Troppo bullied by corporate thugs

Christopher Pearson writes in the Weekend Australian about a current situation involving Club Troppo and other prominent oz political blogs:

GRAHAM Young is the founding editor of a well-regarded e-journal called On Line Opinion, and is a regular contributor to The Australian. I’d describe him as belonging in the centre of the political spectrum, perhaps tending to mild conservatism.

In December he published a piece arguing the case against gay marriage by the pro-family campaigner, Bill Muehlenberg, and then a series of spirited exchanges on the merits of the argument. It was not the first article he’d run on the subject ; that honour had gone to Rodney Croome, a gay activist. Nor were most of the essays run opposed to gay marriage.

Young commented on the blog in mid-December. “The On Line Opinion approach is one that many find difficult to accept, and we are currently under attack from a number of gay activists because we dared to publish [Muehlenberg’s essay] which is mostly a pastiche of comments by gay activists, even though the majority of articles I can find on the site support gay marriage. And by attack I mean attempting to intimidate me, sponsors or advertisers. How ironic . . . when we are sponsoring the Human Rights Awards.” …

On account of the Muehlenberg piece, Young told me two major advertisers had just pulled out: the ANZ Bank and IBM. Comparing this year’s January gross ad sales with last year’s, he calculated that revenue from his main category of advertising had fallen by 96 per cent. Young is worried that these bizarre decisions will adversely affect other websites as well as his own and could even lead to some of them closing down.

Courts might construe that as the result of an indiscriminate secondary boycott, in contravention of the Trade Practices Act.

That’s because Young and a group of other political sites have formed a network called The Domain, to bundle up their readers as a more attractive package for advertisers. The sites are very diverse in terms of ideology, from the ultra-leftist John Passant, to the more mainstream centre-Left Larvatus Prodeo, Club Troppo, Andrew Bartlett, skepticlawyer and the likes of Henry Thornton and Jennifer Marohasy. …

I’m not that fussed about the loss of income flowing from the actions of these corporate thugs.  I don’t even know how much it is except that in broad terms it’s piddling money at least for us: Troppo has never chased a mass audience.  It’s the issue of principle than concerns me deeply.

I should make clear that I also find Muehlenberg’s article offensive.  Not because it opposes gay marriage; plenty of gay and lesbian people do too, or at least don’t regard it as an objective that should be pushed aggressively.  Erstwhile Troppo contributor Geoff Honnor is an example.  It’s Muehlenberg’s assumption that gay people generally are by nature promiscuous, and that they collectively harbour a hidden agenda to redefine marriage as not involving sexual fidelity that I and no doubt many gay people will rightly find deeply offensive.  It seems to have escaped Muehlenberg’s attention that promiscuity is hardly confined to homosexuals, or that lots of prominent heterosexuals have advocated and practised open marriage and no doubt still do.  It’s a classic example of the sort of discrimination community abhorrence for which underpins federal and state equal opportunity legislation.  It is no more fair or accurate to assert that gays generally are promiscuous than to suggest that gypsies are habitual thieves, all men potential rapists or that New Zealanders harbour carnal desires for sheep.

However the actions of IBM and ANZ are much more offensive than those of Muehlenberg as far as I’m concerned.  Muehlenberg is merely expressing an opinion, albeit a false, ignorant and hurtful one.  He isn’t attempting to force anyone to share it or coerce them to act in accordance with it.  The same can’t be said for IBM or ANZ.  Voltaire apparently never said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”  but it’s a fair summary of his beliefs and I share them.  It’s both easy and meaningless to defend the free speech rights only of those with whom you agree; it only becomes meaningful in liberal democratic terms if the speech being suppressed offends influential elites and even oneself.

What can be done?  As a  lawyer my first thought was for legal remedies. But that’s a bit tricky.  Australia’s Constitution contains an implied freedom of political communication, and this is indisputably political subject matter. However the freedom only constrains the actions of governments, it doesn’t meaningfully restrict the actions of private persons or corporations.

Then I considered equal opportunity legislation.  The various State and Territory laws certainly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality or political opinion, both of which arguably fit the bill here.11. KP: Most equal opportunity legislation prohibits discrimination based on imputed as well as actual opinion. It seems clear from the statements of IBM and ANZ spokesmen that we are being punished for imputed opinions about homosexuality even though we neither hold them, published them nor assisted their publication. []  However those laws generally only apply to businesses supplying goods or services, accommodation, education, club membership and the like.  Here it’s Troppo that’s supplying the service (advertising space) and IBM and ANZ who are (or rather were) purchasing it.

Then there’s the secondary boycott provisions of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act, recently renamed the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).  My first thought was that maybe this was a primary boycott which wouldn’t be covered.  But on second thought, these corporate bullies are boycotting Troppo and the other blogs not for anything we’ve done or said but for the actions of a third party namely Online Opinion which merely assists us to source and place advertising on our blogs.  It certainly looks a lot like a secondary boycott.  Moreover, according to Pearson’s article, spokesmen for both corporations have made admissions about their actions and motivations which might well prove legally fatal.

Nevertheless I’m not at all sure that I can be bothered suing these corporations even though I suspect it’s a clearcut case.  IBM and ANZ both have very “long pockets” and I’m not at all sure that my principles extend as far as to expend the time, energy and money that would be required to fight them through the courts.  However I’ll certainly be joining the others in sending an appropriate letter of demand and taking whatever other actions we reasonably can to hold IBM and ANZ to account for their unconscionable conduct.  I’ve already instituted my own personal primary boycott against them.  Of course I’m not urging Troppo readers to do likewise, partly because I don’t especially want to be sued myself.  Nevertheless I have always acted on the belief that one of the few real powers we as individuals possess is to refuse to patronise businesses that provide poor service or otherwise act unconscionably.    On just about any approach to liberal democratic freedoms, IBM and ANZ are acting in a grossly unconscionable fashion.

Elsewhere on this topicSkepticlawyer; John Passant; Graham Young (editor of Online Opinion); Jennifer Wilson; Kim at Larvatus Prodeo

Update and apology – This post and Don’s on the same topic have generated considerable debate and resulted in disclosure of information not originally known when I wrote this post several days ago.   Mel(aleuca) has suggested in the comment box to this post that an apology to original OLO complainant Gregory Storer is warranted.  Given what we all now know, I agree.

I wrote the primary post on information that a mysterious but identified small group of “gay activists” within ad agencies had effectively ambushed OLO (and by extension Troppo and the other Domain blogs) by orchestrating a campaign for an advertiser boycott of OLO because it had published an article on gay marriage by Bill Muehlenberg which they found offensive (as do I).  Had that been the situation, the activists’ actions would have been highly objectionable in my view, despite the offensive nature of the original article, for the sorts of reasons discussed in the primary post.  The events would also have raised secondary boycott issues (albeit with significant legal, evidentiary and practical uncertainties as discussed earlier in the thread).

It has subsequently emerged from discussions here and at LP that the actual dispute was about the extremely toxic/offensive comment threads to the Muehlenberg post rather than the article itself,  and that there had been extensive dealings between OLO and the complainants (most prominently Gregory Storer) where they sought unsuccessfully to have the problem addressed. It appears they would see themselves as having approached advertisers as a last resort.  Personally I would have preferred to see them take less drastic expedients such as anti-discrimination/equal opportunity complaints, because the result of approaching advertisers might well be the closure of a valuable and longstanding independent opinion journal (whatever one may think of its moderation policies).

In those circumstances I certainly agree that I should apologise to Gregory Storer unreservedly, and I do so.  I feel both angry and stupid, but hopefully most of us learn from our mistakes.

I also want to record that, although this apology is obviously implicitly critical of Graham Young, I’m very unhappy about the impact all these events seem likely to have both on him and OLO.  Online Opinion is an extraordinarily valuable publication for Australian political discourse and culture in my view.  Many readers may not know that its existence and development are overwhelmingly due to Graham’s efforts, determination and personal financial backing over many years.  I can only hope that all of us in the blogosphere will find a way to draw a line under these unfortunate events and do what we reasonably can to help Online Opinion to survive and prosper.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
This entry was posted in Law, Metablogging, Politics - national. Bookmark the permalink.

127 Responses to Troppo bullied by corporate thugs

  1. Patrickb says:

    Nope not a secondary boycott, this has all been discussed elsewhere. You’re right, it’s a fools errand and a waste of time and money.

  2. ringil says:

    A bit of fact checking wouldn’t have gone astray here.

    Graham Young has repeatedly claimed that the objections of the “gay activists” were were to his publication of Muehlenberg’s article, when in fact the objections were to the moderation of comments on the article. This response to Graham’s December blog post on the issue makes the distinction quite plainly.

    While all “The Domain” blogs moderate their comments, only at OLO does there appear to be a backlog of unheeded recommendations for deletion. If John Passant, Jennifer Marohasy, SkepticLawyer, Larvatus Prodeo and Club Troppo want to align themselves financially with OLO, then it would seem a simple matter of due diligence to ensure that OLO’s moderation values also line up.

  3. Ken Parish says:


    If you’re referring to SL’s post, the question wasn’t discussed or resolved in any meaningful way. Surprising to an extent given that several lawyers participated before the thread was closed.

    From my scanning of the discussion, the only cogent argument made against the proposition that this may be an actionable secondary boycott is the fact that the conduct must be engaged in for the PURPOSE of causing loss or damage to the boycotted party. Someone suggested (it may have been you) that ANZ/IBM’s purpose no doubt was to avoid damage to their own brand by being associated however unfairly with anti-gay sentiments in a publication in which they advertised.

    While confessing that trade practices isn’t my area of expertise as an academic lawyer, I’m pretty sure that this issue of purpose would indeed be the major hurdle in any litigation, and it might well be a major one. On one hand, the boycotters’ purpose/s need only INCLUDE causing loss or damage to the boycottee. Unlike other provisions of the TPA it doesn’t need to be the sole, dominant or even a substantial purpose. Moreover, there are some IR-related cases where the court has fairly readily accepted/inferred that causing damage was one of the purposes of a trade union picket even if the main purpose was to bring about IR award changes etc on the part of the employer. However there are others where the court held that purpose and intention/knowledge are two different things and purposes must be positively proved. That is, just because you intend or at least know that your action is going to cause loss or damage to the person boycotted doesn’t mean that that was your purpose: it may just have been an unfortunate if predictable means to an end: Troppo et al and democratic free speech are just collateral damage!

    I don’t intend suing or even researching the question more deeply than that because, as the primary post observes, it makes little financial or practical sense for me to do so. However I’m a little surprised that you are as utterly unconcerned by this sort of corporate thuggery as appears to be the case. The issues here are not black and white or either/or. It’s entirely possible, and in my view the intellectually and morally correct position, to deplore both Muehlenberg’s words and the actions of ANZ and IBM though for different reasons. Taking sides is unnecessary and IMO intellectually dishonest or at the very least an example of ill-considered kneejerk ideological partisanship.

  4. Tim Lambert says:

    So the best way for advertisers to avoid being boycotted is never to advertise here in the first place?

