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A Swede in Germany

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Comment censorship and comment policies IVd: Wrap up

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The blog entry by Antje Schruppe that forms the basis for installment IV of this article series has proved a great source of material, both to illustrate my own thoughts and to discuss new areas—largely through exactly the kind of clashes in opinions that feminist blogs so often try to suppress. However, some two weeks after the initial encounter, it is high time to wrap things up. I will try to condense the remaining loose ends into one post, even at the cost of wandering between topics and not working everything out in deserved detail.

Originally planned, as a first follow-up to my original discussion, was a post with the preliminary title “To comment or not to comment—that is the question”. Let us start with the half-completed draft of this post, with some minor comments in square brackets:

Developments have left me with an unpleasant dilemma—and a good illustration of why the statements made by Antje are misguided.

To give a brief re-cap of comments (as far as relevant for the current post):

  1. There have been a number commenters expressing similar sentiments to mine.

  2. The overall tone has been reasonably pleasant and one recurring visitor has offered that Antje’s blog is an exception to the feminist standard. This has the dual complication that the commenters above (including me) may be unfair regarding specifically Antje (but not feminism in general), while she, in turn, may be unfair towards the commenters her original post was directed at. [With hindsight, my interpretation may have been too generous towards Antje, cf. the following topic.]

  3. One specific commenter seems to follow a more traditional feminist agenda and/or have a poor understanding of the underlying issues.

Specifically, this last commenter was of the kind that more-or-less necessitates answers: They (as a group—judging any individual in this regard may be too far-going) simply give a distorted image of what their opponents say, what scientists say, and generally appear to be more opinionated than informed. They are particularly common among feminists (but do occur in all camps). Naturally, a debater who has an interest in correctness will give answers pointing to e.g. distortions or misunderstanding of opinions, factual errors, and mistakes in reasoning—and will try to expound on his own position for clarity, use larger examples, try to point to issues in a bigger picture, whatnot. (In addition, the question of fairness and intellectual honesty can also arise. The recurring reader will know that I have, at least occasionally, defended even those whom I do not agree with in this regard.)

Making such corrections do not only affect the transgressors (in fact, they will typically not be affected at all, through their resistive mentality), but are valuable in that an uninformed or easily lead reader is given a less one-sided perspective. Additionally, they can be highly beneficial both for the author, himself, and for any critical readers looking for a more solid understanding.

I strongly suspect, however, that exactly this type of clarification is what many of the feminists confuse with e.g. “wanting to have the last word”, “mansplaining”, or similar—to the detriment of themselves and their readers, and to the annoyance of those who are unfairly given the label. (Notably, there is a large difference between a constant repeating of the same arguments in louder and louder tones and an actual elaboration, clarification, and extension.)

Feminists to a large part provoke the behaviour they legitimately complain about, e.g. through their censoring of and attacks on the behaviour they illegitimately complain about.

Similarly, I once had a boss whose standard reply to feedback during meetings was “Let us save that discussion for a smaller circle.”—a reasonable suggestion, except that these smaller circles usually never happened, and, when they did, almost always consisted of a standard group of “yes men” (rather than those who could and were willing to contribute, including the original issue raiser). In his case, I strongly suspect that this was deliberately ploy to sweep things under the carpet without being too obvious.

Notably, many feminist blogs work on a guilty-until-proved-innocent principle. [Cf. my previous entry or the case of “blue milk” for extreme examples. Beware, however, that the same overall tendency is quite common, even if less obvious, on less misandristic feminist blogs.]

The dilemma mentioned was this: A previous comment by Antje read

@Michael – das war jetzt übrigens die „zweite Runde“, von der oben in meinem Blogpost die Rede war :) –

(@Michael—that [my preceding comment] was the “second round” that I discussed in my blog post :) –

Her original discussion of “second round” could be summarized as

dass ein Kommentator immer das letzte Wort behalten will und dadurch die Diskussion in eine bestimmte Richtung drängt und auf ungute Weise dominiert.

(that a commenter always wants to have the last word, and thereby forces the discussion in a particular direction or dominates it in an ungood manner. [The German word “ungut”, unlike “ungood”, did not originate as Newspeakw, but seeing that it only survives in the expression “nichts für ungut”/“no offence” the literal translation is the most fitting—and the reference is a striking, if likely entirely unintended, match in the context it appeared in.])

