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Fairway Censorship on the Queens Boards?

ZenFoodist Nov 21, 2011 10:35 AM

Just curious...

It's been years and years since i was an hourly poster and I know things have changed, however I am concerned about the recmoval of recent posts written by 'hounds who were apparently not on the Fairway bandwagon ( not me: I am avowed, unabashed Fairway FREAK)

What's that all about? It concerns me b/c I have always been able to count on Chowhound for solid reviews of restaurants/establishments etc.

I want Fairway to succeed and think it is such a fantastic addition to the neighborhood, however if Fairway itself were somehow pressuring chow.com to remove these postings, I would be very disappointed and would want that information made public.

What gives?

  1. The Chowhound Team Nov 21, 2011 10:56 AM

    We've removed some posts that did not fit with the following guideline from our Etiquette http://www.chowhound.com/topics/367605

    Reports of health violations, including food poisoning, bugs and foreign objects found in food are not permitted, as our breezy forum is not an appropriate venue for handling such urgent and serious issues. Please report them to the appropriate health authorities.

    We haven't been contacted by anyone at Fairway regarding that thread, nor do we ever remove posts which fit within our guidelines at the request of the business under discussion.

    2 Replies
    1. re: The Chowhound Team
      ZenFoodist Nov 21, 2011 11:00 AM

      Thanks for the prompt response. That would clear up why the posts of "janie" were removed, however nothing that I wrote was remotely related to the "reports of health violations" etc....

      1. re: ZenFoodist
        The Chowhound Team Nov 21, 2011 11:14 AM

        If they were in a reply chain following her posts, they'd have been removed, as well. We'll email you copies so you can repost.

    2. EM23 Nov 21, 2011 12:35 PM

      By my count there are at least 6 of us who have had their posts removed from this thread (maybe 10 - 12 individual posts). And, like Zen, I did not post any negative comments about Fairway. If anything you might say I was doing pr for Fairway - praising its glories.. I understand the whole issue with discussions of health and sanitary conditions being off topic but it seems to me that the complete whitewalling of the Fairway thread is unusually over the top.
      Oddly coincidental is the posting of this current Chow article on dirty restaurant bathrooms and the restaurant specific comments that follow http://www.chow.com/food-news/97201/d...

      1 Reply
      1. re: EM23
        The Chowhound Team Nov 21, 2011 02:10 PM

        We sent you an email about your post, please drop us an email at moderators@chowhound.com if you didn't receive it.

      2. l
        lwong Nov 21, 2011 04:36 PM

        We had posted on the “Fairway” thread and also had our posting deleted.

        Our posting was not a review of “Fairway,” but a posting in support of the poster “Janie,” and against censorship. The world as reflected in the unfolding events in the Middle East is rebelling against dictatorships, and it was in this spirit that we posted. Of course, we realize that it is difficult if not impossible to challenge corporate interests (meaning loss of money and power), but if one wants to effect change, than like the popular quote from the Chinese philosopher Laozi, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

        In reading Chowhound’s responses, we have not changed our views toward our perception of Chowhound’s policy to “provide a more hospitable environment for their advertisers,” as expressed in their response that Chowhound as a “breezy forum is not an appropriate venue for handling such urgent and serious issues.”

        An E-mail was not forwarded to us regarding the deletion of our posting, hence it is not clear if our original posting was welcomed or will be deleted again, but we have nevertheless posted it again below:

        We would like to chime in here in support of the poster “Janie” also.

        As the poster Zenfoodist has stated above, we also “welcome and support her right to” post negative reviews about the “Fairway Supermarket.”

        Chowhound has the right to moderate this forum for non-germane food postings or other postings of an undesirable nature, but having read the original posts by the poster “Janie,” we do not think that her deleted posts were of an undesirable or non-germane nature, but were her opinions, albeit negative, of the quality of the food and general conditions at the “Fairway Supermarket.”

        While we are not naïve to think that Chowhound has an absolute “Firewall” between the editorial and business side of Chowhound, as we understand that the primary purpose of a business is to make money, however, we would also like to think that Chowhound has some sense of integrity in allowing all honest views to be published. Otherwise if Chowhound’s present and future policy is to censor all negative views in order to provide a more hospitable environment for their advertisers, than readers of Chowhound cannot have proper and fair viewpoints of the food scene.

