Online Opinion and the norms of debate

It’s easy to miss the point in the debate about Online Opinion‘s loss of advertising revenue. As Kim at Larvatus Prodeo points out, the debate isn’t really about free speech — it’s not as if publishers have a right to corporate funding. The important point is about how online communities deal with differences of opinion over moral and political issues.

According to publisher Graham Young, the Online Opinion model was shaped by the the Pauline Hanson controversy of the 1990s. Rather than engaging with Hanson many commentators made it clear that they believed her opinions were unacceptable, that she was a bad or stupid person for holding them, and that she should shut up. In a December 2010 post Graham Young wrote:

I saw Hanson as a symptom of a problem in society, not the cause of it. And the problem was that people refused to engage with people with whom they disagreed, and worse, denigrated them and denied them the right to hold their opinions … On Line Opinion was an attempt to level the playing field, at least in one corner. Our underlying proposition has always been that no matter how wrong it might be, you are entitled to hold a particular opinion, and to personal respect, even if the opinion might be seen by many as objectionable.

For Graham, this approach implies a set of norms for dealing with disagreement. One of the most basic is that you should not attempt to step out of the debate and try to silence your opponents rather than engaging them in argument. If someone argues for view you find objectionable you should not call their employer and try to have them sacked, mau mau their advertisers into withdrawing support or try to have them arrested.

It’s the norms of debate that we ought to be arguing about. It seems to me that Graham’s norm of respect for opponents is similar to an attitude I once labeled ‘deep civility‘. We’re not treating someone with respect when we act in a way that says that who they are or what they believe makes them worthless or contemptible as human beings. But as a norm for debate civility of any kind can only work if it’s reciprocated.

If so, this raises a number of problems. One is how to treat people who make it clear they do not respect their opponents or believe that they have a right to their opinions. With these disputants the debate constantly returns to claims about the bad character of opponents and their hidden agenda. Where this is combined with crude stereotyping, it’s impossible to have a civil debate.

Another problem is when deliberately hurtful attacks are smuggled into debate as if they were sincerely held opinions. It’s common to use words vindictively to arouse shame, guilt or anxiety. For example, a person might make exaggerated claims about being worried for the safety of their children if left unattended in the presence of their opponent. They might say that people who believe (or disbelieve) certain things shouldn’t be allowed to be teachers or child care workers.

The need for reciprocity in civil debate raises questions about what to do with people who refuse to respect the norms. On blogs this often surfaces as the problem of moderation — deciding which comments to delete and which commenters to ban. And this is where critics like Gregory Storey say that Graham failed.

Both parties in this dispute — Graham and his critics — believe the other failed to do what the norms required. But perhaps there’s no shared understanding about what the norms are.

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Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
10 years ago

Don

You may find that my most recent comment at #44 on the other thread is saying something fairly similar to your post. At least at Troppo I think we’ve managed a pretty civil (if not necessarily deeply civil) and useful discussion whereby we mostly understand and respect each other’s positions.

However it may be significant that we haven’t been visited by any fundie commenters of the ilk that seems to inhabit OLO. I think it IS a good argument for the sort of more conservative moderation policy Troppo has had in place for a few years now after a more light-handed start. It tends to result in smaller comment threads but a lot less white noise and aggro. I especially liked your encapsulation of what may well be one of the most basic principles of blog moderation:

… how to treat people who make it clear they do not respect their opponents or believe that they have a right to their opinions.With these disputants the debate constantly returns to claims about the bad character of opponents and their hidden agenda. Where this is combined with crude stereotyping, it’s impossible to have a civil debate.

Of course, the other way to have generally reasonably civil comment threads is to run a clear and consistent ideological line, as LP does to the left and Blot, Blair etc on the right. You then get peace in our time fairly consistently; everyone largely agrees with each other because opposing tribes have learned not to bother visiting because it’s hostile territory.

For blogs like Troppo and sites like OLO which aspire to present a wider diversity of views (as Kim notes at one point) it’s a bit trickier. At Troppo we arrived the hard way at a view that a more rigorous moderation policy was the only viable solution to avoid an increasingly fractious and unpleasant online community that alienates far too many people and retains too many of those you’d rather not have.

paul walter
paul walter
10 years ago

Why do blogs put themselves up as market places for ideas, and talk of free speech and association, when they are only interested in comfort posts to shore up themselves and their own prejudices?
Using “hate speech” as an excuse to shut out some thing uncomfortable is most counter productive, most of all for God-complexed moderators themselves, I would have thought.

