Speaking as a newly minted editor, I might offer a qualified defense of #politics:
1. The editors each have their own ideological biases, which necessarily means they all have blind spots as well. I think the current editor board is fairly diverse. Certainly more diverse than its been in the past. If someone were to make a text post that soberly addresses why the Original Post here has zero credibility, I’m sure someone will promote it if they see it, given the diversity of the Editor board.
2. The job of the Editors (per Tumblr’s administrative instructions), is to promote content which is relevant, interesting, and/or informative. This obviously means that each of the editors individually must used their best judgment, and being human, we make choices through the filter of personal bias and human error; so occasionally something will be promoted that’s less than credible. The nice thing about Tumblr is that the community is generally very good at quickly calling the person to account (as you all have done here).
3. One of the main advantages of the #politics tag is that people new to Tumblr who are interested in politics, but have no idea where to look for blogs to follow, can see sample posts from the community and figure out who looks interesting, who seems more or less informed, whose views tend to conform with/contrast with their own, etc. So despite it’s flaws, I certainly wouldn’t want to do away with it.
4. The line between “discredited/wrong/irrelevant” content and “ideologically opposed/fairly debatable” content is very fuzzy. While this particular instance may seem concrete, there will often be tension between an Editor’s decision to promote something because it addresses a political question, or to not promote it because the Editor feel it’s discredited, wrong, or simply over-wrought. This type of thinking can lead to rather dangerous and inevitably counter-productive atmosphere in which Editors don’t even try to see past their own biases and skip over content that might be well put-together and fantastic. I’ve promoted a few posts already that espoused points of view that I vehemently disagree with, but I felt the posts were soberly presented and deserved to be featured.
5. Sometimes the value in promoting a post might simply come from sparking debate within the community. While the promoted post itself might be plainly discredited (as it was here), folks who were unaware of that information now have access to it. To wit: I’m sure a lot of your followers who weren’t familiar with this study, or its rebuttal, just found out about this through your reblogs. If the original Editor hadn’t promoted this post, they would’ve never had the benefit of being exposed to it via your reblog and accompanying commentary. Obviously I wouldn’t actively advocate that any Editor should be promoting a post they know doesn’t carry intellectual water; that would be the height of intellectual dishonesty. But again, the line between fairly debatable material and plainly discredited material can sometimes be fuzzy.
With all that being said, I think the better of two evils is to tolerate discredited material being promoted from time to time, and rely on the community here on Tumblr to identify it and expose it when it happens. This approach has the passive benefit of exposing people to information they might not’ve known otherwise; while the alternative merely results in a much more partisan Editorial Board that will inevitably skip over worthwhile material.
This is not the first time that we, the community, has had this discussion. In fact, I’ve reblogged these kinds of posts before and addressed them. This is a common occurrence on #politics, note that is not happening on #science, and for some reason it’s always those on the left who come to the defense of those on the right. With that said, I’m not an editor. I don’t have that “burden.” However I have moderated large communities before and so I understand and have understood all of your arguments for quite some time. Simply stated, no one will be happy. This much is true. With that said, you can’t please ‘em all is not a dismissal of honest critiques. In this case, I was simply questioning why a science post, without any political statements attached to it, was promoted? Let us move beyond these posts have political implications etc…, this was simply not that type of post. Furthermore if the point is to foster a discussion of current political events then why cite a paper from 2003? Also what kind of discussion can be fostered from this when you know that in a couple of weeks this will reappear on #politics?
(note: not on #science and by the way, the editors who promoted this post don’t even follow me.)