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A frame challenge is an answer, comment (or part thereof) that doesn’t attempt to answer the question as is, but instead disputes things the asker treats as given in their question (challenges the frame of the question). A common example are answers that point out that a question is an XY question. Frame challenges are a relevant part of this site, but they also bear the risk of belittling the asker and are a frequent source of drama (e.g., here).

That’s why I would like to create a set of rules and guidelines for them. The goal here is not to ban frame challenges altogether, but avoid the bad ones and make the good ones better and more welcoming. Also, this gives (diamond and community) moderators a basis for deletions, edits, and constructive comments. Given the individuality of frame challenges, I expect that we create a mix of rules and guidelines with a considerable grey area to be decided on a per-case basis.

Since there are a lot of angles on this, I would like to start with collecting aspects that we like to see included in such a guide. Please post answers for single aspects. These may be about (but are not limited to):

  • something that you want to forbid, discourage, allow, or encourage;
  • examples of problematic behaviour that you cannot categorise, but want to see avoided in the future;
  • both, answers and comments, and if you think some rule should differ between them;
  • what kind of assumptions can be frame-challenged;
  • under which conditions frame challenges are appropriate.
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  • Why are we using RPG jargon? A frame challenge is just contradicting the question. rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6842/… – Anonymous Physicist Jun 25 at 0:36
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    @AnonymousPhysicist The term is used throughout SE; it may have originated on RPG but I don't know that history with certainty. In any event, no, a frame challenge is not "just contradicting the question", it's an effort to provide the answer someone needs rather than the answer someone thought they needed before they asked the question. – Bryan Krause Jun 25 at 0:41
  • @BryanKrause Those are the same. And wouldn't it be better to get the question improved, where possible? – Anonymous Physicist Jun 25 at 0:58
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    @AnonymousPhysicist It depends. Sometimes an XY question leaves the "X" unclear and it needs clarification (that's the classic XY problem question). Other times it's quite clear what "X" is, it's just that "Y" is the wrong direction - that's where a frame challenge happens. – Bryan Krause Jun 25 at 2:25
  • @BryanKrause "Other times it's quite clear what "X" is, it's just that "Y" is the wrong direction" Then the question needs to be revised. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 25 at 5:52
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    Given the amount of 'grey area' expected, I really do not think that any set of 'rules and guidelines' will come close to boxing in 'good' vs 'bad' frame challenges (which are often in the eye of the beholder). I think most of the guidelines could be boiled down to "don't be a jerk". Frame challenges are a very important tool, particularly if done well, to make people re-assess the situation. – Jon Custer Jun 25 at 13:15
  • @AnonymousPhysicist No, no it definitely does not. – Bryan Krause Jun 25 at 13:58
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    @JonCuster: My experience on this site tells me that many users have difficulties to avoid (unintentionally) being a jerk – in particular when it comes to frame challenges. Even if the proposed guide avoids only that, it’s worth it. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 25 at 15:46
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    @AnonymousPhysicist I'd respectfully disagree, especially when it comes to common mistaken ideas. Think of it as a class of question/answer pairs of the form: "I am concerned about X" and "This is a common misconception, that usually means that you need to address Y." – jakebeal Jun 27 at 16:53
  • @jakebeal You could create a separate question which addresses the misconception. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 27 at 20:20
  • I feel like I'm missing something in this discussion. Can you share any info on flagging in the examples you're pointing to? – Scott Seidman Jul 13 at 12:59
  • @ScottSeidman: Can you be more specific about what you are missing? I am only referencing one example and I don’t think there is much information to be had in the respective flags. And even then, I don’t think (or claim) that that example is essential for understanding the question. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jul 13 at 13:38
  • I'm trying to get more of a feel for why the situation you describe needs to be handled as an exception, and why the current downvote/delete answer vote and our flag system for answers and comments doesn't do the job. Were the examples cited above and below flagged? How would a policy addition smooth things out? I suppose another way to say this is "I'm still not sure what problem you're trying to solve" – Scott Seidman Jul 13 at 15:34
  • @ScottSeidman: Yes, there are often flags, comment discussions, meta discussions, etc. on this. Community and diamond moderators find it difficult to draw lines. Downvoting is not a suitable tool for off-topicness and rudeness. Deleting on the other hand becomes easier with a consensus. So, the problem I am trying to solve here is to avoid recurrent debates, bad blood, and easing moderation. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jul 15 at 8:48
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Using my own questions as examples.

