Tertiary boycotts, online civility and agreeing to disagree

By skepticlawyer

That got your attention, didn’t it?

In light of how the issue I outlined here has managed to make its way around not only Ozblogistan but the MSM, I think it’s probably worth bringing a lengthy comment I made here up into a post of its own. Before you go onto reading it, I have to point out that it represents my view. There are four people with quite dramatically different politics on this blog, two of them broadly ‘right’, two of them broadly ‘left’ (but with lots of oddities therein). We couldn’t come up with a corporate statement (unlike Larvatus Prodeo) on this issue if we tried. Any additions are marked with [], so you know they represent an afterthought.

My comment below was made in response to a lengthy addendum to this post by Ken Parish over at Club Troppo (you’ll need to scroll down), where Ken reveals further information of which I was not aware when I wrote my post, and of which Ken was not aware when he wrote his. In it, Ken comments:

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).

My reflections follow:

I have just read two lengthy threads at Troppo and a large chunk of the toxic putrescence attached to the Muehlenberg article over at OLO. In the case of the latter, that’s a bit of my life I’ll never get back.

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 and both John Passant and LP have made it clear that they are not interested. Jennifer Marohasy is not happy with the situation but she may not be interested either. [And as Ken points out, anything like this is always subject to uncertainties].

That aside, I do recommend reading Don Arthur’s separate thread at Troppo on the second issue that Ken raises above. Like Ken, Graham’s moderation of OLO when it came to that particular post and the dispute over it was something of which I was unaware when I wrote my initial post. Unlike Ken, I have no desire to apologise to one of the named individuals (Gregory Storer) who approached the advertisers, because — as Ken says — the effect has been extremely drastic, because he had other options, [and because I have never been a big fan of ‘Outraged of Manchester’ types].

Unless this latest controversy means OLO gets other advertisers (and it may well do so; media and advertising and publicity can be very strange beasts), then OLO will shut down. It is a commercial concern. We won’t, and nor will LP, Troppo, Jennifer Marohasy et al (I don’t think; I could be wrong on this). We will all have to figure out a way to pay Jacques and our hosting fees, but that is not insurmountable. LP and Troppo used to run fund-raising drives now and then; maybe we will all have to go back to that.

Don Arthur’s post alerted me to a mix of other issues, some of which simply hadn’t occurred to me. The thread following is also very interesting as well. However reluctantly, I do believe the following as a result of reading it:

1. Graham should have closed the Muehlenberg thread after page 7 (when Ken noticed it getting toxic). When people started trading personal insults and speculating on each other’s sexual histories on the thread here, I closed it. LP has turned comments off from the get-go on the post outlining its ‘corporate position’ on the issue — very sensibly I think. Ken and Don have also policed both their threads at Troppo very assiduously. When it is abundantly clear that no-one is going to shift their position and all that is left is (a) abuse and (b) gossip which often leads to (c) defamation, then closing the thread is the only reasonable option. Graham should have done this, and his failure to do so makes Storer’s actions explicable, if it doesn’t make them right or even legal.

2. Unlike Kim and several other people in both the Troppo threads, I don’t accept the idea of group defamation (or group rights, for that matter). I recognise that this is ideological; one of the defining differences between left and right — particularly the libertarian right — is a different view of group rights. However, threads here don’t get toxic too often because all four of us recognise that — on issues like this — the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Use the ‘find’ function on the Troppo threads (look for HELLFIRE, the allcaps are a bit of a give away) and you’ll see some of the religious bigotry that surfaced in the comments at OLO [several people quoted a representative sample from OLO; Troppo did not publish those comments per se]. The poster in question is entitled to his views, but we don’t want them on our blog. Our blog, our rules. We’ve already had some utter crazies try to get through to us (including harassing Jacques), and a couple of slightly worrying people have turned up at Troppo.

3. You can dress it up any way you like, but the three monotheisms are unequivocal in their condemnation of homosexuality. They’re also unequivocal in their condemnation of a lot of other stuff, too. Their position on homosexuality (and sexual matters generally) is now so recognisably outlandish that it falls into the ‘not even wrong’ category (to pinch a phrase from Lorenzo). The problem is, (a) a lot of people still believe it and (b) a percentage of gays and lesbians want to keep their monotheism and live as normal human beings, not celibates (taking the Catholic position that the sexual act is the sin, not the fact of being same-sex attracted).

