My recent question: How did Trump's January 6 speech call for insurrection and violence? got more than a little attention.

I'm amazed:

  • that this question got 16 down-votes.
  • even more that it got 120 up-votes.
  • that it has had 20,000 views.
  • that it was closed for promoting a person or cause (presumably Trump).
  • that it became a Hot Network Question.
  • that it was reopened.
  • that it was closed again, this time for soliciting opinions.
  • that it was reopened again.
  • that so many people (who otherwise seem intelligent and rational) thought that:
    • I had a hidden agenda.
    • "this question has not been asked in good faith".
    • "This question is really a disguised defense of Trump".
    • I have "no qualms" when I "think it serves my purpose".
    • "According to Ray Butterworth, Trump is not culpable of anything".
    • "the OP can … say SEE? No incitement, they are persecuting TRUMP!!!1!".
    • "I don't trust your motives for the question".
    • "Yeah, don't let facts influence your opinion".
  • that so many people can't tell the difference between:
    • call for insurrection and violence.
    • cause insurrection and violence.
  • that so many people can't tell the difference between:
    • agreeing with someone.
    • disagreeing with inappropriate attacks against someone. (In particular there are already so many real facts that go against Trump, why are people bothering to manufacture false accusations?)
  • that I still fail to see why such a simple question, which was about the speech itself and nothing else, should elicit such a hostile response.

Throughout the comment storm I repeatedly said that I wasn't a Trump supporter, that I didn't have a hidden agenda, and that the question was a simple question related to the text of the speech itself: "Where are people finding evidence of insurrection and incitement to violence in this speech?"

That question was asking for strictly objective facts. But the question was closed twice, once for supporting a cause and once for soliciting opinion.

Meanwhile it got a hundred up-votes and was reopened twice.

I didn't support a cause (and if I had it would have been the opposite of what I was accused of), and I certainly didn't solicit opinion (most of my comments were telling people they weren't answering the factual question).

I'm truly amazed at the response.

What caused this question to get the response it did?

Note that this isn't a complaint. I'm sincerely interested in understanding why it was so divisive. If I said things incorrectly, I'd like to know so I can do better next time. Even if it was simply a result of people's needing to vent somewhere as a result of the violence, that would be good to know too.

  • 8
    Ironically, I voted to reopen your question in question (on the 2nd round, IIRC), but I'm voting to close this one... as too broad. Nobody can explain all those things other than by one or two words... controversial topic. See politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3894/… Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 19:56
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    @Fizz, unfortunately the original question is no longer available. But my general impression is that when asking a question on politics.SE, one shouldn't attempt to dispute the inevitable inappropriate answers in advance, even when it is obvious that people will make them. In this case, my trying to avoid controversy created it, a good example of Greek tragedy. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 20:31
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    @Fizz, "controversial topic". It actually wasn't. But it did make people think of other closely related controversial topics, and that's what they responded to, not to the original question. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 20:32
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    Hnq changes responses significantly in my experience.
    – user2578
    Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 17:52

5 Answers 5


The recent US presidential election and its aftermath are very emotional for a lot of people. US society seems politically polarized like it wasn't since the civil war, and there appears to be a strong "us vs. them" mentality in many people.

As a result, some people will nervously judge every word posted online meticulously looking for hidden dog whistles and possible attempts to nudge the narrative in favor of the "other" side (whatever side that is from the perspective of the reader).

That being said, your question indeed had quite a pro-Trump flavor. The title question seems rhetorical, the quoted passages from the speech (later removed by divibisan) seemed cherry-picked and you added personal conclusions (later removed in the edit by ewanc) that made the impression that you disagree with the "Trump provoked an insurrection" narrative. Whether that was intentional or not doesn't really matter. What matters is the impression the question makes.

The impression a question should be making on this website is that it is impartial. There should be no visible personal opinion in questions, neither explicit or implied. After all, when you are posting on this website, then the implication is that you want to learn something. You admit that your knowledge is incomplete, so you should not have a fully formed opinion yet. So you shouldn't want to convince people of your view or start a debate. But I understand that this can be quite difficult in the current political climate in the United States where some people will imagine opinions where there aren't.

