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Moderation, censorship, and The New Stasi at FtB

The latest imbroglio here at Freethought Blogs appears to be an ongoing systemic campaign of trolling and attempting to silence several voices via liberal application of a megaphone and a large and varied vocabulary of misogynist slurs and outright libel about certain individuals. One aspect of this campaign and one possible course of action that we’ve stumbled across, having had Franc Hoggle’s identity dropped into our laps by one of his real-life acquaintances, has repercussions that have drawn out a contingent of slimepit denizens to amp up the silencing campaign. I will refer herein to these crusaders collectively as “douchebags” or some variant thereupon.

So far, PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson have borne the brunt of the assault by the douchebags, though Stephanie Zvan is rapidly climbing the ranks of people being targeted. Greg Laden and I are thus far mere also-rans.

One of the things that I do around these parts is observe the larger knock-down drag-out fights, and pull out the side concerns — the little individual jabs and parries in conversations — and dissect them. During this ongoing fight, one of the largest bête noires raised by the douchetariat is the question of censorship. Specifically, that when one of them gets put into moderation for refusing to stay on topic or for outright flaming or spamming or otherwise disrupting conversation, they are being censored in violation of their freedom to douche publicly.

Of course, Freethought Blogs is a collection of… you guessed it. Blogs. And blogs are run by bloggers, who set the rules for conversation on what amounts to their own slice of cyberspace. They write, commenters comment, and when spam or other disruptive comments come along, they’re cleaned up, usually without any sort of complaint from the crowd. Where some topics might get particularly heated, and some commenters particularly abusive, certain comments may be moderated in such a way that some people believe their dissent is being squelched — censored, rather than moderated. This charge seems to uniformly come from the people who have no interest in civil discussion on points, preferring instead to derail or cast aspersions or namecall or distort aspects of the conversation that have already been tread and retread innumerable times.

I’ve had a conversation recently with someone who, while arguing that my anti-gun bias is irrational, repeatedly insulted me point-blank. I admonished him several times for doing so, until I was irritated enough that I left a final “this conversation is over”. He respected that, evidently, because the conversation did indeed die on the spot. This happened without my putting his name into the moderation list, and his dropping the subject at my request has actually gone a very VERY long way toward repairing the damage done to the bridge between us in my eyes.

Since joining Freethought Blogs and becoming a new bit of fresh meat for a cadre of Men’s Rights Activists that seem to hate this place so very much, I had to put a lesser member of the Douche Patrol by the name of DavidByron into moderation for his copious, meandering, insulting, crude and sometimes violent rhetoric. He is presently the only one on my moderation list, but I’m not saying I will limit my use of the moderation tools to only him. Prior to joining FtB, my blog was a generally quiet place, with a scant few trolls meriting moderation. Zdenny, a robotic Christian proselytizer who ran a singleminded anti-atheist campaign on my blog over the course of about four months; JTankers, a Large Hadron Collider doomsayer who was bound and determined to convince me and everyone that the LHC would destroy the world when it was turned on; and an animal rights activist who wanted to explode me (!) for supporting science. That’s about all I can remember. I think there was one more, but memory fails. That’s five total people who have abused the privilege of having unfettered access to the comments field on my blog.

In fact, I explicitly describe my policy on the right sidebar in the “contact me” box — if you post here, don’t expect a platform for proselytization. I will check that kind of behaviour with impunity, giving myself enough leeway to interpret that policy as I see fit. And as the blogger, as the guy whose space I have to maintain for the benefit of those who want to have conversations that don’t involve gratuitous use of slurs or incitement to hate, I have every right to run my blog the way I see fit. Ed was very clear while recruiting new bloggers to this space that each blog is its own kingdom, and we’re all just sharing the hardware.