Mel
Mel
10 years ago

From Graham Young’s above quote:

“Our underlying proposition has always been that no matter how wrong it might be, you are entitled to hold a particular opinion, and to personal respect, even if the opinion might be seen by many as objectionable.”

But this very reasonable sounding proposition is untrue. Graham has carefully selected a stable of contentious opinionistas for the benefit of his conservative base, no doubt with a cold, calculating eye cast upon the revenue spreadsheet.

If Graham seriously wants us to believe he is just a lovable rogue who provides a safe harbour for unpopular opinions of all shades and stripes then I guess we can look forward to guest posts from the Man Boy Love Association, Necrophiliacs Anonymous and Stormfront.

[deleted]

paul walter
paul walter
10 years ago

And we’ve seen those sorts of things at his site?
No, at least this debate is amongst broadsheet end blogs and posters who wouldn’t stoop to this sort of stuff when they discuss “Current affairs”. At least not in public, one gathers.
Go to “fetishism” or “entertainment” even, for other categories.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

Why do blogs put themselves up as market places for ideas, and talk of free speech and association, when they are only interested in comfort posts to shore up themselves and their own prejudices?

Blogs remain private property and each blog sets its own rules. If you don’t like the rules, then like an unwelcome visitor, your only ethical and legal option is to leave.

The right of reply is pretty much always protected by the ability to set up your own blog under your own rules.

Each of the “Terrible Trio” I host has different rules. LP’s are the most restrictive, Club Troppo’s in the middle and on Catallaxy almost anything goes. I’m sure you can find blogs to suit your taste.

Rafe
10 years ago

The OLO strategy is admirable because it provides a window to a broad spectrum of opinions without need to visit a whole lot of different sites to find out what the fundies of various kinds are thinking.

You need to check the “fundies” from time to time because sometimes what people call fundies are in fact very good, like the dreaded “market fundies” of “neoliberalism”. But you would never know that from reading their critics.

paul walter
paul walter
10 years ago

Thanks 7. A bit more constructive than the one previous,at least on the thread topic.

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

Don

I agree (and perhaps I shouldn’t have so glibly classified LP as an example of extreme tribalness on the left – there’s significantly more diversity embraced there than at rightie strongholds like Blair and Bolt).

I’ve just scanned the whole of the discussion thread on the Muehlenberg post at OLO and I must say I strongly agree with Kim. It rapidly descended into extreme toxicity after about the first 1/3 of it, almost entirely due to extreme, abusive and stereotyping comments from fundies. It’s entirely understandable that people like Storer and ringil reacted as they did.

I note that Graham Young has argued that ANZ and IBM were apparently objecting to the primary article rather than the discussion threads (they are in separate pages/areas and they demanded to have their ads removed from the former not the latter) whereas Storer etc said it was the comment threads to which they objected and that they accepted that Muehlenberg’s article itself was legitimately publishable. These two perspectives are not irreconcilable. It’s qute likely that Storer complained about the comment threads but that the people at the ad agency and/or those at ANZ/IBM didn’t really understand the nature of new media and didn’t know the difference between primary post and comment thread and therefore focused on the article itself. Having had their attention drawn to it, they may well have decided that a publication that would host an article like Muehlenberg’s was too close to the edge for their corporate interests.

As you and Jacques both suggest from slightly different perspectives, a blogger can run his/her blog however they want within legal constraints. However there are consequences depending on the decisions you take, as with everything in life. If you don’t care about civil discussion or alienating a mainstream audience (especially women) or advertisers, then you can afford to run a lax moderation policy. However that doesn’t seem to describe Graham Young’s aspirations for OLO. Muehlenberg’s article was quite close to a line where it simply ought not to have been published at all in my view. It was certainly foreseeable that it would arouse strong anger in a large part of the reading audience (including me). Thus it should have been obvious that the resulting comment thread would need close attention and strong moderation. Clearly that did not occur.

That being the case, this controversy really does raise the issue of how feasible it is for diverse blogs (OLO, Troppo, LP, Passant etc) to collaborate for marketing purposes, given that the actions of one will from time to time seriously impact all the partners because advertisers at least apparently don’t differentiate between the various partners. That too is understandable because we’re hardly major outlets for their advertising. I really think Graham needs to revisit his moderation policy as a matter of urgency if he wants to keep this collaborative arrangement going. I was inclined last night simply to drop out and treat the whole exercise as too hard and rather pointless. However, as some may have noticed from some of my recent posts, I’m really interested in the way new media are developing and the potential for collaboration and cross-fertilisation between citizen journalism/blogosphere and the MSM and the implications for the future of both. As such I think it would be nice if Troppo could stay onboard the OLO/Domain experiment for the ride,so we get an insider’s view on how it all works. But that will require some honest and mutually respectful dialogue about moderation policies and perhaps other things.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

Don, I think you’ve encapsulated a real issue here.

