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RationalWiki defines the phrase "Just Asking Questions" as:

Just asking questions (JAQ-ing off) is a way of attempting to make wild accusations acceptable (and hopefully not legally actionable) by framing them as questions rather than statements. It shifts the burden of proof to one's opponent — rather than laboriously having to prove that all politicians are reptoid scum, one can pull out one single odd piece of evidence and force the opponent to explain why the evidence is wrong.

It should be noted that accusing one's opponent of "just asking questions" is a common derailment tactic and a way of poisoning the well. Asking questions in and of itself is NOT invalid.

Occasionally, we get references to articles that use this technique to strongly suggest that there are questionable aspects about an issue without openly making a claim - e.g. that someone is corrupt.

How should we deal with questions that rely on such articles? Should we disallow them, as there is no specific claim? Should we allow them as they are evidence that people believe that the open speculations are true?

  • Although I agree that such questions may (or may not) be more vague, the idea that the statements asked about are immune from examination by this SE is irksome. – Andrew Grimm Aug 1 '17 at 7:07
  • @AndrewGrimm: Do you want to post an answer, see if you get it upvoted? – Oddthinking Aug 1 '17 at 15:02
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They are pseudoclaims.

Asking a question about an article titled "Has Sklivvz stopped eating ice cream?" which makes no specific claims about me, won't work because of two reasons:

  1. We can't prove a negative like this
  2. The article isn't even claiming I stopped or ever ate ice cream, it's just the reader that thinks it is so, because of a rhetorical trick

More in general, vague, non factual statements (as all of these pseudoclaims are, by definition) make super-poor questions where answering convincingly is basically impossible.

  • I agree that they are pseudoclaims, but my concern is that if the media is filled with "Has Sklivvz stopped eating ice cream?" articles, then your second point will apply - lots of careless readers will believe that the pseudoclaim is true, and it becomes a real issue worth our attention (if only to point out that the articles have no evidence). – Oddthinking Jul 21 '17 at 3:03
  • (To make it more concrete: What if the articles asked "Can honey cure heart disease?" That's an answerable question.) – Oddthinking Jul 21 '17 at 3:04
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    In that case the examples of the claim are bad, and we should find better specimens. It shouldn't be too hard since lots of careless readers will repeat the claim they understood. We can't have questions where the examples don't claim what is asked. – Sklivvz Jul 21 '17 at 7:46

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