4. There have been various responses [from all parties] to this phenomenon, one of which is a tortured attempt to retranslate the Bible/Koran/Torah so that the sexism, homophobia, bigotry etc etc is interpreted in such a way that it isn’t sexist, homophobic or bigoted [this issue also arises when it comes to women, contraception, religious tolerance etc — it isn’t unique to homosexuality; here’s a good example of a gay version]. Some of Kim’s comments on the Troppo threads fall into this category. Another is to just ignore the offending bits (the Uniting and Anglican Churches tend to do this, as does Reform Judaism and some branches of Alawi Islam). Another is to state, baldly, ‘thems the rules, suck it up’ (the Catholic, mainstream Islamic and Orthodox Jewish position). This latter, of course, means some gays and lesbians have no place in a religion in which they desperately want to partake. That is a dilemma of the most horned sort and I am damned glad that it’s not something I have to face or even think about. Atheism has its advantages on that front.

[Addendum: it’s also just occurred to me that maybe we are paying a price for treating religious arguments too gently and their adherents with too much sensitivity. Anyone else who makes similarly unfounded assertions in other areas gets taken to the cleaners pronto in a Western democracy; we seem to treat religion and its adherents with kid gloves. Maybe, on that score, the ‘gnu atheists’ are right, and we need to be much more robust, even if the discussion is hurtful for ‘sincere’ religious believers].

5. The upshot is that I have a fundamental disagreement about the underlying norms of debate (online and, I suspect, otherwise) with both Kim and Graham. I am closer to Ken’s position although not quite the same. Perhaps that comes of running a blog where the main posters all have different politics. They have everyone over at Troppo from Fred Argy to Rafe Champion and all shades in between.

6. I don’t think these differences can be reconciled, or if they can, it’s going to take someone far more skillful and diplomatic than me to do it.

46 Comments

  1. Mel
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    SL says:

    “The secondary boycott issue hasn’t gone away ”

    I agree the the issue hasn’t gone way but for different reasons- it never existed in the first outside the fertile imaginations of some lawyers opining outside their area of expertise.

    I have already pointed out why I think this and it is based on a layman’s interpretation of the pertinent legislation, which is as plain and simple as legislation ever gets. But of course nobody ought put great store in my opinion. Happily they don’t need to. A much more authoritative voice is that of Mr Scott Rogers, Senior Advisor, Competition and Consumer Policy Division, Department of
    the Treasury.

    When Mr Rogers was asked in the pdf DEM linked to earlier, on the “Too Many Tweets” thread, whether the secondary boycott provision could be used against pro-lifers protesting outside an abortion clinic or anti-mulesing activists who organised a boycott of Australian wool, he replied:

    “‘I think it would be stretching it to say that a protest reached a level of conduct required to actually amount to a boycott”

    Obviously if well orchestrated campaigns of this nature fall short of the “hinders or prevents” requirement, a gentle letter written by a citizen acting alone falls even shorter of such a requirement.

    The pdf also says that “peaceful protesting, including on human rights issues” is excluded from the secondary boycott provisions. How is a mild mannered letter not a peaceful protest?

    I’m not sure how this matter could be more clear cut- the secondary boycott provisions are not applicable to this case.

    Here is the pdf link: http://www.aph.gov.au/SEnate/committee/economics_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/tp_protection/report/report.pdf

    ps. ten years working in admin law helped me out here 🙂

  2. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Mel, as someone who does practice in the area, including a stint at the ACCC during the 90s, I can tell you that the facts posited do constitute a breach of s45D of the Act. What I would be less confident about is whether there is evidence to prove the allegation.

  3. Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Mel, I still think it’s perfectly arguable, and since we’re not going to agree on that point, it’s probably best to leave it there. There are plenty of other fish to fry.

    And, as Nick points out, everything in cases like this turns on evidence, which none of us have seen (we do have a few admissions, but they are not the same thing).

  4. Mel
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Nick,

    How would Mr Storer’s letter not constitute a peaceful protest pertaining to human rights? Was Mr Rogers wrong in his interpretation of the Act?

  5. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    SL, I think that it’s fine for you to moderate your blog any way you like. I think that’s part of freedom of speech, thought and action as well. What Graham has tried to do is run a site where everyone gets a say. I totally get this. My opinions are, for the most part, centre right. I like free enterprise, I’m suspicious of large government etc. I’m socially liberal in that I support gay rights. There are a million places I can go happily to express my views because few people find many of them terribly offensive.

