Aren’t they precious?

datePosted on 09:11, July 27th, 2009 by Lew

DPF is trying – on an experimental basis, mind, without any predetermined outcome in mind, no horse-scaring intended – to impose standards on his comment threads at Kiwiblog. The proposed standards are not especially onerous:

  1. Respond to the topic and the arguments
  2. Don’t get personal

Even these are too much for the commentariat on the announcement thread (which at time of writing has only been going for a bit over an hour and a half); plenty of high dudgeon, snark and poorly-masked animosity. They just can’t help themselves, dear wee things.

I’ll watch with interest, but it looks to me like David will need to give up his day job to keep on top of it, or appoint some of the usual suspects as deputies to enforce these standards (presumably with zero tolerance for misbehaviour and draconian penalties for miscreants). At worst, one dysfunctional community culture (of incessant attack disguised as ‘robust debate’) could end up replaced with another which is just as bad (of obsequious positioning, sucking up to authority, and (where that fails) of alleged bias being transferred from commenters to the moderators). The General Debates will remain a lawless free-for-all, and I predict also that the worst vitriol will simply spill over into them. Can anyone say “you wanna take this outside?”

At best, though, the move could result in a culture which might actually do some justice to David’s frequently thoughtful and relevant content.

If he has time to write any.

L

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30 Responses to “Aren’t they precious?”

  1. David Farrar on July 27th, 2009 at 13:47

    You have grasped the challenge well. Keeping on top of so many comments can be a FT job.

    However I am nervous about delegating others to do the job, as if they are too zealous it can create problems also – as I found last time I tried having others do it.

  2. Pablo on July 27th, 2009 at 14:04

    I am afraid that the cat is out of the bag over at DPFs place. His over-indulgence of truly vile rightwingers (and a few Lefty stirrers) has poisoned the atmosphere. I have commented on KB from time to time under my real name, trying to offer some dispassioned views on things I know something about, and have found myself the target of ad homina attacks that have nothing to do with the subject of my comments and all to do with events that are part of the public domain (to say nothing of the comments on threads focused on said events).

    There are some good suggestions in the thread related to his moderation post about how to go about doing so, but it is clear it is too big a job for one person, even one with DPFs energy.

    It makes me thankful that we drew a hard line on comment etiquette from the beginning. I was slammed for doing so by some commentators but the proof that the stance was correct is in the quality and tone of our commentary.

  3. pete on July 27th, 2009 at 14:41

    That didn’t take long: dpf’s already abused moderation to censor someone for accusing him of hypocrisy.

  4. EbolaCola on July 27th, 2009 at 20:15

    As a frequent blog reader i would agree Pablo that the tough line on comments has led to a site where the discussion is almost of the same quality as the posts so thumbs up ;-).

    The problem is when moderation becomes a partisan tool for shaping the debate. My superficial reaction to DPF’s current approach is that he tends to react more harshly to the lefty-trolls although the most heinous material comes from the usual characters who he seems willing to indulge. I suppose that may be more a defensive posture than partisanship as the left-trolls attack HIM while the right-trolls merely attack other commentators and public figures.

    The problem for DPF is that the nature of his sewer chases off quality commentators like Pablo.

    The Trotter/Hooten policy blog leading up to the 08 NZ election seemed to be a good example of what happens when moderation is taken too far…..

    The problem with moderation is the secrecy, i think that a blog audience should be able to see what was written and deemed inappropriate so that they can pass their own judgment and challenge moderators in a polite manner.

    Perhaps ‘crossing out’ inappropriate but not obscene comments with say a line through or an option which gives the blog audience the ability to ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ of viewing moderated/unmoderated comments would be useful.

  5. Lew on July 27th, 2009 at 21:30

    David, I wish you the level best, and at the very least I hope the experiment yields you some good information. Do post your thoughts and reflections up once the experiment is over.

    I think appointing enforcers could work in principle; the only thing is which enforcers (and with what would you pay them?)

    EC,

    What you’re thinking of is something like Slashdot, I think. The trouble is that, even if it’s obscured, crossed out, opt-in, or whatever, the poisonous discourses are still there, and like begets like.

    As I wrote a while back, the model upon which we operate here closely resembles Popper’s paradox of tolerance, that is, if a society tolerates intolerance, then tolerance itself withers. So by being a little bit intolerant of certain types of behaviour, we come out ahead.

    The key is in the reasons for moderating, and our reasons are clear: it’s not what you say, it’s how, and what implications you draw from that to the people and ideas involved. We’ve banned very (very) few people, but we have asked a few to leave on the basis of their conduct. Not on the basis of their ideas. Being able to separate form and concept is a fundamental skill of argumentation.

