A question was asked about someone with X (not important for discussion) beliefs, who, in order to further their beliefs, was attacking their friends.

An answer was posted whose main purpose (as far as I can see it) was to belittle and shut down anyone with the same X beliefs.

I'm trying not to be biased against the beliefs of the answerer, and all the people who have upvoted it. However, not only does it barely answer the actual question*, the answerer seems to be intentionally trying to get people with X beliefs upset**. Should an answer like this be flagged? It seems to break multiple rules on the "Be nice." help page.


*The following is an excerpt of the end of the question:

I'm searching for a way to ask her to calm down without having to cut our ties with her entirely. I've already tried asking her to stop treating us like garbage when our opinions differ but nothing works.

Is there any way for us to get her to become less aggressive about her opinion?

This answer doesn't provide any methods of conflict resolution besides "cutting losses". Most of the post is rehashing the events listed in the question to make X beliefs look like the root cause.

EDIT: This has been changed, it no longer says to cut losses, but to continue doing what the asker said they did in the edited question. (with more derogatory comments targeted towards people with X beliefs)

**The following is an excerpt from the end of the answer, after edits were made:

Don't whine, don't be passive-aggressive. Don'i imply. That's the tone I used in this post. It does triggers whiners (see comments below): this is a good sign a healthy dose of ugly brutal truth has been delivered.


I tried to be as unbiased as possible in this question, but just in case I missed something, or to get a clearer picture of the situation, I recommend reading the question and answer.

No responses to this question should need to mention the beliefs. This isn't for discussing whether the beliefs are wrong, but whether the answer is appropriate for this site.


7 Answers 7



This answerer in particular has a pattern of politically aggressive posts which have many hallmarks of trolling.

Even worse, the user then takes to excessive comments to invite discussion, in order to further ridicule entire spectrums of political beliefs, while bragging about "tricking" "liberals". I have seen a number of very similar posts, where extreme positions are taken in an answer in order to attack a tangentially related political position, laden with pejoratives and broad, gross characterizations, right down to comments bragging about "tricking" people into "revealing" themselves through their votes and comments.

This creates and encourages what I believe is a very hostile environment, and it is a real problem.

It is also somewhat ironic, because this site is supposed to be about improving interpersonal relationships, and baiting, insulting, and over-generalizing are (speaking very generously) signs of poor interpersonal skills.

It is incredibly disappointing that so many people seem to be voting based upon their political opinions rather than the quality of the answer, and I fear for the long-term viability of this site if such petty sniping becomes more important than providing high quality advice.

  • 3
    given the numbers of upvotes when compared with the number of upvotes to pretty much any other answer on IP could we can safely assume that 'some' of these visited simply to upvote that answer and for no other purpose?
    – Jesterscup
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 13:59
  • 2
    @Jesterscup The question hit the Hot Network Questions list; I would bet that most people came to the site for the first time.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 14:03
  • 2
    @Jesterscup That would be my assumption if the question hit the HNQ list. I haven't seen it on there, but the pattern of votes and answers (including a deleted one asking how to recover a Google password?!?) strongly correlates with HNQs.
    – Beofett
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    @Jesterscup I think it's more likely that people started reading and agreed and upvoted without reading the rest... I would rather assume that over something this extreme, and think better of SE Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 14:03
  • 3
    "This creates and encourages what I believe is a very hostile environment, and it is a real problem." Many of this person's posts violate Stack Exchange's be nice policy and should be removed. I have left flags on some of these posts, but unfortunately they have not resulted in any concrete actions.
    – user288
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 15:25

You can and should flag any answer that you consider objectionable in any way, using your common sense, site awareness and general sensitivity as a responsible member of the community. Number of flags will influence the outcome of posts.

The problem for us is not the content or tone of the answer as such, or even whether you ought to flag it, and I have not formed a personal opinion about this answer: what concerns me most, relative to your this meta question, is the fact that that answer got so many upvotes (31 and counting, not -6 which one might think it should score, going by your question: my best-scoring answer here, though not to this question, has collected only 22 upvotes).

