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« It's worse in context | Main | Climate Resistance on catastrophism »

Comment not free

Fred Pearce has another article up about the Hockey Stick, part of the Guardian's review of Climategate. We are invited to leave our comments and annotations.

Unfortunately that's less of an option for me, since the Guardian has put me on moderation. This means that my comments take 24 hours or so to get posted. It's not really possible to have meaningful input in these circumstances - rather like trying to take part in a public meeting by post - so I'll put some comments up here when I get the time.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I would tell the story of how I ended up being put in the moderation queue and this seems like a reasonable opportunity to do so. When I noticed the red warning on the CiF comment screen I dropped a line to the moderators to find out how I had transgressed. I don't write rude comments, I don't troll and I don't do O/T. But I must have done something bad, right?

The message that came back from the moderators was very charming but rather bizarre.  When Climategate had first broken, I had posted two references to the emails about five minutes apart.  I had then apparently been put on moderation - no warning or anything. Straight in the sinbin. This was apparently because the legal status of the emails was unclear.


Anyhow, the mods suggested that I would have been taken off moderation but for another transgression of common decency.  This related to the famous Monbiot piece, in which he called for Phil Jones' resignation but also took himself to task for his failings as a journalist, namely blind acceptance of the word of the climatologists. My sin was allegedly to suggest that in view of his failings, Monbiot should probably resign too. This was deemed "abusive".

This seemed a little odd, so I queried this with the mods, suggesting that if it was abusive to call for George to go, wasn't it abusive of him to call for Jones to go. Their reply was that the policy was for the protection of author and commenter alike (or words to that effect). To which I responded "Huh?" (or words to that effect). Unfortunately, the mods weren't going to play ball any longer, telling me that they weren't going to endlessly explain the rules to me.

Does anyone get the impression they'd just rather their readers didn't hear from the likes of me?


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Reader Comments (40)

I'm afraid it's their loss.

Good newspapers learn that comments are gold. It proves that someone actually reads the article (advertisers like that sort of thing). The Guardian will learn in time that a one sided discussion is a waste of time for the reader. For me, I have come to accept that the Guardian has not much to offer. Your blog is much more engaging.

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterEhrich

This is interesting. Reading a few of the Guardian articles that allow comments there seem to be a lot of skeptical posters - including me - and often the most 'recommended' posts are also skeptical.

Maybe post anonymously, 'friend-of-science101' using a hotmail or googlemail account.

But they should not pick on you - tho' it is kind of a compliment.

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

They are playing to the stalls. In some degree it is a reflection of their pre-climategate behaviour. They allowed in the 'deniers' just so the eco-'in-crowd' could feel smug and reinforce the special Guardian eco-meme.

Anyone with more rational responses was much more dangerous. In fact most rational people avoided because the group-think on the comments was so strong.

Post climategate, the whole episode has caused disorientation. Suddenly their cosy little world was inundated with information they could not easily refute or handle. You still get the diehards labelling deniers as 50-60 year old men (in the pay of oil, or at least super-affluent), white, conservative who do not care about the planet, who only have a 10 years to live so do not care etc. Cloud cuckoo land does not begin to describe it.

I would not worry too much, the Guardian monbiot-eco-meme has taken a sever battering, and continues to do so. And never again with he 'alarmists' hold sway in any comments section in any forum. Thanks to climategate - it was the start.

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

It's interesting how the media who make the most noise about human rights and free speech are also the most repressive and reactionary when it comes to dissenting opinions.

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide

And to illustrate my point - see the first comments on Fred Pearce's article both quite well recommended.

And indeed, why bother to read Pearce?

Oh I remember why, so that we can catch the confessions, (Himalayan Glacier type) when they surface.

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

George Monbiot has not made a comment about ClimateChange on his blog since dec.21:

I reckon he must have lost his footing completely in the world he formerly thought was his and where he lived ...

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJonas N

It's all of a row with the mindset - the same idiocy applies at the BBC. I had a brush with them during the period immediately prior to the Iraq war, when it appeared the Corporation's message boards were allowed to become a propaganda service for the Stop The War brigade (much as had the airwaves, of course).