Frame challenges are fine if the frame shift answers the question. E.g.

Frame challenges are not fine if they challenge something that the OP should know better than the person making the challenge, or if the frame challenge doesn't answer the question even if it's correct. E.g.

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  • *Showing that the answer is actually right * did you mean to write "explanation" rather than "answer"? – henning Jun 26 at 19:40
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    Aww... the coffee one got closed? I loved answering that one, and have nominated if for reopening, since I thought it was a great question despite the mistaken assumption. – jakebeal Jun 26 at 20:06
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    I like the one-liner "Frame challenges are not fine if they challenge something that the OP should know better than the person making the challenge." If they say someone made a rude or sexist comment to them, don't challenge it. If a student asks about a grading decision perhaps we could frame-challenge them because they are here to ask questions of experienced educators (among other roles). – Azor Ahai -him- Jun 28 at 4:12
  • I disagree with the first point made here. Often it is impossible to answer the question, given the frame: "Why are black people (or women) such terrible researchers?" Few are that extreme, of course, but some questions can't be answered without adopting at least some of the incorrect assumptions of the OP. – Buffy Jul 7 at 14:59
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I would add another criterion to Allure's useful list: If most of the answer is about issues that are different from that of the question, the frame-challenge is probably not helpful but off-topic.

A helpful frame-challenge will quickly address the false premise and then return to giving advice on the issue at hand. If instead it gets lost in long asides, it turns the question into an arbitrary occasion to talk about something largely unrelated, which I find quite rude.

With more than three quarters of the text devoted to the semantics of "racism" and related terms, I believe the latter applies to one of the answers that motivated this thread.

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  • In my view, this issue should be viewed relative to the totality of all answers to the question, not just the proportion of a particular answer that is devoted to the "frame challenge". If there are 10 answers, and only one of them is a frame-challenge, but it devotes 75% of its text to that challenge, that is still a small proportion of the overall advice. – Ben Jun 27 at 15:35
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    @Ben Walls of text are rarely well received on this site, no matter their content and no matter how many other answers a question may have. – jakebeal Jun 27 at 16:34
  • @jakebeal: I agree completely. And that is all the more reason to consider the racism answer a valuable frame-challenge answer; it is one of the rare cases where a long answer (a "wall of text" if you will) was well-received and highly upvoted. – Ben Jun 27 at 23:34
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    @Ben I am not agreeing with you. Upvoted off-topic material is still off-topic. – jakebeal Jun 28 at 0:25
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    @Ben: How many of the upvoters do you think actually read the entire answer? And if they didn’t on what basis did they vote? – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 28 at 16:36
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    @Ben: Your previous comment suggests that you think that people upvoted the answer in question on basis of its entire content. I may be wrong though (hence “suggest”) and that’s why I ask you. But, yes, I do not think that most upvoters of your answer read it in its entirety. And FWIW, I have many long answers myself where I think that most upvoters didn’t read the entire answer but instead upvoted on basis of the summary, a nice picture, whatever I boldfaced, a funny remark I made, or similar. Also, I did not ask you to justify the votes. […] – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 30 at 7:03
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    […] Also, while the motivation of individual votes is somewhat sacrosanct on SE (mostly to avoid rudeness when voters do elaborate their motivation in a comment), voting patterns and trends are not. We discuss them on meta all the time, and we must: Votes are a main driving force of this site and if they do not work as intended (i.e., by identifying the most helpful/correct answer), we have a problem. There are numerous examples of clearly wrong answers or non-answers that have been extensively upvoted. If votes worked perfectly, we would not need the NAA flag. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 30 at 7:03
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    @Ben and the others That the Hot Network Questions list skews the votes of questions and answers , attracting lots of users not familiar with a certain area and who likely read the Q&A superficially , is a well-known fact across the whole Stack Exchange network, and this is what Wrzlprmft is referring to. I thus removed the accusations of trolling and the subsequent discussion. – Massimo Ortolano Mod Jun 30 at 9:11
  • moderators: The accusation of trolling remains, notwithstanding any dynamics of the HNQ. As both myself and @AnonymousPhysicist have pointed out, asking someone to justify the reasoning for the upvotes of other users is trolling. ("How many of the upvoters do you think actually read the entire answer? And if they didn’t on what basis did they vote?") Censoring that observation to protect moderator actions from valid criticism (while keeping the moderator comments untouched) is IMHO a misuse of power. – Ben Jun 30 at 9:28
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    @Ben I would counter that you are placing too much weight on the single metric of "upvotes" and too little on other metrics, such as "flags", "meta discussion", "long-standing forum norms". Decision on content moderation is definitely not based on an upvote-based popularity contest; I hope we can all agree that would be a bad idea. – eykanal Mod Jun 30 at 18:43
  • @eykanal: I agree that would be a bad idea. What is also a bad idea is moderators trolling users, then removing criticism of that trolling from multiple users, while leaving moderator's remarks intact. That is an abuse of moderating power (to be clear, one done by other moderators; not you). – Ben Jun 30 at 23:30
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    I don't think throwing around allegations re: trolling is super-deescalating, but there's a case for leaving comments on meta alone as long as they're not rude or totally off-topic. After all, meta comments are for discussing, unlike main-site comments. – henning Jul 1 at 11:06
  • What's particularly wrong with downvoting followed by votes to delete, when eligible? – Scott Seidman Jul 12 at 17:25
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To add to Allure's great answer:

If the question states that the asker personally experienced a traumatic event, claiming that the traumatic event did not occur, or claiming that the event was not traumatic, is abusive. Comments or answers which deny traumatic events should be flagged as abusive and removed.

Keep in mind that the sorts of people who ask questions often have a much broader view of what is traumatic than the sorts of people who post "frame challenges."

My understanding is that this maintains the status quo.

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    Can you include a few standard examples of traumatic events, so that we are all on the same page here? I have the feeling that some people who frame-challenge such reports do not even realise that the event could be traumatic (or even is traumatic even if the frame challenge is corret). – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 27 at 8:27
  • What about cases where the facts are not challenged, and the occurrence of trauma is not challenged, but characterisations are challenged (e.g., this event was racist, sexist, etc.). – Ben Jun 27 at 15:32
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    @Ben There is an important distinction that I think that you are missing. You seem to want to assess an event, as opposed to the experiences of the participants in the event. Consider a PTSD reaction to somebody setting off a set of firecrackers. It doesn't matter what the person who set off the firecrackers was thinking, it's still a traumatic experience for the person with PTSD. – jakebeal Jun 27 at 16:40
  • @jakebeal: In the posts that have led to this meta question, both cases involved characterisations of an external event or person by the OP; not characterisations of their own feelings. In one case it involved the OP using a derogatory name for a group of people; in the other it involved an assertion that a certain person was a racist (or had done a thing that was racist). So while I appreciate that the distinction you mention exists, the questions at issue are on the side of this distinction that I am referring to ---i.e., they are characterisations by OP of external events/people. – Ben Jun 27 at 23:37
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    @Ben You may have triggered this discussion, but it's not just about your posts and the arguments that you would like to have with people. My response here is with respect to this answer and your comment that I responded to. Would you care to engage with the PTSD example that I provided? – jakebeal Jun 28 at 0:33
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    @ben I've never seen a Q where "well ackshually that's not sexism" was a good answer to the Q. – Azor Ahai -him- Jun 28 at 0:35
  • @jakebeal: Since the PTSD is not a full question, I guess I would say that the legitimacy of a frame-challenge will depend on the specific question. If someone in that situation asks, "How do I deal with my PTSD" then I don't see any valuable frame-challenge. If instead they ask, "How do I get fire-crackers banned from 4 July celebrations at my University" then a frame-challenge might be in order. – Ben Jun 29 at 23:57
  • In any case, what I am pointing out here is that there are some cases (which have actually led to disputed answers) where the point at issue is not a fact known to OP, but a characterisation by OP of a fact that is described in the post. Moreover, sometimes the question at issue hinges on that characterisation of the fact. In that case, there may be a reasonable frame-challenge if the characterisation of the fact is dubious. – Ben Jun 29 at 23:59
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    @Ben If you think facts are "characterized" incorrectly, I suggest you ask on Meta about the best response before posting an answer. Or simply post a comment requesting clarification. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 30 at 0:32
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    I would maybe add a clarification to what you propose in the lines of If the question states that the asker personally experienced a traumatic event, without disclosing the details, then claiming that the traumatic event did not occur, or claiming that the event was not traumatic, is abusive. If the details or specifics are given, I think it's fair game to (respectfully and tactfully) challenge the interpretation of the event or point out if the OPs perception of the event perhaps differs from how others would react to the situation. – penelope Jul 2 at 15:45
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    An (oversimplified) example would be "Somebody sent me an e-mail addressing me as "Dear Mr. X" but I am a female and a Dr.! How do I stand up to this sexist action?" -- I think it would be fair dos to challenge whether this the e-mail sender really behaved sexist, or just an unintentional mistake for whatever reason. In this case and in any other the OPs feelings shouldn't be questioned (i.e. they were hurt to be addressed so in an e-mail), but if OP describes a situation I think we should be able to challenge their interpretation. – penelope Jul 2 at 15:52
  • @penelope: If the details or specifics are given, […] – While I concur, this is an almost academic edge case: We need exclusively written communication (lest we lack tone, gestures, etc.), in full (which often violates anonymity or is too long), and with all relevant context (in your example: asker’s first name, sender’s cultural background, etc.). The only example I can think of was when an anonymous editor desk-rejected paper of the asker, who shared the rejection mail, which was the only communication they ever received from the journal. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jul 15 at 10:06
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Frame challenge questions may have a useful role to play in relation to some questions. However, they need to be proportional in scope in order to remain on-topic.