        Since the Chowhound forums are unique in that the material provided to readers is not paid for by Chowhound, but provided by the readers themselves gratis, we would think that Chowhound would exercise a light hand in moderating their posters. We would also like to point out that the regular posters who provide most of the detailed posts with invaluable information on the food scene are only a very small percentage of the total Chowhound readership.

        Chowhound must think about what they want to become. For the sake of maximizing their profits, do they want to follow in the footsteps of the old “Pravda, “Ivestia,” and People’s Daily, which mostly reflect the “Party line” and were poorly respected newspapers in Russia and China. Or does Chowhound want to publish a forum known for posts with honest reviews of the food scene, and also respect their regular posters.

        No one wants to be unnecessarily censored or submit postings to a forum that censors, and as a result, there may be a slow degradation of quality as the regular posters make less postings. It may take years, but sooner or later, Chowhound will decline in the quality of the posts on the Forums, if Chowhound continues with this more active censorship of the forums.

        17 Replies
        1. re: lwong
          Jacquilynne Nov 21, 2011 05:04 PM

          As mentioned in the post above from The Chowhound Team, we removed those posts as they didn't fit within the established guidelines of our site -- and that particular rule has been in place for many years, since long before the site had advertisers or wanted them.

          We don't take down negative posts at the request of businesses -- and it doesn't matter if those businesses are friendly with our editorial team, paid advertisers or just ordinary businesses who write to us. If the post they're inquiring about is within the guidelines then it will remain.

          In this case, there wasn't an inquiry from the business. We saw a post that didn't fit within our guidelines, and we removed it.

          -- Jacquilynne, Community Manager for Chowhound

          1. re: Jacquilynne
            l
            lwong Nov 25, 2011 11:06 PM

            We did not make any statements that indicated Chowhound bowed to overt pressure from any business to delete negative posts, nor do we believe that Chowhound has done that.

            Our comment was that we felt Chowhound had unfairly deleted the poster “Janie’s” post.

            It is obvious that any well run business that wishes to avoid any controversy will put in place policies to forestall any situation from ever getting to that extreme status, as Chowhound will self censor itself to ensure that as we had stated, Chowhound will provide a “hospitable environment for their advertisers.”

            Anyone who has ever read a product review on “Consumer Reports” versus a similar review at a media outlet that survives by taking in ad revenue will notice the difference immediately in the tone and words used in the reviews, and the no nonsense conclusions written by “Consumer Reports.” It is understandable that “Consumer Reports” can do this while other media reviews cannot, since “Consumer Reports” does not have a built-in conflict of interest in having to decide who is more important to them, the advertisers or the consumer/readers in writing their reviews, since “Consumer Reports” does not take advertising and where their revenue streams are only subscriber subscriptions and annual fund raising.

            When a number of posters make posts questioning the deletion of a posting by a fellow poster, this should ring some bells with Chowhound that they might have erred in deleting a post. Posters who posted comments about the deletion have no axe to grind, since it was not their post that was deleted.

            And it is curious that Chowhound completed sanitized the “Fairway Supermarket” thread, to the extent that even posts that only referred to the deleted posting were deleted, even though none of those posts in any manner could have been construed to have violated Chowhound’s posting guidelines.

            We were a reader/poster on Chowhound long before it was bought by commercial interests, and we did not feel that Chowhound deleted posts as readily as Chowhound does now. We felt that there was more give and take between Chowhound and posters.

            Contrary to what one responder to our posting who stated that Chowhound “doesn’t owe you nor any other poster anything,” we would hope that Chowhound feels it owes it’s readers to be responsible and have integrity in administering the Chowhound site.

            We had no expectations that our post would change Chowhound’s policies, since as a teacher told us cynically once, that the only important things in this world were “money and power,” and taking our teacher’s statement to heart, we had very low expectations of any changes happening, and were not surprised at your fairly generic boilerplate response (“didn't fit within the established guidelines of our site”) that did not provide any further details.

            But like Don Quixote, a hopeless romantic, we also enjoy tilting at windmills.

            1. re: lwong
              E Eto Nov 26, 2011 08:29 AM

              "And it is curious that Chowhound completed sanitized the “Fairway Supermarket” thread, to the extent that even posts that only referred to the deleted posting were deleted, even though none of those posts in any manner could have been construed to have violated Chowhound’s posting guidelines."

