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Extremist, dehumanising statements regarding Palestinians are becoming very common on this website and are dealt with very slowly if at all. You can find a recent example of this in the comments to this answer.

Comment screenshot

It is shocking that there are users who consider it acceptable to advocate the use of nuclear weapons on the Palestinians! Imagine if a user said "A level of destruction equivalent to a nuclear bomb might shake up the Israeli collective". The claims of antisemitism would be long and loud (rightfully so) and the user would be banned immediately (rightfully so). When it comes to dehumanising, violent remarks about Palestinians, there are many users who are merrily posting such disgusting content for years without any consequences.

Moderators really need to take a harder stance on the issue. Besides for being against the code of conduct, such rhetoric is far from harmless. By dehumanising the Palestinians, it justifies and facilitates the crimes being commited against them.

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    I flagged the first comment as rude/abusive and it's now been deleted. My R/A flag on the second comment (and my NLN flag on the thread as a whole, as IMHO it's an unproductive discussion irrelevant to the answer) remain pending. Occam's Razor would suggest that the mods aren't online and haven't seen the comments yet (comments can get auto-deleted if they accumulate enough R/A flags, IIRC), but that's pure speculation on my part.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Apr 21 at 16:23
  • The remaining comments have now also been deleted.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Apr 22 at 8:35
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    I've censored the name out of the screenshot. Meta is not a place to complain about individual users. If you want to bring a general problem to the attention of the community, then names are not required. If you want to bring the misconduct of a specific user to the attention of the moderation team, then flag their contributions so we can take a look at them.
    – Philipp Mod
    Commented Apr 22 at 11:25
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    If you want to describe a general pattern, perhaps you should provide a number of examples from various posters, instead of two comments from a single poster in a single thread.
    – Zev Spitz
    Commented Apr 26 at 14:35
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    @ZevSpitz Here's another example I've asked about on meta. The food situation used to get a fair bit of "it's not really a problem". And even one case of, concerning people starving - due to whatever is causing it - "well, so what if food is cut off, Hamas is the enemy after all". So, yes, there is a bit of a pattern. There's a reason Obie's answer gets upvoted. Though it might be improving, maybe. Commented Apr 29 at 1:21

3 Answers 3

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These users should be given a temporary ban to cool down, or a permanent ban if they continue to post such comments.

The Code of Conduct explicitly says "We do not allow harassment nor any content that promotes, encourages, glorifies, or threatens acts of violence." By any standard, implying that it would be a good idea to cause a level of destruction in Palestine comparable to that caused by a nuclear bomb is in blatant violation of those rules, insofar as it promotes violence.

Lest someone think that I am only saying this because of the specific issue, the same applies to people who have a pattern of justifying violence by Hamas, or by the USA or by Russia. This site should be about political analysis, not about suggesting attacks that political groups could or should carry out.

Yes, there is some benefit in listening to the ideas of others, even when those ideas seem odious. I personally use a light hand when flagging comments, even those that seem bigoted to me. However, that benefit rapidly decreases the more a user perseverates on a certain idea. And as a Q&A forum, not a public entity, we can afford to be more discriminating when it comes to our content without being concerned about infringing users' freedom of expression.

In fact, this is the whole basis of the site—only questions about politics are allowed, not whatever a user might want to post. If users want to engage in activity that falls out of our site's scope, they are free to go to a site with looser rules, or protest in public (depending on the country).

