I'm not sure this is the place for this discussion, but it intrigued me so I figured I'd ask!

The question Can you write a pro-racism book? gave me an immediate - and lasting - bad taste.

It is difficult to get past the idea that someone might actually want to write such a text. It is peculiar that such a person might raise a question about it in a forum such as this. But there is still considerable racism in the world, so it follows that people would wish to write literature to promote their point of view.

I suppose the thought I am raising here is that the majority of people here probably have issue with this question.

My question is, is it a legitimate question to ask here? and in a modern, western society?

  • It seems like this has garnered more than enough answers, but just to add my two cents': Part of the problem I have with that question is that nobody ever calls themselves racist (except jokingly or sarcastically); a "real" racist will say that "I'm not racist, X is really true!" For someone to acknowledge that a view is racist and still claim to hold it makes me think that, as below, the question was trolling (and thus deserving of a downvote or ten, but not due to being racist). Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 20:18

8 Answers 8


I think the original question is just trolling, but for the sake of argument lets take it at face value. The nastiness of the subject and the controversial nature of the position should not restrict Our ability for rational discourse.


I agree this question is probably just a trollish user asking a trollish question. However, on the off chance it isn't:

No matter one's personal opinion of the subject matter, writing is writing. Writing abut controversial subjects is still on topic for this site.

The linked question, however, is vague and unanswerable in its current form; the question is inviting debate as it is now. Placing it on hold as vague.

  • 1
    I'm not seeing it as on-hold. Did you go through and close it?
    – Standback
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 21:00
  • @Standback - Meant to recommend placing on hold, but we've since gotten two close votes; I went ahead and placed the question on hold. Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 19:50

This is a US based website. The laws of the United States allow the expression of racist opinion.

If you do not want to help someone with their project, do not answer. If you are unhappy with a question, downvote it. If you are extremely unhappy with a question, flag it as offensive. Flagging will add a second downvote to the first. When a question has collected enough downvotes, it is automatically removed from the front page, though not closed or deleted. If you are convinced that a question is truly evil, vote to close it.

I am an intelligent adult and won't turn racist just because someone wants to discuss racism. There is no topic that I find offensive in and of itself, but I will try my best to expose the stupidity of certain arguments and opinions.

As long as a question complies with the rules of this site – that is, it is about writing –, anything can be asked. I might make use of one of the options above, though.

  • 1
    The question is certainly legal -- but does that mean that we have to allow it on this (privately-owned community-run) website?
    – evilsoup
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 18:55

As it did for Michael B, this question also gave me a bad taste. The comment in meta from the same poster currently scoring -7, even more so. Nonetheless the question appears to me to be on topic. The forum provides tags for "publishing", for "legal" and for "self-publishing", indicating that discussion of these issued is permitted.

A private forum such as this has no moral obligation to allow everything, but it does have a moral obligation to be consistent and predictable.

And in fact answers to the question may be of interest to writers wanting to publish any unpopular viewpoint, including writers from countries where the authorities and/or the public try to suppress viewpoints that I personally consider morally unexceptional or indeed admirable.


We should not provide a platform for racists, and we should not provide assistance to racists.

The specific question we're talking about here isn't explicitly racist itself, so it is perhaps borderline -- but I would suggest that we should err on the side of disallowing it. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.


I think the site, the querents and ourselves all have slightly differing moral responsibilities. The site's moral charge is to accept all answerable on-topic questions in a non-judgmental fashion. However, that does not override the personal moral responsibilities of those of us who answer questions. We should not provide any aid or assistance to a cause we find morally abhorrent, nor does our membership here absolve us from any moral censure for doing so. In the case of this particular question, I (at the risk of downvotes) deliberately offered an answer that was on-topic, but extremely unlikely to offer the querent the kind of help he was looking for (that, in fact, had an agenda counter to his). This violates site ethics, but falls in line with my own moral standards.

Similarly, the fact that a person can ask any kind of question here does not cleanse a person who asks a morally abhorrent question.

Finally, there may be cases, moral or legal, that demand site ethics either be amended or overridden. One would not let a how-to SE become a source of information for building and deploying bombs and other weapons of terror, no matter how on-topic the questions might be.


While I understand the thinking behind, "Such ideas are so offensive and evil, they should not be allowed to be published here", any such rule is a very dangerous precedent. It is, quite plainly and simply, censorship.

There are lots of social, political, and religious ideas that I disagree with. In some cases I think them simply unworkable or misguided, but there are plenty of cases where I think they are actively evil. Should every idea that I think is evil be banned?

If you're a Democrat, do you think anything pro-Republican should be banned? Or vice versa if you're a Republican. At various times and places Christians have censored Muslims, atheists have censored Christians, etc, etc.

If you're saying, "Hey, there's a big difference between routine political disagreements and something truly, unquestionably evil, like racism" ... Where do you draw the line? How evil does something have to be for censorship to be legitimate? And the most important question of all: Who decides?