              Not sure what you're trying to say, but if you read Jacquilynne's post above, those post DID violate CH posting guidelines and were thus removed. Seems pretty simple. Even from your description, it sounds like those posts violated CH's posting guidelines. Maybe you're misunderstanding those guidelines?

              1. re: E Eto
                paulj Nov 26, 2011 09:50 AM

                Usually when a post is deleted from a Chow thread, all posts further down that subthread (i.e. written in reply to it) disappear. I don't know if they are deleted from the database, or (more likely) just loose their link to the thread.

                I'm trying to remember that even if my post does not violate the guidelines, it might disappear if one further up the subthread chain gets deleted.

          2. re: lwong
            f
            freia Nov 21, 2011 05:04 PM

            Middle East? Pravda Russian newspapers? Censorship? Really? It's just food, yo. Seriously. I didn't realize that this privately owned website that is graciously opened to the general public to bring fun and topical discussion of the food scene was obliged to provide a platform for the expression of each and every viewpoint. If Chowhound wants to delete posts, it has the right to do so. It owns the site. It doesn't owe you nor any other poster anything. Feel free to start your own website if you like, and feel free to carry a sign about this in a public place to protest the outrageous treatment you have suffered at the hands of this private website. I would think that you would expect a private website to have whatever content its administrators choose to have on it, just as you have the right as a private citizen to not visit a website which does not afford you the privileges that you believe you deserve. Their job is hard enough as it is, and we certainly are benefiting as a whole from their efforts.
            All I can say is...Wow....just ........WOW...

            1. re: freia
              ZenFoodist Nov 21, 2011 06:48 PM

              It's not just food to me, Freia. It's edible culture and archaeology. I've been here since Day One when it was a sleepy little website that Jim started. Way before the big buyout and advertisers. There are people whose opinions and insights I welcome. A tight knit little group of food cognoscenti who really know their stuff. I welcome their voices. When someone is silenced for reasons that are mysterious, I believe that I have a right to ask why regardless of whether this is a priavtely owned website or not. In fact, I'm not quite sure what the heck that even has to do with it. Communities are only as good as their memebers. Remember that. There are lots of options. As Outerboroughs fellow 'hound lwong so articulately writes: "No one wants to be unnecessarily censored or submit postings to a forum that censors, and as a result, there may be a slow degradation of quality as the regular posters make less postings. It may take years, but sooner or later, Chowhound will decline in the quality of the posts on the Forums, if Chowhound continues with this more active censorship of the forums."

              1. re: ZenFoodist
                Servorg Nov 22, 2011 05:21 AM

                A much larger and more pervasive threat than any "censorship" (moderation) to Chowhound as a useful and compelling site for the discussion of food is drift toward all "noise" and no "signal" on the local and topical boards.

                If someone wants to discuss site moderation policies and its application on Chowhound then come to Site Talk. If you put up those types of off topic thoughts on Outer Boroughs (or wherever) I trust that the Chow Team will censor them out of existence. That approach, of keeping the local and topical boards "on topic" has been a consistent editorial approach by Jim Leff and then C/Net and now CBS. And thank goodness for that.

                1. re: Servorg
                  l
                  lwong Nov 25, 2011 11:00 PM

                  The various posts on censorship by a number of posters were not posted out of the blue on the Outerboros Forum, but instead they were originally posted on the “Fairway Supermarket” thread where the deletions occurred and the deleted posts were just responses by numerous posters who perceived that censorship might have occurred in unfairly deleting numerous posts.

                  While the responding posts commenting on the deletions might not be technically germane, they were logically germane to the extent that the posts questioning the post deletions were in the proper thread. Usually, when there is a deletion, there is little outcry, but in this instance there were numerous posters who posted responses questioning the deletions.

                  If you will check the old “Fairway” ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/815260 ) thread, the thread has now been completely sanitized, where a new reader would have no idea as to the controversy that had occurred earlier.

                  We would guess that the “Outerboro” Forum has considerably more readership than the “Site Talk” Forum, which would be a back water compared to the page requests at the many Chowhound food forums, hence fewer readers will have the opportunity to read and debate this very sensitive topic of censorship.

