As I’ve said on other threads far too often, I was extremely peeved to be banned for life from Comment is Free, the Guardian’s interactive website, since I think commenting there is one of the most useful things a simple footblogger in the Climate Wars can do.

The Guardian is read by Greens and the pro-green centre-left, so it’s possible to have a real debate, and perhaps influence opinion on the opposing side. Guardian readers are clearly far more numerous than those of any sceptical blog, they are more likely to be believers in global warming than readers of Delingpole or Booker, and they are therefore more in need of enlightenment. I also felt that if Guardian editors realised that a majority of readers did not accept the warmist argument, they might put pressure on the Environment Editors to be more even-handed in their treatment.

On the last point I was clearly totally wrong, as evidenced by a recent interview given by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in “the Hindu” newspaper, in which he said:

“A year ago we decided the environment was the biggest story of our lives. So we have six reporters doing the environment … And then we built a network of … about 20 or 30 sites. A huge amount of editing and resources goes into the environment.” and by the comment by Environment Editor James Randerson that climate change is “editorial policy”.

Commenters here and elsewhere have objected that commenting on CiF is a waste of time, because of the distracting tactics of warmist trolls, and because of the apparent bias of moderators. Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) was recently prevented from commenting on the thread to his own article when he was subjected to “pre-moderation”. I’ve never been convinced that the moderators are biased, since warmist comments frequently disappear, even comments by Guardian contributors,  like Blucloud and GPWayne.

I’ve just conducted an experiment at CiF, and I’m fairly sure I know how the “censorship” works. I can state with certainty (well, let’s say, with IPCC-style 90% confidence) that:

  1. The moderators will not take the initiative in removing comments. They only act if someone presses the “report abuse” button with a justified complaint.
  2. One complaint is enough to get a comment removed.
  3. Since the rules list a large number of types of “abuse”, it is very easy for a determined troll to get an opponent removed by persistently reporting  abuse.

The debate on the infamous 10:10 “Splattergate” video is currently raging at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/oct/04/10-10-campaign-events

At the time of writing, there were 100 comments on the above thread. Ten of them have been deleted, all of them posted by Onthefence, and all of them reported for abuse by me. They started at 15:28, when Onthefence addressed Ecocampaigner as follows:

“You laughed when Stephen Schneider died after being targetted in a hate mail campaign, and you went on to wish similar deaths on other climate scientists”.

Ecocampaigner replied, and Onthefence repeated his accusation at 15:34, 15:37, 15:45, 15:59, 16:15, 16:36, 17:27, 17:41, and 17:49. I reported abuse on two of the comments, adding that the statement was a lie. An hour later they had been deleted, but others kept popping up. I reported abuse each time, and they went, but I didn’t spot the first one until five hours later. I reported it, and forty minutes later it was gone.

The fact that the first abusive post stayed up after I’d reported and had deleted the other nine clearly demonstrates that the moderator didn’t read the other comments, even one posted six minutes before the comment he’s been invited to delete.

The fact that comments disappeared when and only when I reported them strongly suggests that I was the only one reporting abuse. It was obvious that Onthefence was being picked on, and it would  have been easy for anyone else to join in the fun and report his first abusive remark. The fact that it stayed up for five hours, until I spotted it and reported it, demonstrates that it was all my own work.

Clearly, the system is open to abuse. The fact that Ecocampaigner’s replies stay up, quoting Onthefence’s defamatory remarks, shows how ineffective the system is. If the Guardian carried out their stated policy of deleting replies to deleted posts, there would be nothing left on many threads. Clearly, the removal of polite, reasonable comments by the likes of Andrew Montford strongly suggests that dedicated warmist trolls are deliberately targeting the opponents they most fear. There is censorship at CiF, but it’s the work of commenters, not of the moderators, and it’s a result of a weakness in the Guardian’s system.

Let’s give the last word to the admirably even-tempered Ecocampaigner. Onthefence at 19:.41 complained that his comments were all deleted just after Ecocampaigner complained they were “off topic” To which Ecocampaigner replied at 19:54pm “It wasn’t me who complained, I’d have preferred it all stay up to be read. I want the world to see your viewpoint’.

Update 06/10/2010 20:40 :- The point I wanted to make is that, had I openly accused the commenter of lying on the thread, my comments would have been deleted. By secretly and anonymously accusing him of lying in my reports of abuse, I got his comments deleted. Clearly, there is something seriously wrong with the CiF moderation system.

