The No Politics Rule

By Shamus Posted Friday Apr 29, 2016

Filed under: Personal 265 comments

People that follow me know that I am firm in my enforcement of the “no politics or religion” policy here on the site. I don’t talk about it, and I don’t allow the comment section to veer into politics. While I’ve offered a few reasons in the past, and I imagine most people intuit the reasons for it, I think it would be useful to have all of the rationale in one post.

From here on, when I say “politics” I mean “politics and / or religion”, since the two are often linked or occupy similar head-space.

There are many good reasons for the ban on politics:

1. Politics is all-consuming.

If I talk about interesting thing A that has a touch of popular political debate B, then every discussion of A in the comments will be drawn inexorably to B, until B permeates the entire debate and we miss out on the finer details of A.

This is bad, because…

2. Political discussions are emotionally volatile.

Yes, technically any topic can be volatile in the right company, but politics has a much broader ability to press emotional buttons, because the stakes are usually higher, and more universal.

When it comes to choosing which Star Trek series is the best, we can agree to disagreeEspecially if your answer is Voyager.. If we can’t reconcile our views on where the Star Wars prequel movies went wrong – or indeed, if they ever did – it doesn’t matter. The DVDs on the shelf aren’t going to change, and besides – they’re just moviesTerrible, frustrating, visually tiring movies..

But once we’re talking about passing lawsLiteral “go to jail laws”, but also laws in the softer sense of “you’re a bad person if you do this thing” type cultural norms. to impose our will for a more perfect (or perhaps, simply less awful) society on others, the stakes go up. Suddenly everyone has skin in the game. It’s no longer a debate about what we think of art that’s already completed, but about how we should shape some particular detail of our society and culture in the future – or whether anyone should have the right to do so.

This is exacerbated by the fact that…

3. Politics is alienating.

There is nothing more hilariously ineffectual than shouting WAKE UP SHEEPLE at your rivals, because to them YOU are the mindless sheep. Until you can shatter that perception, you're just screaming into a hurricane.
There is nothing more hilariously ineffectual than shouting WAKE UP SHEEPLE at your rivals, because to them YOU are the mindless sheep. Until you can shatter that perception, you're just screaming into a hurricane.

Maybe “othering” or “tribal” would be a better description. It creates a “handy us vs. them” mentality, often with color-coded teams and a Big Game every 4 years or so. So now to this already-hot mix of trouble we’re adding the fervor that comes from home team loyalty and long-running rivalries. This makes it difficult for people to discuss in a civil manner.

Even if you’ve mastered Mr. Spock levels of logic and self-control, the room is filled with people CALLING YOU AN IDIOT IN ALL CAPS, and people from your own side responding in kind. Your self-control is the equivalent of a guy who remains seated and gives a polite clap when their team scores a goal at The Big Game. It does nothing to restrain the howling going on around you. In fact, it kind of makes you look like a putz.

But even if you enjoy this sort of thing, I still don’t want politics here because…

4. Political debates are already everywhere.

In every news site. Every late-night opening monologue. Reddit. Clickbait sites. Message boards. Imgur memes. Facebook. Tumblr. Twitter.

This is further exacerbated by the way we interact with social media and how it drives our conversations, which is a malfunctioning feedback loop so horrible I can’t even begin to do it justice here. Maybe I’ll write another post about it.

EDIT from the future: Three years after this post, I did write about the poison of social media.

I know a lot of people really appreciate this about the site. It’s one place they can go where some dingbat isn’t going to scold, shame, judge, mock, dismiss, or provoke them. You can come here and talk about roleplaying gamesOnce every three years. When I take a break from videogames. in peace.

But even if the world really did need Yet Another Battlefield for the ongoing culture war, I’d still ban politics, because…

5. I find the topic intensely, personally stressful.

Maybe I’m sensitive to this because I’ve got people I love all over the political spectrum, so whenever you mock someone as evil or stupid, you’re mocking someone close to me. Maybe I’m sensitive because I feel responsible for what goes on around here and it’s really important to me that you have a good time. Maybe I’m just a big crybaby.

In any case, it drives me crazy when people I agree with end up driving away possible converts with childish insults. I hate seeing people from the other side argue with some disgusting misunderstood strawman version of my beliefs that frames me as some sort of horrible person. I hate when people ignore the stated beliefs of the opposition and slander them through amateur psychoanalysis, like so:

Why are {people from the other team} so {stupid / evil}? I’ll tell you, it’s because deep down they really {one thousand words of smug, unsubstantiated conjecture and projection}.

What you end up with are two basically decent people (by the standards of homo sapiens) who both want to live in a better, safer, more just, more comfortable, more prosperous world, but who have radically different ideas on what that means and how it could be achieved. Instead of trying to dig down and find the point where their identical goals become opposing means, they stay on the surface of the argument until they get frustrated, angry, and alienated.

I find this maddening. I can see where two people disagree, and they keep dancing around the point and saying things to make the other person less willing to listen. I want to wade in and “help”, but that would just turn an N-sided debate into an N+1 sided debate, which is very much the opposite of helping.

I keep playing the argument over and over in my head, trying to fix it. I get stressed, I don’t sleep right, and most importantly the brain activity normally dedicated to creating content for this site ends up spent trying to “fix” people I don’t know and can’t help.

And that’s just reading a debate. It gets that much worse when the debate is on my site, since…

6. Moderation is even more stressful.

I don't throw charges of corruption around lightly, but the ref here is declaring red a winner when it's obvious neither of these guys has thrown a punch yet.
I don't throw charges of corruption around lightly, but the ref here is declaring red a winner when it's obvious neither of these guys has thrown a punch yet.

Let’s say there’s a political thread with this exchange:

  1. Amy begins the debate with a short, flippant comment that implies that the topic is simple and the answer is obvious.
  2. Bob says she’s (say) “prudish”.
  3. Amy calls Bob a “dim bulb”.
  4. Bob calls Amy a “fucking asshole”.

Sure, Bob crossed a line at the end. But Amy is actually the one who began name-calling, and from there it’s just a matter of degrees. Or maybe I should fault Bob because he’s the one that took the conversation and made it personal, by making it about Amy. Or maybe I should fault Amy’s opening comment for such a clumsy, provocative start. Did she think anyone was going to be persuaded by her casual dismissal of their worldview? Isn’t it possible that the first comment is the worst of all, since it basically doomed the entire exchange before it began? Heck, Amy’s teammates might appreciate it if I nuked her inept opening so that their more measured, thoughtful, and detailed posts could represent their team. But isn’t that unfair to Bob’s side? If I weed out soft targets like Amy, thus making her side seem smarter, then am I not really helping her side?

No matter where I intervene, someone could make the argument that I’m being unfair.

Maybe I should have cut this argument off before it turned nasty, but I was away from the computerTrivia: I sometimes fall asleep. Happens almost every day.. If a thread exploded while I was away, who do I punish? The first person who crossed the line of basic decency? The people who escalated afterward? All of them?

For extra fun: I can’t actually delete anything but the most recent comment unless I want to nuke the entire exchange. This is because WordPress freaks out if you delete a comment with existing replies. The entire thread structure flies apart and all the comments appear in simple chronological order without further context, thus introducing confusion to an already heated exchange. Chaos!

This is made problematic by the fact that maybe I really agree with one of these people and disagree with the other, and that doesn’t help with the objectivity. And even if I moderate with the wisdom of Soloman and the patience of the Buddha, some participants will be keeping score in their own heads, and if they disagree with my call they will accuse me of “bias”, and I’ll end up dragged into the fray.

And while I’m at it: I didn’t build this site and this audience just so some other yahoo could evangelize their beliefs, which I may even find abhorrent. If any yahoo should be selling their political views, shouldn’t it be me? Get your own site, jerk!

I’m not asking for advice on how to do moderation. Please don’t feel the need to suggest moderation techniques or whatever. I’m saying why I hate it and find it stressful.

Wrapping Up

So that’s the deal. I know the line between politics and not-politics can get really blurry. And I know sometimes the subject matter we’re discussing will pull us towards the topic. And I’m sure I’m not a perfect moderator. I have bad days and get cranky like anyone else. But I hope you’ll forgive me if I blow it, or if it looks like I’ve been unfair. It’s not an easy job, and I do the best I can at it. I also hope that if you find yourself wanting to bring up politics or religion, you’ll think twice and let it go.

Thanks for reading.



[1] Especially if your answer is Voyager.

[2] Terrible, frustrating, visually tiring movies.

[3] Literal “go to jail laws”, but also laws in the softer sense of “you’re a bad person if you do this thing” type cultural norms.

[4] Once every three years. When I take a break from videogames.

[5] Trivia: I sometimes fall asleep. Happens almost every day.

From The Archives:

265 thoughts on “The No Politics Rule

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The real reason you dont like to talk politics is because you are white:

    1. Cordance says:

      I think this video is closer to why as to why he has issues with politics. It really is a video worth watching before you engage in any hot topic issue it has an understanding that even when you know it you fall victim to it more often than not.

      1. Vermander says:

        I like his point about how when opposing groups grow large enough they eventually stop debating with each other and mostly spend their time speaking with like-minded individuals about how much they hate the other side.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Shamus actually posted this one on Twitter so yes I’m sure it has some bearing on his thinking in this case.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    For extra fun: I can't actually delete anything but the most recent comment unless I want to nuke the entire exchange. This is because WordPress freaks out if you delete a comment with existing replies. The entire thread structure flies apart and all the comments appear in simple chronological order without further context, thus introducing confusion to an already heated exchange. Chaos!

    This is the one that always bugged me.Shouldnt there be a tool that allows you as the administrator to edit the comments at any time?So instead of deleting the comment,you just changed them to “comment removed”.

    I mean come on,its the current year,stuff like that should be common for any moderation tool.

    Also,the post isnt truncated on the main page.

    1. Shamus says:

      It’s true, I can simply blank a comment. I’m not sure why I don’t use this more often.

      1. Hal says:

        I recall you putting a big “DELETED” picture in those comments.

        1. Shamus says:

          I quit doing it because it seemed like too much spectacle. It felt a little too dramatic, like I was flaunting my power rather than staying in the background like a proper ref.

          At the Escapist, they would hide a comment and replace it with a link to the effect of: “This user was suspended for this post.” I ALWAYS clicked on it out of curiosity. Effectively, I was MORE likely to read your comment if it was flagged as bad. Assuming other people do the same, then this has the opposite of the intended effect. This really got me thinking.

          Replacing a comment with a big DELETED flag gives the name lots of attention. You can’t read the original comment, but now many people are going to be curious. “Man, this Bob guy is a troublemaker. I should be on the lookout for him. I wonder which side of the debate he’s on. I wonder how serious it was.”

          Suddenly getting a comment deleted is a way to make a name for yourself. A way to get noticed. Someone might even think of it as a badge of honor. Now the offending user has this RED FLAG associated with them. MAYBE they’ll be more careful. Or maybe they’ll just drop their inhibitions.

          So I replaced the big fireworks with a quiet deletion. I don’t have any numbers to back it up, but it FEELS like this is a better solution. I seem to have fewer problem people and repeat offenders. Angry people are more likely to leave quietly than dramatically.

          1. Syal says:

            You could use a (Comment moderated) or similar message reserved for existing comment chains that can’t be deleted cleanly (which also limits the curiosity factor because the comments around it will give it enough context to make an educated guess at what was said).

            1. King Marth says:

              It doesn’t matter what the content of the replacement is, the same result (drawing attention to a comment that required Shamus intervention) happens. If you could replace the username as well, that might help provided people don’t actively make a habit of remembering and calling out the name in responses. Also, lots more work.

              Politics is the mind-killer. Thanks for maintaining this island of safety.

          2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Yeah, what Syal said. No matter what the content you’re deleting, just use a standard comment like “Everybody play nice!” with a link to the rules post (I’m assuming there’s a rules post somewhere in here?)

            1. djw says:

              I think the blog post you just read is the new rules post…

              1. Supah Ewok says:

                It’s not a rules post though. Name one other rule besides no politics/religion discussion that the post addresses. It’s more Shamus explaining/venting about why he doesn’t want those topics in the blog’s comments. Explanation behind a rule is not a rulebook.

                1. Hermocrates says:

                  Name one other rule besides no politics/religion discussion that the post addresses.

                  ARE there even more rules? I’d just assumed everything else was common sense and/or up to Shamus’s discretion.

                  1. MichaelGC says:

                    That’s right – I think Shamus has discussed before that having actual rules can be counterproductive. And I think that was djw’s sly point, really: this is ‘the rules post’ in that we don’t get rules, we get explanations.

                    1. djw says:

                      Sort of. My thought was that in the future when this comes up Shamus will link this post.

          3. Back in the IRC days there was (still is?) a command called /trout
            One IRC client lacked it so I added a script that did it. When I was a moderator of a channel it was used as a wake up message that somebody was maybe stepping over the line.

            So instead of deleting maybe a comment, just replace it with “(You where slapped with a wet trout!)”

            Basically the same as Syal’s suggestion below (erm. above), but just more Monty Python’ish to keep it more light hearted.

            And once somebody has accumulated a box full of trout maybe it’s time to ban/block them, semi-permanently or permanently.

            1. NoneCallMeTim says:

              Hmm, what language did you implement that in. Was it Python?

          4. Ingvar says:

            Some sites use disemvowelment (that is, strip the vowel out of the text). It’s borderline still readable, but you won’t parse it by accident.

            n xmpl f txt tht hs bn dsmvwld s ltrlly wht ths prgrph cnssts f nd s y cn s t mks sm sns f y wrk hrd.

