A question I recently asked, What, was the 'joy' of a hard bargain? has apparently been flagged as offensive by reason of being "political commentary". I conclude that on the basis of (a) an edit I rejected yesterday, soon after the question appeared, in which a fundamental example of a social norm was bowdlerized, quite at odds with the intent of the post, by a rewrite of the paragraph presented below, and (b) the recent request from a moderator that I 'delete the political commentary (in the "art of the deal" paragraph)'. The objection appears to be to this paragraph, wherein I example the ambivalent attitude toward the Yankee trader in present-day US:

That ambivalent attitude continues to this day, and is presently represented by the tacit public approval of prominent public figures in the US, whose chief claim to prominence rests on their having successfully cheated many elderly or otherwise vulnerable people through the enterprising practice of what is fondly if falsely proclaimed as the "art of the deal".

That the paragraph should be interpreted as political commentary is arbitrary; it is clearly a comment on prevailing social norms involved in unraveling the entirely linguistic question of my post.

As evidence of the arbitrary nature of the partisan interpretation of my question, wherein it becomes political commentary rather than a representation of a widely accepted view of a particular social norm, I'll point out that the phrase "the art of the deal" appears in the Hathi Trust corpus 2968 times. For a prominent example dovetailing quite nicely with my use of it, there is this from the 1994 Harpers:


Even Socrates gets in on the act, although he was probably not a Yankee, except perhaps in spirit.

The list presented on the Harper's cover might, in the 1980's for example, have included PC salesmen (e.g., Bill Gates), etc. There's nothing necessarily political about the paragraph, other than the possible interpretations involving politicians who might be implicated.

My question is, should the sort of tangential and peripheral interpretations represented by the objection to this question prompt (a) edits at odds with the intent of the post, and (b) moderator response to flags based on those arbitrary and entirely unavoidable interpretations?

I don't think the sort of tangential partisan bickering represented by objections to my paragraph as "political commentary" should either affect what I include in a question, or prompt moderator requests for rewrites. The latter are nothing more or less than subscription to one particular political viewpoint over another, equally valid viewpoint.

This can be marked as resolved as far as I'm concerned. It's evident that the position of the moderation team has calcified in favor of supporting and condoning politically-motivated bullying. I'll not comply with the bullying. The stakes are too trivial for me to even consider compliance.

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    Which "prominent public figures in the US" are you referring to? – Mitch Aug 23 '17 at 20:32
  • @Mitch, the point here is that what I wrote does not single any one or ones in particular out. All of Congress, for example, no matter which side of the aisle, is represented--they're all horsetraders, in so far as they're competent in the job. Most any CEO also qualifies, for the same reason. – JEL Aug 23 '17 at 20:42
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    Reading the paragraph more closely, it seems to be irrelevant to the linguistic question. A mod requested that you edit it out. Why not? – Mitch Aug 23 '17 at 20:48
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    @Mitch, why? Obviously I don't think it is irrelevant to the linguistic question. Also, it's apparent in context that the request was not, per se, a mod's request, but rather the request of a political partisan. – JEL Aug 23 '17 at 21:01
  • @ab2 I guess that "every literate person in the world" actually means "every literate person in the United States". "Art of the deal" means nothing to this Brit (and Harper's is not readily available here). – Andrew Leach Aug 23 '17 at 23:26
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    Ah, I see. You were referring to the Prussianization of the Chilean army. Why not just say so and avoid the problem? Seriously, whatever Harper's said in 1992 has been overwhelmed by recent events. Every English speaking literate person in the US sees "art of the deal" and thinks of the same five-letter name. You either have to say less or a great deal more – ab2 Aug 23 '17 at 23:48
  • @ab2, I'm "English speaking", in some sense or another, and I'm literate, in the sense that I've read large quantities of junk and some good literature. I suppose I could be said to be "in the US". I don't think of anybody's name when I see "art of the deal". I'm sure I would if you said the name and told me not to think it, but equally I'd think of a flea carrying bubonic plague if you told me not to. – JEL Aug 25 '17 at 6:08
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    I don't know what to say. Actually, I do: I envy you. – ab2 Aug 25 '17 at 10:07

Your example reinforces the fact that “art of the deal” = “Trump”, which was unfortunately the opposite of your intention in citing it. The subtitle of the Earl Shorris article refers directly to Donald Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal. Shorris quotes Trump’s book multiple times in his Harper’s series. Trump’s book had already been a bestseller for seven years, and the phrase had already become tied to Trump in the public mind.