  5. paul walter says:

    What is this nonsense about sponsors withdrawing advertising?
    This because the article is “touchy”, there has been actually a bit of debate in the wake, which one thinks is the point of current affairs blogs?
    As a member of the public irked by the inconsistencies of blog moderation at some sites, would like to think that this is not going to be about people shutting down conversation on an issue because contrary views to someone or others own cherished shibboleths are put under scrutiny.
    I loath some of the bunkum produced, particularly populist rightist contributors posters at Online Opinion, but please Graham, if your position is to allow free (as opposed to circumscribed on the one hand, or hate speech on the other), don’t let others deter you- we only get a complete picture when flow is two way and not influenced by moderator prejudice ( perish the thought!), or worse still coercion from corporate interests.
    Muehlenberg’s piece Ive not read, it sounds like crap, as is Pearson’s, trying to pour oil on troubled waters.
    Hence posters with half a brain ought to be able to shoot down the worst conceptions like fish in a barrel.
    I must admit, this is revealing to me, the story here. It shows proves me right in my hunch that blogs are under pressure to censor out issues not popular with vested interests, such as with criticism of Israel, for example.
    Was the advertising problem to do with the removal of Susan Prior?
    This is a story that brings to head some issues troubling not just for blog managers but posters who have seen other media dumbed down and don’t want to see the process extended to blogging.

  6. paul walter says:

    Re the issue itself, it looked interesting in parts, the knack is sorting wheat from chaff (bulk), but it seems to boil down to two sets of activists again doing battle upon the altar of the gay marriage/lifestyle stuff that gets chewed over for the psychic health of society, when overt intense action, such as in Egypt currently, hasn’t caught the public’s attention.
    It begins to include the situational politics identity politics overlap, which complicates an already subjective atmosphere suggestive of turbulent emotions and consequent clouded judgement(s) again turning acrid.
    All stuff of life.

  7. Ken Parish says:


    I don’t generally read long comment threads at other blogs/sites because I just don’t have the time. There was no reason why I should have done so in this case either because I had seen no suggestion that the concern was with the comment thread rather than Muehlenberg’s article itself.

    Now that you’ve pointed that out, I’ve gone back and read the first 7 pages of a very long discussion (22 pages) but haven’t so far found any comment that I would regard as requiring deletion (clearly Graham responded and deleted some comments so I don’t know what they were). At least up to page 7 it’s a robust discussion that stays within the bounds of reasonable civility IMO. Can you point me towards the comments that you demanded/requested should be deleted?

    Penultimately, even if the discussion at OLO overstepped bounds of appropriate civil discussion that provides neither a moral nor (conceivably though subject to issues discussed at #3 above) legal basis for advertisers to boycott blogs which have no connection whatever with that discussion nor any ability to affect OLO’s moderation policy. What I don’t know, however, is whether at any point prior to Pearson’s approaching them for comment ANZ or IBM were made aware that their actions in pulling advertising were effectively punishing not just OLO but Troppo et al as well. If they didn’t know that then their actions at least until very recently may be more defensible. It will be instructive to see whether they change their stance now they DO know what they’re doing.

    Finally, if you regard toxic comment threads and the moderation policies which lead to them as providing a sufficient basis for soliciting major corporates to use their advertising muscle to coerce compliance, I wonder whether you’ve read many of the comment threads at Andrew Bolt’s or Tim Blair’s blogs? And I wonder whether any major corporate has ever boycotted News Limited as a result? I bet I know the answer.

  8. paul walter says:

    One lives and learns.

  9. JC says:


    I can’t see what the two firms have done wrong other than withdraw their business, which they are entitled to do. They may have keejerked, not understood the nature of the website and are concerned with their brands being associated with people that could damage them, however they should have the right to be cowards without the law going after them.

    Taking sides is unnecessary and IMO intellectually dishonest or at the very least an example of ill-considered kneejerk ideological partisanship.

    If this refers to the two advertisers I can’t see how they show any ideology . spineless perhaps but not ideological.

  10. JC says:

    Come to think of it a little further the firms possibly use the same advertising firm that pulled them out at the same time without each firm knowing the other’s actions.

  11. Graham Young says:

    Ken, as one of the principals for one of the blogs on the Domain I’d be happy to let you see all of the comments, and correspondence for that matter, with respect to deletions on the OLO forum. Whoever Ringit is they have no regard for the truth, and are probably not in any position to know what the truth is in any event, so you can add reckless to the charge as well. It is a malicious comment and typical of the sort of nonsense we are up against.

    In my article for OLO this morning I have isolated the one comment that has been instanced by the known activist involved in this – Gregory Storer. You can read the article at

    I know that it was the article and not the comments because IBM requested that their ad not appear on that article. The comments thread, which occurs on the forum, was not mentioned.

    I also set out my reasons for publishing Muehlenberg, which commenters here might find interesting.


  12. Ken Parish says:

    Thanks Graham. I agree with just about every word in your article and I’ll link it from the foot of the primary post.

    I wonder is there any other way we can maintain pressure on ANZ and IBM to reverse their disgraceful stand. What about an open letter inserted in major newspapers and signed by prominent supporters of freedom of speech and media diversity? A bit hackneyed I know, but it usually seems to generate significant follow up free publicity?

  13. Ken Parish says:

    BTW The bit of your article with which I would take issue is the proposition that Muehlenberg’s piece is “a researched article couched in fairly neutral language”. It’s certainly not the way it reads to me. Moreover, I don’t think that gathering together a few selectively inflammatory quotes from some gay radicals and then asserting or implying that they somehow represent a general gay agenda that can be imputed to gays and lesbians generally amounts to a “researched article”. You allude to this problem obliquely in your qualification “whether those quotes give an accurate picture of gay relations or not”, but that’s putting it very mildly indeed.

    I’m in no sense suggesting this article should not have been published, but it is a pretty shabby effort on Muehlenberg’s part and worthy of the condemnation it mostly received in the parts of your comment thread that I resd. Moreover, I think that’s another point that needs to be made. Critics of OLO’s position appear to lack basic understanding of the nature of new media in general and the blogosphere in particular. It’s a conversation and you only get a proper understanding of it from following it. At the very least that requires reading all the article/posts on this monthly topic, which certainly present all sides of this controversial topic fairly and fully. However someone who is really interested would read and participate in the comment box discussion and in that way ensure that all views are fully discussed. As I said, my general impression from the first 7 pages of discussion on the Muehlenberg post was that it was a good robust discussion where the balance of opinion was very much pro-gay marriage or at least strongly anti-Muehlenberg. The person representing homosexuality as a “perversion” was in a tiny minority and that view would only appeal to a reader already possessing a deeply formed prejudice to that effect. Any gay activist with a modicum of intelligence would conclude that OLO’s series in general and the Muehlenberg conversation in particular have significantly advanced the public debate and progress towards acceptance of gay marriage as a just and non-threatening (if low priority in my view) advance in Australian law and society. It appears that Messrs Storer and Ringit are not exactly deep political thinkers.

    Incidentally i really liked this comment from Jennifer Wilson on the comment thread to your latest post.

  14. Tim Lambert says:

    Ken, might I suggest a slogan for your campaign: “If you don’t advertise on Troppo you are a thug who hates free speech!”

  15. paul walter says:

    That last comment really illustrates just how touchy these issues can get.

  16. paul walter says:

    Whoops, Tim snuck in underneath, the comment am referring to is 13. Am wary of the idea that gays should follow the zionist lobby example and use lobbying clout to suppress oposition, even irrational opposition, against a need for free speech and the fairest rather than most partisan result.
    It all devolves down the evolutionary tree back to barnyard behaviour in the end, with humans beings. Strip away superficialities and it’s not more intelligent than the living process modernism despises, of the middle ages village.

  17. Ken Parish says:


    I don’t think you do your own rep much credit by trivialising this issue. As you should know from reading Graham Young’s piece, there is quite cogent evidence that there is an organised boycott of advertising not only on troppo but several of Australia’s largest political blogs. Moreover the existence of one of Australia’s most prominent and longest-standing independent opinion journals in OLO is threatened by that boycott. It appears that it stems from pressure placed on major corporates by a couple of individuals working for advertising agencies who handle ad placements that affect us all, because these individuals apparently disapproved of a specific article published in OLO which was (a) not so offensive as reasonably to justify such action; (b) balanced by other articles putting all sides of the issue; and (c) in any event nothing whatever to do with Troppo, LP or any of the other blogs concerned. I wonder if you would have the same attitude if (say) Australian Geographic or New Matilda or some such magazine was being driven into bankruptcy by an effective boycott depriving them of just about all their advertising revenue and orchestrated by multinational fossil fuel corporations because those magazines had dared to publish an article which trenchantly condemned the greenhouse skeptic movement? It’s not hard to guess the answer, but as a matter of fundamental intellectual honesty the issue of principle doesn’t change merely because the article which triggered the boycott is one with which you personally disagree.

  18. Pingback: What gay activists and Melinda Tankard Reist have in common « No Place For Sheep

  19. gt says:


    This topic appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with Israel and yet twice now you have snuck in attacks on Israel. You appear to be a mite wee bit obsessed.

  20. Paul Foord says:

    It is to be regretted that the hosting of blogs in Australia is so narrow. I had not realised that Domain and Crikey were so dominant in the environment.

  21. Ken Parish says:

    Domain does not host any of the blogs mentioned to the best of my knowledge. Graham Young and OLO simply proposed an arrangement, which several prominent blogs accepted, whereby it would assist us with sourcing advertising and producing the Nielsen ratings by which mainstream ad agencies work out payment rates. Crikey OTOH does host the blogs in its stable.

  22. Mel says:

    I can’t for the life of me see what what the problem is here, Ken. A couple of corporations, the ANZ and IBM, have acted on a matter of principle and risked a campaign of vilification such as that currently being waged by yourself, Skeptic Lawyer and Graham Young. They have also bravely risked legal action. ANZ and IBM have exercised their free speech in the finest manner possible, and at significant risk to themselves.

    Graham Young chose of his own volition to publish a piece that was designed to inflame prejudice and hatred. It is precisely the type of opinions expressed by Muehlenberg that licence anti-gay hate crime- NSW alone has had close to 100 anti-gay hate crime murders since 1980 according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. Look at the type of supporters Muehlenberg attracts, as per various supportive comments on various websites, and you can almost touch and breathe in the hate. If Muehlenberg is David Irving, his supporters are the skinheads with the knuckledusters.

    And Young has encouraged Muehlenberg to stir up hate over many years, as this list of his articles dating back to 2004 attests:

    Club Troppo and the other so-called “Domain” blogs have either failed to take the issue seriously, or as an above commenter suggests, failed to do due diligence. As a result you’ve entwined your own fortunes with Graham Young’s and this has had certain consequences. While I’m sorry about those consequences, I think it proves the old adage-

    “If you lie down with dogs, don’t be surprised if you get up with fleas”.

  23. conrad says:

    This sort of things happen all the time — often for things not nearly as bad as publishing spiteful articles, and whilst I don’t think it’s fair to punish the group for the actions of Online Opinion, I’m not surprised it’s happened.