Some people see moderating conversation as tantamount to censorship — as jackbooted thugs removing dissenting opinion, as Stasi knocking on your door at three in the morning and black-bagging you and tossing you in the back of their truck. This is, of course, patent nonsense. Just because the blog’s name is “freethought” does not mean “free to shit on the rug”, otherwise we’d be forced to, in honor of free speech, allow every bit of spam and hate speech quarter here. We don’t. Nobody really likes it when people dump stuff that’s off-topic into an ongoing conversation, drowning out the conversation with noise. We all strive, on all of our blogs, to keep the signal-to-noise ratio high enough in our conversations that such conversations are not derailed outright, are not silenced outright, are not diminished outright by the suggestion that something else is so far more important that it needs be discussed right now and no other concern (and especially not the topic of the post) should take precedence. And yet, with too heavy a hand, we might rob ourselves of all those lovely little bits of side nuance that might allow the conversation to grow organically. In most cases, this is fine. In the case of Stephanie’s “Elevatorgate Challenges”, her point was to explicitly demand the trolls who are continuing to troll Rebecca Watson over her “guys, don’t do that, it’s creepy” statement to consider some of the points that she, and others, were trying to make. It’s a measure of dirty pool, telling the trolls to actually listen and moderating those posts that don’t. But it was expressly the purpose of those challenges, and thus it is a method of improving the signal-to-noise ratio.

Putting people into moderation on one topic does not necessarily entail leaving them in there forever. Nor does it imply, expressly or obliquely, that every topic will be moderated in the same manner. And since our moderation tools are susceptible to people morphing some aspect of their name, email address, IP address, or what have you, to avoid said moderation, it’s an imperfect solution to assist webmasters in automatically modding people who have in the past abused their posting privileges.

The alternative is not, of course, to let the place become a free-for-all. While that would certainly draw more hits (and more hits equals more money by some people’s reckoning), while people fought it out in comments and the place became one large roiling barroom brawl, a lot of the point of having a space where we’re free to express opinions that are anathema to society at large is that we get to set the criteria by which people will be protected and for what opinions. We would not condone racist hate speech here any more than we condone sexist hate speech, and by moderating away the loudest trolls, we are providing a relatively safe space for members of those sexes and races. We are not shielding them from outside ideas, because they are exposed to those outside ideas every day. A woman will not be deprived of the thought that someone thinks they’re only worth the size of their boobs just because YOU don’t get to say it to them freely and in the space we’ve provided. The simple fact that you have your own space to spew that hatred makes this moderation nowhere approaching censorship.

You see, censorship actually has a meaning already. It is the systematic elimination of dissenting opinion from public discourse. This means more than simply moderating away the trolls when they’ve abused their privilege — it means going back and rewriting history so they never said any of the things that caused that outrage, retroactively scrubbing them from our space, then moving on to scrub them from their own space and any other future space they might find. These are the kinds of actions that a totalitarian government might take, and while a blog is a benevolent dictatorship where bloggers have the ability of shutting certain entities out of the conversation, they do not have the ability to censor these people on other blogs.

These fights are not new ones. They date back as far as the internet, and we’ve learned some excellent lessons from the days of Usenet if only we’re willing to apply them here — for instance, that leaving a specialized and specific topic completely unmoderated, means that topic will never get discussed.

Some parts of the internet are wholly free and wholly without moderation. Most of the “freer” ones, like 4chan or ERV’s undying slimepit threads are actually pretty heavily moderated, just in ways that you don’t necessarily notice because you’re not in the “oppressed group” — try posting kiddie porn on either one, and you’ll probably make your next post from your cell phone while in the back of an FBI cruiser, assuming they cuffed you in front. Try posting advertisements on either one, and see how long they stay up. And try posting a link to Greg Laden’s blog on ERV and you’ll probably end up in moderation waiting for Abbie to pull you out. Or, say, try posting something pro-black on the white power Stormfront forum. See how long it is before you get some very angry racists knocking on your door. And certainly we’d brook no, say, Mormon ministers joining up to blog about their epistemology, no matter how free our “freethought” happens to be. (And yes, I’m trolling the ad algorithms to see if I get the ad here.)

So it’s not like the “safe and free” places are complete free-for-alls either. And some otherwise valued members of a community can get their share of butthurt when the moderators’ eye turns to them for some of the more egregious things they say about certain other members, but if we can’t police ourselves and consider the greater good when outing the douchebags (a thankfully very small class of society) who are intent on hurting entire (much larger) classes of society, then we’re hamstringing conversation at the outset.