This is the community saying that this person has written a very good answer, and even if it hit the Hot Network Questions (HNQ) list, from which random users can upvote but not downvote, that is no excuse and those upvotes remain valid anyway.

Experienced user @NVZ points out that overly 'generous' upvoting mainly from HNQ creates a self-multiplying 'positive feedback loop' that is called the 'bandwagon effect.' Thus a post that hits HNQ can easily collect many upvotes within a short period of time.

If those upvotes were ill-considered and downvoting was not an option for HNQ users, then members here ought to be balancing them with an equally large number of downvotes as there is no other way at present to prevent a bad post from looking like a very good post to unwary readers!

Another answer by another user to another question similarly collected a large number of upvotes despite containing explicit, derogatory and inflammatory statements about a particular community. [Although I flagged that answer for that reason, no action was taken by the moderators: however I absolutely don't want to dispute it or discuss it here.]

But this upvoting pattern is what worries me.

Clearly we are not casting enough downvotes.

  • "Another answer by another user to another question similarly collected a large number of upvotes despite containing explicit, derogatory and inflammatory statements about a particular community." if content violates the be nice policy it should be removed.
    – user288
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 16:36
  • I don't want to point to that post, @Hamlet, since my flag was in effect rejected, but the person has buried his explicit, inflammatory and derogatory comments in an answer that 'innocently' states very nasty misconceptions about a particular community and then proceeds to advise OP 'how to teach Bob that not all members of that community are like that' -- another member (the one who wrote the highest-upvoted, sincere answer) has commented pertinently that this answer is in bad faith, but it still got all those upvotes. So members here are just not yet reading between the lines, is what it is. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:29
  • You said it right, @Vylix! Thanks a lot. And by the way, I was hoping to 'meet you' somewhere on these pages and tell you that you are a cultural ambassador for your city, province and nation. I was glad to read about your port city on Wikipedia. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:31
  • @EnglishStudent I'd like to point out it's the longest answer I've ever read. At least in IPS. I didn't bother to read it until the end, maybe like many that upvoted that post.
    – Vylix
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:32
  • @EnglishStudent and I'm very happy to hear that. Thank you :)
    – Vylix
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:35
  • 1
    The bad faith aspect in his answer, @Vylix (and I am not referring to the answer referenced in this meta Q) is to begin each paragraph with a nasty statement about that community and then go on to say how 'not all are like that' -- it propogates rumors and misconceptions because those statements will stick in the readers' minds and I got the clear impression that the person was dressing bigotry in sweetly reasonable words. We don't want anybody stirring up enmity between Western and Eastern religions. Regarding the answer that OP referenced, I somehow couldn't form any personal opinion. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:38
  • You are welcome, @Vylix. I really appreciated reading about the architectural wonders of your city and province, and how the history and heritage of 3 great religions enriches your culture. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:41
  • @EnglishStudent Sadly, that isn't the worst answer that question received. There's one that has been deleted that is blatant, outright hatred.
    – Beofett
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 19:17
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    In fact blatant, outright hatred in a question/ answer/ comment is more effectively manageable @Beofett because it is unambiguous and can be quickly flagged and deleted. But apparently helpful answers containing nasty statements in disguised context are much more difficult to remove, especially when so heavily upvoted, and can unconsciously poison the minds of impressionable readers, especially those not familiar with people from that community. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 19:20
  • 1
    HNQ effect brings in an avalanche of votes. Many users with their "association bonus" will vote up everything in their way as long as something already has a few votes. It's called the bandwagon effect. I've been saying this for quite a while. The upvotes from HNQ aren't always made judiciously. And downvotes from HNQ is a rare sight, because the "association bonus" does not grant the downvote privilege.
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 9:41
  • That's a valid explanation, @NVZ. I have already mentioned HNQ in my answer and now edited to include the term 'bandwagon effect.' But do you have any solution to the problem of how a bad post can be made to look like a very good post to unwary readers simply because HNQ users have no downvotes? Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 11:15

to quote from the answer

I'm using her external observable behavior to get intel about her internal thought processes.