    L

  6. Redbaiter on July 28th, 2009 at 09:17

    “The problem for DPF is that the nature of his sewer chases off quality commentators like Pablo.”

    Good grief…!!!

    The problem is that sneering hate driven sanctimonious and totally subjective crap like the above is given credibility.

    The problem is that socialist totalitarianism is becoming ever more deeply ingrained in NZ society without that society even being aware of what they are becoming.

    This widespread propaganda with “abuse” as its focal point has to be challenged. For the sake of democracy. It is a complete farce, and a social trend instigated by the left and their useful idiots for the purpose of smoothing their way to total political victory.

    There are two outcomes of this lengthy and gradual propaganda campaign, and these outcomes are deliberately sought by those leftists who know and understand the strategy they are pursuing.

    1) “Abuse” eventually comes to mean the same as criticism of the left.

    2) People become unwilling to criticise the left as they are then termed “abusers.”

    I believe Mr. Farrar has recently been put under a lot of pressure to censor his site. In fact I believe there is an organised campaign afoot to coerce him into doing so. All instigated by worried leftists who are feeling the power of free speech and they do not like it.

    Anyone else hear the bigotry exhibited by one of the sneering sanctimonious Public Address writers on Radio New Zealand??

    Just so outrageous and offensive that someone from that extreme left echo chamber could appear on a taxpayer funded radio station that has been perverted by left wing activists into a propaganda outlet for the left, and criticise Kiwiblog. And do so without once declaring their interest in a blog that competes with Kiwiblog, or declaring their partisan political connections. IMHO, an utterly outrageous level of deceit, sanctimony and hypocrisy by all concerned.

    I think Mr. Farrar may have been hurt by those cowardly allegations. After all, he is only human.

    The fact remains, the left are after Kiwiblog because Kiwiblog is one of the few public outlets where the man in the street is able to vent his opposition to the media and academic elite who seek to rule and depend on censorship of criticism in order to help them achieve that objective.

    This is what drives them nuts. The fact that Kiwiblog is beyond their control, and all of the sanctimonious waffle about abuse is only a means for them to try to recover that control.

    As for “abuse”, what the hell????

    These leftist scum believe they have a right to steal our money by means of the utter perversion of our democratic system. They attempt to indoctrinate our children (and succeed) through their utter perversion of the education system. In the media, a proliferation of left wingers seek to pervert daily events to the advantage of their comrades by lies of omission and exaggerations and ridicule of ideological opponents.

    These twisting lying deceitful bastards should consider themselves lucky that (perceived) “abuse” is their only concern. In a country with a less submissive and docile citizenry, they would perhaps be suffering resistance that was a bit more tangible.

    Y’know what, if they succeed in their attacks on freedom of expression by shutting down criticism on Kiwiblog and elsewhere, then maybe it will come to pass that violence is going to be the only means by which we can free ourselves from these odious totalitarian scum.

    Abuse?? Pfft.. Maybe Socialists, you should think a bit deeper about the growing anger and resentment you have provoked through your perversion of our democracy and your systematic and gradual destruction of our society. Keep pushing you totalitarian scum, and one day, just maybe, you’ll have something much more frightening than “abuse” to be worried about.

  7. Lew on July 28th, 2009 at 10:36

    Thanks, ‘Baiter, you make my point more eloquently than I ever could. Performance art.

    I’m going to take EC’s advice and leave this one up as an example.

    L

  8. marty mars on July 28th, 2009 at 11:16

    yes – illustrates the point nicely – with friends like rb on the right…I almost feel sorry for them

  9. Pablo on July 28th, 2009 at 12:00

    Let it be once and out for RB on this site. Any more is to inflict unwarranted injury on our readers.

  10. EbolaCola on July 28th, 2009 at 12:03

    Participants need to feel that they are being moderated on an objective basis (however unattainable), and to achieve that transparency is key.

    Of course ideally we want to avoid all “ad homina attacks” but blogs are a somewhat more casual environment than an academic journal ;-) and you dont want to take all the fun out!

    As long as moderation is transparent and there is room for wit and good-natured teasing then i think it improves the level of debate.

    Red-Baiter i think that you have some damn good arguments in that post, my assesment of Pablo as a “quality” commentator is indeed very subjective (i enjoyed a lecture he gave at UOA ;-)).

    And you are probably right that DPF is under pressure from the ‘liberal establishment’ to tone down the level of debate at kiwiblog.

    If you had posted that argument without using “totalitarian scum, twisting lying deceitful bastards” etc then im sure it would have been welcome here.

    We have all read our Orwell Mr Red Baiter and the newspeak we are crafting for our liberal new world order WILL exclude homophobia, racism and sexism from public debate.