            The preceeding paragraph is an example of what disemvoweled text looks like, it is self-descriptive and I gues syou can just about make sense of it, but you won’t do it accidentally.

            1. Khizan says:

              An example of text that has been disemvoweled is literally what this paragraph consists of and so you can see it makes sense if you work hard.

            2. ThirteenthLetter says:

              Not a good option; think about if a moderator went to all the effort to disemvowel your comment as opposed to simply deleting it or replacing it with a polite request to tone things down. You’d be infuriated and probably post even more angrily next time.

              1. MichaelGC says:

                Gd pnt, ThrtnthLttr. (Srr, cldn’t rsst.)

          5. Richard MacDonald says:

            I remember when I moderated a forum more than a decade ago, comments that needed deletion would instead be changed to some non-sequitur that was almost invariably about penises because I’m a child. Since the system itself didn’t indicate when a comment was edited and I wasn’t leaving anything other than a single weird off-topic sentence, it really confused people who were late to the conversation. That brought me endless joy, until it all ended…

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well there you go,problem solved.Just edit the offender(s) and leave the rest as is.

      3. Steve C says:

        I thought you used to.

        I remember a nice little standardized formatted text block (maybe an image?) that you’d put in place of the comment. Been years since I’ve seen it. I assumed it was because that has not been needed. Comments are remarkably civil around here. You may disagree as you see the worst of the worst, and have to make a conscious decision to keep/remove the edge cases.

        1. It’s possibly Shamus is just that good at moderating.
          But it can get quite heated around here (I’ve been to blame a few times too I think).
          But most are civilized so at some point people just stop as there will be no progress (and continuing is also a waste of time).

          And I’m guessing that most people here are liberal freethinkers in some shape or form (in a non-political, non-religious kind of sense).

      4. evileeyore says:

        And the perfect opportunity to comedically blank out his post with a “This Comment Was Appropriate” line was missed.

        Sadness now reigns were once happiness and fluffy clouds were the rule of the land.

  3. Abnaxis says:

    I’ve always wished it was possible to create/moderate a site where such things can be discussed, with an enforceable policy of “as soon as you start disrespecting others, your comment gets deleted.” Like, you can talk about against an idea’s merits, but as soon as you cross into arguing against a group of peoples’ merits, that’s a no-no.

    Basically, I wish I could have discussions on things that actually matter, like religion or politics, the same way I can have video game discussions here. I have no idea how that would work, though.

    1. Syal says:

      The trouble is, it’s a really blurry line to try to draw. There was that whole Twilight debate about abstinence where people were implying it was insane, and I ‘m pretty sure half of it was intentional and the other half was accidental. And then I was trying to discuss it by focusing on implications I thought were accidental, which had its own implications.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Honestly, I don’t feel like the principle is blurry at all. As soon as you argument extends beyond general discussion of an idea, and into discussing the adherents of an idea other than yourself, you’ve crossed the line.

        The problem is, some ideas are so closely held that even if you follow this rule, not everyone can compartmentalize well enough to separate “I think this is idea is wrong” from “I think you are wrong for hold to this idea.”

        Taking the abstinence example, Person A could say (this is only an example, not a discussion-starter) I’m in favor of abstinence because that is the moral framework our society has grown and developed with, and that letting go of that framework is the first step on a slippery slope to hedonism. Such an argument doesn’t really attack the other side, but for Person B who is anti-abstinence, and who who has probably been called nasty names by other people for their beliefs, Person A just called them a hedonist.

        Now all of a sudden it is “unfair” when Person B gets punished after coming back and personally attacking Person A, because Person B saw the original rejoinder as a personal attack since Person B brought their baggage into the discussion.

        1. Herbert says:

          I think the line is blurrier than you would think. e.g. Which of these statements would be acceptable?

          “Wouldn’t it be awful if idea X happened”
          “X is a bad idea”
          “You would have to be crazy to believe idea X”
          “X is a silly idea”
          “Supporters of X are immoral”
          “I can’t see any appeal whatsoever in idea X”
          “X is a crazy idea”
          “I do hope something would be done to stop idea X”
          “X is immoral”

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Depends on the wider context of the supporting argument for the statements. Any one of the statements could be made unacceptable in context.

            However, the statements that don’t disqualify by themselves are 1, 2, 6, 8, and maaaaybe 9 depending on “immoral according to what?” Saying “Idea X is Immoral according to the Ten Commandments” would be fine on its own, but leaving it just at “idea X is immoral” is not OK.

            The rest of your examples personalize the idea X, by passive-aggressively tying the idea to the people that hold them either explicitly or by using personal adjectives to describe the idea.

            1. Shamus says:

              but leaving it just at “idea X is immoral” is not OK.

              That one is always so tough for people to manage. If everyone you’ve ever known has been anti-X, and the very idea of X scandalizes you, then properly spotting where your idea will enrage other people (and understanding why) can be really hard.

              Take (say) polyamory. Where Bob grew up, EVERYONE believed in monogamy. Even guys who cheated on their wives. They knew they shouldn’t, but did. So when he tries to understand polyamory, he’s trying to fit it into this frame of reference. “These people know what they’re doing is wrong, but choose to do it anyway, just like when Carla cheated on her husband all those years.”

              And even if someone says, “I’m polyamorous and I don’t see anything wrong with it” it’s easy for Bob to imagine the other person “knows” deep down that what they’re doing is wrong, and they’re just trying to excuse it. Actually integrating an alien worldview requires a lot of patience and empathy. Bob will probably need to read what people have to say about it. (And not watch a TV show that just sensationalizes.)

              1. Abnaxis says:

                That’s why I draw the distinction between “X is immoral” and “according to Y, X is immoral.” In the first case, you are saying that the idea is fundamentally immoral, while in the second you aren’t even talking about the idea at all–you’re talking about Y’s philosophy regarding X.

                The thing about ideas is, they’re nothing but an abstraction. A hypothetical construct. By itself, and idea can’t be hot cold, fat, skinny. An idea has no IQ. An idea by itself has no moral imperative.

                As soon as someone starts attaching adjectives onto an idea that can’t actually apply to the idea by itself, what they’re actually doing is using shorthand to describe the people who adhere to the idea. An idea by itself, can’t be immoral; rather, an “immoral idea” is shorthand for “an idea held by immoral people.” By the same token, a “noble idea” is shorthand for “an idea adhered to by noble people,” and a “silly idea” is “and idea adhered to by silly people”

                On the other hand, “Y says X is immoral” is exactly what is says on the tin. At that point, you aren’t calling people who believe in X immoral, you’re saying that people who believe in X are either not part of the Y believers (which isn’t really personal insulting–what do I care if you’re accusing me of being e.g. “Non-Christian” if I’m not a Christian?), or you are saying that their interpretation of Y is divergent from yours (which moves the debate into a different space where passages and famous interpretations start getting quoted).

                This is where I think it’s possible to draw a distinct line between when someone goes too far personal in their argument. It’s possible, if you ignore all other outside context, to filter the “this is a personal attack” statements from “this is fair game” statements. The problem is, no place is free of outside context, and people will read personal insult into an argument that is adequately respectful based on prior experience.

              2. Fade2Gray says:

                Actually integrating an alien worldview requires a lot of patience and empathy.

                Having political empathy can be very hard when you’re convinced that you’re right and fighting the righteous fight and the’re simply wrong. Especially if you’re convinced that the reason they’re wrong is because they’re the one’s that lack empathy. (I admit I’ve been there more than once.)

              3. Nixitur says:

                I find this “Obviously, nobody actually believes this, not even the people who say they do.” attitude to be one of the most infuriating ones ever.
                Because obviously, nobody actually likes beer and the ones who say they do are just pretending and only want to get drunk.

              4. galacticplumber says:

                And then the immediate response comes from literally all members of that polyamorous relationship state openly and together that they are entirely fine with the situation at hand.

          2. Ooh! a very good example.

            In my opinion I think the line is being crosses at “Supporters of X are immoral” or “X is immoral” because those refer to the beliefs of a person (which is personal).

            If you where to replace immoral with “ignorant” thinks get muddier or “short-thought” which I’d say is a neutral word.

            Immoral implies that someones thoughts and behavior contradicts the majority (moral majority).

            It’s the same as saying “well almost everyone thinks that” or “at least 80% think that”.

            The same issue exists with statistics, “90% of those asked (10000 sample size)” does give a high statistical probability that 90% of the population think the same.
            But factually speaking only 90% of those 10000 asked think so.
            The only way to know with absolute confidence that 90% of the people think this or that is to actually ask 90% of the entire population.

            Regional or nationwide surveys are costly and rare, I can’t even recall the last time a nationwide one happen in Norway. And forget ever trying a worldwide survey, you would need a worldwide unified government to even attempt that.

            So once you enter into belief/moral/personality territory is where the line is drawn (and it can be very blurry at at times).

            As to “X is a crazy idea” I do not have an issue of that. “Crazy” is not a legal, moral, or medical term. It’s fair for another person to think you are crazy as they are expressing their belief (and not imposing it). Same with “silly”, “bad” “appeal” etc.

            1. Syal says:

              Around here people use “wicked” to mean “cool”. Let’s have someone live somewhere where they routinely use “immoral” to mean “innovative”. What happens then?

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              But saying that an idea is immoral is still useful at times.For example murder.So is it really crossing the line if someone advocates for murder to say that they are advocating for something immoral?

              1. Abnaxis says:

                Yes it crosses the line, because you aren’t adding anything useful to the discussion, you are just insulting the person you’re arguing with.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  A person can have an immoral(or stupid,or crazy,or whatever)idea without being immoral otherwise.You arent insulting a person if you say that their idea is immoral.

                  1. Abnaxis says:

                    “I said your face is ugly, but you shouldn’t take it as an insult. It’s not like I said your entire body is ugly, in fact you’ve got some not-ugly parts there.”

                    Saying “anyone who believes X is immoral for it” is an insult, even if you pad it with “but I’m sure you’re an OK person otherwise…”

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      You are twisting my words here.Ill repeat:

                      But saying that an idea is immoral is still useful at times.

                      Nothing there about people who believe it or advocate it being immoral.

                    2. Abnaxis says:

                      I see. I misunderstood what you were saying. Sorry about that

                      To your point then, could you specify the definition of “immoral idea”? What property of an idea makes it “immoral”?

                    3. @Abnaxis
                      “could you specify the definition of “immoral idea”? What property of an idea makes it “immoral”?”

                      Now that is a solid question. This threads into thought-police territory.
                      An idea is basically a though, so a immoral idea would be the same as a immoral thought.
                      Now to classify something as moral or immoral it has to be judged (not be confused with a actual judge um judging things), and thus policed in some way (by one self, aka self-censorship or by others aka a interest group or potentially the police).

                      Immoral vs moral is how others see something, and a majority or a dominant minority define what is or is not moral/immoral.
                      Myself I would never consider thoughts nor ideas immoral (or moral) as that would prevent free speech or even free thought in the extreme, now actions is another thing as that tend to physically affect other people.

                      (And that’s as far as I can go (IMO) without feeling I’m stepping into politics.)

                    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Sadly,Im not a philosopher,so I cannot answer that question other than by giving examples.Murder is immoral.Racism is immoral.So basically immoral ideas would be those that advocate for other people to be treated badly for no justifiable reason(obviously killing in self defense would be justified).

                      Now to classify something as moral or immoral it has to be judged (not be confused with a actual judge um judging things), and thus policed in some way (by one self, aka self-censorship or by others aka a interest group or potentially the police).

                      I disagree.You can judge an idea without actually doing anything about it other than voicing your opinion,which isnt policing it in any fashion.

                    5. Abnaxis says:

                      An idea is basically a though, so a immoral idea would be the same as a immoral thought.
                      Now to classify something as moral or immoral it has to be judged (not be confused with a actual judge um judging things), and thus policed in some way

                      This, right here, is why you can’t make a statement like “X is an immoral idea” or “X is a silly idea” or “X is a stupid idea” without insulting everyone who believes in X.

                      No idea is immoral in and of itself. An idea is just a thought, it has no personality, it is neither evil nor good. It just is.

                      Ideas only take on traits like “immoral” or “stupid” or “silly” when they’re filtered through a judgmental prism. And I have tried, but I can’t come up with a way to judge an idea in this way without also judging the person who holds the idea.

                      Take Damien’s rough definition. Stop me if I am putting words in your mouth, but as I understand your response an immoral idea is one which, when acted on, leads the adherent to commit immoral acts (like pointless suffering).

                      Now, imagine you are talking to someone, and you declare that some belief that they’ve held their entire life is “immoral.” According to your definition, that means any time that person ever acted on their idea, they were committing a condemnable act. Can you see how that would be insulting? And what did you gain for your cause by your declaration? All you’ve done is tick off the person you are talking to.

                      For another example, take Roger’s kinda-hinted-at definition whereby the immoral idea is the one that Society’s One True Moral Compass is what determines the “immoral.” As soon as you summarily declare an idea as immoral, you are also saying that Society would be justified in shunning the person that holds it. Again, you can’t apply a personal adjective to the idea without implying that the adjective also applies to anyone who believes in the idea.

                    6. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      As soon as you summarily declare an idea as immoral, you are also saying that Society would be justified in shunning the person that holds it.

                      Not the one who holds it,the one who acts on it.Our society shuns murderers.Is that wrong?

                      Your thought process up to this point was correct.So lets go by it.Lets say someone believes their entire life that gay people are not human and should be treated in the worst way the law allows.They constantly berate gay people for no reason,even cause them harm at some point,for no reason other than “Dem queers be abominations!”.You tell them that that is immoral and they get insulted.My question to you is:So what?If someone gets insulted because there are people who dont adhere to their horrible standards,whats the problem with that?

