My question here was put on hold because it is presumably "not about politics, government or political process." But the question very clearly sets up the context as that of the current political discussions occuring in the United States. And the question itself is about Vladimir Putin and the possibility that his contribution to the United States politics is overstated. That is what the question is about.

The question itself, of course, is much more specific than that. But I won't repeat it here. If the question about US politics, and potential overreach of claims of Putin's contribution to it, is not about politics, then what does this site mean by politics? I can't think of a question that is more about politics than something like this one.

Let's be clear, if the question's answer is a definitive number (which is what it asks for), then such an answer would make a certain political point very clear. Yet, this is not about politics?

Putting this question on hold seems as clear an indication as any that it's not-about the politics of those putting it on hold rather than not-about politics at large. Is this what this site is? Is it a political advocacy site? If it is, then why not be honest about it?

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    Why is the number of degrees between Putin and Paul Erdős of any political interest. That part is not clear to me. Feb 1, 2018 at 5:53
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    @grovkin That seems like a bad counterpoint. I don't think the left complains about a random, specific degree of separation (the interesting thing about that is that completely unrelated people seem close without actually being related - that's what's fun about the Erdos number). What the left is complaining about is people with actual connections/influence/controlled by the Kremlin. As such, your question really isn't asking a question, but making a (misleading/wrong) point (ie it is off-topic). If you want to ask about specific accusations about specific people, that should be on-topic.
    – tim
    Feb 1, 2018 at 9:03
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    Why would your question be on-topic but "what colour underwear does Putin prefer to wear?" not be?
    – user11249
    Feb 1, 2018 at 10:00
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    @grovkin If you have a question specifically about that claim, it could likely be on-topic. My guess is that you are either misunderstanding it (how to correctly understand it could be on-topic), misrepresenting it (anything related to that would be off-tpic), or that it is way out of any sensible left wing mainstream (whether it is or not might be on-topic, depending on the exact question).
    – tim
    Feb 2, 2018 at 0:02
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    @grovkin There really isn't a "they" here. Guidelines are mostly set by the community itself (which has people with a wide variety of political views; really ranging all the way from far left/communist to far right/fascist), and the question was closed by the community as well (again, by people from left to right). I think the general issue has potential topics for questions which will be well received, but yours really isn't one of them.
    – tim
    Feb 2, 2018 at 0:19
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    "people do use degrees of separation from Kremlin as being somehow consequential" is a vast misrepresentation of what people are actually saying @grovkin. Either way, contrived questions to prove a point don't work well on this site, so best to refrain from that.
    – user11249
    Feb 2, 2018 at 16:14
  • Possible duplicate of Is it okay to ask a question to prove a point?
    – user11249
    Feb 7, 2018 at 0:31

1 Answer 1


If can be shown as a fact, with a definitive number, that most academia is a few degrees of separation from Putin (and Erdos number would do just that), it would be a potent counterpoint.

I disagree with this. However, that's not the real problem. What you're essentially doing is looking for information to support your rant. Such questions don't really fit this site.

The problem is that people who disagree with your assertion that the left is closer tied to Putin than the right is will post answers pointing out that disagreement. So we can either spend all our time weeding the question to keep it on-topic, or we can do the simple thing and close the question.

Most of the people who disagree with you will do so for different reasons than I would. I would agree with your basic thesis that the left is closer to Putin than the right. However, I really don't care about academia. And I don't know that Putin's Erdos number says anything about most academics. His co-authors perhaps. But I don't know that I agree that people two or more degrees away from Putin are tied to him in any meaningful way.

For that matter, what if we established that 100% of academics are personal lackeys of Putin? The typical liberal would simply say that it doesn't matter. They aren't working in government positions. That's not a potent counterpoint.

Note that the left isn't complaining about random business people being tied to Putin. They are claiming that Donald Trump is. To make that case, they tie specific figures with ties to Trump to Putin. So the people that I would like to tie to Putin are people like Schumer and Schiff. I.e. people that are criticizing Trump for too close a relationship with Putin. One does that by tying them to people who have ties to Putin. More direct ties than coauthorship of an academic paper.

Liberals still might deny, but it would change the conversation somewhat.

Is it a political advocacy site?

I'm not sure how you get it being a political advocacy site out of closing that question. One of the reasons to close that question would be that you are asking it to work on a political advocacy argument. I.e. it is in part to avoid becoming a political advocacy site that we close questions like that.

Overall, the question has a number of problems:

  1. Erdos number has nothing to do with politics.
  2. Putin's Erdos number has little to do with politics, although someone might perhaps use it to make a political argument.
  3. Calculating Putin's Erdos number is quite broad. As you note, it first requires listing every co-author he's had. That would be Too Broad in and of itself.
  4. And your whole point with the question is to make a political argument.

Any of those would justify closing the question.

If we thought that you were genuinely trying to learn something, we might try to edit the question into shape. However, the only thing you want is support for your argument.

We simply don't do that. If we left the question open, it would be to explain why the argument doesn't work the way that you think it would.

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    What you're essentially doing is looking for information to support your rant. Such questions don't really fit this site. That's a perfectly fine thing to ask about. Dare I say it's one of the purposes of this site to seek out information that can prove or explain you current viewpoints. Feb 1, 2018 at 15:21
  • It becomes a problem when you're not actually looking for information so much as using the SE as a soapbox. Feb 1, 2018 at 15:23
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    If you want to ask how well the "the degrees of separation argument [..] stands up to scrutiny" then ask that @grovkin, instead of trying to prove a point with what is at best an awkward comparison.
    – user11249
    Feb 2, 2018 at 18:18
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    This may not the platform for you if you just want to talk to people who agree with you @grovkin...
    – user11249
    Feb 2, 2018 at 18:43
  • 3
    No one said they were offended @grovkin... Just that your question is not a good fit for what we do on this site.
    – user11249
    Feb 3, 2018 at 9:47

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