Users must be allowed the right to rebut a particularly contentious frame-challenge answer and be given a reasonable right to reply. This cannot be done in comments. A fairly good indicator of whether an original frame-challenge answer post is on-topic or not in relation to its scope and relevance to a particular question is the following:

  • Would the addition of a reply to the answer post of a similar length and depth and of similar contentiousness wreck/ divert/ take over the original question?

To illustrate, one problematic 'frame-challenge' answer to this question was a 2,500 word thesis on race discrimination, basically a reworking of ideas from another pro-race-discrimination paper that the author has written. This in itself was a significant diversion from the intention and thrust of the Original Question, and was out of proportion in relation to the question itself and the other answers. The original question and its several answers did not even approach two thousand words in total. If there had been a corresponding 2,500 word thesis challenging the frame-challenge answer, the whole question would have been completely dwarfed by a side-show and the Original Poster and other readers coming here for similar advice would not have been served.

Allowing such an inapt and inappropriately long frame-challenge answer here, would have laid open the gates for similar, barely tangentially on-topic, thesis-length frame-challenge defences of race-discrimination (gender discrimination, discrimination based on sexual preference, age etc, etc) on hundreds of other posts, essentially allowing them to be taken over by similar side-shows.

This may be Academia stack exchange, but this is not an appropriate forum in which to (re)publish one’s own academic work.

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    Wow... a little Google finds some very interesting things. – jakebeal Jun 28 at 0:23
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    To the primary point as well: if an answer seems to need significant rebuttal and back-and-forth with the OP, that's often an indicator that the answer is a bad fit for the SE format. – jakebeal Jun 28 at 0:42
  • When you say "paper" do you mean an actual paper, or are you using hyperbole to refer to another post on this site? – henning Jun 28 at 8:15
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    @henning I mean actual ‘journal’ paper.. – Araucaria Jun 28 at 9:28
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Maybe it's helpful to start by laying out (my view of) the status quo, so we can see where (if anywhere) we can improve.

  • Most frame challenges are done in the comments. Since the goal is to clarify the premise or reframe (improve) the question, this is an appropriate use of comments.

