Mod Notice about Election Discussion

by Vaniver1 min read29th Jan 202016 comments

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TL;DR: Posts discussing the presidential election may be hidden, not appearing in recent discussion, on the home page, or on the allPosts page.

Ben Landau-Taylor wrote The Four Year Locusts to describe the periodic problem of politics consuming everything within reach. From it:

While the swarm is too big to defeat entirely, local defense is possible. Some areas can be kept clear. What is precious can be guarded. The swarm is temporary; you need only outlast it.

Even in the best of times, Less Wrong discourages posts on politics; Politics is the Mind Killer, as the saying goes, a post that turned into a norm a bit more expansive than the original post suggests. We are not currently in the best of times.

I see three main reasons why this matters:

  1. Object-level harms to the discourse from using political examples. It's both harder for people to discuss politics, and harder for them to agree on the right abstractions. If you discuss the abstractions directly, you can avoid those issues.
  2. Pull factors for the wrong crowd. Suppose some people care 100% about rationality, and discuss rationality things; people who care 80% about rationality and 20% about politics join in and talk about rationality. But if the people who care a little about politics start discussing politics with each other, then they pull in people who care 60% about rationality, and 40% about politics, and perhaps things spiral out of control, especially if it's somehow easier or more rewarding to talk about politics.
  3. Push factors for the right crowd. Suppose people want to avoid politics, because of disinterest, reputation harms, or the increased surface area for enemy action. Then if your forum becomes about that thing, people who would otherwise be interested in your thing will leave, or be harassed.

So back to the locusts. How to respond? People like Bryan Caplan take a social media hiatus. Here on LW, we're going to try to minimize the visibility of political discussion, especially with regards to presidential politics. We're interested in raising the sanity waterline more broadly, but also in picking our battles, and presidential politics is a battle we definitely are not interested in picking.

We're considering several different ways of minimizing visibility, and will deploy them as they seem necessary. You'll still be able to write personal blog posts on topics as you see fit with the normal restrictions, but those posts might not show up on the main page and their discussion might not show up in recent discussion. (If you want to make sure you see all posts by another user, subscribe to their posts by clicking on their username and then hitting the "subscribe to posts" link.)

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