This question is disgusting. It is an afront to any attempts at civility. The idea of comparing a President of the United States, speaking to a crowd of his supporters in the open daylight, to a criminal boss ordering illegal acts behind closed door is beyond the pale.

It is nothing short of lunacy to even contemplate this possibility. The only intention of this question can be to publish a smear. This was done by an experienced user of the site, who can, therefore, be considered well familiar with the standards and practices of this site.

If this stands, civility is gone.

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    "comparing a President of the United States … to a criminal boss" isn't quite the case. There is a difference between the official office of President, and the individual person that holds that office. (Cf. in the military, one salutes the uniform, not its occupant.) In this specific situation, it is the individual Trump that is speaking as a politician that has recently lost an election, not the President speaking as America's Head of State. All criticisms are of the person as an individual, not of the office. Feb 11, 2021 at 14:14
  • And no one is above the law and the law is what we are addressing. His own former personal attorney used this same analogy in congressional testimony. Feb 16, 2021 at 5:08
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    @GeorgeWhite but the question isn't about him though. And answers, or even components of answers, which address Trump's behavior are purely opinions in this context. So I don't really know what your comment is suggesting. Or did you simply feel necessary to post something inflammatory in response to my asking for not posting inflammatory content?
    – grovkin
    Feb 16, 2021 at 13:39
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    You might think this is inflammatory - if one is trying to determine if the the tone of the question is a problem or if you might be overly sensitive on this topic, I would suggest reading your bio in Politics SE that, in its entirely, says people with opposing political beliefs are stupid and evil. Feb 16, 2021 at 18:05

3 Answers 3


Granted, the title of that question – Would Trump's “mafia don” defence work in court?could be perceived as inflammatory or defamatory. But it is not actually defamatory: it is hyperbole or "rhetorical flair" that, given the substance of the question, I think makes it a great title, and one that is consistent with Stack Exchange standards and practices.

The question itself is arguably good, and it is written in a way that invites good answers. It begins with a very public scenario and then relates that to a more extreme and abstract hypothetical that produces an on-topic question. (Without that abstraction the question could be seen as soliciting prognostications on a real-world trial, which would be off-topic.)

The problem, as illustrated by the question here, is that the public scenario involving the U.S. President has been highly politicized, and the author of the question in question did not take pains to avoid triggering partisans to that public spectacle. But the author did not accuse the President of incitement: Congress did.

The author of that question gave a reasonably objective summary of the accusations levied by Congress, and then related that summary to a more salient hypothetical involving a "mafia don." The analogy is illustrative, not gratuitous. I don't see the analogy as lunatic. If the analogy is flawed or logically inappropriate, that can be dealt with in answers.

I should point out that I'm a moderator, and in that capacity my goal is to keep things here running smoothly and in-line with the community rules and guidelines. The Meta question here is fair: the asker argued that that post crossed the line of civility we strive to maintain. My answer here explains that I don't see that post as a violation. (But I'm only one of the moderators – any of the others can choose to weigh in or disagree and step in to take some action on the post.)

Now, as a moderator I don't exactly have the last word on this: As of this moment three users with sufficient rep have voted to close that question. Two more and it will be closed. Furthermore, if it draws enough negative attention that it becomes unduly disruptive one of us moderators may step in and take some measures to moderate it – even if we don't personally think it has crossed a line. But we do try to be moderate in our moderation ;)