    • In rare cases, these go too far and offend or belittle the asker (and sometimes the asker becomes irrationally offended at reasonable questions)
    • Sometimes we try to over-constrain the question. For example, if a user unfamiliar with academia just wants a one paragraph overview of how something works (including how it might vary), it can be frustrating when we force them to specify a million different variables before answering.
    • Sometimes the frame challenge is technical (rather than about Academia) and so this is mostly off-topic (which is fine, we can move it from the comments into chat).
  • In rarer cases, good answers can involve discussion of the framing

    • This often happens when it is completely clear that a particular misconception has led to the question.

    • Another such scenario is when we get no responses to our requests for details, in which case we must decide whether to close as "details needed" or to provide answers that give our "best guesses" based on the available facts (usually the latter).

    • Answerers sometimes give advice as part of their answer ("you only asked whether this is possible, but just for the record, it is a terrible idea and you shouldn't do it even if it is possible"). This is mostly fine.

    • In rare cases, answers fail to answer the actual question (e.g., "I don't know if it's possible, but it doesn't matter, you shouldn't do it"), or include long passages that are relevant to the discussion but do not answer the question. As Catija's answer yesterday reminded us, "the bulk of the answer should focus on the question itself," and so such answers are susceptible to "not an answer" flags.

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    This often happens when it is completely clear that a particular misconception has led to the question This is key. By contrast, we should refrain from frame-challenges, if it is merely possible or perhaps even likely that the question is based on a misconception. Otherwise we would engage in speculation, which isn't useful and easily derails the discussion. – henning Jun 27 at 14:02
  • It looks to me like all the scenarios you list that require intervention are adequately handled already using existing means. – Scott Seidman Jul 13 at 15:37
  • Right, like I said in the first sentence, this is more-or-less what we do now. This was intended as a discussion-starter, not a proposal for change. – cag51 Mod Jul 13 at 17:30
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I don't see much of a reason to do this.

  • The issue only becomes an issue if people are violating the much-discussed "be-nice" rules. If people are violating that, then there are enforcement options in place. We have existing tools that adequately deal with such issues, we do not need new ones.
  • As an academician, I've never not benefitted in some way from approaching a problem from a differing viewpoint. The idea of limiting answers assigned to some "frame changing" category is anathema to me. I suggest that "frame changing" might not be the real problem you're trying to solve, and encourage you to spend more time better defining the problematic aspect.
  • While I clearly disagree with some of the views espoused in answers in some of the problematic cases put forth here, I found the original answer in at least one case to be largely responsive to the questions, and polite. I learned from the poster presenting their views. Yes, discussion got a little out of hand, but once again, I point you to enforcement of the "be nice" criteria as a way to handle this.
  • In some of the examples posted, I can certainly understand how some would view a deletion based on a "framing" issue to be a suppression of an unpopular view (and yes-- the view is unpopular to me as well, though that's neither here nor there).
  • Dealing with some unpleasantness every now and again is an aspect of moderation. While I'm appreciative of moderators' time, if a situation like this popping up periodically is taxing our moderation resources, a viable approach would be more moderators.
  • I suggest that any moderation time saved by any policy along these lines may well be eaten up by higher level discussion with community staff. (In fact, it might be a good idea to invite community staff into this thread).
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    I don't think this is being proposed to save moderator's time, but to create a guideline that can be pointed to when moderators make decisions on this sort of thing. – Bryan Krause Jul 12 at 16:59
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    In addition to what Bryan Krause said, having a consensus also helps to cut drama short before (diamond) moderation is needed or avoid it in the first place. Also, while we can start elaborations and discussions based on the code of conduct (née be nice) every single time such problems occur, we would have to re-iterate the same (lengthy) discussion many times. It’s like working with limits whenever one could use the product rule. Here I think it is better to have a general discussion on how to apply the code of conduct to such cases. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jul 13 at 7:27
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  1. This site has too many complex and arbitrary rules.
  2. Frame challenges are inherently unwelcoming.
  3. "moderators a basis for deletions, edits" Moderator action is not needed for frame challenges unless they break an existing rule, such as being rude.
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    I do appreciate that you're providing a frame challenge for the question of frame challenges, though... – jakebeal Jun 26 at 20:07
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Frame-challenges for controversial cases (e.g., racism, sexism, derogation, etc.)

