Forum Policy - So why can't we discuss politics anyway?

I was fairly baffled the first time I heard the adage “Don’t discuss religion and politics.” How does anyone imagine that a democracy could work if one doesn’t discuss politics? That was before I became aware of the spectacular shit show that is US political discourse, and the fact that it’s plainly dysfunctional. One of my more enlightened friends made me aware of The Story of Us about a year ago. I’ve held off on posting it here in anticipation of the final installment, but since that doesn’t seem to be coming (I suspect for good reasons), here it is:

This blog series is by far the best take I’ve seen on the US political landscape, or at least the easiest to digest while staying reasonably comprehensive. It doesn’t really pick up steam until the last few installments, and I’d almost counsel people somewhat versed in social theory to skip the first two chapters, but Tim spends the space not just defining base concepts, but also establishing a new nomenclature which must be understood to appreciate the rest.

My only real issue with the series is that he takes a rather simplistic view of morality, treating it as a single axis where good and bad are distinct qualities, rather than matters of perspective. Tim is in Philosophical Disney World, to use his own terminology.

I come at this from a rare if not unique angle, in that my political views are so far out (of the Overton window) that I’ve literally never met anyone who shares them. I’ve long since had to learn to get along with people who disagree with me, and to accept that any political discussion will happen in their frame of reference. I even go out of my way to consume content that I disagree with, possibly because of some kind of rage addiction, certainly because I believe that I must thoroughly understand my enemy in order to defeat him. BTW, this principle is fun to apply in a wider sense; If you’re bothered by a shipmate missionarizing too hard, try cutting him down by paraphrasing the good book, and watch his face as he realizes that he’s locked in there with you…

Thus, while I understand echo chambers on an intellectual level, I don’t get how people just walk in there and stay by the million. OK, I might be virtue signaling a bit harder than usual, but I’m also genuinely curious: How does the mental process go? WBW does a brilliant job of describing how they suck you in, but full-on circle jerks get real clammy real quick. I’m no stranger to the concept:

“Wow, diesel hydraulic drive systems are extremely cool!”
“Indeed they are! I wouldn’t think of installing anything less cool on my equipment!”
“You are right, that’s the only valid choice!”
“You seem to understand the subject better than anyone else!”
“You have impeccable taste!”
“Oh my, what an enormous virtue! Can I touch it?”
(This is the point when I usually wish someone would blunder in, extolling the virtues of electric power distribution, if only so we could gang up on him)

…and yet, people are seemingly content to sit back and smash that endorphin button over and over until they descend into a torpor devoid of counterpoint. Again, WBW does a brilliant job of explaining why this is an intuitive behavior, but something still seems off. Don’t all addicts wish they were clean once in a while? In this case all you have to do for a sniff at sobriety is to click onto a news source you dislike…

Another thing my life as a political outsider has taught me is that education is no cure for this. In fact, the people who are the most likely to resort to name calling and literally clawing at my face while held back by friends and relatives, are the ones with a high level education in social science. This is confirmed by The Story of Us, with references to studies indicating that people with a high level of education exhibit lower intellectual mobility, thus ending up more vulnerable to bigotry.

So what would it take to fix this? We’d all have to stay skeptical (in the classical sense), most of all towards ourselves. We’d also have to respect not just each other, but the discussion itself. Looking how far away we are from those ideals, and which way things are moving, it’s hard to imagine a small set of effective measures to attain them. I’m afraid Tim Urban has bitten off more than he can chew on this one, hence why the series hasn’t been updated for a year.

I’m afraid I can only conclude that you’re right: Don’t discuss politics, especially not the bipartisan variety (whatever that may be), not the way it goes now. However, please do embrace the meta discussion: How we got to this point, and the imperfections of our own psyche that reinforces the problem. Increased self awareness across the board is the only way up and out of this seemingly munted shit show.


Wars have been fought over politics. Its as old as time, and the divide has intensified over the last year here in the USA.

Since its a very touchy subject, its always been a good rule of thumb to keep it off the boat and family gatherings. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to it, especially when its delivered in an inflammatory manner.

I appreciate the fact that the moderators have pushed the snooze button on it here. This should be a ‘safe’ zone. I understand this being a maritime site, it should and has to include some political discussion, but keeping it to only ‘maritime related’ discussion is key in my humble opinion.


Me too. I do have a suggestion concerning the recent scuttlebutt category freeze. Not all scuttlebutt is political. A lot of non-maritime things can fall into a “mariners life category” that would go into the category dubbed scuttlebutt. Maybe add a “Politics” category separate from scuttlebutt? If things get to heated, freeze the politics section but leave the scuttlebutt.

I remember an interview Barbara Walters conducted with The Shaw of Iran before he died.

She asked what he thought would be the end of the USA based on his experience with politics and leadership of people.

His remark was simple. “Your unlimited freedom of speech…will lead to America’s downfall”.

We have had the internet and chat rooms/message forums for a little over 20 years now with the freedom of speech coupled with anonymity to discuss about anything. Still we have to have moderators & administrators to keep things from getting out of hand.

Which brings us back to why so many political discussions at gCaptain are locked.

I think discussions of politics and religion can be productive but when having them in mixed & anonymous groups they don’t tend to fare so well. They work better in face to face groups that will discuss things in good faith and listen to the points of view of others. (even if they don’t agree).

