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While I don't want to get into the specifics of the question or prolong the drama, I do want to ask about @divibisan's initial comment on the question.

Honestly, it sounds like you just want to call Trudeau a hypocrite, which is off-topic here. And I’m pretty sure you know that, hence the effort to twist this into a question. divibisan

While I understanding writing your random attack in the form of a question in order to push a PoV is not something we accept, is trying to find out if hypocritical actions have been undertaken off-topic?

A search for the word hypocrite in questions that are open with +3 scores sends back a dozen results. Looking for the work hypocrite in answers pushes it to nearly a hundred responses, and that's just on a simple word search for "hypocrite" not even looking at any of the variations or ways of implying that, which comes up a lot when people ask questions trying to understand the behaviour of their elected leaders and changes over time.

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    In the particular case of the linked question it's even less a "random attack"; the origin of the question is the issue raised in the linked BBC article.
    – uhoh
    Feb 17, 2022 at 10:31
  • The problem with the question wasn't "hypocrisy" specifically, but that it was written as a push question to argue that Trudeau was "bad" in some way. Questions that exist to push a specific view, whether that a politician is good or bad, are off-topic and should either be closed (we have a close reason for this) or edited to be objective and non-leading. The edited question is certainly an improvement over the original, though.
    – divibisan
    Feb 24, 2022 at 20:44
  • @divibisan the question was completely neutral and not a push question at all. The BBC raised an apparent dissonance between two things and I asked "is it so?" This allows just as easily for fact based answers of the type "actually there's a fundamental difference here" as well as "the two situations are similar and T did in fact say Canada supports the same thing he ended at home". I've never seen anything like this in other Stack Exchange sites, but here some folks just see stuff that isn't there.
    – uhoh
    Feb 24, 2022 at 23:21

4 Answers 4

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There's a distinction to keep in mind when we approach these kinds of questions:

  1. The observation that a person's (or group's) behavior — actions and stated positions — in one context is paradoxically different than their behavior in a comparable context
  2. The implication that this paradoxical difference in behavior is dispositional: solely a function of the person's mental state or character

Generally speaking, questions about hypocrisy inevitably fall into °2, because the notion of hypocrisy implies that there is no obvious contextual reason that someone chose A here and B there. 'Here' and 'there' are presumed to be sufficiently equivalent to preclude context as a causal factor.

The way @uhoh asked his question:

Did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously support the use of road blockades as a form of peaceful protest in India that are similar to the actions he has now invoked the Emergencies Act to end at home in Canada?

Seems to make that equivalence presumption, pushing the reader towards an assumption of hypocrisy. I mean, the literal answer to the question as asked is a one-syllable 'Yes' because that's factually Trudeau's behavior. But simply answering 'Yes' is entirely misleading, because it would necessarily endorse the undemonstrated and unjustified presumption of equivalence. The better way to ask the question is to keep it within the bounds of °1, e.g.:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously supported the use of road blockades as a form of peaceful protest in India; he has now invoked the Emergencies Act to end road blockade protests in Canada. What factors caused this difference in approach?

Stated this way, the question is far less likely to get pushback about bias or POV-pushing, and it gives answerers something to dig into and discuss. Some answers may conclude that Trudeau is in fact guilty of hypocrisy, others might find contextual reasons; that is within the purview of an answer. but we should go the extra mile to keep the implication of particular conclusions out of the questions we are asking.