I now saw myself caught between two alternatives: Either I would let statements that should be confronted stand unconfronted—or I would provide “proof” that Antje was right by enabling her to talk about a “third round”. (This type of “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” situations have been relatively common in my own experiences with feminists. Whether they use it as a deliberate trick to preclude objections, is unclear to me.)

At that time, I decided not to comment, but instead to discuss the general problem in the originally intended follow-up. Some discussion of why the blog owner is, in fact, wrong is present in the quoted draft. (Further, arguments can found in previous entries or e.g. in the Wikipedia article on selective exposure theoryw.)

As time went by, other topics surfaced, and I chose to comment on one of these—after all, to claim a third round based on a different topic would be absurd. Shortly after submitting this comment, I received a notification email that another commenter had made a similar reply (meaning that Antje was at that moment moderating); however, my comment was for some reason not let through. I now grew suspicious, bearing in mind a previous statement implying that comments were possibly being held back:

Für mich selber seh’ ich nun leider auch nicht, wieso z.B. der letzte Kommentar, den ich hier ( zum Thema „Moderieren“ ) geschrieben habe, nichts mit dem Thema zu tun hätte, oder sonst etwas, so dass er gelöscht werden musste.

(For my part, I do not see why, for instance, the last comment that I wrote here (on the topic “Moderation”) was considered off-topic, [or otherwise was unsuitable], and had to be deleted.)

(http://antjeschrupp.com/2010/07/25/warum-es-hier-keine-netiquette-gibt/#comment-2485e)

Before choosing my next action (or, possibly, non-action), I decided to investigate the “second round” issue—possibly, my interpretation, with several days between the mention in the post and the mention in a comment, had been too optimistic.

Indeed, a few sentences later in the post, Antje says:

Ich handhabe das inzwischen so, dass ich nach der zweiten „Runde“ weitere Kommentare des Betreffenden dann nicht mehr freischalte.

(By now, I have a policy of not approving more comments from [the person in question] after the second “round”.)

This lead me to re-publish the comment on my own blog (further information is present on that post).

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Written by michaeleriksson

August 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies IV: A German feminist’s take on comments

with 7 comments

Today, I stumbled upon an entry where a German feminist expressed her opinions on comment moderatione. Her statements included:

Auch an dieser Stelle waren die besserwisserischen Männerkommentare in feministischen Blogs ja schon häufiger Thema, ebenso wie das Phänomen der Trolle.

(Here too, the besser-wissery man-comments on feminist blogs has been a topic, just like the phenomenon of trolls.)

Apart from the overall connection and formulation being less-than-polite, my own experiences indicate that this is an opinion that feminist bloggers tend to have about any and all comments by men that are not positively “sucking up”. In particular, the whole besser-wisser issue is basically their explanation for the presumption of pointing to actual errors in reasoning, statistics that do not agree with The Official Feminist Truth, and similar. Cf. also the earlier discussion of “mansplaining”.

Dass es sich für feministische Blogs empfiehlt, eine relativ strikte Kommentarmoderation zu haben, hat sich inzwischen herauskristallisiert.

[…]

Sondern es ist wichtig, um den Raum der Diskussion frei zu halten für die wirklich interessanten Debatten und attraktiv für diejenigen, die gerne konstruktiv mitdiskutieren wollen, aber keine Lust auf langweilige oder sich im Ton vergreifende Diskussionsstile haben.

(It has turned out [original idiom untranslatable] that it is recommendable for feminist blogs to be relatively strict about comment moderation.

[…]

Instead, it is important to keep the room of discussion free for the really interesting debates, and attractive to those who want to participate in the discussion, but have no wish for boredom or discussion styles that are off in tone [ambiguous phrasing].)

This is a similar distortion of the “only those who agree are constructive” kind. See also the comment I submitted to the actual post (below).

Eine weitere Unsitte, wie ich finde, ist es, das eigene Anliegen bei jedem neuen Thema erneut vorzubringen. Also zum Beispiel die Meinung, dass es heutzutage gar nicht die Frauen, sondern die Männer sind, die benachteiligt werden, oder dass feministische Analysen nur dann Relevanz und Bedeutung haben, wenn es gelingt, Männer von ihrer Richtigkeit zu überzeugen.

