Donald Trump became president-elect of the United States after the 2016 presidential election a few weeks ago. Thanks to some of his more outrageous ideas - and some of the public perception of them - he's become an oft-mentioned figure on comments on Worldbuilding, ever since the start of his campaign.

Here are some of the recent ones I've seen (and others I found using this query:

User A: Mr Trump: "gather all the smartest brain in the country and put 'em to study this whatever you called it." Advisor: "Sir, that's racist!" Mr Trump: "this is for America! and get me Prof Hawking before he took the wrong flight..."

User B: @[User A] I doubt it would be racist. Damn it... such top US scientists would be predominately white, with some emerging talented Asians. No worry about racism, that would presumably make president Trump to rethink the whole idea...

"All the fossil fuel sources worth exploiting have been found, extracted and used up." At this point I'd suggest fleeing Earth if there's a reasonable alternative. This would lead to absolutely devastating climate change. It's also rather unlikely to happen, unless Trump can asexually reproduce to other country's presidencies.

This query, for the record, doesn't cover deleted comments; quite a few of these mention Trump (which is why the query brings up relatively few). There have also been a number of questions and answers that mention him, often in not-so-positive contexts.

I'll be frank: I don't like the guy. I don't. I also don't think the site is being overrun by them, given that most have been deleted, as far as I can tell. But I find it annoying to look at a bunch of comments and see a couple that are just Trump jokes. Comments are meant to be serious and constructive. That's why we have the "Not Constructive" comment flag.

Yes, Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is perhaps one of the more fun and probably lax sites on Stack Exchange, in terms of humor. Yes, Donald Trump is, at times, ideal fodder for certain jokes. But some of the comments are borderline offensive, and they certainly don't make the site better.

Does anyone else feel this is a problem?

To be clear: I am not suggesting an official, mandatory, always-enforced ban on such comments.

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    $\begingroup$ Do we want this conversation to be in the context of specifically Donald Trump, or do we want some more overarching policy? As in "avoid current political/religious/[Something Else Here] humor?" $\endgroup$ – Ranger Nov 29 '16 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ @NexTerren I wouldn't mind a broader discussion, although I've found that Trump appears to be the main subject of these comments. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Nov 29 '16 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ At the risk of violating the very request in the title of this post: I do not think that it is obvious or certain that Trump jokes do not make the site better (as long as they remain legal). Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is among other things about creative writing and jokes are an important part of it. I agree that offensive comments of any kind should not be tolerated but not all political jokes are necessarily offensive; some serve to make valid points and address legitimate concerns. $\endgroup$ – 0range Nov 30 '16 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ I still don’t get the joke about getting on the wrong plane. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Dec 3 '16 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz - at a best guess, may be the fact that Hawking was on a zero-G flight? $\endgroup$ – user4239 Dec 9 '16 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ What was it.....don't speak of religion/politics/sports in polite company? $\endgroup$ – NZKshatriya Dec 12 '16 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ It's laugh or cry. $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Jul 25 '19 at 0:06

We already have built in-functions for handling this. The wrong way to handle this, on the other hand, would be banning certain joke topics. There isn't actually anything this would add:

  • People will still joke about Trump

  • A topic ban would actually only cut the mood on this site

  • It would actually harm when the joke is actually adding something - it's a part of a constructive answer, question or a comment)

  • This actually would cover just a few cases while banning tons of them. Only when the joke is not funny/offensive and not consturctive, it should be downvoted/edited out/deleted (especially comments). No need to put the whole thing into a restricted access shelf.

Trump jokes are the same as any other jokes. "About Trump" shouldn't automatically mean "not funny". If the joke adds something to the post's context, keep it. No need to ban the whole thing to cover the two or three edge cases.

We have the tools to handle this. That's what downvotes, edits and offensive flags are for:

  • Downvote if you dislike the joke (or upvote if you like it, it's up to you)

  • Edit out or Flag the joke if you think it's inapropriate (or delete if it's a rant).

  • Else it's OK, and shouldn't be removed.

TL;DR: Let it be. The community will decide by time - this is a comunity-driven site. Unless this problem overflows and starts really harming (eg. discougraing users to use SE), we should do something.


