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I have no intention being rude, and have been hesitating a long time before posting this question. The fact is that a user of the Physics SE includes this quote in his public profile:

"There will come a day, when all the lies will collapse under their own weight, & truth will again triumph."-Goebbels.

My question is whether it is acceptable to quote a Nazi claim on Physics SE. The problem is not in the claim itself, which, if it was not from Goebbels, wouldn't be shocking, but in the fact that a user willingly claims that he has no problem showing everyone that he quotes a Nazi. Knowing all the horrors done by the Nazis, I find this very shocking.

I kindly suggest this user to remove this quote from his profile, in respect to all people who died because of the ideas and the crimes of the Nazis. And, especially for a physicist, in respect to Einstein who was Jewish himself.

EDIT: the user has removed the reference to Goebbels. I find it nice from him, it shows he feels concerned by what other people may feel (see the comments that were moved to chat).

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    $\begingroup$ Have you tried taking the more private route and asking him directly? $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Dec 17 '16 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ Users may say what they wish in their profile. $\endgroup$ – heather Dec 17 '16 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ In the end profiles are the least policed content on the Stack Exchange network. It is possible to cross a line and draw moderator action, but "I don't like the person another user chose to quote." (a sentiment I share) isn't going to go far as a complaint about such content. Then there is the intense irony of that particular notion expressed by that particular person. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Dec 17 '16 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, I also think people should refrain from discussing any "nuclear" topics because of the atrocities that have come from this topic. $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Dec 18 '16 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ Whether or not this is a good question, it shouldn't be asked on physics meta. The broader issue here is whether it's ok to quote Nazi's on Stack Exchange profiles, and that belongs on the main meta. Furthermore, let's all note that the notion of "offensive" is too vague to be useful. We should center the discussion only on whether or not Nazi's may be quoted. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Dec 19 '16 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ I'm with @DanielSank on this one (mostly). I do think it's a fine topic here, particularly given the scientific advancements made during the era. It would be needlessly restrictive to ban all quotes or mention of Nazi's in legitimate discourse about science or physics. The USA landed on the moon because of the work done by von Braun, and it would be overly restrictive to say we could never mention him or quote him in answers about space flight/rocketry. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 19 '16 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 Sure, and the quote this is about is clearly about science. $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Dec 19 '16 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch I'm addressing the titular question -- "Is it acceptable to quote a Nazi claim on Physics SE?" To which I say, as I've said in my other comments, that context matters. There cannot be a blanket yes or no and each instance needs to be judged in its own context. Just like quoting any other claim from anybody else. It's already been established elsehwere that profiles are free to do as they wish, so my comment does not address that. Only the titular question. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 19 '16 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 Noteworthily, I was unable to find a German version of the quote (at least nothing close to a literal translation), so it is even not clear what it exactly refers to. $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Dec 19 '16 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ @claudechuber Not sure whether this should be counted as success, but said user has removed the reference to Goebbels, as well as the link to their twitter account. (Now the quote is still there, so I'm not sure whether this should be seen at the user distancing themselves from the ideology behind it.) $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Dec 26 '16 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Norbert Schuch Thank you for the information. It find it nice, it shows that he feels concerned by what other people may feel. I wonder now if I should delete this question, what do you think? (I'm supposing that deleting a question deletes all the subsequent discussion, though I'm not sure of it). $\endgroup$ – user130529 Dec 26 '16 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @claudechuber Or might think about him. Anyway. AFAIK you can only delete the question if there are no answers, but I might be wrong. Your judgement, but I somewhat agree with the sentiment that this is not a good place for such a discussion. (Certainly, I don't feel it would be a loss to the world if the discussion is gone.) $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Dec 26 '16 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ You are right, it cannot be deleted. I'm unsure anyway if it should. I will likely edit my question when I find the appropriate way to do it. $\endgroup$ – user130529 Dec 26 '16 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Norbert Schuch : after thinking a bit, I won't ask, for due respect to all people who took the time to answer and comment. I have edited my question. $\endgroup$ – user130529 Dec 26 '16 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, the user has evidently left this community - the link to the (former) user page now throws a 404. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Jan 10 '17 at 1:58
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People can put anything they want in the bio section of their profiles, except for egregious hate speech and pornography. The mere fact that a quote was said by a Nazi, or is attributed to a Nazi, does not make it egregious hate speech. So this is fine (or at least, not deserving of moderator action). You can, of course, discuss it with the user yourself and ask them to remove the quote, but if they ultimately choose to keep it there, that's their right.

