Months ago, there was a member on one of my sites who posted about a topic that… well, let’s say that most people who read it probably thought that he was either out of his mind or a total liar. And yet, it was something where you couldn’t be 100% sure. And, in reading his posts, he wasn’t really violating our guidelines. He’s not being rude, disrespectful, condescending… he doesn’t appear to be purposely misleading people (that we can readily see, though it wouldn’t be totally unfair to guess it) and, really, the post appears to be fine.

So, we leave the post but, of course, the thread requires moderation because of the replies that come to it. Even though the guy posted something that was decidedly odd, that doesn’t give anyone license to have at the guy – our guidelines still apply. Some people like to take it upon themselves to “save” the world from odd theories by screaming liar or fraud at anyone who posts one, but that just doesn’t fly. We want people to discuss the topic and we want them to question the member. That’s what it’s all about. However, it has to be done respectfully and it absolutely can be. The topic has required moderator attention because of the people who don’t understand this or simply have a moment of weakness. But, it’s pretty simple:

Acceptable: What’s your source for this story? I find it hard to believe.
Unacceptable: OMG. YOU ARE A LIAR!!!!!

Acceptable: This isn’t right. When I used to live in Perfectland, my friend Jerry said that the Moon is only green on May 27 during a leap year.

Acceptable: The facts are fact, fact and fact. I have facts and I am stating those facts, respectfully.
Unacceptable: Everyone knows that you are making this up.

In moments like these, it feels like you’re defending the crazy people, but really, you’re just defending the integrity of your guidelines. Everyone needs to understand that, despite this one person’s perhaps crackpot theory, there is something more important here – the community itself. There is no need to personally beat anyone down in order to prove a point or to “protect” anyone. You can have a rational discussion, ask people to cite their sources and prove their theories and, if they can’t, then that speaks for itself and the topic dies because Mr. Topic Starter is unable to back anything up and everyone sees it.