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I included a comment that I thought was hilarious (of course, not. I just thought it was a bit humorous) in a recent answer of mine. However, @user76284 removed the comment by editing the answer, documenting that they were "removing irrelevant political comment", see the edit log for details. I don't think this was necessary as it was a simple joke related to a political topic, not a "political comment" per se. Of course, I can edit it back myself but I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn if there is a policy around the inclusion of jokes in posts (to be clear, the comment comprised of ~25 characters in a post comprising of ~5000 characters). I think it's a common practice to include jokes and I don't see an issue with it so long as they don't take up a significant fraction of the volume of the post and aren't very offensive, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't find the comment in specific instance linked here to be "jocular" at all. If anything, it's on the offensive side -- and it's certainly irrelevant to the physics at hand. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 28 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty Almost all jokes are irrelevant to physics except for physics jokes. To the extent that the standard of something being offensive is that if someone is offended by it, the standard of being humorous has to be that someone finds it humorous. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'm glad you found it humorous. Other people found it offensive. It does not add value to the physics discussion. The humour found by some people does not cancel out the offense taken by others. Therefore the comment should not be included. What part of that chain do you disagree with? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 28 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty I was pointing out the absurdity of a lack of objective standards. For example, I find it offensive that people found my humor offensive. See the issue? Objectivity is what I am asking for. For example, if a joke comprises of bigoted commentary, it is objectively offensive and should be removed. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Just to emphasize, your comment was not removed because it was 'humorous' (or even offensive). It was removed because it was about politics and because it was irrelevant to the discussion; the editor explicitly marked this as the reason. Both of those assessments are accurate. (Or do you challenge that?) The combination is sufficient for removal of the comment, regardless of whether it's offensive or not. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 28 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty Thanks for editing the title. That certainly reflects my question more accurately. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty Regarding your last comment, my comment, whether humorous or not, was clearly intended as a jocular comment, one doesn't need to agree that it was humorous to see that it was an attempt at humor. That is relevant because I'd otherwise agree that if one attaches an irrelevant statement (political or not) in the middle of an answer, it should be edited out. Including jokes is part of the style of writing and thus, IMO, is not merited to be removed based on the fact that it's irrelevant to the content. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. Why are you misleading people here? I invite everyone to read the sentence immediately after edited one. Your statement was that “Socialism never works” is wrong. That is political commentary that doesn’t belong on a physics SE answer, not an “offhand joke”. The same would be true if you substituted “socialism” with fascism, Nazism, communism, nationalism, or any other political ideology. $\endgroup$ – user76284 May 28 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. I agree with user76284 that your comments here are acting (whether you mean them to or not) as misdirection. The comments were removed because they were political, not because they were an attempt at humour. Why do you continue to insist on the 'humour' dimension despite multiple people telling you that the issue is that they were political comments? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 28 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty You're misunderstanding my point. See my previous comment, I'm not saying it was removed because it was a joke. I'm saying it could have stayed because it was a joke. I explicitly stated in the question that it was removed because it was "irrelevant political commentary" according to the editor. I don't see any misdirection anywhere really. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. What exactly do you keep claiming is a joke? The statement that 'socialism never works' is wrong? Because this is a complete reversal of what was presented in the answer. Furthermore, the fact that you insist a comment is a "joke" doesn't mean it belongs on a physics answer. I can insist any statement I want is a "joke". That doesn't mean it's acceptable or on-topic. $\endgroup$ – user76284 May 28 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ @user76284 No, the specific sentence I wrote. You can always extract out the claims of a joke and say there is nothing even seemingly jocular here. Sure. But that's not how jokes work. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. You explicitly wrote that the sentence "Socialism never works" is wrong, i.e. political commentary. Will you continue to deny this? Claim it was a "joke"? $\endgroup$ – user76284 May 28 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @user76284 Lol, what I wrote is in the public domain. Let me quote: "People cried, "Oh! the dimensions won't work out!", "This is just a trick!", "Socialism never works!", and so on. But of course, each of those sentences is wrong." That is what I am claiming to be jocular. Implications of a joke are not the same as the joke. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joke $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ Well, we hate fun. $\endgroup$ – Peter Mortensen May 29 at 19:25
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We don't really have a policy around jokes - they are, for better or worse, mostly irrelevant. Some users like to include humor in their posts, others don't. In general, this falls squarely under the domain of authorial intent and I'd reject any edit removing or adding jokes as being counter to the author's intent.

However, in your particular case, I'd advise you to look not for some sort of generic policy about jokes, but just look at what was removed and with what reason: A user edited out, in their own words, "irrelevant political commentary". They didn't edit it out because it was a joke, so any policy about jokes is completely irrelevant here.

