Club Faggot II – and Vale Ken Parish

I’m very sad to say that Ken Parish has called it a day on Troppo. As he said there were some important private reasons motivating him, but there was also the agro and misunderstanding that flies around routinely. That increased the stress and tedium and that’s a standing invitation to wonder why you’re bothering.I hadn’t been to Cesspitallaxy Catallaxy since a recent bit of excitement there. It’s pretty vexing to read abuse by trolls. What are you supposed to do? Respond to absurd charges which are both completely unreasonable and apparently willful in their misunderstanding of what you’re saying. I generally ignore them but that is nearly as vexing because it is as if you aren’t up to it as if you’re arguments are weak or you’re just a sour old puss who takes themselves too seriously.

In any event Ken wrote an angry departing comment on the thread which he subsequently removed. It took me to this thread which (I think) vexed Ken more than the thread he was on.

There it is clear that a certain urban myth has grown up it seems to be the founding event behind Jason’s claim that Club Troppo is a precious place Club Pony to him or Club Faggott to another commenter.

The urban myth is not true. Who knows if this can be corrected. I was trapped in the bona fide commenters bind respond or not? Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. In any event here is a bit of a correction for the record. I wasn’t going to put my side, but when a certain version of an event gains currency its vexation grows. So I offer this correction.

Whyisitso has claimed that I banned him on account of relatively mild criticism on Troppo.

Technically that’s correct. But it’s misleading. But to appreciate why you need to know a little more. In the middle of a discussion with Harry Clarke that I was finding thoroughly vexing Whyisitso chimed in with this comment.

“engaging the interested, non-expert reader”

Perhaps if you cut the personal preciousness you might begin to succeed in that aim, Nicholas.

Now there’s nothing much wrong with that. But seemed to be typical of the thread itself. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in an argument in which you’re trying to stick to the arguments but you begin to be howled down by a group of people who don’t seem to be listening to the arguments, but going on the body language of the situation. That’s how it seemed to me.

Anyway after an hour’s quiet reading before I went to bed, it suddenly struck me that something ridiculous was going on. So with my mind clear, I emailed Whyisitso.

Dear whoeveryouare,

I don’t think it’s right for you to be able to lob casual and abusive asides into the ring without revealing who you are.

If you wish to identify yourself I’ll take your comment out of moderation.

Regards,

NG

Our anonymous friend did not return the e-mail, but posted another comment on the site which I didn’t see for a while.

So now pseudonyms are banned, eh. Well OK it’s your blog. But my “abuseness”, your main complaint, was pretty mild compared with the personal insults you’ve been hurling at Harry throughout this thread. You really have been behaving as a spoilt child. Grow up, Nicholas!

I don’t really have a problem with this comment either. For all I know he might be right, but I was keen for the thread to be about the arguments. And if whyisitso won’t even say who he is, well it just seems like good money after bad to let him squirt the odd bit of animus about wherever he wants.

You can agree with this or think it terrible. It came to me as a pretty clear way through the fog. Of course no matter how defensible and clear headed you are or not you’re still damned if you do and damned if you don’t that’s why I call it good money after bad. Whyisitso has nothing riding on this he (I’m guessing see how hard it is to engage phantoms) can duck and weave, irritate and ingratiate as is his wish. He can rematerialise as someone else to back himself up. Who knows what he does.
And so he proceeded to show how I was damned because I did. He reported what happened nearly accurately but left out what seems to me to be a critical detail.

Nicholas emailed me complaining about my anonymity as well as the content of my comment which was in the midst of a quite technical but very interesting argument betwen himself and Harry Clarke about protection in the car industry. I surmise that it was the combination of the content of my comment and the fact of my anonymity that had a synergestic effect (sort of 1 +1=17).

Whyisitso didn’t mention that I said I’d publish it if he identified himself.

Anyway, I’m not even sure why I’ve bothered with all this well I am, but I’m not sure if it is worth it. We all have to get on with our lives. But the trolls have taken a big toll on the place.

Sophie Masson was one of my favourite bloggers precisely because what she said surprised me so often. Her reading was wide and different to so many of the worthies in the blogosphere. Ken was a great anchor and founder for Troppo. And I’m very lucky that he let me onto the site which I’ve enjoyed immensely.

I have no intention of letting trolls stop me blogging. I get too much out of it. But I’m very sad right now that Ken who contributed so much a pioneer of the blogosphere and one of its elder statesmen has quit because it stopped being fun.

Now you see I’m at a disadvantage. I don’t know who Whyisitso is. I don’t know if he has made some contribution to our lives. Perhaps he’s done more for us in some other way than Ken has pumping out informative, well argued, moderate, sane and sometimes amusing posts over 700 in all.

Now he might be the Prime Minister and just Whyisitso in his spare time. Perhaps a Nobel Prize winner, or just a good person struggling to do the right thing in his life. But at least from what we know of him, he remained the Lord of Small Mindedness to the end.

Kenny’s spat the dummy. Seems he can dish it out but he can’t take it.

Thanks for everything Ken.

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Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

I remember saying to Ken a long time ago that there was no harder ask than attempting to maintain an ideologically detached blogging perspective.

For a start, no-one believes that you are non-aligned and secondly, your blog ends up being like the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years War – laid waste by those continually seeking to expose you as a heretic.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to run a Left or Right wing blog where the faithful roll up to pledge allegiance, have the truth of their insights confirmed and kick around the handful of interlopers who inevitably front to blow ineffectual – but often very personalised – raspberries.

Ken kept persevering with the ideal of non-aligned civil discourse long after it had become abundantly clear that it’s bloody hard to sustain without eventual resort to ideological anchoring.