It amuses me no end that it is always the earnest Left that bangs on about how the Right restricts personal freedom. The evidence of the past decade alone suggest quite the opposite.

Still, the good news is that The Guardian is selling off even more of its family silver (the regional newspapers have just been sold) so the house organ of the Left seems unlikely to be around much longer.

When it goes, you can bank on a chorus of wailing about how its closure will 'silence debate'.

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterGCooper

Beneath its veneer of liberal inclusiveness, the Grauniad is clearly taking the psis!

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

Sadly they all 'moderate' comments. Even my local rag with an alleged readership of just 54,000 doesn't allow any comments that contradict with the editors stand on anything. They are also very selective when deciding which articles have comments enabled. You'd think there was some sort of conspiracy going on...

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered Commentersickofit

The "liberal" veneer hides a dark fascistic heart. Being banned by the fascist Guardian should be worn as a badge of pride.

Feb 10, 2010 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavis

If you are a climate skeptic

C - Censorship

i- is

F - Frequent

at the Guardian.

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Me to. It is disgusting that the Guardian claim their "comment is free" when it is so rigorously censored to keep out truth.

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Par for the course with the Gran ..ive been banned many times but always sneak back in : )

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky D

Though I have not suffered this fate with the Guardian, I can report that never once has a single comment that I sent to the BBC been published. This is the fate of other 'sceptics' I know. We don't even get told of the rejection, and there is no note in the thread that the comment has been posted but edited out. However, all sorts of rubbish appear on the BBC comments. I think BBC is the most unreasonable censorship I have encountered.

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Why don't you channel your comments to the Guardian (not of free speech evidently) through someone else? I'm sure there will be loads of volunteers.

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuckyles

Why bother posting there in the first place? I don't think you're going to convert anyone around to your point of view. People seek material to support the opinions they already hold, don't they? It's one of our irrational Human traits.

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

The Grauniads "community guidelines" state that

attacks (on authors, other users or any individual)...will not be tolerated

Looks like the Grauniad decided the Bishop calling for George to resign constituted a personal attack. Not sure that it necessarily did...and, anyway, George is surely tough enough to handle it.

What the Grauniad is proposing is not of course "peer review" as there is no third party editor assessing reviewers' comments on the Grauniad's manuscript and with the power to require the the Grauniad to make changes.

Furthermore, the instructions to readers are mightily unclear. One can either e-mail comments using <> or post anonymously at the bottom of the articles, but it's not clear in which cases a reader should use which option. And its not clear that the Grauniad has switched on its anonymous commenting facility.

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

It appears that the Grauniad and the MSM in general, consider Blogs like yours to be in direct competition with themselves. After all, Blogs are very often way ahead in the extent and quality of coverage of breaking stories, and the standard of comment is generally high. This casts their own coverage in a bad light, and they resent it.

Perhaps they simply see you as a threat? As Josh says above, take it as a compliment.

P.S. Thoroughly enjoyed your book.

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterScottie

Yeah man, you're disrupting their rosy picture of the world where "real debate" is happening.

This reminds me of a blog in the techworld where a mac geek, John Gruber doesn't allow comments on his blog because he doesn't really need your input...he is the final word and analysis. So some other folks emulated his blog with comments...

Story here:

Maybe someone needs to emulate the guardian with a less fascist comment policy.

Feb 10, 2010 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

What, they have a group of 12 new CIF articles under:

The language used (battle, war, lies, stolen e-mails, rabbit deniers etc) is so uninviting that few waded into this warmist swamp. Be happy you can't make yourself dirty there.

The lack of openness on CIF is on par with CRU/ Penn. policies.

Feb 10, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAntonyIndia

If the Nurdfgaia were decent and proper it would sack its KGB boys, wouldn't it?

Feb 10, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

There is SideWiki.

Feb 10, 2010 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Fisher

Same with the Huffington Post.

My posts simply don't appear there anymore, despite me following all the house rules.

Also interesting to note that pre-Climategate, the 'Green' section was awash in AGW stories.

Tumbleweed and crickets chirping these days.

Feb 10, 2010 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulH

Moderating bloggers with traffic only results in the blogger posting above the fold at their own blog. This generally results in greater readership for the moderated blogger!

