I've received the strangest warning from a moderator.

This is the last warning: Please stop putting the NRA into this post. Its completely out of context and serves no purpose but to frame them as guilty by association. I really don't want to have to lock this post.

It looks like they since deleted this comment, but they haven't explained or apologized for it so the situation remains unclear.

For context, it was being used as an example of a political organization with clearly defined membership. This is the most-up-to-date version of the sentence.

Unlike the Ku Klux Klan (a white-supremacist organization in the US) or the NRA, antifa doesn't have a central organization or membership.

(Though granted, I would probably also add the non-acronym version for that organization also, if not for the threat against using it in my post.)

I don't see any reason the NRA should receive special protect against being used as an example. What about organization like Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian? Are those off-limits too? What's going on here?

For context, some people mistook (and got abusive over) an earlier version of the sentence as calling the NRA a white supremacist organization, but that doesn't seem relevant to this sentence.

  • 30
    For context, the wording OP kept changing it to was "the white supremacist organization the Ku Klux Klan or the National Rifle Association". The one post it the question above is not an accurate description of the discussion. That wording would not have caused this drama.
    – kaine
    Jun 1, 2020 at 19:46
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    @kaine It's also not the wording which the moderators edited and gave me a public warning about... Jun 1, 2020 at 19:47
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    I have to say that I though the moderating warning was a quite harsh reaction. I can understand that some people thought the original formulation showed signs of guilt by association, but OP's edit seems like a try to find a compromise. Maybe the compromise wasn't good enough, but I don't see any signs of bad faith or malicious intent.
    – jkej
    Jun 1, 2020 at 20:07
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    True. Ironically, the last edit you made was almost identical to the two you had edited back to the original text twice. That is what escalated this situation. The moderator chose to remove the unnecessary reference to the NRA to deescalate things... and you used that as a reason to escalate things to this post.... This is not about the NRA... I dont like them or dislike them... I am neutral... but you are pretending to be a victim here inappropriately.
    – kaine
    Jun 1, 2020 at 20:09
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    @CGCampbell What other groups, and why? How do I know a few 0-post users won't claim outrage about them either? Jun 1, 2020 at 20:29
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    Maybe the moderator just got a little carried away? It wouldn't be the first time a flood of abusive comments lead to some questionable moderation decisions. Unfortunately it looks like they haven't been online since their last edit to explain their side.
    – Batman
    Jun 1, 2020 at 20:42
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    better (meta) question, why use the KKK as an example of a membership organization in a comparison with antifa?
    – Kai
    Jun 1, 2020 at 21:22
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    @Kai because they're both terror groups.
    – Ryan_L
    Jun 1, 2020 at 21:29
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    @Kai The KKK is an actual organization with leaders and membership. Something antifa is mistaken for in recent years. And no, it's not a terror group, it's not even a group. Jun 1, 2020 at 21:31
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    @kaine, the OP is doing the right thing by asking for clarification in meta; that's what meta is for, after all. Jun 1, 2020 at 22:03
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    The original version (or at least the version I saw and commented on) what you wrote could easily have been interpreted (and was by me) as a claim that the NRA is a racist group. That is a) irrelevant to the question; b) false; and c) possibly libelous. Maybe that wasn't what you intended to say. if it wasn't, you should state what you actually do mean. Or you could perhaps substitute the name of an anti-gun group in the sentence :-)
    – jamesqf
    Jun 2, 2020 at 4:36
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    @jamesqf A quick Google search reveals that apparently even some parts (some executives) of the NRA have accused other parts (NRATV) of racism. You might try to argue they aren't a racist group but you can't really 'prove' a vague negative in any meaningful way, and a libel suite would be even harder to imagine. But as you say, what they are isn't really relevant so I'm not really sure why it's being brought up.
    – Batman
    Jun 2, 2020 at 6:03
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    I think Ted Wrigley's answer is good so won't add another, but I'd note two things; there's some insinuation throughout the thread of an anti-NRA bias; both mods on this site are Europeans - they don't have a dog in that particular race. Second, remember that Phillip is not the only person to interpret your sentence in the way he did, and that leaving it in even its edited form will cause arguments and additional modding effort. "The NRA" adds nothing beyond its context as a private political action group; pick another one or remove the KKK reference and the problem is solved.
    – Dan Scally
    Jun 2, 2020 at 7:25
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    @HarryJohnston My concern was with his misrepresentation of the situation... not with asking on the meta. The main problem with his answer had not been that NRA was mentioned near KKK (like this question pretends it was) but that he kept phrasing the sentence so it looked like he was including the NRA on a list of white supremacist groups. This minor phrasing issue was fairly edited repeatedly and he would revert it then complain about people vandalizing his post. Honestly, he acted quite inappropriately and he has received a lot of positive reputation in response.
    – kaine
    Jun 2, 2020 at 15:06
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    @Alexander O'Mara: Just about any group can be accused of racism if you do some cherry picking. Even the "Black Lives Matter" protestors could be, as they apparently don't care about white lives or police violence against white people - or brown, red, yellow &c.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 2, 2020 at 15:21

