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Although the below obfuscates the context which is undoubtedly relevant to what has happened, the following comments appeared to be reason enough for the moderators to ban me from the ICM chat.

AngelTC: But in any case I do think allowing this veiled, on-the-edge-of-acceptable attitudes and people hijacking the conversation into something else is not productive at all, we gain nothing, we lose opportunities, and only perpetuates the unwelcoming vibe of the community...

Harry Gindi: I don't think this community is unwelcoming. Toleration of difference, including difference of opinion, is a crucial part of a community being welcoming.

AngelTC: Im glad youve had a good time Harry, but this is not exclusively about you.

Patriot: @AngelTC You say you don't want an unwelcoming vibe in this community, but that comment is quite unwelcoming.

quid: @Patriot that's a pointless provocation, and it's enough with that.

My main question is why my comment is considered sufficiently provocative that it warrants a ban.

However, this question is in part rhetorical, and with this post, I wish to express my disappointment at the un-inclusive sentiment that I've seen in the chat, and illustrated it to other users of this website. Not only have I been banned for what I fail to see can be offensive, Dylan Wilson's overtly racist remark on white people's 'fragility', and AngelTC's rather provocative comment aimed at Harry Gindi appear to have been left untouched by the moderators.

In view of the opinions I expressed before the fragment above, it is abundantly clear that we're seeing biased moderator behaviour, aimed at silencing certain views in favour of others.

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    $\begingroup$ I haven't followed the chat, but the rules on chat there are very different from MO. Anyone with moderator privileges on some Stackexchange site has moderator power there. $\endgroup$ – S. Carnahan Aug 20 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ Okay, I have read the chat, and I think it would be best if you spent your time somewhere that is not MathOverflow. $\endgroup$ – S. Carnahan Aug 20 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ I think putting up a meta post every time the moderators do something you do not like is probably not the best way to go about things. $\endgroup$ – Rohil Prasad Aug 20 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @S.Carnahan What exactly is wrong with the chat? Unless I am missing the full transcript, I didn't see anything particularly exciting in Patriot's comments. $\endgroup$ – Rodrigo de Azevedo Aug 20 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ All other issues aside, social identity theory is indeed well-established imho. Humans are inherently tribalistic, and this is something to be actively combatted, not magically wished away. $\endgroup$ – Nik Weaver Aug 20 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ @RodrigodeAzevedo it is the fundamental source of racism, sexism, classism, etc., etc. If you disapprove of these things then you should want to combat it. $\endgroup$ – Nik Weaver Aug 20 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ @RodrigodeAzevedo it is also human nature to like to eat a lot of sugary food. Humans inherently enjoy sugary food. Do you also see no solution here? $\endgroup$ – Nik Weaver Aug 20 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ @RodrigodeAzevedo I believe you are being deliberately obtuse, so I am going to stop engaging you. $\endgroup$ – Nik Weaver Aug 20 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ Some context, again: meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/3981/… $\endgroup$ – Théo Aug 20 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ Patriot's first two messages were 1) "There is a biological basis for racism and sexism." 2) "There's differences between groups of people. Humans extrapolate based on their knowledge. This can cause prejudice. It's OK to encourage each other being open-minded, and to let go of one's early judgement if someone falls outside the pattern. But I often see people take this even further, to the point where prejudices are being shamed, or even further, where the differences between the peoples, between men and women, are flat-out being denied. Such measures run on fear, and is bound to fail." $\endgroup$ – Gjergji Zaimi Aug 20 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ Also, further context that is relevant: Many chat members were engaging with Harry politely over the past few days, but there was frustration about the fact that the conversation had turned almost exclusively Harry-centric. With that in mind, I don't find AngelTC's comment provocative. If anything I am convinced that Patriot's only intention is to stir the pot with any spoon available to them. $\endgroup$ – Gjergji Zaimi Aug 20 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ Any disciplinary action taken against Patriot should equally apply to Dylan's original hysterical comment, which contains the exact same sentiments (and is in addition extremely uncollegial). $\endgroup$ – Harry Gindi Aug 21 at 5:11
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    $\begingroup$ @HarryGindi I was planning to retire this account since I've had my fun, but upon reading that you've been banned from MO after being attacked for over a week, I just want to add one more comment indicating my sympathy. While we may not align in opinion, we share a fate in that we are deemed wrongthinkers to whom the 'progressive' dogma in academia shows little tolerance. I have great respect that you chose to defend your position without a veil of anonimity. I'd like you to know that and hope you stay strong. $\endgroup$ – Patriot Aug 22 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ I can't say that I have any respect for someone who has fun causing conflict among the members of this forum, exploiting the differences we may have in views and backgrounds. I hope you never return to MO with such intentions. $\endgroup$ – Gjergji Zaimi Aug 22 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ If you think someone is using multiple accounts to evade a ban on a stackexchange site you should flag their post-ban activity for moderator attention as explained here. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Aug 22 at 21:00
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It seems like I was too optimistic in my other meta post and open civilized discussion turns out pretty hard to maintain for almost any side. Yes, we do have different opinions on sensitive issues, will state them openly when we find it appropriate, and, most likely, will stick to them even after the conversation is over. However the main objective of a discussion when the viewpoints clash and no easy reconciliation is in sight should be to listen to what the other party has to say and to think of it a bit (perhaps, afterwards), not to show how wrong your opponent is and how right you are. I know that I'm often guilty of forgetting this objective myself in some heated discussions and there are many way more level-headed people here than I, so, these very same words coming from them (if they share my point of view, which they are by no means obliged to do) would be more convincing, but I felt like somebody still had to say all this.