                      Yes insulting people for no reason should be avoided.But if someone gets insulted simply because others think their ideas are immoral or stupid or crazy,thats their problem,you should not try to censor yourself just to appease them.If someone gets insulted because others dont like their abhorrent actions,thats their problem,you should not try to censor yourself just to appease them.

                      Now,thats not to say that someone can hold the stance that having an interracial marriage is immoral,and that that can insult an interracial couple.But this is the case where its the first person who holds an immoral idea(and probably acts on it).

                      And of course,rarely are things so black and white.For example,euthanasia is both immoral and moral at the same time,and that only in the best case scenario and not when someone tries to abuse it.

                    7. Abnaxis says:

                      If someone gets insulted because there are people who dont adhere to their horrible standards,whats the problem with that?

                      Numerous problems:

                      First, there’s the whole “you think it’s immoral but they think you’re immoral and the line can be blurry and gray in real-world situations.” But you already went into that on your own so I don’t need to belabor the point.

                      Second, the insult itself serves no purpose. What do you gain by insulting someone to their virtual face because you find their idea reprehensible? Is it some source of catharsis? If all you are trying to do is tear someone down because it feels good, what does that say about you even if the recipient is unambiguously in the wrong? There are enough caustic cesspools on the internet where trolls trade base insults with each other, you don’t need to add another.

                      Finally, and most importantly, I believe attitude like that is source of severe structural problems in society today.

                      Twenty years ago, you would have been right to not care what the other side thinks. If Johnny Skinhead was an unrepentant racist, you and the rest of society could simply shun him. Johnny would then be reduced to joining some small, meager white supremacist club in the middle of nowhere, out of the way where he can’t trouble anyone but himself.

                      Today, we have the internet. It doesn’t matter how odious, how despicable, how absolutely reprehensible your philosophy is, there is a group of enthusiasts on the internet who think exactly like you do. All Johnny needs to do is log into a computer, and he can network with hundreds of like-minded racists, accessing a level of resources and infrastructure that is historically unprecedented for reprobates like Johnny. Oh, and since he no longer depends on people outside of his clique for socialization or daily necessities, Johnny will now end up being ten times more extreme than he would have been two decades ago, because the only ideas he’s ever exposed to come from extremist echo chambers.

                      This is why extremism is becoming such a problem today. When you insult someone for having a “wrong” view, all you do is drive them away from civil discussion and into the arms of people will will only reinforce the wrongness. You are encouraging the person on the other side to be more wrong than they were before.

                      You don’t have to censor yourself to avoid this. You can make a point without demeaning people who disagree with you. Just take a look at why you’ve written before you post–if a statement is insulting, rewrite it so it isn’t. Treat others with respect even if you can’t expect the same in return. If you don’t you’re making the world ever-so-slightly worse for it.

                    8. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      First, there's the whole “you think it's immoral but they think you're immoral and the line can be blurry and gray in real-world situations.” But you already went into that on your own so I don't need to belabor the point.

                      Yes,but there still are situations where its not ambiguous.There is absolutely no reason to fear that you may be wrong if you say that racism is immoral,that murder is immoral.Even if you go by “well it was considered ok by our ancestors”,it doesnt make those ideas moral today.

                      Second, the insult itself serves no purpose.

                      But Im not talking about random insults here.If you call someones idea immoral,or stupid,or crazy,or whatever,and that person gets insulted,thats not your fault.You werent insulting them,you were talking about their idea.All you have to do after that point is to make that distinction clearer,to say that good people can still have bad ideas,and move on.If they are still insulted,they are the problem,not you.

                      Finally, and most importantly, I believe attitude like that is source of severe structural problems in society today.

                      Except its the exact opposite of that thats demonstrably happening.If you look at the massive cover ups that have happened in germany and other european countries,youll see that for fear of not insulting some people a bunch of actual crimes(thefts,rapes and assaults)have been covered up.

                      Not to say that the opposite extreme is better.Shunning someone because they have one,or a few,immoral ideas is just as bad.Sure,if someone is so racist that they assault a person of different ethnicity,thats shun worthy.But if they just voice their racist ideas,they still deserve to be heard.They can still hold opinions that arent as bad.And they can still be shown why their racist ideas are bad.

              2. Joe Informatico says:

                Murder’s just a word that means “unjustifiable killing”. No one (except maybe the mentally ill and especially pedantic contrarians) argues that murder isn’t immoral. They only debate whether certain kinds of killing are unjustifiable or not, and thus (e.g. the death penalty, specific military actions, specific law enforcement actions, eating animal flesh, etc.). E.g., some vegans and animal-rights activists believe “meat is murder”; their ideological opponents disagree. No one’s arguing that murder itself is moral, just whether eating animals counts as murder.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Being a hedonist is bad?

          1. Ingvar says:

            According to some philosophers, no. It would be the very definition of good. According to others, it would be OK as long as you strive primarily for the higher pleasures (like, chess, go, scholarship, …) and only somewhat engage in baser pleasures (like eating, drinking and whats have you).

            Yet according to others, the very definition of what constitutes good is if the principle you demonstrate in your act(s) can be universalised and you still agreeing that it is a good behaviour (actually using this to treat people exactly as they treat others is… not necessarily a good idea).

          2. Trix2000 says:

            I suspect it depends on how you frame or define the word, because I feel like it’s easy to see it as either “focusing on things that make you happy/give pleasure” and “seeking pleasure to the exclusion of all else, including things like morality”. The word could apply to both cases, but they imply very different situations.

            It actually leads in a bit to my own belief that a lot of problems with arguments (for politics, terminology, you name it) stem from our need to generalize and classify things. Like… why is “hedonism” strictly a good or bad thing (and not both)? How does the question of “is hedonism bad?” get answered at all when specific evidence might supply credence to both directions?

            And I suspect a lot of that comes down to us wanting to do “the right thing”, and in order to do that we need an understanding of what things and actions are “good” or “bad”. Except… specific circumstances tend to be way too complicated for such unilateral categorization, so we generalize because it’s easier than trying to dig down into those complexities. Which, of course, runs into problems down the line when we run into examples that conflict with our established generalizations.

            It’s a hard problem that everyone deals with, and I’m not sure I could even begin to come up with a solution. But I do think it helps to at least be considerate/empathetic of other people, regardless of what they believe… even when sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do.

    2. Deoxy says:

      Basically, I wish I could have discussions on things that actually matter, like religion or politics, the same way I can have video game discussions here. I have no idea how that would work, though.

      Full and complete agreement, on BOTH statements… but especially the second one. :-(

    3. NotSteve says:

      Part of the difficulty is just the nature of the internet. When I’m talking with someone with very different beliefs from me, I generally try to have a back-and-forth where I ask a lot of simple questions. This lets me feel out the shape of their beliefs, getting an idea of what exactly they are and where we’re the same or different. The quick feedback loop also lets me quickly correct any misconceptions I have before making them into a strawman.

      This is a lot harder in a comments section, where hours or days can go by between each reply. It’s made even harder by the way each of your questions might be answered by a different person, each of whom may think they have the same belief but may actually differ substantially. It’s incredibly difficult to actually have the type of conversation I’ve found most useful for building bridges.

      As a result of this, most people I’ve seen try to discuss these issues tend to fall into a very particular type of post. They try to write long, detailed responses where they address every point they think the other person might bring up, since they’re not going to be able to address them in real time. This tends to lead to people talking past each other, since they’re spending most of their time arguing against things the other person isn’t even saying. It can also be frustrating because often someone will respond to only one part of the long post, ignoring the main point or other parts of the post that qualified that part.

      Basically, the internet makes productive conversations on controversial topics hard.

  4. Herbert says:

    The blue guy obviously won that fight. Wake up sheeple!!

    1. Syal says:

      The ref is actually just making sure Red’s gloves are the right weight, and Red is playing to the crowd.

  5. Da Mage says:

    I normally find that talking about politics in person is much better than online. You have more time to give a point of view and people are less likely to call you an arsehole to your face. But that said, I’ve had a person spend 15mins explaining their point of view to me, then storming out of the room when I still disagreed… it does happen.

    I think it is it really silly to ague politics online, except in specific places. Your website reaches people around the world and people rarely care about the politics in other people’s countries.

    1. Ester says:

      Exactly my 2 cents. I care about US politics only marginally more than Joe Sixpack cares about German politics, so it’s really nice to not have to wade through it in order to reach the gaming stuff. Keep it up, Shamus!

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      I normally find that talking about politics in person is much better than online.

      It’s not just about being in person, but about public internet areas being terrible for debate. In-person discussions tend to be between two to several people who are in the room for the entire discussion. Internet discussions start between two people, then a third barges in with their opinion, then a fourth comes in having misunderstood the beginning of the discussion, then a fifth responds to the latest comment without reading any of the previous text… it’s a mess.

    3. Falterfire says:

      There are ups and downs. Upsides to discussing it online: You can leave at any point without having to make an excuse or avoid making eye contact for the rest of the event. Downsides: If you say something now, you might find yourself having the (frequently rather emotionally charged) debate all day long because of the nature of online discourse.

      Plus, online people can jump in at any point which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It means you can jump in on a conversation that’s interesting but started without you, but it also means you can find yourself in a kudzu of a conversation, responding to five different people each arguing with your original point for a slightly different reason. (It’s mostly a downside, but by the time I realized that I was midway through this paragraph and too lazy to revise my thesis)

      Oh, the biggest downside of internet conversation is that nobody backs down online. Either the argument gets more intense and the lines get more drawn, or if the person IS convinced, they probably just… don’t respond again. Sure, I may eventually concede your points or realize a flaw in my own argument, but because of the stupid thing that is human pride, I’ll just stop posting (and be replaced by somebody else who wasn’t convinced) rather than make a “You’re right, I’m sorry, I see where I dun goofed” post.

      1. Supah Ewok says:

        Honestly, any argument I have on the internet, whether politics or video games, I try to limit myself to two replies. Usually I let myself get drawn to a third one, but I really try to not go past that. At that point I have in all likelihood gotten like 90% of whatever I could take away from the conversation, and if I haven’t persuaded the other side, it’s incredibly unlikely that I will do so with any further replies. My replies tend to be fairly long and cover multiple points each, so it’s not like I’m leaving an aspect of the debate hanging. I think it’s a good rule, and would probably save folks some headaches.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          What about pun wars?Do you get so punped when theres a pun war that you go in for a fourth reply?

          1. Supah Ewok says:

            I don’t have enough wit for pun wars, unfortunately :( Really makes me feel like a punk.

            1. Syal says:

              Don’t worry about wit, just punt them as far as you can.

      2. MichaelGC says:

        I backed down once, in 2008. Remember it like it were yesterday…

      3. Paul Spooner says:

        I hadn’t considered your final point in quite that way before, but it sheds light on the atmosphere of online interactions. If going silent is equated with admitting “My worldview was flawed but you have convinced me, I will now go and sin no more.” then disagreeing people will not want to go silent to avoid the appearance of defeat.

        It seems likely that going silent is more often indicative of frustration, loss of interest, or despair that the conversation will prove profitable. But since you can’t see the attitude of people leaving an internet discussion, one has to assume something.

        So, it seems likely that “if the person IS convinced” or even just learns a new perspective, they should bow out of the discussion gracefully. That way the precedent is set that just going dark is not equal to stated consent. (a principle that has many useful applications)

        1. MichaelG says:

          In my experience, online discussions aren’t really debates intended to come to a conclusion. It’s just two or more people defending their views, or their political “side”. A conclusion would require compromise, which is not why they started the debate.

        2. Decus says:

          For me bowing out of internet conversation is usually one of two things: 1) There’s no easy way that I know of to even know that I’ve been replied to and hunting things down to check is pretty whatever anyway 2) The real fool is the one who wastes his time talking to a fool.

          My assumption has always been that it’s the same for people backing out of conversations: they either think I’m too fool to even understand what they’re saying or stopped caring enough to even check for replies. I usually don’t debate politics/religion online though, per se, even when the conversation was initially about politics/religion; more likely than not I just entered the discussion to point out that this study or that study was flawed or this conclusion or that conclusion doesn’t actually match the study being cited or that somebody is confusing this religion’s beliefs for that religion’s or misunderstanding them from the beginning. As you might imagine, that kind of comment kind of tends to fall into one or both categories for “can’t be bothered to reply”–all of what I wanted to convey has been conveyed. Maybe if somebody wanted me to point them to more religious texts or explanations, for the religion misunderstandings?

      4. Abnaxis says:

        The fundamental problem with political/religious discussions, on any medium, is that most people do not arrive with reasonable expectations.

        The fact of the matter is, whoever is sitting on their machine typing in response to your arguments is not going to be convinced by how you have laid out your points. It doesn’t matter how logical your points are or how flawed their philosophy is, you are one voice in a thousand little voices that have already convinced your opposition to take the position the espouse.

        Therefore, whenever I get into a political discussion, my goal is never to “win.” Instead, my goal is to educate. Make the other person understand why I think the way I do and how I can come to the conclusions I do not because I am ignorant, but because I am looking from the issue from a different context than they are.

        My hope is that by doing this, I won’t convince the other person that they are wrong, but I will force them to make their argument *better*. If I have succeeded, then the next time this other person goes online to post, my idea will be one more idea in the back of their head that they need to account for as they enter the fray. Even if I’m not convincing anyone of anything, only good can come from making someone critically examine their own positions.

