Recently, as I was browsing the Hot Questions here, I came upon a question about allowing others to take your place on a bus.

One of the answers was based on personal experience, and while short and not specific is clearly not a wrong answer.

When the answerer was asked why he suggested just moving quietly rather than making a direct offer, he mentioned bad experiences with "overenthusiastic feminists" deriding him when offered.

What ensued was downvotes to the answer (down to -5!) for so-called misogyny. This comment has been deleted, possibly by its author, possibly by a moderator. If the second, this is rather horrific.

The answerer made it clear that he supports feminism and not once insulted anyone. Despite this, because he mentioned that the people who got mad at him were female and in some cases feminist, he was brought down quickly. From the later comments by him and me, it is obvious that support for him is overwhelming and that those insulting him are simply wrong.

Today I saw a post on the SE meta explaining that one of the principles of the "be nice" rule of this site is not to engage in ad-hominem attacks. In the answer I linked, that is clearly not being followed.

I know this is a heated topic. I may receive downvotes for simply mentioning that men don't enjoy being wrongly accused of misogyny. But the truth is, no one does. I find this unacceptable, and if a mod has deleted the so called 'controversial' comment, I request that the baseless slander offered to the answerer also be deleted.

Is this acceptable behavior on the Stack Exchange as a whole? Is it acceptable here? Why do you let it slide? Should we?

This is a growing issue on the internet. No defense is allowed on many sites. Can we stop it here?

EDIT: I have accepted an answer, because it is the only one I have so far and goes partway toward a solution. But as my primary point seems to have been misunderstood, I will add some clarification.

When an accusation is raised of someone attacking a minority, it is accepted. Even if it is patently false (as in this case) no one wants to dispute it out of fear of being associated with sexism, racism, or being a homophobe. Flags work only if people are not self-conscious about the issue. Sure, no one can see that you flagged the topic, but the subject is tainted and makes you feel tainted. This is what causes the lack of flagging. What I'm looking for is some way to combat this, not how to use the Stack Exchange interface to more effectively bring it to the eyes of someone who can do something.

EDIT 2: I am very happy with the answers I am receiving, as they do indeed explain how to handle situations when they arise. Still, the reason I asked the question was not to discuss any single case, but that I wanted to know what we can do to improve community awareness of a vector of attack that most will dismiss at first glance.

  • As an additional note, my position here is against slander and nothing else. I am not crying about any specific person or group, or on the behalf of any. I am speaking out purely on a matter of great importance to me: the total rejection of slander.
    – Magus
    Oct 6, 2014 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


First, I can't help but noticing the title of your question is commonly referred to as loaded question. From the linked article:

Aside from being an informal fallacy depending on usage, such questions may be used as a rhetorical tool: the question attempts to limit direct replies to be those that serve the questioner's agenda.[2] The traditional example is the question "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

There's probably a lesson (or kitchenware of black persuasion calling each other names) to be found here. But I digress.

What ensued was downvotes to the answer (down to -5!) for so-called misogyny. This comment has been deleted, possibly by its author, possibly by a moderator. If the second, this is rather horrific.

It was me who deleted the comment -- it has been flagged as rude/offensive, and after some deliberation I decided to err on the side of caution and remove it. Not a single of the remaining comments was flagged as rude/offensive -- and I can see how some of them probably should have been. Not by you, nor by anyone else.

Is this acceptable behavior on the Stack Exchange as a whole? Is it acceptable here?

Absolutely not. See my previous answer on a somewhat related question. Check Rule 1 and while at it, refreshing on the code of conduct can't hurt either.

Why do you let it slide? Should we?

This discussion hasn't been brought to moderator attention for 5 (five) days. There was a single flag against the comment you mentioned that was deleted several hours ago as of this posting, and that was all. The rest was cleaned up just now.

The lesson we (yourself included) should learn from this situation:

  • Flag the offensive content. There's little we as site moderators can do if our users don't help us. I personally rarely manage to read everything that has been posted for a day, so something can definitely slip through the cracks.

  • Do not engage in defensive discussions. Flag the offensive posts, and continue. As we all know it, this rarely achieves anything besides causing the discussion to derail completely. Resist the temptation to write a vindictive comment, particularly if you are to defend somebody else rather than yourself. Take a deep breath, flag, and resume your day.