I've read quite an interesting article recently that may be relevant to the current discussion, so here is a link: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/there-are-three-sides-to-every-argument?utm_source=pocket-newtab

It describes what, I believe, one should always keep in mind when entering a conflict. It is, of course, not to prevent you from the decision to join one side and fight to the death passing the vendetta to your grand-grandchildren: that choice is always yours if you want to make it; it is just to show you some more options that you might find interesting to exploit one day. I address this message to both Patriot and Noah Snyder.

As to the particular conflict at hand, we have moderators at least some of which we have elected ourselves, so let's just accept their current decision without any hard feelings and just think of what we can change in our own behavior without changing our principles and beliefs so that the next discussion just won't require their intervention.

Just my two cents. :-)

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    $\begingroup$ I am completely content with my decision to make a stand against an awful racist troll, and I think my opinions have been completely vindicated by his subsequent behavior. Most of the time you can try come to an agreement with people you disagree with, but sometimes you have to make a stand against pure evil. In my 10+ years at MO and many many disagreements, this is the single instance of the latter situation. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Aug 31 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @NoahSnyder I have no desire to see that user continue their antics but I am deeply, deeply, deeply uncomfortable with language like "pure evil", with possible exceptions for the likes of the Moors Murderers. Evil is not some kind of transitive relation; nor does A implies B and C implies B mean that A implies C. (FWIW I subscribe both to the "banality of evil" POV and goodreads.com/quotes/… ; YMMV) $\endgroup$ – Yemon Choi Sep 1 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ Fedja: this piece from 2015 is very British-centred and may be somewhat outdated, but at the time I found it an interesting point of view or "working hypothesis" with which to view online discussions andrewhickey.info/2015/11/04/freezing-peaches (The author may have altered his views since then, for all I know) $\endgroup$ – Yemon Choi Sep 1 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ @YemonChoi Yes, it is a good article and if the statement is that some amount of censorship is healthy or even required, I agree with it 100%. However, we are back to the times when a misplaced joke (Tim Hunt) or openly saying what you think in response to a direct question (James Watson) can cost you a job and when spreading of "liberal ideas" goes not as much through raising solidarity to their cause via argumentation and education as through instilling fear of any dissent and suppression of all deviations from the party line. So, I guess, it is "free speech" that is endangered now again. $\endgroup$ – fedja Sep 1 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ @fedja free speech is hardly ever threatened in the contexts where people like to discuss free speech. The idea that one is protected to speak what they want only goes as far as governments should not prosecute/persecute people for speaking their minds. As far as I know, neither Tim Hunt nor James Watson was arrested/prosectuted for their remarks. Free speech does not protect one from any and all negative consequences. The amount of retribution these men received is appropriate, and for them, more or less a slap on the wrist. $\endgroup$ – Stanley Yao Xiao Sep 4 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @StanleyYaoXiao "free speech is hardly ever threatened in the contexts where people like to discuss free speech." Erm... What kind of logic is that? Free speech is free speech about anything, not about itself. The idea that one is free to speak, IMHO, goes as far as that the government should protect anyone who speaks within the limits of the current law from retribution (say, an employee that makes a public statement that his boss dislikes). As to the rest, we, obviously, hold different opinions on the subject, but that's OK with me and not very relevant to the current thread :-). $\endgroup$ – fedja Sep 4 at 16:14
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I am not a moderator, nor was I around when you were in the room, but maybe let's start with the very first thing you said when you entered the room:

@DylanWilson "Like seriously, some people were putting forth arguments for a biological basis for racism and sexism. What the actual f-?"

There is a biological basis for racism and sexism.

(Just to be clear, before the line break, we have user "Patriot" quoting Dylan Wilson earlier in the chat, and after the line break, we have user "Patriot" responding to Dylan Wilson.)

When Dylan made his comment, he was observing that even earlier in the chat people were trying to justify racism and sexism biologically (yes, you heard that right. That's been the state of discussion in the chatroom). So user "Patriot"'s response appeared to be claiming that racism and sexism were indeed biologically justified. Judging by the ensuing conversation, most people in the room were accordingly horrified, especially given

User "Patriot"'s comments after that appear to clarify that they were arguing, not that racism and sexism were biologically justified but that there are biological explanations for the existence of racism and sexism, which is not so horrifying. Notably absent from user "Patriot"'s comments was any acknowledgement that racism and sexism are not justified.