Ken, I agree.

trackback

[…] Club Troppo (and more at Club Troppo) […]

Graham Young
10 years ago

Don and Ken, I think we need some real concrete examples here. Everyone is just talking in generalities.

The comment that Storer objected to referred to homosexuality as a perversion. I refused to remove that post, although I removed another that he complained about.

As far as I know all the monotheistic religions, with a few denominational exceptions, regard active homosexual relationships as a perversion. How can this view be regarded as so outlandish that it has to be taken down from the forum?

Ken, I’ve just re-read the whole of the thread and I disagree with your characterisation of it as “descending into extreme toxicity”. But again I find it impossible to deal with something like that as a generality. Can you tell me which posts you would have deleted that I haven’t?

I agree that CT’s comment thread is more civil than OLO’s, but then views tend to be more homogeneous, so that helps. I personally find LP’s comment thread quite disagreeable generally, mainly because they are homogeneous and as uncivil as OLO.

I reckon most members of parliament who are consulting their electorates on the issue are getting the same sort of comments as on the bottom of the Muehlenberg article. I think there is a positive benefit in having that sort of dialogue in the open.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

Graham, I can’t find how to link directly to comments on the thread, and I am loath to reproduce any here by way of quotation. However, comments which claim that talk about “very high rates of homosexual child abuse”, appear to equate same sex parenting with “child abuse”, constant discussion of sex between same sex partners in the context of HIV, ranting about anal sex and “rimming”, the use of discredited claims regarding alleged health dangers of same sex intercourse, throwing around terms like “abomination”, “cancer to civilisation”, etc, are offensive in the extreme, and also, in my view calculated to inspire hatred.

That’s only from reading about a quarter of the comments.

Don is certainly right that we disagree, possibly in a way that can’t be reconciled that such a thread is in any way positive.

It also appears to be quite contrary to your own policy, which I quoted in my post, regarding publication of material which is offensive. I’d note, too, as I previously observed, that your policy appears to be quite similar to the IASH Code of Conduct which you refused to sign.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

Ken;

I don’t think that the bundling of Troppo, OLO, LP, SL et al works because of similar topics and moderation policies. It works because these sites have a similar reader profile: successful, middle-class professionals. A/Bs, in advertising terms.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

Sorry, delete “that claim” after “comments which” in my second sentence.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

I’d just add that for LBGT people participating on or reading that thread, these sort of comments are hardly likely to be experienced as abstract discussion of the public policy merits of legalising same sex marriage, but as directly personal and hurtful attacks. To large degree, I think, that’s something that is a predictable outcome of the way the Muehlenberg article is written (I hesitate to say “argued”) – as a confection of unrepresentative quotes purporting to show there is some singular and conspiratorial “homosexual agenda”. Returning to what I’ve said earlier, in my view, it neither constitutes reasoned argumentation nor complies with the “Enlightenment values” or “Socratic dialogue” Graham and several of the bloggers in the network say they uphold, but works, in practice, as a direct invitation to post hateful and hurtful comment.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
10 years ago

Graham

I can’t do much better than to adopt Kim’s summary at #13. Almost every pro-Muehlenberg comment after about page 7 contains abuse or repulsive stereotyping that I would regard as unacceptable in any even vaguely civil conversation, and some of the anti-Muehlenberg ones responded in kind. Frankly, once a comment thread reaches that point it is beyond salvation and can’t achieve anything worthwhile. It should simply have been closed down, and you should have foreseen the probability that that would be necessary given the extreme nature of the article and the polarising nature of its subject matter.

desipis
10 years ago

One [problem] is how to treat people who make it clear they do not respect their opponents…

One problem, as I see in this instance, is where the opinion or argument being discussed implies a lack of respect for one or more of the participants. Is it reasonable to expect people* to participate in debates as abstract ‘opponents’ devoid of any personal reaction to the subject matter at hand?

