I have been engaged in a lot of exchanges lately in comments where people are not arguing but instead are using mockery, or distorting the truth to put one side or the other in a bad light. This is not accidental misunderstanding, it is a chosen agenda. And it seems clear often that the intention is to make people angry so they will argue less well.

When my vocabulary becomes sharp in response, they tell me that I am in violation of the moderation policy, and they obviously consider themselves on the right side of the policy. But they don't ask for the comments to be moderated, and I cannot ask for my own comments to be moderated.

I want to confirm that these are violations of the 'be nice' policy, even if they are kind of hard to diagnose.

  • 4
    Giving links to examples would help to sort the issue
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Apr 17 '18 at 14:50
  • 4
    "I have been engaged in a lot of exchanges lately in comments where people are not arguing but instead" Maybe that's the problem. I break this rule myself often although I try to either limit it or at least recognize at some point that I am and move past it, but I don't think it makes sense for you to get upset about this when your first sentence is admitting that you're already breaking the rules when this happens. You can't go to the cops to complain that someone stole your weed, you know?
    – Not_Here
    Apr 17 '18 at 19:37
  • 2
    Don't engage the comment thread, flag it for being too chatty, or for being rude/abusive and that's it.
    – Not_Here
    Apr 17 '18 at 19:38

When one is confronted with verbal abuse the following might be worth doing.

If the verbal abuse is directed at someone who appears unable to handle it, flag the comment to protect that person. The abusive comment will likely be removed if the moderators agree and this may benefit the recipient of the abuse.

If the verbal abuse is directed at oneself, and one feels one is able to take it, leave the comment just as it is but do not argue further with the abuser. Leaving the comment for others to see may be the most damaging thing one can do to verbal abusers. Later, if they regret their words they can delete their own comments.

Some people who engage in verbal abuse do not realize they are doing so. Do not judge these people. Learn whatever one can from them, but be wary of future engagements.

If someone says that one is rude or abusive, learn from the feedback and change one's behavior. Being perceived as an abuser discredits any otherwise rational argument one is trying to make. Post only when one does not feel angry or hostile toward someone else even when one is disagreeing with them.

  • 1
    In a more normal social environment I could see letting abusive comments stand---provided they aren't too inflammatory---but this isn't a normal social environment. It sends the wrong vibe.
    – Canyon
    Apr 18 '18 at 3:48
  • @Canyon If a comment is very inflammatory, I agree that it should be flagged even if it were directed at myself. Apr 18 '18 at 11:40
  • The question is whether something this subtle is 'verbal abuse' or just obnoxious use of ad hominem, ad baculum and other distortion fallacies. I am fine joining them on their level, an not going below it. But then they use the ad baculum argument that they will flag the posts for moderation, because my sharpness is not equal to their attack. Which, when I don't object, they then don't do. I have taken to deleting all my responses to attacks that are not arguments, so others cannot just join them.
    – user9166
    Apr 30 '18 at 17:03
  • @jobermark I suspect flagged comments are removed. That's the best thing that can happen to the person making the comment. Their comments are no longer visible. There are more people involved than the immediate people exchanging comments. There are all the people silently reading the exchange. They are the main audience. One has no control over their judgement. The safest approach is to make sure there is nothing there that they can question, nothing even subtle that suggests something improper. Apr 30 '18 at 21:58

I have been on several StackExchange sites, and I have not encountered an atmosphere that is as bad as philosophy.SE. I have not been on here long, but I have also had experiences of snide comments being made against posts. The community atmosphere here is shockingly bad, and the level of down-voting, straw-man characterisations of arguments, snide commentary, and "argument from intimidation" is far in excess of any other SE site. To hear the same thing from an experienced user like jobermark should give everyone pause. As to the question at issue, I would think that the person who "starts it" is the one in violation of the "be nice" policy, whereas a pointed response should be read in context of the original violation.

  • 2
    If you encounter "snide commentary" you should flag it. Philosophy tends to involve strong opinions much more easily than e.g. statistics. That's a natural part of the subject matter.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Jun 5 '18 at 5:51
  • 1
    This seems more of a comment than an answer.
    – user2953
    Jun 6 '18 at 6:15
  • Edited - I have added a final sentence to explicitly answer the question.
    – Ben
    Jun 6 '18 at 6:53
  • @Philip: The behaviour being referred to by the OP is not a natural part of the study of philosophy; that is a weak excuse for abusive demagogic behaviour.
    – Ben
    Jun 6 '18 at 6:55
  • 3
    I'd never say that strong opinions are (the study of) philosophy, but strong opinions on philosophy are a matter of fact. It is only in this sense that they are "part of" philosophy. It is out of the question that they should not lead to inappropriate behaviour of course.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Jun 7 '18 at 6:50
  • If you really don't want this to happen, then don't do it. Everyone seems to want to define condescending and snide as something just beyond whatever they want to freely say.
    – user9166
    Jun 8 '18 at 22:28

As I see it there are three explanations:

  • there's a problem with how you use the site
  • there's a problem with how they are using the site
  • it's a misunderstanding

Probably all three; I know I'm guilty of 1 and 3, however benign.

I mean, with me, I expect people to be able to join the dots when I imply something; I don't hammer home the inferences in my questions. With you, you rarely, or never, cite anyone. However, I do think that you, jobermark, are a useful addition to the site!


Makes not one iota of difference whether the commentary violates the "be nice" policy, plain and simple: comments are not for discussion.

When you find yourself in situations

"where people are not arguing but instead are using mockery, or distorting the truth to put one side or the other in a bad light"

and you imagine that

"This is not accidental misunderstanding, it is a chosen agenda. And it seems clear often that the intention is to make people angry so they will argue less well"

and especially so

"When [your] vocabulary becomes sharp in response"

Just flag what you think violates the "Be Nice" policy and step away from the keyboard to stop engaging with exchanges in comments. You said as much yourself:

"I have been engaged in a lot of exchanges lately in comments"

...but comments are not for discussion (see the "When shouldn't I comment?" section).

  • 4
    Please stop seeking confrontation.
    – user2953
    Jun 6 '18 at 6:23
  • @Keelan I'm not seeking confrontation. The post answers the question.
    – MmmHmm
    Jun 7 '18 at 0:42
  • Your answer seems provocative to me as it implies that it is all jobermark's fault. Well, you correctly caught the problem of engaging in comment threads (and I think in this regard the answer is perfectly good) but claiming that one should just walk away when others are offensive in the sense of violating Be Nice, that's just plain wrong. The correct answer here would be "flag it and leave it to the moderators, point out if it's repeated offence, then walk away". And that is an important difference, especially considering that uproar because of feeling injustice is a main motive of the OP.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Jun 7 '18 at 8:44
  • @PhilipKlöcking See my edit.
    – MmmHmm
    Jun 8 '18 at 4:49
  • Again, stop seeking confrontation. There is no point in pursuing this personal vendetta.
    – user2953
    Aug 11 '18 at 5:36

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