  • Wouldn't the answers be encouraged, if not outright forced, to express personal opinions in order to deal with the said analogy?
    – grovkin
    Feb 10, 2021 at 16:01
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    @grovkin: No. There's already a helpful answer that contains good, objective content.
    – feetwet Mod
    Feb 10, 2021 at 16:13
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    "It begins with a very public scenario and then relates that to a more extreme and abstract hypothetical" - I would be fine with it if it were like this, but it's the other way around. The extreme abstract hypothetical is right there in the title. It's difficult to explain why, but I find "Trump's 'mafia don' defence" to be defamatory, but not "This seems to me to be akin to a mafia don's method". Maybe it's because the former could also imply that Trump is himself a mafia don. Also, it's terrible title because it does a terrible job of providing a clear summary of the question in isolation.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 10, 2021 at 20:37
  • @NotThatGuy – OK, I agree that the title is inflammatory. But in isolation it's hard to accuse it of something like "defamation" because you have to read the question to see what the "mafia don" defence is, a which point the reader can see that the title was hyperbolic/click-baity. In any case, I don't have any skin in that question; I'm just a moderator – I'll amend my answer to clarify my role and reasons for answering the way I did.
    – feetwet Mod
    Feb 10, 2021 at 21:23
  • "it is hyperbole or "rhetorical flair" that, given the substance of the question, I think makes it a great title, and one that is consistent with Stack Exchange standards and practices." It is disturbing to hear that this is what a moderator thinks of such a title. It shows that you've let partisanship cloud your judgment.
    – user1221
    Feb 13, 2021 at 19:06
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    @user76284 "you've let partisanship cloud your judgment". You are mistakenly attributing partisanship. He did not say the title is "accurate" or "agreeable". There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that certain phrases in a title are both compliant and very likely to gather attention. Also the term "mafia don defense" refers to a procedural matter and does not imply whatsoever that the defendant/respondent engaged in mafia-like acts. It only conveys the idea of advancing a defense in the proceedings. It is readers' bias what sometimes causes them to misinterpret others' words. Feb 15, 2021 at 15:11

The idea of comparing a President of the United States

It is a mistake for you to sacralize officers and politicians. Others on LawSE make that mistake when I point out the moral shortcomings of lawyers and judges apropos of what an OP asks. Whenever possible I make sure I include sources to allow the audience verify those shortcomings, but some users take offense nonetheless (even though my remarks have absolutely nothing to do with those users).

Posts regarding controversial public figures are bound to be controversial or, as you say in your other post, inflammatory. The explicit reference to Trump in the title should alert you that that post is likely one of them. Therefore, when deciding to know the contents of such posts, you should be prepared beforehand in terms of sensitivity and not take offense where there is none.

The OP's wording in that question is not defamatory anyway. His only statements of fact (whether literal or in substance) are in the sense of "Trump uses ambiguous language such as [...]". Other than that, the OP made it clear that the term "mafia don" (which constitutes hyperbole, as feetwet explained) is his subjective formulation of an analogy. He did not resort to tricky phrasing. Instead, he articulated his post in a way that the audience can readily distinguish between his subjective depiction and the acts he attributes to Trump. That clarity preempts a "finding" of defamation.

If anything, you are at risk of liability for defamation of that OP. Your statement "It is nothing short of lunacy to even contemplate this possibility" is explicit enough in attributing to him "an impairment of any one or more of the faculties of the mind" (see entry for lunacy, Black's Law Dictionary) and consequently that he is "[a] person of deranged or unsound mind; [...] one who possessed reason, but through disease, grief, or other cause has lost it" (see entry for lunatic, Id.). This is another reason why you should preemptively avoid certain posts altogether if you are too sensitive about their topic.

Sugarcoating and political correctness are easy to demand from others, but your post reflects that you yourself are having a much harder time practicing either.