Personally, I think if the goal is to produce constructive discussion at the same time as allowing a diverse range of opinion that the scope of each individual discussion might need to be restricted. For example, rather than have an open forum for every possible view even remotely related to gay marriage; frame the discussion more narrowly with a caveat that one accepts an assumption that gay people are otherwise equal participants in society, if only for the purpose of the discussion at hand. It wouldn’t be so much that comments such as those about “very high rates of homosexual child abuse” are censored or deemed not worth publishing, rather they would be segregated into separate discussions.

* particularly the diverse target audience of a site such as Online Opinion.

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

I should also say that I don’t think this argument provides any excuse:

As far as I know all the monotheistic religions, with a few denominational exceptions, regard active homosexual relationships as a perversion. How can this view be regarded as so outlandish that it has to be taken down from the forum?

I agree that that specific “perversion” comment taken in isolation was not one that should have been moderated, and I so argued earlier in the other thread. It came early enough in the discussion that an abusive atmosphere had not yet become firmly established. But it did shortly thereafter. Nor do I accept that the fact that homosexual activity is regarded as a sin from a christian viewpoint provides a justification for the abusive, hateful attitude of many if not most of these comments. They are a very long way from Christ’s message. It is entirely possible to convey the fact that Christians regard homosexual activity as sinful without descending into the sort of stuff that pervades the OLO comment thread. Moderate Uniting Church people and liberal Catholics (though not the Pell brigade) manage it without difficulty. Christianity does not provide a justification for hatred, abuse or vilification in civic dialogue, and they should not be regarded as possessing a “wild card” dispensation from ordinary rules of civil discussion just because such a style of discourse may be characteristic of a particular aggressive brand of christian fundamentalism. Quite the opposite if anything. Sheikh Hilaly has quite a few followers too, but his brand of “uncovered meat” discourse equally has no place in civilised secular conversation.

Fyodor
10 years ago

Aaah, online civility and moderation.

I think in these situations everyone should just take a step back and ask themselves one simple question:

What would Sophie Masson do?

For those late to the spectacle, here’s a prologue.

Liam
10 years ago

Far be it from me to shy away from uncivil discourse, Fyodor, and I note as you do the many historical precedences of the argument being re-hashed here, but I wish nobody would link to that comments thread.
They’re a set of a relatively few number of my inflammatory and self-centred comments I genuinely regret.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

@20 – Wholeheartedly seconded, Ken.

The use of the term “perversion” is also highly loaded, and isn’t equivalent in my view to saying “we think homosexuality is sinful”.

Many, many Christians manage to discuss these issues without the use of such terms and phrases, and of course, a considerable number of adherents of Christianity (and to some degree – of other monotheistic religions) do not agree that same sex love is sinful. The meaning of Biblical passages said to be relevant is highly contested, and has been for some decades, and in any case, I can’t see that this stuff has a lot of pertinence to a public policy discussion.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

And what Liam said.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

The meaning of Biblical passages said to be relevant is highly contested, and has been for some decades, and in any case, I can’t see that this stuff has a lot of pertinence to a public policy discussion.

I’m pretty sure Leviticus 6:22 lays it out clearly, TBQH. I mean you can faff about passing it through the New Testament Decoder Ring if you like, but it seems like a categorical statement to me: “don’t do that.”

As an atheist I grant the bible(s) no particular moral authority. But I do find it hilarious that fundies use Lev 6:22 to bash people they don’t like without, for example, following the many other emphatic instructions therein. For example, many of them shave and wear clothes made of more than one kind of fabric. Heathens!

Finally, if you ask me, Jesus was an inconsistent philosopher. He can be read in too many ways to be a useful guide to anything (true of all those books). On the one hand he talks about knocking on the door, and on the other he leaves specific instructions to flog all you possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and live like a hippy kibbutz. I note that the latter instruction is also curiously overlooked by fundies.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

I apologise in advance if I have derailed the thread.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

Jacques, I don’t want to derail it either, but I think it is important to note:

(a) The traditional Catholic and Orthodox mode of biblical interpretation was to consider texts within their entire context, and to determine their meaning via tradition and the authority of church teaching, not from the Protestant habit of using “proof texts” out of context to support pre-existing views. Unfortunately, and here maybe there’s a link to the OP, some bad Aristotelian/Thomist and Reformation debating tricks have become embedded;

(b) A lot of biblical scholars do disagree with the usual anti-gay interpretation placed on particular passages.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

Kim;

We can continue over at LP — maybe this would make a useful topic for a new post?

Fyodor
10 years ago

Keepin’ it real, Hoges. Keepin’ it real.

