On the question How come Joe Biden's mental state is in question while Donald Trump's is addressed with so much restraint? (currently closed, but with a move to reopen) , I wrote an answer (see revision history) that was subsequently deleted by moderator Philipp as 'spam, rude, or abusive'. However, my answer was none of the three. It was an exposition of one of the features of nationalist movements, as defined by Orwell, which I used to explain why there is a disparity in accusations of mental unfitness leveled against Biden and Trump. Put briefly, such accusations are typical of nationalists, and atypical of non-nationalists; read the post in full to get the full sense.

Philipp marked this as closed 'by vote', though looking at the history the vote count is "up:9, down:4, delete:1", which is a peculiar interpretation of 'voting'. But this site has peculiar decision-making rules, so that may be a minor point.

The real problem with this deletion is that Philipp has apparently decided that perfectly valid political philosophy, carefully explained, is meant to be abusive. I'm not going to claim that my answer was pleasant or unchallenging — Orwell saw nationalist movements as a distinct threat to the modern political world, and I tend to agree — but pointing out a feature of such a movement is not meant to insult or degrade. It is meant to inform people of the issue, so that they can gain a proper perspective. I mean, are we going to delete every mention of Marxist theory because a capitalist thinks it is a personal insult? Will we delete the theoretical views of atheists because individual Christians take it as an affront? There is obviously a balance to be struck here between laying out abstract problems and treading on individual toes: a balance I'm usually quite good at finding, though I'm always open to suggestions for revisions. But there is a vital distinction between the unpleasant conclusions of political philosophy and the random outbursts of political trolls; a distinction that Philipp utterly failed to make in this particular case.

My answer was informed and articulate, if perhaps a bit pointed. I suggest anyone who dislikes it should first Read Orwell (as linked), hash it out there, and then come back to my answer with a reasoned critique.

This is not the first time that Phillip and I have clashed, nor (I suspect) will it be the last. He and I may have irreconcilable differences about what constitutes a good and informative post. But if nothing else, we could use this space to hammer out some guidelines that will help moderators avoid spurious actions of this sort, and avoid backlash from participants (such as myself) who feel like their contributions are ill-handled. But in any case, I do believe this answer should be reinstated, if only to establish the principle that political philosophy is fair ground on this site.

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    From his comments under the question, it appears that he is basing his moderation on his own personal political opinions. The question is about something that is A) Widely believed among the American public, as evidenced by polls and news articles, and B) Easily demonstrated by comparing public statements with reality.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 15, 2020 at 17:03
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    @jamesqf Actually, my personal opinion on Donald Trump is overwhelmingly negative. If I had read this question and answer on Reddit, I would have upvoted them and posted comments to cheer them on. But Stack Exchange is not Reddit. We have to suppress our own political biases here.
    – Philipp Mod
    Sep 15, 2020 at 17:30
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    @jamesqf Yeah, I don't agree with all of Philipp's decisions, but I really don't think they are biased or an abusive partisan. They've certainly not shown any pro-Trump bias and I don't think accusations of that serve any purpose.
    – divibisan
    Sep 15, 2020 at 17:33
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    With that said, while I wasn't surprised that the question was closed, I was surprised that this answer was deleted. It certainly doesn't depict "Trump supporters" in a positive light and describes them as "nationalistic" and "irrational", but people in general, certainly not limited to Trump Supporters, are irrational. There has to be a way to talk about irrationality in people without it immediately being considered an insult.
    – divibisan
    Sep 15, 2020 at 17:39
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    This meta question explains what "Via Vote" means. Confusingly, it's just an automated comment that means the Moderator chose to delete it. Technically they "voted to delete", but a moderator's vote is binding, so it only takes one "vote" from a mod. Philipp didn't write that comment and it doesn't mean anything about the community or any real sort of voting.
    – divibisan
    Sep 15, 2020 at 17:50
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    @jamesqf, divibisan: (I wish there was a way to tag multiple people) My sense from previous conversations with Philipp is that while he may have a mild bias, he's actually more concerned about 'backlash' issues. Answers that are perceived as incendiary produce inflammatory comments from partisans; Philipp would rather nip that in the bud before it becomes a headache for moderators like him. I could accuse him of being overzealous, but I don't think he's acting as an explicit partisan. Just so it's said. Sep 15, 2020 at 17:53
  • @divibisan: As I said, this site has weird rules. 😁 Got it now... Sep 15, 2020 at 17:55
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    @Philipp I'm hoping that the non-deletion of an answer (to the same q) that asserts that Biden is showing signs of mental deficiency is just a temporary oversight. (Otherwise Ted's answer that describes Trump as "sexually prolific" and "as an almost textbook example of Narcissistic Personality Disorder", doesn't strike me as on a different content level.) Sep 15, 2020 at 18:57
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    @Philipp: FYI one can also back Ted's answer with "facts", for some definition thereof. Sep 15, 2020 at 19:12
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    @Fizz Yeah, it's very hard to justify deleting Ted's answer but not JonathanReez's
    – divibisan
    Sep 15, 2020 at 19:57
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    @Philipp: I can't read your mind, I can only judge from your actions, and they certainly do seem to exhibit a certain bias, whatever the cause. There are far less reasonable (IMHO, anyway) questions and answers that seem to go unchallenged.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 16, 2020 at 17:43
  • @Ted Wrigley: But in some cases, such as this, just about any answer would be either inflammatory or wrong.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 16, 2020 at 17:44
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    @jamesqf: True. And I wish in this case Philipp had suggested revisions to tone down what he though was excessive, instead of deleting the answer whole-cloth. I think with near 20k reputation I'd have earned that much consideration. I firmly believe that even the most inflammatory topics can be addressed calmly, cooly, and with respect; but sometimes it takes a village to raise a decent answer... Sep 16, 2020 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


I deleted this post as inappropriate for this website because it made generalizing and insulting accusations about a political faction of people. It contained phrases like:

For [politician] and his supporters, the only thing that matters — and I cannot over-stress that it is the only thing that matters to them — is generating the sense or appearance of victory or superiority over opposition. They will violate or deny nearly any rule, any law, any fact, any science, or any institution to gain that pyrrhic sense of victory.