It’s to his credit that he did and, as I’ve noted elsewhere, he nurtured some impressive spinoff talent in doing so.

There are very few people who’ve signed off in the Ozblogosphere with as much accrued credit as he has.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

I’d prefer to let this one go through to the keeper, but since it’s my comment on the thread that you linked to second as precipitating Ken’s decision, I wish to comment.

I saw what I was writing as legitimate criticism. I think you’ve reinforced the point about preciousness despite your disclaimers – whyisitso’s comment is tame. I don’t think the claim about anonymity is either here or there. You don’t object to commenters calling themselves “Yobbo” or “Derrida Derrider” but only when you find someone saying something you don’t like. Or so it seems.

I remain hurt by some of the comments Ken and jen made which were directed at me personally on one of Sophie’s final posts because I found them needlessly personal and offensive – and I didn’t like my sexuality being made an issue. But I tried not to personalise my comments on Catallaxy, and after Geoff pointed out the positives of Troppo – and Ken’s contribution, I agreed and apologised if I’d been too strong.

It does seem that Troppo folk are overly sensitive to any criticism.

You might also wish to take note of the fact that Joe has said “let bygones be bygones” on the thread to which you linked in a very gentlemanly fashion.

I’m sorry to see Ken go. I don’t think all of his posts were “moderate” though – I think he himself admitted on several occasions that sometimes he liked to veer left or right to get a rise out of people. And that’s part of the substance of my criticism. I’m happy to acknowledge his contribution as a blogger, and as Geoff said, someone who fostered talent as well. But let’s be real, Troppo has been becalmed for quite some time. It does seem to me fair to say that it seems now that Troppo writers are overly sensitive to criticism.

I don’t know what the claim “But the trolls have taken a big toll on the place…” means.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

My comments in brief
1) I liked and respected Ken’s work. I hope he comes back.
2) whyisitso’s ‘foundation myth’ was only a catalyst for my snark which ended up upsetting Ken almost as much as GMB.

Fact of the matter is, as I explained in that snark, I was getting tired of people from Troppo coming over and castigating me for my comments policy. the nasty comment from Chris Lloyd (student T) claiming that my commens policy was based on ‘cowardice’ was the last straw that provoked the snark, but it was you too.

Word from the wise – look up ‘reverse psychology’. I never deigned to comment or even butt my nose into Troppo’s affairs until all this.

I know Troppo isn’t responsible for its commenters (like Student T who was also continually making tangential remarks about Catallaxy promoting ‘race hatred’ on your blog) but you and Ken have also been holding me accountable for my own and castigating me for what they do ON MY OWN BLOODY BLOG. And more than that, Ken was continually accusing me of encouraging Bird and JC when all that meant was that I didn’t ban them as the whole lot of you kept insisting I do.

3) Related to (2) – Look Nick if you don’t want to comment at cesspitallaxy anymore that’s fine. But I take issue at this slight from you (and now from Gees off) that somehow we’re a blog that takes ‘pledges of allegiance’.

We have regular leftist commenters like FDB, Mark, Kim, fatfingers, and MichaelG. We have Amir Butler, who used to be head of AMPAC (despite Chris Lloyd’s off-topic libel about Catallaxy promoting race hatred because of our robust comments threads). So how come they can take it and you can’t. I stand by my remark that you’re precious and are simply used to a degree of diffidence that you can’t get – and oh to get your hands dirty taking the occasional invective from a dirty prole like GMB (who actually has been making a worthwhile contribution recently IMHO)

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

sorry that should have been ‘Geoff’ – not Gees off – that was a genuine typo from typing too fast

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

What Jason said about pledges of allegiance. LP has its fair share of right wing, Democrat, Green, anarchist, social democratic etc commenters and the bloggers have quite diverse political positions on the Left as well.

Robust debate has its benefits as well as its pitfalls. And as I’ve been suggesting, Ken wasn’t always one to pull his punches. And nor should he have. He was consistent in the old days about a free reign on comments at Troppo, and critical of people like Chris Sheil (unfairly in some ways I think) for deleting comments at Back Pages.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

Well, 3 times including the time you used my comment against me when I was trying to enforce suasion rather than banning was enough. my church comment was against banning, not moral suasion. What’s your point here, Nicholas? My point is that whyisitso’s story wasn’t the motivating factor behind my snark. and even if it was so what? that minor detail you included didn’t seem to make the real story terribly different from the ‘foundation myth’.

how does this make me ‘better’ or ‘worse’ since apparently the list of crimes and the unremitting hostility that Catallaxy has been getting from some people here is also caused by its comments threads which your post also now seems to imply has driven Ken away. my comments threads on my own blog.

the ‘pledge of allegience’ reference was alluding to Geoff’s comment that:
‘It’s a hell of a lot easier to run a Left or Right wing blog where the faithful roll up to pledge allegiance, have the truth of their insights confirmed and kick around the handful of interlopers who inevitably front to blow ineffectual – but often very personalised – raspberries’

Anyway if my comments policy sucks so much (and it seems to be an obsession of some of the people here) I’d invite you to look at the range of subject matter and participants in our open forums
http://catallaxyfiles.com/index.php?s=open+forum

and compare them to, I dunno, Troppo’s?

Sure we got the mud wrestling as well as the high level discourse, we got comments about Big Bang theory and Russia. It’s like America, the best and the worst in one spot.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

In any event Ken wrote an angry departing comment on the thread which he subsequently removed. It took me to this thread which (I think) vexed Ken more than the thread he was on.

It sounds a bit like you’re trying to create your own myth, Nicholas.