Simply put this is never a good technique and almost always use to support personal biases. In fact the answer goes on to predict the actions of the person in question.

I'm biased, and as such I'm not sure my answer to this should even be counted. But yeah I'd flag it. the level of prejudice & assumption about the person alone, not to mention the fact the few 'solutions' that are promoted amount to shaming & manipulation ( and are even admitted to as such ).

Is it an answer? yeah it is, but it's not a 'nice' one.

Is it possible for people to write answers that I disagree with, even answers I may find repugnant for their ideology but that could still pass the 'be nice' tests? yes it is...

In fact, much as I'd hate to, I would have to point out that it would be possible for the answer to be rewritten that broadly passes such a test.

  • 8
    Free speech? Meh.
    – Mithical
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 14:14
  • 6
    Free speech doesn't apply on SE. You do not have free speech here. For more information see be nice.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 15:06
  • 1
    @Catija just because we expect someone to behave within guidelines can also need to be aware that sometimes people have other points of view, especially here on IP. That said I'll rewrite that part of my answer to more accurately state my meaning.
    – Jesterscup
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 15:30
  • If you think an answer could be edited so that it no longer violates the be nice policy, then you should edit the answer.
    – user288
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 16:34
  • 1
    @Hamlet I didn't say it'd be possible 'for me' :P
    – Jesterscup
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 16:45
  • I'm challenging one thing in this answer. The statement that using observable behavior to deduce thought processes is not a good technique to use. That technique is something humans do subconsciously all day long. We do that to know when a car will merge in front of us, and when to feel threatened by a stranger, etc. Is it always correct? No. Is it always wrong? No. It is a major tool used in the DSM 5, however. Hence I must conclude that professionals dealing with the mind think it is partially useful at the least. It surely doesn't violate "be nice," though other parts of the post may
    – User 27
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 3:41
  • Though I'm not the one to do it, and since the poster has said it will be deleted "tomorrow", I don't think anyone will be willing to do it either, I do believe there is a good answer in there that could be salvaged with some surgical editing. I especially dislike the idea of loosing the answer since its insights seem to have been correct, and the hidden solution appears to have worked, at least in part, for the OP. If it isn't deleted, it could very well end up being the accepted answer.
    – User 27
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 3:59
  • @WitanapDanu I have edited it to some degree. The OP seems to not be interested in rolling back edits. Provided you aren't putting words in their mouth, I would say to feel free to edit the post. The OP can always delete or roll back.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 4:43
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    @Catija to some degree? Some? Chunks have been torn out. Moderators should intervene when solicited and if they see fit, otherwise the community should be trusted to know how to deal with well-written but awkward/uncomfortable/controversial/rude/obnoxious posts themselves. Many (if not most) members on IPS are experienced users on different SE sites.
    – user3114
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 9:33
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA Yes, chunks have been torn out. Chunks that were nothing but borderline off-topic political rants, personal attacks, or rambling diatribes that did nothing to add to the answer. Even after these chunks were torn out, the answer is still long and detailed. Many experienced users are likely to be reluctant to make such radical edits not because we don't know its the right thing to do, but because when the OP is loading their answer with deliberately inflammatory rhetoric the chance of them looking to pick a fight are much higher, and a moderator involvement is likely inevitable.
    – Beofett
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 13:10
  • 2
    @Beofett if the answer is offensive and detrimental to the site's wellbeing then it should be excised, deleted. Cherry picking the parts to keep or throw away seems, to me, not only to justify the post, it also sanitizes it. It makes it more acceptable. If someone were to write an answer with sexist and racist undertones, I wouldn't care how good the initial/middle/end part was. I would flag the post and expect it to be deleted. If only a line was inflammatory, I would expect users to edit and/or delete that offensive line, and leave 98% of the original post intact.
    – user3114
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 13:19

I have something to add to this discussion; although not a direct answer. Just my observation. May or not be true. This applies to any such answers.