The following is pure (and slightly hyperbolic) speculation on my part about the specific motivations of the editor, and I do not want this to turn into a discussion about the merits of socialism. That I felt I had to write the latter part of the preceding sentence is further evidence still that this "joke" might be construed as "political commentary", and in particular might detract considerably from our primary goal of discussing physics here. Note also that "I didn't mean it that way!" is a valid response to what follows, but ultimately doesn't change anything.

They edited it out because your "joke" puts the real-world political belief "Socialism never works!" in the same category as the well-meaning but ultimately absurd other comments of the people criticizing the curious kid in the story. As a metaphor, you clearly intended to say that socialism is a smart idea just like the measurement idea of that kid in the story, and that any detractors of socialism are as misguided and anti-scientific as the people saying the kid's idea won't work.

And that's a prime example of political commentary, which generally isn't what we expect in a technical answer about special relativity. The editor likely saved you from any non-socialists engaging you in a spirited comment discussion about that phrase!

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  • $\begingroup$ I largely agree with your points but I think it is relevant as to what the policy around jokes is because jokes would largely be irrelevant to the content as such. This implies that they'd relate to some other field. For any such joke, I can write "irrelevant X commentary" where X can be political, cultural, literary, historical, etc. So, removing an "irrelevant X comment" as a policy (implied or literal) can, in principle, remove all jokes except some jokes inherently rooted in physics. It seems like the idea is that politics is a hot topic so no attempted jokes relating to politics? $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. I'm not making any statements about "policy" here, real or imagined. I'm asking you to look at this particular instance and consider whether the edit wasn't actually beneficial since it potentially prevented an off-topic heated discussion before it began (but arguably it might also have failed in preventing non-physics discussion since it spawned this meta thread). If you absolutely insist, you can always roll back the edit. In this answer, I'm offering a reasoning that actually looks at the case at hand instead of trying to apply abstract rules about "commentary" that don't exist. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind May 28 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, in this particular case, I do agree that the edit saved me from potential ruckus (which I ran into anyway with this post xD). I don't intend to roll back the edits. Thanks for your answer and response :) $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 19:08
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What looks like a joke to you can often look like an offensive or otherwise harmful comment to others, particularly when politics is involved.

If you make a political comment on a post, and it is not directly relevant to the physics under discussion (hint: it basically never is), then be prepared for it to be removed, regardless of how much you thought of it as a joke.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it might, but there are objective standards as to what is and is not truly offensive/harmful. Setting these objective standards is the whole point of policy, no? To be clear, I am not arguing for completely free speech otherwise being offensive wouldn't even matter. I am simply asking for objective standards that cannot be "$\exists x | x$ is someone who finds it offensive". $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. May 28 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. It doesn't matter. It is content that will be perceived as offensive by some and that does not add to the physics discussion; it therefore has no place there. We're here to talk physics, not to have long discussions trying to persuade others that our offhand comments were not actually offensive. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 28 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ To be fair, @DvijD.C. wasn't trying to "have long discussions trying to persuade others that our offhand comments were not actually offensive." on the original post. Or do you mean to say this meta post shouldn't even have been made? $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist May 28 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist No. The point is that if your offhand comment requires a long discussion with an offended outsider just to convince them that it's not offensive, then it has no place in the post to begin with. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 28 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ I guess what I am saying is that @DvijD.C. Wasn't trying to have a long discussion with an offended outsider just to convince them that it's not offensive when they first made the post, so I don't see how that advice is relevant. But I do agree it is best to just keep political commentary out of posts here. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist May 28 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ As for "there are objective standards as to what is and is not truly offensive/harmful" -- just so we're all caught up: there aren't. (Or did you mean: your standards are right and objective?) There are some reasonably-widely-spread standards about the types of comments that might be considered offensive by at least some people. If those comments have a legitimate place in the post, then there's a case to keep them in, but if they don't, then there's no reason for them to be there. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 28 at 14:42
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While there’s nothing inherently wrong about inserting jokes or jocular comments, the fact that someone chose to edit this one out because it was perceived as something else should be sufficient signal to keep it out, especially as it is not essential to the post.

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It's your answer, and if you don't like an edit you can and should roll it back. It is a fundamental principle on the Stack Exchange that the person who wrote the post has the final say on edits to it. Of course this may get your post downvoted and ultimately deleted if it is genuinely offensive, nevertheless this is your perogative.

Having said this, if someone goes to the effort of editing your post it means they think the edit makes the post better, and you should seriously consider whether they might be right. Over the years I have had many of my posts edited and I have rarely found reason to roll back the edits. As a general rule I find that members of this community take it seriously and take editing seriously.

In this particular case I found the deleted sentence perfectly harmless, though I have to admit I didn't find it funny either. In your place I would let the edit stand. I am prone to slipping witty asides into my answers on the grounds they make me laugh even if no-one else even notices, and they are only rarely edited out - but then they are only rarely funny.

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