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Moderator Philipp made an interesting terminology edit. Before:

In 2021 voter suppression advocates claim...

After:

In 2021, people advocating for stricter voter-ID laws, claim...

Philipp explains in an edit note that posters should not be:

...using a disparaging term for people you don't agree with instead of using their self-description.

Which brings up a SE Politics policy question:

When are a political group's self-descriptions of their own actions to be preferred over the conflicting descriptions of other groups, and when ought the descriptions of others to be preferred?

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  • Does this answer your question? Should the controversy of a bill be edited into a question? while they are asking different things, they’re very similar, and the answer applies to your situation. Nov 11, 2021 at 15:48
  • @EkadhSingh-ReinstateMonica, Thanks, it's a kindred question, but this question is about a how groups of related laws should be classified, rather than about any one specific obnoxiously titled law.
    – agc
    Nov 13, 2021 at 5:59

4 Answers 4

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The rule should be pretty simple: Do not antagonize users who have other opinions than you do.

Practically nobody in the United States claims to be "for voter suppression". That's an accusation from their political opponents. Their argument is that they want stricter voter ID laws to prevent election fraud. Yes, the result will be that fewer people are going to vote, including legitimate voters. And statistically many of those people are those who usually vote the party the voter-ID advocates are not from. So accusing them of insidious motives is certainly warranted. But not here on Politics Stack Exchange.

By using disparaging terms for people you don't agree with, you are doing three things:

  1. You are creating an atmosphere where those people do not feel welcome. We do not want Politics Stack Exchange to become an echo chamber where only people of certain political ideologies post content. If we want to create an objective platform for political Q&A, then we have to maintain neutrality. We have to ensure that people of all political directions who are interested in spreading objective and neutral information feel welcome to contribute (not with their opinions, of course, but with their curiosity and knowledge).
  2. You are poisoning the well. You (intentionally or unintentionally) frame the topic in a manner which suits your political views and manipulate people into giving you an answer from a specific political viewpoint instead of from a neutral one.
  3. You are poking the hornet's nest. You are provoking people to start debates with you. And as you should know, Politics Stack Exchange is not a place for opinion and debate.

The solution to this problem is not to use disparaging terms and then flag any comments pointing that out expecting us moderators delete them and leave the disparaging terms intact (which you did, but conveniently left out when you quoted me above). The solution is to replace disparaging terms with more neutral ones.