It honestly doesn't matter to them whether any of it is true;

[opposition] and [other politican] supporters, as a rule, aren't invested in this same nationalistic mindset.

They support and defend [politician] with a blind ferocity because demeaning [politician] means demeaning their cherished self-imaginings, and exalting [politician] means exalting themselves.

The question as asked is too rational: it assumes that [politician] supporters are working within either a framework of earnest belief or a framework of earnest manipulativeness,

Further, it made assessments about a politician we on this website we should not be making if we want to be an objective and politically neutral Q&A website:

I see [politician] as an almost textbook example of Narcissistic Personality Disorder combined with some natural (though not excessive) age-related deterioration.

There were not even any sources to back up any of these statements (not that this matters much - if you look at the right partisan media you can find a citation from a pundit supporting pretty much any accusation).

This post is not "political philosophy". It is a personal opinion. Plain and simple. And personal opinion pieces do not belong on Politics Stack Exchange. As the help center says:

Politics Stack Exchange is for objective questions about governments, policies and political processes.

It is not a place to advance opinions or debate, but rather for exchanging objective information about the policies, processes, and personalities that comprise the political arena.

I know that it's just weeks until the US presidential election, and that anyone who cares about US politics (regardless of political affiliation) is quite afraid right now that the "wrong" person could win. I can understand that many of you feel that it's your duty to convince as many people as possible to go voting and make the right decision. But that does not mean that we can just throw the values of this website over board and turn it from an objective Q&A website to a partisan battleground for opinions.

If you like to post elaborate opinion pieces and have contests between political factions who can collect the most upvotes for those they agree with, you might want to give Reddit a try.

Addendum about the answer by JonathanReez

Some people pointed out in the comments to this question that if the answer by Ted Wrigley should be deleted, so should the one by JonathanReez. Two people then flagged that answer too.

After thinking about it for a while I decided to not delete the other answer. Reasons:

  • It does not make any disparaging statements about the supporters of any politicians.
  • Contrary to what some comments claim, that answer does not assert that a specific politician has any mental problems. It just points out obvious observations which anyone can interpret however they want.
  • Those observations serve the purpose of explaining what the question asked for: Why opponents of that politician use attack ads questioning their mental state.
  • It uses credible sources to back up its claims

Addendum about another answer to the same question.

I decided to also delete this answer, for the same reasons I deleted the answer by Ted Wrigley. It was not answering the question and just an opinion piece discrediting a politician and his supporters.

I did that not because but despite of my own political views. As moderator it's my duty to delete content which is inappropriate for this website. Regardless of whether I personally agree or disagree with it.

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    I'm going to report your refusal to remove a post that says "He doesn't gesticulate as actively and his physical appearance is a lot more tired, which of course makes sense given that he turns 78 soon" higher up to Stack Exchange officials. I think you've disqualified yourself as a moderator with this action. Sep 16, 2020 at 16:07
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    I really respect the difficult task you have here and fully support your goals of making this site a safe place for non-partisan discussion, even if it means shutting down discussion. So, while I don't agree with your judgement that Ted's answer was irredeemable (I think it could have been fine with some edits), I accept your decision there. But to say that JonathanReez's answer is not political opinion simply because it's "just making observations" is absurd, as is your claim that cherrypicking youtube videos counts as "credible sources"
    – divibisan
    Sep 16, 2020 at 17:22
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    Thank you for the lengthy, well-written answer. But it seems to me that you have missed the point I was making. I'll put this as simply as possible: We have (1) a theoretical model by Orwell which discusses the behavior of nationalists and nationalist groups, and (2) the observable behavior of a real-world group that conforms closely to the theoretical model that Orwell proposed. My role in this is pointing out the relationship, as a more or less objective feature of the political landscape. Putting the actual behavior of a group into an established political theory is science, no insult. Sep 16, 2020 at 17:40
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    Every point you've cited as problematic is in fact either (1) easily verified by objective means, or (2) a natural extension of Orwell's theory. Even the point about Trump's NPD (which, incidentally, I could remove because it's an incidental example) can be validated by anyone who takes five minutes to review the DSM criteria for NPD. We can (of course) debate the validity of modern psychology, if you like, but the criteria as given are not ambiguous or difficult to apply. Sep 16, 2020 at 17:46
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    You are misinterpreting a perfectly valid application of political philosophy as partisan screed. You are effectively denying the possibility of talking about Trumpism as a movement or group, insisting that they must be treated as independent persons with no common traits or characteristics that define them as a group. It's absurd on the face of it, and ultimately makes it impossible to discuss politics entirely (since all collective political entities must be vanquished from the discussion). Sep 16, 2020 at 17:52
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    @Fizz Report to whom? The internet police? This is why I would never be a mod on a site like this. Too much internet drama, lol. No matter what you do, someone is going to be mad. Sep 16, 2020 at 19:44
  • I've migrated one addendum above, and a few observations, to an answer here.
    – agc
    Sep 17, 2020 at 6:15

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