        1. Deoxy says:

          That’s all good stuff, especially the last line, but honestly, I think the biggest problem at the root of a lot of the rancor is that people simply don’t “critically examine their own positions”, mostly, well, EVER. “You can’t reason someone out of something they weren’t reasoned into,” as the old saying goes (and actually, you CAN, it’s just really, REALLY hard).

          1. Falterfire says:

            I hate that saying, because it does that nasty thing where it assumes people on the other side got to where they are without any reasons. They’re just dumb and illogical and that’s why they don’t get it.

            People believe they are following reason, no matter which side they’re on. The problem isn’t that you can’t reason somebody out of the position they’ve reasoned themselves into, the problem is that they’re just as certain their reasons are correct as you are that you are the one with reasons and they are the ones who are clearly illogical.

            The issue is that people, especially smart people, tend to have a sort of gut instinct one way or the other and then their brain happily sews bits and pieces together to form a coherent explanation for the why after the fact. Sometimes the bits and pieces are strong and made of solid material, other times they’re flimsy, but both people are convinced they’ve made a full quilt while the other guy is just waving around a napkin.

            The human brain just has that nasty habit to be very very good at providing itself explanations after reaching a conclusion and then telling itself that the explanations are why the conclusion was reached to begin with.

            1. Trix2000 says:

              It also doesn’t help that people have different experiences and values, which can change the reasoning. If I value thing X and my opponent does not, he’s not going to understand my reasons for defending X so vehemently. To me, the logic is sound (I value X, so losing it would be bad), but to him it makes no sense (X is unimportant/bad, why do you support it?).

              Now, I think this COULD be overcome with sufficient empathy and understanding from both sides. If I realize he doesn’t care about X, I might make it clear to him why X is so important to me. Similarly, he might give his reasons for why he doesn’t value X in turn. Maybe that would let us reach a compromise or understanding, or a point to agree to disagree. Or maybe it would open new topics for discussion.

              That all assumes, though, that we take the time to think about the other side beyond “They’re wrong and misinformed, thus they are not as smart/good as me and I must CORRECT them”. Which I think is hard for anyone to get over, since often we’re more interested in confirming to ourselves that we’re “right”. Nevermind that understanding the opponent allows the opportunity to make ourselves MORE right, whether through understanding the underpinnings of our own position better OR changing our own point of view and learning something.

              *Sigh* I wish it were that easy, but I doubt even my own capability of following that sort of thing. And that assumes I’m even right about it all in the first place.

              1. Abnaxis says:

                You’ve pretty much hit right on why my goal is to make other people understand my reasoning rather than convince them I’m right. I want to build that empathy, so I’m no longer the idiot who only thinks the way I do because I’m a sheeple.

                If I’m perfectly honest I don’t succeed at this too often. For one thing, I sometimes lose patience and fall back to blithely trying to prove I’m right in the heat of the moment. For another thing, a lot of times the discussion pretty much breaks down so all I’ll get in return is a “no, you’re wrong” response without considering my words.

                However, that brings up a cool thing about internet discussions: the person you’re arguing with isn’t the only one reading your comments. For each participant in any discussion there are ten lurkers nodding their heads along with one side or the other. The optimist in me says that even if I’m not making progress with the person I’m talking to, one of those ten people might actually listen and regard my position with more understanding. I’ve actually gotten PMs from such people before, back when I used to frequent the Escapist forums…

          2. Abnaxis says:

            Actually, that “old saying” is pretty much the antithesis to my whole original post…

            Unless the argument has devolved into a “nuh-uh!” sort of repartee, the other side is going to have either try to take my statements and work to incorporate them in their response or they’re going to have to let me have the last word (HA!).

            I would call the former “critically examining your position,” because the other person has to find a way to incorporate what I’m saying into their reasoning framework. Because contrary to how the saying goes, people generally support their positions with reasoning, even if their reasoning disagrees with your own.

    4. djw says:

      I think that any talk about politics becomes a problem when more than two people are involved.

      With just two people you can carefully consider each others ideas and have a civil conversation (this does require both people to be calm and reasonable, but I think that is surprisingly common).

      As soon as a third person is added to the mix our social programming kicks in and the arguments become a signaling match rather than a flow of ideas. After all, you cannot allow the fact that you did not shout down the other sides ideas to get back to your own people, can you?

      In any case, on the internet, there is always an Nth person listening in, so reasonable conversations between two people just can’t happen.

  6. Bubble181 says:

    Shamus, you’re clearly and obviously Wrong. You haven’t actually stated an opinion, except your own personal feelings and the stress it gives you, but that doesn’t mean we can’t argue for arguments’ sake. You’re WRONG and DUMB and a HORRIBLE PERSON for even thinking like that. You…you…you Kai Leng lover, you! (it’s hard thinking up an insult that can be used against someone no matter what their actual political opinions).

    Yeah, no, I greatly appreciate being able to have civil discussions around here. I’m sure quite a few people here have wildly different political opinions from my own, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be intelligent, interesting people with thoughts and opinions on *other* topics I’d like to talk about with them. So, thanks for keeping this place mostly politics-free.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      “you Kai Leng lover, you!”

      Incoming ban right here, calling it now. :)

  7. Poobles says:

    I think one of the biggest problems of online discussions is that you’re never quite sure if the other person is being deliberately contrary just to get a rise out of you or if they don’t want a discussion and just intend to state their opinion loudly and repeatedly till someone agrees with them. Not to mention you might be horribly wrong about something and you manage to find the one other person out there who is also horribly wrong to validate your horribly wrong opinion. Point is that it is always better to keep such discussions for when you are face to face with someone, even over voice comms it can be hard to pick up certain things.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      If there’s one thing about trolling that I dislike the most, it’s how much it muddies the waters of actual discussions.

      Not to mention all the times I’ve seen people throw “they’re just trolling” to completely dismiss an opponent, regardless of what they actually said. The worst part is that you can’t really be sure either way.

    2. Decus says:

      Does it really matter if the other side is just being contrary though? As long as they aren’t relying on logical fallacies or using Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten as their playbook a good discussion is a good discussion regardless of the real aim/feelings of the person you are discussing with. “Just being contrary” to you might actually be “trying to strengthen your argument through opposition” to them.

      The important thing is always trying not to fall into somebody else’s pace, if they’re using logical fallacies or other strategies out of Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten (The Art of Controversy).

  8. Chuck Henebry says:

    Over the years I’ve followed this site, I’ve gone from merely accepting your no-politics rule to actively loving it. Especially in the heat of the current (American) primary season, this site is a refuge where I can come and read and think about stuff that has nothing to do with [name redacted] or that lousy [name redacted].

    I say this, by the way, as a politically engaged person, someone who spends a lot of time on [site] and [site], obsessively poring over the latest news of the campaign. It’s precisely for that reason that I value having a space of non-political and YET intellectual discussion.

    1. krellen says:

      I want to thank you for using the correct form of “pore”. So few do.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Now if only we can teach people to stop advocating for communal nudity whenever they want to write “bear with me”…

        1. Speaking as someone who grew up going to naturist camps for holidays, what’s wrong with communal nudity? ;)

    2. KingJosh says:

      Yeah, and then you RUIN it by bringing up Redacted!! I had JUST calmed down from a heated discussion on Redacted’s voting history, and you bring it up again! Thanks a lot, Chuck!

  9. Grudgeal says:

    Well this site does have quite a lot of politics debates in it. It’s just that all those politics are in fictional universes like the current one about Mass Effect, where none of us (presumably) has any personal stake.

    I mean, I argue that admiral Han’Gerrel’s war-hawk stance on the Geth in ME3 is the act of a fool who is at best squandering his people’s resources and at worst a genocidal maniac, but I do so under the assumption that nobody in here personally voted for his inclusion on the Quarian Admiralty Board and treat him as a fictional character rather than a real-life politician and will therefore forgive the ad hominem. ad quariem. Whatever.

    1. “Well this site does have quite a lot of politics debates in it.” I think it’s more accurate to say philosophical debates.

      Which I think suits Shamus quite well.

      I have no idea what Shamus consider himself, but I consider Shamus a “neo-hippie digital age philosopher”.

    2. Apex Pecoris says:

      I’d suggest ad quarianem, if we include it in the 3rd declination like homo, -inis. Quariem rings weird; in my head, Quarianis makes for a better Genitive than Quariis. But now I’m left wondering what would the Nominative case be. Quario? Quariis? Quariis sum, quariani a me nihil alienum puto. Hum…

      Any Latinist in the room can lend a hand?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Quarianes eunt domus.

  10. Zoe M. says:

    As someone who years ago brought up such topics here a few times, I’d like to apologize. I was a much more volatile person back then (although I could and can still relate to the stress of an Internet argument – it’s similar to taking an exam you never find out if you won or lost) and the years have hopefully made me less willing to wade into these crazy waters. (Despite having, if anything, more stakes in the game now than then)

    So – sorry. I shouldn’t’ve caused you stress like that.

  11. What even is there to discuss? Enterprise is the best series obviously! PLAY ME OUT JOHNNY!

    1. Actually all the Star Trek series are good. The individual episodes vary wildly though.

      1. Samrobb says:

        … we’re agreeing that “Voyager” is not Star Trek, right? Because that’s the only way I can parse your statement as true ;-)

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          But voyager has the doctor.He is cool.We cant remove him.

          1. Rayen says:

            Look Voyager isn’t the best be any stretch of the imagination but I will always standby this equation:
            Voyager > Enterprise

            1. Trix2000 says:

              This is the sort of thing that starts holy wars.

            2. Mike S. says:

              Enterprise actually got pretty fun after everyone (for solid reasons) stopped watching it. I’ll put up “In a Mirror, Darkly” against any Voyager episode, for example.

              1. ehlijen says:

                It says something about a show, though, if the best episode (not just funnest, but actually best) is one where every actor plays a different character and the events have no bearing on the rest of the show.

                The other shows’ mirror universe episodes at least involved the main show’s characters somehow.

                1. Mike S. says:

                  True, but they also were on a geometric progression of diminishing returns. The first DS9 mirror episode was half as good as “Mirror, Mirror”, and things rapidly went downhill from there. They were sometimes fun, and they reliably beat Ferengi episodes (as distinct from Quark episodes, which were sometimes good), but they weren’t what you’d want to use to show off DS9’s merits.

                  That said, I’m not making a case that Enterprise was overall a good series. Just that late Enterprise brought its average up above Voyager’s, which is a much lower bar to clear.

                  1. krellen says:

                    The Ferengi episodes are actually my favourite part of DS9.

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Even profit and lace?

                  2. Joe Informatico says:

                    Thank you. TNG’s good seasons got a lot of mileage out of mining half-formed ideas from the terrible first two seasons, and actually building good stories around them. But I think later Trek series kept going back to the franchise well too often, beating once-decent ideas into the ground. (I don’t think I can ever forgive Voyager for ruining the Borg, though First Contact also deserves a share of the blame. And I still refuse to accept Enterprise’s explanation for bumpy-headed Klingons, because we never needed one in the first place.)

        2. krellen says:

          The basic idea of Voyager was good, and it was nice to see the starship adventures continue instead of only being stuck in Deep Space Nine. And there are many good Voyager episodes and story arcs. There just wasn’t enough bible established and rejection of submitted scripts to keep it from having a wild swing of personalities.

          1. Mike S. says:

            The basic idea of Voyager was as bad as Gilligan’s Island and as good as the Odyssey. In practice, my experience was that it tended towards the former end of the spectrum, but that wasn’t the fault of the concept.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Im sad that voyager didnt end up being this lone ship building a new federation outside the federation.So much potential that one.

            1. Mike S. says:

              That would have been cool. Especially if they left the 70-year transit time intact, and the crew came to the conclusion that building civilization in place was more important than spending their entire lives getting home.

              It would also have had a fair amount in common conceptually with the Andromeda series, speaking of cool concepts executed poorly. While it went fully south after the coup to throw out Robert Hewitt Wolfe, even before that it was at best a mixed bag.

              (Though Tyr Anasazi was so perfectly designed to attract a fandom, I’m surprised that he isn’t remembered more. Tall, muscular, dangerously ambitious Proud Warrior Race dude… who wants nothing so much as to be a Husband and Father. And he can cook!)

          3. Joe Informatico says:

            IIRC SFDebris once remarked that the big tragedy of Voyager, the Starfleet/Maquis division between the crew, never really became an issue after the series pilot. We could have had decent interpersonal conflicts and philosophical debates like DS9 was having, only contained on a single ship far from Federation space–like a proto-Battlestar Galactica. And they could have been better, since the Maquis actually had interesting critiques of the Federation’s supposed utopia. (Too often, DS9 fell back on Planet of Hats tropes–e.g. Ferengi are all about money, such that their religion revolves around it and they piss on things like military prowess and science even if those things can actually be profitable! The Klingons are all about battle, and they prefer to die stupidly wielding big knives instead of smartly using the energy weapons they have, and they piss on things like science and medicine even when those things make you better at fighting wars!)

  12. silver Harloe says:

    Why is Vladimir Putin reffing a boxing match? Doesn’t he have a country to run?

    1. SKD says:

      Of course he does, this is how you settle debate in Russian Parliament. They used to wrestle bears but had to change opponents when Putin won every match.

      1. krellen says:

        I’m not sure whether this is saying the Putin regularly beats bears in wrestling matches or Putin is the bear, but both images are wonderful and I thank you for it.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          And now I want to see a clip of Putin singing bare necessities.