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    It would be appreciated if the moderation team gave some response to this answer. At +10/-1, there is clearly some community desire to see some of the more extreme comments treated more seriously, regardless of whose side's supporters post them. Commented Apr 25 at 17:03
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica we tend not to say how we moderate individual users. However, in situations like these we normally contact the user to make them aware of the issue and issue a suspension at our discretion.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Apr 26 at 16:27
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    @JJJ There's no individual user info left to worry about. Can we be assured that suggestions like "nuking Gaza" will receive the moderator team's full attention in the future? Regardless of how this particular post was handled, which is off-limits. Commented Apr 26 at 16:42
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Yes, suggestions that (disproportional) violence (as is the case here) should be used are taken seriously by the mod team. Whether they lead to instant suspensions or merely warnings depends on the circumstances. Is it directly hinting at this violence or is it merely hinting at it. I say disproportional violence because obviously the use of violence in some manner is a common topic of discussion on the site. So it's hard to make blanket statement but the comments in this question crossed the line of what is permissible.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Apr 26 at 16:57
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    @JJJ - I think that the site rules are clear that any promotion of violence is a no-no. So even something that more Americans or Europeans might support ("Killing a few thousand Russian soldiers would really be a good way of giving Putin a wakeup call!") should go. That does not mean that discussing violence is off-topic, just implicitly or explicitly offering our comments on how that violence is a good thing. We should easily be able to fulfill the primary purpose of our site without that.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 26 at 17:06
  • @Obie2.0 yes. And, as always with the code of conduct, there's no way to make an exhaustive list of what is and isn't allowed.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Apr 26 at 17:55
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    @JJJ I see the concept of "proportional" violence mentioned here and on the main site quite frequently. I asked a couple of times how the people understand these proportions (for example, should we execute X palestinians for Y murdered Israelis?), but didn't get any response. In the international law, the concept of "proportional force" is in the context of a legitimate military purpose (i.e.: is the force used reasonable when in the context of the military goal it was supposed to achieve), not proportional to the perceived injury. I don't think people here understand this distinction.
    – littleadv
    Commented Apr 26 at 22:59
  • @littleadv sure, and proportionate to legitimate military purpose is fine as a brief answer to your question. You could also write a 400 page thesis on it (like this one) and consider the concept from the perspective of different treaties legal cases covering past conflicts. Remember that users have different levels of knowledge on different subjects and some will disagree even on fundamental topics. All that shouldn't prevent those users from contributing side by side.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Apr 27 at 3:19
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    @littleadv Maybe it's just me, but it seems rather surreal to see someone splitting hairs about "proportionality" and "legitimate military purpose" under a meta question concerning the advocacy of dropping an atomic bomb on what's essentially a city of refugees. I know that I will again in the future be accused of "misunderstanding" your comments. But I really fail to understand what you hope to achieve by engaging in any debate about this particular infraction to site rules. Commented Apr 27 at 14:39
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    @JJJ depends on the circumstances. In the context of this level of nastiness in a post, I can't say this is a very satisfactory response. "Is it directly hinting at this violence or is it merely hinting at it" reminds me of the university deans being questioned about the genocides and codes of conduct. About the only determinant that seems applicable is whether there have been previous infractions or not. Just assure us that it will be taken seriously in the future and not over-analyzed. Just like the team wouldn't overanalyze antisemitism or gender insults. Commented Apr 27 at 14:56
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica just because something doesn't lead to a suspension immediately doesn't mean it's not being taken seriously. Warning messages are a good wake up call that make a user think about what they're doing and change their tone. If a user is just going to keep doing the same rule-breaking behavior then the only solution is to have them suspended almost permanently. But that's really the exception to the rule. In most cases warning messages or short suspensions do the trick.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Apr 27 at 15:08
  • @JJJ Frirstly, thanks for engaging. Secondly, can you please explain why the circumstances in the current case were not judged to require a ban by the mod team? As the one who asked the question, I know that the user under discussion has not been banned. Can you please explain why this (horrific) call for mass violence was not deemed ban worthy?
    – Ben Cohen
    Commented May 6 at 14:56
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    @BenCohen I don't think we're supposed to discuss individual cases. Nevertheless, I think warnings and suspensions serve different purposes. A suspension is used when a pattern of bad behavior needs to be stopped. When bad behavior is isolated (e.g. here it's limited to a specific comment thread) then a warning may suffice. Either a user takes the warning to heart and the bad behavior stops or they keep going and it's followed up by a suspension. If bad behavior is stopped with merely a warning then I'd prefer that because it's less punitive and it gets the message across.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented May 6 at 15:25
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At risk of stating the obvious: if you see such comments, flag them for moderator attention.

It is my expectation that moderators will act on such flags. You don't say whether you flagged those comments for moderator attention or not. I do expect moderators will act on those flags, when they see them. Don't expect immediate response; moderators will see the flags when they next log in, but moderators are volunteers. At any point in time, moderators could be asleep or doing other things, so there could be some delay.

In case it is not obvious: it is important that you flag comments like this when you see them. It's not reasonable to ask or expect moderators to scour the site, reading every comment posted, proactively looking for such problems. Instead, the system relies on users bringing these problems to moderator attention, so that mods can act on them.

Flagging is the most effective thing users can do to rid the site of problematic comments.

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Because violence appears to be an omnipresent feature of many human societies, I think it is of relatively deep importance that we can find a way to discuss the phenomenon of violence in a political context on this site, and not outright forbid it.

If someone provides an argument for why it was favorable to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, without sufficiently precise criteria for what violence-related discourse is allowed on this site, there could conceivably be a redacting of that content by a moderator, with recourse to a site policy that you are “not allowed to advocate violence, not even implicitly”.

To me, this example makes it clear that we will have to start with the assumption of “no advocating violence” and begin to make revisions to that rule when we realize that it might over-restrict discourse - discourse that is ultimately of deep theoretical, ethical and intellectual value.

Such a stance also seems to turn a blind eye to the (de facto) unavoidability of violence. Philosophical thought experiments like the “trolley problem” are a good reminder of how a naive, well-wishing stance that “violence is always wrong” ignores the extremely complex reality of a world where we often have to choose between different kinds of violence and decide which we find ethically better. Violence, depending on how it is defined, is already widely morally sanctioned in the form of eating animals, engaging in warfare, capital punishment, certain types of self-defense, etc.

If we forbid someone from implying that they would find a particular act of violence to be morally preferable, we run the risk of making it impossible to discuss the topic of violence at all; or in such a restricted form that we are depriving the users of the site from deep and edifying learning and discussion about the extremely central role that violence has in human life. It is better to allow people to polemically engage in such a topic to allow them to have their own thoughts and assumptions laid bare, and subsequently challenged.

While I do not know where I personally “draw the line”, I think it is important to not let moral naivety justify something that ultimately becomes morally detrimental: not allowing people to analyze and theorize freely about if violence is ever justified, and when.

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    An assertion that violence is always wrong does run into some issues, though I would point out that there exist pacifist vegetarians opposed to capital punishment. But that is irrelevant, because the purpose of this site is not "to theorize freely" about anything, least of all when violence is justifiable. We are trying to understand political processes from a positive perspective, not engage in normative free association, something that in this context, I think, would serve as little more than an invitation for users to list the people they want to see dead.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 10 at 4:25
  • 1. One person's "positive perspective" is another's "evil ideology". For example, in much of the Arab world, Palestinian leadership's description of Jews as Satanic human-waste apes & pigs is considered a very positive perspective. 2. Aiming to understand a political process such as Palestinian/Arab rejection of Israel, without acknowledging such an underlying perspective (abhorrent as it might be) is an exercise in futility. @Obie2.0
    – Zev Spitz
    Commented May 14 at 21:43

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