6 Answers 6


You need to be more careful with balance. There are a wide variety of 'formal' political organizations, from all sides of the political spectrum: the NRA, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the US Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, Democracy Matters, the College Republicans, etc. There are also a large number of organized groups that have a political aspect, like the KKK, various militia groups, trade unions, certain religions congregations, feminist groups, some groups organized to promote and support the LGBTQ community... Of all of these groups, however, the KKK has a particularly bad name; you can poison almost anything by associating it with the KKK, because of the KKK's long, self-admitted history of racial oppression and violence.

Reductio ad Klannum is almost as bad (in the US) as reductio ad Hitlerum. You should avoid both.

There are only three ways to clean up this particular problem:

  1. Drop any reference to the KKK as more trouble than it's worth: stick to the NRA and a couple of other organizations from across the spectrum
  2. Contextualize the KKK by noting it as an extremist group separate from more mainstream groups like the NRA, in order to avoid poisoning the argument
  3. Find some equally problematic group on the left to offset the KKK. There hasn't been one of those that I'm aware of since maybe the '70s — and never one so violent or highly organized — but maybe you can make do.

The way you've phrased it does seem like an example of poisoning the well, even to someone (like me) who does not have a particularly high opinion of the NRA. You don't want to write that way.

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    Good examples are well-known. I picked the 2 that immediately springed to mind. I've honestly never even heard of most of your examples before. Jun 2, 2020 at 16:08
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    Do moderators typically edit posts that aren't "balanced" ? doesn't seem like it. Jun 2, 2020 at 16:16
  • @CrackpotCrocodile: I've had it happen to me. I have a flare for strong language, and while I'm usually good at self-moderation, I occasionally miss the boat. And you have to allow for the fact that moderators are themselves fallible; sometimes a particular turn of phrase will tick them off irrationally, and then all you can do is try to talk them into a compromise. Mostly I just try to keep in mind that if something I say produces a bad reaction, there's a reason for it; then I put in the effort to consider whether my reason for saying it outweighs the other person's reason for objecting. Jun 2, 2020 at 17:03
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    @CrackpotCrocodile: sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. In this case, I don't think it does. The emotional tension fo contrasting the KKK to antifa is good and interesting, but the negative emotions of connecting the NRA too closely to the KKK spoils the effect. Jun 2, 2020 at 17:04

What appears to have happened is primarily that some people misinterpreted the post as saying "white supremacist organizations, such as: the Ku Klan and the NRA." In my opinion, it's an fairly easy misinterpretation to make: it's precisely what I thought the post was trying to say, until I read the respondent's explanation. Since, by their own admission, they are not implying that the NRA is a white-supremacist organization, I think an easy solution would be to change the form of the sentence to eliminate ambiguity.

"Unlike groups such as the NRA or white-supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan..."


"Unlike gun advocacy groups (/interest groups/lobbying groups/whatever you want to say) like the NRA or white-supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan..."

This should be a straightforward solution that will satisfy anyone. Some people might still believe the poster is trying to insult the NRA by association, so perhaps they could also include an example of a group that they consider to be positive but more organized, in addition to the ones they already included. E.g., Black Lives Matter is a slogan, but the Movement for Black Lives could be an example of such. Or, if the OP does not consider them positive, they could include [insert group here].

