This is really a thing of beauty: climate pseudoscientist Willis Eschenbach whines at the inadvertent comedy blog Watt’s Up With That that Bora Zivkovic has been moderating comments on his SciAm blog.
Eschenbach, who’s also a Mass Extinction denialist, objects to Bora’s having instituted some basic anti-troll measures at A Blog Around The Clock that relegate comments with certain field marks of the climate denialist loon to the spam bin. Says Bora, in a passage that apparently made Eschenbach’s cranial temperature spike like a Warmist hockey-stick graph:
If I write about a wonderful weekend mountain trek, and note I saw some flowers blooming earlier than they used to bloom years ago, then a comment denying climate change is trolling. I am a biologist, so I don’t write specifically about climate science as I do not feel I am expert enough for that. So, I am gradually teaching my spam filter to automatically send to spam any and every comment that contains the words “warmist”, “alarmist”, “Al Gore” or a link to Watts. A comment that contains any of those is, by definition, not posted in good faith. By definition, it does not provide additional information relevant to the post. By definition, it is off-topic. By definition, it contains erroneous information. By definition, it is ideologically motivated, thus not scientific. By definition, it is polarizing to the silent audience. It will go to spam as fast I can make it happen.
What Eschenbach doesn’t mention, and a basic point of Bora’s post on how trolls derail substantive conversation, is that climate denialism is just the most pernicious and prevalent of a number of kinds of pseudoscience that have afflicted some of the sites on SciAm of late:
I know that I used the example of Global Warming Denialism here the most – mainly because it is currently the most acute problem on our site – but the same goes for people harboring other anti-scientific ideas: creationists, anti-vaxxers, knee-jerk anti-GMO activists, and others.
This post is not about climate denial, it is about commenting and comment moderation. It is about the fact that eliminating trolls opens the commenting threads to more reasonable people who can actually provide constructive comments, thus starting the build-up of your own vigorous commenting community.
There are seven billion people on the planet, many of them potentially useful commenters on your site. Don’t scare them away by keeping a dozen trolls around – you can live without those, they are replaceable.
Eschenbach’s month-late response to Bora’s post is as pure and canonical a paean to the hallowed practice of JAQing off as I have seen. A sample:
I can only bow my head in awe. I mean, what better way is there to keep you from answering people from WUWT and other sites who might want answers to actual scientific questions, than not allowing them to speak at all?… See, Bora, the beauty of your plan is, you don’t even have to think about censorship once you do that. The computer does the hard work for you, rooting out and destroying evil thoughtcrimes coming from … from … well, from anyone associated with Watts Up With That, or with Steven McIntyre’s blog Climate Audit, or anyone that you might disagree with, or who is concerned about “alarmists”, you just put them on the list and Presto!
No more inconvenient questions!
I probably ought to feel sorry for Eschenbach: anyone who would proudly link to a piece like this alleged debunking of extinctions — as opposed to deleting it, salting the earth of the server on which it once resided, and denying under oath that you’d ever heard of the thing — is definitely more properly pitied than mocked. “No continental forest bird or mammal is recorded as having gone extinct from any cause,” Eschenbach says. That’s some Time-Cube-level obliviousness.
But I can’t help snickering, and feeling slyly jealous that Bora was able to elicit a response like that just by mentioning idly that he’s keeping his own comment threads on topic despite a massive campaign by a few fanciers of metallic haberdashery to disrupt them. Well done, my friend. Well done.