                  It is interesting that you mention that “A much larger and more pervasive threat than any "censorship," which is the “drift toward all ‘noise’ and no ‘signal’ on the local and topical boards.”

                  As you must be aware, it is only a very small percentage of the Chowhound readership that posts, and of that percentage that posts, it is an even smaller percentage that posts useful and interesting information. And it is usually from this small percentage of posters who write detailed informative posts that generally run afoul of the Chowhound police in terms of censorship issues.

                  The posts that were deleted in the “Fairway” thread had a considerably high “signal to noise” ratio, where even if you did not agree with those posters, you nevertheless found them interesting and informative. And it goes without saying that posters who post “noise” do not have to ever worry that their posts will be deleted.

                  One further point is that the poster “Janie” who had her posts deleted, has made a considerable number of posts with high “signal” content with little “noise” in the past and her deleted posts in the “Fairway Supermarket” thread would not be classified by anyone as “noise.”

                  While we do not have data to support our thesis, our feeling is that when Chowhound exercises a heavy hand in deleting too many posts, it will also tend to eventually affect in a negative manner the participation of many prolific, interesting, and informative posters who generate much of the “signals” on Chowhound Forums.

                  Our censorship post is quite germane to your issue of too much “noise” and not enough “signal” on Chowhound.

                  1. re: lwong
                    Servorg Nov 26, 2011 04:39 AM

                    You labor under the false premise that this site is only made up of a small number of posters who are active on the various boards. If that were true C/Net (never mind CBS) would never have deigned to purchase the site from Jim and Bob in the first place. The number of folks who lurk here, taking away restaurant or other recommendations, is the reason we have this hosted site to play on. I come here because I enjoy it.

                    I have always enjoyed CH, right from the first time I posted. When Jim & Bob ran it and it was teetering on the edge of financial collapse I paid a couple of hundred dollars of my own money to assist in keeping the lights on and the information flowing. Others put even more money in to keep the fun going. We did this not as a charitable contribution but as paying for the value we received.

                    I like the way the site is run. I don't find the moderation onerous or off putting in the least. I don't find the moderation policies have really changed all that much over the years. Many other long time users feel as I do.

                    Do I agree with every moderation decision? No. Do I feel the need to make my disagreements known on Site Talk? No. If I have something I feel strongly about I send the CH Team an email. That way I get it off my chest, while at the same time let the moderators go about the much more important job of catching the shills and the psychotic nut jobs who would love nothing more that to destroy what others have built here.

                    If there were no moderation here on CH the site would be a chaotic crap fest. Some balance needs to be struck. I think that the mod's get it right most of the time. You want your way to prevail. If it were only you that wanted that then this would be an issue that was so minor that it wouldn't matter. Unfortunately it's you and 100 more who also think their way ought to prevail. And then once Pandora's box gets opened this lovely, free and enjoyable site will be no more.

                    You can come here and make your disagreement with the site policies known. You just can't do it on any board you want. No matter how illogical or personally annoying you find that policy. If that doesn't suit you find some other place where the policies are more to your liking.

                    I'll just leave you with this moderator posting from another thread. I think it sums up my feelings about this entire subject pretty damn well: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7987...

              2. re: freia
                l
                lwong Nov 25, 2011 10:54 PM

                If you will reread our posting carefully, you will find that we did not make any statements indicating that Chowhound does not have the right to delete any posts it wants. In fact we state that Chowhound has the perfect right to do this. But it appears that you might be confusing the right of Chowhound to delete postings and the action itself of censorship. Just because Chowhound has the right to delete a posting does not mean that they are not performing censorship. Dictatorships and other authoritarian governments have the perfect right (backed up by numerous lethal weapons) to stymie and repress any news that they do not like for whatever reason, but that is still censorship. Which is the crux of our posting and complaint to Chowhound, that the deleted posts of the poster “Janie” were deleted unfairly, since having read those original deleted posts by “Janie,” we felt that they were deleted solely because Chowhound did not want any posts to disturb the “breezy” forums that might be construed as not providing a “hospitable environment for their advertisers.”