I didn’t see the comment Ken subsequently deleted because I was at work and not near a computer, but I gather he described me as a thug.

I’d invite anyone to read the thread to which you linked and see if that’s fair and accurate. If people think so, so be it. But it’s hardly “civil”.

Ken’s been writing snarky comments about comments for a long time, and obviously hasn’t enjoyed his blogging if what he’s said about it (including comments quoted in the Higher Ed section of the Australian) is any indication. However, to embed, in your words, a myth that a nasty Catallaxy thread drove him out of the blogosphere is a bit rich.

You haven’t bothered to acknowledge the comments both I and Joe made on Catallaxy regretting Ken’s departure, or my apology in response to Geoff’s comments (which Geoff didn’t ask for btw) if I’d been to hard on Troppo bloggers.

You’re very clearly indulging in your own mythmaking.

I hope Ken comes back. For someone who’s complaining about another blog complaining about Troppo, it seems totally inconsistent to be blaming people on that blog for Ken’s departure.

I’m sure Ken had good reasons for leaving, and it’s not some sort of dummy spit in response to criticism. That’s an inference that could reasonably be made from what you write in your post.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Nic
I always liked you. You’re reasonable guy who does take himself a little seriously. What have I done to make you so angry at me? Ok, so I don’t like lefty ideology and all that, but so what, it’s no as though the world is ending as a result.

If you feel I don’t treat you with enough respect I’m sorry and will try to improve my standards in the future.

Look, think of me as the embarrassing Italian relative. My family does and it doesn’t worry me all that much.

So let bygones by bygones. Most of he stuff is all in fun anyway.

So can I post at troppo.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

Beneath your dignity to respond to anyone else other than Jason, is it?

I wonder why I bothered commenting on this thread at all.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

Who said anything about ratings, Nick? You think I’m just after ratings?

I wrote: ‘look at the range of subject matter and participants in our open forums’

You guys have gotten uppity. The point is if you want to go to a blog where you can read people arguing about a whole range of topics including politics, and even the most esoteric topics you can think of, and nut them out, I think the open atmosphere of Catallaxy encourages this quite well. I never said anything about ratings. I agree, Blair can be boring, because everyone is in vigorous agreement.

We don’t encourage vigorous agreement at Catallaxy. We have libertarians flaming each other over monetary policy -and yes you probably don’t like the idea of flaming – a lot of smoke was blown at that thread but also a lot of light – it comes with the territory. You can’t have one without the other.

still think your comments policy is wrong ie. ethically wrong. I think there should be more than a policy of moral suasion or deleting the offending comment when someone responds to one side of a debate by calling the other a ‘bum-sucking homo’. That’s hate speech.

Again with the preachiness and lack of specifics. So what is your specific proposal? What is there other than moral suasion and deleting besides banning ultimately? That I ban anyone who uses the word ‘bum sucking homo’ regardless of what I think his potential is just to please the distinguished economist because he expects the same level of decorum he gets from his professional colleagues?

And here is a recent contribution from the same prole you and the others in Troppo have an obsession with who used the lamentable phrase ‘bum sucking homo'(who isn’t actually homophobic by the way, he has been unreletingly civil to a gay mathematician who gives him his dues – maybe you just come across as snobbish as you do in this thread) and notice the interesting responses he provoked in all of us.

http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=2047#comment-147194

This has got nothing to do with my not wanting constructive debate ultimately, Nicholas. I am just annoyed by your incessant snootiness – it’s not as if you’re actually achieving your aims because of it.

Nabakov
Nabakov
15 years ago

The thrill has gone.

I suspect many are getting old, bitchy, stale and bored by the same old routines played out again and again and now by the same old new ing

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

well I have to support Kim’s points there belatedly. The thread she was on seems to have her got her unfairly singled out for being responsible for Ken’s departure.

Rob
Rob
15 years ago

A lot of this is about bad memories, I think. Those of us who participated in the great Troppo education and sexuality wars will have differing recollections of what actually happened, no doubt, but I recall a spasm of personal and ideological venom directed against Sophie that had to be seen to be believed. There was something different about those attacks – it wasn’t just the usual blogstorm. I said at the time there was a smell of burning witch around Troppo and I think it’s never really gone away. It’s still in the neighbourhood and in our nostrils and I think it did destroy the fantastic site that Troppo was then and for a little while after. And because it was never mitigated by apologies or retractions it remains a wound unhealed.

cam
cam
15 years ago

It’s a hell of a lot easier to run a Left or Right wing blog where the faithful roll up to pledge allegiance

Sites also develop their own tribalism that isn’t necessarily ideological either.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Some clarifying observations.

Although I am very grateful for Nicholas’s support, I would on balance have preferred it if this post hadn’t been written. I quite deliberately deleted my initial narky parting shot because I concluded it was inappropriate, unproductive and in many ways an example of exactly the sort of blogging behaviour that has caused my longstanding disillusionment with the genre.

However, since you’re all engaging in “metablogging” aka navel-gazing, I might as well clear up a few misconceptions that have become evident on this thread and the “slag Parish and Troppo” thread over at Catallaxy. First, the latter was merely the immediate trigger for my deciding to chuck it in. Apart from my longstanding disillusionment with blogging (on which I’ll expand below), there are changes afoot in our family’s situation over the next year or so that I’ve explained privately to Nicholas.