One particular context in which frame-challenges have occured, and have been controversial (e.g., in the case cited in the Meta post), is where the initial question makes an assertion that some behaviour or some person (or group of people) is bad or evil in some way ---e.g., when a behaviour is asserted to be racist, sexist, etc., or when a person or group of people are labelled with a derogatory term. Another case that sometimes generates controversy is where there are assertions of fact/evidence on university proceedings that may or may not be accurate. In such cases, answers will sometimes devote a substantial amount of space to questioning or critiquing such assertions. Some examples include:

  • Disputes over racism, sexism, bigotry, etc.: Question asserts that a particular behaviour is racist, sexist, bigoted, etc; answer challenges this assertion.

  • Disputes over derogatory label: Question labels a person or group of people with a derogatory name; answer challenges this descriptor.

  • Disputes over factual assertions/evidence in proceedings: Question concerns some kind of (actual or potential) misconduct proceeding and makes assertions of fact/evidence; answer either challenges or questions these assertions or shows sccepticism in the assertions.

I think it would be beneficial to set out clear guidelines for these cases (and other common cases that are drivers for controversy), since they seem to me to be the main drivers for controversial "frame challenges".

My view is that answerers must have scope to question, critique, or even "attack" (not my preferred word), premises in questions on these topics. In many cases we give answers that take questioners "at their word", but a broad diversity of advice also requires this to be tempered with allowing answers that critique premises. Frame-challenges should be allowed (even encouraged) in these cases. If this is not allowed, the alternative is that aspects of questions on this site become dogma that is immune the challenge ---e.g., one cannot challenge assertions of racism, sexism, bigotry, etc., or derogatory labels applied to (unpopular) people/groups, or factual/evidentiary aspects of misconduct proceedings. If guidelines were to prevent frame-challenges in these cases, that seems to me to set us in a direction where the site would devolve into "censorship" and a prevailing orthodoxy ---immune to challenge--- would inevitably take over. I can't imagine that this would improve the quality of the site.