116 Responses to “Moderation in Moderation: Comment is Free at The Guardian?”

  1. Max,

    This comment contains two mistakes “After all, you’re her Dad, so you are bound to know more than some ‘fuzzy logic’ science teacher”

    The minor mistake is that “fuzzy logic” is some sort of deficient logic as your statement implies. It isn’t. It does have a grounding in mathematical probability.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuzzy_logic

    I doubt if most science teachers would have a good grasp of this however.

    The major mistake is to assume that a biological link somehow gives a parent an an offspring a greater scientific knowledge than the population average. As far as I am aware, there is no scientific research showing that the donation of 50% of one’s DNA to an individual in the next generation has the slightest effect, one way or another, in the accumulation of any knowledge, scientific or otherwise.

    I must say that I haven’t done the research, but I’d say that it is very unlikely that individuals with, say, seven or more children have a better than average appreciation of science as a subject!

    I would, nevertheles, agree that schools would benefit from having more highly qualified science teachers, but even so, I would expect that their scientific knowledge would be significantly greater that the population mean.

  2. I must admit it did occur to me that there might be something in your “parents are more knowledgeable theory” after writing the previous posting. I was perhaps too hasty.

    But could it be something to do with sex? Maybe its just more sex than can actually lead to increased intelligence? I should think that this would be a very popular theory amongst all those studying tough subjects like Quantum Computing or the Unified Field Theory.

    I think I’ll even try out that line of argument with my wife the next time I get stuck on the Guardian crossword!

  3. PeterM

    To my 55 to Jack Hughes you opined:

    This comment contains two mistakes “After all, you’re her Dad, so you are bound to know more than some ‘fuzzy logic’ science teacher”

    The minor mistake is that “fuzzy logic” is some sort of deficient logic as your statement implies. It isn’t. It does have a grounding in mathematical probability.

    Thanks for providing me the well known mathematical definition of “fuzzy logic” as published by Wiki.

    Now let’s talk about the more general, or “non-mathematical”, definition:

    fuzz·y
    adj. fuzz·i·er, fuzz·i·est
    1. Covered with fuzz.
    2. Of or resembling fuzz.
    3. Not clear; indistinct: a fuzzy recollection of past events.
    4. Not coherent; confused: a fuzzy plan of action.

    So “fuzzy logic” in the more general, non-mathematical sense is “incoherent or confused logic”.

    This is what the secondary level science teacher is applying when he is attempting to brainwash Jack Hughes’ daughter.

    Got it?

    It’s really quite straightforward, Peter.

    Max

  4. PeterM

    School teachers are paid by the taxpayer to educate their children in the essential subjects required to be able to pass their “O-levels”, “A-levels”, graduate from “high school” or “gymnasium”, pass university entrance exams, or whatever, and eventually be armed with the necessary skills and knowledge to become productive citizens.

    They (hopefully) know the subject matter they are teaching and also (hopefully) have learned the pedagogical skills required to be able to teach this subject matter to the children in their classes.

    But they are not paid to frighten the school children with their own personal anxieties about impending climate doomsday (or anything else, for that matter). That simply is not their job.

    But, unfortunately, this is happening in many instances.

    Max

  5. PeterM

    Further to my earlier post

    Kids fear global warming
    http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/kids-fear-global-warming-more-than-terrorism-car-crashes-and-cancer-according-to-national-earth-day-survey-58684647.html

    Nearly 60 percent of children said they feared global warming and environmental disasters-such as hurricanes, tornados and flooding-more than terrorism, car crashes, and even cancer.

    Cool!

    Nearly one-third of children reported thinking about global warming a lot and worrying about how the effects of global warming will change the planet and directly impact their lives.

    Job well done, teachers!

    Or how about this report
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/04/kids-worry-about-environment.php

    One out of three children aged 6 to 11 fears that Ma Earth won’t exist when they grow up, while more than half—56 percent—worry that the planet will be a blasted heath (or at least very unpleasant place to live), according to a new survey.

    Great! Let’s “force (some more) awareness” on them!

    Or how about the psychological fallout for children of the “awareness” campaign in the UK?
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article7066030.ece

    Today, it is not the mushroom cloud that threatens to suffocate children psychologically but carbon emissions. The new bogeyman is climate change: submerger of nations, polluter of skies, slayer of polar bears.

    This week the Advertising Standards Authority issued a ruling on the Government’s £6 million climate-awareness advertising campaign, which has attracted nearly 1,000 complaints. While most focused on whether the evidence for climate change was strong enough, a notable proportion thought that the ads were unnecessarily frightening and distressing.