    Drugs in sport are a good example. In the sport of cycling, for example, probably one of the cleanest sports now due to massive amount of massively invasive testing that is done (cf., football, rugby etc. — all the other sports where it is swept under the carpet), sponsors have dropped their funding entirely when a single individual in a team has been caught cheating, and German TV won’t even show the Tour de France this year because someone _might_ get caught cheating. I think what this shows is that many sponsors are extremely finicking about with whom they associate, which I think is entirely unsuprising, and so it doesn’t surprise me at all that ANZ and others offloading themselves. I also think that there’s a huge difference between publishing something that could get in the hate-crime register, and comments by morons which you can read everyday in most of the online papers that allow it.

  24. Yobbo says:

    I don’t see why you are having a go at the advertisers.

    They have been on the receiving end of leftist revenge hate so many times that it’s no wonder they get skittish about this sort of thing. The only real surprising thing is that they sponsor political blogs in the first place. I would have thought that most companies would avoid them for precisely this reason.

    Anyway, the title of this article is retarded.

    You aren’t being bullied by “corporate thugs”. Removing their advertising is not bullying.

    The corporates are the ones being bullied here. And due to that bullying they have had to remove their advertisements because they don’t want to be involved in some HREOC case or media frenzy over a gay lobby boycott of their business.

  25. ringil says:

    Ken, Gregory Storer’s response to Graham Young is relevant here.

    Not relevant is how civilised you personally find the comments. OLO claims to value diverse views and publishes site rules prohibiting language that is “vulgar, obscene, profane or which may harass or cause distress or inconvenience to, or incite hatred of, any person.” Yet many believe that these policies are selectively enforced, to the disadvantage of sexual minorities. After exhausting the remedies available to him on the OLO site, Mr Storer has simply exercised his right to ask OLO’s sponsors if their corporate values are consistent with what is appearing on the site, regardless of the rules.

    Nor is the fact that there are worse cases relevant. We don’t lose our right to complain about assaults in Adelaide because there are murders in Melbourne. I doubt that you really want to suggest that because vilification happens elsewhere, we should be required to put up with abuse on OLO.

  26. Ken Parish says:


    I agree that the person/s with bullying/thuggish intent is the gay activist/political candidate Gregory Storer. ANZ and IBM simply buckled at the knees reflexively no doubt for immediate commercial reasons, rather than even consider taking anything resembling a principled stand. They are undeniably the immediate agents of the thuggery though without the requisite thuggish intent/purpose under the TPA to inflict loss or damage. Their purpose was merely to avoid and deflect damage to themselves that might otherwise have been inflicted by Storer etc. Graham Young put it quite well in his response that I linked from the primary post:

    No, the only way to read the ANZ action is that for their, in their terms relatively small advertising investment in our site, it wasn’t worth the grief they thought they might get from the gay lobby, and it might prejudice their pitch for the pink dollar – they are after all the sponsors of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. So someone decided to pull the ad.


    I suppose there’s an argument that OLO should not have such a fuzzy and meaningless set of rules on their site. I don’t think it can sensibly be claimed that a comment from a fundie christian (that was instantly condemned by others) to the effect that homosexuality is a “perversion” could reasonably be regarded as either vulgar, obscene or profane, nor do I think that it would be likely to cause distress or inconvenience to any reasonable person in the context. Does such a comment “incite hatred”? Maybe for some, although one man’s pleasure is another’s perversion! Moreover, I think the accusation of inciting hatred fits Muehlenberg’s article more comfortably than any of the comments. Graham’s problem is that he’s set his own bar too high. On a literal reading his rules prohibit a comment or article if ANY PERSON however thin-skinned and unreasonable professes to be distressed, inconvenienced etc. If I was him I’d be sticking in the word “reasonable” in several places to avoid the sort of rather silly bush lawyer argument you and Storer are trying to run. If you’re actually interested in achieving positive gains for gay and lesbian issues generally and gay marriage in particular, I think you’d be well advised to go back and read both the comment thread to the Muehlenberg article and today’s on Graham’s article, not to mention the various blogosphere contributions and ask yourselves these related questions:

    Are my actions assisting the cause I support or instead alienating many of the very people who would generally be strong supporters?
    Or am I merely being self-indulgent, petulant, narrow-minded and short-sighted?

    Jennifer Wilson also makes these points eloquently (see links above).

  27. JC says:

    Yobs says:

    The only real surprising thing is that they sponsor political blogs in the first place. I would have thought that most companies would avoid them for precisely this reason.

    Dude, I’d reconsider if I were you. Look at the deal just announced some hours ago.

    AOL to buy The Huffington Post for $315 million

    This is an amazing deal. According to Dealbook, Huff post had $60 million in revs last year putting the valuation of this website up in the stratosphere and possibly an indication of the beginning of a stock boom in the US for all social media and the rest.

    This is a huge deal. No wonder Graham is pissed :-) ad revenue is being sold at 5.25 times as a freaking multiple for an opinion website.

  28. Kim’s take:

    That’s her own view, not a collective LP position, but I think it appears clear that LP authors have a different approach to this question than most of the other bloggers affected.

    I’d add that, irrespective of the chain of events leading up to this kerfuffle, I haven’t been sanguine for some time that mainstream advertising would continue to provide a reliable source of revenue for niche political and public affairs sites. The potential risk for them probably appears greater than the benefit. I said on LP that I think that if we decided we needed the money (and that would probably be for expansion, otherwise we can muddle on through) I wouldn’t think it impossible to sell space to ideological soulmates, as is done by some US liberal blogs. Such a strategy wouldn’t work for OLO, and I wonder also if advertisers decide to vacate the field of political sites, whether or not there might be some pretty dire implications for publications such as Crikey and New Matilda.

    I would also think that the MSM publications would have a lot to lose if advertisers become more wary of association with virulent comments threads, particularly some of the News Limited “blogs”.

  29. @28 – JC, HuffPo is massive in terms of page views and there’s a different context in the US, I’d have thought, for most of these issues. Australia is a bit of a backwater both in terms of the actual size of the population, and the market for political and public affairs writing, which Sally Young at Melbourne Uni has demonstrated really is very small:

    Having said that, it’s interesting to read speculation about Fairfax wanting to acquire Crikey today…

  30. JC says:


    Didn’t know it’s that big until you mentioned it. But FFS they are valuing this stuff at 5.25 times ad revenue. Forget profits, the new metric seems to be ad revenue!!!! Ad rev at 5.25 times!!!

  31. Ken Parish says:


    You, Tim Lambert and a number of left-leaning figures who haven’t so far appeared on this thread (notably Jeremy Sear and Clive Hamilton) clearly have a very different fundamental attitude to free speech than my own. Although I’m not a libertarian on economic issues, I certainly am on free speech issues. I reckon anyone should be able to say anything they like without censorship as long as it isn’t seriously defamatory, grossly obscene and doesn’t possess a clear and serious tendency to provoke immediate and serious civil disorder (what US constitutional jurisprudence calls “fighting words”). I do not subscribe to the notion that something that someone labels “vilification” ought to be capable of prohibition unless it falls into one of the above very narrow categories, even if the language and ideas are very offensive, rude, ignorant, uncivil and just plain wrong to my mind and most other people. That doesn’t mean I deny myself the right to censor comment on my own blog that I regard as too uncivil and unpleasant for my personal comfort and what I regard as productive conversation with other reasonably mature adults. I suppose one might concede the same right to IBM and ANZ, but IMO they should be regarded as having some wider public duty partly because of their sheer size and their rent-seeking receipt of public largesse (that especially applies to ANZ).

    You guys OTOH seem to believe that someone who wants to express ideas that you subjectively regard as being beyond the pale according to your own value system ought to be censored, and anyone who refuses to do so and allows or facilitates their words being published is fair game for retribution. I suppose it’s a legitimate political philosophical difference of opinion, and someone like David Irving certainly strains my libertarian tolerance. It ultimately depends on what one thinks is the proper balance between individual autonomy and social cohesion. Thus I’ll refrain from further debate on the point, because it would end up offending my own principles of civil discourse and be pointless in any event because we’re never going to convert each other to our respective viewpoints.

  32. Tim Lambert says:

    You guys OTOH seem to believe that someone who wants to express ideas that you subjectively regard as being beyond the pale according to your own value system ought to be censored, and anyone who refuses to do so and allows or facilitates their words being published is fair game for retribution.

    I don’t believe anything of the sort.

    ANZ and IBM are or were your customers, buying ads from you. When they stopped, you responded by vilifying them and calling for them to be boycotted. That seems more than a little counter-productive — it seems that you are more likely to make them want to have nothing to do with advertising on blogs ever again. And also to make other companies, who have never advertised on blogs, less likely to start.

    My own personal interest in this is that I have advertising on my blog and I would like it to continue and your campaign is likely to make advertisers think twice about getting involved with blogs.

  33. Ken Parish says:


    I share your unease at the implications of taking the corporate shilling, especially given these events. For Troppo there’s the additional factor that it’s bugger-all money anyway, whereas LP gets quite a bit more traffic and therefore no doubt a lot more income. However in the “big picture” it’s still chicken-feed and certainly many orders of magnitude lower than Huffington Post. I have severe doubts that it’s worth the hassle and I think Nicholas and I need to discuss the question when he returns from his current o/s trip. We really don’t need the income anyway and have never spent any of it. It’s just accumulating very slowly in a bank account in the hope that we might think of something useful to do with it one day. Maybe we should use it to fund a blogosphere piss-up next time I’m in Melbourne and draw a line under the whole thing.

    As for Kim’s post:

    (a) I think the question of whether there’s an actionable secondary boycott is tricky and uncertain but I have no intention of being part of any such action anyway;
    (b) I think it IS about free speech as my comments on this thread make clear;
    (c) I think ANZ and IBM should be regarded as having some public ethical if not legal responsibility not to use their market position in an oppressive manner as they are doing here. I’m not sure that it should be a legally enforceable duty because that raises all sorts of thorny questions given the traditional legal basis of directors’ duties etc. However, regarding it as an ethical responsibility mostly sidesteps those questions.
    (d) My attitude to Gregory Storer is summarised at #27 above.
    (e) I don’t think OLO should be moderating its comment threads more aggressively, at least judged on the example of the Muehlenberg thread (I don’t typically read OLO threads so it’s the only example I can use). The comment to which Storer apparently objected (asserting from a fundie perspective that homosexuality is a “perversion”) is one I think is rather offensive but does actually express a fairly widespread christian perspective (as I’m sure you know from the Australian Catholic University campus). It’s no more extreme than dozens you’ll find on lots of blogs and MSM sites any day of the week.

  34. Kim says:

    I agree with Tim.

    There don’t seem to me to be any cogent arguments for regarding the actions of ANZ and IBM as an attack on “free speech”. They’re not under any obligation to advertise where they don’t want to. I also very much doubt that bluster about their supposed sins and intimations about legal action, columns in The Australian and blog posts by Andrew Bolt decrying “political correctness”, etc, are going to do anything other than make them want to run a mile from the whole idea of placing ads on blogs.