Jacques, listen to Kimberella. The Bible’s supposed to be like Famished Jacques Burger King: have it your way.

That’s why it’s full of whoppers.

Graham Young
10 years ago

Kim, your point of view appears to be that anything you disagree with shouldn’t be in the comments thread. That’s not how I moderate, or anyone should moderate. I don’t pull people up for truth claims. That is invidious.

If you’re not prepared to link to a specific comment that you think should have been moderated out then I guess there’s not much to discuss.

I also don’t agree that I’ve breached the terms and conditions of the site. You have to read the conditions in terms of reasonableness. Just because someone may be unreasonably distressed doesn’t make a comment outside our terms and conditions. But again, without specific references, we can’t have a conversation.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

Graham, as I said I can’t figure out how to directly link to individual comments. My point of view certainly is not that “anything (I) disagree with shouldn’t be in the comments thread”.

To take just two example:

Yes Bill I think you are on the money. There is far too much wooly and general sloppy thinking on this issue, and the implications for the long term outcome both for the society that buys these lies, and the children affected, have not been well thought through in general at all. One only has to see one person severely affected by childhood sexual abuse, for this whole process to fill one with loathing and detestation. Sadly too many people who abuse others have themselves been subject to abuse, often horrific. The very high rates of homosexual child abuse are truly appalling and need to be factored into any of these discussions. How homosexual couples can have children around them without affecting their sexual development is beyond me. I have seen dozens of horrifically affected cases, and I am well aware there are thousands more in this nation. We should not be mass producing this totally avoidable tragedy.

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

The second is just ridiculous, vulgar and gratuitous abuse.

The first makes repeated equations of same sex parenting with “child abuse” based on no evidence other than anecdote, and clearly wants to make same sex parenting and “child sexual abuse” interchangeable.

Then, there’s stuff like this, which is hardly a substantive contribution to an intelligent debate, and includes risible and emotive slurs:

Hi bill, I and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of others applaud your stand on this key moral issue, as you do in so many areas. I whole heartedly agree with all of your points.

I also wish to point out to all reading this how sad this homosexual lobby is that they must continually seek approval from all areas of society to try to justify their perverse lifestyle. It is as though they constantly need reassurance that what they are doing is right because deep down even they know how wrong it is.

Further to this, you can rest assured that even when they have achieved the foolish goals they have set for themselves that their need for approval will never be fulfilled as they and everyone else will still know homosexuality is wrong.

People will always know it, say it and think it. It seems a bit absurd that the radical homosexualists would even care what anyone else said or thought in the first place. I know I could not care less what they think or say about what I know is right.

Keep fighting the good fight bill, you are a shining light in the battle against the totalitarian regime of the gaystapo.

Your friend j

I’m not going to go on debating these or others; I’ll stand by my assessment. Clearly we have very different approaches to what is and is not acceptable.

Liam
10 years ago

Keepin’ it real, Hoges. Keepin’ it real

As the joke goes: brother, are you confessin’ or are you boastin’?

JC
JC
10 years ago

It would be better for us if u go live out in the Sahara desert.

What’s wrong with the Sahara? I went on a trip to an oasis a few years and stayed in a Bedouin oasis tent thingi. Camel riding was good, but you don’t wanna be downwind from camels, as I learnt, as they really smell bad. So either wanna lead or be right at the back of the line. It was fun.

Liam
10 years ago

Oh, hey JC! Gathering of the Elder Ones of Stoushes Older Than Time, hereabout, isn’t it.
[kicks up feet on a handy shoggoth]

JC
JC
10 years ago

Oh the memories, Liam. The memories

Fyodor
10 years ago

As the joke goes: brother, are you confessin’ or are you boastin’?

Not one for confession, and more roastin’ than boastin’.

Gathering of the Elder Ones of Stoushes Older Than Time, hereabout, isn’t it.

Innit. The nostalgia was better in the olden days, as some smart-arse once told me.

Nabakov
Nabakov
10 years ago

I brought the booze. Anyone got a corkscrew? Jeez, what have you done with your hair JC?

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

Where’s Nabakov?

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

Ah he’s just turned up!!

JC
JC
10 years ago

Jeez, what have you done with your hair JC?

Hair’s fine, Nabs. I thought the unkempt look is in, no?

desipis
10 years ago

Kim@31,

The first makes repeated equations of same sex parenting with “child abuse” based on no evidence other than anecdote, and clearly wants to make same sex parenting and “child sexual abuse” interchangeable.

