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I'd like to ask a question in Politics.SE that, I promise, will be controversial because of its subject matter (yes, it's related to the Russo-Ukrainian war). My problem is that some of the answers may be legitimately supported with references to Russian propaganda.

But my hope is that my inability to figure out the answer on my own could be alleviated by answers with good references.

I'd let it go, but I think the subject matter of the question is becoming more and more part of the public discourse. So I'd like to understand it before the inevitable 1-dimensional rhetoric wins out on one side or the other. Before the question gets voted down into oblivious as propaganda (because its subject matter is, in fact, used by propagandists), I figured I'd ask for this advice on meta here.

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    Consider posting the question to the Sandbox then use any suggestions there to improve the question. There is no guarantee the revised question will not attract downvotes on the main site, due to lack of participation on Meta; but Mods and higher-rep users will have a chance to comment on the question without the noise of the main site.
    – Rick Smith
    Mar 11, 2022 at 3:28
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    I think that a good question would be kept neutral and would motivate the question but not try to answer it in the question body. It would also show research. That doesn't mean it won't be downvoted, but at least it would fulfill some quality criteria. Mar 11, 2022 at 6:01
  • @RickSmith thank you. that was a good idea. I added it to the sandbox here.
    – wrod
    Mar 11, 2022 at 6:10
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    If you would told us what the question is actually about, then we can perhaps help you to find a phrasing which minimizes opinionated answers.
    – Philipp Mod
    Mar 11, 2022 at 8:34
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    Has anyone else noticed that Politics.SE could be abbreviated to PolSE (homophone of policy)? Or is that just the febrile, fetid side of my brain at work again? Mar 11, 2022 at 22:03

2 Answers 2

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Simple answer: keep your tone cool and neutral (value-free) and contextualize whatever you think might cause flame to deflect the flame away from yourself. For example, this would be bad framing:

If the Earth is flat, why don't we fall off the edge?

This sounds like you personally believe the Earth is flat, which will draw down fire.

The following would also be bad framing:

Flat-Earthers think the Earth is flat (silly as that sounds), but if so why don't we fall off the edge?

This sounds like you are diminishing or demeaning Flat-Earthers, which will irritate both Flat-Earthers and people who believe in civility.

A better way to ask such a question is like so:

Some people, like those in the Flat Earth Society, believe that the Earth is flat. But how do they explain that people don't fall off the edge?

In this case, you've attributed the problematic claim to a notable group, without staking any position on it yourself, and then asked for an explanation of it from that group's worldview. This question can be answered calmly and factually, and anyone who gets triggered and decides to vent on it will vent at the FES, not at you.

So, if you're going to invoke Russian propaganda as part of your question, make sure to give yourself distance. Don't call it 'propoganda'; say things like "According to Russian state news sources...". Don't present it in any way that someone can interpret your statement as expressing an opinion or value-judgement, one way or another. Just keep it neutral: "These people say this, with makes me wonder [...]"

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    I feel like this should also be added to the examples on the good faith policy Q&A. This is a really nice, simple writeup of how to handle questions like this.
    – Bobson
    Mar 18, 2022 at 20:50
  • @Bobson: Fine with me, but I have no idea how that would be done. Mar 20, 2022 at 4:08
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  • Write your question in a neutral tone, compliant with the rules and traditions of this site. Write in the question your expectation of an acceptable answer (references, sources, etc), as this tends to deter the propagandists and opinionated folks.

  • Familiarize yourself with the most important discussions in Meta, in particular the recent ones such as those cited below. Follow the consensus on Meta. This Meta consensus is the unwritten and poorly documented, amorphous "set of rules" of the site. Your question can legitimately be downvoted and/or deleted based on any of those Meta posts where you violated the unstated and somewhat fluid (by the nature of voting) consensus. Appeals to Help center will be ignored, if a Meta precedent exists, IME.

  • Follow all reasonable requests by the moderators of this site, as they have the power to single-handedly delete your post and ban you from this site for certain violations. Familiarize yourself with the rules that determine the rights of the moderators and the users. Do not do anything to get yourself banned - follow all the laws (sorry for repeating this somewhat obvious, yet often forgotten, advice).

  • Your question will attract both propaganda, opinions, and genuinely informative answers from users. Downvote the bad answers and upload the good ones, as mentioned in the Help center. After a week or so, the dust will settle and and fog of war will disperse enough to see the few good answers. Remember to accept the answer if appropriate, and possibly give bounties as you see fit.

REFERENCES:

What measures are taken to protect the site from propaganda posts during the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine?
Questions about the current attitude of Russians which might not be possible to answer accurately. Should I ask them?

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