Secondly, several people have observed that (a) I used to have a much more provocative style and robust comment-allowing policy; and (b) Troppo is now duller and “not what it once was”. Historical explanation is in order here. Accusation (a) is a fair cop. I explained my then policy very clearly in an article about blogging I wrote for Chris Sheil at Evatt Foundation 2 or 3 years ago:

In any event, Schudson’s monitorial citizen concept suggests that we shouldn’t be too precious or dismissive about employing tabloid circulation-boosting tactics from time to time. They may be unavoidable for anyone who aspires to a meaningful monitorial role. A monitorial blog is likely sometimes to have more in common with a Collingwood versus Carlton grudge match than a genteel academic debate, at least if we want to attract and hold a broad general audience. Not that many academic debates are all that genteel anyway; the current Windschuttle versus Reynolds and Ryan stand-off being a prime example. The most prominent current embodiments of Schudson’s monitorial citizen are radio talkback shock-jocks. Large numbers of politically disengaged Australians rely on personalities like Alan Jones as fire alarms, signalling issues their audience should regard as worthy of attention. However, talkback hosts are generally quite right-wing in political orientation, and the radio medium itself imposes inherent constraints on the depth with which topics can be explored. Superficiality is unavoidable. Political blogs may have more potential as vehicles for monitorial citizenry. Bloggers span the entire political spectrum, so that disengaged citizens have a much wider available range in choosing the pundit whose political attention filter they’re most willing to trust. The blogging format also permits in-depth exploration of topics, while also allowing readers to absorb information to whatever extent they choose.

If occasional outbreaks of tabloid sensationalism are the price that must be paid for bloggers to attract a large enough general audience to fulfil a meaningful monitorial citizen role, perhaps it’s a price worth paying. As long as the bread and circuses stunts are interspersed with more meaty analytical posts, intellectual depth and rigour need not be sacrificed.

Although I still think there’s some substance in that view, I’m now much less sanguine/hopeful than even that heavily qualified view about blogging. Further experience has indicated that, while blogging continues to generate new and exciting talented contributors who write fresh and challenging material whose quality and interest is higher than much of the daily fare of the “quality” end of the MSM, there is a huge attrition rate caused by the relentlessly negative, hostile, tribal, “attack dog” atmosphere of the commenting culture on most blogs. With very rare exceptions (John Quiggin comes to mind), excellent writers only last a couple of years, before giving up and moving on in resignation or disgust, having decided that the freedom and other positives of blogging are outweighed by the unceasing nasty, petty tribalism. Comment box discussion at most blogs is with rare exceptions no more than a pretext for participants to shout past each other and broadcast their impervious ideological prejudices. It isn’t dialogue at all, so what’s the point? I partly acknowledged these aspects in my Evatt article, but understated their impact and the full extent to which they radically devalue the blogging experience and result in many of the best writers being driven away from the medium.

It has been that conclusion that led me, in consultation with Nicholas and Don Arthur, to implement a more rigorous comment editing policy that peremptorily deletes ad hominem and trolling comments. It may well have removed most of the “bread and circuses” aspects from Troppo’s culture, and obviously some find that boring. So be it. It has resulted in eminent writers like Nicholas, Fred Argy, Tony Harris and Saul Eslake deciding that Troppo is a space where they can participate in blogging without being subjected to gratuitous and unpleasant partisan sledging. In that respect blogs are analogous to TV. There’s always the remote control if you find a particular blog either boring or boorish (I generally don’t bother reading comment threads at Catallaxy or Blair because they are mostly in the latter category to my taste).

Anyway, that’s my lot. All the best.

haiku
haiku
15 years ago

Nicholas runs a very earnest and interesting series of posts. He takes the time to write seriously and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he took a stong line on comment moderation.

Sophie got more criticism than she deserved – but she was prepared to tolerate nothing, and was inclined to assert neutrality when she clearly wasn’t neutral. It was not surprising that there was a stoush.

LP tolerates a lot of dissent (despite what its detractors imagine), and has a reasonable balance of views, with very little censorship.

At the end of the day, I like Zoe’s comments policy: if you don’t like it, get your own blog.

Rafe Champion
Rafe Champion
15 years ago

It seems that I still have two or three months to go until I burn out.

I am very pleased to leave the problems of blog management to other people and for what it is worth my approach to personal abuse and invective is:
a) don’t do it.
b) try to ignore it when other people do it.
c) stop reading people who do it to excess.

Parallel to that, my aim is to be clear about differences but also to look for any common ground where action can be pursued in a bipartisan manner.

Thanks again Ken!

Joshua Gans
Joshua Gans(@joshua-gans)
15 years ago

Nicholas, whatever you do, please ignore the ‘boring’ accusation. It’s the cheapest put-down out there. Just write to please yourself: you can’t do more. There will always be someone who appreciates it. CT will rise and fall in popularity according to the number of active contibutors and the chemistry between them. These factors are out of your control.

The comments policy has always been fine. Insult mongers should be warned once, then restricted to a comment a day, then (if they don’t go away of their own accord) banned. The problem is with borderline trolls like whyisitso, who are not abusive, but just derail threads with unnecessary meta-commentary, without having much of substance to offer. John Quiggin handles people like that really well. But he has the advantage of running a blog that people that people who are easily bored stay away from.

On the subject of Catallaxy, we should remember that it’s diverse. Andrew Norton has no trouble distingushing between robust debate and personal abuse, and has an explicit civility policy. I assume that applies to Don too.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

I see Ken can’t resist taking another parting shot at Catallaxy and irony of ironies compares it to Blair when Troppo is closer in its moderation policy to Blair than we are – Blair bans dissenters. We don’t ban anyone.

This is what I mean by the unremitting hostility. And he refers once again to the Ken Parish thread on Catallaxy when Kim has already noted she withdrew her excessive criticisms and JC said he wanted bygones to be bygones.