    They will be sorely missed.

  11. Redbaiter on July 28th, 2009 at 12:05

    I’m going to take EC’s advice and leave this one up as an example.

    Good. I want it seen by as many as possible, and shall post it elsewhere too.

    As for what is happening at Kiwiblog, I still maintain this is all part of a co-ordinated campaign to shut down Kiwiblog and eventually take much more control of the internet.

    I also believe that certain commentors have been dispatched by the left to Kiwiblog to post in a deliberately provocative style in order to initiate the kind of discussions their comrades wish to see to lend weight to their attacks.

    This is all a set up and Mr. Farrar is being manipulated.

    “the newspeak we are crafting for our liberal new world order WILL exclude homophobia, racism and sexism from public debate.”.

    I guess that is an attempt at satire right??

  12. Lew on July 28th, 2009 at 12:16

    ‘Baiter, that’s an end to it. Further comments of this sort aren’t welcome here.

    EC,

    I don’t think DPF is coming under pressure from ‘the liberal establishment’ – by his own identification he IS part of ‘the liberal establishment’ and I still maintain that his personal political views on social matters aren’t all that dissimilar from those of most liberals. The problem is that he’s a lightning-rod for other, less-liberal, more abusive and malicious parts of the political scene. If there’s any impetus for change I think it’s coming from the acknowledgement that his site does have a poisonous discourse of which he’s not too fond. But only David knows for sure what his reasons are.

    So, I say again: more power to his cleaning arm; excluding those (like Redbaiter) who most frequently shout down and discourage reasoned discussion with howls of ‘socialism!’, ‘lesbian conspiracy!’ and ‘totalitarians are taking over!’ (cf. the ‘communist lesbian dictator’ attack discourse against Helen Clark from those same quarters), then his venue can only become more liberal than it is – in the original sense of that word. Because at present, by accepting everything without question, much of value is excluded.

    L

  13. Redbaiter on July 28th, 2009 at 12:30

    I have never once referred to any “lesbian conspiracy” and don’t believe there is one. That is a false allegation and a lie.

    You see what I mean?

    You make these outrageously false and provocative accusations that carry with them all kind of cowardly smears and we are meant to remain mute and submissive and accept them.

    These kind of comments carry with them just as much offense as any that are accompanied with profanity. More so in fact.

    ..and you are not liberals. The basis of liberalism is tolerance of dissent. The totalitarian objectives of socialism are a fact, and even your comrades in academia have written on the subject. Socialism and liberalism are totally incompatible.

    I call you totalitarians because I believe that is what you are (Read Roland Huntford’s book). You naturally attempt to do all you can to suppress this kind of criticism because it is most damaging to your final objectives. You cannot achieve totalitarianism if the population is awakened.

  14. Lew on July 28th, 2009 at 12:34

    Redbaiter, I’m not only talking about you. I’m talking about a wider discourse of which yours is a part.

    Anyway, as I said: that’s an end to it. Discussion over. Complain that you’re being oppressed if you like; just do so elsewhere.
    L

  15. bryanspondre on July 28th, 2009 at 14:41

    “It makes me thankful that we drew a hard line on comment etiquette from the beginning. I was slammed for doing so by some commentators but the proof that the stance was correct is in the quality and tone of our commentary.”

    @Pablo – in that case you have taken the best approach. As the moderator of the pre-election Hooton/Trotter blog I found that by permanently banning the ‘usual suspects’ ,as soon as they made their first offensive comment, my moderation job was very straight forward.

    Most people are very reasonable but there are a few who for whatever reason are unreasonably vile. Editing their comments is pointless, it just encourages them to continue being vile, the only answer is a permanent ban.

    The internet is a big place, there are plenty of readers, you don’t need to worry about ‘offending’ a few trolls; they are not worth your time.

  16. bryanspondre on July 28th, 2009 at 14:52

    “The Trotter/Hooten policy blog leading up to the 08 NZ election seemed to be a good example of what happens when moderation is taken too far…..”

    As the moderator of that blog I can assure you that it did no damage to the traffic or the number of comments which grew quickly over the 4 month trial period.

    Of course 12 months later people like Redbaiter, PhilU etc are still aggrieved that they were immediately banned but that is something they need to get over and maybe learn something from.

  17. bryanspondre on July 28th, 2009 at 14:54

    “And you are probably right that DPF is under pressure from the ‘liberal establishment’ to tone down the level of debate at kiwiblog.”

    I suspect pressure, if any, is coming from his own desire to make some income out of a blog that costs him an increasing amount in server costs and his time.