    Had I been Graham Young, as I said on LP, I might well have thought that approaching them in a conciliatory way to try to resolve the issue would have been a better way of proceeding. But I’m not. I doubt many of these blog posts are anything other than counter-productive in achieving the aims their authors claim to be seeking to advance.

    I also think all this should make some people think again about moderation practices.

    But Mark and Tim are probably right that this does not bode well for the cause of attracting advertising revenue for political blogs.

  35. Kim says:

    @34 – Ken, we crossed.

    Obviously, we are not going to agree on the fundamentals of “free speech” and the rightness or otherwise of the conduct of the various players in all this.

    But I would point out that Gregory Storer is not the sole yardstick of what is offensive. Unfortunately, I read the whole thread, and the endless recitation of a set of interlinked slurs which have been retailed as a package by notorious hater in the US Religious Right (“rimming”, false claims about health risks, etc, ad nauseam) are to me much more offensive, and as factually wrong and argumentatively worthless as Bill Muehlenberg’s original piece of tripe.

  36. Ken Parish says:


    OK I understand where you’re coming from now. However it really underlines the concerns I just expressed at #34. This controversy brings into sharp relief the dilemmas and potential compromises that unavoidably flow from corporate sponsorship and advertising. One is creating an inherent conflict of interest between one’s belief in free speech and intellectual integrity on the one hand and one’s commercial interest in not antagonising a sponsor or advertiser.

    I don’t want to be twee or naive about it. Anyone trying to publish as a business, even a part-time one, has no real choice but to submit to that dilemma and try to balance the competing imperatives on an ongoing basis. Troppo OTOH (and I think I speak for Nicholas as well at least to this extent) has no need at all to make money from advertising. We joined the Domain grouping mostly just because we were asked and didn’t see any compelling reason not to do so.

    Penultimately, I certainly responded forthrightly to what is clearly a major organised boycott of OLO and inadvertently the Domain blogs as well (96% drop in ad revenue clearly means many more participants than just those two companies, and that doesn’t happen by sheer chance) by labelling it as such and indicating in strong language my own objections and intended response i.e.a personal boycott. I hope others follow suit but doubt that they will. And I have subsequently qualified my response by acknowledging that in one sense IBM and ANZ might be regarded as victims of what I certainly see as unacceptable intimidatory tactics, or at least as taking a weak-kneed expedient approach which sees their own immediate commercial risk as the only relevant factor.

    I hope you continue to prosper from commercial advertising if you want to do so. Moreover, I doubt that you will suffer because others including OLO, myself and Helen Dale have been fairly strongly critical of the behaviour of these advertisers. However, if you DO end up suffering for it, perhaps it might be time to revisit some of the issues I’ve touched on above. Why do we blog? Does advertising render our efforts relevantly indistinguishable from the commercial media? And many other questions.

  37. Ken Parish says:


    You might not have noticed that I indicated further up the thread that I had only read up to page 7 of the OLO Muehlenberg thread. I found nothing to that point that was sufficiently objectionable to provide rational justification for Storer’s actions. If later pages contained material of the sort you described (““rimming”, false claims about health risks, etc, ad nauseam”) my view might well be different.

    You may note that I asked ringil to specify what comments he objected to given that I didn’t have time to read 22 pages of comment threads. Unfortunately he/she didn’t respond. That sort of material may well raise issues that suggest Graham needs to reconsider his moderation policies. They certainly sound like comments that we would delete from Troppo without too much agonising at all.

    However, that in turn raises the thorny issue of to what extent blogs which have disparate political philosophies and commercial and other aspirations can productively collaborate for mutual advertising benefit. Do we need to have common moderation policies to avoid being tarred with someone else’s brush? etc etc. Is it all just too hard? Mind you, I think I’d tolerate it for even a substantial fraction of what Huffington Post is getting!!!

  38. Mel says:

    Ken: “You guys OTOH seem to believe that someone who wants to express ideas that you subjectively regard as being beyond the pale according to your own value system ought to be censored …”

    Let me be clear, I certainly don’t think Muehlenberg’s strays into territory that should be illegal. Censorship is therefore not part of the equation. Let’s not verbal each other.

    I also do not accept that ANZ and IBM have simply responded to bullying or made a simple economic calculation. Muehlenberg and his right-wing Christian lobby mates would, I think, have a vastly larger and more active base than that available to the gay lobby. Muehlenberg’s troops are already calling for a boycott against the ANZ and IBM. ANZ and IBM have much to lose and I suspect they new this from the outset.

    I agree that ANZ and IBM have a “wider public duty” because of their size and power, but unlike you I think they have exercised it correctly. As I noted previously, about 100 gays have died as a result of hate crimes in NSW alone since 1980. What other Australian minority is murdered in such numbers on account of their minority status? None, I would think. Muehlenberg, and those like Young who provide him with a cloak of respectability, contribute to the atmosphere that causes such violence. ANZ and IBM have decided to disassociate themselves from this particular conservative death dance. They have rated the principles of life and the pursuit of happiness a little above the liberty of free speech in this particular instance. It sounds like a fair and reasonable judgment call to me. And in a free and open society, it is their call to make.

  39. Kim says:

    @38 – Me too re: HuffPo, Ken!

    It is a bit of an ask to read that comments thread, though for anyone who might wish to, it’s easier to do so when you click “All”:

    You may also be right that there are some issues raised by bundling together ideologically disparate blogs we might have to think about!

    I don’t think, FWIW, that any of the people complaining realised that there would be an impact to anyone other than OLO.

  40. Fyodor says:

    What others said: this isn’t about free speech, but a flawed business model.

    Voltaire apparently never said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    Yah. He also never said,

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will fund to the death your right to say it.”

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  43. Ken Parish says:

    He also never said,

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will fund to the death your right to say it.”

    This would be a killer point if we were just talking about a primary boycott situation. Any person or corporation is entitled to purchase or not purchase goods or services from any other person and it would be a worry if it were otherwise. However we’re talking here about a potential organised secondary boycott which may breach the competition provisions of the TPA (I’ll keep calling it that for now because it’s quicker). According to Graham Young, a small group of gay activists has threatened, coerced or induced numerous corporate advertisers including IBM and ANZ into treating businesses they had been dealing with, including OLO and Troppo, in a manner different from what they otherwise would have done, and moreover one which almost by definition causes us loss and damage. In Troppo’s case the damage is slight and I doubt that the individuals concerned would be worth suing. Nevertheless, this may well be an unlawful secondary boycott under s45D despite legal and practical uncertainties discussed earlier (although I confused the issue at one point, I think).

    Surely that would give you at least momentary pause for thought before leaping to this glib conclusion. The paradigm case of a 45D breach is a union picket designed to coerce people not to deal with an employer with whom unionists are in dispute. However the facts here appear to point towards a 45D breach even though suing on practical grounds seems rather pointless and probably counterproductive. Nevertheless it’s significant that, despite its anti-union origins, successive Labor governments have preserved 45D for the very good reason that permitting collusive, coercive and anti-competitive arrangements really is problematic.

    The interesting thing from this discussion thread from my viewpoint at least is that we’ve probably teased out the viewpoints of all parties and it’s possible to have a degree of at least understanding for all of their positions:

    – Troppo and the other blogs are entirely innocent uninvolved parties and in every sense collateral damage;

    – At least judging by Kim from LP’s characterisation of sections of the Muehlenberg comment threads that I haven’t read, the gay activists including Gregory Storer might have had some cause for a degree of outrage at OLO’s moderation policies;

    – OTOH Graham Young has simply observed a reasonably “hands off” moderation policy consistent with his classical liberal principles, and the overall conversation on this issue at OLO has been full and fair. It’s understandable that he sees OLO as having been unfairly singled out by zealots. My own tentative view in light of the nature of the comment threads as described by Kim is that the moderation policy really needs to be revisited;

    – IBM and ANZ have certainly behaved in an expedient way with no regard to basic principles of fairness and free speech (not to mention the requirements of the TPA), but their concerns about possible commercial damage are understandable and on the predominant view of directors’ duties under corporations law they’re obliged to act in the company’s commercial interests rather than on any general notion of public good etc. Of course it’s equally possible that they could suffer commercial damage from the reactions of the fundie christians in light of the current situation. That may suggest that their acceding to the boycott in the first place was rather short-sighted and tha they might have been better advised on pragmatic grounds to decline to alter their advertising placement decisions. But that’s another question.

  44. paul walter says:

    gt, what a hero you are, hiding behind you initials.
    Its EXACTLY the same thing as the zionist lobby trying to wipe out the likes of Mearsheimer and Walts on Palestine.
    Apart from being a silly season filler and vehicle for fund raising, there is not much can be said about this cowardly boycotting, EXCEPT AS, an attack on free speech.
    The pitiful Muehlenberg thing was put up, made whatever point it wanted to make and was shot down by posters for it.
    THAT’S the way to do it, not avoid discussion by shutting out contrary views on the basis of a personal and subjective unverified feeling as to what constitutes some sort of “hate speech”.
    Get over yourselves!

  45. Yobbo says:

    3 posts now from Paul Walter saying it’s all the joos fault.

  46. Adam says:

    Are Club Troppo doing the annual Crikey group sub thing again this year?

  47. paul walter says:

    Three posts now from righties saying its all paul walter’s fault.
    That’s not what I said, go back and read my post, then write fifty times on the white board ,”I must not misrepresent what others say at a serious blog site”.

  48. jtfsoon says:

    I agreee with what Fyodor and Yobbo have said here. The corporates aren’t the thugs not do they have an obligation to support anyone but they are cowards. The thugs are the gay lobby.

    However Mel’s stuff about how more gays will kill themselves because of something on OLO is just ridiculous. And if Muehlenberg is so beyond the pale that Kim claims she would not have published him, why the heck did Croome basically agree to be published in the same book as him?

    The gay lobby haa become so strident and oversensitive nowadays. I used to be sympathetic to their cause but this and their ridiculous lawsuits and use of tribunals have put me off. Keep going like this, fellas.

  49. Mel says:


    “However Mel’s stuff about how more gays will kill themselves because of something on OLO is just ridiculous.”

    Actually that isn’t what I said.

  50. jtfsoon says:

    I agree that Muehlenberg is a buffoon though. It’s disappointing that Quadrant chooses to make him a regular writer on their website.

  51. Ken Parish says:

    See my comment on Don Arthur’s thread on this subject.

    I wonder if there’s a WordPress plugin that allows you to fork and associate posts as related but also provides commenters with a button to insert their comment in both related threads if they wish?? If not, an enterprising programmer who sees this might like to write one. I think it would be extremely useful.

  52. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Ken – I’m not following the secondary boycott argument. Who would the action be against? The advertisers for pulling the ads? (Surely not, if the prohibition on secondary boycotts doesn’t allow advertisers to pull advertising the law needs to be amended). Or the people advocating the boycott? (Bloggers will start suing their commentors?) Who would be the plaintiff? OLO and the other other blogs in the advertising syndicate, or just the other blogs?

    While I accept the logic of a ban on secondary boycotts (akin to restraint on trade) I suspect the application is very narrow. IIRC environmental groups pressured banks not to finance the Tasmanian mill a few years ago. I don’t recall the TPA being applied then (perhaps it was I really don’t know).