I am bit surprised that a moderator would say that it was unacceptable to include the NRA as an example, such that the poster should be prevented from doing so. Even with an answer that outright stated that the NRA was a white-supremacist group, I would think the proper response for those who disagreed with it would be to downvote it, not to alter it, particularly with the inherent multiplicity of uses of the term. For some people, the fact that the NRA is relatively uninterested in defending the rights of gun owners of color, and that they have employed racialized terminology to justify their positions, would make them complicit in maintaining the higher status of white Americans, and they would thus characterize them as white supremacists. Others, clearly, might find that usage inaccurate or misleading, and might downvote the answer on those grounds.

But in any case, there are many posts that contain much more inaccurate implications, in my opinion, such as posts arguing for associations between the Nazi party and socialism. Those posts have usually been met with downvotes, and I think that—not alteration or deletion—is the appropriate response to tendentious or misleading answers.

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    At this point, I think it is too late for the OP to simply rephrase the sentence, because people have already seen and passed judgement on the original version. I do like the way you've phrased it, though; if the OP had put it that way originally it might not have caused as much offense. Jun 1, 2020 at 23:10
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    @HarryJohnston I would think we should shape the post for the people who will see it in the future rather than those who have already seen it and probably won't return. Unless they are looking for a fight maybe.
    – Batman
    Jun 1, 2020 at 23:56
  • That's fair, but in particular I'm not sure that your rephrase will satisfy the moderator who posted the warning to the OP. Jun 2, 2020 at 0:01

Short answer: there is unlikely to be any specific rule against using the NRA as an example of a political organization, and the problem isn't even about the NRA as such; it is simply that it is an organization on one side of the culture war, and part of your post was misinterpreted as an attack against it.

Long answer: you've inadvertently painted yourself into a corner, simply by mentioning the NRA and the KKK in the same sentence. The reaction you've gotten to this no doubt feels neither fair nor logical - unfair in that (in an ideal world) it should be perfectly obvious that you were not intending to malign the NRA, but that it was simply one of the two examples of political organizations that came to mind. And it is true that what you wrote does not logically imply an accusation against the NRA.

Unfortunately, what you wrote is superficially very similar to what someone might write if they really were attempting to associate the NRA with white supremacy in the minds of the readers, and the NRA is an organization on one side of an extremely vicious culture war in the United States, which really does get attacked in this sort of underhanded way on a regular basis. This means that NRA supporters - whether actual members or just those on the same side of the culture war - are naturally hypersensitive to anything that even might be such an attack. (The rationalist community calls this "pattern-matching".)

(You should also read The Illusion of Transparency.)

Even more unfortunately, it isn't uncommon for a culture-war belligerent to "play innocent" when called on this sort of attack, so once someone has decided you're the enemy, there's no way for you to convince them otherwise. Anything you do will just be taken as further evidence of your perfidy. (And yes, sadly, the culture war really does seem to have gotten that bad.)

I'm hesitant to suggest any way to move forwards at this point. You may be better off cutting your losses, so to speak, and leaving the answer as it is; while it may not be as good as it could be, it is still a good answer.

If you think the NRA is a better example than the KKK, perhaps you could remove the KKK from the post and use the NRA and some non-threatening left-wing organization instead; but under the circumstances I'd recommend against doing so without an explicit OK from one of the moderators.

If you don't want to leave the answer the way it is, a better option might be to dump both the KKK and the NRA and try to think of another two examples. Just make sure that the chosen examples won't be objectionable if people think that you're comparing them to one another. Because they will.