And sometimes, even the “taboo topics” are allowed on our blog spaces, and the moderation filters lifted. The need to vet every single post before it appears is rather onerous, and while some news outlets need to do that sort of thing, blogs generally don’t. You’ll notice that the Youtube videos and Christian blogs either moderate everything first, or simply disable all comments to avoid having to let through things that might confront their dogma. Blogs like FtB or ERV are free-posting by default, and moderate only specific commenters or topics at the discretion of the blog-owner. That some of us want to keep the signal to noise ratio high while not stifling organic conversation is a decidedly good thing, for the commenters who are actually interested in discussing these topics. It’s a decidedly bad thing for the people who are getting moderated, though, because their nastiness is something so ingrained into their identity that they don’t even recognize the kind of damage they’re doing to discourse by stifling dissent by megaphone, scaring off potential participants, instead of by fiat, by punishing such abuse.

So the only real question remaining is, how impartial can we as blog owners remain, to steward these places we’ve built for the commentariat? We’re members of the communities we’ve built, and we are all (ostensibly) adults around these parts, so we’d probably like to think that we can remain impartial while still protecting our community members and remain as inclusive as possible.

I welcome your thoughts on the matter. That doesn’t mean, however, you will get to tell me how that makes me a Stasi coming in the night to steal your freedoms. That kind of nonsense will earn you a moderation until you prove you can behave in my house and not break my shit. Posting comments is a privilege, and having that privilege revoked for misbehaviour is certainly very sad for you, but good for the rest of the adults.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Looks like the filters caught on to your tricks, because at this viewing no Mormon ads appear.

    Mormon, Mormon, Mormon!

  2. says

    My favorite are the trolls who scream “You’re violating my first amendment rights !@#!$!!! ELEVENTY!!”

    I’m quite sure that most of them no idea what the first amendment says when they make the claim that a private entity preventing them from having free reign in a privately owned and controlled forum is a violation of said amendment. The others know but have no compunctions about lying to promote their point of view.

  3. Aquaria says

    I’ll say the same thing I said on your previous post:

    If you used the US Mail to harass and threaten people anonymously, you WOULD be in deep shit if your identity was learned.

    If you threatened people anonymously over a phone line using a pay phone but were caught at it, you would be in deep shit if your identity was learned.

    If you try to solicit children anonymously over the internet for sex and get caught at it, you’re in deep fucking shit when your identity is learned.

    So just why is it that threatening and harassing WOMEN anonymously over the Internet, gets anyone a free pass?

    I call bullshit.

    I call it a prime example of MISOGYNY.

  4. Crommunist says

    For the edification of everyone reading this post – FTB had a ‘behind-the-scenes’ debate over whether or not we should publish a network-wide commenting policy. The ‘debate’ lasted about 5 seconds before everyone decided it was best to let people moderate their own comments at their own discretion. There is no colluded effort to promote or deny certain opinions within FTB. The most collusion we do is occasionally asking each other to promote important posts, and making crude jokes at each others’ expense.

  5. says

    I can tell you that I rarely comment at FtB. The reason being that I find that too many of the commenters, bluntly, are mean-spirited jerks. When the first response to a correction of an erroneous comment results in the commenter calling me a liar without providing any supporting evidence, I know it’s time to go some place else.
    I would spend a lot more time here if there was more aggressive moderation and tossing of the trolls and jerks.

  6. says

    Jason,
    I fought with myself over this issue not that long ago.

    I am so adamantly against moderation that my blog, as you know, becomes a derailed mess of Christian proselytizing and nasty invective (the latter being my fault, more often than not).

    I just can’t bring myself to ban commenters- or even withhold publishing their comments until they get back on topic. I’ve had too many bad experiences with blogs that moderate or ban based on trivial reasoning, and I’m constantly on guard against my own biases that might make me quiet a valid point that I just don’t like.

    My solution is “Rainbows and Ponies”, my comment policy that allows me to moderate tone and language without banning arguments, dissent, and ideas. I know that with the amount of traffic you deal with it wouldn’t work for you- but it allows me to take a comment like

    Your post on privilege spends 2000 words telling us how bad those complaining, rag-raging feminazis have it and refuses to even contemplate that guys are treated like dogshit by a society hellbent on creating a dyketopia. Why can’t you stop your fucking cunt-envy and open your eyes to the fact that men get pinned down and take it hard from people who tell us “this hurts me more than it hurts you”? Gender traitor pussies like you need to realize that that reach-around your getting doesn’t make the strap-on any more pleasant.