          1. Pyrrhic Gades says:

            Crikey, I was in the middle of listening to a cover of Bare Necessities by Jonathan Young whilst I was going through this comment thread

            No Putin though but there’s a guy named Young. That’s relavent to Shamus’ site, right?

    2. Jokerman says:

      Its a weird picture… doesn’t look real, no marks, cuts, bruises…. and not even a bead of sweat.

    3. psivamp says:

      I will obey the No Politics rule.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        Yeah, sorry, I wasn’t trying to have Real Talk about Putin. I was just joking about the ref in the boxing picture looking similar (to my eyes, anyway)

  13. Joshua says:

    I’ve had to argue against politics in any of our D&D sessions, as it annoys the crap out of me.

    I think a variety of your arguments are the reason, but I’ll add another one for me is that the vast majority of politics rarely resort to above meme level intercourse, and so many of the people I’ve heard express their political views seldom give logic different than what’s they’ve heard parroted on any of the main political sites. As a person who sometimes agrees with arguments posited by either side, but for different reasons than they do, it tends to annoy me. It doesn’t feel like we’re having a worthwhile philosophical debate, but rather I’m listening to you spout propaganda.

    Plus, the sheer amount of arguments thrown out there with false facts or premises is so tiring, as I don’t want to spend all of my free time performing research just to be able to refute claims in various political arguments.

  14. MichaelGC says:

    This is further exacerbated by the way we interact with social media and how it drives our conversations, which is a malfunctioning feedback loop so horrible I can't even begin to do it justice here. Maybe I'll write another post about it.

    I would be fascinated to read that, but only if (5) doesn’t apply!

    1. CrypticSmoke says:

      I’m gonna’ throw my hat in with you.
      I feel like that would be a very interesting read.

    2. Falterfire says:

      Well, until the post materializes, we can always discuss it here:

      I think the biggest issue with online media is how easy it makes it to cultivate a space in which primarily the opinions you view are ones which line up with yours. Since people are naturally drawn towards things they agree with and away from things they disagree with, we all sort of end up in our own separate bubbles.

      Now, in real life not everybody in the same bubble is fully on the page on everything. Some people on Team Blue are fans of Team A while others are fans of Team B. But online you talk about Team Blue VS Team Red with other Team Blue fans and then you have your own other bubble for talking about Team A vs Team B with only Team A fans.

      If you’ve talked political stuff online before, you’ve probably noticed a pretty common trend: You usually spend more time talking with members of your own team, and whenever an issue comes up, some people on the team are quick to mock the other team’s stance on it. This means that your understanding of Team Red comes from other members of Team Blue picking out the worst examples of Team Red to mock.

      And then social media bubbles reward you for the oh-so-hilarious jab, the snarky comment that resonates with your team (and nets you all those likes and retweets), so when you meet a member of Team Red you’re trying to go for the joke-y remark.

      … Shamus was right, there is just so much here. Every time I start a paragraph I’m reminded of two other ways social media leads to absolute garbage fires of arguments.

    3. Cybron says:

      I would presume it is something like this.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Damn,I wanted to link that one.

        Also,the rule of the internet is that only one person can talk about any topic.So making a post about this topic is now banned for everyone else.

    4. somebodys_kid says:

      As someone who deliberately avoids social media, I, too, would be very interested in reading a piece on this.

  15. Phill says:

    Was there some political discussion blow up in one of the comments threads that I missed? Or is this a US primary season / other external factors related post that wasn’t triggered by anything on the site?

    1. Bubble181 says:

      I don’t know if there was a big blow up (if so, I missed it too), but:
      A) the comments on both of his posts about crunch have veered off into political domain quite a few times. underpaid laborers, over-demanding peons, unions are needed vs destroy the business, people need to be protected from Big Bad Corps vs Freedom of the Individual to Starve, what have you. As far as I’ve seen they’ve remained fairly civil.
      B) Shamus has been nominated for a Hugo Award for Fan Writing (for Mass Effect. “fan” means “fanatical”, not “enthusiast”, I guess :p), apparently due to shenanigans of a right-wing group who’ve nominated a bunch of names from The Escapist. This has also sparked quite a bit of debate here and there and on Twitter; people demanding he take a stand for or against the group in question, and so on.

      I assume those two together have brought much more attention to politics around here than there has been for a few years.

      1. Phill says:

        Seems like a reasonable explanation.

        I just had a scan through the recent spoiler warning comments, since Shamus mentioned in those articles that the game touched on religion and warning people not to dive into the religion topic, but as far as I can see everyone heeded his wishes.

        But I guess that’s a third recent line of discussion that might have veered close to the limits.

        Anyway, I just wanted to add my vote to those saying they appreciate Shamus’s rules and enforcement of them (and also the lack of legalism that allows people to deliberately skirt the line of the rules – people who try that here tend to get banned for being provocative). It makes this a good place for discussions that don’t get sidetracked by toxicity.

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        There was also a relatively recent thread in the forums that went into a ditch. Same moderation method though, all the offending text, and nearly all references to it are simply gone. And good riddance.
        Maybe unrelated, but also maybe a factor.

        1. Supah Ewok says:

          More than one, actually. It takes incredibly little to set folks off.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            He is specifically talking about someone wanting to punch someone in the face,not the overreaction before anything happened that happened.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              I don’t object to the desire for pugilistic catharsis. I only object to it being stated in reference to real life political figures in a context that is supposed to be entirely free of real life political discussion.
              If I objected simply to stentorian desire for violent assault, Lachlan’s Fable series would have long ago crossed that threshold.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                On the topic of cathartic pugilism,what do you think of this:

                Man Sucker-Punched On LES “Because You Look Like Shia LaBeouf”

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        This has also sparked quite a bit of debate here and there and on Twitter; people demanding he take a stand for or against the group in question, and so on.

        I never understand when people want to pull Shamus into picking a side,not here,not when he retweeted that gamers thing.So what if person A has opinion A that you dont like?If you agree with them on opinion B,that doesnt make their opinion A valid,nor does it mean you have to automatically dislike opinion B,nor does it make you a bad person by association.Bad people can have good ideas and good people can have bad ideas.You can agree with someone only in regards to some topics,its not all or nothing.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Sadly, and for reasons we won’t get into, it often becomes all or nothing.

        2. MichaelGC says:

          Aye – I think some folks feel a real strong, deep connexion between opinion and identity (both personal and group), whereas others see those as completely or mostly separate. Where the deep connexion is felt, it tends to be a visceral, non-logical thing, which perhaps partly explains how easy it is for tempers to run high when opinions are at issue.

          What I can’t explain – at all – is why we sometimes feel that deep connexion and sometimes do not? I’ve been on both sides at different times of my life, but still can’t do better explanationwise than: “mumble mumble social animal GOODYEAR BLIMP!”…

        3. Getting someone to agree with you or having someone agreeing with you makes them feel like their existence or choices matter.

          They are incapable of being (existing) without validation in some way or form. Even I am guilty of such illogical behavior at times.

          There is even a internet meme for this “notice me senpai” kudos for the Japanese anime/manga creators as I think they where among the first to stereotype that kind person and point out the social issues with it depends on which animes you saw obviously).

          A more recent example I can think of is “The Beginner’s Guide” where the narrator suffers from an extreme case of this.

          And it’s only getting worse now that “everybody” are connected through social media, tweets, facebook, text messages and skype etc.

          Look around next time you walk around town or take a bus or train. All those people staring down at their mobiles are not communicating with people, they are checking if others either noticed their opinion/view on something, or checking of others have the same opinion/view as them.

          They have lost the ability to be autonomous beings. A certain part of humanity is slowly becoming a hive mind.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            Interesting – got a little bleak at the end there! :D Not, however, am I suggesting you’re wrong…

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            But it used to be “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.Now,its “If you arent with us,you are against us”.Which is far more alienating.

  16. Lazlo says:

    The really interesting thing about “fairness” is that, while it’s almost certain that if you actually *are* completely fair, then everyone will accuse you of being unfair (because you’re not on their side), this still isn’t a sufficient metric to gauge your degree of fairness. Because if everyone thinks you’re unfair, then it *might* be because you’re completely fair, or it *might* be because you’re so arbitrary and capricious that you really honestly *are* unfair to everyone. And even if you are completely fair and consistent, having everyone hate you for your perceived unfairness to them makes it a somewhat pyrrhic victory.

    I have been part of a few organizations that have had very firm no-politics/no-religion rules, where everyone agreed on entering that it was preferable to lose a member, no matter how wonderful a person they may be, than to allow those rules to be bent. Those organizations, and this site, invariably turn into wonderful places for having deep, meaningful, enjoyable conversations. And it’s not like I don’t have strong political views, I really *really* do, but it’s really nice to have a place to go and not talk about them, while at the same time being fairly sure that no one is going to insult them, even inadvertently.

  17. blue painted says:

    I appreciate and enjoy your no-politics rule — especially given the media-circus going on in your country and the similar circuses going on over here.

  18. Christopher says:

    I appreciate this rule. It is sometimes frustrating(when video games will touch on religion and politics), but it’s a big part of the appeal of this site for me. It even makes the comment section readable. Except for the puns.

  19. Content Consumer says:

    The entire thread structure flies apart and all the comments appear in simple chronological order without further context, thus introducing confusion to an already heated exchange. Chaos!

    I wonder if a chronological ordering would actually be inherently less chaotic and confusing. Speaking for myself, when I see comments replying to comments replying to comments replying to comments on this site, sometimes I get lost figuring out who is replying to whom. A sort of “this post is a reply to this post” tag might help.
    My problem may be exacerbated by the fact that I can’t easily differentiate between pale pastels. I’d guess that most people don’t have this issue. :)
    EDIT: Never mind… it occurs to me that the 30-minute self moderation timer (a nice addition, by the way) really would make it chaotic.

    If any yahoo should be selling their political views, shouldn't it be me? Get your own site, jerk!

    Sorry… that name is already taken.

    1. Supah Ewok says:

      We used to have a purely chronological comment system, as can be seen if you read the comments on any DM of the Rings comics. The nested system is soooo much better.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Agreed.Some of those are a horrible mess,and they dont even have nearly as many comments as the mass effect posts in the past year.

    2. Syal says:

      I wonder if it would help more if the first response was offset to the left, and the next one was offset to the right. I get lost in the colors a lot because a comment and its replies will have the same color background so it’s hard to tell which one people are replying to.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        A “collapse” button would solve that problem.Not sure if its possible with wordpress,though.

  20. Cybron says:

    I super agree about 4. A lot of communities I love have been overrun with the stuff. I’ve always been greatful for your stance against it because it means I don’t have to worry about it happening here.

    On an unrelated note, Shamus, did you see the change in the way YouTube content id handles money? What do you think?

  21. Paul Spooner says:

    As someone who is both a citizen of the USA and not interested in the politics of the USA, I appreciate the “no politics” rule a lot. This is the ONLY site I’ve found that stalwartly refuses to both take a stand for, and allow discussion of, political topics in any but the most abstract ways; That is, through the medium of speculative fiction. If I want to interact with other human beings, the easiest way is on the internet, but everywhere else is chock full of discussions which, if I had the motivation to engage in, would be enraging.

    On the other hand, as a religious person who shares the nominal religious views of the moderator, it’s a bit frustrating to not get to discuss religion in the same even-tempered context, knowing that any bias of moderation will be in my favor. But that very frustration is very likely the root of the horrible feedback loop Shamus refers to above, where people congregate in sympathetic echo chambers of hatred for everyone outside of their particular cloister. Pessemism suggests that the civil (how did politics become so uncivil? Don’t those words come from nearly the same root, one in Latin and the other in Greek?) discussion would probably cease to be, either civil or discussion (if not both) as it became clear what fundamental ideas people really hold. I could hope for an alternate outcome, where our fundamental agreement (as Shamus points out above) is exposed and we join in harmonious praise of our shared virtues, but that hope itself seems sadly outside of the virtues that are shared with most.

    But one encounters political discussions outside of, and for those occasions, I offer the following thoroughly tested phrase. Just repeat this question in increasing intensity, regardless of the answer given.
    “Do you really want to discuss politics with me?”

    1. Supah Ewok says:

      “How did politics become so uncivil? Don't those words come from nearly the same root, one in Latin and the other in Greek?”

      Why don’t you ask Brutus and Cassius? I hear they have some great points on the subject. 23 of them, in fact.

      Joking and semantics aside, discussion of politics has never been overly civil. The human condition is fundamentally unchanged from the earliest records of history. Read some political works from the Greeks and Romans that weren’t meant as lessons, but to argue against somebody else’s points, and you can find some truly excellent ancient dissing.

      The only difference today is that the masses have nearly unlimited access to yell at each other , whereas our historical perspective is somewhat skewed because most of the written works that have survived for 2000 years came from highly educated folks with enough popularity to ensure that there were enough reproductions of their works for one (or more likely, bits and pieces of one) of them to make it to the present day. I guarantee to you that if you knew Ancient Greek and had a time travel machine, you’d be able to observe real life Internet pissing matches in the public forums of yore.

      1. djw says:

        Yeah, in the internet age we can at least brag that the stupid political arguments we get into result in fewer (per capita) stabbings.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Only because those were replaced by SWATting.

  22. Kendric Tonn says:

    I’ve never posted before, though I’ve lurked around here for quite some time, but I wanted to say thank you for this post, Shamus–indeed, thanks for a blog full of writing.

    The sight of specialized communities, works of art, writing about games, or whatever else, dissolving into a soup political struggles always distresses me deeply. In my own particular circle, I see a lot of artists and writers damaging their own work for the sake of politics, and I just hate it.