  53. Ken Parish says:

    The defendants would be the “gay activists” in the ad agencies (Graham Young asserts their existence) who allegedly are orchestrating the boycott. Their position (assuming they exist) is analogous to union picketers coercing customers against crossing picket lines, while the position of ANZ, IBM etc is analogous to the customers. At one stage of the discussion I was flirting with trying to conceptualise it so that the corporations could be sued, for the obvious practical reasons that the activists within the ad agencies almost certainly aren’t worth suing. That’s probably why you became confused.

    Proving the existence of these alleged activists would be problematic, as would proving that their actions caused the boycott, as would the fact that they probably don’t have substantial assets anyway, as is the fact that troppo makes bugger-all money out of advertising anyway so the whole thing would be pointless. But it’s interesting to think it all through as a mental exercise.

    45D is potentially applicable to a situation such as this. It isn’t confined to IR and unions. In fact it’s potentially easier to sustain such an action outside the IR field these days as a result of s 45DD:

    (1) A person does not contravene, and is not involved in a contravention of, subsection 45D(1), 45DA(1) or 45DB(1) by engaging in conduct if the dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to the remuneration, conditions of employment, hours of work or working conditions of that person or of another person employed by an employer of that person.

    This provision would not apply in the current situation, meaning a plaintiff would only need to prove that causing loss and damage to OLO etc was a part of their purpose or motivation.

  54. JC says:

    Paul Walter

    Honest question. Do you think this may be some sort of Jewish conspiracy to wreck Troppo by stopping the ad dollars? Don’t beat around the bush. Come out and say it, Dude.

  55. Sinclair Davidson says:


  56. Fyodor says:

    This would be a killer point if we were just talking about a primary boycott situation.


    Proving the existence of these alleged activists would be problematic, as would proving that their actions caused the boycott, as would the fact that they probably don’t have substantial assets anyway, as is the fact that troppo makes bugger-all money out of advertising anyway so the whole thing would be pointless.

    That’s a lot of maybes supporting one if.

  57. harleymc says:

    This is nothing to do with free speech, it’s all to do with paid vs unpaid speech.
    There are no actions that have been taken that stop anyone expressing their opinion.

    If a blogger wants the corporate dollar good luck to them but be aware that corporates have hundreds of millions invested in their brands, they will protect those assets against anything that might potentially tarnish their good corporate name.

    As a side line the notion that publishing attacks on sectors of a corporation’s customer base, shareholders, staff or board of management should get you rewarded with money is insanity. You can damn well bet that GLBTI and their immediate family are amonst all those groups, why should their money sponsor attacks on them?

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  59. Calligula says:

    I’ve taken time to follow that pingback above through Andrew B’s site then down the links ‘til I found a letter written by the person who lodged complaints with the advertisers at question.

    Seems, like me, that person found it necessary to write to Mr. Young and like me they found his response unacceptable in the extreme. (I’d best not go into the details)

    I chose to stop wasting my time by contributing to OLO – it wasn’t a difficult choice since I found myself reacting so badly the whole show became depressing – enough loonies out the front door any day.
    This other person, however, chose to take affirmative action and in result essentially had everyone’s advertising bombed.

    It is a shame that this action caused grief to others not involved directly but Mr. Young has been acting in ways that contradict the standards of his own charter.

    I note that some comments to Andrew express the same sentiment.

    It goes this way on the face of the record –
    OLO has a huge list of contributors; some quite prolific
    By going to the list they can be accessed as can any of their contributions.
    A significant number of those listed however seem to have had only a few bites of the cherry and then moved on.

    A reasonable person, having noticed this, might become curious and search through the files in order to discover the reason.

    That person, upon discovering – that these minor contributors were variously put down with escalating ridicule, sarcasm, ignore-ance, then abuse; seemingly staged in such a way to divert them, burr them up, embarrass, anger, then finally see them on their way – would become reasonably convinced the moderator of that weblog condoned that activity.

    Looking at the files from another angle reveals that a large number of the pen-names listed only contributed once.
    They went to a fair amount of bother to sign up and register for that one contribution which raises the question as to whether they were somehow put off bothering again, dropped dead suddenly, or are maybe merely being listed there as bums on seats to bolster Mr. Young’s resume’?

    A hard core of Mr. Young’s contributors, at first glance, appear of leftish/green persuasion. The same people first appearing as all sweetness and light soon resort to spite at the slightest excuse.

    They do not speak their own piece forthrightly rather attack viciously to the extent that they do their own professed cause irreparable harm.
    It is the way that this sort of thing is choreographed on the pages mentioned here and others that leads me to suspect that these actions are intended to harm certain causes that these pages claim to foster.

    Goebbels himself couldn’t have done a better job.

  60. JM says:

    Sorry Ken, I think you’re really up against it with this “secondary boycott” line.

    1. Blogs like newspapers, sporting events, entertainers etc are aggregators of an audience and advertisers seek out those audiences they feel are most receptive to their product. ANZ and IBM are perfectly entitled to the opinion that an audience receptive to Muehlenberg’s message is not commercially advantageous to them and then take their money elsewhere.

    2. The activities of advertisers are also frequently described as “endorsement” of the particular blog/newspaper/sport/entertainer. If ANZ and IBM feel they don’t wish to endorse Muehlenberg’s views that is something they’re entitled to do.

    You cannot force someone to buy your product.

    You’re on no better ground with your point regarding Troppo as being collatoral damage. While Muehlenberg is not the only poster at OLO, the fact that others are hurt by withdrawal of sponsorship is an unavoidable side effect in the same way that if I withdraw my custom from a shop selling a few items I find offensive hurts the suppliers of all other – non-objectionable – products being sold through from those premises. I can’t avoid the harm caused.

    The fact is that Troppo is presented on the Domain* alongside OLO and if OLO offends then Troppo should consider the company it keeps. In exactly the same way that if I associate with the KKK (say) while not sharing their views I can’t really expect that to have no effect on people’s attitude towards me.

    The whole line about secondary boycotts is nonsense on a stick.

    * I presume this is what you’re talking about

  61. JM says:

    While on the subject can I also point out that a real secondary boycott has an element that this incident doesn’t. Namely that it is an effort to cause direct harm to a third party that is not involved in the dispute between the primary parties.

    Graham howoever is involved. He published the article at his own discretion and has defended that decision on the basis of “free debate”.

    That is quite different from a union picketing a supplier to a firm the union is involved in an industrial dispute with. The supplier has nothing to do with the actual dispute and is being directly harmed in order to coerce them to pressure the primary firm to change its attitude even though the supplier would ordinarily have no legitimate interest in those policies (unless of course they disliked them on their own account and instituted their own primary boycott).

    The argument is hysterical rubbish.

  62. Mel says:

    I think it is probably about time to put to rest the distasteful claim by Ken Parish, Helen Dale and Graham Young that a “Pink Mafia” (bitches according to Helen Dale, in her post here: ) has acted illegally by perpetrating a secondary boycott under the replacement to section 45D of the old Trade Practices Act.

    We now know that one person, acting alone, Gregory Storer, wrote some politely worded and non-threatening letters to OO’s advertisers in which he *requested* they pull their ads from OO because of Graham Young’s policy of encouraging comments such as these on his site:

    “God says it vile,abomination and your not gonna live with him, u homos are heading towards hell and eternal darkness wher there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, is that what u want fine, go there.

    U are a scourge to society, a cancer to civilization, spare us your filth
    It would be better for us if u go live out in the Sahara desert.

    Posted by HELLFIRE HARRY, Friday, 26 November 2010 7:59:32 PM”

    Most advertisers ignored Gregory’s request but a couple agreed with it and complied. Incidentally, not *purposefully* as required by 45D(1)(b), this caused a loss to fourth parties. For this reason alone, the lack of purposefulness, a claim under 45D would fail.

    But wait, there’s more- in order for the Section 45D secondary boycott provisions to apply, the boycotter must act in a manner that *hinders or prevents* a third party from doing something that causes a loss to a fourth party. A classic example is a picket line. Now I think it should be bleedingly obvious to anyone with an elementary capacity for reasoning that a simple letter of request written by a citizen acting alone does not come within a bull’s roar of *hindering or preventing* a third party from taking some action. But of course, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating, Gregory Storer done nothing, I repeat nothing, to menace or obstruct those advertisers who ignored his request.

    Crikey, I only ever did year 12 legal studies and I slept through most of it, yet it is damn obvious to me that the secondary boycott claim is absolute tommy rot.

    Ken, Helen and Graham owe Mr Storer an apology.

  63. paul walter says:

    Mel, do you think people are so stupid that they can’t identify a shallow comment like Hellfire Harry’s one and see it for the twaddle that it is?
    Good on Graham Young for including even comments most would find mediocre, probably for the amusement it would create in better informed sections of the readership.
    You have to include backward comments also, to get an idea of the range and quality of public informedness.
    Personally am glad he included that comment, since it shows just how primitive some of the thinking out there still is.

  64. paul walter says:

    JC, in two words, “grow up”.

  65. Ken Parish says:

    Apropos Mel’s demand for an apology at #62, see the update and apology now appended to the foot of the primary post.

  66. Mel says:

    You are a gentleman, as always, Ken.

  67. Patrick says:

    Bravo Ken that really is exemplary behaviour.

  68. Gregory Storer says:

    Thank you for the apology.

    I’ve been chasing my name all around the Internet these last few days, and it seems that my actions have turned me into the main activist of some gay lobby.

    I believe I’ve followed a logic process in my mind that I apply to all manner of things in my life. If something isn’t right, if I don’t like it say so. So I did. When the response I got wasn’t right, I alerted advertisers to the type of site they support. Mostly I was ignored.

    I don’t even know if anyone else complained, I’ve had very little communication from any of the advertisers and those I did get were just polite emails.

    I’ve not employed any stand over tactics, my approach has been polite and concise. I didn’t encourage anyone to boycott the site or the advertisers on the site. The ramifications are not my fault. Any sound solid business would have a risk analysis on what to do if they loose one source of funding. And, that’s what we’re talking about. Young says he lost 96% of one source of funding. I haven’t seen it said that he lost 96% of his overall funding. And it seems the site is still running.

    Young won’t accept responsibility for his actions or inactions, and seems keen to pursue me as the cause of his woes.


  69. According to the complaint Gregory made on the OLO blog Ambit Gambit, he was *One of the gay activists that ‘attacked’ OLO.”

    Yesterday I was approached on my blog by Gregory’s partner, Michael Barnett.

    Michael said he had the answers to the questions I’d raised about how many people were involved in the advertising boycott, and other questions. He writes as follows:

    Michael: I have the answers to your questions and you’d be surprised and disappointed with them.

    Me: Tell us then.

    Michael: I don’t need to tell you what I know. You can trust me on this.


    I am very sympathetic to Gregory’s distress over the comments made in the forum. I agree that there were some that should go.

    I am also uneasy with this whole exchange with Michael. I was prepared to apologise for misunderstanding Gregory’s reference to being “one of the gay activists,” which is ambivalent – I don’t know if he means of the complainants to OLO or one of the complainants to the advertisers. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt there.