  18. Anita on July 28th, 2009 at 17:47

    bryanspondre,

    The way you banned is the entire reason I never commented at your blog (I know many others made the same decision). This blog will never make identifying information about our commenters public; your behaviour was utterly unacceptable in privacy terms (and in simple human courtesy terms) and showed a gross failure to understand internet norms and expected standards of behaviour.

  19. Killinginthenameof on July 28th, 2009 at 18:07

    “Y’know what, if they succeed in their attacks on freedom of expression by shutting down criticism on Kiwiblog and elsewhere, then maybe it will come to pass that violence is going to be the only means by which we can free ourselves from these odious totalitarian scum. ”

    Personally, if I objected to “freedom of expression” being shut down on a blog, I’d probably first try starting my own, rather than attempting a violent revolution, but up to you I guess.

  20. bryanspondre on July 28th, 2009 at 19:17

    Fair enough Anita. The internet is a big place and there are plenty of places I’m sure for you to express yourself.

  21. BLiP on July 28th, 2009 at 19:56

    I’ve been commenting on blogs for less than a year and, yeah, I still have a lot to learn. My views are, to the “mainstream” anyway, pretty extreme and I seldom expect nor receive any supportive response. What shocked me when I started was the vehemence of the negative response; it amounted to far more violent behaviour than any warning or banning. In fact, I despaired at the vile underbelly that exists in New Zealand and the lengths to which fellow Kiwis were prepared to go in their attempts to silence someone they disagreed with. Where does that bile come from?

    My concern with Kiwiblog is not that there is such a malevolence present but, rather, that the malevolence is being deliberately generated for political ends. It may be that for Farrar there exists hidden motives in running his blog; motives more important to him than being a good blogosphere citizen. On the other hand, he may just be inept.

    Either way, I wish him and his blog success in this venture to bring some form of moderation to Kiwiblog. If it doesn’t work, then I still support its right to exist and for the form of “freedom of speech” Farrar prefers.

    For me, however, you actually can’t have freedom of speech unless you are free to speak. At the moment, Kiwiblog does not represent either.

  22. Pete on July 29th, 2009 at 06:53

    Redbaiter has an interesting point. He/she wants the freedom to speak what he/she wants where he/she wants. Sounds fair enough.

    Why then does Redbaiter try to shout down, abuse and exclude people he/she disagrees with? Is there a confusion with “freedom to preach”? To do that you need your own pulpit.

  23. Anita on July 29th, 2009 at 08:31

    Pete,

    Redbaiter can have all the freedom of expression in the world, but that isn’t the same as a right to stand in my living room swearing at my guests.

  24. bryanspondre on July 29th, 2009 at 09:39

    Exactly Anita – over at interest.co.nz we have vigorous debate on all of our threads. That doesn’t mean we tolerate abuse of other readers or comments that are racist,actionable or otherwise offensive.

    Of the four people banned during the last 12 months three were for anti-semitic comments and one was for making legally actionable remarks. No one has been ever banned for disagreeing with us or our bloggers.

  25. Lew on July 29th, 2009 at 10:57

    Pete – the argument goes that no amount shouting down, abuse or exclusion can prevent you from putting your case just as forcefully. The result is an arms race of terminology and rhetoric, and the escalation is inversely proportional to the quality of the arguments presented in the discourse, because people with anything relevant to contribute tend to not be bothered, and the shouters win by default, having never really tested their arguments.

    This is why they’re so convinced of their rectitude – having never been properly engaged on the reason and content of their arguments, they assume that it’s because those arguments are infallible – when actually, it’s just that they’re not worth anyone’s time.

    L

  26. bryanspondre on July 29th, 2009 at 11:10

    Excellent explanation Lew. Shall Tweet it immediately.

  27. Pete on July 29th, 2009 at 12:04

    But isn’t letting blog thugs get there way a bit like letting other thugs get their way? Good people doin nothing sort of thing? Why not stand up to bullies? Blogs ain’t just a blogger. They’re a sort of community.

  28. Lew on July 29th, 2009 at 12:23

    Pete, which is why we enforce standards of conduct where we can, and leave where we can’t to its lawlessness and idiocy.

    L

  29. Lew on July 30th, 2009 at 09:50

    I said that was an end to it, and it was. I’ve deleted the most recent comments from Redbaiter and those following.

    Redbaiter, if you won’t respect the rules of this here private property of ours, I’ll exclude you from it. If you can keep it civil and reasoned, even you are welcome here. If you can’t you’re not. It’s that simple.

    L

  30. Lew on July 30th, 2009 at 10:26

    Redbaiter, you’re in moderation until you learn not to crap on the coffee table. Until then, you can read the comment policy.

    L

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