  • 2
    I don't keep tabs on users' inclinations here, but the 2nd round of closing was possibly because the more neutral question seemed (to some) to offer an opportunity to air just the Democratic narrative. Some users here do object to questions that don't allow "definitive answers" and just solicit just one side/POV of the story. politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4661/… Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 16:36
  • @Fizz "the more neutral question seemed (to some) to offer an opportunity to air just the Democratic narrative". It did not seem that way to me, but it was used as a justification on an answer I heavily criticized. I've been looking through meta here to see if the preference is questions that ask for only "one side" (which by extension implies every question has its opposite), or questions that seek the more objective and neutral presentation of events and opinions that are in the real world. Both patterns can work, but not in tandem. One must be used and the other not.
    – user2578
    Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 17:56
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    Re "very emotional" - consider the subject matter. We are literally discussing a group of people, quite a few of whom were reportedly armed, forcibly entering a government building while chanting the names of politicians who were in the building at the time, with the clear intent of, at a minimum, preventing those politicians from doing their jobs. If that happened in the capital of your country, wouldn't you be a little upset about it?
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 6:42
  • @Kevin: it seems to happen more often over there. nytimes.com/2020/08/31/world/europe/… ; apnews.com/article/… When it fails (or at least it's not a mass event), it's less of a news sensation. Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 9:10
  • @Kevin: some people did draw a parallel though dw.com/en/… Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 9:16
  • This answer would be better if it didn't put an attempted coup on a "emotional" false balance.
    – agc
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 17:18
  • @agc On Politics.SE, questions should avoid taking a stance on babyeating. (“Since most people consider babyeating abhorrent, why XYZ?” would be okay.)
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 13:32

It got closed because it appeared to be seeking a specific answer when you had cherry picked portions of the speech and highlighted a few sections that appeared to want to show what you wanted.

Once the question was edited to remove any appearances of searching for the answer you wanted the problems it had got solved. In the end as it is now I think it is an interesting question but before it looked like an attempt to defend Trump.

  • 3
    The two instance I chose might have looked like cherry picking, but it you read the whole thing, there are only two instances where he directly addressed the crowd. So there wasn't really much else to choose. The point of those quotations was to show that the only directives he directly gave to the crowd were the opposite of violence, so on the surface the speech appeared to be the opposite of what it was accused of being. I was simply interested in learning what other people were seeing there (as proof of calling for violence) that I couldn't see. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 19:34
  • Still it got closed a 2nd time around, after those edits. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 20:05
  • @RayButterworth: that doesn't go too well. The other mq I linked to discussed a q that was on a similarly controversial topic, and in which the OP made a fairly long attempt to "narrow" the possible answers. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 20:09
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    @RayButterworth If you are asking a question about a speech you shouldn't pick a few parts that appear to try and state a narrative you want especially when the quotes you use also include sections that would imply the opposite. In the end what the question looks like now is much better as it is not trying to draw a conclusion either way. Don't try to lead a question with what you think is proof of something instead make that into an answer.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 20:12

As I am the source of more than one of your picked snippets, allow me to give a portion of my thought process.

My first view of this question came when it had been modified at least twice. It, at that time, had two answers which I happened to feel were very well written. One was written by CDJB (of whom I cannot express my admiration enough, for their thoughtfulness and deliberation, as well as willingness to delve deeply into facts and figures) and one by Peter.

At the time the question had become (IIRC) "Why do people think this speech is an incitement to violence and insurrection?" I read the question and did not even notice it had been modified from your original question.

Then I read the two answers mentioned above. I thought each were well written. Then I noticed that you were arguing with them. At that time I thought, hmm, he is asking "why do people think that X" and when two users, both very well respected (at least by me) and with high reputation, gave answers, he (the OP) immediately started arguing with them.

That is when I posted the comment:

I believe this question has not been asked in good faith. Why? The OP asks: "Why do people think this speech is an incitement to violence and insurrection?". When CDJB and Peter give their reasons why they think people believe it, the OP refutes them saying that, essentially, "no that can't be why, because look, if you read Trump's comments in context, this is what he meant.". OP, you've asked why others believe, and you're refuting answers based on what you believe.

See, to me, you were asking why something, and when you were given answers about why something, you started arguing. That told me that you didn't really want to know why something but rather you wanted to have your preconceived notions about why something confirmed. As in, you ask why people believed X. An answer could have been written from the POV of that being followed by "when it was demonstrably not so" (a Trumpist POV) or it could have been written from the POV of that being followed by "when it most obviously was so" (an anti-Trumpist POV). I would rather have both of them. One showing why people (mostly Dems) believed it and one showing why people didn't believe Trump incited violence (mostly Trumpist's/Republicans).