    There are others who don’t have that luxury, because there opinions are much less popular. There may be good reasons for that, but I am deeply suspicious of those who stop these people from having their say.

    I’m not saying that every online hub should publish those who might be thought crazy or offensive, just that there should be space for those who do want to give these people a voice. After all, the gay rights lobby was once a small, dangerous lobby thought fit by the powers that be to be suppressed and persecuted.

    One of the scariest things I’ve seen in the course of all this is a comment over at LP. Someone pointed out that there’s more than a little vilification of those not politically or religiously aligned to the LP community. One of them responded that they attack people according to what they believe rather than who they are. Scary, but also stupid. On that logic, you can’t attack someone for being gay, but you can attack them for thinking it’s all right to be gay.

  6. Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Nick, feel free to answer Mel’s question @4; after that I will draw a line under the secondary boycott issue, but your input would be valuable in the interim.

  7. Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I wish to make it clear that I make no claim whatsoever to have coined the wonderful phrase ‘not even wrong’, which began life in physics.

  8. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it matters whether it’s a peaceful protest. Violence is not the only way to hinder or prevent acquisition or supply. There may be an argument that they only threatened to hinder supply rather than actually did so, but it seems to me that the protection for environmental and consumer activists suggest that there is a real risk for political activists of other stripes. Of course there is still a lot of supposition in this particular case.

    Also, sorry if my previous comment has moved you to draw a line under this. I promise to stay away if you want to keep it open to allow others to have their say on the legal issue

  9. Posted February 9, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Not at all, Nick — I would love your input as an area practitioner. It’s unfortunate you weren’t around on the earlier thread, which degenerated badly once I went to bed and LE went to the Melbourne Museum with her kids.

  10. Mel
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t think it matters whether it’s a peaceful protest.”

    If it doesn’t matter how do you explain the exclusionary clause that specifically permits peaceful protest?

    “but it seems to me that the protection for environmental and consumer activists suggest that there is a real risk for political activists of other stripes”

    The Act specifically singles out human rights as well.

    I’m not convinced you are familiar with all the relevant provisions of this Act, Nick.

  11. Posted February 10, 2011 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    One of the scariest things I’ve seen in the course of all this is a comment over at LP. Someone pointed out that there’s more than a little vilification of those not politically or religiously aligned to the LP community. One of them responded that they attack people according to what they believe rather than who they are.

    I rather doubt it was one of the LP moderators who said that, because it isn’t true. People get challenged on what they say, of course, but that happens everywhere.

    Scary, but also stupid. On that logic, you can’t attack someone for being gay, but you can attack them for thinking it’s all right to be gay.

    Except, of course, for it being a direct breach of our oh-so-difficult to find comments policy:

    Unacceptable
    […]
    Imputing ideas or motives to others or stereotyping them because of perceived group membership or ideological affiliation.

    Jennifer Wilson was challenged, hard, on what she said, because many people found some of the things she said non-persuasive. I still find the idea of a shadowy gay lobby with incredibly deep pockets inherently ridiculous, whether it’s her saying it or Graham Young or Christopher Pearson, and none of these people have provided a shred of supportive evidence.

    Without establishing the factualilty of that first element of the posited facts, there’s no point (for me) in engaging with the rest of the argument. I realise other people, especially those with legal training, like to tease out multiple lines of hypotheticals, but that doesn’t oblige everybody else to do so.

  12. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Tigtog, fair point.

    Mel, I’m unaware of a specific exclusion for peaceful protest. Reading the document to which you refer, there appears to be an assertion that the Courts have interpreted the statute as not covering peaceful protest. It does not cite cases.

    I have had a quick look on Lexis Nexis and one example which tends to negate that proposition is Australian Wool Innovation Ltd v Newkirk (No 2) [2005] FCA 1307. In that case, Hely J refused to strike out a statement of claim alleging that animal rights activists shaming people and corporations for buying wool from producers who engaged in sheep mulesing. The conduct included protest, but nothing violent or “direct” in a physical sense.

    Mel, I think the inconsistency can be explained by the following. When the Coalition came to power in 96, they set about reinforcing the secondary boycott provisions to make them more applicable to industrial action. In that process, they needed the Democrats’ support and the quid pro quo was that there was some protection for consumer and environmental protestors. The Democrats were eager (fairly) to take political credit for that and the report you site is one by Andrew Murray, the last Democrat senator.