    In addition to the psychological trauma, the problem is, if the kids are spending so much time learning and worrying about global warming, is there any time left for them to study arithmetic, reading, writing or real science – or just to play?

    There is no question: frightening children (even in the name of a supposed “good cause”) is irresponsible, reprehensible and inexcusable.

    Hope you see this the same as I do, Peter.

    Max

  6. Max,

    Well of course no-one is in favour of frightening children. Even us bogeymen of the left:-)

    However, you need to ask why they are being frightened and who is responsible for it? If climate mitigation was going ahead as it should, and if the problem was being tackled as it should, there would be no need for anyone to be frightened or concerned, regardless of their age.

    However, it isn’t. And that’s genuinely of concern for all. And all of you who are arguing that it shouldn’t have to accept your share of responsibility for the situation.

  7. PeterM

    Glad to hear from you:

    Well of course no-one is in favour of frightening children

    Unfortunately, there are apparently still some school teachers that do not share your view on this, or there would not be the problem of frightened children mentioned in the studies I cited.

    So I’ll repeat what I wrote before:

    There is no question: frightening children (even in the name of a supposed “good cause”) is irresponsible, reprehensible and inexcusable.

    ‘Nuff said…

    Max

  8. Max,

    It seems to me that you really mean you’d like to keep the younger generation in blissful ignorance!

  9. PeterM

    You wrote (83):

    It seems to me that you really mean you’d like to keep the younger generation in blissful ignorance

    No, Peter. That is not what I wrote. What I wrote was:

    frightening children (even in the name of a supposed “good cause”) is irresponsible, reprehensible and inexcusable.

    I thought you agreed with this statement, when you wrote:

    no-one is in favour of frightening children.

    But now it looks like you are waffling on this and adding “ifs”, legal disclaimers and rationalizations

    If climate mitigation was going ahead as it should, and if the problem was being tackled as it should, there would be no need for anyone to be frightened or concerned, regardless of their age.

    Let me express it very clearly.

    Whether or not “climate mitigation [i.e. imposing carbon caps and taxes] was going ahead as it should, and the problem was being tackled as it should”, there is still absolutely “no need for anyone [especially impressionable school children] to be frightened [especially by their school teachers]”. None. Period.

    This has nothing to do with keeping “the younger generation in blissful ignorance”, Peter. It simply has to do with not frightening children.

    Your next sentence was:

    However, it isn’t. And that’s genuinely of concern for all. And all of you who are arguing that it shouldn’t have to accept your share of responsibility for the situation.

    This sounds like a legalese rationalization, i.e. it’s not those few misguided and irresponsible school teachers who are to blame for frightening their pupils but instead, all of us who argue that AGW is not a serious potential threat (such as I and many other bloggers on this site) “have to accept our share of responsibility for the situation” (i.e. for the fact that these teachers are frightening their pupils with global warming scare mongering).

    This is totally warped logic, Peter, and I really hope that I misunderstood what you wrote.

    It is those teachers who frighten their pupils, and they alone, that bear the full blame and guilt for this reprehensible and intolerable behavior.

    And they should be sacked. Period.

    Max

  10. Max,

    Like everything else your arguments depends on every scientific institute in the world, every university, and the IPCC having it all wrong about AGW.

    If you can just bring yourself to accept that they might just be right for a moment, what then? Do we tell the kids or not?

  11. PeterM

    You are dead wrong.

    “Every scientific institute in the world, every university, and the IPCC” do not support scare mongering, especially not frightening impressionable school children.

    This is immoral and reprehensible and if some misguided idiots who happen to be school teachers are doing this, they should be fired on the spot.

    You ask, “do we tell the kids or not?”

    Hell, no, Peter, “we” don’t pass on our own personal anxieties about climate change to the kids in the mistaken belief that “we” are “doing something good for society”. All “we” are doing by this is frightening children.

    The school teachers are paid by the taxpayers to teach their pupils, not to frighten them.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not ” every scientific institute in the world, every university, and the IPCC having it all wrong about AGW”. It has to do with frightening children. You have written:

    Well of course no-one is in favour of frightening children.

    Did you really mean what you wrote? Are you or are you not “in favour of frightening children”, Peter?

    If you are doing this as a school teacher you should be canned immediately.

    This is just as reprehensible as some fundamentalist religious idiot frightening children with “hellfire and eternal damnation” scare mongering, just because he personally “believes” this and “all the religious scriptures and the word of the Lord himself” confirm his “belief”. No difference at all.

