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I live in Australia, not the USA. Party politics seem to be less divisive here than in the USA.

I notice that there seems to be a tendency for questions related even tenuously to politics or economics to earn comments that, from my perspective, serve as little more than tribal markings to indicate the US political party the commenter belongs to, without contributing significantly to the discussion.

To my ears, it is like every question related to soccer/football earned a few comments saying "This sounds like the typical lies Manchester United supporters would share. Go Arsenal!" even if the question was about the meaning of the offside rule.

Each individual comment is innocuous enough, but the repetitive nature of them seems divisive to me.

Is this just a cultural difference I should learn to tolerate? Is this a part of our tribal psyche that will never go away? Should we be less tolerant of them? If so where is the line, and what action would be most appropriate, without impacting our ability to question and get to the truth?

  • Can you add some links or real examples may I get your mean better? – Persian Cat Apr 4 '13 at 16:00
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    Get elected mod (I voted you #1), and then use your posers to just nuke them. I find them mostly tiresome as well, and I'm American. – JasonR Apr 4 '13 at 18:30
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    @Brightblades: Thanks for your support. If elected, I don't want to use my mod posers... err... mod powers to nuke them if there isn't community support. – Oddthinking Apr 5 '13 at 3:19
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    ... So you plan to go all Kim Jong Un on all the american politics comments? – Wertilq Apr 5 '13 at 9:59
  • Inappropriate jokes aside. I don't think I have seen any of the tribal wars, on skeptics, not that I have been here overly long. I have seen a few political questions, and they tend to not give overly useful answers. – Wertilq Apr 5 '13 at 10:01
  • @PersianCat: I am reluctant to single out people - especially if we don't agree it is a problem. And example might be "X believe that truth is whatever serves the Party." where X is the other. – Oddthinking Apr 5 '13 at 11:40
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I've certainly noticed that before, there's hardly a political question here on Skeptics that doesn't trigger the "more than 20 comments posted" automatic flag. A significant number of those comments also tend to call the opposite political side stupid in some way. Those comments are certainly not constructive, and they should be removed from the site.

The part I find problematic is that factual criticism of the posts tends to get mixed up in partisan comment or even insults. This makes it far harder to clean up the comments without removing useful criticism. This gets even more complicated as we moderators try to stay politically neutral when moderating, and removing one side of the discussion can certainly be seen as partisan. Editing comments is also something I personally don't do, as it doesn't leave a revision history and nobody can follow the edits.

This leaves the "purge all comments" tool as pretty much the only fair way to deal with this situation, with quite a lot of collateral damage. But leaving those is the worse alternative, we try hard to get objective answers here, partisan bickering in the comments is a huge distraction from that and sabotages our goal. Those comments should be flagged and removed, I see no other sensible choice here.

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    Purge all, seems a bit harsh. Then event he on-topic non-derailing constructive comments would be purged. It's like bombing a whole village because it contains terrorists. Effective, but with too much collateral. IS that really the best way? – Wertilq Apr 5 '13 at 11:04
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    @Wertilq To simplify, let's say A and B are discussing in comments. Let's even say that A is wrong and B is right. Should we only delete A's comments? I would argue that they BOTH need to go, because the wrong behaviour is abusing the comments for discussion. There is no action to be taken for a mod simply because someone is making a wrong statement. – Sklivvz Apr 5 '13 at 23:13
  • @Wertilq, It's like bombing a whole village because it contains terrorists. Effective, but with too much collateral it's so obvious that your stupid political party of hippies wants to let the terrorists live, kill us and eat our children. We must kill all the villagers, it's the only way to ensure the survival of our nation and it shows them that we are the strongest. Our Country is #1!!!!! (just in case that it's not clear this comment is meant as a joke.) – SIMEL Apr 5 '13 at 23:14
  • @Sklivvz What if A and B is discussing and C is giving some sound advice, wouldn't purging remove C too? – Wertilq Apr 6 '13 at 8:03
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    @Wertilq if there are completely separate comments that are about the post and can be left as-is, we usually leave them. However, these are really unusual exceptions to the rule. – Sklivvz Apr 6 '13 at 8:07
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    @Wertilq I can leave completely isolated, useful comments alone, but I can't remove one half of a discussion without making it unreadable or in some cases appear biased because I removed one particular criticism and left the other point stand. – Mad Scientist Apr 6 '13 at 8:10
  • @Fabian what about like first post in a discussion. Doesn't those tend to NOT be discussion comments? – Wertilq Apr 6 '13 at 8:11
5

Unfortunately, this does appear to have become a cultural trait common in the US, and it only seems to be becoming worse with each election.

Even such discussion that starts off fairly innocuous tends to quickly escalate. Therefore, any comments that start to stray from clarification of the question or answer they are posted on, and into the realm of political discussion or commentary should be deleted as quickly as possible.

Any moderator seeing this should delete these comments on site. Any users seeing comments like this should flag for moderator attention.

Comments in Stackexchange sites were never intended to be a place for discussion. For the most part, they should be seen strictly as a tool to improve content in questions or answers by identifying potential edits.

Comments should always be assumed to be temporary, and removing them because of wandering off-topic is perfectly valid.

More information on use of comments:

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;

  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);

  • Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;

  • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);

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