    (Feel free to redact some of that, it is pretty damn vulgar) and turn it into this:

    Your post on privilege spends 2000 words elegantly making a case for the struggle of women in society today- yet falls short of juxtaposing it against the very real struggles this same social dynamic places on men as well. It seems, at times, that feminism has the unintended consequence of diminishing the value of discussions of how social expectations and mores affect men. You seem willing to stand tall for equality for women, yet unwilling to question whether the battle for fairness for women leaves half the population behind. All that said, it is better coming from you than from a female, since I am woefully unable to get past the sneaking suspicion that the validity of a groups concerns are directly proportional to the ease with which they can urinate standing upright.

    See? That was so much easier to read and gets the commenters main concerns across to the rest of your readers.
    I say no to moderation and yes to constructive improvement of the argument.

  7. says

    So just why is it that threatening and harassing WOMEN anonymously over the Internet, gets anyone a free pass?

    Because we wimminz is supposed to be in the kitchen! How can we be making sammiches for teh menz if we’re online and TALKING??? And even worse, talking to EACH OTHER instead of sucking up to the menz?

    /horror

    I don’t understand the willful blindness on misogyny. It’s like people are desperate to have some justification to hang onto one form of bigotry because every other form of hateful speech has been taken away from them.

  8. says

    A little off topic, but I just find it amazing how people find time in their lives to post so many comments (or even blog as much as they do – AND moderate comments on top of that) to even have debates on blog forums. I can’t. If I leave a comment on a blog, I’m typically done. I don’t bother responding to anyone who responds to me unless I think it’s important to do so. I grant that I’m a bit slow in forming my thoughts, so mabye others can type way faster than I can. And maybe others can read faster than I can. …K, now I’ve made myself feel inadequate. :(

  9. says

    My bad, Ophelia.
    I made that whole comment up to illustrate how my moderating system works. It is pretty bad, and I poe’d it by reading ERV and Grey Lining for the last few days.
    I apologize that it is offensive, and in no way reflects how I feel about women. It was a Poe.
    Again, sorry.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    Still no Mormon ads – unless there’s a hidden Latter-Day-Saints link behind silver coins, PCH sweepstakes, Full Sail University, or cheap furniture.

    And I have, today, seen a Mormon ad elsewhere on FtB, so it’s not like they gave up or anything.

    Mormon! Mormon! Mormon!

  11. says

    It’s your lair. You set the rules.

    We are your guests, and should abide by your rules. We would, after all, expect the same of a guest in any of our lairs, yes?

  12. says

    Ophelia and George — the worst part is, I’ve seen every component of what you’ve pastiched together in @6, separately. It just isn’t concentrated to that level of ferocity and misogyny usually.

  13. says

    WMDKitty: well, reasonable people would. Some people see it as a line in the sand though. Block anything by anyone, shut anyone out of any conversation for any reason, and you’re like a brownshirt.

  14. says

    Pierce: I don’t think they’re like Beetlejuice, but you keep trying. I am curious to know why the ads you’re seeing here are so significantly different from mine, but I suspect it has to do with tracking cookies and/or regional stuff.

  15. JohnnieCanuck says

    The ads are very targeted. Not just to the content of the post and the comments, but the previous ads seen and clicked on by the viewer. The ads I see for Canadian businesses like Telus will not likely be seen by anyone in the states.

    I recently looked at a few sites dedicated to an online game. It’s a little spooky to see such knowledge of my interests being used to try to sell me stuff. It’s a bit beyond me why the ad on this page is from a purveyor of surveyor’s equipment, though.

    On topic, I pretty much agree exactly with Jason’s approach to moderating commenters.

    Mormon mormon mormon.

  16. says

    All very good points. I hadn’t really thought to carefully distinguish between censoring and moderating before.