    But this peculiar exchange with Michael does not sit well.

    I also think that anti discrimination action is far more appropriate that trying to deprive OLO and Graham Young of an income.

    I’m also gobsmacked at the level of ill will directed towards Young around some blogs. “He’s got what he deserved. He’s got his just desserts. He’s made his bed let him lie in it, why should he expect corporate sponsorship, if he tries to run a site that allows all opinions what does he expect the quality at OLO was a disgrace,” and so on. I don’t know what this animosity towards him is about.

    But when you’re looking at a man’s livelihood going down the drain, and a very significant website; when there is a perfectly appropriate legal mechanism in place specifically for addressing Storer’s complaints, the thought of revenge does cross one’s mind.

    Together with the strange comments from Michael, I don’t know what is really going on here. I confess I’m now stumped.

  70. Kim says:

    Good one, Ken.

  71. Kim says:

    Hello there, Dr Wilson.

    I must say I wonder at your recent post publishing a photo of Mr Storer (why?) and containing this gem:

    As to how large the gay lobby led by Gregory is, I haven’t been able to ascertain that so far. There must be some members of considerable economic power, if they are in a position to persuade corporations such as ANZ and IBM to change their advertising placements.

    I think normally when you go in search of “facts” to prove a pre-ordained theory, that’s a scientific and logical no no.

    I really don’t know why some people are so attached to fantasies about a “Gay Lobby” and a “Pink Mafia”, but, just quietly, I doubt all this stuff is doing much good for your stated aims of preserving OLO’s standing and viability.

  72. Hi, Mistress what was it again? You’ve pursued me from LP like one of the furies

    Did it get boring over there since I left, everybody agreeing with everybody, no intruder to throw in a bit of dissent you could sharpen your fangs on?

    That was my first visit to LP. Somebody called Fran Barlow told me LP is a cyber club and if I didn’t like the rules I should move right on out. All I’d done at that point was offer an alternative perspective on moderation. They’re wild over there. Wild I tell you.

    To answer your question: In his complaint to OLO on the Ambit Gambit blog, Gregory says he is ONE of the gay activists who attacked OLO. That led me to conclude there was more than one, as you’d understand, but I didn’t and still don’t know how many.

    In retrospect I am uncertain as to whether he meant attacked OLO through that blog, or attacked OLO through advertisers. I still don’t know that. I have asked his partner, who says he knows but isn’t going to tell me. See my previous post.

    What seemed like zillions of your bloggers, all mad as wasps disturbed on a sunny afternoon by a curious dog, have since informed me about a zillion times, that anybody can complain to any corporation and have an ad pulled. You aren’t required to have any influence of any kind, they tell me. You can just ask these nice banks and global corporations to pull an ad from a place that has been nasty, and they will do it.

    I guess every one of you at LP has tested that pre ordained theory, and nobody is misinforming me and anybody else who reads it? We can all safely accept that truth claim?

    I haven’t put your theory to the test, but since so many of you over there at LP believe it with your whole heart, perhaps there is something in it.

    The photo of Gregory came from his website, where the candidate for Melbourne Ports has invited anyone in the media to use it.

    Your question is really quite unnecessary if you read my post. It was already answered there. I can only assume you are compelled to connect with me for mysterious reasons of your own,and will probably continue to seize on the flimsiest of excuses in your efforts to gain my attention.

    Really Mistress Whatsit. I gave you almost a day and a night. Wasn’t that enough? I never said I was interested in commitment.

  73. Ken Parish says:

    Where’s bloody Nabakov when you need him? A nice big mug of Coolabah Cab Sav and a slab of Coon Cheese is needed here while I sit back and watch the show. Those nasty Libs must be making Nabs put in an honest day’s work. Outrageous!

    Update – Nabs still hasn’t arrived with that virtual drink so I’ve had to resort to self help and liberate a meatspace substitute of Koonunga Hill shiraz in a plastic beaker from the Head of School’s fridge.

  74. Kim says:

    Thanks for the preamble, Dr Wilson. I hate to tell you I’ve been here for a couple of days (and on and off since 2004). I’d just observe that Club Troppo is also a club with rules.

    Good luck with your quest to identify the zillions of economically powerful members of the Anti-OLO Gay Lobby Conspiracy. I wonder what you’re going to do with the list of names when you have it?

  75. Kim says:

    @73 – I’m sure Nabs still keeps civilised hours, Ken. Anyone who’s read any 19th century novels knows civil servants used to arrive around 10am, smoke a cigar, then go out to the club at lunch.

  76. Kim says:

    Ps – Dr Wilson – “more than one” could mean “two”. For instance. Not necessarily a horde of Gay Lobbyists.

    Anyway, as well as talking to Mr Storer, I’m sure you’ll be interviewing his cat, maiden aunts, neighbours and any other salient informants. The Truth Is Out There!

  77. I’m so glad to hear you say the truth is out there Kim. After all those hours of lonely toil over at LP, you almost had me convinced it resides there.

  78. Fyodor says:

    Very disingenuous, Gregory.

    When the response I got wasn’t right, I alerted advertisers to the type of site they support.


    I didn’t encourage anyone to boycott the site or the advertisers on the site.

    What was your motivation, then? To “alert” the advertisers to the “wrongness” of the “site they support”? What reaction did you expect from the advertisers as a result of your actions? You’ve stated publicly that “Targeting advertisers is a legitimate form of protest” and that – by implication – your actions were analogous to those of Christian activists targeting the black-banning of TV shows.

    The ramifications are not my fault.

    Whose, then?

    Young won’t accept responsibility for his actions or inactions, and seems keen to pursue me as the cause of his woes.

    His “woes” are the withdrawal of advertising revenue, occasioned, it seems, by your actions. If you’re not the cause, who is?

    I agree that Young’s responsible for the moderation of OLO and its fragile business model, and that you have done nothing illegal, but you’re kidding yourself if you think you are blameless in this situation. I suggest that your tactics are as lousy as those of the Christian ratbags on the other side of the debate.

  79. Kim says:

    @77 – I’m sorry you didn’t win any friends and influence people during your hours of ardour and toil, Dr Wilson.

    Anyway, I’ll leave the field to you now. I’m sure you have another zillion blog comments to write about Teh Gay Mafia Pink Dollar Lobby and its invidiously slippery yet multiple tentacles.

    Me, I’m going to go and have a beer.

  80. Kim you really should actually read things. I said there must be SOME members of considerable economic power.

    The hyperbolic “hordes” is entirely yours.

    *Some* refers to as few as two.

    Getting territorial or something? You’ve been at Club Troppo and LP for years and I only arrived yesterday like some illegal blow in on a leaky boat without the proper papers?

    Sorry. I don’t do nationalism and border protection in any of its forms. Cosmopolitanism, thats where it’s at. Citizens of the blogosphere, free to alight and leave at will.

    Cheers Jennifer.

  81. Alex says:

    Dr Jen,

    I’ve tracked down the ring leaders of this evil, here.

  82. Kim says:

    That was actually a reference, not to territoriality, Dr Jennifer, but to your insinuation that I arrived here unannounced during my Flight Of The Valkyries.

    FYI. Mistress Kimberella.

    Just because you place so much importance on compiling lists of names.

    Now I really am off to have that beer. Cheers back at cha!

  83. Gregory Storer says:

    I suggest that your tactics are as lousy as those of the Christian ratbags on the other side of the debate.

    So noted.

    Motivation? I’m gay, I’m not a perversion. The comments I complained about are unwarranted so I asked that they be removed. Just like any other consumer, I may complain if I like, so I did. To suggest that me alone brought down a website is just ludicrous. But thanks for the giving the power.

  84. Mel says:

    Fyodor says:

    “I agree that Young’s responsible for the moderation of OLO and its fragile business model, and that you have done nothing illegal, but you’re kidding yourself if you [Gregory Storer] think you are blameless in this situation.”

    That might be a reasonable point of view if it was reasonably foreseeable that one individual writing a few politely worded letters to OO’s advertisers would put the business model in jeopardy but, rather clearly, it wasn’t.

    I think this is a classic black swan event. I imagine most of the earnest Aunty Mabel and Uncle Arthur types who write “concerned citizen” letters of indignation to all and sundry would go through life without ever having anything like this type of impact.

  85. Ken Parish says:

    Taking the discussion seriously again just for a moment, I don’t really see why Jennifer Wilson regards it as inherently incredible that complaints to a corporate advertiser by just one or two people might result in advertising being withdrawn (rather than requiring a conspiracy theory to explain it). I would imagine that most corporations would have a complaint-handling mechanism that involved at least a lowly employee checking out the complaint at least to some extent. With this one that would presumably have involved reading the article concerned and probably the comment thread as well. One could imagine the employee’s reaction might well have been “Hell shit! This is pretty extreme stuff. I’d better refer it to a supervisor.” It wouldn’t be surprising to see a decision taken from there to pull all their advertising depending on Graham’s response. As I’ve suggested before, the Muehlenberg article IS pretty close to the line of unacceptability and many of the comments a long way over the line in my view. You certainly wouldn’t read such stuff in the MSM and I imagine that’s the yardstick by which corporate advertisers would judge these things. They might well be fairly nervous about the consequences for corporate image of association with the Wild West of the blogosphere as an advertising medium anyway, so it would just confirm their worst fears.

  86. Ken Parish says:

    For Jennifer’s benefit if she’s stopped reading the LP thread, Gregory Storer’s partner has now explained what he meant apropos Jennifer’s comment here especially at #70.

  87. Fyodor says:

    Motivation? I’m gay, I’m not a perversion.

    Being gay is your motivation for contacting the advertisers? That’s curious.

    The comments I complained about are unwarranted so I asked that they be removed. Just like any other consumer, I may complain if I like, so I did.

    Yes, you’re quite the complainer. In fact, you didn’t just complain as a “consumer”, did you? Because you weren’t satisfied that you’d complained quite hard enough at OLO, you felt motivated – because of your unperverted gayness, you claim – to complain to the advertisers.

    Job well done, Gregory. You’re a poster complainer for secularism.

  88. Liam says:

    You’re a poster complainer for secularism

    What does secularism have to do with anything? Gregory’s a poster complainer but I don’t see that irreligion is a factor.
    On a further note, could someone please complain to all of the advertisers who do pre-movie cinema advertising? Shits me to tears having to sit through 20 minutes of the guff.

    A nice big mug of Coolabah Cab Sav and a slab of Coon Cheese is needed here

    Room temperature, waiter, please. They need to properly breathe.

  89. JC says:

    On a further note, could someone please complain to all of the advertisers who do pre-movie cinema advertising? Shits me to tears having to sit through 20 minutes of the guff.

    Gregory’s a poster complainer but I don’t see that irreligion is a factor.

    I think Gregory’s complaint was about the comments where some appeared to be religiously motivated and others suggested he should go live in the Sahara(as though that would be a bad thing)

    Really? You don’t like the ads? I’ve always like the boag beer ad with the gal slowly releasing the bottler tied with a sexy black stocking to the dude on the lower floor terrace, as she keeps bending over. Unfortunately sometimes that’s the best part of the entire gig if the movie is awful.