Notice that on the thread I had nice things to say about Ken. I remarked on the fact that I thought he was unfair to JC for bagging him out on Troppo and then not giving him a chance to respond. Bagging someone out and then censoring their response is unsporting. If you don’t want people to snipe at you, don’t snipe at them.

Aside from that I made that now infamous stray comment about the pony club which was provoked by Troppo regular Chris Lloyd. I would *never* have said anything about Troppo whatsoever and would have been happy to adopt a live and let live attitude if not for the numerous sledgings directed at Catallaxy from here – so let’s not pretend this ‘boring’ snark was gratuitous put downon my part, Farrel. Over at the Parish thread, it was other commenters that started it – I don’t control them – Kim and Bird and JC don’t write for me, they’re only commenters. I and c8to put in good words for Parish as you can go see for yourself on that thread about c8to’s gun post.

But at the end of the day he still couldn’t resist a parting shot.
I was prepared to let bygones to bygones but I’m not a turn the other cheek guy. The Old Testament is more my kind of thing and all I got to say now is my view of him is much diminished. If he has personal issues, deal with it, dont’ get all uppity and take it out on us.

derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

Don’t go, Ken – we’ll really miss you.

As for the trolls, I reckon blog owners should never hesitate to just delete without notice comments they consider obnoxious or irrelevant, and ban persistent offenders (Zoe’s right – they can always start their own blog, where people who find mindless abuse interesting can post). I’ve had the odd comment deleted myself, and usually in retrospect agreed I was over the top. Even where I haven’t agreed I’ve never contested the blog owner’s right to do it.

People should learn not to comment unless they think they’re actually adding value to the thread. Adding value is perfectly consistent with firmly pointing out what you believe to be others’ ignorance or error (remembering as you do that what is good for the goose is good for the gander).

As for anonymity, some of us are in jobs where our bosses may not like us commenting on things that may be work-related. Anyway you can generally find the real name of a regular commenter without too much effort.

Joshua Gans
Joshua Gans(@joshua-gans)
15 years ago

Jason, there’s a massive difference beween banning commenters for personal abuse and banning them for dissent.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Jason (and a couple of other commenters on this thread notably “haiku”) demonstrate that they either don’t understand (or rather wilfully choose to ignore) the distinction between “dissent” and ad hominem sledging. I am not aware of any single occasion when dissent about any issue has ever been censored at Troppo. Both Nicholas’s and my objections to comment threads at Catallaxy arise from the fact that at least Jason’s threads (Andrew and Don and to an extent Rafe have more civil moderation practices) regularly exhibit ad hominem abuse of the most extreme and distasteful sort. Jason is responsible for them because he publishes the blog. Sledging an opponent’s personal qualities is not “dissent”, it is blatant bullying (not to mention often defamatory), and it certainly doesn’t merit a “chance to respond”. I have no objection (in terms of ethics/civility) to c8to’s post about gun laws or his comments about gun laws on the thread here at Troppo. My objection was and remains that the thread was used by others as a pretext for ad hominem abuse that made no attempt whatever to grapple with the substantive issue under discussion.

This last Melba-like comeback to the comment box (not that I’m promising never again to post a comment on a blog) might at least serve some useful purpose if commenters understand more clearly the distinction between, on the one hand, robust argument focused on the substantive issues under discussion and, on the other, personal abuse of other participants. I’m not claiming that I’m lily-white and have never been guilty of the latter myself, but it’s certainly a distinction I’ve always observed to the absolute best of my ability. There is a world of difference between suggesting that someone’s argument is stupid (or whatever) and that the person himself is a fool.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

DD:
I understand the anonymity issue from your point of view, but I do not think that the commenters identity should be invisible to the blog owner. BTW: Could you please explain your blogname? I’m too dim to get it :(

I am starting my own blog – built around the statistics profession, not poltiics, but believe me there will still be plenty of religious zeal! Pathetic really. Anyway, I will not allow any commenters whose identity I cannot track. Indeed, I think the threat of sending some of Bird’s comments to his boss (if he actually has one) would be a marvellous deterrent.

In case nobody noticed, it is Soon who can’t resist a last parting shot. But he has a great way with words. His “pony club and the young liberals” comment was pretty inspired.

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

Comments policy across the board in the blogosphere is a disgrace.
Admittedly tim Blair is probably the only open hypocrite when it comes to policing their own policy however is that any worse than Larvartus Prodeo who wish to say black is white.

I am somewhat amused by Ken’s damasacan conversion as in the old days I was hit by more insults on this blog then anywhere else with Dave Ricardo leading the posse.

Like all of us Ken gained a thinner skin when criticised than when he was criticising.

I think the nest election will be interesting. Last time one could not let an hour go without visiting backpages however I suspect this time round the humour and all round attitude will be different as the pro and anti- government writers line up.

I do wonder how Nick despite his great gruen intellect ever survived advising in politics.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

Kim, I didn’t have anything much I wanted to say in response to what you had said. I’m finding this pretty tough going. I didn’t and don’t accuse you of anything. I don’t want to rehash the Catallaxy thread

Fair enough, Nicholas.

It seems to me, Ken, that your view of the contemporary blogosphere is one-eyed. There are a lot of lengthy threads at both LP and Catallaxy which might involve argument but don’t involve pointless left/right stoushing and bring out interesting aspects of the questions under discussion. For instance, I think the quality of the discussion on these two threads is high:

http://larvatusprodeo.net/2006/09/04/has-ultra-left-anti-zionism-morphed-into-anti-semitism/

http://larvatusprodeo.net/2006/09/01/will-you-do-me-the-honour/

And the first demonstrates it’s possible to discuss the vexed issue of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism without descending into invective and name calling.