    In short, the document you cite is a justification of the Democrats rather than a serious explanation of the relevant law.

    I’m not really in the business of persuading you I know what I’m talking about, but consider this: what part of the legislation draws a line between “peaceful” conduct and violent conduct? Why would it? Hardly any of the conduct in the commercial world which might fit the prohibition would be “violent”. There would be all sorts of problems with statutory interpretation in those circumstances.

    There may well be some cases in which peaceful protests have been thought not to fit the bill, but I suspect that would be because the protests have been so anodyne as to fail to meet the criterion of inhibiting supply or acquisition.

  13. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    LE, in fairness to Storer, the people who believe “the Gays” are taking over the world and coming to steal our women will probably believe that whether or not he engages in his protestations. True they’ll cite his actions and results as evidence, but it’s a sugar hit for them, it’s not evidence likely to recruit sane people to their cause.

  14. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    And as if a gay lobby would be shadowy. It’d be all neon and rhinestones!

  15. Grendel
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    SL – good wrap up of some of the key points that have been troubling me – thank you. Also yes, we should not let those who present unfounded assertions as universal truths get off lightly – atheism indeed has its advantages. At TAMOz this year that was a distinct undercurrent of discussion, along with the accompanying “don’t be a dick” theme.

  16. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Grendel, sorry, I take the rhinestones thing back.

    And @13, where I said “the report you site”, obviously that should have been “cite”. I’d like to blame autocorrect or something, but it was just me.

  17. Posted February 10, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Grendel. Also, in light of your comment (I should have thought of this earlier), I have also tagged this post ‘skeptics’. It’s tangentially relevant, I suppose.

  18. Mel
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    LE says:

    “I still don’t think it’s fair to punish everyone for it, though …”

    As I’ve said elsewhere, there Storer did not set out to punish everyone. He could not have reasonably foreseen that his simple letters of request would have such ramifications. This is almost a black swan event.

    Also note that Christian groups in Australia have successfully lobbied to have advertisers pull ads from anything deemed to promote a positive image of homosexuality, like “The L Word” tv show. Funny how no one seems to know about this let alone kick up a stink in protest.

    Further, I don’t find your backfire argument convincing. The Jews laid low and let the fundies run over the top of them in the 1930’s “it will be ok and all blow over if we be good Germans and don’t draw attention to ourselves”. History shows that approach didn’t work. Jews tend to be much more bolshie today in the face of vilification, and good on them.

  19. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Just thought I’d note that while waiting to get on in Court this morning, I thought I’d take a look at this thread on my iPad, but the Qld Courts wi-fi blocked it as carrying pornography.

  20. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Just thought I’d note that while waiting to get on in Court this morning, I thought I’d take a look at this thread on my iPad, but the Qld Courts wi-fi blocked it as carrying pornography.

  21. desipis
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Tigtog (quoting Nick)

    …Someone pointed out that there’s more than a little vilification of those not politically or religiously aligned to the LP community…

    I rather doubt it was one of the LP moderators who said that, because it isn’t true.

    It’s been my experience that the comment culture at LP can be somewhat hostile to those not aligned with its values. As for moderators, I’m still wondering what I did to get placed in permanent moderation other than not drink the LP kool-aid.

    I still find the idea of a shadowy gay lobby with incredibly deep pockets inherently ridiculous

    I’ve been thinking there might be a rational basis for the concept of a ‘homosexual agenda’ by considering it in the same way one considers the ‘patriarchy’. That there is a broad self-reinforcing culture of reshaping society to suit homosexuals that isn’t necessarily a distinct group of individuals. I’m not saying I agree with the concept, just that it might not be something that’s completely irrational.

    Mel,

    Also note that Christian groups in Australia have successfully lobbied to have advertisers pull ads from anything deemed to promote a positive image of homosexuality, like “The L Word” tv show. Funny how no one seems to know about this let alone kick up a stink in protest.

    I wasn’t aware of that particular example, but I do regularly see opposition to attempts to suppress things on religious or ‘family’ grounds.

  22. Patrick
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Guys, this was not a black swan. Look it up somewhere if you have to. When something happens following a course of conduct entered into that is directly consistent with your intentions in entering into that course, it is not a black swan.

  23. kvd
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] says “He could not have reasonably foreseen that his simple letters of request would have such ramifications. This is almost a black swan event.”