That said, my inclination is to say that blogs and newspapers can moderate for whatever reason they like and don't have any particular obligation to explain. The flip side is you get to point out that they did moderate you, and explain the history. In this case, the moderators have an odd policy.

Feb 10, 2010 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterlucia


I certainly don't dispute their right to moderate me for any reason they choose, from my stated opinions, to my unstated ones, to the colour of my shirt. It's just a strange policy that smacks of something rather dishonest.

Feb 10, 2010 at 2:30 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I floated some of the volte-face Gaurdian (I love AWG, I hate AGW) peices past my Gaurdian reading boss - his only comment was - "Bloody Journalists - what did you expect"

I have been of the view for a while that these rags get their audiance by scandal and habit. Integrity, polital view and them pesky fact things are neither here nor there.

Take pride in being censored by a so called liberal paper in a so called free country, count it as a skill being able to provoke hypocrisy from the self styled ineligensia. That or start a log of incidences of hypocritical actions - you could even take citations from commenters you know sort of a proxy, and graph them up once in a while. I'm sure there's some code hanging around to that kind of stuff somewhere...

Feb 10, 2010 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

I am also being blocked from CIF, the first time was the day when news was breaking about the e-mails. At the time I did not know about the breaking story, but was alerted that something big was happening by there being page after page of 'This comment has been removed etc'. A quick search uncovered the files.

The second and final time involved an off the wall CIF'er who goes by the name of GreenAngelChloe. She posted a comment along the lines of suggesting that deniers be forced to attend Climate Change Camps where they could be re-educated!

I posted a reply stating that in a previous thread she had said that she worked in a nursery school and that she sometimes 'made the children cry when she told them stories about what we were doing to the planet.' I also asked if anyone would want their children to be taught by her.

Five minutes later, it was removed and I have not been able to post since.

I also notice that sceptical comments attract majority recommends. However, some months ago I noticed on a thread that the trend had been reversed. I experimented a little and found that by clicking to recommend a sceptical comment resulted in no increase, but a click on a warmist comment resulted in 2 votes.

Whether this was a software glitch, I don't know, but ever since I have been cynical about the recommends along with the content of the majority of articles.

Feb 10, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterTFBundy

@ Bishop

I certainly don't dispute their right to moderate me for any reason they choose, from my stated opinions, to my unstated ones, to the colour of my shirt.

Well, perhaps it is because I spent so much of my time in a country with Freedom of Speech that I disagree. Things seem to be different in Europe. It is an American tradition that we imported from English Common Law and is still (I hope) practiced at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park. I haven't been there for over 10 years, so that may have been "Moderated".

It's not like we don't have libel and slander laws in this country, because we do, although somewhat more "liberal" than the UK. The newspapers claim to be distributing the news, that is information, Now if they declared themselves to be the political arm of some organization, or the propaganda bureau of some political party, that would be fine, but I find the Guardian's guarding the gates disingenuous at best, and conspiratorial at worst.

It they are running Comment is Free as a news service, it should have the same rules that apply at Speakers Corner. Just me two bob worth, but what I believe.

Feb 10, 2010 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

The Guardian's utter dishonesty is revealed by the fact that they waited almost three months before they even approached the topic of Climategate.

At this point, they are just recycling old WUWT and CA posts as 'The Guardian investigates this...', 'The Guardian investigates that...'.

I find it funny that the British media is still up in arms aboutt the MPs expenses 'scandal',which Richard North at EUReferendum points out rightly, is a complete non-issue and a possible smokescreen. Who cares if MPs are spending money extravagantly and biling the public for it? If you cannot do that even as an MP - spend a few pounds on the side - what is the use then? Who, in our egalitarian society then represents the 'people's aspirations'? All this account-taking simply satisfies a peculiarly British tendency to count pennies, catch errors and feel uppity.

All this, while millions of pounds are drowned and scammed away through the DEFRA, the British Council and other charitable programs of the British Government to propogate the anthropogenicity alarmism.

It is also apt that the Guardian tried , very successfully, to pass off the mind-numbing account-and cheque book voyuerism as 'crowdsourcing' - a fad as meaningless as any other. Reality-TV style journalism - take investigation, chop it up into bone-sized nuggets and strew it among the lapdogs.

