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Recently, in a totally unrelated post, someone asked for a mathematical symbol (a curly \times). One user pointed out the fact that such symbol resembles the swastika of Nazi Germany and he will not teach how to construct such symbol on TeX.SE.

So I was thinking. Has TeX.SE or SE some policy regarding such contents? What is your idea of this topic? I'm not speaking of something that is clearly a Nazi propaganda. I'm speaking of guys that ask how to draw in TikZ the SS bolts, or which is the font used in the first edition of Mein Kampf, etc. (i.e. technical questions, and for this reason are completely on topic on TeX.SE).

  • On a question without comments nor answer would be good to spend at least 10 second to explain why down voting it. – gvgramazio Jun 2 '18 at 21:36
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    Swastika symbol does not relate to Nazis per se and has a history of 5000 years. On the other hand if somebody uses a swastika as a math notation they have more serious problems than stackexchange network. It might be an overzealous sensitivitiy or not (remember you are on internet). It is easy to draw it anyways. Ask how to draw half of it do the rest yourself. But I have to say this only your side of the story. Please provide links for objective assessment. – percusse Jun 2 '18 at 21:40
  • @percusse Added link – CarLaTeX Jun 3 '18 at 2:37
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    Perhaps also related, at least something related triggered this question. I agree with @percusse that drawing such things is straightforward. But I think the real question is how to prevent certain communities from using these sites as their platform. Luckily one can always vote to delete low-quality posts. – user121799 Jun 3 '18 at 3:44
  • @marmot, I don't think is strictly related. In the sense that my point isn't if tex.SE or SE should allow certain community (I think that we have all the same idea on that topic here). My point is that technical question should be seen as unrelated to propaganda (see answer below). – gvgramazio Jun 3 '18 at 8:53
  • @percusse, the question linked by you is exactly the ones I'm referring for. Technical question without racism, hate, propaganda or anything in it. There is an official policy on SE about this? – gvgramazio Jun 3 '18 at 8:57
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    @percusse, yes, swastika was well know even before the Nazi Germany, but not the rotated one of 45°. – gvgramazio Jun 3 '18 at 8:59
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    Although it is true that the symbol has a long history, it is now irreversibly associated with Nazism and certainly cannot be treated as if it is not. (The same is true for various other things, including phrases and, to some extent, places.) Pointing out that using a Swastika-like symbol for a mathematical operator will indelibly mark your paper as 'the Swastika paper' in the minds of readers, which is presumably not what the OP wants readers to take away from her/his work, strikes me as a statement of the glaringly obvious and entirely appropriate. – cfr Jun 9 '18 at 2:54
  • @cfr, sure, the comment by mico in the unrelated post is clearly appropriate to the question. But this is not what my question is about. I'm asking if users should avoid asking technical question about delicate topics. Like someone pointed out is wrong to ask help to draw a swastika symbol for a paper on symbolism? – gvgramazio Jun 9 '18 at 9:42
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(I'm posting this answer mainly because I think the posting has missed a very important aspect of the exchange of views that's alluded to in the posting.)

One user pointed out the fact that [the symbol requested by the OP] resembles the swastika ... and [that] he will not teach how to construct such [a] symbol on TeX.SE.

In my view, a very important aspect of TeX.SE's appeal as being a successful and (I hope!) welcoming site is that it's remarkably free of trolls and other types of vermin. This is not just some happy accident.

  • It certainly helps that all postings that are clearly inappropriate (e.g., vulgar, off-topic, spam, etc) are quickly identified and removed. Importantly, the community itself takes the lead in removing queries that they deem to be inappropriate.

  • In addition, I'd say that this happy state of affairs also owes, in no small part, to most answers being structured in a way that doesn't attract trolls and other undesirables. And, yes, the desire not to attract trolls can prompt a decision not to post an answer in the first place. If would-be contributors of answers didn't apply some restraint and wise judgment, TeX.SE would certainly be nowhere nearly as successful and welcoming as it is now. For me, that's far more valuable and important than teaching somebody how to draw a symbol that looks like a swastika. Aside: Does the world really need still more instructions on how to draw symbols that look like swastikas? Surely not!

Has TeX.SE or SE some policy regarding such contents?