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    This is the academia stack exchange. Answers should be about academia, not about bigotry or bigotry denial. Off topic posts have always been censored. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 27 at 8:48
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    “Question asserts that a particular behaviour is racist, sexist, bigoted, etc” – First, in most cases, this answer applies. Moreover, when such cases leave any doubt, they strongly depend on context, tone, gestures, translation, and other things we cannot possibly know. It is the asker’s responsibility to judge these things; we cannot do this. At best, we might tactfully inquire what evidence the asker has (since this may affect suggested procedures) or point out that the account as presented may not convince an authority. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 27 at 10:10
  • Disputes over derogatory label: Question labels a person or group of people with a derogatory name; […] – I see two cases here, neither of which are reason for a frame challenge: A) The person or group is identified, in which case the question violates the code of conduct and often this policy and should be deleted or edited. […] – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 27 at 10:37
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    […] B) The target is anonymous (and the label itself does not violate the code of conduct). Here we cannot possibly judge whether the assertion is accurate (as we don’t know the target) and have to trust the asker. Without negative labels such as crackpot, troll, conspiracy theorist, narcissistic, racist, disorganised, unreliable, we cannot have a fluent conversation about the respective issues, though I would never or hardly ever call somebody these in their face. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 27 at 10:37
  • Disputes over factual assertions/evidence in proceedings – I cannot think of an example where we had something like this, so I am not sure I understand this correctly. Can you give an example for this? As far as I know, we never had proceedings detailed here, and if we had, it would be out of place. And if we don’t have the proceedings, how could we frame-challenge them? – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 27 at 10:55
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    I don't understand the argument here. You seem to be saying that when we disallow or discourage challenging a question's premise in certain cases, then we can no longer challenge the question's premise in these cases. That is of course true, but it's also tautological. You may call this "dogma" and "censorship", I call it "community consensus" and "moderation". – henning Jun 27 at 13:14
  • @henning: You may label it a different thing, but it seems we agree on the substance of what occurs. If we disallow challanges to certain kinds of premises then this neccessarily eliminates dissent from a viewpoint. You may call this "cimmunity consensus" but in practice it is the elimination of dissent (which I suppose is a kind of forced consensus). I don't view that as something that is in keeping with academic responsibilities or the utility of this site. – Ben Jun 27 at 15:22
  • @Ben I don't think we agree on that. I'm not making any suggestion about what kinds of frame challenges on what kinds of topics should be discouraged here (on that see answers above). I'm just saying your argument against having such rules is begging the question. – henning Jun 27 at 16:05
  • My concern is that on the specific topics I mention, the elimination of premise-challenges will create a de facto enforcement of a baseline orthodoxy. You can call that baseline orthodoxy a "dogma" or a "community consensus" but its substance will be what it is, and it will not be a good aspect of the site. – Ben Jun 27 at 16:08
  • @Ben the substance of whatever aspects of questions we will agree to take for granted (what you call "orthodoxy") depends on the respective question. Sometimes this will concern race/discrimination/other controversial topic, sometimes it won't. I don't think we need a "protected class" of topics that can't be frame-challenged (if that's your concern); however, from my experience, the status quo on this site is such that questions related to said issues almost always have their premise questioned, at least in comments, often in answers. So, potential guidelines will be pertinent more often. – henning Jun 27 at 16:24
  • @henning: That does not appear to be the present status quo. A protection against challenge seems to be exactly what is being proposed here in the "guidelines" (and it has already been pre-emptively enforced in coercive edits to at least one answer). If answers are edited by moderators to remove substantive content containing premise-challenges then my fears are exactly what is happening right now. – Ben Jun 27 at 16:28
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    @Ben I still have to see a single call for advice by someone suffering discrimination that's isn't greeted with a demand for "proof". – henning Jun 27 at 16:36
  • If we disallow challanges to certain kinds of premises then this neccessarily eliminates dissent from a viewpoint. – Just that no dissent is voiced against an assertion in a question does not mean that we support it. For example, if an asker complains about their thesis being graded too badly and we do not challenge that assertion, nobody would think that we actually think that particular thesis deserves a better grade or that grades should generally be higher. […] – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 27 at 20:37
  • […] Similarly, if an asker wants to know their options for handling a racist remark towards them, us not challenging whether the remark was actually racist does not mean that we support any verdict on the actual remark (as elaborated in my first comment, we usually lack the information to do that; same as for the thesis grade) or a harder stance on racism. – Wrzlprmft Mod Jun 27 at 20:37
  • Usually the "challenge" in question does not even go so far as to contradict the complaint --- in the cases at issue here (e.g., the post on alleged racism), the premise-challenge only went so far as to advise the questioner to consider other possible causes of the statement and make further enquiries. So realistically, we are not talking about "challenges" that force the OP to prove their view; we are usually just talking about raising with them the possibility that they might be wrong. – Ben Jun 27 at 23:24
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An overarching concern --- please consider with an open mind

At the risk of being further downvoted into oblivion, let me give a warning to the moderators/senior users of this site. I have noticed that there is an imbalance in rules-based challenges to answers that corresponds roughly to a preference for answers that push a "left-progressive" cultural viewpoint on various topics. When left-progressive views are put in answers, those are not flagged/removed/edited (even if clearly off-topic), but when answers present a dissenting view they are commonly challenged as "off topic" and "rude/abusive". In such cases, moderators sometimes take the (manifestly biased) view that "where there's smoke there's fire" and flags are treated as gospel, without serious consideration of the actual content of answers.**

As some of you will know/admit/grudgingly accept, academia has a well documented bias towards left-progressive viewpoints, and it is something that is derogating severely from the reputational legitimacy of the academy, to the point where there will be serious threats to the viability of university funding in the future (in my view). AC.SE seems to me to be following this general trend, where there is an effort to purge viewpoints that challenge the left-progressive hegemony. The vehicle through which this is done here is the "off topic" flag or the "rude/abusive" flag when someone sets a frame challenge to a question that assumes this orthodoxy. In the cases I have seen, the answers so flagged have clearly not been rude/abusive; often they have been extremely charitable to the OP. The reality is that the motivation is not bureaucratic but ideological/political; I have never seen an off-topic pro-progressive viewpoint generate the reaction of the recent posts.