                From your remarks, especially your statement that Chowhound “doesn't owe you nor any other poster anything,” our interpretation is that you do not feel that companies who deal with the public have any responsibility to be above board and deal honestly with their customers in providing a product or service. In the case of Chowhound, one would think that there is an implicit understanding between Chowhound and the public that Chowhound is responsibly performing the role of the honest intermediary who will publish all postings, positive or negative, that do not violate the Chowhound rules of posting in terms of not being SPAM, uncivilized behavior, and other arcane rules like not mentioning health issues or DOH closings. Wouldn’t you be outraged if it was determined that Chowhound was taking money to delete negative reviews of selected restaurants. Our assumption is that this type of behavior would absolutely not be acceptable to you, yet you post the statement that “It doesn't owe you nor any other poster anything.” Obviously, Chowhound and any other private business dealing with the public do owe customers “something,” as all businesses always have an implicit responsibility to deal honestly and fairly with the public.

                The bulk of your posting was the defense of the sanctity of private property, and that Chowhound has the right to do whatever they please. That was not the issue raised in our post.

                The primary issue is whether Chowhound unfairly deleted the posts of the poster “Janie.” That is a valid comment and posting to make, unless you feel that readers of Chowhound have no right to make comments about the policies of Chowhound.

                Our posting was to appeal to the better instincts and nature of Chowhound management that censorship may not be the best policy for Chowhound versus providing a forum known for honest and fair postings of the food scene.

                Your use of the word “graciously,” to describe Chowhound’s behavior in opening ‘to the general public to bring fun and topical discussion of the food scene,” might be a little hyperbole, and not quite on the mark, don’t you think? Chowhound (and by inference Chow.com) wants high numbers of readership and most importantly, informative posts by posters to provide useful content for their readership and thus be able to charge higher rates to their advertisers and make corresponding higher profits. Gracious hosts typically invite their guests and provide them with free refreshments and entertainment without making profits from the endeavor, but Chowhound would hardly qualify as a gracious host. It would be more accurate to describe the relationship between Chowhound and it’s readership as symbiotic rather than Chowhound being gracious and generous. Chowhound needs readers/posters and readers/posters need Chowhound, and as in all symbiotic relationships, there must be a healthy give and take between both parties.

                We can just imagine the American automobile makers sitting around the table in the 1980’s spouting the similar lines as in your posting such as, “It doesn’t owe you nor any other poster anything (for the purposes of this example, substitute “customers” for “posters”), and “Feel free to start your own website if you like (substitute “buy another automobile” for “start your own website”). As history shows, the American automobile makers did indeed feel that they did not owe their customers anything (such as a reliable and value oriented car) and customers did indeed heed their advice to buy other automobiles, lots of them, and not American made. Didn’t several of these American automakers just go through a bankruptcy and obtain huge government bailouts? From this and much other evidence, companies who take the attitude, as you would suggest (do not owe the customer anything), do so at their own peril.

                No, you are not correct, as our posting was not about food nor the sanctity of private property. It was about the principle of censorship. Censorship is always a serious topic regardless of the venue. And remember that censorship is always done by the strong against the weak.

                P.S. For Zenfoodist: “Articulately!” Now that is high praise from an English teacher (our apologies, but we Googled you to confirm our guess that you were indeed an English teacher). It is too bad that you cannot speak favorably to our many English instructors who thought our essays and other writings were incoherent and poorly written and gave us many poor marks as a result. (LOL)

                1. re: lwong
                  f
                  freia Nov 26, 2011 10:00 AM

                  It's just food.
                  Its a private board.
                  Censorship isn't an issue here. It is no different from me expecting to post a vegan POV on an Atkins support board. Censorship? I think not.
                  Start your own board if you don't agree with CH policies.
                  This is not a company selling you a product. The site owes you no due diligence as it is not selling a product like a car. That comparison is completely ridiculous and I think you know that. It is pretty obvious that this is a website for exchange of information and community discussion of a light hearted manner.
                  I don't think I'm off the mark in saying "graciously" -- again, this site owes you nothing as a poster. You are here at their behest if you will. They reserve the right to ban you from the boards if you don't adhere to their published policies. The fact that you don't agree with those policies and/or enforcement thereof at this stage of your posting history is of no importance.
                  No one is forcing you to post, no one is beholden to allow you to post what you want in contravention of the CH posted regulations.
                  Oh, and do you remember this?

                  "We examine the Content on the Site on a regular basis and we maintain the absolute right (though not the obligation) to remove any Content that does not meet the standards listed above or that is otherwise objectionable at our sole discretion. We also reserve the right to terminate your access to the Site if you fail to abide by these Terms."