  • 1
    Thank you. I do realize that this was a loaded question, but I wanted to be sure that, whatever else happens, there is yet another place we can refer people who tend to do such things to. I purposely took a stronger stand in this matter than would be my norm because I don't want matters like this to be swept under the rug. Because it is an issue. Yes, more flags are an ideal situation. At the same time, you presumably read the comments and deleted one which had all it's 'offensive' properties thoroughly refuted, but not that which contained a direct insult. Do not belittle the problem.
    – Magus
    Oct 6, 2014 at 20:37
  • 5
    You "presume" too much. In the moderator interface, flagged comments are not surrounded with the remainder of the discussion. While I typically check the whole thread to delete anything that's obsolete/redundant/off-topic, this lone flag from 5 days ago didn't warrant in-depth investigation (or so I thought). In retrospect, I should have read more into it. At the same time, you seem to be ignoring what the actual problem is -- that you and others engaged in a heated discussion that could have been avoided if someone (yourself included!) has flagged it before it went out of control. Oct 6, 2014 at 21:11
  • While your answer remains helpful, you have consistently misunderstood the main point I'm trying to make: that accusations of discriminatory behavior toward minorities make people squeamish - they avoid them and avoid taking action. I agree that taking action as you have stated is totally correct, however.
    – Magus
    Oct 6, 2014 at 21:21
  • 6
    You have consistently misunderstood the main point I'm trying to make: flagging and not responding to offensive behaviour is the correct course of action. Being defensive does not help, it just puts gasoline on the fire. In a heated discussion, nobody wins. People are not easily convinced if they hold a strong opinion -- not by complete strangers on the internet anyway. This is like letting children sort out their problems by fighting instead of intervening immediately -- clearly not the best solution there is. Do you really think somebody is better off after that whole argument? Oct 6, 2014 at 21:22
  • 1
    You keep saying that, and I keep saying it is correct. I'm not saying a massive defensive campaign is the correct option. I'm saying you are correct. I am, however, also saying something needs to be done about the attitude of the community so that things like this do get flagged. I'm saying that if a post contains "you're sexist" or "you're racist" should not make people feel bad about disagreeing. If it is false, it should be flagged as slanderous, but people feel bad about doing so. You are right!
    – Magus
    Oct 6, 2014 at 21:33
  • 3
    @Magus There is a flag system, people use it, moderators are responsive and ultimately did clean this thread (which I personally did not read) so it's disingenuous to suggest this behavior (whatever it was) is considered normal on this site. Unless you have something else to add, it seems the only concrete problems are that the original comment was posted in the first place (unavoidable on a site like this one) and that the response took too long (which we can all do something about but it's never going to be 100%, all the time). What exactly do you think could or should be done?
    – Relaxed
    Oct 7, 2014 at 10:05
  • 2
    @Relaxed: As I've stated, it needs to be written somewhere, maybe on the rules, whether people read them or not. While a plain insult may hurt someone, a claim that they're sexist will change how others view them, possibly damaging their reputation forever. If it's true, perhaps they brought it on themselves. But if it's false? Again, the situation in question is simply an example of it being badly handled by everyone including me. The false accusation was even upvoted several times, showing that some people were swayed. This is an attitude problem, and needs to be fixed.
    – Magus
    Oct 7, 2014 at 14:39

I think a lot of us WOULD flag it if we'd seen it. I personally don't like the answer as it doesn't answer the question, telling people NOT to do it anywhere - where as in London it's a nice thing that people routinely give up their seats for other passengers in need. I didn't see the comments, however, and that's your main point here, and indeed, from the sounds of it it wasn't good.

Note that it has 17000 views at this time, being on the 'hot' list, and as such most of those were not regular members of travel.se. I'm fairly sure most of the regulars would have flagged it if they'd come across it in time (and indeed, from my time as a previous moderator, I assure you, people DO flag offensive and non-offensive things frequently).

Also, as a foot note I don't appreciate the title, heck, I could flag that as offensive ;) It's not that they're allowed, it's just that things take time, and the most prudent, efficient and best way to fix them is to not get involved in arguments, but flag offensive posts for the moderators.

Alternatively, hop into the chat, sometimes a mod is in there and can help out immediately, if they've not seen a flag yet.

  • 1
    Yes, I totally agree. As for my title, I wanted people to read this and realize the problem. There has been a rise in claims of false discrimination on the internet of late, and the problem remains that no one wants to defend a possible racist, because what if they're wrong? These accusations are hard to combat. All I'm looking for is some sort of addendum to the rules at least, that prevents the character of innocent people from being freely defaced. I realize that it will still happen, but I don't want it to get worse. This has been and still is my point.
    – Magus
    Oct 7, 2014 at 14:28
  • 1
    If you just get up and walk away, on a crowded train, you risk a random person grabbing it. The point is to let the person in need get the seat, so you specifically offer it to them.
    – Mark Mayo
    Oct 12, 2014 at 11:17
  • @pnuts it was referring to "give up their seats for other passengers in need" - and was part of a discussion about the answer that said it risks abuse almost anywhere, not the original OP's question. I think, at least, you're raising a question about something from over 2 years ago suddenly.
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 21, 2016 at 11:15
  • @pnuts oh totally agree, everything remains for posterity, that's not what I'm getting at. I just don't particularly feel like re-reading the threads from a post about 'allowing' personal attacks by a new member from two years ago to work out the thoughts going on at the time to then discuss a comment. The two years was just that you'd seen the comment two years ago, and I wasn't sure why now it was being questioned. Shrug. :/
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 21, 2016 at 11:25

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