When you write

tacit public approval of prominent public figures in the US, whose chief claim to prominence rests on their having successfully cheated many elderly or otherwise vulnerable people through the enterprising practice of what is fondly if falsely proclaimed as the "art of the deal"

you will be understood, regardless of your intention, to be saying

tacit public approval of Donald Trump, whose chief claim to prominence rests on his having successfully cheated many elderly or otherwise vulnerable people through the enterprising practice of what is fondly if falsely proclaimed as the "art of the deal"

You would have had to be writing prior to 1987 for it to be otherwise. In short, this paragraph is, as you put it, a partisan tangent, and needs to go.

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    In fairness, "the US" might refer to "the United States of Whulge" and any similarity between prominent public figures in that region of the Salish Sea and their counterparts in, say, North America might be purely coincidental. On what may be a separate note, distaste for "the Yankee trader" is (or used to be) a global phenomenon, I believe, the adventures of Sam Slick notwithstanding. – Sven Yargs Aug 24 '17 at 17:25
  • @SvenYargs I am presuming good faith and not questioning OP's intentions. – MetaEd Aug 24 '17 at 17:32
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    But... it's not exactly inaccurate or false, is it? I mean if we can't call Trump a liar, a cheat and a swindler what can we call him? – Mari-Lou A Aug 25 '17 at 0:36
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    @Mari-LouA Bringing him up at all is itself the problem. It is neither necessary nor helpful here. – tchrist Aug 25 '17 at 2:46
  • I did not bring Trump up. Somebody with a political agenda read my question and willfully misinterpreted it. Any textual evidence implicating Trump as the reference is a priori contradicted...unless there's more than one Trump? That is, I said "figures" and "their". What I'm seeing here is a flagrantly political motivation for a complaint against what is, at most, a possible reference to a particular political figure. Nothing in my question makes a political interpretation necessary or likely, and the textual evidence (the topic, the plurals) suggests any such interpretation is mistaken. – JEL Aug 25 '17 at 4:50
  • As for the example: it's only an example, and while the reference on the cover of Harper's is to the book ghostwritten for Trump, the image is presented along with "Additional Material Submitted for the Record" in a publication of the proceedings of the Hearing Before the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs (1994). The rest of the article from Harper's is not included, and there's no suggestion that Trump is involved. A search of the same material does not turn up his name (although I admit I haven't read the whole thing). Rather, the hearing was on what is called the ... – JEL Aug 25 '17 at 4:59
  • "Whitewater" affair, independent counsel's investigation of alleged criminal behavior by the Clintons. I'm sorry I neglected to link the source of the image: <babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/…> – JEL Aug 25 '17 at 5:05
  • All that being what it may be (one example out of 2968, a number which undoubtedly includes false positives along with direct references to Trump, but an example from material concerning the Clintons), my core objection is to the initial inappropriate edit of my question, and the subsequent attempt to enforce that edit by proxy, via an inappropriate flag. I'll repeat (I think): a flagrantly politically motivated flag was used to object to an innocuous and apolitical paragraph in what is, if I must say so myself, a very well formulated and interesting question. – JEL Aug 25 '17 at 5:10
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    @tchrist the problem isn't the paragraph, it's the people who interpret it as an attack on their political views. There is nothing inflammatory about JEL's post. Nothing. If you want inflammatory, look at my previous comment and at MetaEd's ♦ assertion: you will be understood, regardless of your intention, to be saying … Donald Trump, … – Mari-Lou A Aug 25 '17 at 5:42
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    It doesn't matter why it's disruptive or whether or not the people who perceive it as political dog-whistling are reasonable to think so. It detracts from the English question, so if the goal is to get a good answer to the question about English, it should be edited out. The fact that the author is so reluctant to let go of this one sentence or to find a different, less controversial example says a lot about the underlying intent. As much as despise that Canadian pop-tart and think he should go "love himself", I usually manage to leave him out of my posts. Others could show as much restraint. – ColleenV Aug 25 '17 at 14:51
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    @Mari-LouA Once a political statement starts to attract flags, it has no place in English Q&A, not because it's inaccurate but because it is causing a disruption. This does not mean political statements have no place on SE. Political Q&A is welcome at Politics, and SE management have also supported respectful political discussion in chat, and have asked that separate rooms be created for that sort of discussion to avoid disrupting the main chatrooms. – MetaEd Aug 25 '17 at 15:44
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    Aside from the fact that my question is not "a political statement" and does not mention politics in any way, shape or form, there are by my count 537 questions on ELU that do mention 'trump', in one form or another, and frequently disrespectfully with allusion to the current president. Your assertion that "Once a political statement starts to attract flags, etc" indicates a rationale that would have those questions deleted if I simply flagged them as politically offensive. Maybe you can explain, also, what would happen if I randomly flagged questions as politically offensive (as seems ... – JEL Aug 25 '17 at 18:46
  • ...to have happened to mine, although for all I know the flag was motivated by personal animosity), and your rationale was applied in those cases? I submit that it is the inappropriate flags that cause disruption, not the innocent question. – JEL Aug 25 '17 at 18:47
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    @JEL Certainly I agree inappropriate flags can cause disruption. If hypothetically a user were to start randomly flagging questions, that user would shortly lose the ability to flag questions. – MetaEd Aug 25 '17 at 19:56

