that prescriptive as a goal, but also try to RO as much as possible if we can satisfy quality and post is not pure trolling to begin with), 2. that we have a Meta post listing 'our heavily trolled problem children of topics' explicitly (eg: haven't noticed Apartheid as such a topic), 3. that all mods do close-hammer at least holocaust-Qs and that all remember that the last vote is like an ordinary user vote (for CV as for RO! Jun 28, 2022 at 17:29
  • @LаngLаngС - That sounds to me like "moderators should just put on hold nearly all holocaust questions pre-emptively". I think MCW experimented with that for a while, and wasn't really satisfied with the results. They might could talk about why better than I can, but IIRC it was a lot more work for us (if WE unilaterally put on hold a potentially fixable question, we kind of feel obligated to help improve it to get it back open), and pretty much always the death knell of the question.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 29, 2022 at 13:53
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    Lavishing a lot of extra work to no useful end on what's likely just a troll is kind of demoralizing.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 29, 2022 at 13:56
  • @T.E.D. Agreed. If a question is all dirt we shouldn't wash it until there's nothing left - then a troll ends up getting credit for a question they didn't even write. The whole point of the policy is to make users think about what they're saying when it comes to topics that are heavily trolled. Not too make established users do their work for them.
    – Ne Mo
    Jun 29, 2022 at 23:11
  • After a while thinking about it, some obliqueness remains: Q asks "do we need to broaden rule", A says "rule is descriptive" (your explication of the existing rule as you interpret it follows). But what follows from that in terms of this metaQ? Unsure: Would the problem sketched in Q fall under the existing 'description' of that rule or not? If not, 'would it if', could it, should it? (I ask for that clarification since I consider it absolutely self-evident& 'a must' that 'extra attention/higher bar'≠'auto off-topic'.) Jul 6, 2022 at 21:34

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