But as soon as you started arguing with the answers given, that told me you didn't want to read answers, you wanted to read answers that agreed with your, personal, view.

From that point, you got defensive, I got defensive and I posted more comments then I should have. I am a firm believer in comments are not for discussion, but to clarify, etc, etc. I know I often comment inappropriately, but I try, really I do. After three or four comments, I went home for the day. I don't read SE at home, except on a rare occasion of boredom.

The next time I viewed this question, comment sections were long and you had selected an answer. I read the answer you selected, thought it was well written and valid to the new wording of the question and flagged two sections of comments for movement to chat, which CDJB did almost immediately.

So, that explains why I thought you didn't ask this question in good faith. My other comments were inappropriate and not-well-thought-out and I wont attempt to explain them. Live and learn.

The other thing I would point out is that when I posted my comment listed above, you responded to me with "this question has been edited many times by others since I first posted it." along with reasons for your arguments and what seemed to be a disagreement on what it had become.

You are the OP. It is your question. If you really want to ask a question in a specific way, and someone changes it to be something else, then you have a choice to make. You can roll the changes back, sticking to your guns, or you can accept the changed question. It is still your question. By allowing the question to be changed without roll back, you tacitly accept the question as it is now written. Go back and re-visit the answers as they apply to the new question. Don't think they are answering what you really want to know? Roll back the question.

You said you were arguing because they didn't answer what you wanted to know (about this speech and only this speech). Too bad. You accepted the changes to your question, so now your question was different.

  • 1
    +1 but could you also explain why you voted to close the q in the 2nd round? I think it had been edited to the shorter, less leading form by then. Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 18:23
  • 1
    hmm, I thought it was because I was convinced it was bad faith, but looking at the timing and reason (opinion based), now I'm not sure. Reflecting on how the question was then worded (Where are people finding...) and knowing the OP meant from that speech only, I'm not sure how I came up with, or agreed with, opinion-based. So, long written answer to say "I don't know"
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 18:43
  • 2
    The displayed reason is chosen by majority consensus (on that round). What you clicked may have been different. Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 18:44
  • 3
    "See, to me, you were asking why something, and when you were given answers about why something, you started arguing." When the answers given are illogical, this is a perfectly reasonable response, and there is no reason to treat this as evidence of bad faith. Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 12:17

Context is king, in this case in more ways than one.

We get thinly-disguised opinion pieces (and some that dismiss with even the pretense of being a question) all the time. We get prima facie open-ended questions that are actually searching for a specific answer all the time (i.e. guess what answer I already have in mind!). We get questions that, while acceptable in and of themselves, are by their nature bound to generate partisan rant answers all the time.

For the most part they just get closed/deleted. I have had disagreements with moderation on this site in the past, but hopefully always in the context of what a difficult (volunteer!) job it is and what a heroic job they do. You may not have intended that vibe, or been aware of it's prevalence, but it the context of the kind of stuff that gets posted here your question was the equivalent of a code smell.

But there are grey-er areas too: consider this question of mine. I don't like communism, don't understand the appeal, but was/am trying to move beyond the my-opponents-are-just-obviously-dumb stance by asking the question here. I too got a response of "not asking in good faith". And I understand why: I am clearly not a communist-sympathizer and I'm asking about communism. The flip side when someone asks "why don't people like X?" is just as problematic. Both of those were (largely) accepted, but both had their detractors.

So it's definitely not just you. But in this specific case, in addition to the things pointed out by the other answers is what you got in JJJ's excellent answer to your question: taken at out of context and at face value the speech wasn't all that incite-ful. Their is a strong presumption among those who dislike Trump that it was deliberately ambiguous (i.e. suggestive without being explicit), and that in the current charged atmosphere that just pointing out the fact is tantamount to being a Trump apologist. I don't agree, but I'm not surprised it was taken that way, especially by the random passers-by from the HNQ queue.

