Well, many of the most crucial stories have been nipped in the bud when speculation is flying every which way. I'd argue that the brief moment of uncomfortable uncertainty, when speculation is flying, is actually the most valuable point for analysis in the trajectory of any issue... before those with the power to influence have had a chance to frame the issue the way they see fit, not letting it go to waste to further their goals, etc.
HN mods find this kind of unmoored analysis very discomfiting, and they act with a nearly instinctual zeal to put a stop to it. Political discussion is fine as long as it is in the shadow of a conceptual framework that is considered authoritative. This is by definition a highly conservative, top down, anti-intellectual view. That mods view comments that contradict it as "flame wars" (rude acts) illustrates that they are anchored in an archaic manners culture that worships hierarchy and authority. FWIW we all know there are HN users who can send a message to a mod and get a user shadow banned no questions asked.
Since there are so few mods it is totally plausible that their own psychological quirks and desire to fit in would have a significant impact on their moderation patterns.
> except for anything programming language related, what the best web framework to use is...
I don't think this disagrees with my point, since most often the thing that is being objected to has not been used extensively by the objector. Bike shedding is less a form of political discussion than it is a result of tech culture that seeks authoritative absolutes in a world that only offers relative trade-offs. The worst offenders I've worked with are the sort who really wish there were a religious leader who would declare that programmers who use Mongodb are going to hell :), and they are not people I want on my team.
For moderation, the only fair system is one where all moderation decisions are backed up by a public note explaining what happened and why, both for story promotion, burial, and penal decisions about users such as shadow bans.
Surely being a mod is challenging. I'd expect that combining the challenging roles of judge, jury, and executioner into one would exact an emotional toll.
That's false. It's remarkable how something false turns into something "we all know". How you can imagine HN is run that way, let alone declaim about it publicly, is beyond me.
Anyone can "send a message to a mod" (just email firstname.lastname@example.org). No one can "get a user banned". All anyone can get us to do is take a look at what they're concerned about—and that we do for everyone.
Your psychological analysis of us as discomfited anti-intellectual authoritarians (with quirks) is remarkable too, as it suggests that you have a mind reader. If you had a mind reader, though, you'd have known how false the above smear was, so the odds are that your voyage into the depths of our unconscious is imaginary as well.
I think HN's moderation has problems with certain topics that have mysteriously become high-voltage in certain social circles, like Damore/men's rights/etc. But crucially, no worse than other general purpose discussion sites and mostly it's still better. You can show dead, view flagged stories etc. The problem is comments that trigger Valley liberals tend to be criticised by the mods on the grounds that other people would respond badly to them, which is annoying, because it's actually those who respond badly that should be given a finger-wag, you'd imagine.
But still that's a far cry from banning politics, which HN doesn't do, and it doesn't even ban discussions on those hot topics, they're just much more likely to be flagged by users. I read HN with showdead turned on and by starting at the (oddly hidden) /active URL, which shows flagged stories, so I have a pretty good sense of how much stuff gets flagged and why. It's a mix of things and not entirely easy to predict. It's not politically biased in exclusively one direction either. To some extent what gets whacked seems to depend on what time it gets posted, ditto for comments. Try criticising the EU on any HN thread during the European daytime and lots of outraged Europhiles will vote you down to -2. Then when the Americans wake up and the "EUropeans" go to bed, the same post will get positively re-rated. It's clearly a matter of voter identity and not the wording of the posts themselves that are the issue.
I used to love Slashdot's style of user-driven moderation. It did require people to pick adjectives to justify their mod decisions, and then the meta-mod process helped weed out abusers. It's a pity it never caught on outside that site. HN's approach is very different, and some days I think it's worse, other days I think it's better. I'm not sure Slashdot had to deal with the same kind of political problems we have today though. Perhaps the closest was open source vs Microsoft, or something like that. I don't recall the same kind of extremist social positions that burn so much bandwidth on all discussion platforms (that don't ban them).