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.