    Over on Club Troppo Mel said “Gregory Storer, wrote some politely worded and non-threatening letters to OO’s advertisers in which he *requested* they pull their ads from OO”

    Mel, I thought a “Black Swan event” in economic terms was an event so far outside the expected norms as to be impossible to predict and hence, never planned for. I don’t see how the withdrawal of advertising arising from a polite request for a withdrawal of advertising can be termed “almost a Black Swan event”.

    Sorry Patrick, after typing/copying all the above I refuse to just “bin it”.

  24. Posted February 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Yes, “asked for possibility” is a not a Black Swan event.

    [email protected] Yes, I gave up on LP years ago for precisely that reason.

    I have rarely been banned (twice that I remember in all my years on the net) and both times it was left-of-centre sites and clearly about blocking dissent.

  25. Mel
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Yeah the black swan thingie was hyperbole. What’s wrong with a little theatre. Given the circumstances maybe I should have referenced pink flamingos instead 😉

    I’m banned from two sites, Catallaxy and LP. I can’t blame them as I did deliberately push some delicate buttons.

  26. Posted February 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Nick, thanks for letting us know that. The Courts Wi-Fi used to treat Catallaxy as porn when I was in Oz, and I used to have trouble getting to it when I was working in a firm before that. One of the reasons we set up this blog (and enforced moderation rules that make us look like the Pymble Pony Club by comparison with many other blogs, to use Jason Soon’s singularly apt phrase) was to deal with the Qld Courts Wi-Fi and allow people in law firms to access the site from work. Clearly, we’ve failed on both fronts. Maybe Jacques will have an idea of what’s going on.

  27. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    My guess is that the gay dating ads which this thread is promoting are triggering something. Food for thought for Mr Storer!

  28. Posted February 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    (1) If the generally civil discourse here is due to much moderation effort, my thanks to all those making that effort.

    (2) I’m unsure if ozblogistan has askimet or something like it, but any toxic comment repeat offenders on my wordpress blog would have been marked by me as spam… with knock-on effects to other askimet-enabled sites.

    (3) SL’s comments about the more noxious Abrahamist groups are spot on. The problems are made worse because of support for those groups by politicians (Costello and Hillsong, or the kid-gloves handling of the Exclusive Brethren the most obvious). The politicians say they promote “safe schools” for those with same-sex attraction, yet support ill-tutored proselytes, often those with the more aggressive positions than others of the same faith, in schools during class time, or push chaplains, while resisting all attempts to allow kids to be exposed to comparative religion or humanist ethics. The neatest long term solution is vaccination against the worst memes floating in religious heads by ensuring kids are educated about what religion actually IS, by presenting young minds with an actual informed choice.

  29. Posted February 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Helen, you have made an assumption about what caused the advertising boycott in the first place which is not borne out by the facts.

    Gregory Storer may want to claim the credit, but this is what the advertising agency sent to us on the 29th November, 2010:

    “Hi Graham,

    Hope you had a great weekend!

    I have email from my client as in the blow, as you know I can’t control where the ads will show on which page or which article, so can you do me a favor to take off 300×250 banners from this page? http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11268

    IBM advertising ran on the site onlineopinion. It ran next to a very offensive article in relation to homesexuals. A gay employee of IBM has made a complaint. Please let me know how you would like to rectify this situation”

    So can we just stick to the facts. I’m getting a little tired of being treated as incompetent when most of my critics can’t even do basic homework and contact me to check facts.

    Then you apply norms that have grown up from blogs that are “salons” when our site is a “public square”.

  30. conrad
    Posted February 11, 2011 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    “…was to deal with the Qld Courts Wi-Fi and allow people in law firms to access the site from work”

    It’s funny you should mention that, because it’s another area where group punishments are dealt out automatically — if you are on a domain where people send out a lot of spam, your email is more likely to get trashed than if you are on one where people do not send out such stuff.

  31. Patrick
    Posted February 11, 2011 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    In the spirit of thinking the same thing as someone else already posted I never even got started on LP. A soft-left group hug, uggh. I actually did undergrad arts so I didn’t need more than a minute to see where I was and only a minute more to say goodbye.

    Now I pretty much never even follow a link to there because I’m bored before I can get the mouse that far.

  32. Mel
    Posted February 11, 2011 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    I wonder if IBM also employees the type of uppity Jews who would raise an objection to the company being associated with antisemiticism?