The Guardian belatedly tries the same lazy approach with Climategate - asking for annotations from the crowd on its 'entire investigation', which consist mainly of Fred Pearce articles on a topic on which entire books have already been written. The same Fred Pearce who contributed in no mean measure to Glaciergate (Hasnain defends himself saying he did not give the number 2035 to Pearce), and is very, very 'green' in his climate skepticism yet.

Most, if not all of the articles in this series contain patently absurd to the outright false claims - w.r.t the skeptics and the Team. They are probably a Internet-traffic honeypot. And a means to muscle in Guardian - the latecomer, into the debate.

Feb 10, 2010 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnand

I posted on one of the Guardian comment threads about the John Beddington interview with The Times, it was relevant and on topic. I was polite only quoted a single paragraph and didn't link the Times as I wasn't sure that was allowed.

Somebody responded to me saying I was a typical denier, quoting things out of context etc etc, he directly linked the Times piece and quoted a different paragraph. I responding saying he's free to think that I was selectively quoting but I couldn't help noticing I had quoted paragraph 1, while he had quoted paragraph 15.

All my comments were removed, while his response to my original comment was left in place. Moderation was so biased it was actually amusing.

Feb 10, 2010 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPetewibble

I tried, very politely, to protest at the Bishop's exclusion from Guardian comments. Now it seems I am banned too.

Feb 10, 2010 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterKen Dinnae

Feb 10, 2010 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDutch Boy

Fwiw, I got the same treatment, mid-fisk, from the Graun's associate Chinese site Danwei, when I tackled the Guardian enviro correspondent Jonathan Watts there. Seems the lefties are uncomfortable with dissent.

Feb 10, 2010 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterThon Brocket

I have been put in moderation as well (but by a much smaller publication) for about the same reasons. So I don't read their stories. I can find them reposted or even the originals at other sites.

Feb 10, 2010 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilJourdan

I see the Guardian's censorship of comments on Climategate etc. as a symptom of existential crisis. They've been totally suckered by AGW and their readership has lapped it up. There's no doubt that AGW appeals to a lefty, "we know what's best for you" mentality.

Now it's all crumbling. They can't just flip and say they can now see it was all a scam, and they were kidded. They'll fight the idea that AGW is crumbling in the hope that the rot will stop or at least that a managed decline is better than a sudden collapse. If they manage the collapse, several of the obviously failed parts of the movement have to be sacrificed, but the main thrust can be preserved, and it can be rebuilt, maybe with another name. Excuses can be found for the bits which have failed, or they can be talked away and forgotten, or the issues can be muddied.

The government (the larger government not just the Parliamentary Labour Party) is facing the same problem. They've invested so much in it, and now the underlying justification is looking shakey. Don't expect them to say they were wrong, admit huge sums have been wasted, and abandon the political constructs founded on AGW.

Feb 10, 2010 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

I've been commenting at Cif almost since its inception and over the years have had quite a few posts edited (in the pre-Matt Seaton days when they used to bother to do this) or removed by the mods when I’ve sailed a bit too close to the wind. In most of these cases I eventually accepted the mods' actions as broadly justified: it is, after all, their site.

However, my view changed in December when I tried to post about the paper's hysterical, ill-informed propagandising for COP15. I had forecast disaster (for the green activists, anyway) at Copenhagen from the outset but once the bunfight actually started, 95% of my posts on the subject (all critical, but as polite and reasonable as I could manage, none in any way in breach) either morphed into the usual 'This comment has been removed by mods...', appeared but then vanished entire into the Memory Hole, or didn't appear at all.

This treatment was then extended to most of the posts I made about Climategate. (As to the legal status of the released material, it’s the Guardian which repeatedly refers to ‘theft’ and ‘stolen emails’ with no evidence whatsoever that this is the case.)

I complained to the mods, asking for specific reasons relating to specific deleted posts. They ignored me. I complained to Matt Seaton: he referred me back to the mods. I asked Seaton for the identity of his superior, so I could complain to them. He refused, replying that he was the superior (?) and there was no 'court of appeal'.