                  You should -- you agreed to this "censorship" when you signed up to access the community boards. You actually clicked on the box that says that you agreed to these terms when you created your user profile.
                  Make your own board! Make your own site! Then you can call the shots!
                  Until then, suck it up, buttercup...

                  1. re: freia
                    mcf Nov 26, 2011 01:35 PM

                    Yeah, what freia said.

                    1. re: freia
                      r
                      Robinez Nov 26, 2011 04:19 PM

                      "The fact that you don't agree with those policies and/or enforcement thereof at this stage of your posting history is of no importance."

                      I am concerned with this statement. Posting history shouldn't have any importance in any discussion. Or deletions. I would hope that deletion's are done on a case by case basis and posting history is not taken into consideration, as your post would seem to indicate.

                      People don't agree all the time, that's why this is called a discussion group. Iwong was respectful and was generous in his effort to offer his opinion(s). He didn't offer a few pointed remark's, he took the time to explain his point of view. I didn't agree 100% but I wasn't offended by his opinion either.

                      I was offended by this "Until then, suck it up, buttercup..." There was really no need for that. See how that works?

                      1. re: Robinez
                        f
                        freia Nov 26, 2011 04:44 PM

                        It wasn't meant as a comment on a person's posting history oer se, what I was getting at was after X number of posts, well into the "game" of posting, its a little late to be complaining about moderation action. I could see if this was someone's first post, to be deleted that they would be a bit stressed and confused as they haven't got the hang of it yet. The reality is after numerous posts, one was deleted. The fact that the affected poster/s now disagrees with moderator action after X number of posts is really immaterial, or of no importance to the moderators and has no bearing on the moderator's actions as they reserve the right to delete any or all posts they see fit, without prior notice nor justification. You're reading FAR too much into what I wrote--I don't think anyone cares if someone has had a post deleted--it happens to everyone-- and it really isn't of any importance, either, That wasn't the point of my rather simple post, so no need to make a mountain out of a molehill IMHO. I certainly hope you aren't at home worried that someone or a moderator is somehow doing nothing but gathering posting info on anonymous posters on Chowhound, carefully noting which ones are deleted, and then planning nefarious activities with this clearly classified information. Chowhound moderators are volunteers and have better things to do than to run spreadsheets of all CH posters to determine who to "take off the air". Seriously, I thought conspiracy theorists were pretty much a rare breed after the X Files was taken off the air.
                        And I'm not sure I get what you mean by "see how that works?" -- no idea. I guess my frustration level must be palpable, since we are here to discuss food, not Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Russian newspapers, Communist China or the Auto industry. Posters on this thread have brought a fair amount of political references and indirect political discussion to this board (and apparently the other board from which their post was deleted) that quite honestly isn't necessary nor appropriate, and feel that they are entitled to do so. I have said, as others had, numerous times, that the moderators have answered the OP, explained their reasoning even though they didn't need too, and several posters involved in the incident just won't accept that moderator action is what it is. And we should all recognize that being a moderator has got to be a thankless job in and of itself, and we should not only respect that fact, but be mature enough to accept a moderator's decision and move on quietly, without causing alot of grief for the hard-working volunteer part of the Chowhound team.So I stand by my last comment --enough is enough. Deal, yo. Suck it up. Move on, as I am about to do...Sheesh....

                        1. re: freia
                          r
                          Robinez Nov 26, 2011 06:47 PM

                          "I would hope that deletion's are done on a case by case basis and posting history is not taken into consideration, as your post would seem to indicate."

                          I think I was the one that was trying to shoot down the nefarious activity theory in the first place, after you brought it up..

                          1. re: Robinez
                            ZenFoodist Nov 26, 2011 08:14 PM

                            I think y'all will see an article printed about this veeeeeery soon :)

                          2. re: freia
                            EM23 Nov 27, 2011 10:41 AM

                            "Posters on this thread have brought a fair amount of political references and indirect political discussion to this board (and apparently the other board from which their post was deleted) that quite honestly isn't necessary nor appropriate, and feel that they are entitled to do so"

                            Guess you didn't read the "other board" or you would know that there was no political discussion at all on the Fairway thread. How did you come up with this?

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