  23. drlemaster says:

    Protip: If you are moderating a site, and don’t posess the wisdom of Solomon, try using the wisdom of cargo cult Solomon. To wit, if two parties are having a disagreement, threaten to cut a baby in two if they can’t work in out.
    And I am now envisioning a scenario where someone like Twitter hire Shazam/Captain Marvel to use the actual wisdom of Solomonto help with moderation, but the first day on the job he uses his lightning bolt to transform and fries all their servers.

    1. Grudgeal says:

      That would probably be the only way to resolve Twitter’s arguments at this point.

  24. MichaelGC says:

    RE: Daemian Lucifer 9.49

    Aye right, and you’d have to do replies like this – complete nightmare for anyone coming later to the discussion.

  25. Vermander says:

    The thing that usually annoys me the most when reading online political debates is when someone who is taking the same side as me states “our” side’s views in an incredibly rude, childish, poorly written, or needlessly offensive manner. I end up feeling like I need to apologize on their behalf or say “we’re not all like this guy, I swear! Some of us are reasonable people!”

  26. Erin says:

    [There were a lot of words here, but I think they got away from me.]

    What I really wanted to ask was how the policy effects what you choose to talk about. Like, have you ever decided to not talk about a game or an event in the industry/culture even though you wanted to, because it ran contrary to the no politics/religion rule?

    1. Shamus says:


      Many times I wanted to untangle a few of the common points without specifically condemning any individuals on either side, but it was like juggling dynamite.

      “If I I’m going to make point A, then I should cushion it with disclaimer B. Oh, but that will be misinterpreted by the opposition. So I need to lead off with explanation C. Oh! That’s become a sarcastic meme, so I need to lead off with clarification D. Shit. Then people will think I’m implying they’re dumb, so I’ll need to pair D with reassurance E.”

      Much later:

      “I’m 2,000 words into this article and I haven’t said anything yet.”

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        You know whats the saddest thing about that issue?That the worst place to be is in the middle.

        1. djw says:

          Lol, I pretty much hate both sides of that debate.

        2. Jokerman says:

          and the best place to be… is where i am, on the outside not giving a damn :D

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Not really.Because both sides do raise some good points(once you get past all the idiots advocating for genocide of the other side)about the game industry and internet.So its sad that it devolved into such a mess and tainted those ideas to the point that you cant even raise any of those points without being labeled as one of the groups.

      2. MichaelGC says:

        Maybe not, but thanks for reassurance E. I feel much better now.

      3. psivamp says:

        Apply reassurance E to group F before discussing topic G.
        Group F is fragile, so try not to force the reassurance into place. It should fit snugly, but not so tightly as to bow the material. Try inverting the reassurance if…

      4. Falterfire says:

        Yeah, that’s gotta be hard. At least with most political discussion, both sides agree about what the substance of the thing is, the disagree stems from what solutions are feasible and what the impact and moral ramifications of the solutions are. Before you can even start talking about GG’s sides, you have to define what it is, and to do that you have to pick a side because what it even is (and what it’s about) might be the biggest point of argument of the whole affair.

        (Which explains why it’s a guaranteed firestorm I suppose)

        And… Hrm… I think that’s all I can say on that here. I have Opinions on the issue, and I’m worried that more detail than that one paragraph would tip this from discussing the nature of the argument into being the argument itself.

        1. Taellosse says:

          I think you might be underestimating how often that happens in political debates generally. As an example, I will attempt to explain the respective positions of the two sides of the abortion debate. Hopefully without bein inflammatory to either side. PLEASE NO ONE REPLY TO THIS TO DISCUSS ABOUT ABORTION. IT IS ONLY AN EXAMPLE.

          To the pro-life movement, a zygote is seen as human life – morally equivalent to a healthy infant. To them, the instant sperm and egg join into a single cell, that is a baby, just waiting to be born. Therefore, abortion, which forcibly removes a developing fetus from the womb before it is capable of surviving on its own, is murder.

          Now, given the above description, one might presume that, since we’re all talking about the same issue, the pro-choice movement would have a different view of “when life begins,” and while that might be true for some within that group, that is not their unifying principle. To the pro-choice movement, the matter of abortion is about body autonomy and self-determination for women: specifically, everyone should have the right to determine what their own body does, within the limits of medical science. No woman should be forced to serve as an incubating vessel for a life form they do not wish to support. This is part of why “in the cases of rape or incest” is such a divisive subset of the overall debate – because women who are pregnant as a result of that sort of tragedy literally had no choice in the matter, and forcing them to take their pregnancies to term is likely to serve to exacerbate their trauma even further. But those are simply extreme examples of the fundamental question at hand for someone who is pro-choice: the rights of one person should not be infringed by the rights of another person.

          So you’ve got two groups fighting over the same issue, but their framing of it is not opposed – they start at right angles from each other. So their framing of the issue informs how they view the opposition – to someone pro-life, the pro-choice movement is full of murderers, to someone pro-choice, the pro-life movement is made up of misogynists out to oppress women – and it means that when debates between them happen, they’re almost invariably talking past each other, rather than discussing the actual issue itself.

          And this kind of thing is by no means unique to this one issue. When you dig down to the fundamental motives of most contentious political issues, you’re likely to find a similar dynamic. There is seldom vast gulfs of disagreement about what is, fundamentally, “right and wrong” at a base level within a single society. Opposing sides tend to have logic for their positions that is internally consistent, they just start with different base assumptions, which lead more or less inexorably, using the same moral and logical structures everyone else has, to their stated positions.

          It’s actually not unlike the discussion Shamus raised the other day in one of the Soma posts, regarding different views of identity and uniqueness – one’s own view seems obvious and inherently right, until one is confronted with someone else that has a dramatically divergent one. At first blush, you might think they’re just nutty, but dig down to WHY they think what they think, and you’ll discover a logical structure as solid as your own, but with different founding assumptions at the bottom.

          1. Falterfire says:

            No, I don’t think the abortion issue is a good counter-example. With the abortion issue, people disagree on what morally happens when you have an abortion. You don’t have the Pro-Choice side claiming that the argument is actually about toasters while the Pro-Life side says the argument is about lawnmowers.

            They disagree about moral implications, and of the physical/metaphysical ramifications of actions and what moral actions do and don’t take precedence over others, but both sides know they are arguing about abortion.

            The instant you say what GamerGate was about or what its goals were or who was in it or more detailed then “GamerGate is the name of one of the biggest sources of argument online”, you have started an argument and picked a side because that is the depth to which the argument runs. You can’t even say “GamerGate was” because some people will argue you should say “GamerGate is” and if you do others will argue right back that you were correct the first time.

            You cannot detail GamerGate without necessarily describing things which have occurred, and since the sides don’t agree on what exactly has occurred, once you say something did or didn’t happen, you have started an argument and picked a side.

            1. Taellosse says:

              I think that has more to do with the fact that it’s a recent thing, and not really a single “issue” but a confluence of multiple events given differing emphasis by different parties. I was citing a relatively straightforward issue to simplify my point, but there’s plenty of relevant examples of at least the same degree of complexity if you feel like using those instead. The American Civil War, for instance, for one that continues to be divisive. Almost any violent conflict, actually, even the rare one where there’s a “clear bad guy” like World War II, has a complex web of justifications that are sufficient and reasonable if you first accept the premises of the advocating side. But to someone standing on the other side, the enemy is evil, bad, wrong, and monstrous. This is no less true of political disagreements – if anything it’s more so, since in war the base motive is often “we want the resources in the territory you claim for ourselves” despite any other claims about higher ideals.

              Conflict, whether merely verbal or physically violent, between ideological groups is almost never over a clearly agreed-upon object of disagreement. One side is motivated by one set of objectives, while the other is seeking to advance a completely different one – the two groups end up meeting in tangent paths, and seldom have the objectivity or empathy to examine the underlying motives of their opposition.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Now, given the above description, one might presume that, since we're all talking about the same issue, the pro-choice movement would have a different view of “when life begins,” and while that might be true for some within that group, that is not their unifying principle.

            I am yet to see someone who is pro choice who does agree that as soon as the egg is fertilized it is to be considered human.So Id say that it is definitely (one of) their unifying principle.

            1. Shamus says:

              Yeah, let’s just drop this now. This have been good so far, but I REALLY don’t want to read a dozen comments dancing around the abortion issue, just waiting for it to blow up.

              1. Taellosse says:

                Sorry, Shamus. I really was hoping to avoid something like that. I guess I should’ve concocted some elaborate fictional scenario instead of citing a real-world example to illustrate my point. I just wasn’t feeling creative enough for that when I wrote my initial post.

            2. Taellosse says:

              I’m not opposed to having a debate about this kind of thing, but house rules say it can’t be here – if you want to suggest an alternative venue, I’d be fine with replying to the substance of your post there.

      5. A friend of mine basically advised me to “don’t even touch it”. Whatever the idea behind that thing is/was it turned into a mess and both (or more?) sides have turned it into something disgusting in my opinion.

        As a programmer my thought is that a refactoring, a rewrite from scratch would be best. But those on all sides of the debate just love to hang on to that name.

        It’s like a really weird dark comedy.
        Person A: “I really hate violence.”
        Person B: “Then why are you beating that guy to a bloody pulp?”
        Person A: “I don’t know. (starts crying, but continues hitting)”

        I suspect all the sides involved just like hurting each other.

  27. Slothfulcobra says:

    But Shamus, proper who disagree with me are wrong and they need to know this!!!

      1. Ranneko says:

        On the other hand, there is also this for Both Sides are Stupid

        1. krellen says:

          I really think there has to be some plugin running on Shamus’s site that automatically strips out links to tvtropes.

          1. Ranneko says:

            It wasn’t a link to tv tropes, it was a link to

            No idea why my links always seem to get stripped out if I actually use the formatting shown in the help though :/

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Maybe you accidentally copy over the quotation marks?Or your browser does something like that?

  28. Cozzer says:

    I’m 99% lurker, but I want to say that the actually enforced ban on politics/religion is the best thing ever for a site such as this.

    1. Well, sometimes it would be nice to be able to mention politics or religion to help explain a view point.

      But not using those (politics/religion) does foster more creativity in how one explain things although it might sound generic or overly philosophical at times.

      And huge flamewars are avoided. Which is ironic as politics and religion did manage to bring systems and order in the past, but on the internet they just bring chaos and almost anarchy.

  29. somebodys_kid says:

    I try to say this at least once a year, but this is my favorite corner of the Internet, thanks to Shamus’s brilliant writing, his excellent comment moderation, and the superb community both of the previous two things have fostered.
    I think I’ll drop another donation in the basket to encourage EVEN MORE of this wonderful Internet.

  30. Daemian Lucifer says:

    April 29, 2016 at 10:13 am

    But it can be pretty funny.

  31. kdansky says:

    To me what makes political and religious debates a huge pain is that so many people are uneducated to the point where it becomes ridiculous, and on the internet, they are just as loud as those poor souls who did their homework when they were ten. There are bazillions of people who believe the moon-landing was faked / the earth is flat / the earth is 6000 years old / global warming is fake / and so on. We (as a society) know the correct answers to these questions, but some people just don’t want to accept that. I’m somewhat reluctant to even mention these topics, because people are so completely invested in their position that even crazy conspiracy theories are not safe to talk about in a civil manner.

    But recent “discussion” culture (especially in the US) tries to pull you into one tribe, then disregard all reason and just shout like a crazy person. It’s not about “how can we deal with the immigrant crisis”, it’s either “kill all immigrants” or “strip naked and give them your first-born”, and mostly because a large part of both arguers are just ignorant of reality, where the two extremes are both unworkable, but we need a solution, because the problem won’t go away by itself.

    The world got complicated fast, and most people can’t keep up. Add to that the abundant ignorance of even basic facts (e.g. 0.9~ == 1), and equal loudness of everyone on the internet. I wish we could teach people more stuff, but that is a very difficult problem. It would be great if there was a “you have to be this tall to talk about politics”, but of course there isn’t, because that test would be abused so hard by one extreme side to get rid of the other extreme side that you could make a space-elevator from it.

    So I’m just happy that you don’t allow it at all, because then I don’t have to read rubbish.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I wouldnt call 0,999…=1 being a basic fact.It requires a firm grasp on the concept of infinity in order to properly understand it.

      Earth being flat,thats just silly.Ancient greeks understood that earth was round thousands of years ago.Its also quite easy to test:Just climb a tree,or a hill,or anything tall that has a flat plane in front of it.

      1. Shamus says:

        I didn’t get 0.9999_ = 1 at first. I thought it was math-major shenanigans / trolling. It wasn’t until someone explained it in terms of 0.3333- x 3 = 1 that I got what was going on.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I have an even better one for you.The sum of all the integers(so 1+2+3+4+….)is -1/12.I am not kidding.Maths is weird like that.

          And if you want an explanation,heres a helpful video:

          1. Ingvar says:

            However, only for very narrow definitions of “sum” and “convergent series”.

            1. djw says:

              None of the series in that video converge, and the 1+2+3+… series is explicitly divergent.

              Nevertheless, after poking around it appears that the -1/12 result is solidly based on a number of techniques for assigning values to divergent series. For instance, zeta function regularization (scroll down about half way, its just one short paragraph but it took me 45 minutes to convince myself it wasn’t a bamboozle).

              Obviously there is something wrong with math.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                The wrongest thing about math is that stuff like that still gets practical use.

                1. djw says:

                  Citing string theory as a “practical” use is a bit of a stretch.

                  However, similar shenanigans pop up in field theory. At least there we have the decency to admit that the infinities occur because the theory is incomplete.

