“Politics is the mind-killer” is the mind-killer

Sum­mary: I pro­pose we some­what re­lax our stance on poli­ti­cal speech on Less Wrong.

Re­lated: The mind-kil­ler, Mind-killer

A re­cent se­ries of posts by a well-mean­ing troll (ex­am­ple) has caused me to re-ex­am­ine our “no-poli­tics” norm. I be­lieve there has been some un­in­ten­tional creep from the origi­nal in­tent of Poli­tics is the Mind-Killer. In that ar­ti­cle, Eliezer is ar­gu­ing that dis­cus­sions here (ac­tu­ally on Over­com­ing Bias) should not use ex­am­ples from poli­tics in dis­cus­sions that are not about poli­tics, since they dis­tract from the les­son. Note the fi­nal para­graph:

I’m not say­ing that I think Over­com­ing Bias should be apoli­ti­cal, or even that we should adopt Wikipe­dia’s ideal of the Neu­tral Point of View. But try to re­sist get­ting in those good, solid digs if you can pos­si­bly avoid it. If your topic le­gi­t­i­mately re­lates to at­tempts to ban evolu­tion in school cur­ricula, then go ahead and talk about it—but don’t blame it ex­plic­itly on the whole Repub­li­can Party; some of your read­ers may be Repub­li­cans, and they may feel that the prob­lem is a few rogues, not the en­tire party. As with Wikipe­dia’s NPOV, it doesn’t mat­ter whether (you think) the Repub­li­can Party re­ally is at fault. It’s just bet­ter for the spiritual growth of the com­mu­nity to dis­cuss the is­sue with­out in­vok­ing color poli­tics.

So, the origi­nal in­tent was not to ban poli­ti­cal speech al­to­gether, but to en­courage us to come up with less-charged ex­am­ples where pos­si­ble. If the sub­ject you’re re­ally talk­ing about is poli­tics, and it re­lates di­rectly to ra­tio­nal­ity, then you should be able to post about it with­out get­ting down­votes strictly be­cause “poli­tics is the mind-kil­ler”.

It could be that this drift is less of a com­mu­nity norm than I per­ceive, and there are just a few folks (my­self in­cluded) that have taken the origi­nal mes­sage too far. If so, con­sider this a mes­sage just to those folks such as my­self.

Of course, poli­tics would still be off-topic in the com­ment threads of most posts. There should prob­a­bly be a spe­cial open thread (or an­other fo­rum) to which drive-by poli­ti­cal ac­tivists can be di­rected, in­stead of sim­ply say­ing “We don’t talk about poli­tics here”.

David_Ger­ard makes a similar point here (though FWIW, I came up with this ti­tle in­de­pen­dently).