(Another deplorable behaviour, in my finding [opinion], is to bring out an own agenda [pet issue?] again with every new topic. For instance, the opinion that, in today’s world, it is not the women, but the men, who are disadvantaged, or that feminist analyses only have relevance and meaning [or importance], when it is possible to convince men about their correctness.)

And again, dissenters have no right to speak. Superficially, it may seem that it is wrong to bring up such issues again and again, but the point is that these issues are of fundamental importance to the discussion—and the turn-around in male and female fortunes will also undermine very many feminist arguments and discussions. Ignoring these arguments (and if they were not ignored, there would be no need to restate them) is tantamount to discussing biology in a Creationist framework.

Und allen, die dann „Zensur“ rufen, sage ich: Das Internet ist ja zum Glück groß. Ihr könnt also jederzeit ein eigenes Blog aufmachen. Hier aber entscheide ich.

(And to all, who call “censorship, I say: The Internet is, fortunately, large. You can start your own blog anytime. Here, however, I make the calls.)

This dictatorial take has already been discussed in previous entries.

The comment I left there, in full:

Ich kann jetzt nicht spezifisch für Deinen Blog sprechen (noch werde ich verleugnen, dass es auch unter den anti-feministen schlechte Kommentatoren gibt).

Gegen den Grundsatz muss ich mich allerdings mit Nachdruck wenden:

Was ich immer und immer wieder sehe, ist dass feministische Blogs eine selektive Moderation, Personenangriffe, o.ä. benutzen um Andersdenke zum Schweigen zu bringen. Ich habe gar Aussagen gesehen, die in der Richtung „Deine Ansichten stimmen nicht mit der Majorität der Leser überrein, so verzieh Dich.“ gegangen sind.

Eine „interessante Diskussion“ ist dann öfters auf ein gegenseitiges Zustimmen beschränkt, während eine kritische Auseinandersetzung mit Sachargumenten, eine gegenseitige Erleuchtung über den tatsächlichen Inhalt unterschiedlicher Standpunkte, usw, nicht stattfindet.

(Im Übrigen habe ich selbst erhebliche Zweifel an die ethische Seite von dieser Art von gezielter Moderation/Zenzur.)

S. auch (auf Englisch) https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/unfair-argumentation-methods-iii-intermezzo-on-rape-debates/ für ein Beispiel von den Methoden, die einige Blogs benutzen.

(I cannot speak specifically for your blog (nor will I deny that there are bad commenters among the anti-feminists too).

I must turn [dissent/object] against the principle [of the post], however:

What I see, time and time again, is that feminist blogs use selective moderation, personal attacks, and similar, to silence dissenters. I have even seen statements in the direction of “Your opinions do not correspond with the majority of the readers, so take a hike.”.

An “interesting discussion” is then often reduced to mutual affirmation, while a critical examination with arguments ad rem, a mutual enlightenment about the actual contents of different views, etc., does not take place.

(In addition, I have strong concerns [lit. “doubts”] about the ethical side of this type of targeted moderation/censorship.)

S. also (in English) https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/unfair-argumentation-methods-iii-intermezzo-on-rape-debates/ for an example of the methods some blogs use.)

I will also distill a spot on comment by another commentere:

  1. The interesting thing with blogs is the exchange of information and the possibility to find weakness in ones own opinion.

  2. Feminist blogs tend to strike exactly those comments that disagree with the underlying opinions of the authors.

  3. Those arguments that tend to convince non-feminists (listed are fellow party-members, co-workers, and family) are those that are deleted.

  4. By this feminism becomes a question of faith.

Finally, a quote by yet another commenter:

Biologische Argumentationen, sachlich vorgetragen und durchaus von einer Mehrheit der jeweiligen biologischen Fachrichtung vertreten, führen auf feministischen Blogs sehr schnell dazu, dass Kommentare nicht mehr freigeschaltet oder gelöscht werden.

(Biological arguments, [even when] brought in a factual manner and supported by a majority of the respective [sub-field of Biology], have the speedy consequence that comments are not approved or are deleted.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies III: Nordic Dervish’s comment policy

with 6 comments

Another recent encounter is Nordic Dervish’se comment policy, which contains some other common entries that trouble me. (Most of the policy, however, is reasonable.)