    Personally, if I were to ever hosting a blog that people wanted to read, I would probably mimic PZ (OH NOES!!!). I’ve already dismissed one person from my nearly defunct blog because I didn’t want to get involved with her manipulations, but in general I would probably try to moderate like PZ does–by cultivating a commentariat that applies peer pressure to the trolls and educates and engages the ignorant. That way, the only people who would need to be moderated would be the real troublemakers as they are on Pharyngula. That’s my ideal, at least.

    But I can see why others would want to have more direct control over the comments. It is frustrating to have one’s comment moderated, though, but that just means it is time to move on or, if given a chance, try to figure out why the moderation happened and try again from a different angle.

    The bloggers I don’t understand are the purists who would refuse to do any moderating no matter how disruptive (not including spam, of course) like the ones you mention in the fourth link up from the bottom. :)

  17. bob says

    Woah, okay I didn’t read all that rationalization for censorship.

    Censorship is censorship. You can argue that it is good in certain circumstances, but it is still censorship.

    I am not the least bit interested in your fights, and don’t even know what you are talking about, and I don’t have to: what you are singing is an immortal refrain from the people who have the power to silence others, which I have heard innumerable times before.

    Free speech and the importance of it is ultimately of course also founded in the pros/cons. It’s not really about principles. But people just fail to respect the pros well enough, and are way too uptight about the cons, so we have to pretend it is a principle so we don’t have to explain it constantly to people.

    If someone is honestly expressing their opinion, I don’t give a flying fuck if they call you a shithead or dis your momma. That is no excuse for censorship, especially on a serious issue. It is people with that sort of idiotic attitude that allow the cops to evict the Occupy people for “killing the grass” or other trivial bullshit.

    If they are spamming then things get a little trickier.

    And there is no such thing as “derailing the conversation”. Just because you own the blog does not mean you should be the one who determines what is said. If someone says something and someone else answers, and you wanted to talk about something else instead, tough shit for you. The people actually using the forum obviously want to talk about something else. The conversation is moving, if you don’t like it you can ignore those comments or start another thread again, for what you want to talk about.

    People need to grow up and stop blaming people for “talking about the wrong thing”. If people consistently talk about “the wrong thing” then you are just among the wrong crowd and you should go elsewhere.

  18. ildi says

    George W.:

    That was so much easier to read and gets the commenters main concerns across to the rest of your readers.

    I disagree that your thoughtful re-write gets the /pastiche/ commenter’s concerns across, because the real concern of the commenter is:

    women: bad! men: good!

    I have a problem with the sort of moderation that rewrites a comment without indicating that something has been eliminated or modified. I didn’t realize that blogmasters were doing this. As a reader, I want to know if I’m reading a moderated comment.

  19. says

    I don’t comment too often on the blogs I visit (several FtBs, skepchick, hobby ones), because I usually find my opinion expressed just as well or better than I could, but I don’t think I’ve seen it pointed out here: IMO the effect of moderation is not only to increase the signal to noise ratio by decreasing the noise, but increasing the signal. I’ve seen “no moderation” policies really hurt some blog’s discussions, and sometimes reduce the quality of comments, because trolls just seem to have so much time and bile to spew that when they’re allowed free rein, they overwhelm the comments and most people get tired of reading through all the crap to get to the few meaningful comments. They also get tired of being attacked viciously when trying to discuss things. After a while, all that’s left is the trolls, and though the blog posts might still get good viewership, there’s not nearly as much good discussion in the comments.
    Now, somewhere like Pharyngula where the commentariat is very large and outspoken can handle trolls pretty well, but even there once someone’s shown they contribute nothing to the discussion they get sent to the dungeon.
    And I am so tired of idiots shouting “CENSORSHIP”, when I’d bet my fortune that they’re also rightwingers who are all about the free market and the right of property owners to have control over their property. Guess what guys, this blog, this piece of the net, BELONGS to the blog owners (or FtB). That means it’s their property, and they can kick out whomever they wish.

  20. says

    bob:

    Maybe go read about what actual censorship is like (e.g. the kind propagated by authoritarian polities) before whining about it on blogs.

    I’d say a simple rule is this: if you write something that would get the moderator, were he or she to utter it, kicked out of a store, sent home or dismissed from your work, or even sued, then you have no cause to cry ‘censorship’ when it gets moderated.