I don't think it's either necessary or sufficient to formulate a site-wide policy regarding what's entirely inappropriate. Letting users (especially experienced contributors) apply good judgment should be the first line of defense. Happily, to date letting the community apply good judgment seems to be working remarkably well. If the community didn't uphold and enforce standards of decency and fair play, then imposing the policies you seem to have in mind will have come too late: most decent users will have already left the site for good. I, for one, certainly would leave and never come back.

  • Probably due to the fact that I'm not mother tongue many misunderstood me. I want to point out that I have nothing against the user that refused to post an answer teaching how to draw a swastika. Also, he didn't wrote that comment with this meaning. The meaning was that, since the question asked for a symbol that could resemble a swastika (but still not a swastika), he would have not post it's construction on tex.SE. Reading that comment and the comment that followed that one (now deleted because off topic with respect to the question) I wondered if there is some policy (written or... – gvgramazio Jun 9 '18 at 9:33
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    ...unwritten) about this topic since I found nothing googling it. Thanks to all of you I found out that is only an unwritten policy, in the sense that the community judges the contents and decides when a content is inappropriate. So I think that my question is answered. I don't think that there is an answer that deserve more than others to be accepted. Should I simply close the question or leave it open? – gvgramazio Jun 9 '18 at 9:36
  • I realized that you are the user in question. Sorry if I somewhat could have give you the impression that I'm against your comments. As I said my question isn't because I'm against your comment but only because it was the starting point that pointed this doubt in my mind. – gvgramazio Jun 9 '18 at 9:45
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I think you are misinterpreting his point. I don't think Mico refused to show you how to make a swastika because it is a Nazi symbol, but rather because using something that looks like a swastika would be a poor solution for the actual question of an "approximately times" symbol.

I have no doubt there would be no issue with someone asking "How can I create a swastika/SS symbol for my paper on symbolism?"

  • I agree with you and I didn't misunderstood him. Simply, from the comments now deleted under that post, I was thinking if the SE bans such types of question or if it has some policies written somewhere. As I said, IMHO, as long as there is no propaganda nor racism, that means as long as the question is a technical one, the post shouldn't be banned. – gvgramazio Jun 8 '18 at 12:12
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    I have my doubts about the second paragraph. I would expect that there would be an issue. That doesn't mean there's a policy, but I would expect controversy and I would expect that some users would refuse to answer the question on political, ethical, prudential and/or pragmatic grounds. – cfr Jun 9 '18 at 2:46
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    @gvgramazio - You wrote, "IMHO, as long as there is no propaganda nor racism, that means as long as the question is a technical one, the post shouldn't be banned". Sorry, but there was never an issue of banning the question. The comments which I posted below the query were meant primarily to point out and explain why I refused to post an answer. – Mico Jun 9 '18 at 10:26
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    @Mico. Yes, in fact I wasn't referring to your comment nor the question you've commented. – gvgramazio Jun 9 '18 at 10:28
  • @gvgramazio - Thanks for this clarification. – Mico Jun 9 '18 at 10:31
  • My post is only inspired by your comments, it's not about your comment nor the question. I asked when a question should be banned, if simply being about Nazi can be consider enough to be banned or if it should be something else. In this case most of the comments/answer, I think, states that a question isn't inappropriate if isn't a technical one. – gvgramazio Jun 9 '18 at 10:32
  • @Mico, again, sorry if my bad use of the English language made you think that I'm against you, your comment or something like this. – gvgramazio Jun 9 '18 at 10:33
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A user is free to decide not to answer any particular question. But adding a comment to the effect of "I will not answer this" seems unnecessary. I would flag that comment as no longer needed, since nobody would benefit from reading it.

The imitation of symbols/fonts etc associated with a time period has uses unrelated to propaganda, such as recreation of historical events in some form of art. Banning technical questions based on imagined offensive uses would be a bad idea.

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    The comment was not simply "I will not answer" but also warned the OP: all readers of your document will come to a dead stop when their eyes first reach this symbol. They may well forget everything else you wrote; all they'll remember it by is "the paper with the swastika symbol(s)". It was an appropriate comment, in my opinion. – CarLaTeX Jun 3 '18 at 2:44
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    I totally agree with your second paragraph. But also I don't think that I would flag the comment. Maybe I would have if it is only I will not answer but since he warned the OP in an objective way is on topic for me. – gvgramazio Jun 3 '18 at 8:48
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    While maintaining a permissive stance for the question, flagging another comment for removal does not make sense to me. – percusse Jun 3 '18 at 17:56

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