My question Has Boris Johnson ever referred to any of his opponents as “traitors”? has (perhaps aptly) devolved into a debate about propriety rather than the issues, so I'd like to get a second opinion.
In the question, I ask, specifically, whether Boris Johnson has ever used one of three terms that he is accused of using by a political opponent. I note, in the question, that he has definitely or probably has used each of the other two, and that I find them uninteresting anyway because I only consider the third claim to real bearing on the broader political argument that the accusations were made in support of, and explain that I am thus asking only about the third claim.
I also include three non-conclusive bases for skepticism of the accusation that I found in the course of trying to corroborate the accusation: that a transcript indicates he hadn't used that term in Parliament on that same day (very weak, I know!), that he broadly described the accusation as "humbug" (still weak; imprecise about what's being denied) and that another member of Johnson's party was quoted by the Guardian explicitly denying the specific claim I was skeptical of (aha - notability requirements finally unambiguously met!).
Finally, I concluded with a sentence summarising my question: has he really used the term, or is the accusation that he has a fabrication?
To that, I've received an answer whose only attempt to address whether the specific claim I ask is the paragraph
I was not able to find a direct quote using the word traitor explicitly, but then, all I had was a couple of sessions I watched live and what search engines served up.
flanked by 6 paragraphs of political commentary and a couple of quotes of Johnson saying other things that the answerer finds objectionable, including one of the other two terms he was accused of using that I'd explicitly stated I wasn't asking about.
To my mind, this is a non-answer worthy of deletion. It's almost entirely opinionated political commentary with no bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim, and the single sentence that actually addresses whether the claim is true is nothing more than an admission that the answerer couldn't find any convincing evidence one way or the other. Yet it's now at a score of +26. Is this sort of answer really to be considered acceptable here?
Meanwhile, in the comments below that answer, the answerer throws several accusations at me:
That I forced his hand into writing political commentary through using a source for the counterclaim that was itself making political commentary:
If I just said, "there is no proof that he did call anyone 'traitor'", I would implicitly acknowledge Mr. Cleverly's position that the accusations "were deeply unfair"
Is there any merit to this? My feeling is "no"; while I of course concede that the judgement that the accusations "were deeply unfair" is a political opinion, not a fact, it seems to me that:
stripping out that part of the quote - which appeared in the same line as the explicit denial of the claim - would've wrongly denied the reader context that might be relevant to the motive and credibility of Mr. Cleverly and his counterclaim
completely omitting any mention of the counterclaim from the question would've been wrong; we're explicitly encouraged to include a source for counterclaims where possible
even leaving those things aside, the objection just seems false; it's clearly possible to acknowledge that a factual statement is false without endorsing the political opinions of other people who say it is false.
This is true of Mr. Cleverly, and also true of Paula Sherriff; if someone were to find a source where Boris Johnson refers to an opponent as a "traitor" and post it in an answer, that would not constitute agreement with Sherriff's opinion that Boris bears responsibility for death threats sent to Remainer MPs, and it would be wholly improper for 90% of the answer to be a discussion about how, even though Boris used the word, there's no reason to think he meant to incite violence, and the people sending the threats have their own free will, and inflammatory political rhetoric has been around for a long time, and yada yada yada. I'd expect the answer to simply deliver the source with no fanfare.
That I asked in bad faith, already "knowing" that nobody would find proof that Boris had used the term:
Or, to put it differently -- "I could not find proof that he used that term explicitly." You know as much yourself, because I am sure you did your own research before posting here.
This much, at least, I can say is false, because I at least know my own mind.
That I should've explicitly conceded that Boris Johnson's language is divisive in the question:
@Tim Well, if the question hadn't framed the question the way it did -- including the "humbug" and "deeply unfair" retorts -- and perhaps focussed on how Mr. Johnsons choice of language is divisive and inflamatory but did he say that one word, the framing of the answer would have been different as well. Context does matter.
I'm not sure what to do with this one. I am personally of the opinion that Johnson's choice of language is not divisive (which is why I was shocked enough by the "traitors" accusation to research and ask about it), so such a concession would be a lie. And in any case, I don't see why I should have to express my agreement with progressive political opinions as a precondition of asking a factual question on a Skeptics site, which is what this comments implies I should've done.
That I invited broader commentary on the issue by somehow implying that the answer would disprove some broader claim:
@Tim: Consider a discussion about whether or not there are stars visible on the original Apollo 11 photographs. Consider that question asked on a photographer website. "I know that the light reflected from the surface makes short exposure times necessary, but if you would use modern image enhancement, are there stars visible on those photos?" No, they aren't (I think). Now, the same question from a moon-landing-was-a-hoax conspiracy person. "Are there stars visible, or was the moon landing a hoax?" -- That same "no there aren't" needs the "...but..." / "...because..." to follow. Same here.
I don't really get this. I think it's a criticism of me setting up a dichotomy between the accusation being true or "a fabrication" in my final paragraph. Yet those are literally the only options. If the claim is not true, then Paula Sherriff fabricated it, whether intentionally or not; unlike the example given, it's not a false dichotomy.
Did I do anything wrong here? Could I have asked in a different way to get a more constructive, less angry reception? Is the answer I've received really acceptable here?