We do not extend quite the same tolerance to profile pictures and usernames, because those are displayed everywhere you post throughout the site. For example, using a swastika for your profile picture is not acceptable. (If one did so, a mod would clear the unacceptable content and send you a polite note to let you know that we did so. It's not a suspension-worthy offense, at least not the first time.)


Prepared with the help of information heather, dmckee, and Kyle Kanos posted in the comments

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    $\begingroup$ In the process of preparing a response I was amused to find that reductio ad Hitlerum is a real thing - or at least real enough to have a Wikipedia page! Anyway, as I said, the mere fact that a quote is attributed to a Nazi does not make it egregious hate speech. In other words, your viewpoint that quoting Goebbels is a message of hate does not find support from the moderators in our official capacity. (I would also point out the logical fallacy you're implying by asking whether everything is acceptable.) $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 17 '16 at 23:04
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    $\begingroup$ @claudechuber, no, everything isn't acceptable. For example, the action you've taken here isn't acceptable. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Dec 17 '16 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ @AlfredCentauri I wouldn't go that far. I mean, merely bringing this issue to meta isn't something I would call unacceptable. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 17 '16 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ "merely bringing this issue to meta isn't something I would call unacceptable" - true, but it isn't the case that the OP has "merely brought the issue to meta". $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Dec 18 '16 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ @AlfredCentauri What else would you say they have done that you consider unacceptable? $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 18 '16 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ This is not a meta question along the lines of, e.g., "Is quoting a Nazi in one's bio acceptable?". The OP has chosen to take offense, deemed the quote hate speech, closed his mind to any reason, initiated a public attack on another user and, for good measure, thrown in a comment to the effect that there is no room for disagreement on this ("what else can it be?"). $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Dec 18 '16 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ @AlfredCentauri Well, you can hold that as your opinion, but that is also a viewpoint that is likely not going to find any support from the moderators. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 18 '16 at 2:00
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    $\begingroup$ Because saying just "unacceptable", rather than "unacceptable to me" or the like, implies that you're speaking with some authority. Moderators often use "unacceptable" in this sense to mean "don't do this thing or you risk suspension". I wouldn't want claude or anyone else to be under the impression that making this meta post is a suspension-worthy offense. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 18 '16 at 2:14
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    $\begingroup$ @claudechuber, I speak only to my own judgement; I never presume to speak for others and, since there is no diamond to the right of my user name, I do not speak on behalf of this site. it is a fact that I judge your actions to be beyond the pale. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Dec 18 '16 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ @claudechuber, I don't think that you're shocked. I think it likely that you have too much time on your hands and are looking for something to make a fuss about. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Dec 18 '16 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ OK that's enough, time to put a stop to this line of discussion. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 18 '16 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZ Thanks for the clarification, didnt know it was a Nazi symbol too, Swastika also happens to be a religious symbol of Hindus. $\endgroup$ – Oswald Dec 19 '16 at 4:48
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    $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch The quote itself may be for a very specific reason and a clear context. Why the user chose to put the quote in their profile is not at all clear and cannot be assumed out of malice or hate. That is my only point -- it is captioned under "Notable." Maybe it's notable for how horrific it is. Or that it's ironic. Or that... who knows. The point is, we don't know and we can't know because we can't read minds. But we also cannot jump and attribute hate or malice. Let's not forgot Hanlon's razor (the second, stupidity is unfair here) $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 19 '16 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch No, I did not search -- and that's exactly my point. Perhaps the original user in question didn't search either. Maybe they are unaware of the context it was originally given. Or maybe they are complete experts and find it notable for good reasons or bad reasons. Take for example the user a bit up in the comments section who didn't know the Nazi's used swastikas. It would be an easy and straight forward mistake to use something when you are unaware of the implications or context. We cannot assume malice when it could just be misunderstanding. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 19 '16 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch And that's, I think, a fair assessment as well. Given the facts in hand, I don't think we can rush to judgment (public/punitive anyway, feel free to privately judge all you would like). Just remember, on the internet, no one knows you're a dog and we have no idea who the user really is or why he/she found the quote notable. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 19 '16 at 15:20
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I could understand including the quotation,

"There will come a day, when all the lies will collapse under their own weight, and truth will again triumph."

