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Sometimes, creators of questions like to add colour to their puzzle, by adding some attempts to be "edgy" with their language. In most cases, I think we can all agree that its OK to spice up a question a little by making references to memes, pop culture, or running jokes.

But what about politically-charged "edginess"? For example, what if a question about queens dominating certain squares of a chessboard is presented with language that puns off "Black Lives Matter"? At what point does it pass from humour to offensive content?

In the case provided above, a mod determined that it needed to be adjusted, and it led to a minor editing war, followed by the OP putting a "disclaimer" essentially complaining about political correctness. The mod also altered the title in a way that reduced the political implications, but didn't really connect well to the puzzle itself.

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    $\begingroup$ Relevant: puzzling.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5799/… and puzzling.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6804/…, particularly Rubio's answer to the latter. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Feb 7 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ I note that all the comments on that question making sensible counterpoints to @Deusovi's arguments have been deleted, making it look as if there was no disagreement except from the OP. None of said comments (at least not the ones I saw) were offensive or impolite. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Feb 7 at 5:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor The very first one was a direct personal attack on me, along with some mocking self-accusations that were clearly not in good faith. I struggle to see how this would be interpreted as "polite". $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Feb 7 at 7:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Deusovi I must've missed that one then, sorry. Good thing I remembered to add the "at least not the ones I saw" parenthetical to my comment :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Feb 7 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor FWIW, as the author of one of those comments, I came here today to delete it myself, only to find that it had been deleted already. I wasn't too surprised. I stand by my comment, but I wish I hadn't made it, because in these politically-charged times, it only made things worse: it sparked this meta post, which drew more attention to the question, which resulted in more strife. $\endgroup$ – Steve Summit Feb 7 at 14:55
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At what point does it pass from humour to offensive content?

I guess the point here is that there is no definitive answer to this question because what is considered humorous or offensive is subjective.

We do get questions and answers which are clearly spam or offensive and I have found that, on Puzzling SE, moderator intervention is efficient and appreciated by the vast majority of the community on these occasions.

However, it sometimes happens that a user has written a question or answer that, unintentionally, may be considered offensive by another user on this site but maybe the poster, and others, have not considered that particular perspective.
What I would like to see, when this happens, is an open discussion between those involved to consider a rewrite of the question to the satisfaction of everyone.

I think the linked question provides a good example.

For me, this question did not spark any notion that the asker was being intentionally provocative.
However, I do understand the moderator point that the idea of "black squares matter" may be seen as trivialising the "Black Lives Matter" movement.

What I would like to have seen in this circumstance is an initial comment under the question along the lines of

"The way you've made the connection to the 'Black Lives Matter' movement will be interpreted by some as trivialising what is a very important movement. Is there any other creative way you could rewrite the question so as not to do this?"

I think the OP would have been open to this because, as puzzlers, most of us like being creative.

What I think is not helpful is considering bad intent from the other side when it might not be there because it will inevitably create ill feelings on both sides (and lead to messy edit wars, etc) and you may get a splurge of comments underneath the question/answer debating the issue one way or the other.

I do think the moderators are doing a great job on this site and I find Puzzling Stack Exchange a fun place to visit regularly because there are so many interesting and creative questions. I wouldn't like others to feel like they can't have fun here and while this means being mindful about how we phrase questions and answers, it should also be considered when we approach resolving these issues.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a well written answer/comment. I think the Moderator/s on this site have done a great job. The said subject matter (inferred) in the example puzzle is a very serious sensitive issue with hundreds of years of injustice behind it. As you said this is a Fun site for puzzling fans and hot political issue discussion isn't what I look for here. $\endgroup$ – DrD Feb 6 at 20:22
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I apologise if I word this poorly, I still feel a level of Imposter Syndrome here.

However, to answer the question directly... No. Known "politically-charged" content does not follow the community guidelines: https://puzzling.stackexchange.com/conduct

To communicate openly and honestly about the topics is fine, however "politically-charged" content is problematic by default, even assuming the poster does not have bad intent.

If the topic is current, in the news everywhere, and is known to have very strong emotional responses, using that topic as a loose container for a puzzle that doesn't require it and not being aware that it might have different community members on different sides of the debate is a somewhat naive position for the clever and creative people on this site... regardless of what position is taken by the puzzle.

Sure, conflict should cause reasoned and polite conversation. On the other hand, being offended by being told that you have posted something that offends people shouldn't cause as much of an emotional response as the original known politically-charged topic... The community guide has chosen specifically to err on the side of "inclusionary behaviour", not the right to have "exclusionary behaviour".