    But hey, if you want to complain, you could ask Gregory nicely if he would arrange that for you.

  90. PatrickB says:

    I was interested in exploring why SL, who is a lawyer, thought the TPA was useful in this case. I didn’t actually get a decent reply to that question which surprised me given SL’s intention of giving us all a legal lesson and I had supplied my reasons as to why I thought it was a spurious argument. I note that you don’t seem confident either.

    I don’t support corporate thuggery, who does? However as I said on SL’s blog if you publish inflammatory material or make offensive statements then expect a strong reaction. I expect tat some people who were hit with flying vegetables during the One Nation protests felt a little hard done by as well.

  91. Ken Parish says:

    Cheesy comestibles update –

    I’m home now and while the red wine situation has improved (I bought it myself) the cheese front remains dire. For some reason best known to herself, the only cheese Jen seems to have purchased is some devondale tasty cheddar. Almost inedible but not quite. Nabakov has inflicted a cheesy hex from 4,000 kilometres away! I have a long memory.

  92. Fyodor says:

    What does secularism have to do with anything?

    Apart from the Secular Party’s candidate for Melbourne Ports using media tactics he borrowed from the religious right?

  93. JC says:


    I’m really conflicted over this issue. I can’t quote see the problem with people acting on their own initiative on issues like this one. I can’t quite see what’s wrong with using these tactics to protest against things they don’t like. They aren’t using the power of the state to censure, but doing so through persuasion.

    I don’t believe Graham has done anything wrong but I also don’t see Gregory acting as old Aunt Myrtle writing letters of outrage whining about something is that bad.

    The firms are also players in this too.

  94. Mistress Kimberella says:

    I think I have cracked the case. With the help of a beer rather than an Oxford doctorate.

    Young and Pearson made much of a code of conduct OLO refused to sign when requested to do so by PostClickthe ad broker. This was mentioned with reference specifically to discussion threads.

    After ANZ and IBM responded to the complaint the ad agency may have wanted the code signed so they could reassure other companies this would not recur. Young refused. Thus all ads disappearing.

    No need to postulate an activist army persuading each advertiser.

    I bet that is what happened.

  95. Pingback: Fair weather business partners at Catallaxy Files

  96. Fyodor says:

    I can’t quite see what’s wrong with using these tactics to protest against things they don’t like.

    It depends on what you mean by “wrong”. It’s definitely legal, but I question the ethics – and strategic merit – of using these tactics to silence opponents.

    I also don’t see Gregory acting as old Aunt Myrtle writing letters of outrage whining about something is that bad.

    Remember that this isn’t a case of D.I.S.Gruntled of Double Bay moaning in a letter to the paper. Storer complained directly to the business associates of OLO, presumably with the objective of indirectly obtaining the compliance from Graham Young that he couldn’t obtain fron whining to Young directly. As Storer put it himself, this is a form of protest that is effective:

    Targeting advertisers is a legitimate form of protest. I’ve seen it plenty of times with people of Christian persuasion black-banning TV shows and talking with the advertisers. It clearly does have an impact.

    IMO it’s a form of bullying that does nothing for Storer’s cause and may well have alienated potential supporters.

    As for the firms, they were predictably gutless. As I’ve implied previously, they’re – quite rightly – in the business of making a quiet buck, not funding flamewars.

  97. Liam says:

    Secular Party’s candidate for Melbourne Ports

    I missed that bit.
    /poster boy for reading in detail

  98. JC says:

    Yea, all great points.

    Interesting observation you picked up in that the Secular Party candidate for Melbourne Ports seems to have studied and adopted the same tactics of the Christian Right; the very group he opposes.

    Perhaps there is another word to describe this other than sheer brazen hypocrisy. You’re a good wordsmith so you may know.

  99. CJ Morgan says:

    @ Ken Parish – your apology is very classy indeed, unlike your wine ;)

  100. Mel says:

    So what if Storer was previously a Secular Party candidate? He acted in this instance alone and in his capacity as a private citizen.

    Joe’s hypocrisy claim is also malicious. Storer has made it abundantly clear on multiple occasions that he believes everyone, even conservative Christians, have the right to write “concerned citizen” letters whenever it pleases them to do so.

    Seriously guys, if writing a polite letter of request is not a legitimate activity within a free and open society then what is?

  101. Pingback: Skepticlawyer » Tertiary boycotts, online civility and agreeing to disagree

  102. Tillman says:

    Skepticlawyer has put another post up where she continues to argue that the OLO affair amounted to a secondary boycott. This is patent nonsense, as a number of people have pointed out at various places. Another lawyer posted at Skepticlawyer’s that he thought there was a secondary boycott, so I made the following comment in response, but this never made it through moderation:


    Can you explain how the facts fit within s45D? Forget the case law – just explain how the required statutory elements are satisfied.

    I just can’t see it.

    Who are the first, second, third and fourth parties?

    How are the first and second parties acting in concert?

    Who is hindered or prevented from dealing with a fourth party, and how?

    What evidence is there that the first party seeks to cause damage or loss to the fourth party?

    If this is an illegal secondary boycott, how is it not therefore illegal for me to suggest that you do not purchase Shell, Nestle or BP products?

    I can’t see why this is moderated. SL claims to lecture on the law, and she’s quick to accuse people of illegal behaviour, but (as PatrickB noted) she cuts off debate when people challenge her on factual matters.

    Apart from repeatedly demonstrating that she just doesn’t understand either the operation of, or the policy considerations behind, section 45D of the CCA (formerly TPA), in her most recent post she also said:

    The secondary boycott issue hasn’t gone away (although, as Ken says, he has no desire to litigate personally and for my part I have no desire to chase the ACCC to bring a representative action on my behalf). The latter, I think, would require all the affected parties to be on board

    Again, this is nonsense. Section 82 of the CCA says, in effect, that anyone who suffered damage because of a breach of s54D can sue for damages. There is no reason to involve the ACCC or any other person. Any person who suffered is free to sue the perpetrators of the “secondary boycott”. But since there is no secondary boycott, there will be no litigation.

  103. Ken Parish says:

    Thanks Tillman. Yes I’d seen SL’s post. I think we pretty much exhausted the 45D argument over at Catallaxy and here. Moreover, from the facts that have now emerged as to the extent of Mr Storer’s actions (writing a letter of complaint) I think there’s no way in the world that could possibly be held to amount to a hindrance of the supply or acquisition of goods or services so as to breach s 45D, even if there were numerous letters of complaint from numerous people acting with a degree of co-ordination (of which I’ve seen no evidence anyway). Any action would need to be much more active and threatening than that, even though (as I argued) it doesn’t need to be quite as active as a picket line. However there has to be a hindrance, and it’s difficult to see how merely writing a letter could conceivably amount to that. The way the facts have emerged, secondary boycott is just a very large red herring.

  104. Patrickb says:

    Yes it’s definitely square peg/round hole as far as the secondary boycott goes. As soon as you have to start making stuff up about the cabal of activists who somehow interposed themselves between the advertisers and OLO (or the broker) I can imagine the judges eyebrows starting to rise. There were some cases to do with the animal rights people and food contamination and when you read the judgement you know that the judge just has no desire to go down that path. Retaining SL as counsel in this case would have proven to be a large waste of money.

  105. Nabakov says:

    re @76, I’m neither civil or a servant but ’tis true I’ve been having a lot of fun lately with Victoria’s new government, telling them not to run with scissors, etc.

    And speaking as an old ad man, I’m inclined to Mistress Kimberalla’s take @95 on the situation.

    And I can certainly see IBM and ANZ not being fully aware of what goes in some comment threads and deciding to back off when the rocks are lifted. On the bright side OLO can always now take ads from Family First and The Saltshakers.

    Best thing about this is the blogosphere gets to do what it does best, strike self-righteous poses and whip up moral panics while accusing everyone else of doing so*. Party time! Stoli and beluga anyone?

    *Doc Wilson’s definitely a very promising newcomer here. However Ken has rather let the side down by being reasonable and changing his mind when presented with fresh information.

  106. Mel says:

    Online Opinion is now doing a roaring trade in Scientology ads.

    Poor Bill Muehlenberg must now be thinking something along the lines of:

    “Father, Father, why hast thou forsaken me?”

  107. Tillman says:

    However Ken has rather let the side down by being reasonable and changing his mind when presented with fresh information.

    Unprecedented in internet history, AFAIK.

    Churchbells are ringing throughout the land.

  108. Ken Parish says:

    “Unprecedented in internet history, AFAIK.”

    No I did it on global warming too. I was a moderate sceptic until a few years ago but changed my mind in the face of accumulated evidence. I’ve been blogging for a long time so my silly errors and misconceptions are there for all to see. It brings an occasional bracing dose of enforced humility.

  109. Fyodor says:

    Speaking of interwebs history

    Seriously guys, if writing a polite letter of request is not a legitimate activity within a free and open society then what is?

    It depends on what you mean by “legitimate activity”, Melaleuca. I submit that you and I have radically different views on the subject, as do others. As for secularism and its relevance, your bias is known and obvious.

  110. JC says:

    Joe’s hypocrisy claim is also malicious.

    Malicious? Please.

    It’s ironic he uses the same playbook used by the Christian right- the group he seems to be against by standing as a candidate for the Secular party.

    Storer has made it abundantly clear on multiple occasions that he believes everyone, even conservative Christians, have the right to write “concerned citizen” letters whenever it pleases them to do so.

    Isn’t he the freedom lover and how convenient.

    As I see it Storer read a bunch of stuff that he didn’t like (it’s obvious it some of it was pretty distasteful) and acted vindictively against the site. It paid off big time principally because the corporate world is populated by spineless ignorant twats who ought to do their homework before they do business with others. It’s pretty clear if anyone bothered to take a looksee that Young runs a site with pretty diverse opinion and comments. If marketing depts had done their homework it should never have come to this in the the first place, as they would have either refused to be associated with Young’s site or they would have been cool with it.

  111. JC says:

    So much for tolerance from the Secular Party. It appears to be every bit as intolerant as the parties and those it opposes.

    The Secular Party of Australia strongly believes in personal freedom.
    The Secular Party believes that children should be protected from harmful influences. They should be able, via education, to develop to their full potential as human beings, with the capacity for freedom of thought unimpaired by religious biases. We are opposed to religious indoctrination in education, including via the wearing of religious attire in schools.

    So they would ban religious teaching at religious schools. That’s a new one.

  112. Mel says:


    ” … that Young runs a site with pretty diverse opinion and comments.”

    No ho doesn’t. He doesn’t even come close as we’ve established previously.

    ” … the corporate world is populated by spineless ignorant twats …”

    You mean a juridical person exercising a right to freedom of association. Oh what a beautiful thing liberty is.