Ignore my view if you like, but you have been warned. This is a serious issue, and it is not the internal moderators/users who will ultimately be the judges of the quality/legitimacy of sites like this. There is also a broader movement (see e.g., here) expressing deep concern for the trajectory of the academy, and it is only a matter of time before mass delegitimacy occurs. I already see new users come on here and complain that there is a leftist orthodoxy that is not open to reasonable dissent and then they leave (which seems to be by design). The present efforts seem to me to be less of a genuine bureaucratic response to a problem, and more of an ideological campaign to enforce a specific orthodoxy. If you decide to hem the site in with rules that enforce a narrow orthodoxy, it is going to wreck the site. Guys like me will continue to be a thorn in the side, but others will just turn off and conclude that this site is an ideological/cultural monoculture, unworthy of genuine consideration.


** This answer by a site moderator openly states that the mere occurrence of multiple flags shows that an answer is problematic; a clear case of pre-emption of any actual investigation of the content of the answer.

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    I'd like to suggest an alternate perspective to consider: your answers are spending a lot of time arguing for a particular perspective rather than simply stating it as a possibility and moving to focus on the OPs question. Consider the difference between ten paragraphs arguing a remark might not be racism, vs. saying something like: "Despite the fact that it appeared racist to you, they might have had other reasons for their remark." and then moving on to explain your advice. The first can easily come off as an attack on the OP, while the second is more likely to get your perspective heard. – jakebeal Jun 27 at 16:32
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    Is there any suggestion how to manage frame-challenges here, or are you just making a(nother) general political observation? – henning Jun 27 at 16:32
  • @jakebeal: I appreciate that some people don't like long frame-challenges. This should be viewed not just with respect to the proportion of a single answer used, but with respect to the totality of answers. One reason that I spend time putting in alternate views on these issues is that the totality of other answers tends to accept premises uncritically, and so it is useful (in my view) to add an answer that gives an alternate view, even if this means a longer explanation. Interpreting explanations of reasoning as an "attack" on OP is not very academic in my view. – Ben Jun 27 at 23:43
  • @henning: This post is on the latter. The Meta post is labelled as a call for "idea collection" (pretty broad canvas) so this answer registers an overarching concern that does not contain a solution but alerts users to a problem. – Ben Jun 27 at 23:44
  • @Ben Please read my comment more carefully. It does not actually say what you appear to believe that it says. – jakebeal Jun 28 at 0:38
  • @jakebeal: Sorry, I'm not suggesting that you're the one interpreting it this way; I just mean that if it "comes off as an attack" (to whomever makes that interpretation) then that suggests a deficiency in the environment where people are not open to frame challenges to begin with. – Ben Jun 28 at 1:44
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    The academy exists to progress society. The fact that it is doing that is not cause for delegitimization, that is how it derives its legitimacy. – Azor Ahai -him- Jun 28 at 4:17
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    @Ben as broad as this canvas may be, your answer still leaves me guessing whether it's drawn on the canvass or next to it. Seeing your other answers, I can't help but notice a bit of a pattern. – henning Jun 28 at 7:40
  • @Ben but even to the (off-topic) point, I get you don't like it that the average academic doesn't share your political views. (The average academic doesn't share my views either.) But you "argument" commits a slippery slope fallacy: You extrapolate a trend (if it can be called a trend with only one observation in time) to an absurd extreme. – henning Jun 28 at 7:45
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    @Ben Btw, in modernity, societal subsystems don't derive their legitimacy from the political center. The average artist may be a left cosmopolitan, the average lawyer a right-wing conservative, the average scientist a left liberal, the average businessperson a right-wing libertarian. Yet artistic beauty isn't evaluated politically but aesthetically; the law isn't adjudicated through ballot, scientific truth isn't discovered by politics but by method, and growth can't be legislated. (In the US and the UK, not even the political system derives it legitimacy from proportional representation.) – henning Jun 28 at 8:05

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