It has resulted in eminent writers like Nicholas, Fred Argy, Tony Harris and Saul Eslake deciding that Troppo is a space where they can participate in blogging without being subjected to gratuitous and unpleasant partisan sledging.

And this really does reinforce the impression that “eminent” writers aren’t to be subjected to the same rough and tumble as us plebs.

I find some of the posts by these gentlemen interesting, but I’d ask what value blogging by them adds aside from the fact that Fin Review articles by them are made available on line? If there’s to be some sort of norm that they’re treated differently from less eminent or well known writers…

I think you’re nostalgic for the “good old days” when posts were longer and more analytical on the whole and comments longer and fewer and largely by a few regulars. Quiggin’s blog is probably the one that most closely approximates that era still, but the medium has moved on. You don’t seem to like it. That’s fine, and it’s your privilege, but I don’t think the disillusionment you express is objectively based.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Homer

My conversion on the road to Damascus on commenting policy had nothing whatever to do with personal criticisms of myself. It arose from the monstering of Sophie Masson, which caused her departure from Troppo and that of Wendy James, closely followed by the monsters themselves who followed Mark B to Larva Rodeo (after I had declined to exercise censorship of people who were in turn monstering Mark B). I took a long sabbatical from blogging after that, and decided to return only on the basis that all abusive comments from whatever source would be strongly moderated. I don’t claim that I’m not just as sensitive to personal abuse as anyone (and more than some) but my change of moderation policy (in consultation with Nicholas and Don) was entirely unrelated to any such criticism. I was slagged plenty of times over the 3 years or so during which I exercised a laissez faire moderation policy not unlike Jason’s current one, and copped it on the chin on the misconceived notion that this somehow promoted open and productive dialogue. In fact it achieves the opposite. I don’t specifically recall Dave Ricardo sledging you Homer, but he certainly could be very sarcastic and cutting when he felt like it (which was often). I apologise for not exercising greater moderator control at the time, because you are one of the blogosphere’s unfailing gentlemen who does not deserve such treatment (in fact no-one does).

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

Nick
Frankly I think it would’ve been wiser if you hadn’t written this post.
It has obviously reopened old wounds. People were already saying ‘let bygones be bygones’ over at Catallaxy, everyone was wishing Ken a good rest and telling him to come back when he’d gotten over everything. Sleeping dogs were lying.

You were aware that comments would multiply like topsy when you wrote this, weren’t you? Personally despite the number of words I’ve written, I’m happy to have it all wiped and replaced with a comment-free ‘Goodbye Ken’ display with ‘Candle in the wind’ playing in the background or something like that and let things simmer over until Ken got back refreshed.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

Speaking of moderation, can someone please let my last comment through? I think it’s only in there because I put a couple of links in.

And speaking of the alleged “monstering” of Sophie, I’m annoyed at this myth as well, as one of the “monsters”, Ken. You seem to have completely erased from the record the homophobic comments which both you and jen made, some of which were highly personal and directed at me, which did a hell of a lot towards raising the temperature.

But I suppose you’ll put your preferred version of events forward, ignore my response, and then take your bat and ball and go back to your hiatus.

I think it’s unfair and hypocritical to raise these issues in the way that you’re doing as though all the fault was on one side and you were trying to be some sort of impartial moderator. You were not, and it was not.

And the whole “leave Sophie alone” gang seems to exemplify this new “don’t talk back to the eminent” Troppo policy in its birth pangs. Sophie may have been widely read, as Nicholas said, but a lot of the time her posts were characterised by factual errors and very sloppy logic. To which your response was “she’s an artist, she doesn’t need to justify her argument”.

You are completely ignoring your own role in these events, and appear to be completely unwilling to take responsibility. I’ve acknowledged a thousand times that I said things I regretted. You seem to prefer either not to see or not to accept responsibility if it conflicts with your myth making and historical revisionism regarding Troppo.

Rafe Champion
Rafe Champion
15 years ago

I am starting to wonder whether I must be missing out on something by being such a nice person and keeping out of the argy bargy.

And what if I am not a nice person at all, just boring and lazy?

Maybe I should go back through the thread and find some loose comments that could be used as a pretext for saying what I really thing about some of you dumb [insert obscenity of choice]s.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Kim

I have no idea what your references to “homophobic” comments are referring to (I’m referring to tooo many referring tos in there somewhere). If I ever made any comments that you interpreted as such, I’m sure it was a misinterpretation. I don’t reckon I have a homophobic bone in my body. Can you tell me what you’re talking about and maybe we can sort it out even at this late stage? If you merely reprising the debate where I took the view that sex education should not espouse the moral worthiness/equivalence or otherwise of any form of sexuality (in that in my view these are questions that are private to a family and in which the state has no business intruding beyond teaching tolerance for diverse sexual orientations involving consensual behaviour between adults), then I simply don’t accept that that is “homophobia” whose principal definition is “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality”.

jen
jen
15 years ago

This is lively isn’t it? A blogospherical brawl. A room full of shouting. That’s what I love! As I type here on my tropical desk, just me and Mr Mozart. It is a civilised ABC FM shout into the void.

Just call me bandwaggon mama. I thought might canvass a few topics

Well since Parish and I no longer speak due to matrimonial bliss I didn’t know Troppo was banning comments. What we need on the blog is a ‘bad blogger zapper’,

I’ve said it before, ‘words words words’ – really a bit dull after you’ve verbally abused someone to an inch of their ability to be interested.
I am advocating the judicious and centrist use of violence.
What I think would work is a massive blast of electric current right to the thorax.