I think at this point the damage was done. I think the moral of the story is: if you act like a racist / troll (see bullet points above), people are going to interpret your further words and actions as those of a racist / troll. And I think that's your problem, not anybody else's problem.

EDIT:

User "Patriot" comments below that they think they were "too cautious" in not attempting to justify racism or sexism. So it seems I was too generous above, and I for one am through with sharing a forum with user "Patriot".

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    $\begingroup$ Nothing that Dylan observed actually happened, and you leave out that he used it as a leverage to blame the "bunch of white people" of fragility and white supremacy. Dylan saw an evil Devil's advocate that didn't even exist, and I gave in to the temptation of filling in that role. Given that, as you acknowledge, I never attempted to justify racism or sexism, I'd even go as far as saying that I erred on the cautious side in taking up that role. $\endgroup$ – Patriot Aug 21 at 7:13
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    $\begingroup$ As for previous history, a Confederate flag is arguably not a hate symbol. Even so, it's been removed a long time ago, coupled with numerous accusations of me being a nazi, White supremacist, troll, and slavery apologist. How long do these accusations need to haunt me? And as for "Patriot" being provocative too, well, I guess that exemplifies the political sentiments increasingly pervading in academia. $\endgroup$ – Patriot Aug 21 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Patriot: "a Confederate flag is arguably not a hate symbol". It was already explained to you that it is actually possible to identify it with a hate symbol, and that in fact it is often associated with the white supremacist movement. This makes many people uncomfortable with it, so its usage here should be avoided. $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Aug 21 at 9:08
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    $\begingroup$ In the same way, comments like "there is a biological basis for racism and sexism", whatever the intention is, make many people uncomfortable. They evidently have a disruptive effect on the community, and create flames and sense of uneasiness. For this reason, their usage here should be avoided. $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Aug 21 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ @RodrigodeAzevedo: well, I'm sure your Hindu will not be allowed to use his swastikas in Berlin. Especially if they turn clockwise and are black on white-and-red background. But you can try yourself, if you do not believe me. $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Aug 21 at 9:34
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    $\begingroup$ That said, which part of my comment they create flames and sense of uneasiness, so their usage should be avoided here is not clear? $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Aug 21 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ Bacause, again, here you also interact with american people that are uncomfortable with them. Since discussing politics is not the primary scope of MO, persisting in adopting such symbols, also after you were gently asked to remove them, is a strong sign that one is looking for flames and wants to act in a disruptive manner. $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Aug 21 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, I think I am unable to explain this to you in a simpler way. I cannot have an exchange with someone that deliberately moves the focus of the discussion, so I will stop this conversation here. $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Aug 21 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ There is a biological basis for racism and sexism. - I suspect the former as well; men, after all, have been in enmity with various other living species since the dawn of humanity; whatever psychological or neurological mechanism is at play there, it seems to sometimes misfire, and be misapplied, by the brain or psyche, from an inter-species context to an intra-species one, among members of its various races; though, it's not clear why one would post such observations on a math site; seems better suited for (evolutionary) psychology & neuro-science. $\endgroup$ – Lucian Aug 21 at 9:56
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    $\begingroup$ @RodrigodeAzevedo: I usually explain things once. I'm not your teacher, so I do not feel the obligation to let you understand the basics of civil behaviour. $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Aug 21 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ There is a behaviour A (not using these symbols) that do not offend anyone here. There is a behaviour B (using them) that offends a considerable part of the users. Since MO is not devoted to the discussion of political issues, choosing deliberately B instead of A is the precise definition of "looking for flames" and "having a disruptive way of conduct". $\endgroup$ – Francesco Polizzi Aug 21 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ As for Rodrigo de Azevedo, your comments here have been very ill-informed and distracting. If you insist on rehashing these old debates about hate symbols, at least go read the old meta questions first. I can't figure out what you were trying to get at in your extended exchange with Nik Weaver above, but remember that comments are not the place for extended discussion. @Patriot your actions certainly will haunt you so long as you are unapologetic about them, for a start. $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Aug 21 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ @RodrigodeAzevedo To state the obvious, the norms for what your friend may decorate their house with are different from the norms for what anybody may use as an avatar on a public internet forum, particularly one such as MO whose focus is on mathematics -- not symbology. Confederate flags and swastikas are both inappropriate on MO. Your comments strike me as trollish, and I don't plan to engage with you any further here. $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Aug 21 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ @TimCampion This is exactly why we need to be apolitical. I hope if it came to it, we would also remove communist or anarchist or national flags as avatars. Your MO profile is not a place to advertise your personal politics. $\endgroup$ – Harry Gindi Aug 21 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ @RodrigodeAzevedo I am as against americentrism as one can be, yet I want all mathematicians to have a decent chance at feeling welcome here. That includes american mathematicians. In order to do so I think it is a good idea to discourage hate symbols no matter which country they are problematic in. No one implied that the US is getting preferential treatment here in that regard. I am confused as to what gave you that impression. $\endgroup$ – Gjergji Zaimi Aug 21 at 17:00

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