  21. says

    Case in point for my last paragraph in #19: purists like bob #20.

    It is people with that sort of idiotic attitude that allow the cops to evict the Occupy people for “killing the grass” or other trivial bullshit.

    When the government does it against established and just public policy, then it is censorship. Is the government involved here at FtB or other blogs?

    You might notice that much of the political moderation is done by corporations in the USA, such as media and political parties making rules as to who can be at broadcast presidential debates, which keeps the government’s hands out of it. But we aren’t talking about government. Blog owners are not representatives of a segment of the population, nor are they elected or appointed to their positions.

    Calling the regulars at some blog thread cops may be fun and help take away a little bit of the pain of not being understood at the offending blog, but at the end of the day, moderators on blogs and outspoken regulars are not cops. When you comment on someone else’s blog, you are interacting with another person or group of people who will value certain approaches to social interactions over other kinds, and you will have to comply with those values or risk being told off or blocked.

  22. sailor1031 says

    Well you probably wouldn’t let a psychotic raving drunk into your house for the express purpose of beating you up either.

  23. cmv says

    Bob

    And there is no such thing as “derailing the conversation”. Just because you own the blog does not mean you should be the one who determines what is said. If someone says something and someone else answers, and you wanted to talk about something else instead, tough shit for you. The people actually using the forum obviously want to talk about something else. The conversation is moving, if you don’t like it you can ignore those comments or start another thread again, for what you want to talk about.

    People need to grow up and stop blaming people for “talking about the wrong thing”. If people consistently talk about “the wrong thing” then you are just among the wrong crowd and you should go elsewhere.

    The blog belongs to the blogger. If you don’t like having to stick to the topic at hand, then you can go somewhere else. I hate to break it to you, but if the blogger goes away, so does your precious forum.
    There is entirely such a thing as “derailing the conversation”. As an example, you could have a meeting set up to discuss the pros and cons of a national healthcare strategy. You have speakers there to support the various viewpoints, and then take questions. Then someone takes the microphone and starts to rant about birth certificates and Kenyan Muslims, or some such. If you, as the organiser of the event, do not effectively take away the ranter’s microphone, you have allowed your discussion of healthcare reform to be derailed.
    There is also freedom of assembly, but no one really thinks that your freedom of assembly is being attacked by the farmer who kicks you and your friends off the back 40 of his lot when you throw a party there.

  24. says

    ildi @ 21,
    A couple of things:
    1. The last line of the “improved” rant- “All that said, it is better coming from you than from a female, since I am woefully unable to get past the sneaking suspicion that the validity of a groups concerns are directly proportional to the ease with which they can urinate standing upright.”- I thought elegantly caught the zeitgeist of the original rant: Women-bad!, men-good! So I don’t think anyone would mistake the overarching idea of the post.

    2.To your other concern:

    I have a problem with the sort of moderation that rewrites a comment without indicating that something has been eliminated or modified. I didn’t realize that blogmasters were doing this. As a reader, I want to know if I’m reading a moderated comment.

    I’m sure you have a problem with that. Hell-I have a problem with that! If you had have taken the time to read my comment policy- the one I linked to in the comment- you would have found that editing comments is neither immediate nor arbitrary, and the original author and the readers are well aware of the change. I make it abundantly clear to everyone, and “rainbows and ponies” only happens after several warnings with the option for the original author to have it removed as opposed to edited. I hope that this new information both settles your issue and serves as a lesson to read given resources before assuming that a 150 word comment explains an entire comment policy.

  25. says

    Bob said:

    Just because you own the blog does not mean you should be the one who determines what is said.

    Two words, Bob: Bull. Shit.

    That is exactly what it means to be the owner of a blog. That is the reason for the very existence of the acronym GYOFB. Your right to free speech ends at my front door, and it ends at my blog. My blog is publicly accessible, but that doesn’t make it a public place. It’s mine, and I decide what is said there, and what is not.

    I don’t censor my blog. I police it. If a person persists in posting comments that I decide don’t belong on my blog, I put their comments into moderation.

    I’ve only had to moderate a single individual: ZDenny (the same person mentioned in Jason’s post). I moderated his final seven posts to my blog, finally allowing them to be published over a year later, after he had already “vanished” from the Internet.