Firstly, forget who said it - how is the collapse of lies and the emergence of truth a bad thing, let alone anything resembling hateful speech? In physics, we are always after the pursuit of truths about the Universe and the way it behaves.

Now, although Goebbels was a Nazi, that does not invalidate or turn all of his statements into hate speech.

A few years ago, Prof. Walter Lewin at MIT was accused of sexual misconduct, and stripped of his Emeritus title. In addition, MIT removed all his online lectures, which rightfully caused an uproar, because they were a great contribution to physics education, and whether he was guilty or not, does not mean students can't benefit from them.

Likewise, it applies generally that the contribution of a person is not invalidated by their behaviour, it can at most change one's perspective of their contributions.

Now this quote is by no means any significant contribution, but including it in a profile certainly does not warrant a tantrum about it.

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    $\begingroup$ I understand your point and agree, but as I said in my question (quoting): "The problem is not in the claim itself, which, if it was not from Goebbels, wouldn't be shocking, but in the fact that a user willingly claims that he has no problem showing everyone that he quotes a Nazi. Knowing all the horrors done by the Nazis, I find this very shocking." You are not addressing this point in your answer. In other words, what I find shocking is the mention of Goebbels at the end of the quote. If it was not there, I wouldn't have noticed it, nor would have been shocked. $\endgroup$ – user130529 Dec 23 '16 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ @claudechuber There is nothing wrong with correctly attributing it to Goebbels; just because the man was a Nazi doesn't mean that mentioning anything he said, and making it known he said it, is shameful. $\endgroup$ – JamalS Dec 23 '16 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't say it was wrong attributing it to Goebbels. See also @NorbertSchuch who made some interesting comments, in particular the one starting with "If you search on the internet". $\endgroup$ – user130529 Dec 23 '16 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ While I agree with the general position that this does not rise to the level of hateful speech that warrants some kind of intervention, the original context of the quote should be considered: Where it is given a reference at all, it is claimed to be from Goebbels' last letter to his stepson Quandt, days before he and his wife killed their six children and themselves to avoid capture. It is directly followed by "The hour will come in which we will be above all, clean and without guilt, like our faith and task were. " in the original letter. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Dec 23 '16 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ So while the quote without context seems innocent enough, it is strongly implied that the "truth" here is Goebbels' belief in the righteousness of the Nazis' cause, and the "lies" are the beliefs of those opposing it. Your general point about a person's behaviour not invalidating all of their contributions is correct, but this quote, considered in context, definitely does not support reading it as a general affirmation that "truth will triumph". It is not as innocent as it seems, and trying to pretend it is by stripping away all context strikes me as a bad precedent to set. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Dec 23 '16 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind : I do not think the original context of the quote is relevant. The issue is the present context - ie what use is being made of it. As a stand-alone quote it is neutral, even with its attribution, open to whatever interpretation the reader puts on it. There is no obligation on someone who uses the quote without obvious malice to avoid offending those who may have good reason to be offended. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Jan 5 '17 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch : Your reaction is your choice. I call it being objective. It doesn't mean that I approve of Nazism any more than you do. It means that I look at the present use of the quote, rather than the past use. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Jan 6 '17 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil This specific quote, unlike other quotes, feels to me like an entirely blank page - it's a substrate for whatever you interpret into it. Given it's emptiness and it is by Goebbels, the interpretation suggests itself. I can't feel how this should have a neutral interpretation - what is yours? -- On a different note, I'm still shocked how apologetic people are to this - there has basically been no criticism whatsoever. $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Jan 6 '17 at 1:07
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    $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch : We all see it as a hope for the ultimate triumph of truth. What it meant to Goebbels is ironic because of the demise of the 3rd Reich. The attribution reminds me that the same words can have different meanings depending on your background. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Jan 6 '17 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil I don't see what should be ironic about that. I also cannot sympathize with the overall language and thus the message of the quote, independent of who it were who said it. (It's a crappy translation, but the German original is by no way better.) It has propaganda written all over it. So: No, I don't see it as a hope for the ultimate triumph of truth. $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Jan 6 '17 at 1:51

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