I see that a lot of the OP's words were removed by edits done by other users. It removed a lot of the controversial wordings from it. It changed OP's original intent, is what I'm saying.

Edits should improve posts, sure. But that does not mean that we put words into OP's mouth or remove words the OP used to convey their thoughts.

If it was a bad advice in the post, downvote it to show disagreement, not edit out the OP's lines.

It would not have received this many upvotes if the original words of negativity were still in there.

If a user were to bad mouth somebody in a post, removing out those lines would not help matters. If the post deserves a downvote or deletion, do it, not edit out its original intent.

  • 1
    Yep, selective censorship is unwise. Either delete the entire post because as a site you find the contents offensive and unethical, or allow it let to stand (free speech, blah, blah, blah) and if it gets UVed so be it. I didn't actually find the content to be offensive or vulgar, just opinionated and, obviously, biased.
    – user3114
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 9:29
  • Excellent point: when a mod can edit a post and put whatever words they want in the user's mouth, then they can make the user say illegal things then flag them to the cops, or distort their viewpoint (like journalists often do). The "edited by" mention mitigates this, to a degree, but the fix is for a user to be able to delete their own posts at will (which will be mandated by law in EU starting next may). Many forums neglect this, and since on most small sites the top-moderator will also own the SQL database, the "edited by" will be "whatever they say".
    – user2135
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 10:31
  • It received the upvotes before the deletion edits, actually. It was around 32 when I wrote this question. I strongly agree that editing to remove meaning and intentions is a bad idea. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 16:30
  • This is simply incorrect. My edit occurred at 21:06 on 8/30. Before that time the answer had 44+/15- see here. After the edit, the answer received only one additional upvote along with six downvotes and one unupvote. Editing it did not make it earn more upvotes. Please look at data before posting this sort of thing. It's all easily viewable if you take the time.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 1:01
  • It's detrimental to the site to remove valuable content. If half of an answer actually answers the question and half is an off-topic sidebar, the recommended course is to save what you can of the answer and remove the off topic content. It's worth noting that I added nothing to the post, only deleted content.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 1:03

If something makes you uncomfortable, flag it.

The moderators will deal with the rest.

As a moderator on another site, it's really helpful when people flag stuff that makes them uncomfortable. This gives me data about what the community thinks is problematic. I would assume that is the case for all Stack Exchange sites.

  • 1
    And in such cases, is it better to use the custom flag or R/A?
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 5:37

Should I flag an answer that seems to specifically attack people by their beliefs?


I'm being lazy at the moment, so I'm not going to go digging through many Meta posts. Especially since I'm not even sure it's on this site. What I remember reading about these situations is that you can either flag or edit, but not both. Now, that could have been a spam-centric situation, and probably was, but it still seems like the best approach to follow.

If your evaluation of the post is that it deserves a flag, in this case Rude/Abusive, then by all means raise the flag. This is still a small site, and the mods probably get to read most posts reasonably soon after they arrive. That will not be the case forever, and the flags help them find where there attention is needed. You can also view a flag as a special kind of vote, one that gives, takes, and costs, nothing in rep. It's not an absolute thing, such as a decisive mod delete might be, it's just your way of saying that "you" think the post is out of line.

On the other hand, if you think the post has some merit, despite its defects, editing it might be a better option. If you can edit the post, at least enough to remove the "not nice" part(s), then it won't require intervention by the mods, it improves the site, and might even help the OP see a better way to present their information without the material you found objectionable. When you do edit the post, don't raise a flag - you've already removed the problem, and done so faster than a flag probably would have anyway. If the OP does a rollback on your edit, however, then raise the flag and move on. There's no point in getting involved in an edit war. Let the firefighters deal with that instead of exposing yourself to the risk of getting burned in a flame war.