  33. Posted February 11, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    In light of Graham’s comment @30, it appears that Mr Storer was (a) not acting alone and is (b) also claiming credit for other people’s ‘efforts’. He acted from outside, but at least some of the activity was employee initiated. The employee activity seems to have been in response to the article alone, too, not the comments thread, which, as I have already said elsewhere, is far less reasonable.

    I would still have closed that thread (threatened boycott or not), but that issue is separable from simple publication of an article. A very poor article, it must be said, but not hate speech or abuse.

    All very murky and unedifying, I have to say.

  34. Jacques Chester
    Posted February 11, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Maybe Jacques will have an idea of what’s going on.

    I can only surmise that we’re on a blacklist somewhere. Perhaps some of the naughty words in Bring Laws & Gods outtakes triggered filtering too.

    I’m unsure if ozblogistan has askimet or something like it, but any toxic comment repeat offenders on my wordpress blog would have been marked by me as spam… with knock-on effects to other askimet-enabled sites.

    The thing is that akismet is also used to identify spam blogs as well as spam comments. Send too many false positives and you might be marked down as a splog. I’ve counselled bloggers on this very issue.

  35. Jacques Chester
    Posted February 11, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    You know for technical issues like these I think I should equip all Ozblogistan blogs with a bat signal, but one with a silhouette of a server with ears or something.

  36. Posted February 11, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    The thing is that akismet is also used to identify spam blogs as well as spam comments. Send too many false positives and you might be marked down as a splog. I’ve counselled bloggers on this very issue.

    This was something I simply didn’t know, although that said I’ve marked very few comments as spam. Unfortunately I know plenty of people have commented in good faith (including our regulars) and they’ve gone into the spam folder, not the moderation folder. In days gone by I used to check the spam folder for genuine comments, but I must admit I haven’t been doing that lately.

  37. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 11, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    We have a roof-terrace outside our chambers in Brisbane. I’ve been seriously considering getting a bat-signal to put out there. We overlook another tower popularly known as Gotham following its retrofit about 15 years ago.

  38. Jacques Chester
    Posted February 11, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    This was something I simply didn’t know, although that said I’ve marked very few comments as spam. Unfortunately I know plenty of people have commented in good faith (including our regulars) and they’ve gone into the spam folder, not the moderation folder.

    Yes, unfortunately Akismet is capricious and inscrutable. It also doesn’t help that spammers set up blogs and send in false negatives to try and muddle the data.

    It’s an arms race and success will only ever be probablistic.

  39. Mel
    Posted February 11, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    SL says:

    “In light of Graham’s comment @30, it appears that Mr Storer was (a) not acting alone and is (b) also claiming credit for other people’s ‘efforts’. ”

    I do wish you’d cease making vexatious claims. Storer *did* act alone. If some other individual acting alone made a complaint so what.

    Storer has not claimed credit for anything. All he has done is outline what he did. Not once in any of the several comments he has made at Larvatus Prodeo, Club Troppo or Catallaxy or elsewhere to my knowledge, and I would submit to yours as well, has he made any type of misleading or boastful claim for credit.

    Do you realise that your behaviour in this matter is analogous to Robert Manne’s behaviour in relation to the Demidenko Affair?

  40. Posted February 11, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I carry no brief for Robert Manne, Mel, but Manne never, ever approached my publishers and attempted to stop them publishing me, never attempted to prevent me being published in other forums, never attempted to undermine my employment prospects in any other (non-literary) profession, and did not argue that my book should be banned. Other people did that. Louise Adler, for example, argued that my book ‘should be pulped’. Various other persons attempted to stop me getting employment, or approached my publishers.

    I have no time for his arguments, and think that he is the worst sort of spear-carrier for the pious lefty members of ‘Club Virtue’, but to impute an attempted boycott (of me, in this case) to Robert Manne is both false and defamatory. I find it extraordinary to be placed in a position where I am defending him, but in this case I must.

    I should also add that, to my knowledge, Gregory Storer has made no comments here. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried, but we haven’t seen any in the moderation filter.

    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.

  41. Posted February 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    But SL,

    Mel didn’t say you were boycotting Storer, so how could she have “imputed” [technical term], because she said you were acting like Robert Manne, that Robert Manne had been boycotting you?

  42. Posted February 11, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    OK, sorry Mel. But before SL gets back I want to make clear that this apology is out of respect to Mel’s proper gender on the basis of LE’s comment, and is not intended to disparage women by any implication whatsoever.

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