  26. says

    Come and see the violence inherent in the system!

    The zombie old server received and processed two comments that just hit my email, that didn’t show up on this post on the new server.

    It’s hilariously ill-timed, the actual content.

    Author : Bloody Peasant
    URL :
    Comment:
    Help! Help! My comment is being repressed!

    Author : Web Master
    URL :
    Comment:
    Bloody peasant!

    Both from the same IP.

  27. Philip Legge says

    “If I went around claiming I was an emperor, they’d put me away!” “Shut up, will you shut up!?”
    There’s a couple of occasional commenters on Pharyngula named God and Satan, who I would almost lay odds on sharing an IP – just like jokers Statler and Waldorf share a theatre booth, or the cartoon Jesus and Mo share a double bed.

  28. John Horstman says

    The “censorship” cries are just a knee-jerk reaction to having the privilege to which one is accustomed (in this case, the privilege to spew misogynistic hate) challenged or limited. As you rightly point out, NOT engaging in moderation still enables a different form of ‘censorship’ (well, oppression of the voices of particular unprivileged or marginalized segments of the population) enacted by cultural structures of privilege and normative values. In fact, the Liberal idea of free speech is, at it’s core, predicated on a failure to recognize the operation of cultural privilege (due to the center-blindness of those who devised the concept; actually ALL Liberal ideals are problematized by the fact that social positionality and context impact how rights actually play out, so guaranteeing IDENTICAL rights and treatment under the law does not actually result in functionally-EQUAL rights and treatment – this is at the root of the shift to Social Liberalism, which emphasizes equality of opportunity over equality of treatment). There is no perfect solution; given your astute observation that the much wider culture provides plenty of outlets to express misogynistic ideas, moderating with the intent of providing a space that privileges an anti-misogynist counter-discourse instead of the normative discourse is entirely appropriate.

  29. says

    “You see, censorship actually has a meaning already. It is the systematic elimination of dissenting opinion from public discourse. This means more than simply moderating away the trolls when they’ve abused their privilege — it means going back and rewriting history so they never said any of the things that caused that outrage, retroactively scrubbing them from our space . . .”

    That is precisely what Greg Laden has done to me and several others on his blog, which is something that I have now blogged about. Not only do I seem to be banned from commenting over there (and I made no more than a dozen comments on each of the posts in question, none of them abusive or insulting), but he went back and erased everything I had written, so now only snippets of my comments exist where other posters happened to quote from them.

  30. says

    That is precisely what Greg Laden has done to me and several others on his blog, which is something that I have now blogged about.

    You idiot. Last night I deleted about 75 comments by you and your gang of trolls who don’t know how to control yourselves and have too much time on your hands.

    Jason, I tried, but all I could do instead was to make this comment on his post:

    “How about if I write something along the lines of “Chris Willet drinks his own pee” or variants thereof on 50 or so comments on your blog.

    Would you delete that or not?

    When you do that sort of crap on my blog, I delete it. Deal.

    Thank you and good night.”

  31. says

    Mr. Laden,

    You are dishonest.

    (1) I am not part of a “gang of trolls.”

    (2) I am not responsible for posts made by others.

    (3) At most, I commented 15-20 times, and never twice in a row.

    (4) My posts were relevant to the discussion.

    (5) My posts were not abusive or insulting.

    (6) I did not call anyone any names, as you just did.

    (7) To the best of my understanding, my only crime was posting a differing opinion.

    (8) By implying that my input was of equal value to “Chris Willet (sic) drinks his own pee” posted fifty times on a blog, you are completely misrepresenting my actions.

    Do you still have a record of the comments I posted? If they are as bad as you imply, post them here for all to see, and surely you will prove me wrong.

    Thank you,
    Chris Willett

  32. Pisstoff vdH says

    Lousy Canuck, broadly speaking, you are right; bloggers can impose whatever rules they want on their respective comment spaces. However, the real issue here is not “censorship” but “hypocrisy”. Go to the front page of FTB and notice how many top-level posts viciously lambast someone or something. Notice how many of the commentators (who are on the authors’ side) do much the same thing. Here at FTB, there is no doubt about people’s abilities to dish it out, but they can’t seem to take it in the least.