Other than someone posting a threat of physical harm or like a recent world leader, calling for an armed insurrection, what exactly does “out of hand” mean?

No one has to read, respond, or participate in any manner. Personally, my life has not been enhanced or degraded by not posting or reading Twitter or any of the many sites that thrive on hatred and fear or love and support so if there is a place here where political text is exchanged, for good or bad, my attitude is “who cares?”

1 Like

In that regard Steamer I’d say you are a cut above. But not everyone can keep their minds so clear as evidenced by the locked threads here that didn’t respect the rules of the forum. (thus getting out of hand)

And the moderators & Admin of this thread may want to comment .

Where I am from. Polite company generally avoid discussing, religion, politics and football.

The problem with all of them you end up arguing about a belief.
Belief is based on faith and cannot be disproved. Or reasoned with.

The result is polite conversation is impossible unless you are talking to someone with the same beliefs.

As can be illustrated by my belief a football is a game played by the masses.
Where the players use there foot or feet to move the ball and a ball is made of leather round or spherical.

Not shaped like a melon. Or carried or thrown.

I haven’t even mentioned which team is the best yet.
But I’m sure I have probably gone well beyond any possibility of a polite conversation now.




Statements like this are the missing piece of the fire triangle.


There is enough bullshit on many other sites to participate than this. Agree keep your attitudes and beliefs off this site. It is for mariners, and mariners only. We do have our beliefs, whether left or right. This politics shit has creeped into our beloved site. Not what John intended i think. He got caught up in it too a while back. Emotions are running high, I get that, but let’s us all try to stay on subject, our blessed or not blessed industry.

1 Like

I agree that the discussion of politics should be avoided. 30 years ago I would not have said this as discussing politics was more civil and based on personal experience or facts. After the advent of the internet and “alternative facts” aka BS, along with vested interests driving a wedge in the population in order to accomplish their own selfish goals I think allowing general political discussion to be a detriment to this forum. It’s best we confine our political discussions to specific matters affecting those who work at sea. Goodness knows that is a big enough area to keep people entertained.


@Uricanejack gets it. I’m intrigued by the reasons why politics is treated in the realm of beliefs, and more than a bit troubled by the effect on the democratic process.

Interesting idea, but a place to discuss politics does little good if we can’t do so in a productive manner.

It means that there is no meaningful exchange of ideas or information.

Ctony said it best i think: keep it off the ship… it is like a horrible spectre one simply HAS to watch but there are other places for it. Ham Radio is the same thing… keep it off the air.
It sure is a great thing to discuss but anymore it is just too darn polarizing and is best kept to those places where people call each other names and such. I guess there could be a place here for gcapt. to have political bs but in the future with speech limitations and such it could be a issue?

1 Like

I love Craigslist. I’ve bought & sold things on it. When I’m really bored I’ll scroll through just to see what is for sale & how much things cost. But apparently they also have a discussion section where people who don’t know each other or have anything in common with one another will chime in & discuss politics. But I don’t know for sure because I never visited that section. Maybe if gcaptain had a dedicated politics section it would mostly stay in that section? I loved the “Norway is Really Awesome” thread. But before it was started it seemed like half of the threads ended up about Norway. It’s worth a shot?

A place for everything & everything in it’s place.

1 Like

Oh, like most small talk and across the mess table conversation that makes up 90 percent of our communications?

So why can’t we discuss politics anyway?

Glad you brought this up. I participate in 5 forums. In one, there is a person that tries to slip in some dog-whistles that reflect his viewpoint irrespective of the pertinence to the subject at hand. Naturally, there is another fellow that rises to the bait, and it’s soon a free for all. Somehow, a thread on bilge pump plumbing gets closed by the moderators for political vitriol…
Then, I come over here, and there is a political discussion about political issues, and it’s mostly respectful and well attended by people who are reasonably intelligent and have interesting things to say. I’ve found those threads thought provoking, and read them rather than contribute (much).
The whole thing about politics being taboo makes it difficult to post things that have political ramifications, like the Elaine Chao or Admiral Buzby stories. If there’s a political sandbox, hotheads responding can be directed over there.
I think we lose sight of what a truly unique community is here. Where else can we have people from different parts of the world discuss United States politics and not be vilified for “sticking their noses in where it doesn’t belong”? Well, not much, anyway. :slightly_smiling_face:
There is no need to read a thread that you don’t like or have an interest in.


7 posts were split to a new topic: Talking Politics Aboard Ship

So what? Is your keyboard connected to an infernal device or something? For Chrissakes, it’s just a screen with words on it. Unless someone is promoting or threatening illegal acts it is just someone typing and someone reading.

You are not force to read, follow, act, or suffer mental anguish from reading something. Stick the political/religious or other obnoxious crap in its own cubbyhole and keep out if it bothers you.

1 Like


The maritime industry is intertwined much more than other industries regarding “politics.” Like it or not political moves such as trade deals, policy changes, international agreements, etc. have repercussions on our industry. That being said this forum is a professional maritime forum and I feel that it does well promoting friendly and informative discourse. In the US many maritime issues aren’t as partisan so that helps as well.

1 Like