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    Changing to to stricter voter ID laws isn't going to antagonize users who think that it is voter suppression? Either way it is worded is going to antagonize someone.
    – Joe W
    Nov 11, 2021 at 13:14
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    @JoeW No, I do not think that any reasonable person would be offended by using the term "people who advocate for stricter voter ID laws" for people who advocate for stricter voter ID laws.
    – Philipp Mod
    Nov 11, 2021 at 13:24
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    And I don't think that any reasonable person would be offended by calling them as they are voter suppression laws. I personally find it offensive that they can try to call them voting security laws when they are designed to keep people from voting.
    – Joe W
    Nov 11, 2021 at 14:23
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    @JoeW and I find it offensive when you call me not a reasonable person, and accuse, without evidence I might add, the political party that I support of breaking the law. (Note: this comment does not actually reflect my views, it’s to prove a point). Nov 11, 2021 at 15:50
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    @EkadhSingh-ReinstateMonica I never said anyone was or wasn't reasonable, I am just saying that if the claim can be made for one wording that it could be made for the others. Personally I consider myself a reasonable person but I am offended by attempts to call it voting security when I see it as voter suppression. My point is that people can get offended by either wording and it can be as offensive to change it.
    – Joe W
    Nov 11, 2021 at 16:15
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    @JoeW Nobody here used the term "voting security". You are arguing against a strawman.
    – Philipp Mod
    Nov 11, 2021 at 16:20
  • What is the point of stricter voter-id laws besides voting security? I fail to see how pointing out that I find it as an offensive change is a strawman argument.
    – Joe W
    Nov 11, 2021 at 16:25
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    @JoeW re: “I never said anyone was or wasn't reasonable” No, but you did say that no reasonable person would be offended by calling them voter suppression laws, and that is essentially calling anybody who does believe that they aren’t voter suppression laws unreasonable. Also, Philipp used the term “people advocating for stricter voter-ID laws,” which can been seen as either people advocating for voting security or people advocating for voter suppression. Nov 11, 2021 at 16:30
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    It almost sounds as if this answer is arguing in the general sense that "voter suppression" is not really a thing,, rather than a myth -- just a matter of partisan opinion, so that 1890-ish Jim Crow policies like literacy tests for people of color but not for those with voting grandads wasn't really "suppression", but just being (imperfectly) stricter than no law at all; or perhaps the assumption that suppression has existed historically, but we present day people are too nearsighted to draw correct historical comparisons.
    – agc
    Nov 11, 2021 at 20:49
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    Re "We do not want Politics Stack Exchange to become an echo chamber where only people of certain political ideologies post content.": SE in general is firmly opposed to being a platform for racism. To the degree that any given public policy is sugar coated racism, one would hope therefore that an anti-racist SE policy should deprecate such sugar coatings, in preference of terms that truthfully warn of underlying toxicity.
    – agc
    Nov 11, 2021 at 21:11
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    @agc - I generally support not changing the question. It should have been left as "voter suppression," and if people felt that description was too tendentious, they could downvote or vote to close. That said, I do believe that while "voter security" is a euphemistic description, and "voter suppression" is actually reasonably neutral and objective, "stricter voter ID laws" is at least equally so. Moreover, when talking about people who advocate for strict voter ID laws, it's actually more precise. There are whole countries where ID is required to vote without being (as?) associated with the...
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 11, 2021 at 23:47
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    Put another way, while there is no doubt that the Republican Party leaders and a significant portion (dare I say a majority?) of their base are indeed "voter suppression advocates" in the sense that they support voter ID laws in order to suppress Black, younger, and generally more Democratic-leaning voters, there are undoubtedly some supporters of stricter voter ID laws who support them because they (erroneously, to my mind, but nonetheless sincerely) believe them to be positive, if only because they have been convinced by the Republican Party that voter fraud is much more common than it is.
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 11, 2021 at 23:58
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    @Philipp, Referring to voter suppression laws as stricter ID laws fails to recognize that some voter suppression laws aren't ID-based, for example Georgia's recent outlawing giving water bottles or snacks to people stuck in miserable six hour long voting lines.
    – agc
    Nov 13, 2021 at 5:41
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    I think there are a few cases where this gets more complicated and leans the other way. I'm fairly sure we've had a policy against allowing white supremacist dog whistles, and similar things. There's clearly a line that can be crossed that simply "let them use their own terminology" or "favor neutral terminology" doesn't recognize. Nov 16, 2021 at 5:49
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    @zibadawa - Favoring neutral terminology, by its definition, should be interpreted to disfavor racist terms, be they "dog whistles" or explicit.
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 17, 2021 at 20:14
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My suggestion would to be always refer to groups of people by a name or designation they choose for themselves.

A separate case in point: People who are for further restrictions on abortion refer to themselves as pro-life. People against further restrictions on abortion consider themselves pro-choice. Both groups present themselves as being for something, but in reality you could just as easily define them as against something, instead. Both groups attempt to define the other in the negative manner routinely.

But in order to give all groups a fair amount of deference in either questions or answers, how groups of people ought to referred to should be drawn from what the groups themselves say they are.

The example from the OP I believe is on point. People who are for stricter voter ID laws in general would disagree with being referred to as "voter suppression advocates" and do not present themselves as such.

"What about all of the outlandish cases of <insert group here> who say they are for <good thing> but obviously in reality truly stand for <bad thing>?"

I don't think it matters. If a group of baby eaters presents themselves as "Population Control Enthusiasts," refer to them as "Population Control Enthusiasts." I would expect a good complete answer including information about them to point out that a by product of enthusiasm for their chosen form of population control is sometimes babies get eaten. A good question may ask why people refer to themselves as Population Control Enthusiasts when in reality all they seem to do is eat babies.