A particular issue is the implicit assumption that the reader has read the comment policy (reflected in several entries below), which is only valid to a part. While this may seem a reasonable assumption (possibly even eliciting a “Duh!” from the reader), it is rarely true, and any unusual rules and consequences should put to the commenters explicit attention in connection with the comment field. By analogy, a country can make whatever laws it wants, but if those laws are unexpected (say, jay-walking being punishable with a minimum of six months imprisonment), it really should explicitly inform tourists at the border—not rely on the tourists to grab a book of law and reading up.

Examples (retrieved 2010-07-27):

Kommentera inlägget. Allt som är off-topic raderas – oavsett hur intressant.

(Comment the post. Everything that is off-topic will be deleted—no matter how interesting.)

Apart from often being a disservice to other visitors (and quite possibly a time waster for the commenter), this is another highly arbitrary regulation. Notably, the border between on- and off-topic can be hard to define, sometimes it is necessary to go off topic to correctly answer concerns raised by another commenter, etc.

In contrast, “Try to stay on topic. Comments that stray too far from the topic at hand may be wholly or partially deleted.” would have been perfectly OK, if combined with sound judgement.

Håll kommentaren så kort som det är möjligt. ”Noveller” kommer att raderas.

(Keep your comment as short as possible. “Novels” [lit., in an odd twist, “short-stories”] will be deleted.

The principle is sound, but the same objections, m.m., as above can be raised.

Rasistiska eller främlingsfientliga kommentarer/formuleringar raderas.

(Racist or xenophobic comments/formulations are deleted.)

The same old problem again that I have raised in several previous entries. (Admittedly, this instance was followed by a disclaimer that some amount of dissent may be allowed.) However, this is nothing compared to:

Är Khomeini/Ahmadinejad dina idoler? Om du skriver publiceras ditt inlägg MED emailadress och IP-nr samt en uppmaning till dig att utföra passionerat fellatio på ett avgasrör.

(Are Khomeini/Ahmadinejad your idols? If you write [presumably “comment”], your input will be published WITH email address and IP-nr, together with a suggestion for you to perform passioned fellatio on an exhaust pipe.)

Publishing email and IP of a commenter without his consent is inexcusable (barring some special cases, say DOS attacks, but certainly not the described one). This applies even if the commenter happen to be an Iranian Islamist, a German Nazi, or a Satanist (in all three cases, assuming that his one crime in context is expressing a dissenting opinion). Further, WordPress assures posters, with regard to the technical implementation, that this information will only be made available to the blog owner(s), which makes a manual publication the more unethical.

The latter part of the quote could be construed as a suggestion to commit suicide…

Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies II: Jotamar’s comment policy

with 3 comments

I recently encountered a comment policye that I found highly dangerous (I have, I stress, not made observations of how it is actually applied. The general attitude, which is representative for many blogs, is my target. It may be beneficial too consider this a discussion based on the policy, rather than a discussion of the policy.)

A few quotes (retrieved 2010-07-27) with my analysis:

If you come to my blog and post a comment that does not engage with my post, or with the comment thread in general, I will consider you a troll.

This is a misrepresentation of what a troll is (in short someone who is deliberately out to provoke a fight or otherwise disturb the discussion)—as the recurring reader will know, use of a word with strong negative connotations (arising from a very specific meaning) in a much wider meaning is one of my pet peeves—be the misuse out of ignorance, carelessness, or deliberation.

Further, the applied standards are extremely arbitrary and vulnerable to misunderstandings, with the implication that even constructive and “good faith” comments can fall victim.

Notably, while I have not myself been censored on this blog during my one (?) involvement, both my intentions and what I said was misunderstoode in a highly annoying and mutually time-consuming manner.

After [what amounts to a first warning], I may delete your comments or disemvowel them, depending on my mood.

Deleting comments is one thing, disemvowelling (.g. smthng lk ths) is another matter entirely: Other peoples words should not be distorted unless it is manifestly clear that a distortion has taken place (e.g. by a marker like “[Admin: …]”. Notably, there are a few people out there (usually considered idiots by others), who deliberately disemvowel their own texts, and the commenter might be taken for one of them.