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    "The reaction you've gotten to this is neither fair nor logical" I disagree. Imagine I wrote an answer to a question explaining how "unlike terrorist group Al Qaeda or Black Lives Matter...". It's clear that I would be suggesting that BLM is a terrorist group similar to Al Qaeda. I don't think I am crazy for seeing the connection. Jun 1, 2020 at 22:55
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    @Greg, definitely not crazy. Mistaken, in my opinion, but not crazy. Jun 1, 2020 at 22:57
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    @Greg, I would need to see the rest of your hypothetical answer before deciding whether you were suggesting that BLM was a terrorist group. If that was what you had hypothetically intended to say, you'd have been saying it wrong, but it isn't unreasonable to theorize that someone was using bad grammar. :-) Jun 1, 2020 at 23:03
  • Admittedly, one possible source of bias on my part is that I read the edited versions of the post first. Another is that I've never before heard it suggested that the NRA had white supremacist leanings, whereas according to Obie 2.0's answer this actually is a thing that some people believe. I'm not going to insist that my interpretation of the OPs intent is indisputably factually correct. I do insist that it is plausible. Jun 1, 2020 at 23:06
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    I don't think the exact semantics are relevant. After all, I can structure a sentence where I'm not technically insulting you and can pretend that wasn't my intent, but it's clear it's an insult. (E.g. "Some stupid people like Jim, and also Harry Johnston think that the post wasn't suggesting the NRA is a white supremacist organization.") That's clearly insulting you, but I can pretend that the grammatical semantics indicate I was talking about 2 subjects, one of a group of stupid people like Jim, and another subject of just Harry. Fwiw, I don't think you are stupid. Jun 1, 2020 at 23:08
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    @Greg, not quite the same thing - the reasoning one would use with that sentence goes along the lines of "the sentence implies that the reason Jim believes X is because Jim is stupid; that implies that the reason Harry believes X is because Harry is also stupid" (cont) Jun 1, 2020 at 23:28
  • I do think the grammar is relevant - that is, that it provides some evidence - but it certainly isn't definitive. Someone could certainly be using poor grammar, and could even, as you suggest, be using it deliberately to provide plausible deniability. But they could also just not have realized that people would misinterpret them. Jun 1, 2020 at 23:32
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    Yeah, it's certainly possible that a user would put together Antifa and BLM as examples of decentralized organizations, and then separately put together white supremacist KKK and NRA as two examples of centralized organizations, but that seems far-fetched to me. Jun 1, 2020 at 23:53
  • @Greg, speaking of unintended meanings ... this answer was directed at the OP, but I've just realized what it would have read like to you, and I'd like to apologize. I didn't intend to suggest that you personally (or anyone else involved) were being unfair and/or irrational, I was talking about the overall situation. I've rephrased. Jun 2, 2020 at 0:07
  • It's ok; I generally don't take things personally. Fwiw, I think I agree with most of your analysis (e.g., the culture war in America affecting how statements are evaluated). Jun 2, 2020 at 0:10

In this thread, you painted the NRA as a white-supremacist organization.

Your wording:

Unlike white-supremacist organization the Ku Klux Klan or the National Rifle Association, antifa...

You claim it was not intentional - but you also refused to make edits to your post for clarity and actively rejected all other suggested edits to accomplish the same result.

These edits did not alter the purpose or result of your writing - instead they simply clarified your writing.

You then got into a dispute with members in the comments about your post, making it very clear your intention was to paint the NRA as a white-supremacist organization.

Your choice of words, and refusal to amend them to make it clear you were only referring to the KKK as a white-supremacist organization is what led to this warning and moderator edit of your post.

Because of this, you were warned. Please let this issue rest now and move on.

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    You submitted 5+ identical edits trying to replace the NRA entirely with something vague. Yes, those were all rejected, they actively harmed the post. Also you started insulting people. Jun 1, 2020 at 19:49
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    The NRA does add context (not just content) to the sentence in question here. That's the point of this meta post. Jun 1, 2020 at 19:52
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    The way to get an author to edit their post is to suggest minimal changes and work with the OP, not spam identical edits repeatedly hoping one will get through while simultaneously insulting the OP. It seems clear what you actual intentions were. Jun 1, 2020 at 20:05
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    @CrackpotCrocodile several people, myself included suggested minimal changes. You rejected them. This eventually led to the warning. Stop playing the victim card - you did this to yourself. Learn from it, and move on. We only want facts here, not your personal political opinions or assertions. Thanks.
    – SnakeDoc
    Jun 1, 2020 at 20:06

Unlike the Ku Klux Klan (a white-supremacist organization in the US) or the NRA, antifa doesn't have a central organization or membership.