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    Who exactly is "you" in this case? Is this meant to address the OP and their question?
    – uhoh
    Feb 18, 2022 at 5:57
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    @uhoh: you is you, I suppose. It's a quote from your (linked) question, and I mistakenly thought the question-asker here was the same as the question asker in the link. My bad... Feb 18, 2022 at 7:02
  • That's OK, because actually the quoted snippet was re-written by me. So I suppose in a way I am the question asker. One issue here is possibly a reduction in clarity when striving for brevity. The form I used, that you've quoted was not supposed to suggest equivalence, but question if the two cases are similar. Equally from the lack of detail in the original quotes its not clear that T. supports blockades as a form of peaceful protests, rather than just peaceful protests in particular. This would then play back into the Indian governments accusations of "ignorance" in their responses.
    – Jontia
    Feb 18, 2022 at 9:02
  • The biggest flaw perhaps in the whole situation is that multiple "sub" questions have to be answered to get to the point of approving or refuting the charge of hypocrisy in the original quoted article. The "many questions" angle caused some people to have issues in the original comment thread, but honestly each individual question does not feel enough to stand on its own. The whole situation of 1) What did T. say 2) Does this support road blocking 3) Is the form or road block and/or effects similar in the Canadian and Indian cases all need to be answered to understand the source article.
    – Jontia
    Feb 18, 2022 at 9:05
  • @Jontia unfortunately all comments were removed rather than moved to chat, otherwise I could point to one of my replies that had a similar, enumerated 1, 2, 3 breakdown of how an answer could be constructed. Just because answering would be a bit complicated for the tastes of some vocal users doesn't mean it should be closed, denying any other users who might want to construct such an answer from an opportunity to do so. In this particular case these are not multiple unrelated questions, it's a tight nexus and something that could be addressed in a single, mid-sized Stack Exchange answer.
    – uhoh
    Feb 19, 2022 at 0:43
  • We shouldn't only strive to keep politicians accountable in cases where it's particularly easy and tidy, that just leaves the door open and selects for more clever and convoluted hypocrites!
    – uhoh
    Feb 19, 2022 at 0:47
  • "we should go the extra mile to keep the implication of particular conclusions out of the questions we are asking" That is very good advice. I think that many questions here suffer from this. The score of a question is often lower than the score of the best answer. This site might benefit from more carefully asked questions. Feb 24, 2022 at 15:42
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    @Trilarion: I agree. But unfortunately the SE channels (and most internet information sites) heavily resist suggestions about curating or evaluating questions before they are published. That would bring immediate accusations of censorship (particularly from the people mostly likely to have their questions questioned). It's not that difficult to set up, technologically speaking, but no one wants to deal with the sh!tstorm... So we're stuck in the GIGO loop: questions have to be live and active before we can deal with the garbage in them. Feb 24, 2022 at 16:22
  • @Trilarion It's usually those who can't/don't really ask questions themselves that opine ad infinitum on the high art of question curation.
    – uhoh
    Feb 25, 2022 at 2:58
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    @uhoh: Hmph. Is that a touch of snideness I detect? Feb 25, 2022 at 4:49
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    @TedWrigley beauty is in the eye of the beholder, motivated perception, etc. It's just my experience that when I see extended conversations about "those bad questions" and then go check the authors' profiles, I almost always see that the number of questions they post is very low. What that means is outside the scope of my comment, but I suppose that "high art" could be seen as telegraphing a viewpoint, and one could reach different conclusions depending on how literal it is taken.
    – uhoh
    Feb 25, 2022 at 5:15
  • @uhoh Not sure what exactly you mean here. I think the comparably low score of questions on politics wants to tell us something. The voting and closing seems to work, the content could be better. If only questions would be worded from as much as possible a neutral point of view. If only there was research shown and all underlying assumptions explicitly written down. Who knows, better questions might even result in better answers. Feb 25, 2022 at 6:11
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    @uhoh: i don't ask questions here because it wouldn't be helpful to me or anyone. The kinds of questions on my mind are largely esoteric, and not usefully crowd-sourced. Like it or not, i know a lot of stuff you don't (I damned well better, given all the time and energy i've put into it). And while I'm not asking you to like it, or to agree with anything I say, it would be easier on us both if you canned the passive-aggressive bullshit. I don't want to fight with you, but it's annoying having you nip at my heels. Am I being clear? Feb 25, 2022 at 6:28
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Both the current answers tend towards issues with the source question rather than looking at general site policy and guidance.

I propose that as a general policy, questions regarding hypocritical behaviour are acceptable on the site, but require a notable claim rather than being the author's observation.

If behaviour has been challenged as hypocritical by political opponents or media reporting questions to clarify the behaviour, the nature of the hypocrisy and any provided mitigation are acceptable and on topic.