I then wrote (snail mail) directly to (Guardian Editor) Alan Rusbridger, to complain about (i) arbitrary and partisan censorship in breach of Cif's own rules; (ii) the mods ignoring legitimate complaints about their behaviour; (iii) Seaton's refusal to involve himself (exactly what is he paid to do, I wonder), and (iv) Seaton's refusal to tell me who his boss was so I could complain to them. To add insult to injury, Cif also put me on pre-mod for no reason, where I languish yet.

Now, I knew Rusbridger wouldn't involve himself directly in this but I asked him to forward my letter to Seaton's superior or somebody else with the authority to investigate this very un-Guardianlike (or so I thought) behaviour. That was over two weeks ago and as yet I haven't received even an acknowledgement from a junior PA. I'll wait a couple more days then try a polite reminder. If that is ignored...I don't know. The Scott Trust? GMG?

What annoys me is that the Guardian sets itself out to be such a pious and high-minded organisation (who else would have a section entitled 'Living our values'?) but it turns out that when people try to take them to task for bias and hypocrisy, they just hang up.

So it seems to me that (i) Cif's so-called 'Community moderators' include one or more green activists who abuse their position to censor rather than moderate; (ii) the Guardian is aware of this but won’t admit it and doesn't care about it, and (iii) is ruining what was for some time easily the best newspaper comment facility, on which the future of the paper must depend to some extent (especially if the Tories come to power and make good their threat to place all public sector job advertising on a government website rather than in the press. The Guardian loses enough money as it is).

As for Pearce, he is just the face of the Guardian’s arse covering / damage limitation exercise. I can’t believe anyone except committed alarmists would have the slightest interest in his tendentious and ill-tempered ramblings when so much better, more accurate and impartial analysis of the scandal centred on CRU has been available for so long. Even were I not on pre-mod I wouldn’t bother arguing with him.

TFBundy: 'However, some months ago I noticed on a thread that the trend had been reversed. I experimented a little and found that by clicking to recommend a sceptical comment resulted in no increase, but a click on a warmist comment resulted in 2 votes.'

I've noticed this as well. Not that I ever recommend warmist posts, obviously.

Feb 10, 2010 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterHowSoonIsNow

All this censorious behaviour at the Grauniad is typical of most leftie/liberal institutions on the net. Of course the irony is missed by them in that they squeal the loudest that they are the bastions of free speech etc.

Contrast with the likes of WUWT, Climate Audit, Jennifer Morahasy's(when it was active), here etc where opposing views are debated and argued without hindrance.

Feb 10, 2010 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJabba the Cat

Yes I do get the distict impression that the Guardian rather not publish the views from the likes of you. Any views, in fact, that they do not agree with.

It is not abusive to suggest that Monbiot should probably resign because of his self admitted failings and logical that he should, in view of his opinion that Phil Jones should.

It would have been abusive if you had said - Monbiot! Resign you @*x%&!, l*%&!, s@*%!, but I'm sure you said no such thing.

Feb 11, 2010 at 6:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

My experience was similar to that of Howsoonisnow. I was put on premoderation for being rude about a silly warmist editorial from the British Medical Journal which the Guardian was pushing. ( I simply commented “the doctors have taken over the asylum”)
There was a big cleanout before Copenhagen, with many regular sceptics disappearing. The net result is that a new batallion of sceptics is being formed. Recommendations continue to go about 4:1 in favour of sceptics. `
I get the impression moderators tend to follow fairly blindly the “delete” recommendations of angry warmists. Several times I’ve noticed how a warning from the likes of “Onthefence” to “stop trolling” was followed by my comment being deleted. I hardly ever pressed the “report abuse” button, which is why gpwayne’s threat to sodomise me is still up.
It used to be so different. In November 2008, George Monbiot came back from Copenhagen talking about the “whispers among the scientists that it’s worse than we thought” and I got this past the mods (it’s still up):

In the night train that left Copenhagen
George announced to the sleeping Schlafwagen
(to tremendous applause)
“I’ve just wet my drawers
And bullsh*tted myself into the bargain”.

Feb 11, 2010 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

blocking posts is done by your IP address or keywords in the text that you post.

Change your name in a minor way (add middle initial, or remove it, etc.)

Google IP address change for instructions on this.

Feb 11, 2010 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterfreedom lover

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