Log on and you’re dead.
Kill the bad blogger,
Kill him dead.
Piggy …

I have read almost the whole entire thread at catallaxy and have to admit is fun in a mindless self-indulgent sort of a way and – as I am taking a sickie and the opportunity to be as mindless and self-indulgent as possible.

I looked for the offensive stuff about you Kim and can’t find it, but I think it must have been the up-herself, smart-arse jen speaking – luckily she’s gone now.

What I did find was a robust and widely diverse comment thread on Sophie’s article back in the blogging baroque. True you lot, this blog has had some good moments

(pause for eulogy)

But times change folks and Ken hasn’t got the energy he once had. He’s been looking after me 24/7 for 3 or 4 years now and frankly he’s running low on spark -and that’s not taking into account how old he is – and we can’t take that into account very well because no-one in this house is any good at maths.

Rob
Rob
15 years ago

I was going to leave this alone but….

Kim, as far as I recall the only person to use the ‘she’s an artist, she’s entitled’ line in those debates was me. I don’t recall any homophobic digs by Ken although Kevin Donnelly definitely deployed a few in the course of a couple of the threads we’re talking about.

Ken is right to say that Sophie was ‘monstered’. Sophie was an unusual and unusually engaging blogger but she wasn’t good at stoushing. She was stunned and distressed by the treatment she got (I had some email exchanges with her about it) and she showed in some of her comments that she’d been wounded. In my opinion that was unwise, not least because the attack dogs smelled blood and went rabid. And it went on for thread after thread.

I don’t know what it is that inspired such animus towards Sophie but you know as well as I do, Kim, that there has been at least one ‘I hate Sophie Masson’ thread over at LP.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

what I said stands, people.
If Nick or Ken chose to wipe this whole thread, I won’t hold it against them.

I think some of the angst here deserves a decent burial.

We can live and let live.

As it is, it looks like we’re now back to revisiting l’affaire Masson.

By the time Ken gets back I can assure you Mr Bird (who is really quite a decent fellow) will be nine tenths of the way towards rehabilitation (he’s already nearly there and given his word never to use the ‘c’ word again over drinks and he was very solemn about it). JC is going all reconciliatory too.

and Ken will see the Catallaxy experiment has worked and maybe consider readmitting some pariahs.

Rob
Rob
15 years ago

Yeah, you’re right, Jason. I need to get over it too.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Jason’s school of polite linguistic correction.
Jase,
My name is Jen and I’ve been swearing off and on now for 40 years. I’ve said it all, poo, cunt, shit, bum, bastard, fuckwit and fucktard, there’s no motherfuck’n swearword I haven’t stooped to.
Help me.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Jason

Although like you I initially expressed the view that I would have preferred if this thread hadn’t been started in the first place, I actually think it might have served some useful purpose in terms of clearing the air. Whether the same proves to be true over at Catallaxy remains to be seen. There are certainly some welcome early signs of civility from Joe C, but I’ll wait and see in relation both to him and Graeme Bird.

Finally, I fail to see how anyone (i.e. you Jason) could derive from anything said here the proposition that we have suggested that “eminent” bloggers should be treated more delicately than anyone else (a suggestion you’ve made at your own blog and that Kim parrotted here). Troppo’s behaviour rules apply equally to everyone and they’re very simple ones: argue on the issues as robustly as you like, but don’t attack people’s character, personality etc. The rule applies to Fred Blogs as much as Fred Argy. I simply suggested that these more conservative but universal rules of behaviour have in fact allowed Fred Argy etc. to feel comfortable about blogging here, where Sophie and Wendy were effectively driven away by the much more lax commenting rules I previously espoused. I’m sure there are lots people, not just older ones, who have extraordinarily worthwhile opinions to express but get frightened away by the hostile attack dog culture of much of the blogosphere. If you reckon you can get commenters behaving in a generally civil manner by laissez faire means, that will be great but I’ll believe it when I see it.

PS At the risk of further reprising l’affaire Masson,I’m not sure that anyone ever directly attacked Sophie’s character or personality on the relevant old Troppo threads, but they certainly relentlessly ground her into the dust over an essentially trivial nit-picking point about the meaning of anarchism while completely ignoring the real and valuable insights she was offering. Many of them were/are people who could happily read and dismiss a Shakespeare tragedy as valueless because old Bill didn’t spell very consistently. It’s fine to make a point, even a pedantic one, but it’s not fine to drive someone into the dirt to extract a knockout victory. What have you won?

vee
vee
15 years ago

I started to read the first comment but then I decided to give it a miss. I value a centrist blog as it is the only correct or rather pragmatic view. The rest are well mostly full of codswallop and slogans. Some blogs are progressing to the extremes of their views and that’s irritating when blogs are the last internet forum of sensible debate.

Those that are meant to be discussion boards are all filled with ideological trolls and it seems that blogs are becoming that way too. They’re filled with insults rather than debate and discussion.

Maybe ideological blogs are like politicians – once they’ve lived in their ivory towers for so long, that’s all they say.

Bring back Ken, Long live Parish, Bring back Ken, Long live Parish, Bring back Ken, Long live Parish!

vee
vee
15 years ago

I forgot to mention it’s lonely being a centrist.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

Kim sez:

I think you’re nostalgic for the “good old days”

Robert
15 years ago

Man, are people still banging on about Sophie Masson? Ferchrissakes, get over it!

Ken, it’s never nice to see someone retire from the blogosphere, and it’s a tragedy when it’s someone who has been at it for so long and has contributed so much to the Australian blog scene. Thanks, and best of luck with whatever you do with all your newfound free time!