Like the Tour page says this site is "built and run by you", not the mods. The mods (when acting as mods rather than users) should only have to do things that we, the users, cannot do.


Well, hello ;)

I like to write stuff that makes people think, and it seems to be the case here, as evidenced by people taking the time to start a thread commenting my post. This is quite the honor!

To be honest, I was surprised the answer was not censored sooner. But it achieved its purpose, so everything's fine on my book.

I could plead the fact that I'm French, and thus every offending thing I said could be due to my bad English... but that would be the easy way out, so I won't. Although some culture shock may have been involved in the events, as evidenced by some heated reactions.

Now, please don't think I was angry or lashing out or anything of the sort. This wasn't the case.

Important point: I speak bluntly because I don't want to lose my time or the readers' by wrapping it in pretty fluff. We're all adults, I presume. Please don't mistake this for rudeness.

Now, answering MacKenzie,

A question was asked about someone with X (not important for discussion) beliefs

This hits the ground running.

This sentence entirely misses the point. The beliefs of the person we're talking about, were the starting point of the conflict between her and the asker, and are thus very much relevant here, in fact they were the core of the question.

Now, perhaps you will argue for moral relativism: all belief systems are equal and worthy of consideration, and one should not criticize others' beliefs.

Thus, I use logic: you shall not criticize my belief system, since you just preached it is as good as any other... The problem with moral relativism is that, if you are true to yourself, then you got to walk out of the debate because (by definition) this philosophy does not allow you to pick a side.

There is no escape to this argument, barring hypocrisy. This is why I don't do moral relativism.

Example 1: Person A likes orange and curry, person B likes blue and steak.

Both are right, these are subjective opinions. This is not moral relativism, merely personal subjective taste. Unless a vindicative Vegan chooses to bring morals in by lecturing B about being such a bad person.

(Note: we're talking food tastes and already there is a fight).

Example 2: Person A likes carrots and classical music, while person B favors processed fat, high fructose corn syrup, punk rock and cocaine.

Both are right... unless the law forces person A to pay for B's healthcare (and lets B mug A for a shot of coke), in which case we have a problem.

We still haven't begun to tickle some serious politics, and already people are punching each other.

Some belief systems are okay, some are wrong, some are evil. It is alright to say it, because it is true. I prefer to use objective, factual and verifiable historical records like number of murders, standards of living, condition of women, etc.

For example, looking at historical data, fascism and communism kinda look bad. So do most religions. Western democracy looks pretty good, and so do others.

Clarification: if someone tells me "you should not judge" then I will do them a favor, and pretend to be a sincere nazi for the next five minutes so they can practice their "not judging" attitude. I have found this very effective and fun, although it has a cost, as I then have to drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol to forget the things I had to say while pretending to be a nazi. In case you have any doubts, I despise this ideology.

I'm trying not to be biased against the beliefs of the answerer, and all the people who have upvoted it.

  • cough *

Now switching to English Student:

what concerns me most, relative to your this meta question, is the fact that that answer got so many upvotes

Thank you for considering hard facts. I like hard facts because they can prove me wrong, and then I learn something new.

This is the community saying that this person has written a very good answer

Now, we're hitting an interesting point.

But this upvoting pattern is what worries me. Clearly we are not casting enough downvotes.

I agree. As you said, through their votes, people expressed they liked my answer. However, you disagree with them, which you are entitled to, no problem here, and no offense.

But you then miss a step by saying "Clearly we are not casting enough downvotes;" This does not consider why people upvoted, and would rather be a "sweeping under the rug" strategy. Also, upvotes earn me +10, while downvotes cost me much less, so overall my reputation still profits.

So, by writing this, my reputation increased, by a lot. Quite interesting.

I advise you make the next step, and attempt to understand why so many people upvoted, in fact enough of them to shoot this into the "Hot Network Questions", which was quite fun to watch.