Before World War 2, Winston Churchill tried to warn the British people against the dangers of Nazism, but the government controlled the radio stations and wouldn't let him on, because his ideas were too controversial and dangerous. http://www.frontpagemag.com/2012/dgreenfield/how-the-bbc-censored-churchills-speeches-against-appeasement/

Just a few days ago a U.S. senator wrote an article for a major American newspaper in which he called for criminal prosecution of anyone who disagrees with him about global warming, on the grounds that they are engaging in fraud and conspiracy. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-fossil-fuel-industrys-campaign-to-mislead-the-american-people/2015/05/29/04a2c448-0574-11e5-8bda-c7b4e9a8f7ac_story.html)

It's a very short slippery slope.

If you don't want to answer a question because you don't want to help someone spread his vile propaganda, don't answer. But please, don't call for censorship.

  • 1
    Ugh, are you actually thinking Sheldon Whitehouse is trying to censor the truth in the same way the BBC censored Churchill?
    – user5645
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 11:38
  • @what So ... while it's bad to censor the truth, it's okay to censor ideas that you disagree with, as long as those ideas are false or evil? But who would want to censor ideas that he believes to be good and true? OF COURSE every censor says that he is only trying to stop malicious lies. Sometimes he says that cynically, but often he completely believes it. When someone says that people who disagree with him should, as in this case, literally be put in jail, I don't care whether I agree with him or with them. That's brutal and ugly censorship. No, it's not like what was done to Churchill. ...
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 13:40
  • ... No one tried to have Churchill arrested and jailed for disagreeing with them. Senator Whitehouse wants disagreeing with him on a political question to be, literally, a crime.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 13:41
  • It is not a political question. These companies are putting lots of money into making the lay public disbelieve a fact. Global warming is happening. There is absolutely no doubt about that. That senator wants to put a stop to companies propagating lies out of business interests, lies that might well lead humanity to extinction. These companies are criminal.
    – user5645
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 18:36
  • Okay, skip the question of whether it's a political issue. It is something about which people disagree. Obviously people on each site are convinced that their side is right and the other side is lying or deluded. On what issue would that not be the case? You are saying that people who agree with you on a controversial question should have the power to declare that people who disagree with you are lying and should be charged with a crime. What happens when someone who disagrees with you on some question declares that their position is "a fact" and "is happening" and that you should be put ...
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 19:49
  • ... in jail for saying the opposite. It's no answer to say "but in this case I am clearly right". The people in power will always say that they are clearly right. When would people who want to censor someone ever say, "We don't really know who is right and who is wrong on this difficult question, but we think anyone who disagrees with us should be shot anyway"? OF COURSE they're going to declare that they're in the right. And being right and having the political power to declare that you are right are not the same thing at all.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 19:51
  • There is a wide gulf of difference between disagreement and the kind of lies that the fossil fuel industry and other global-warming deniers are peddling. They are deliberately lying in order to preserve profits. This is a violation of trust. Just because you have freedom of speech doesn't mean you have freedom from any possible consequence. Certain kinds of lies are illegal, otherwise, e.g. contract law would be impossible. Lying under oath in court is illegal. There are other examples. Don't act like it's unreasonable to punish people for lying. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 20:12
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 I suppose that if you had proof that some energy company executive said or wrote, "Yes, we know global warming is real, but we're going to cover it up to make money", you might have a case for lying. But the reality is more like "we told them over and over and they refuse to acknowledge that we are right". We're back to "I'm obviously right and anyone who says otherwise just MUST be lying, they can't possibly really believe what they're saying." This is especially disturbing to me in cases of scientific dispute. If people can be jailed for disagreeing ...
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 6:20
  • ... with the "scientific consensus", science will be brought to a standstill. I must concede that you have a great deal of historical precedent on your side. Galileo was jailed for disagreeing with the scientific consensus that the sun revolves around the Earth. The French revolutionaries jailed Catholics for denying the government-decreed truth of atheism. The Soviet Union jailed people who questioned the government-decreed truth of communism. Your position appears to be that "freedom of speech" means "the right to say anything you want, as long as you agree with me".
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 7:06
  • 1
    @Jay don't misinterpret my position. I'm for freedom of speech, but there are many many limits, usually dealing with accountability for lying or otherwise misrepresenting the truth. As for oil companies, there is evidence that they knew as early as 1981 that climate change would be a problem. Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 13:25

There are plenty to discuss here, but first:

What is bad in being racist?

  • 4
    That's not the question that was asked. Ethics are also off-topic for this site. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 19:01
  • 1
    The question was if my question was legitimate. I answered back with a very simple question
    – user14040
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 6:22
  • @NeilFein That was EXACTLY the question asked. The OP is saying, "should certain categories of questions be closed because they are unethical?" To say that in answering a question about what standard of ethics should be enforced, we cannot discuss ethics ... then how could anyone possibly answer the question?
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 14:25
  • Asking if a question can be asked is different from asking if the underlying assumptions are bad are different questions. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 15:35

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