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    $\begingroup$ Comments can't be either down voted or edited by normal users. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Nov 30 '16 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ @NexTerren Comments are more subject to getting flagged and/or deleted. I think that compensates it. $\endgroup$ – user22613 Nov 30 '16 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not asking or proposing an official blanket ban; I'm just wondering if other people consider this an issue, and if so, if we should do something about it. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Nov 30 '16 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I'm not saying you're saying so. :) I'm saying we certainly shouldn't take any major action, since we have the tools to keep this at a level (unless somebody hacks user profiles to show "I H8 Trump"). $\endgroup$ – user22613 Nov 30 '16 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @RudolfL.Jelínek Ah, a miscommunication, then. :-) $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Nov 30 '16 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 No, no, no, not again... another one... seems my English (learned from 95% by being active on SE) isn't yet good enough :P $\endgroup$ – user22613 Nov 30 '16 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ Trump jokes will fade out of popularity on their own if Trump turns out to be an OK president. The concern will be if Trump is not a good president, the Internet will likely blow up if that is the case attacking and joking about him. Definitely be ready for that one. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Nov 30 '16 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Ryan Many would argue (operative phrase, there) that Obama had a decent presidency, too (and that's all we're saying), yet there's still loads of jokes about him. Trump jokes, no matter the man's performance, will still be around for a couple terms after his. $\endgroup$ – JessLovely Dec 4 '16 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Papayaman1000 jokes are made about everyone famous, the more famous the more jokes. Most of the jokes I have heard about Obama are only jokes not because he is president, but of what he does (which was found out or the opportunity to perform such actions are because of his presidency). Obama is almost never joked about for being president. Trump is, because many of the things he wants to do are controversial, and Internet jokes jump on that like hungry lions to meat. If he is an OK president, he wont do most of them or will make them work, and the internet will not care then. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Dec 5 '16 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Ryan I never heard a joke about Jesus, let's say. There are certain exceptions, but in general I agree. $\endgroup$ – user22613 Dec 5 '16 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ @RudolfL.Jelínek, You've never heard a joke about Jesus? Ever? Hoo-wee, where have you been? $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Dec 8 '16 at 7:10

Comments should be constructively relevant to the post they are attached to

Maybe it's just me, but I think this is pretty clear-cut. Just for reference, here is the placeholder text for a comment (taken straight from the "add comment" text box placeholder):

Use comments to ask for clarification or add more information. Avoid comments like “+1” or “thanks”.

Does bringing up a specific politician (or non-politician) somehow contribute to making the post better? Maybe it does. But you might want to ask yourself if bringing up a (particularly, a living) person is the best way to get your point across.

If the comment meets those criteria, then chances are it's fine, and in an ideal world, whatever prompted the comment should be incorporated into the post it is attached to or otherwise acted upon.

If it doesn't, then the comment is not constructive in the context of the post it is attached to, and is a candidate for deletion. In that case, the comment should probably be flagged as "not constructive". (I believe -- someone correct me here if I'm wrong -- that if a comment amasses a "sufficient" number of not constructive flags, it automatically gets deleted. That's certainly the case for comment obsolete flags, as I have seen that behavior in action myself.)

Comments are ephemeral

Comments aren't meant to live forever. They are supposed to be requests for clarification or suggestions for how a post can be improved (which was the way "add more information" was previously phrased: suggest improvements). After the post's owner has acted on them, they can be deleted. They can also be deleted for almost any other reason.

I've had comments of mine deleted just recently where my reaction to the deletion was pretty much "what the iff?", where I felt that my comment added something useful but which wasn't enough to warrant an answer all of its own.

But that's how the network is supposed to work. If you want your content to remain, post it as either a question or an answer. If you don't care, but think it is constructive (see above point), then post it as a comment, but be prepared for the fact that it might get deleted. If it isn't relevant to the post or constructive in the context of the post, but you still want to post it, then you might try Twitter or Reddit.

As much as we sometimes joke on Worldbuilding, Stack Exchange is tailored towards generating high-quality answers to high-quality questions. In the case of Worldbuilding, it's about using the various fields of science (including for example real-world history) to help others construct imaginary worlds. Joking about specific real-world persons is unlikely to lead us toward that goal.

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    $\begingroup$ I will say that, specifically in the case of Trump, referencing a current event situation can be a good metaphor for trying to explain some other situation. Worldbuilding isn't just about science, although that gets the most attention here. The best worlds are all about society too. So I definitely think there are valid uses for referencing Trump, especially considering the unique (in recent American History) characteristics of his campaign and the un-expectedness of his victory. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 6 '16 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion Sure, that's the "does doing X somehow contribute?". If it does, then it's probably fine. And as I said, comments are supposed to be ephemeral, so we don't need to concern ourselves too much with that they should still make sense several years from now. But for lasting content, such as questions or answers, quickly changing current events may not be the best reference. People who followed the US election may currently be aware of a specific statement made by a US politician in the recent election campaign, but how about someone in Japan three years from now? $\endgroup$ – user Dec 12 '16 at 10:25

Make the distinction between borderline offensive and actually offensive

I did a review of Trump literature on this site, such as I could find, and I really didn't see anything that seemed offensive. Certainly dumb, but not offensive.

