General Question

phoenyx's avatar

How could I have asked this question without biasing the answers?

Asked by phoenyx (7380points) May 31st, 2008

A while ago I came across a website I didn’t quite know what to make of. A little googling led me to a New York Times interview with the authors of the site. They had specifically written the site as racial satire with the intent of getting people to recognize their own racism and to encourage discussion about it. I wondered if the site actually had that effect; if people would understand the satire and react how the authors intended. I figured if I asked something like: “Do you understand this site is satire? Do you want to talk about racism now?” it wouldn’t really give me the answer. Instead I asked “What do you think of this site?”, provided a link, and left if at that. It was flagged and removed soon after (and rightly so).

Do you every worry that how you’re asking a question is biasing the answers that you’ll get?

Should I just avoid asking questions that have a private agenda?
(like this one probably did, I now realize)

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5 Answers

wildflower's avatar

There are closed (yes/no) questions, open questions and leading questions. Closed and leading questions are safe because you can control and predict the reactions and outcomes. Open questions are risky because you can’t possibly predict or control all responses you’ll get. So it’s a matter of risk management, are you prepared for the risk that the open question comes with? And this particular question would have been very risky! I for one don’t blame the moderators for not wanting to run that risk. Unfortunately that means you didn’t get the honest reactions you wanted.

willbrawn's avatar

I still didn’t like that site

DeezerQueue's avatar

If it’s any consolation, many journalists have admitted that at some point they cannot remain objective about the nature of what it is they’re writing.

I think, however, there’s a difference between having a personal agenda about something and asking a question in such a way that will lead to a discussion. Perhaps the key is in the Details section to ask several questions as opposed to just one, that will give some balance, at least decrease the likelihood of a personal agenda, but still lead to discussion to or answering of the question being asked.

sndfreQ's avatar

IMO you did a fine job with the description as you posted here:

“A while ago I came across a website I didn’t quite know what to make of. A little googling led me to a New York Times interview with the authors of the site. They had specifically written the site as racial satire with the intent of getting people to recognize their own racism and to encourage discussion about it.” Then add the link after that.

The simple question could be posed as:

“Is the use of satire to combat racism an effective technique or just offensive?” or something to that extent.

This allows the user to make the decision without presupposing their position or introducing bias. Just my opinion.

Arglebargle_IV's avatar

Satire. Litotes. Even harsh metaphor should be given free rein in free speech. I don’t think we should avoid such for fear of being misunderstood. We should recognize that part of the intent may be to provoke. Provoke thoughtful discussion in an idealized world…. Provoking an emotional response is a time-honored way of trying to get your point across.

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