  • 2
    This is a tough site. One of my questions also was accused of bad faith and I was so lost on that I wasn't even sure which side I was supposedly biased for. I'm a little surprised that this site doesn't have clearer rules on questions about political beliefs and questions about objective matters. "Political beliefs" is an objective topic, so long as the posts stay descriptive. When they wax prescriptive there is a problem. Christianity SE, as an example, has a clear "descriptive" target for its content.
    – user2578
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 6:15
  • 4
    And we also get answers that are off-kilter partisan polemics all the time. Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 12:20

I voted to close, and remain skeptical of the OP's amazement here on meta, skeptical of the OP's initial good faith, and consider the timing of both the originating and meta questions in very bad taste -- five people died as a consequence of that speech, but the OP is amazed because he's "just asking".

The censure seems wholly justified, given the question's breezy willingness to ignore the surrounding facts:

  • the verbs in the events titling, e.g. "Save America", "Stop The Steal".
  • the location and timing, (near and during an election certification),
  • the audience, (a large crowd of angry radicals known for advocating and condoning violence),
  • the speech's deliberate factual errors, (perversely amplified reiterations of debunked baseless nonsense),
  • the urgent oratorical tone of the actual spoken speech, (the written form of which loses a great deal of information)
  • the speaker's known and extraordinary history of issuing many Pardons for crimes committed by unlawful friends, which some protesters assumed would apply to them as well,
  • the destructive and deadly outcome.

If, on the other hand, this speech was merely published in print form, without a public audience, or any large gatherings of angry radicals, and if the happy results were that nobody was killed the same day, only then the question might have some very little merit. But given the real world circumstances, that question was akin to asking:

"What's wrong with the word 'FIRE!' intentionally screamed in a crowded, (but non fiery), theater?"

  • 3
    Not the DV, but feel that this (totally valid) point could have been communicated without assuming bad faith on the part of the asker. Some (many?) people just don't follow politics or news that closely and are not necessary apologists in disguise... Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 12:41
  • 4
    I agree with Jared Smith and don't see how the speech itself is a problem for the question.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 15:38
  • @JaredSmith, Not necessarily apologists, is true in an absolute logical sense, but the real world odds seem a bit long for this sort of OP ingenuousness coinciding with the time "push" questions usually appear. It recalls the famed difficulty of finding impartial jurors for the OJ Simpson trial.
    – agc
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 18:28
  • Not my DV, but did you post this on the right page? It seems intended as an answer to the main-site question linked, instead of an explanation for the reaction(s) to the question. Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 23:11
  • 1
    @Fizz, Yes, it could do double duty, yet it was posted here intentionally. It expresses skepticism about the professedly ingenuous OP's seemingly disingenuous curiosity.
    – agc
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 23:20
  • 2
    Ok, now post-edit I did downvote, because now it reads as "anyone ever who discusses the Trump administration in anything but the most negative possible terms is an obvious shill and needs to GTFO". Seriously, although you apparently don't believe it I assure you it is possible for someone to dislike Trump but not quite as intensely as you do. If that is an exaggeration of your actual position then I apologize, but honestly that's what your answer reads like to me. It's not that I think you're wrong about Trump, it's that I think this treatment of the OP is harmful to civil discourse. Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 12:28
  • @JaredSmith, If there is any credible "positive" spin on the infamous 1/6/21 speech, please elaborate.
    – agc
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 23:30
  • What relevance does that have to the matter at hand? This isn't about whether or not there's a positive spin on the speech (spoiler alert: there isn't), it's about whether even asking the question is wrong. What is blindingly obvious to you may not be obvious at all to others. OP is (glancing at their profile again) Canadian, why do you assume that they know all about American politics and are shilling Trump instead of asking a good-faith question without knowing the whole score? Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 11:37
  • @JaredSmith, It's as much about timing and context as it is content. You seem be be conceding this could be a suspicious Q. if asked by an American. You suggest that Canadians are like Borat, remote foreigners allowed a few major cross-cultural gaffes. Yet the average Canadian usually knows more of American current events than the average American. So the initial Q. seems more dubious if asked by a typically better informed Canadian.
    – agc
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 18:01
  • 1
    Not saying any of that, at all. I'm saying that you jumping to that conclusion would be #problematic if the OP were a random American and makes even less sense in the context of a non-American. "You suggest that Canadians are like Borat" no, I'm not suggesting they're dumb (and SBC does certainly play the fool for laughs) I am saying I'd be surprised if they cared all that much. I know who various British politicians are, and what policies they broadly support, and even if I do moreso than the average Brit I'm hardly likely to start crypto-shilling them in random internet sites. Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 18:37

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