As a general rule, I think over moderating by deleting lots of questionable comments is good for the site, in the same way that policing petty crime reduces major crimes. If a comment is definitely offensive, then it should be deleted. If a comment gets deleted and wasn't that offensive, oh well. Better the site keeps high standards, and people who get butthurt over one or two deleted comments should get over it.

The Worldbuiding community is, in my opinion, pretty strong. There are a set of 20 or 30 users that probably comment on or answer every single question cross the site. As long as we the frequent users set a clear standard on good comments vs bad comments I don't think we'll have too much trouble. I think the site's community is strong enough to discourage Trump trolling.

If we get invaded by hordes of redditors, on the other hand, then we may have to take some more extreme measures.

  • $\begingroup$ -1. General rule for "offensive" content on SE, as far as I'm aware, isn't "what a specific person finds offensive". It's what other people find offensive. Unless you're an official average representative of all Trump voters empowered to be speaking on all their behalf, your opinion of whether Trump jokes on the site are offensive or not is rather irrelevant, as long as other people find them offensive. $\endgroup$ – user4239 Dec 9 '16 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ @user4239 ...so what is your proposed course of action? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 9 '16 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ @user4239 I'm reasonably certain you're misunderstanding. I think kingledion was talking about those who get annoyed when their comments are deleted, which has nothing to do with the Be Nice policy. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Dec 9 '16 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 - I was referring to the approach spelled out in the first sentence, specifically. $\endgroup$ – user4239 Dec 9 '16 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ @user4239 If YOU find things that offend you, flag them for review. Stack exchange is a democracy; just because I didn't find anything worth flagging doesn't mean you won't. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 9 '16 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @user4239 Would you be happy if kingledion added in the words "that seemed" after "I didn't see anything"? I've found that users are generally in concurrence, to within reasonable margins, about what content is offensive to people as a whole, which is what I understood this answer to mean. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Dec 9 '16 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 - sure $\endgroup$ – user4239 Dec 9 '16 at 15:22

I think this is actually a very interesting meta-question because it's a dynamic problem. In theory, Trump jokes will get old, either some time during his presidency, or sometime afterwards. Thus, any policy regarding Trump would naturally have to be transient.

However, I'm not sure if we have any concept of a "transient" rule on Stack Exchange. The only related concept I can think of off-hand is Wikipedia's idea of protecting a page from edits temporarily.

I know what I don't want to see for WorldBuilding is an itemized list of topics we can't talk about which grows without bound as we keep coming across new things. On the other hand, I can see value in being able to limit non-constructive content.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think the OP is proposing a policy so much as saying "c'mon folks, can we tone down this type of behavior?". I don't read it as leading to an itemized list of forbidden topics so much as a reminder to be constructive and not escalate hot-button topics with snark and stuff. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Nov 29 '16 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Do you think that's what HDE was saying? If so I don't feel like it's super effective then since I imagine it's a small, small fraction of users that look at Meta as compared to participate on the main site. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Nov 29 '16 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe I'm misreading. With luck he'll see these comments and clarify as needed. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Nov 29 '16 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Yes, that's pretty much what I'm saying. But if there's a way we can make more people aware of this - and that comments should be taken seriously, in general - I'd be open to suggestions. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Nov 29 '16 at 19:51

I think this is more of comment abuse. If a comment does not offer anything constructive, the poster should think twice about posting it. In this case, it is using comments for joke dialog that only fits the immediate context.

So I think the real question is, how strict do we want to be about these kinds of one off, non-constructive, comments? It might help if there was and idea of a 'transient comment', one that goes away after being read or enough time passes. (Maybe limit number of them per day to avoid encouraging abusing the comment system)

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are supposed to be ephemeral. Lots of comments remain on the site long after they have outlived their useful life, but there should be no need whatsoever for a "transient comment" because comments should be considered transient from the beginning. $\endgroup$ – user Dec 3 '16 at 17:06

I stopped coming to this site for a short while specifically because of these "jokes" which a large majority weren't jokes, but rather people just saying hateful and slanderous things directed at not only Trump, but also just anyone who did/does not support Clinton or Sanders.

People can keep saying what they want... I have the power to walk away. I don't need to associate myself with people who would say such terrible things to begin with, but I also don't have to silence them. I can just shut the browser tab and find another site to get information from.

And people can do the same with any other topic that comes up. If you don't like it you're not being forced to interact with these people.


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