    Can you see this? Or are you blind?

    That is the issue here.

    Max

  12. Max,

    The Australian Government produces this sort of thing as a guide for school teachers.

    http://www.climatechangematters.net.au/understand.htm

    Australia is a secular society. Our PM is a declared atheist, she lives unmarried with her partner and it didn’t seem to adversely affect her vote at all. The dominant opinion is that what is taught in schools should be decided on the basis of science rather than religion. That means the Darwinian Theory of Evolution is in. Creationism and Intelligent Design are out.

    Similarly AGW are in and Climate denialism is out.

    It will be a sad day if that ever changes, and people like you ever get into a position to sack teachers for teaching consensus science.

  13. @tempterrain: “The dominant opinion is that what is taught in schools should be decided on the basis of science rather than religion. That means the Darwinian Theory of Evolution is in. Creationism and Intelligent Design are out.

    Similarly AGW are in and Climate denialism is out.

    It will be a sad day if that ever changes, and people like you ever get into a position to sack teachers for teaching consensus science.”

    So teacher’s should be able to teach Creationism if there is a scientific consensus?

    Science isn’t done by consensus, it’s done by hypothesis, forecast and observation. Once the forecasts have been observed the science becomes de facto correct until the next group of scientists push the boundaries and change the accepted scientific fact.

    What you have in climate science is a hypothesis that humans are intrinsically evil. I don’t think we should be telling kids that humans are intrinsically evil, especially based on no science to speak of. I have a very simple question for you big T:

    The IPCC states that half of the temperature increase since the beginning of the industrial revolution has been caused by natural forcings, and that CO2 in the atmosphere has increased so that must be the cause of the other 50%. OK the question to you is prove it, prove that the increase in temperature attributed to CO2 is in fact attributable.

    If you can do that then by all means tell our kids they’re evil and will be sent to eternal damnation unless they change their ways and behave like you and the other believers.

    If you can’t prove it, it’s not science.

  14. PeterM

    geronimo has already commented to your 87, but let me add two basic problems in your logic.

    The first argument is “scientific” : the basic scientific problem you have in your comparison with Darwin’s theory of evolution is the fact that Darwinism has been validated by empirical data and has scientifically withstood attempts at falsification, all following the “scientific method”.

    In other words, Darwinism has moved from being an “uncorroborated hypothesis” in the scientific sense to being a “highly corroborated hypothesis”, and is now considered to be “reliable knowledge”.

    The premise of “dangerous AGW” has not made this transition following the scientific method of “validation by empirical data based on experimentation or actual physical observations”. It is still an “uncorroborated hypothesis”.

    In fact, empirical data from recent studies have challenged its validity. Unless these can be scientifically refuted, “dangerous AGW” will move to being a “falsified hypothesis”.

    [This is basically the debate on the “science” we are having on the NS thread.]

    The second argument is moral and ethical.

    There is no valid reason or excuse for anyone frightening impressionable children, no matter what the supposed “good cause” is (religion, environmentalism, politics or anything else). Frightening children is irresponsible, reprehensible and unacceptable. Period.

    Max

  15. Peter

    It seems to me that you really mean you’d like to keep the younger generation in blissful ignorance!

    My god Peter you are getting worse. Its people like you and all the hopeless educationalists that are now producing children that get to 17 or 18 and cannot think for themselves. I know as I have 4 children myself and have witnessed the decline. Fortunately for my children they have me and my wife to keep them on the straight and narrow.

    Now here is an example of you telling it to the children strait before they have any basic understanding of subject. I’ll use as an example the humble electron. When we are at school we are given the impression that the electron is a particle flying around the nucleus consisting of protons and neutrons. This is a simplistic model and one that is used throughout school so that children can make sense of all the equations and formula they may come across in Chemistry and Physics.

    We don’t introduce relativity or the uncertainty principle until university or at the earliest A level here in the UK. We don’t teach that the electron could be a wave or a particle because if we did it would make it impossible for children to understand and accept what we are trying to teach. They would be forced to adopt parrot type learning without being able to work things out for themselves. And this is exactly what is happening more and more with our children’s education. We have a bunch of morons that just can’t wait to “influence” our children’s thinking to their own way. This is wrong every which way you look at it and is why we have so many kids who get to the workplace unable to think for themselves. We get Geography students that don’t know where each country is, or what physical attributes contributed to that countries existence. How have we got to this?