What the site is not is a home for speculative research, or what-about-isms where an author brings their own set of circumstances and framing and asks the site for judgement on the behaviour.

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  • Yes, sounds good to me.
    – uhoh
    Mar 2, 2022 at 23:40
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Here's what I'd propose as a general policy:

When asking a question about hypocritical behavior, questions should be focused specifically on the behavior not on the hypocrisy.

Whether someone is being hypocritical or not is a moral judgement, which runs afoul of both the "opinion-based" and "promote or discredit" close reasons. Any question that is focused on the hypocrisy is going to attract opinion-based answers and draw partisans to attack or defend the politician in question.

Instead, questions should be focused as much as possible on the objective similarities and differences in the behaviors and the situation in which the behavior took place. While this may still attract partisan-motivated answers, there is much more room for dispassionate and objective answers here.

So, for an example of a politician who acted 2 different ways in 2 different circumstances, a question should focus more on if/why the 2 situations are different, allowing the reader to judge whether those differences justify the different response, not on if the politician is or is not a hypocrite.

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One of the roles of news media is to "hold politicians accountable" and the accountability of politicians is understood to be an essential element of several popular forms of government, especially of those where voting takes place and has teeth.

Questions that address the accountability of a prominent politician seem centrally on-topic here.

This is because accountability is presumably important if not necessary in several popular forms of government for it to proceed and function.

I guess the problem is that there are also ways to construct Stack Exchange questions that may appear to be asking about accountability as cover for pushing something else, and Politics SE is still in recovery from an elevated period of those. That means folks are on guard for that and some may even be in a state of hyper-vigilance.

In the case of the linked and now reopened question I quoted a BBC article that raised the question about Trudeau's consistency on the right to some kinds of protest, and perhaps over-carefully worded the question's title rather than assert anything myself, and the "You're just trying to..." comments ensued.

I'm not skilled enough in the art of politics to draft guidelines for how to tell the difference between a good Politics SE question in the hypocrisy/accountability regime, but I would certainly like to participate in the drafting of one!

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    This is plainly incorrect. It's not that we shouldn't keep politicians accountable, it's that this site is not to be used for such purpose. In fact, here's the text from one of the flags for closing a question: "The primary purpose of this question appears to be to promote or discredit a specific political cause, group or politician. It does not appear to be a good-faith effort to learn more about governments, policies and political processes as defined in the help center." Political activism, however well-intentioned it maybe, is off topic for this site.
    – grovkin
    Feb 21, 2022 at 22:07
  • If you are uncertain if the content you plan to create is appropriate for this (or any other SE) site, a good rule of thumb would be to make sure that any of the "close" flags do not apply.
    – grovkin
    Feb 21, 2022 at 22:11
  • @grovkin My question goes after policies of the Trudeau administration. The official statement "Canada stands behind... in India..." followed by activating the Emergencies act domestically might have been seen as hypocritical of the Trudeau administration by the BBC article's author, but it may just as well turn out to be consistent application of policy and there's no way to know until answers are posted. The "You're just trying to..." shade-casting was unproductive and resulted in a temporary and wasteful close. Too much suspicion and drama here!
    – uhoh
    Feb 21, 2022 at 22:29
  • @grovkin last time I checked the BBC is not infallible! Anyway the "you did something bad and I'm sure you know it" is shade-casting and going after a user rather than adding a helpful comment on how to improve a post. Most SE sites have moved beyond that and many folks here have as well, but there is still some needless gamesmanship and demonization that goes unchecked.
    – uhoh
    Feb 21, 2022 at 22:32
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    I don't have a problem with that question. It is interesting, as a matter of learning about Trudeau's past, on its own. The fact that it happens to expose a hypocrisy doesn't make it off topic. It's ok, common even, for an inconsistency to pique a curiosity. It's would not be Ok to act as if this site is aimed at exposing hypocrisy. The difference is subtle, but it is not non-existing.
    – grovkin
    Feb 21, 2022 at 22:35

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