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There have been controversies in the past (and some still live on in certain circles). E.g.:

  • Kabbalists vs. Philosophers
  • Chassidim vs. Mitnagdim

It is important to note that we have many many fine Yidden in our nation who hold by both sides of these debates, and many more who believe the debates have been resolved, or hold a third opinion etc.

It would therefore seem to me that Mi Yodeya should be a welcome place for all sides, as well as a good source for people to go to hear both sides get a fair chance at stating their position themselves, as many generally only hear about "the other side" from opponents of said side. It also seems logical that we are not going to resolve any of these debates here at Mi Yodeya, and attempting to do so is just plain inappropriate. People reading can make their own decisions, and we should focus on ensuring answers are high quality so those people are given all the information they need to make those decisions.

Otherwise, it can get bad, because in the attempt for people to try to exclude the sides they disagree with, they are ostensibly invalidating the hashkafa of many members here and all the thousands or millions that agree with them, for no gain. It is a disturbance to shalom, and a grave thing to declare out loud in a large public forum that you think potentially millions of Jews are stupid, or heretics...

It is very tempting, when seeing an answer that comes from a viewpoint that one passionately feels is wrong and stupid and heretical to try and call it out and invalidate it, and we see this happen a lot, unrigorous, unfair, and unmoderated. I can see why - both sides of each debate will tend to do this, and will tend to be passionately against the other view point, and perhaps even the moderators also sit on one side in some of these things sometimes. It's not easy. I get it, we are all human, and despite all that I think the moderators do a really good job.

What is our policy on this?

I would be in favour of comments on political issues being held to a very high standard. They should explain why they disagree, and invite a response, and certainly not invalidate the answer on political grounds, such as by sweeping entire historical debates under the rug of a few words that make it seem like the issue is entirely settled on the side of the commentor. Given how hard that is, political comments would therefore be extremely rare and users should be encouraged to just write an answer from their own point of view to give balance (and if they MUST say they disagree with the other side, they should do it respectfully, fairly, and ideally link to a fuller discussion of the debates). Moderators should delete these sorts of comments as off topic, rather than sweep them to chat.

I understand this policy could be used by extremely controversial positions, that are well outside Traditional Judaism, and it would be good to account for that, as I certainly wouldn't want this argument used against me by a Karaite, Reconstructionist or a Jews for J. I am uncertain how to do that.

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    I think we ought also assess what the point of the comments are. Presenting any of the sides is clearly on topic, but is there a point to debating that there? Sometimes yes, sometimes not.
    – Double AA Mod
    Feb 22 at 16:05
  • @DoubleAA can you give some examples? I am trying to think of even one example where it would be appropriate. The main issue is that a comment is 500 characters, and these debates are hundreds or thousands of years in the making. What could possibly be accomplished by saying "this answer has been claimed to be heretical by this Rabbi"? Maybe it has, maybe it hasn't. How could we possibly know in 500 characters?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Feb 25 at 19:42
  • " Moderators should delete these sorts of comments as off topic, rather than sweep them to chat." Chatrooms are often closed due to inactivity... I think this is a way for moderators to attempt not to stifle debate/discussion altogether whilst also not preserving that which this platform sees as ephemeral. Unfortunately where selectively applied, comments of limited value (such as joke comments) might remain up in perpetuity and potentially valuable comments alluding the existence of debate are effectively removed. Feb 27 at 14:35
  • You can do something like this.
    – Alex
    Mar 31 at 14:19

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It is a disturbance to shalom, and a grave thing to declare out loud in a large public forum that you think potentially millions of Jews are stupid, or heretics... when seeing an answer that comes from a viewpoint that one passionately feels is wrong and stupid and heretical to try and call it out and invalidate it, and we see this happen a lot, unrigorous, unfair, and unmoderated.

I personally do not see a problem with civilly raising historic and contemporary hashqafic issues (which you deem "political"). I think that they are potentially enriching (even where I vehemently disagree) and add value to the site. As a matter of tone, basic derekh eres, and the general ethos of this site however what you are describing would certainly be a big problem. I admit, I have not seen too much of what you are describing, so maybe I am not as sensitive to the problem you are perceiving. Nevertheless, I think that the proper path when coming across something you find to be particularly egregious is simply to flag it for moderation.

political comments would therefore be extremely rare and users should be encouraged to just write an answer from their own point of view to give balance (and if they MUST say they disagree with the other side, they should do it respectfully, fairly, and ideally link to a fuller discussion of the debates).

This is not a practical way to address the problem you perceive as being present. A person may have plenty to contribute by way of "providing balance" and "presenting another view" but in doing so, will not be providing an answer to the question as asked by the OP. For example, OP asks "What is the Rebbe's view on evolution? What are some sources that explain his perspective" According to your suggestion, a legitimate answer would launch into all the reasons why evolution is a correct view (contra R. Schneerson) and go through all the Jewish sources in favor of it. The OP would not be getting the answer he sought and it would be correct to flag such an answer for deletion.

On the other hand, if the same opinionated person wrote a strong and civil comment, concisely expressing their view, this IMHO would be appropriate. It is tangential to the topic and possibly helpful to those that come across the question. A type of semi-tolerated secondary discussion. It is true that sitewide stackexchange tends to frown on secondary discussion, however apropos to this being the Jewish stack, it seems to be limitedly tolerated here. This of course, is not without its challenges (such as when it becomes lengthy, or where it becomes uncivil). However that such a challenge exists, I do not believe ought lead us to the conclusion that such secondary discussion ought be banned and censored out altogether. It seems that the moderators have taken a happy-medium approach of tolerating such secondary discussion, and at their discretion moving it to a room (which also ought be understood to be ephemeral) where such challenges arise.

Personally, I would be very hesitant to call for a change to the status quo. I think that some believe that the comments are too heavily censored as is, and requesting a more heavy-handed approach to the comments section would merely politicize and potentially amplify that charge that even more.

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