I know why they upvoted. I engineered the reply specifically to trigger such reactions, and it worked as designed. I would explain now, but I'd like you to really understand why, and the best way to achieve this is to request you use the scientific method: propose any hypothesis, and I'll update/comment.

  • Say belief Y (Y != X) has nothing to do with the way a person acts, but they're express their beliefs by shoving them on others rudely. Would you therefore associate all people with those beliefs as acting that way, and write an answer saying that? I believe you would leave out all of the stuff meant to attack that belief and would instead get to the actual issue: the person's behaviour. Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 23:56
  • 3
    "Some belief systems are okay, some are wrong, some are evil. It is alright to say it, because it is true." The world is not this black and white. Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 23:58
  • Casting downvotes isn't for "sweeping [answers] under the rug", it's the same as an upvote but reversed; for an answer that we disagree with or does not answer the question Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 0:01
  • 2
    HNQ is hot network questions, not hot network answers Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 0:03
  • Also just so you know I did not downvote this answer. You are entitled to your opinion, and it is just as valid as the other answers. Thank you for the response. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 0:08
  • 2
    One last thing: "This sentence entirely misses the point. The obnoxious beliefs of the person we're talking about, and her reckless insistence at rubbing everyone else's faces with them, were the starting point of the conflict between her and the asker, and are thus very much relevant here, in fact they were the core of the question." I strongly disagree with this. Again, it doesn't matter what beliefs someone has, anyone can be belligerent when expressing them. That attitude is the problem, not the beliefs. Therefore, that's what should be commented on, not the beliefs. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 0:16
  • re.example 2: the "wrong doer" is not the punk who destroys their own health (and gets healing "for free"), but the unfair law which makes it possible to drain resources from others by doing this. it won't help anyone a iota to blame the punk in this case. Still, quite interesting reads for those who can think for themselves. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 7:29
  • @MackenzieMcClane "I believe you would leave out all of the stuff meant to attack that belief and would instead get to the actual issue: the person's behaviour" => difficult to do when their behavior is explained by it. Ignoring the root cause makes finding solutions a lot more difficult. "That attitude is the problem, not the beliefs." => Her beliefs allowed her to rationalize her obnoxious attitude as acceptable (and indeed, positive, perhaps even her duty). You can't avoid the topic. "The world is not this black and white." => Of course, agreed.
    – user2135
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 9:41
  • Now, I noticed that both sides of the political spectrum have been completely ignoring each other for a while (here, also in the US, and other places). Your comments on this do not contain a single question, only repeating what you already said up above, which I find is symptomatic of this. I would like to provide a service: ask a conservative a question ;) I'll try to answer to the best of my abilities. Also, @English Student I'm interested in what you have to say...
    – user2135
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 9:46
  • 1
    "Ignoring the root cause makes finding solutions a lot more difficult" If ignoring the root cause makes your post not break the site's rules, then, yes, you should ignore it and find the more "difficult" solution. "You can't avoid the topic." Most, if not all other answers to that question managed to avoid it just fine. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 10:56
  • 1
    I have not once said my stance on the political spectrum because it is not important for this discussion, and I find it problematic that you think that ignoring politics to protect everyone's beliefs in a site that is not about politics is a "symptom". I'm just trying my best to keep everything and everyone civil. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 11:02
  • 3
    Don't feed the trolls.
    – Beofett
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 12:19
  • @Beofett I would rather assume the best of someone on here. I don't believe he's trolling. And even if someone is trolling, this is stack exchange. If someone still forming opinions came around and saw that a troll's opinion was uncontested, maybe they would form their opinions based on them. I would rather have responses for anything I disagree with than leave it like that. I don't believe silence is the answer. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 16:42
  • 3
    @MackenzieMcClane he stated repeatedly that his intent was to provoke reactions and discussion. The first is the definition of trolling. The second is inappropriate for stack exchange.
    – Beofett
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 16:46

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