If you write a condescending comment – especially if you start with a condescending phrase – or if you mansplain (or equivalent) at me, I will probably treat you as a troll.

Condescension too is highly subjective, and many are over-sensitive to it or imagine it where it is not present. This tends to apply in particular to people who use the word “mansplain”: There are two main situations in which I have seen this word used:

  1. A man tries to explain more-or-less anything to a woman who is also a men-are-out-to-get-us feminist; in particular, when she actually is wrong in the underlying issue.

  2. A man tries to explain something to a woman who is also stupid or highly uninformed, and his dumbing-down is interpreted as “You talk to me like that because I am woman!”, instead of the correct “You talk to me like that because I am stupid/uninformed!”. Notably, the amount of dumbing down need not even be so large that an independent observer would consider it condescending, but rather an attempt to be helpful. (When push comes to shove, Einstein would have discussed physics with a layman in a very different manner than with another Nobel-Prize winning physicist—this is in the best interest of all parties, and not in anyway disrespectful or condescending.)

    Corollary: If you constantly find that other people are condescending towards you, the reason might actually rest with you, not them.

As an additional complication, some incorrectly interpret a factual way of writing as condescending, which can be a major obstacle to a fair discussion when combined with a “no condescension” rule. Similarly, even statements that correctly point out that a particular belief is wrong or naive are often taken as condescending. (Depending on the details, this need not be incorrect; however, there is a world of difference between e.g. “That it is common beginner’s error, which does not consider that X.”, even when condescending, and “Do not trouble your pretty little head with that. We do not want it to over-heat, do we?”—there is condescension and there is condescension.)

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that we are all imperfect: Should someone, when faced with an unusual amount of stupidity, eventually become condescending, then that is something very different from someone who is constantly condescending to everyone he meets.

Language which is offensive because it is ableist [presumably, referring to having or not having certain abilities, e.g. sight], sexist, misogynistic, racist, homophobic or anything else of that calibre is not acceptable.

Again, a much too subjective criterion—and one that is very, very often abused to exclude those who dissent in opinion, or that is over-extended in an inappropriate manner. (Cf. e.g. Hypocritical media or Abuse of “racism” (and issues relating to racism).)

If you think this policy is unfair, you are more than welcome to go and comment on some other blog.

While this may seem reasonable at a first glance, this attitude can also be dangerous—in particular, when the censorship starts during a discussion, when one debater’s opinions are left misstated, misrepresented, or when others attacks or arguments are left unanswered. An additional danger is that a good faith post which has cost the author a non-trivial amount of time, e.g. to dig up a few references, is not published.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies I: Preliminaries

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I have previously written on the danger of censorship, including pointing to the possibility that freedom of speech may need to be radically extended. (More posts can be found by a search.)

Recently, I have seen a number of relevant posts. To deal with some cases and observations, I am writing a new article series. Currently, having had busy day, I have four articles (including this one) that I will publish in short time-span, after some minor polishing; in addition, a fifth article is planned, but may yet be canceled, depending on developments.

While I will leave most of the discussion to the individual case discussions, a few remarks:

  1. Just like unfair moderation can lead to problems, so can e.g. alterations of comments. This, in particular, considering how easy it is to discredit someone even with an out-of-context quote he has made. Even an accidental distortion can have disastrous effect. Deliberate forgeries and distortions, OTOH, are bound to be rare—but the potential for abuse is large. (Notably, this is a particular concern for those who occasionally post on the blogs run by the-end-justifies-the-means fanatics.)

  2. If you, as a blog-owner, decides to block a particular comment or commenter, it is usually a good idea to explicitly contact him with an explanation. There are blogs that have a too large inflow of comments, and there are commenters who simply are obvious idiots (or have built their status as idiots for quite some time); however, in most cases, a notification is appropriate and courteous. In particular, beware of the risk of a misinterpretation influencing your decision to block.

  3. Everyone must have the right to defend and clarify his position, meet attacks directed against him, etc. If you do cut someone off, do so in a manner that does not make him a defenseless victim of an opponent.

  4. Be especially careful with the people you disagree with: The greater the disagreement, the greater the risk that you are being biased and unfair—and the greater the benefit of the doubt you should extend.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 9:37 pm