  113. wizofaus says:

    JC, on what basis you would see opposing religious *indoctrination* of children as a form of intolerance? Would you likewise judge opposing physical abuse of children to be a form of intolerance? I’m more than happy to argue in the strongest possible terms that years of religious indoctrination has the potential to be far more damaging to a person than anything but the most extreme forms of physical abuse.
    I’m not a member of the Secular Party, nor have I read their policies in detail, but I would be extremely surprised if they were intolerant of religious *views* being expressed, and of children being exposed to them in a balanced/objective manner. OTOH, “indoctrination” embeds some of the worst forms of intolerance (Christianity in particular is quite explicitly intolerant of other religions – belief in Christ being the ‘only way’ to salvation etc. etc.), and I don’t see how can you hold a position upholding tolerance as a virtue without being intolerant of intolerance in others.

  114. Eric Sykes says:

    OLO? Free speech?

    “….in endlessly dragging debates over the media, the stupid opinion is treated with the same respect as the intelligent one, the misinformed may talk as long as the informed, and propaganda rides along with education, truth with falsehood. This pure toleration of sense and nonsense is justified by the democratic argument that nobody, neither group nor individual, is in possession of the truth and capable of defining what is right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, all contesting opinions must be submitted to ‘the people’ for its deliberation and choice. But I have already suggested that the democratic argument implies a necessary condition, namely, that the people must be capable of deliberating and choosing on the basis of knowledge, that they must have access to authentic information, and that, on this. basis, their evaluation must be the result of autonomous thought…..


    “if a newscaster reports the torture and murder of civil rights workers in the same unemotional tone he uses to describe the stockmarket or the weather, or with the same great emotion with which he says his commercials, then such objectivity is spurious–more, it offends against humanity and truth by being calm where one should be enraged, by refraining from accusation where accusation is in the facts themselves. The tolerance expressed in such impartiality serves to minimize or even absolve prevailing intolerance and suppression. If objectivity has anything to do with truth, and if truth is more than a matter of logic and science, then this kind of objectivity is false, and this kind of tolerance inhuman.” Herbert Marcuse – Repressive Tolerance 1965.

  115. CJ Morgan says:

    @ Eric Sykes:

    Interesting. One of OLO’s most egregious haters has already invoked (or should I say Bowdlerised) Marcuse in an earlier comment thread in response to a homophobic article by anti-Gay campaigner David van Gend.

    The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for INtolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions WHICH ARE OUTLAWED or SUPRESSED. In other words, today tolerance appears again as what it was in its origins, at the beginning of the modern period–a partisan goal, a subversive liberating notion and practice.

  116. Eric Sykes says:

    Yes CJ, the evil Uncle Herbert undermining our way of life, the father of PC. Which is of course, broadly, true.

    I for one, don’t think hate speech is free speech. If you hate you are gonna hafta pay ;-)

  117. Tillman says:


    You seem to be pushing some buttons:

    You are straying very close to defamation, Mel. If you wish to be banned from this site as well, then keep going the way you’re going. That would be unfortunate, because you often have valuable insights, but I will ban you if I have to.

    Two things I love about Skepticlawyer’s response to your comment:

    First, she accuses you of defamation, despite having made completely spurious allegations of illegal behaviour against various other people. LOL.

    If you have in fact defamed her, my expert opinion as to the damages she would be entitled to receive is somewhere between squat and bubkis.

    Second, the way she pleads necessity. She really, really, really doesn’t want to ban you for being critical of her, but she will if she absolutely has to in order to avoid being subjected to criticism.

    Good lord she’s precious.

    She also can’t do analogical reasoning. You said her conduct was like Manne’s in relation to the Demidenko affair, and her rebuttal is to say that you “impute[d] an attempted boycott (of [her], in this case) to Robert Manne”.

    What? That’s even worse than her analysis of the secondary boycott legislation.

  118. JC says:


    JC, on what basis you would see opposing religious *indoctrination* of children as a form of intolerance?


    Your comment is irrelevant to what I said. What I suggested is that the Secular Party isn’t a secular party in the true sense of the term, it appears to be an anti-religion party and therefore intolerant….. in fact just as intolerant as as some of the religions it agitates against.

    I would be extremely surprised if they were intolerant of religious *views* being expressed, and of children being exposed to them in a balanced/objective manner.

    It appears they are judging by their website.

    (Christianity in particular is quite explicitly intolerant of other religions – belief in Christ being the ‘only way’ to salvation etc. etc.).

    Lol… I have news for you. All the major religions are by nature exclusive to some degree.

    and I don’t see how can you hold a position upholding tolerance as a virtue without being intolerant of intolerance in others

    Oh please… see above.

  119. harleymc says:

    There’s been a bit of a theme running that the advertisers that withdrew from support of OLO were cowardly and unprincipled.
    Let’s look at the lack of principle from OLO.
    Firstly they publish an article that calls for freedoms to be crushed by the state. What else is a state ban on marriage (a form of freedom of association).
    Then they call for their freedom to publish calls for authoritarian crackdowns on freedoms to be guaranteed funding by corporates. Their “right” to paid speech trumps the right of other corporates to freedom of association.
    Then they go on to lie and slander people, they claim to have their freedom of speech under threat but nobody has called for their site to be closed down.

    This whole publicity stunt by OLO has nothing to do with principle but has a lot to do with a rubbish business model and publicity at any cost.

  120. Tel says:

    What seemed like zillions of your bloggers, all mad as wasps disturbed on a sunny afternoon by a curious dog, have since informed me about a zillion times, that anybody can complain to any corporation and have an ad pulled. You aren’t required to have any influence of any kind, they tell me. You can just ask these nice banks and global corporations to pull an ad from a place that has been nasty, and they will do it.

    I think you will find that IBM are significantly pro-gay. They had a float at 2005 Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, and also 2008 (I think so, don’t quote me). They have also sponsored a bunch of gay pride/games/you-name-it, etc stuff, and the IT industry probably has the highest concentration of gays in any industry (not as out as flight attendants).

    Most corporates try hard to be neutral and bland, but in my very approximate gut judgement, IBM tend to swing away from neutrality on this particular issue… and as far as I’m concerned, it’s their money, they earned it, then can spend it wherever it suits them.

    It is difficult to to have a legitimate political discussion when you are a slave to political correctness, but then again same applies to the IPCC finding global warming when their funding depends on making themselves seem as important as possible. Same applies to Ben Bernanke saying back in 2005 and 2006 that the US housing market was very stable. Same applies to the AAA rating agencies that are paid by the very companies they assess the creditworthiness of. Same applies to Chinese officials pretending that the massacre at Tiananmen never actually happened.

    How about that? Vested interests do exist, hamazing!

  121. JC says:

    No ho doesn’t. He doesn’t even come close as we’ve established previously.

    Who’s “we”?

    I admit, I rarely have ever been to ONO but from anecdotal evidence it publishes both right and left. I believe even Clive “Happy” Hamilton used to publish pieces there until he spat the dummy about something and stole into the night like a Bedouin and if he published there the site is pretty “diverse” in the true sense of the word.

    You mean a juridical person exercising a right to freedom of association. Oh what a beautiful thing liberty is.

    I said earlier I have no real issue about people whining and with advertisers taking their money and running. Fyds gave a pretty eloquent explanation and I tend to agree with what he said. Fyds is right though it is a form of bullying that could end up backfiring on people that try that sort of thing.

    The point I was making is, that unless I have it wrong, Young’s site has always been pretty free flowing in the comments section. It’s a rotten situation for him now to have the ads pulled and in a commercial sense it would have been better if they had never posted ads there in the first place, as their action now has the potential effect of tainting the site. If they had done their homework properly they should never have been there in the first place.

    And Yes, I think Storer did act vindictively.

    Some of the comments were pretty offensive but they were also pretty stupid with the “go live in the Sahara” being so dense it was amusing.

    What I find puzzling Mel, is that you were describing the comments as a form of hate speech and that you were insinuating that it ought to be dealt with harshly. How do you reconcile that with your comment about liberty being a beautiful thing?

  122. Mel says:

    “How do you reconcile that with your comment about liberty being a beautiful thing?”

    Easy. I don’t think such comments should be suppressed by the law. I also never used the term hate speech contrary to your contention.

    “Young’s site has always been pretty free flowing in the comments section.”

    Well, no, the accusations Young thought were OK in relation to gays are accusations that he deletes if made against other minorities, such as Jews. This is a clear cut case of differential treatment.

    What makes Young’s antics even more egregious is the fact that such comments clearly are in breach of his own comment policy stated here:

    “You must not up-load, post, transmit or otherwise make available through this site any material which:

    * is unlawful, threatening, abusive, defamatory, invasive of privacy, vulgar, obscene, profane or which may harass or cause distress or inconvenience to, or incite hatred of, any person.”

    Interestingly, only one person who has been actively involved in this debate has taken an anti-liberty line throughout, that person being Skeptic Lawyer with her ongoing secondary boycott infatuation. Or so it seems to me.

  123. JC says:


    Saying gays should go live the Sahara is pretty analogous to saying Jews shouldn’t leave Israel. The web is not short of posters making such comments and although I don’t know for sure, as it may not have been tested, I’d be surprised that Young would delete such a comment if there was thread about Israel. So I would like to see what exactly he turned down about Jews before anything further is said.

    I also never used the term hate speech contrary to your contention.

    You don’t think this is pretty close because this is what you said I was referring to.

    Graham Young chose of his own volition to publish a piece that was designed to inflame prejudice and hatred.

    I read the piece a few days and can’t recall it exactly and have no real desire to go back to it. It seemed to me to be a pretty run of the mill anti-gay marriage screed which incidentally is around a 50/50 split in punter land and up to this moment both major parties don’t support gay marriage.

    As an aside… have the gay community really thought this through, as I can’t imagine for the life of me how anyone in their right mind would want to be dragged into a situation that places them under family law, which is the biggest unchecked redistribution racket ever conceived this side of Pluto.

    If any gays are reading this do not whatever you do agitate for gay marriage. Think of yourselves as the lucky few being able to avoid it and in fact you should actively pursue actions that would prevent it. Think carefully about this.

    If you choose to “marry” do so privately. Find a celebrant that would conduct the service and sign a private agreement with the out clearly spelt out. It’s essentially the same thing but you would not be dragged through family court if the relationship self destructs.

    In point of fact I’m also speechless how conservatives and religious conservatives support marriage when it’s so anti male. They should be be telling young males to run away from marriage as fast as they can and to never consider it at all seeing it’s basically turned out to be a feminist plot against men.

    Marriage belongs in a church or with a marriage celebrant and the state has no business sanctioning/recognizing relationships.

    Gays… Do not push for marriage as it’s the last thing you want.

  124. Pingback: On Line Opinion and Me | Gregory Storer

  125. A lot of people have jumped to conclusions on this topic without actually knowing the facts. I would encourage everyone to read this blog by Gregory Storer. It contains the facts minus the hyperbole, spin and speculation.


  126. sublime cowgirl says:

    If you choose to “marry” do so privately. Find a celebrant that would conduct the service and sign a private agreement with the out clearly spelt out. It’s essentially the same thing but you would not be dragged through family court if the relationship self destructs.

    JC , just for the record that advice is almost redundant after the de facto law reforms of March 2009, gay or straight.

    Binding Financial agreements may go some way, but they aren’t always as comprehensive as you imagine.

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