    Lord Protector Greg Laden banned me from his blog, apparently for saying that Rebecca Watson is unimpressive, because she doesn’t ever seem to go above the well-trodden ground of “Skepticism 101″ (with scads of YouTube videos scarcely more sophisticated than “Santa Claus/the Tooth Fairy is really your parents”). I backed up my statement with facts and refrained from being abusive, even after Lord Protector Laden suggested that I’m a “dumbass” for finding original scientific researchers like Elizabeth Bates and Jacob Cohen interesting, and not her. What I said was pretty mild compared against the what (tolerated) opinions in these blogs voice. This is not a space for freethought, but instead for what I like to call Freethought™: thought so Free™ it’s been marshaled into an increasingly self-referential blog network…

    All told, the behavior of blog authors here is frankly disturbing. If they did have substantial power in government, I find it very easy to imagine that they’d deal with dissidents using punitive psychiatry: turning former uppity rebels into good citizens with a monthly depot of Haldol in the asscheeks: drooling, shaky, and listless. That’s what real Freethought™ is all about.

  33. Pisstoff vdH says

    And look at this, too, screenshotted by a real friend of mine who said he was friends with Greg Laden “because we had a lot of mutual friends” and later deleted him as per the advice in this high school-ish snit of his:

    http://i.imgur.com/UmVD5.png

    The Lord Protector accuses me of “crapping” on his blog (I was having a back-and-forth discussion in which all parties were mutually involved, so it was not so much “spamming”, as he seems to characterize it, as it was a “conversation”). His lackies chime in:

    “anyone who calls himself Kristoff instead of Kris deserves to be drop-kicked in his ovaries” (that’s nice)

    “pre-emptively blocked” (without any fair and accurate knowledge of what I did)

    “He sounds like his girlfriend’s name would be Dieter” (a faintly misogynistic comment about the alleged, undesirable masculine qualities of German women (and missing its mark because I’m not German), which is ironic considering how much FTB authors and commentors like to shriek about misogyny, real or imagined)

    “yeah for proper treatment of trolls” (everyone who disagrees is automatically a “troll”)

    It may be a bit rude of me to spill the beans like this about what happened on someone else’s FB but, at this point, fuck Lord Protector Laden.

  34. Pisstoff vdH says

    Or, say, try posting something pro-black on the white power Stormfront forum. See how long it is before you get some very angry racists knocking on your door.

    It’s funny you mention Stormfront because, out of all the places I’ve gone to disagree with people, only Stormfront has a stricter moderation policy than the typical blog on FTB. They have one special “ghetto” forum for dissenting views and every single last dissenting comment there has to be approved by a moderator, making the pace of argument slow as molasses in Januar.

    I couldn’t, for example, jump in the idiot thread saying that Benoît Mandelbrot (a Jew) ripped off all his work from gentile Frenchman Gaston Julia, and correct it with some facts: membership in the Mandelbrot set (there is only one; there are uncountably infinitely many
    Julia sets) is determined by an iteration subtly different from a Julia set; the visualization of the Mandelbrot set has this terrific,
    sort of Baroque variation within similarity at all scales whereas Julia sets just repeat themselves at all scales; and Julia course never
    visualized his work (which, granted, he couldn’t have done, lacking the computer technology at the time). Mandelbrot of course also generalized
    the fractal phenomenon to scientific fields, like finance. So, sites like Stormfront, AND Freethought Blogs, are irritating to someone like me, who thinks that truth should prevail over ideology.

    Skepchick is pretty bad too, though. In fact, in comparing freedom of speech on different sites on the net, I’d say Revleft is overall better than either FTB or Skepchick (which still isn’t saying much).

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The slimepitters generally disagree with those who say these actions are unacceptable; they evidently want every odious opinion to be enshrined in perpetuity, and they generally get off on giving offense as its own greatest good, as though speech without consequences is what’s actually entailed by the phrase “free speech”. They want to be heard to disagree with these positions against harassment and against entrenched and unconscious misogyny repeatedly, and when they get banned or blocked from commenting because ultimately THEY’RE the ones who are targeting women with harassment and vitriol disproportionately, they cry about censorship. [...]

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