Ian
Ian
15 years ago

Very best wishes, Ken…. See ya ’round :-)

Andrew Reynolds
15 years ago

Jason,

If I swear a bit more on the banking thread will I get some drinks?

Best of luck, Ken. While I have not had regular cause to comment on your threads, the ones I have read have at least been thought provoking.
(I am sorry for lowering the tone of this thread with a joke at the start).

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

you’re welcome to a drink anytime you want to, Andrew R. No such thing as a bad excuse for a piss-up. But aren’t you in Perth or somewhere far out like that?

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

I’ve just caught up with this thread after Jason drew my attention to it over at Catallaxy, and it’s taken a bit of time to read it through. It appears I may have had a (very minor) catalyst role in Ken’s decision, and I regret that.

Nick’s retelling of the tale of our little blow up is accurate. I didn’t mention his promise to publish my comments if only I revealed my identity. I didn’t take it as seriously as he obviously did. I thought I was being fairly meticulous in recounting the sequence of events at that time, but I do now plead guilty to omitting that detail. I agree with Kim and Jason however that it doesn’t change the substance of the story to any real degree.

This episode started at a thread on the economics of protection in the car industry. It was quite a technical and serious discussion on a subject which interested me greatly. Some of it was beyond my economic knowledge (admittedly not that great). There was an intense exchange of comments between Nick (the poster) and Harry Clarke:

http://www.clubtroppo.com.au/2006/08/05/some-ideas-for-the-car-industry/

I stayed out because I didn’t have anything substantial to contribute (a state which I’ve been accused of being in permanently!) until the patronising baiting of Harry, and the comment from Nick that he was trying to “engage the interested, non-expert reader” overcame my natural shyness, hence my comment recounted by Nick above. Harry incidentally reacted throughout with the greatest dignity and patience to this baiting.

Yes I often troll, and (quite rarely) troll abusively, although hopefully not to the extent of one Dave Ricardo whom Homer remembered infamously above. There are many many far more abusive commenters on popular blogs than me.

There was a time when I commented using my real name, but I found there are quite a few negative effects on your real life (thanks to Google), and I’m not involved in sitting and staring at my PC 24/7.

I think many more than half of blog commenters are anonymous, and even those who appear to be using “real” names are not using my real identity. How easy would it be to invenmt a real sounding name with an email address to match, and not face the accusation of using a pseudonym. At least whyisitso is an obvious pseudonym, and quite a good one I would have thought, based on a real identity whom I admired.

Gaby
Gaby
15 years ago

Sorry to intrude at this late stage into the apologetics, valedictory or otherwise, but I think, for me, Ken made a very important point about blogs in his first comment above.

“Comment box discussion at most blogs is with rare exceptions no more than a pretext for participants to shout past each other and broadcast their impervious ideological prejudices. It isn’t dialogue at all, so what’s the point?”

Exactly! I am a commenter and one of the major attractions for me is the possibility of dialogue. I don’t think you’ll find final answers in a blog, but light will be cast which may perhaps provide some illumination for participants. This is certainly my experience here at Troppo and as a dilettante with an interest in ideas, it certainly is fun.

Given the essential nature of a blog as a colloquy, comments, while probably not the most important, are integral. And abuse is inimical to any such dialogue. In fact, I reckon an argument conducted in the real world with the level of abuse sometimes encountered would end up in trading blows, rather than witty bards. Pace Hobbes, sometimes “clubs” are, and may just have to be, trumps. In fact, no response is worse for me than abuse would be, as it means that my comment just didn’t register. Abuse is merely the recourse, using a word I first saw on this site, of a ‘fucktard”.

Furthermore, I think it eminently “wise” that Nicholas ventilate the comments policy on his blog given that they are inextricably mixed with the blogging endeavour. So requiring that comments not be abusive or directed at the maker but rather are of substance, at least loosely connected with the topic or the thread in order to promote just such a possible “omni-logue” are not unreasonable constraints. Abuse is generally used by either the arrogant or the convinced, not those prepared and eager for the opportunity to advance and defend their ideas.

Club Troppo is certainly not boring for me. Far from it. I’ve learnt a lot. And had a lot of fun along the way. I hope to continue to do so.

Finally, Ken, thanks for all of your posts and comments and for running this blog. I’ve really enjoyed your stuff. And I think you must be a very fine lawyer too. I’d even downloaded “The Speluncean Explorers”. Hadn’t thought about that since I was sent an excerpt to read for my very first tute ever at Law School ( it was a criminal law tute). But I’m sure you’ll set the Hart-Fuller debate on positivism v. natural law as part of your Juris course. Hope to see you posting again sometime soon.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

Kim, as far as I recall the only person to use the ‘she’s an artist, she’s entitled’ line in those debates was me.

Nicholas, as well, if I recall correctly, Rob.

Ken, I’d be happy to support what I’ve said by finding direct links to comments you made which I found to be personally directed against me and homophobic, if you wish.

If “happy” is the right word.

But I remembered it specifically because Nicholas referred to allegedly homophobic comments at Catallaxy (whatever that has to do with Troppo is perhaps the subject of this post…)

I also would like to point out that your claim that I’ve “parrotted” Jason’s points is offensive and demeaning of me.

But so far I believe in the last two days you’ve specifically called me a “thug” and then implicitly accused me of “monstering” Sophie, which I guess makes me a “monster”. Now I’m a “parrot”.

But you are leaving blogging because there’s too much gratuitous abuse flying around?

Please explain.

No doubt you rest easy at night thinking that I’m not eminent enough to consult a solicitor to sue you for defamation. Remembering that you raised that spectre in the first place.