  • I do not agree that those who enjoy a position of public trust do not deserve any degree of deference. That deference is by no means absolute. Nor should it survive factual basis for such questioning. However, dismissing it outright amounts to ignoring the reality that they do enjoy a position of public trust. I believe I addressed the rest of this answer (with which I agree to some extent) in the comments I just wrote to this answer on this meta site.
    – grovkin
    Feb 11, 2021 at 17:37
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    @grovkin Again, you are sacralizing apropos of "position of public trust", which prompts you to try micromanaging the public interest. Trump's talk about grabbing female genitals, allegations about Biden swimming naked in front of female Secret Service agents, and dozens or hundreds of Youtube videos of judges arrested for DUI suggest that blind deference to "positions of public trust" is a misguided principle. Feb 12, 2021 at 13:47
  • How are you reading a "blind deference" from my statement that the deference is by no means absolute and should not survive a factual basis for questioning? I am pointing that rather than adopting the position of "blind deference" you are attempting to put forth the principle of "no deference". This may work in some contexts, but not in the context of the law.
    – grovkin
    Feb 12, 2021 at 20:13
  • Are you familiar with the concept of "web of trust" or "trust network" in information security? Root certificates can be revoked, but there the system depends on having a root source of trust. Similarly, laws are meaningless if all authority is not trusted at all times.
    – grovkin
    Feb 12, 2021 at 20:14
  • The suggestion that POTUS (who is literally entrusted with the power capable of destroying the civilization) deserves no more deference than a mob boss is what you propose. And such a suggestion is not something that can be taken seriously (and that's the most polite way of putting it).
    – grovkin
    Feb 12, 2021 at 20:53
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    @grovkin "Position of public trust" does not imply that people have to walk on egg shells when discussing matters of public interest. That would be fanaticism and/or something that occurs in sects and dictatorships. Feb 12, 2021 at 21:44
  • did you have politics.SE in mind when you mentioned fanaticisms and sects? Because that place made me feel like I was walking on egg shells all the time. The fact is that we have accepted that this, and other SE, communities are moderated. Different modes of moderation may make different people uncomfortable or inconvenienced. What we are discussing here is what is the appropriate level and mode of moderation for the particular purposes of this community.
    – grovkin
    Feb 12, 2021 at 23:21
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    @grovkin "What we are discussing here is [...]". I know, but you are the one who brought up "position of public trust" as suggested criterion and I addressed it. Regardless, I (actually we) have been explaining to you why the underlying post is fine. Moderators are not to (and should not) enforce your particular expectations of censorship. Feb 13, 2021 at 0:32
  • I've said my piece one why public trust implies actual trust (and the latitude that comes with trust). You are the one who suggested it means walking on egg shells. It's not censorship to apply policies uniformly. I tried to demonstrate, in a comment, how a similar question from the opposite political spectrum would look like and that got deleted in roughly 5 minutes.
    – grovkin
    Feb 13, 2021 at 0:37
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    @grovkin "It's not censorship to apply policies uniformly". A policy that consists of suppressing or prohibiting content constitutes censorship regardless of whether or not that policy is applied uniformly. Feb 13, 2021 at 0:45
  • by that definition, all moderation is a form of censorship. that definition is only accurate if we accept that definitions, as such, are accurate even when they are overly broad. that "definition" matches all behaviors which are censorship and some which are not.
    – grovkin
    Feb 13, 2021 at 0:50

It's not a violation of any policy

Stack Exchange's terms deal with Hate Content, Defamation, and Libel - the question is not any of those. A President of the United States is a public figure and the bar for defamation and libel on such people is really, really high. It requires actual malice on the part of the defamer and that is simply absent from the question.

Nor is it a violation of the Code of Conduct because, AFAIK the former President is not a member of Stack Exchange and even if he was, those question was not directed at him personally. This policy is about how SE users relate to one another; not about things that might upset an uninvolved third-person.

I appreciate that you are offended by this but a public figure's public actions are, well, public and are open to criticism - it goes with the job.

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    I imagine there's a bit more nuance to it than this. From my experience something like "X is an idiot" (or something more offensive) would not acceptable in a post or comment regardless of who X is. Certainly reasonable people can be offended or upset by things said about other people, although maybe the bar is slightly higher. The argument presented here might relate to what's fair to ask questions about, but the way in which it's asked and answered still needs to be reasonably inoffensive (whether this particular question meets that standard is a separate discussion entirely).
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 11, 2021 at 1:42
  • @NotThatGuy This site deals with legal issues - "X is a rapist" may be offensive but it also may be a necessary fact to consider in the question.
    – Dale M Mod
    Feb 17, 2021 at 1:19
  • I don't believe facts in themselves can reasonably be offensive. Some people might take offense at them regardless, and that may or may not be what's happening here to some degree, but that's not my concern. What can certainly be offensive is when and how you present those facts, what else you say and how you structure that into an argument (like comparing Trump to a mafia don, which is not a fact) to ultimately make some point or provide the necessary context for your question or whatever. All of that leaves a lot of room for the possibility of unnecessarily offending people.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 17, 2021 at 9:21

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