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  • Re "I don't think it matters. If a group ... presents themselves...": well that devious group certainly thinks it matters, or they wouldn't take such pains to conceal their crimes. Perhaps without such dissimulation "PCEs" might well starve or hang. A devil is more dangerous when wearing a halo.
    – agc
    Nov 13, 2021 at 6:46
  • @agc That can all be true, and we can still enforce a basic principle of calling people what they want to be called.
    – user5155
    Nov 13, 2021 at 14:50
  • By this "principle of calling people what they want to be called" perhaps SE ought to enforce that in 2021 Trump should still be called The President, as he claims he was reelected by a landslide, refuses to publicly acknowledge a 2020 loss, and doesn't like being thought of as a former President or a one-term President -- those dimunitions also offend many Republicans who say they believe Trump.
    – agc
    Nov 14, 2021 at 5:25
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    @agc That does not follow from this, a title or office cannot be assumed, but a group designation can. The group of people you refer to probably don't like being called liars, or anti-democracy crusaders, but do refer to themselves (for now) as Republicans, pro-Trump voters, etc.
    – user5155
    Nov 14, 2021 at 11:54
  • @agc Actually, it does bring up a good point. In a political system where the owner of a title depends on who has the biggest army at the time, it may get a little fuzzy even in the title/holder of office case. But it still doesn't fit your scenario, because the U.S. doesn't propose to have such a system.
    – user5155
    Nov 14, 2021 at 12:44
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    @agc I think this answer gets at the crux of the issue. If a question were to refer to "voting rights advocates" as "illegal voting advocates" or "election insecurity advocates", should these latter descriptions be preferred or the former? I think the latter terms sneak editorial comments into neutral descriptions. If you wanted to make an argument about these individuals, I think it would be preferable to use their description of themselves (voting rights advocates) and then explain what their actions lead to and whether or not that is the real intention.
    – Tyberius
    Nov 23, 2021 at 16:23
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A general rule of writing is that it's better to show than to tell. Using the phrase 'voter suppression advocates' is telling what they ostensibly are, which will just raise hackles. Better to use a neutral term (either the term they use to refer to themselves, or something descriptive and non-judgmental), and then describe their positions, behaviors, and consequent results to expose the problem. That is showing. I appreciate @Philipp's 'civil discourse' perspective, but recognize that sometimes we need to have more 'charged' questions and statements than properly detached language will allow. In such cases we should shy away from anything that resembles labeling or name-calling and focus on observable statements and actions.

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  • What term would you suggest instead for a group that people believe are trying to prevent others from voting based on who they think they are going to vote for?
    – Joe W
    Nov 16, 2021 at 18:15
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    @JoeW: How about calling them 'Republicans'? That, at least, seems non-controvertible. Nov 16, 2021 at 18:21
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I would say edits like this are wrong as they can put words in the authors mouth that they are not saying. There is a big difference between a claim of voter suppression and stricter voter id requirements.

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  • OK, but why exactly are edits like this wrong? And when, if ever, would edits in a similar vein, but varying in degree be right?
    – agc
    Nov 11, 2021 at 20:28
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    @agc Because they are changing what the poster is saying/intended for something that does not appear to be blatantly offensive. I don't see that wording being anywhere enough to trigger a rude or abusive flag and that should be a good start for when to edit. Edit in cases where the post can still be salvaged.
    – Joe W
    Nov 11, 2021 at 20:35
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    In Philipp's view we'd be partisans prejudicially reframing presumed good faith ideas of Republicans innocently advocating stricter IDs -- that's superficially correct as they never call it suppression. OTOH, I'd doubt Philipp or anyone on SE Politics imagines the 45th President's 2020 election disputes were pursued in good faith, and it's public knowledge that these ID laws raison d'être stems from those baseless disputes. It would seem that where the facts don't match the labeling, SE favors the (inaccurate) labeling.
    – agc
    Nov 12, 2021 at 19:28

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