The problem with suggesting that such comments be moderated is that it requires the moderator to be an arbiter of truth (or at least an arbiter of potential truths). I get the impression (and I could be wrong) that it’s a role that Graham Young is neither prepared or, given the sheer extent of topics and comments on OnlineOpinion, able to play. The idea being to play a minimalist role in facilitating discussion, and through that discussion any evident truth will come out. Surely, if the claims are so obviously wrong, it would be easy to put together a well evidenced rebuttal in the comments that would then stand testament to the fallacy of the original argument.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

desipis;

WordPress emails copies of comments to authors, so in general they wind up acting as moderators on their own posts.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

I don’t know how OLO works, it’s a bespoke platform AFAIK.

desipis
10 years ago

Jacques, my comments were about dealing with the contents of the comments given time & knowledge constraints of a moderator for a site like OLO, not the limits of the technical interface a moderator uses to enact the moderation decisions. Clearly, if you’re dealing with an expert author dedicated to the ensuing discussion there would be a greater potential for moderation.

Nabakov
Nabakov
10 years ago

“The idea being to play a minimalist role in facilitating discussion, and through that discussion any evident truth will come out.”

Nice in theory. In practice you can often end up with shit splattered all over the walls and many angrier but not wiser. But hey, some prefer that and who are we to deny them their fun? Personally I prefer dim and smokey hidden bars full of femme fatales to the OLO style beerbarn.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

@41 – desipis, in a sense it does not require Graham Young to be an arbiter of truth. It’s not as though there is a contested evidence base underpinning the claim that same sex parenting is equivalent to “child abuse” or that this is equivalent to “child sexual abuse”. It’s clear that these claims are prejudicial and unsupported by anything other than that prejudice. It doesn’t take much to point that out, or to refuse to publish a comment in the first place which is so clearly and obviously motivated by nothing other than a desire to smear and wound.

I think most reasonable people would agree that such a comment is outside the realms of civil discourse. It’s also only of a tangential relationship to the article to which the thread supposedly refers. The OLO policy I quoted seems to prohibit offensive comment. Young argues that has to be interpreted “reasonably”. Clearly, our understandings of that differ.

If you look at the thread, it’s clear that there is active moderation going on as there’s evidence of various comments being deleted.

The key to this might be that bit in the OLO policy which refers to “an individual”. The AISH policy and LP’s policy refer to groups as well. I suspect Young – for ideological reasons of his own, probably – is uncomfortable with the view that people can take offence on the basis of group identity or affiliation. The comments he’s deleted appear to be ones which “flamed” individuals.

Therefore if the commenter in question wrote something like – “Kim, you are perpetrating child sexual abuse because you’re a same sex parent” (I’m not btw) – Young would delete it, but not the sort of generalised claim of the form that all same sex parenting is equivalent to child sexual abuse.

That does go to a very profound difference in view as to what constitutes offensive speech. I strongly suspect that I, and others at LP, have views on that, and on moderation, which cannot be reconciled with Graham Young’s, which as Ken Parish rightly points out, may mean that we need to rethink our relationship with OLO as it appears that we are suffering an adverse effect based on decisions and policies of his with which we are in disagreement.

Nabakov
Nabakov
10 years ago

Care for a drink Kim? The dips and crackers are over there on the table.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

@28 – Jacques, I think at one point we had a guest post on biblical interpretation and the same sex debate… Not sure how much of our archive has been restored yet, but I might hunt it down and post a link if I get a chance.

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

I don’t accept Graham’s argument about “truth claims”. It requires no expertise on the part of a moderator to know that a factual assertion/stereotype, at least in most areas of endeavour, is grossly offensive to an identifiable group. The fact that the person perpetrating the slur claims it’s true really isn’t germane to the issue, at least in most cases. It’s conceivable, however, that I’m seriously misunderstanding Graham’s point in which case I’m sure he’ll tell me. It would mean, for example, that a moderator ought not to remove a claim along the lines of the notorious anti-Semitic “blood libel” if the person conveying it asserts it to be true. One can think of lots of other reductio ad absurdum examples to establish that denying the legitimacy of moderation merely because someone makes a “truth claim” about a grossly offensive statement is absurd and incoherent.

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

What about me, you ignorant old turd Nabs? Mine’s a very full beaker of shiraz and a sliver of brie, thank you very much. And when do we get to the tasteful deeply civil snark, preferably at a less soft target than Sophie (preferably one that the whippersnappers will actually have heard of)?