              2. Abnaxis says:

                I’m still not convinced it isn’t a bamboozle. I bet I could come up with weird results by doing wrong math on divergent series too.

                I mean it’s kind of an interesting diversion to see what other kind of nonsense you can derive from it (1-1+1-1…=1/4, as does -1-1-1-1…, but 1+1+1+1…=-1/4), but that doesn’t change the underlying faultyness

                1. djw says:

                  The wiki article cited some real mathematicians, so I’m reasonably certain that it is given some serious consideration by professionals.

                  However, I do not believe that if you keep adding integers forever that you will get -1/12. The series diverges, after all. The result tells us something about the underlying logic of infinite series, although I’ll be damned if I know what.

                  1. Abnaxis says:

                    It tells you that you can’t treat infinity like a number. I can use the same line of logic that the the wiki proof uses to show that 1/2=0. The original logic goes:

                    *: 1-2+3-4+5…=1/4, from prior established “logic”
                    *: Define 1+2+3+4+5…=C
                    *: Calculate C-4C=-3C as (1-0) + (2-4) + (3-0) + (4-8) + (5-0)…=1-2+3-4+5…=1/4
                    *: if -3C=1/4, then C = 1+2+3+4+5…=-1/12

                    I can do something similar, except my results come up with something that is clearly false:

                    *: 1-1+1-1+1…=1/2, from other prior “proofs”
                    *: Define 1+1+1+1+1+1….=C
                    *: C-C=1-1+1-1+1-1+1….=1/2
                    *: C-C=0
                    *: Therefore, 0=1/2

                    If the whole 1+2+3+4+5…=-1/12 teaches us anything, it’s that infinity/infinity and infinity-infinity are both rightly undefined, otherwise you get nonsense answers.

                    1. Abnaxis says:

                      Wait, there’s more (because I’m bored and coming up with ways to break this are fun)

                      *: Assume 1+2+3+4+5…=-1/12
                      *: Define 1+2+3+4+5..=C
                      *: C-C = (1-0) + (2-1) + (3-2) + (4-3)… = 1+1+1+1+1…=D
                      *: C-C = 0
                      *: Therefore, 1+1+1+1+1…=D=0

                      And it get’s better. If D=0, that means C+XD=C. That means I can make any finite series of (1+2+3…) equal to 0.

                      C-(C+2D) = C-C=0. Also, C-(C+2D) = 1+2+(3-3)+(4-4)+(5-5)..=1+2. Therefore 3=0. Also 1=0, 6=0 and 10=0. In fact, there is an infinite set of integers that all equal 0;

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      You arent really breaking anything though.In the video they say that the way they are using is an oversimplification,and youve just shown why those oversimplifications dont stand to rigor.Actual proof,using the riemann zeta function stands much firmer and avoids such contradictions.

                    3. djw says:

                      The zeta regularization technique is used to prevent shenanigans where you shift the entire series, or add in zeros, to perform legerdemain of the sort you are pulling here.

                      The graph that accompanies the section on functional regularization suggests that it may have something to do with fitting a curve through all of the terms in the series. You could interpret the 1-1+1-1… series in the same way, since curve that fit all of those terms would be a flat line at 1/2. Once again, I do NOT think that the result means that adding all the integers would really give you -1/12…

                      I don’t have much more to say on the topic, since I learned about it for the very first time yesterday.

                2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  You could,but your errors would be discovered.

                  The thing is,it stems from how the maths is established.Its not some objective thing that exists in reality,like people are presenting it to be.Its an artificial thing that we have established some arbitrary rules for.Some of it reflects on reality perfectly,and thus we use it.Some of it(like the billionth decimal place of pi)have no use(except to test the computing power of our machines).But ultimately,when you take those arbitrary rules to their limits,you get weird results,like that one above.Its perfectly aligned with how mathematical operations and numbers are established,and how we define infinity.If we were to change one of those established rules,the result would be different(which does happen when you jump between different mathematics,for example when you jump from planar geometry to the curved geometry).

        2. krellen says:

          I found it easy to grasp once I realised 1/9 is 0.111111~. Then the translation to 0.99999~ = 1 becomes easy to see (because pretty much everyone can grasp that 9/9 = 1.)

        3. mewse says:

          Here’s the fun next step to think about, Shamus:

          When expressed in base 3, 1 / 3 is written as 1 / 10 (base 3). And that equals 0.1 (base 3). Multiplying by 3 gets you back to 1 (base 3), without ever having to think about the convergence of an infinite set of infinitely repeating fractional digits.

          Those infinitely repeating series of fractional digits we’re talking about? They’re an artifact of the base 10 number system we used to do the division; they aren’t inherent to the underlying maths at all.

          However, if you do 1 / 2 (base 3), you get 0.111~, while that same operation in base 10 would give you the terminating number 0.5. Every numeric base will produce a set of infinitely repeating decimals for certain ratios of integers; it’s own “weak spot” of rational values which it cannot perfectly represent in terms of division. Gà¶del would be pleased!

          And incidentally, doing long division in bases other than 10 can be an entertaining mental exercise. Yes, I know I’m strange. :)

      2. Falcon02 says:

        When taking Astrodynamics classes in College I had difficulty at first wrapping my brain around the fact that in orbit slowing down causes your to speed up on the other end side and go around your orbit quicker…

        So many things I learned on paper in those classes that were difficult to conceptualize until I was able to truly play with the ideas in Kerbal Space Program.

        1. MichaelGC says:


      3. Khizan says:

        1/9 = 0.11111_
        9 * 0.11111_ = 0.99999_
        9 * 1/9 = 1
        therefore : 0.99999_ = 1

    2. Deoxy says:

      There are bazillions of people who believe the moon-landing was faked / the earth is flat / the earth is 6000 years old / global warming is fake / and so on.

      Lists like that are MUCH more effective if they are least close to neutral. Since every “side” of any size that I’m aware of has such things, it’s trivially easy to include something from at least the “big 2” instead of all on the same side.

      It’s even easier to do if you are explicit about it. Examples abound, but something like “There are bazillions of people who believe FDR shortened the Great Depression / Ronald Reagan’s drug war was a rousing success.” Even if you flub the specifics, it at least explicitly says, “I admit that both sides do this.”

      1. EricF says:

        Neutrality is a value.

        Not all people share that value.

        Making lists of “fallacies” that have become politically (or religiously) charged will induce the same kind of response as bringing up politics/religion directly, so that’s generally not safe regardless – stick to the apolitical examples from many years ago like:

        The moon landing was faked.
        JFK assassination was… whatever, pick a theory.
        George Washington cut down a cherry tree.

      2. kdansky says:

        If I read your post correctly, then you’re just trying to put some dirt on “my side” (which is not “your side”), because apparently “both sides” believe crazy things. I am not part of your “two sides world”: I don’t believe in any conspiracy theories, and I don’t take the side of anyone who does.

        I quoted some which annoy me, because they are so obviously wrong that it’s painful to listen to. The examples I chose do not rely on people’s motivations, or other fuzzy factors, just raw data and hard evidence. The earth is not flat, we know that. Not every opinion is equally valid, and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, nobody is entitled to ignorance.

        Many other conspiracy theories that go along the lines of “corrupt politician instigated horrible event X” are at least realistic, even if I cannot (dis)prove them. Maybe the FBI knew something about 9/11 but didn’t intervene. Maybe Bush was lied to by Cheney on the topic of WMDs, maybe he was in the know.

        But that’s just the dirt of daily politics, and not outright reality denial.

        My second interpretation of your post is that I was trying to be neutral, but failed. That’s not correct, I was not trying to be neutral, I chose very clearly known facts that some people don’t agree with (which of course is crazy, because you can’t “disagree” with a fact: Your beliefs doesn’t change reality). The point I was trying to make is that we have two kinds of discussions: Those that are clear, and those that are not so clear. But we treat them all the same, which is a disservice to both: Even considering flat-earth as a realistic idea is wrong (this is a one-sided fact), but thinking that the solution to an economic crisis is completely one-sided is also wrong (this is a multifaceted complex issue).

    3. djw says:

      I don’t think that the “pull into debate” feature is at all recent. People have been fighting wars over ideas for at least as long as written history.

      I’m about half way through a book on the English Civil War right now (The English Civil War: A Peoples History). The book is full of people who passionately believed various strange things and were willing to fight and kill friends and neighbors over them.

      Even though that war was instrumental in the eventual development of our current political landscape in America I cannot help but feel that all of the arguments and beliefs on both sides are completely foreign and weird. I keep instinctively looking for a side to root for, but nothing engages. Probably that’s how internet shouting matches will look to historians in 2350.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        How’s the line go: Never was a group of such disagreeable people right about so many things against such a glorious people wrong about them (usually describing the Parliamentarians against the Royalists).

    4. Retsam says:

      Fun fact, most historians agree that no large group of people have believed the earth was flat since Antiquity. The Flat Earth Myth is itself actually a myth that only became popular during the early arguments over Darwinism.

      You can see the wikipedia page on the topic:

      Sure, there exists a modern “Flat Earth Society”; but I’m convinced that those people are mostly highly intelligent people playing a game of “how far can we argue a ridiculous premise”, not people with sincere belief in the flatness of the Earth.

      1. krellen says:

        Anyone that lives in a relatively large, flat place can also verify that people did not believe the world was flat, since you can see the Earth’s curvature with the naked eye if the ground (or water) is flat enough.

    5. Falterfire says:

      But you can just be neutral on the topic! Except, you can’t, because by being neutral you’re admitting that you find both sides unconvincing (or, depending on the topic, that the issue is so uninteresting as to be unworthy of consideration). And, for some issues, that’s going to be rather frustrating. To use your (hopefully safe) examples, saying “Yes, some people say the Earth is flat while others insist it isn’t, but I don’t want to take a side” would seem ludicrous to most people.

      It would, technically, be a neutral position. That said, most people would consider it an incorrect position and react about the same as if you had just outright said the Earth is flat.

      If you aren’t going to take a position, it’s safer to just not mention it at all. It’s way too easy to come across as smug and condescending or utterly disinterested in the actual discussion if you bring up a topic and then say “I think both sides have merit”, which automatically generates the argument you were trying to sidestep in the first place.

      1. djw says:

        I think that neutrality is completely beside the point. People take positions on various topics because groups that they want to belong to have those positions. Humans are social animals and group membership is very important.

        When you express neutrality you are refusing to choose a group, and then everybody sees you as dangerous. In past centuries that could get you murdered or executed or otherwise inconvenienced. Its only recently that dissent from group membership is a viable option.

    6. “We (as a society) know the correct answers to these questions”
      Does it? Considering the amount of religious and non-religious people society is divided on that topic.
      Then again that is belief or non-belief (counter-belief?) and not fact.
      “Global climate change” (rather than global warming) is confusing and the Earth has cycles. While the planet itself may be fine humanity may have screwed itself (and various other species) over.

      Age of the Earth is as difficult as climate change, you need a way to meassure the amount of time that has passed before a way existed to meassure time. Or in other words, before any human was intelligent enough to understand the passage of time. Then add to this that humans are/where one of the younger species on this planet and that which existed before did not leave any records of time behind. Carbon dating and similar are only approximations. Then there is the concept of time and the observer problem. Threading dangerously into theology territory here old scriptures that say a being created the world in seven days does not indicate what measurement those 7 days implies. On a different timescale those 7 years could be the same as 7 billion years.

      Now the earth being round and moon landing being fake are “easy” to test.
      One involves building a plane and fly around the world (you can’t sail as you will run into land at some point and carrying a boat is not fun, just ask the Vikings that took the mountain road to Asia).
      The other is a tad more difficult as you need to build a rocket, but once you get to the moon you should find at least one flag with hardly any color left and lots of scrap and junk and the odd rover or lunar lander base/chutes whatever laying around, maybe even old foot prints or tire prints if the solar winds or some other cosmic event haven’t disturbed the lunar dust somehow.

      Of course being the one to go to the moon and back and reveal your finding might end up with people calling you a faker and that your trip was a hoax.

      Then you also have the issue that some people “will not believe it util I see it”, and even if they did see it they’d say “it’s got to be a trick somehow”.

      While some humans are wired (genetically and socially) to be convinced as a survival instinct, others are wired in the reverse and end up in life threatening situations because they refuse to even entertain that their view of things may be wrong or at odds with reality.

      1. djw says:

        You can sail around the Earth, just not in a straight line. Magellan’s crew pulled it off in the 1500’s.

      2. Taellosse says:

        You dismiss “global climate change” and “carbon dating and similar” a little too readily. They’re not different in kind from the roundness of the Earth or the fact of the moon landings. They’re based in exactly the same thing, and are proven true in exactly the same manner: observation of the world around us. Admittedly, understanding the evidence supporting those two is a little more technically involved than those other two examples, but that’s merely a difference of degree. The only way to disbelieve any of those things is to willfully ignore factual evidence, or refuse to learn enough about the underlying science to understand that evidence.

        Which is not to say that people cannot do that – plenty of people demonstrably do exactly that. There are plenty of worldviews that, to varying degrees, deny the reliably of repeatable observation, or the permanence of physical reality, or the mechanical nature of the universe. The trouble is, if one is having a debate with someone that thinks that way, it’s difficult to arrive at a sufficiently common set of assumptions to have a meaningful argument. Their founding principles are likely too different, and you’re effectively talking completely different languages.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          The problem with anyone who doesnt believe in science is lack of understanding of two things:Observation and scientific method.And practically all schools are to be blamed for this.I dont remember anyone explaining to me,in primary school or in highschool(and not even in college)what observation actually is and what scientific method actually is.Both I had to discover for myself.And I went to a special highschool,where we had strict rigor when it comes to maths,starting from “what is a number”.So I cant say that I had poor education,its just that no one thinks these fundamentals need explaining.So many people go on believing that observation=seeing and that science=believing.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        You dont need a plane or a boat to see that the earth is round.Just pick a stretch of flat land(practically every country has one),stick a long stick into the ground,paint its base white,and walk towards the horizon until you can no longer see the white base.Then climb a ladder and you will see the white base.There,the earth is round.People have done this millennia ago.Its not that hard.