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Whether it is acceptable depends very much on the specific language. There can be puzzles that refer to current events, or even poke fun at them. There are a few reasons it may be a bad decision to do so:

  • Part of the goal of this site is to be an archive of puzzles that are solvable (and ideally, good) at any point in time. Dating a puzzle does not give a particularly good impression of it.
  • Puzzles with unnecessary political content distract from the puzzle itself. They do not improve the inherent quality of the puzzle, and the framing will only serve to isolate people. As a community, we would like to be a welcoming place to a wide range of visitors.

But in the abstract, "a puzzle that references current events even though it's not necessary for the puzzle content itself" is not completely disallowed.


The situation in question, though, did seem to warrant edits due to a few particular parts. Notably, the part of the question:

Now consider the case of racist queens who dont think black squares matter:

For those unaware, Black Lives Matter is a movement against police violence in the United States, specifically focusing on the many police killings of unarmed black people in recent times. Black people in the US are constantly in danger of police action against them for no particular reason; this action (as the aforementioned killings show) often leads to their deaths.

As a personal friend of mine put it,

i'm worried for me and my SO and my friends because a lot of us aren't white
we are being killed just for existing.

By making an offhand joke about this, the OP of the linked question is sending the message "This is a thing that it is fun to make jokes about. People who "don't think black [lives] matter" are funny. Your life not mattering to people is funny." This is, needless to say, not particularly welcoming. It is actively hostile to people who are affected by this, and so it is wholly inappropriate for this site.

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    $\begingroup$ Did anyone flag this question as offensive/problematic? Or did you make this decision off your own bat? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Feb 7 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor It shouldn't matter; the content of the question does not change either way. But yes, there were several flags on the question. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Feb 7 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ He called those queens "racist", which is a derogatory term. I think he supports BLM $\endgroup$ – Ray Wu Feb 7 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that in this context "racist" was a derogatory term. It seems to have merely been descriptive. (A more appropriate descriptive term would have been "colorist", but that's neither here nor there) $\endgroup$ – bobble Feb 7 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ @RayWu The question is not what OP's beliefs are, but the message that is sent. Even people with good intentions can imply something they didn't mean to. The important thing in this case is editing out that harmful implication so that no more damage is done. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Feb 7 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Deusovi - A person can't imply what they didn't mean to. I agree with your point, though. $\endgroup$ – h34 Feb 8 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ For those without high enough rep to see vote breakdowns: this answer stands at +11/-9 $\endgroup$ – bobble Feb 14 at 17:37
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At what point does it pass from humour to offensive content?

There is not really a clear cut line, as people's opinions on politics vary drastically, but I find it best to avoid political references that silently promotes negative judgement against a specific group of people (especially minorities), as those tend to be the references that many identify as offensive.

I do not think that the OP had any bad intention at the making of the puzzle, but made a reference that, unintentionally, will indeed offend some people, from few to many.

I agree with the moderator's edits, as they don't take away the aim of the puzzle, while avoiding possible controversies (though ironically, the edits started a different controversy). Unfortunately, the edits would likely reduce the amount of views and interactions (like voting) on the post, but this is nothing compared to offending our fellow humans.

Personally, I don't see the puzzle you linked as a puzzle that's trivializing or poking fun of the important movement, as the white queens in the puzzle were clearly called out for how they thought... so maybe the other group might get offended? Of course, I could be, and probably am, dead wrong about this.

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At what point does it pass from humour to offensive content?

Dave Chappelle answered this question more eloquently than any of us will. I can't immediately find a clip but, to paraphrase, it passes from humorous to offensive when it's about your thing. Most people today are not mature enough to laugh at themselves. While this is shameful, we must comport ourselves in accord with the real world we actually live in and not an ideal world that doesn't exist. Therefore, it's probably best to leave jokes and social commentary out of PSE. In fact, it would be wise to limit them to private conversation. Stubbornly refusing to meet people where they are will only serve to further polarize society.

In short: getting butthurt may be a character flaw but knowingly provoking people to butthurtedness is equally so.

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Whoever looks at either the pieces or the squares on a chess board and is triggered to thinking about ethnicity ought not to be. That includes those who post questions to Q&A websites. Meanwhile, trivialisation or mockery of real and very serious social issues, such as racism, or of those who recognise the reality and seriousness of such issues, should be strongly deprecated. That certainly includes when it is done in a "Your inference does not prove that I made the implication you are alleging" gaslighty Roger Stone-like way.

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