The point you were trying to make was that Antifa does not have a central organization or membership. Putting in a reference to the NRA, let alone the KKK, was never needed at all. The question was not about either of those organizations and it distorts the type of organization each is by associating them with each other.

All you had to say was that Antifa does not have a central organization or a formal membership without any reference to any other organization. Adding the KKK or the NRA (or for that matter FIFA or AAA) does not help. References supporting your assertion that Antifa has no central organization or membership wold have been far more useful.

Note that the current version of that question reads :

Unlike white-supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, for example, antifa doesn't have a central organization or membership.

This is exceptionally bad wording as it can now be read as if both KKK and Antifa are white supremacist organizations. The OP did not make that edit, but it's awful and I see no reason for any reference to any other group to be there at all.


Well, adding inaccurate and irrelevant political opinion is likely to get edited. If you then change it to still make an association without explicitly saying your inaccurate and irrelevant political opinion, that's likely to get edited, too.

It's disingenuous to present "the most-up-to-date version of the sentence" when it hides what you were originally claiming, which was that the NRA is a white supremacist organization. Changing it and then pretending that you don't mean to associate the NRA with white supremacy is also disingenuous.

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    That's not what I originally claimed, multiple people pointed this out. I really don't see why people are still stuck on this issue, even after the sentence couldn't be more clear. Jun 1, 2020 at 20:12
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    @CrackpotCrocodile Why are you so desperate to use the NRA as an example next to the KKK? Jun 1, 2020 at 20:17
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    @GregSchmit They seems like a good example of a political organization with well-defined membership? What kind of answer are you looking for here? It sounds like you already have one in mind. Jun 1, 2020 at 20:19
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    I think the issue is that no one is buying what you're selling. I get that you want to pretend that you just picked two organizations out of a hat, but from your original wording and this persistence, it's clear you're attempting to connect the NRA to white supremacy. Jun 1, 2020 at 20:22
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    Also, I think it's quite a stretch to say the KKK has clearly defined membership and numbers - which makes the original use of the KKK as an example dubious at best.
    – SnakeDoc
    Jun 1, 2020 at 20:25
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    Moderators are silently removing comments to reframe the response. You can't ask me a question in bad-faith and then turn around and accuse me of acting in bad faith. It doesn't work that way. I picked the 2 best-known organization that spring to mind. Furthermore, it sounds like you aren't really interested in the content anymore, but have made this personal. Jun 2, 2020 at 15:43
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    I admit that when I asked you why you're desperate to connect the NRA to white supremacy, I was being rhetorical. I don't consider that acting in bad-faith; this seems like you trying to play victim again. Jun 2, 2020 at 15:48
  • @GregSchmit Why does there have to be a victim? Why can't we talk about the content? Jun 2, 2020 at 15:55
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    I can; the content connects the NRA with the KKK, which is inappropriate in the same way that it would be inappropriate for me to connect BLM with Al Qaeda with the same sentence structure. Jun 2, 2020 at 16:06
  • The only reason those 2 examples wouldn't work is because BLM is a political movement not an organization. Even if the sentence structure was confusing for some people, it's not worth having a meltdown and attacking people over it. It also doesn't make sense to go overboard and disallow other sentence structures. Jun 2, 2020 at 16:12
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    Using BLM and Al Qaeda as examples wouldn't work in the original question; obviously that would be an answer to a different question, but it would be ridiculous to connect those two groups using similar language. I didn't meltdown or attack you. The only things you've been a victim of are thoughts and writings. I don't hate you; I just gave my opinion on an internet site. Jun 2, 2020 at 16:18
  • @GregSchmit i'm referring to the other people from the comments, people who accused me of trolling or said all the users on the site should be in a mental hospital. you would think that would be what gets a suspension, but not here Jun 2, 2020 at 16:27
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    hey look, you can actually still see what that user said when I told them that was uncalled for chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/54539589#54539589 Jun 2, 2020 at 16:35

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