        As for the moon landing,its a bit difficult,but you can get access to a big ass laser(observatories have them),and point it to the moon.You will see that it reflects differently at a few places where we have left mirrors.Practically anyone can check this if they gather enough money for a big ass laser.So its also not that hard.But if you dont have that amount of money,you can always ask yourself this:Do you think that the soviets and the americans were faking their hostilities at that time?No?Then how come the soviets didnt say a thing once theyve checked to see if the americans were on the moon?And they sure have checked,multiple times.

      4. kdansky says:

        We know the correct answers to these questions. Not everyone accepts the answers, but that doesn’t change them. Just because some crazy people believe that the sun rises in the West does not make it so.

        If you don’t agree with the obvious answers I’ve implied, then you are wrong, and that is all there is to it. You can now either choose to educate yourself, or stay ignorant, but you won’t change the facts by shouting loudly. Sure, maybe we are wrong about Climate Change, but right now, all the evidence we have points towards: “Holy shit we’re in for a very hot century.” – Maybe it’s a fluke, but I am not willing to risk that, because it’s about as unlikely as winning the lottery. We don’t know everything, but we should use the data that we have, and take a good look at not just what it says, but also how reliable we judge it.

        Many people are religious, but that doesn’t mean they are right, especially because they all insist that everyone else is wrong. Out of 5000 gods, everyone is an Atheist 4999 times.

        1. “f you don't agree with the obvious answers I've implied, then you are wrong, and that is all there is to it. You can now either choose to educate yourself, or stay ignorant, but you won't change the facts by shouting loudly.”

          I think you are confused kdansky. I neither shouted as you claim, nor did I say I disagreed. And I certainly do not consider myself ignorant, a statement I find a tad insulting as I’m on the opposite side of global warming deniers.

          Lets just say (without getting into politics) that I tend to agree with Bill Nyer, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking when they speak about various things.
          So I consider myself well educated.

          Now let me explain what I meant with that comment/post earlier (I’m not trying to be pedantic here but I feel like I need to simplify things to it’s basic meaning.)

          What I meant was (if you re-read what I wrote) that most people only believe what they can see/reach themselves, they can not see carbon dating nor climate change.

          Only someone with the right equipment and training can do carbon dating of a rock or a piece of bone from a archaeological find.

          I find Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law very fitting Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

          What people can not understand is the equivalent of magic, and in our world today those who are religious (sorry Shamus, I had to kinda go there) tend to think it’s a miracle or sin or a hoax as it challenges their beliefs.

          While scientists and what I consider more enlightened people will accept what more learned men/women tell them but with an always critical eye (as you always should if you are a scientist or of a logical mind).

          You used age of the earth as a argument, carbon dating is the most common and well known method (I forgot what the others was called).
          I have no reason to doubt it, but I just as someone who would doubt it would have the same issue, there is no way (easily) for a “normal” person to take a rock/sample and carbon date it. I certainly do not have the means/equipment nor finance to be able to or afford to do so.

          Real science (and scientists) pride themselves on their research and reports and that their findings are reproducible. But if only the very few are able to reproduce or verify those results then only those few will know.

          It is not until your “average” person is able to confirm things that we’ll have true human evolutionary progress.
          Sadly it seems things are regressing instead of progressing. Eventually the few and the rich will be the only ones able to confirm technical things.
          One example of how bad this could get is the witch hunts that lasted about a century. These days we call them herbalists or alternative medicine experts.

          I do not hold the human race above degenerating to such a low level again. Considering that in some nations women are still not allowed to drive cars, humanity have not progressed much overall.

  32. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Personally,I feel that “No armchair psychologizing” is a better rule.Any topic can be discussed in a far more civilized manner people arent allowed to “extrapolate that you must have serious issues if you believe XYZ”.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      The problem with that is I suspect a lot of us either don’t realize exactly what that is or don’t always recognize when we’re doing that.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Which is exactly why it should be pointed out.Also encourage everyone to play the beginners guide.

    2. Classic says:

      I don’t know if this alone is enough, since I feel like a lot of disagreements stem from being unwilling or unable to examine the assumptions and experiences that inform our stated opinions.

      Also it seems like humans can’t help but project their experiences onto others, because our own emotional experience is the only lens through which we receive other peoples’ stories and ideas???

      Meh, whatever.

  33. nm says:

    I, for one, appreciate the total lack of politics. It’s hard to think of people as reasoning beings when you know that they hold ridiculous or immoral political/religious views. And since any political and religious views that don’t align perfectly with mine are ridiculous and probably immoral, we’re all better off if I can just assume that while people may disagree with me on matters of Voyager we probably agree those. Also the one true editor.

    1. Classic says:

      I like this post, except I kinda wish you’d banged on a little harder about how “no politics” will wind up meaning “no politics unless the moderators agree with them” regardless of how hard we try to check our politics at the door.

      It seems like Shamus has made peace with the fact that he’s only human and has politics that are going to sneak in to his moderating decisions. But most of us readers have accumulated a lot less experience than Shamus and probably need to be reminded, what this “no politics” “safe space” is, what we hope to gain by participating in it, and what it winds up costing us in exchange for those gains.

  34. MichaelGC says:

    I laughed, so QED!

  35. Deoxy says:

    Instead of trying to dig down and find the point where their identical goals become opposing means, they stay on the surface of the argument until they get frustrated, angry, and alienated.

    This was the best of many great statements. It’s not always true, of course, but for a great many people, it is, at least at the lowest levels… but when the means vary, so often, people assume the goals are different (which usually means “evil” of course).

  36. Humanoid says:

    Aww, no Spoiler Warning season for The Political Machine then?

  37. Fade2Gray says:

    I politely clap in approval of your no politics policy.

    P.S. Voyager has 7 of 9; therefor, my young, male teenage mind decided long ago that Voyager is clearly the bestest Star Trek.

    1. djw says:

      The original series had Shatner scoring a buxome blue babe every other episode, so I think your calibrations are off.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Original trek also has this,making it the best.

      2. Abnaxis says:

        I’m anti-original series, but that’s just because every time it comes up in discussion I get the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins suck in my head.

        1. djw says:

          I feel like I got a contact high just watching that, and its been at least 15 years since I smoked a joint.

        2. Majikkani_Hand says:

          Dear lord, what did I just expose myself to? More importantly, can I treat it with antibiotics?

        3. Joe Informatico says:

          So which is the bigger crime against The Hobbit? Peter Jackson’s bloated 9-hour sequence of video-game cutscenes or Leonard Nimoy spoiling the whole plot in this 2-minute aural assault?

      3. Mike S. says:

        Kirk scored with them a lot less often than people remember, but Bill Theiss ensured that the women in question were visually memorable regardless.

        (His working theory as costume designer was “the degree to which a costume is considered sexy is directly proportional to how accident-prone it appears to be”.)

        1. djw says:

          Well, yeah, but… never let the truth stand in the way of a good joke!

          1. Mike S. says:

            Words to live by.

  38. Mike S. says:

    DS9>TOS>TNG>TAS>ENT>VOY, an assessment that I’m sure is utterly uncontroversial and will produce nothing but a chorus of assent.

    [SIX MONTHS LATER – Shamus: “I am firm in my enforcement of the ‘no politics, religion, or Star Trek ranking’ policy here on the site.” ]

    1. Trix2000 says:

      But that’s already the policy! Don’t you know Star Trek is a religion?

      EDIT: I’m not sure why this didn’t actually reply to Mike S. properly…

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Church of trek.

        EDIT: I'm not sure why this didn't actually reply to Mike S. properly…

        Because it broke again.

      2. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

        There’s currently a court battle on to protect Klingon as a living language.

        1. I’m torn on this one. As a nerd and Sci-Fi fan (Sci-Fan?) I love the idea of a fictional language could be popular enough and complete enough to be considered a language.

          But then I remember Esperanto exists and I get depressed. Especial since it is (was?) considered for the Universal Language.
          If there ever is to be a Universal Language it should be based on International English (a standardized version of “global English”), sure it may make mostly the British happy and the Americans and Aussies a little grumpy. But speaking as myself (a Norwegian) I’d have no issue with that as a universal language, Id’ be prepared to stop using Norwegian if English became a universal language..

          But I digress. I hope Klingon gets official status as a language (Isn’t the letters already defined in Unicode too?). If a fictional language is complete enough that two persons can actually communicate properly with it then I’d classify that as a real language.
          And if a existing language is spoken by so few or so badly understood than one is unable to communicate with it then that language is dead IMO.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            If there ever is to be a Universal Language it should be based on International English (a standardized version of “global English”), sure it may make mostly the British happy and the Americans and Aussies a little grumpy. But speaking as myself (a Norwegian) I'd have no issue with that as a universal language, Id' be prepared to stop using Norwegian if English became a universal language..

            At least that would put an end to the New Norwegian debate…

            (Dated a Norwegian in University. Broached the subject once out of interest in local dialects. Never again.)

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Shamus,can you check which missing comment broke this thread?

              1. @Daemian Lucifer Darnit this sucks. Maybe it would be best if Shamus locked these comments?
                Things are a tad long/bloated here now and with broken comments it’s worse.
                If people still feel like debating about things more (it’s been rather civilized here) then maybe Shamus could make a Part 2 post. *shrug*

                I think I’ve said all I’ve felt a need to say but I’m sure others still have things on their heart.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  The comments arent all broken,its just one of them.Mike S. wrote something,probably double posted and asked fro deletion(or something like that),and when Trix2000 replied,that chain broke.It happens from time to time,and Shamus was able to fix it before.

            2. Thanks Grudgeal, that made me laugh.

    2. For me it would probably be chronological order similar to

      With a few exceptions chronologically it matches with technology so effect quality improves as you go through the series etc.

    3. Malimar says:

      DS9 > late TNG > late VOY > ENT > early TNG > early VOY > TOS > the Abrams reboot > TAS

      This is the One True Correct Ranking and all who disagree are bad people who should feel bad.

  39. Rayen says:

    So did a comment thread spark this and a need to restate and reaffirm the reasons for the rule seemed in order or was it because it’s an election year and everything seems to be political right now, (which personally i find really annoying).

    I’m glad for the rule though, so many sites allow comment threads to veer into political forums. I remember I got into a flame war on the escapist where we ended talking about Reaganomics and linking politifact threads and then I realized this had nothing to do with the review of the game in question. I never bought the game I forget which it was but I hope that guy felt like he won because I felt like a idiot.

    Also Star trek breaks down like this. TNG> DS9>TOS>Voyager>Enterprise>TAS

    1. djw says:

      My guess is that it was the Hugo Nomination, along with pressure “from the internet” to pick a side on the puppies debate. I think they must have missed the part where Shamus mentioned his life threatening allergic reaction to dogs.

  40. Aerik says:

    “Heck, Amy's teammates might appreciate it if I nuked her inept opening so that their their more measured, thoughtful, and detailed posts could represent their team.”

    Note “their their”.

  41. Eric says:

    Good rule.

    The number of times a person has has their political opinion genuinely changed by an internet debate can… well, frankly, often it can be counted on less than one hand.

    I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but over a medium as volatile and impersonal as the internet, it’s a struggle. Public comment threads are never a place where you see people developing mutual understanding and solutions to problems. Save it for the spaces where positive discussion is welcomed and embraced.

    1. Steve C says:

      Funny thing is that I have had my opinions changed by an internet debate. And I said so, which was a terrible idea because nobody believes you. You just get personally attacked at that point.

      You have to pick words extra carefully if you want to express the simple idea of, “You’re right!” It’s like disarming a bomb.

  42. Dreadjaws says:

    I always find political arguments bothersome. They’re uninteresting, annoying and prone to insult wars. But this goes double for US politics, since they’re a) the most prominent in the websites I visit and b) irrelevant to me, since I don’t live in the US.

    As an outsider, I can’t make judgement on who’s right and who isn’t on whatever argument they’re having, but I always make the judgment that they’re both wrong for engaging in that argument in that first place. I mean, when was the last time you’ve seen someone from one side “converted” to the opposite one due to some smack talk in a website’s comment section?

    This people’s idea of convincing seems to have been taken from Age of Empires II, since they seem to think that in order to “convert” someone all you have to do is shake a stick at them long enough.

  43. Ambrellite says:

    Also wanted to say thank you for the “no politics” rule. I’ve been a reader for years and that includes the insightful comments–a true rarity on the internet.

    Political opinions are like genitalia: no matter how awesome yours are, that doesn’t mean everybody wants/needs to see them.

  44. howdoilogin says:


  45. Kurt Klassen says:

    Heya Shamus, I’ve read the blog for about a year now and I’d like to take a moment to say thanks for making this site and its comments section and community one of the best around. I can always count on the thread below the post to be full of well thought posts, or funny posts, or good community building posts; and i’m sure this is a result of your moderation and general moratorium on politics and religion. I wish these things were able to be talked about calmly and rationally, but this being the internet (and i suppose a US election year) i understand that human nature pushes against that. The point is thanks.

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