This is a perfect example of a provocative question, and what's more the author has not provided a single piece of evidence (so far) to support his thesis, i.e that the New York Times does not capitalize the p in President (Donald) Trump.

US "president" vs US "President" is there a change in what is grammatically correct?

Is this their use of poetic license to show their dissatisfaction with President Trump? Or is it a more subtle point?

I call the above a clear political statement.

Now, should references to Donald Trump be removed in all future posts? Do we begin to censor posts that clearly have a bias nature? Should we expect moderators to intervene and place on hold (IOW close) posts because they disagree with the politics sustained by the author? Or because they are afraid that users will begin bickering and hurl insults among themselves?

The question is closed as a duplicate. And it is. But if there hadn't been an earlier question, what would have been the policy of the mod team in general?

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    I feel like you’re asking a new question: “Should references to Donald Trump be removed in all future posts?” The answer to that is of course that they should not be. That said, when the post's focus is not on the Donald’s use of English, the poster would do well to consider whether dragging the Donald into the matter at hand is truly necessary to make the point they’re trying to make, lest it risk making the post a strange attractor of unwarranted attention and controversy. No need to put up lightning rods if you don’t need to. – tchrist Aug 27 '17 at 15:42
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    @tchrist there are "only" 216 questions that use the word "trump" (wink) The question is not whether all references to the name "Trump" should be deleted, but whether there is a perceived agenda behind the question. In JEL's case, I'd say there isn't. The focus is on the verb, Jew, and on its etymology. There is no political statement that I am aware of. – Mari-Lou A Aug 27 '17 at 15:51
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    On the other hand, the question about punctuation is possibly inflammatory. I guarantee that if the post had been edited and the name Trump deleted, there would have been significant murmurings of discontent. – Mari-Lou A Aug 27 '17 at 15:53
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    @tchrist It's worth noting that the user with the highest number of questions, 63 to be exact, about The Donald is Yoichi Oishi. – Mari-Lou A Aug 27 '17 at 15:59
  • @Mari-LouA, your answer is on the right track, I think. For example, take the last statement in Sven's answer to What does “The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier” mean?: "'There cannot be one law for the rich and another for the poor.' [Marryat] But of course there can be." I'm afraid my question has directly implicated the impartiality and discretion of the moderation team in an ongoing problem. Not to mention that the point on ELU soon... – JEL Aug 27 '17 at 17:59
  • ...becomes something on the order of "'There cannot be one standard for the Yoichi and another for the rest of us'. [JEL] But of course there can be." (With apologies to Yoichi, whose name here merely serves as a stand-in for the much longer 'highly respected contributor of long standing and great reputation'.) – JEL Aug 27 '17 at 18:02
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    @JEL To be clear, I have nothing against questions or answers that nominate DJT, or Barack Obama (although questions about the former president of the US are very much in the minority). I am only bemused that someone flagged your post and a mod asked you to delete a commentary. The name DJT is nowhere to be seen, the question is focused on the verb "jew", which in my view is a highly volatile subject but you avoided any possible contention in the question title, which was very well thought out and sensitive. In short, an exemplary question. – Mari-Lou A Aug 27 '17 at 18:22
  • Nor have I anything against such questions, or similarly politically motivated questions of any stripe, or even politically motivated flags or edits. Intolerance is not my strong suit. My objections were and are to the response to the flag, which should have been rejected outright. And, although you are wise to clarify the point for others than myself, nothing you've said here or elsewhere would tempt me to think that you did have anything against "questions or answers that nominate DJT, or Barack Obama". – JEL Aug 27 '17 at 18:42
  • I should make clear that, while it was annoying and wrong-headed, the initial politically motivated edit of my question was easily dealt with by my rejection of it. That valid and sound rejection of the edit on the standard grounds that it deviated from my intent sponsored the flag (I think), which was out-of-line and probably motivated by pique. That I'm now having to deal with the issue here is an indication of a systemic problem with at least this site's moderation, and possibly with SE-wide policy as applied to this type of SE site. – JEL Aug 27 '17 at 18:55

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