    The Morons know that if they taught these basics to our children, they would quickly put 2 and 2 together and get 4, not 9 or 10 as now happens. They would ask some very awkward questions. Like how come in biology plants need CO2 and yet you are telling us CO2 is bad and a pollutant. Who is it harmful to, and how does it affect them? Or maybe do you have any proof of that? Now wouldn’t that put the cat amongst the pigeons? By the way my boys have both done this to teachers and lectures. The reaction they’ve got has been very humorous on most occasions, with the true believers getting very upset at being questioned, and the agnostics generally getting the whole class in on the discussion.

  16. Peter Geany

    You are absolutely right.

    Further up this thread Jack Hughes wrote that his daughter was being taught “sustainability” (instead of “science”) in her “science class”, and asked what “sustainability” really means.

    Science teachers should teach their pupils “science” (not socio-political concepts such as “sustainability”).

    They should also not frighten them with doomsday scare mongering, regardless of the supposed “justification”. A large percentage of school children are apparently traumatized by fears of global warming – a major part of the blame for this certainly goes to misguided teachers.

    Teachers should be encouraging children to think for themselves, as you say, not to parrot some “party line” or personal belief of the teachers.

    The problem you mention exists here in Switzerland, too. There is not so much fear of global warming among pupils here, but the quality of primary and secondary education has suffered as teachers are losing their focus on really educating their pupils rather than simply indoctrinating them with socio-political concepts that happen to be “PC” or “in”.

    Hurray for your boys in raising questions, which were uncomfortable to the “true believers”.

    Younger children are, unfortunately, less able to challenge their teachers, and are at greater risk of being traumatized by fear mongering in the name of the “cause” (whatever that happens to be at the moment).

    Max

  17. Geronimo,

    We do get some weird objections to why AGW can’t be true but I’ve not seen it quite put like this before

    “What you have in climate science is a hypothesis that humans are intrinsically evil.”

    Er, well, no I don’t think I do.

    I seem to remember that the biggest danger the astronauts on Apollo 13 faced during their aborted Moon trip was a build up of CO2 in their capsule. It was a problem which was fixed due to the technical brilliance of the backup team. I suppose you would have disagreed and you’d have advised NASA to look at the moral backgrounds of the Astronauts slightly more carefully for future missions. Maybe they collectively had a poor record for church attendance. Or, one or more of them may have been married more than once, or may have been guilty of having extra-marital affairs!

    I would suggest that what we do have, is a somewhat different CO2 technical problem to the Apollo astronauts, but which will need to be fixed with just a touch of technical brilliance just the same.

  18. I would suggest that what we do have, is a somewhat different CO2 technical problem to the Apollo astronauts, but which will need to be fixed with just a touch of technical brilliance just the same.

    “Technical Brilliance”?

    How about massive government taxation, punitive government regulation, economic sanctions and misery………Peter’s solution to this “scentific” problem is Marxism.

  19. BROKE UK SLASHES 500,000 GOV’T JOBS…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11579979

    UK?unveils dramatic austerity measures

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/53fe06e2-dc98-11df-84f5-00144feabdc0.html

    Peter,

    Your dreams of a Marxist Utopia are running out of money………at least in England…

  20. French Riots Intensify…

    http://www.france24.com/en/20101020-france-violent-protests-unions-retirement-sarkozy-pension-hortefeux-petrol

    Looks like the Socialism experiment is going well in France also……………

  21. Brute,

    You need to keep up with the international news a bit better!

    Both France and the UK now have governments dominated by Right-wing political parties!

  22. Brute,

    You say “…Peter’s solution to this ‘scentific’ problem is Marxism.”

    Not really. The CO2 and other GHG emissions record of the USSR was pretty poor in fact. Part of the reason was that there wasn’t a market price for commodities. So, if the five year plan called N million barrels of oil to be produced it didn’t really matter if that involved flaring off any natural gas that may have slowed down the process even though it might well have made more economic sense to collect and sell it.

    It was also considered to be more socialist to not bill users for actual amounts of electricity and hot water etc used in apartments – users just paid a flat rate for a connection and could then use as much as they liked. The present Russian government are encountering some resistance to the idea that usage should be metered.

  23. PeterM

    It appears that you’re a bit far removed from the scene in France.

    It’s correct, as you say, that the current government there is “to the right” (by French standards). Sarkozy there has inherited (like Cameron in the UK) a budgetary can of worms based on many years of previous left-leaning socialist governments.

    The key issue today is that Sarkozy wants to increase the retirement age from 60 (where the previous socialists had pegged it) back to 62 years. The socialist and communist unions have called the current general strike (October is “manifestation” time in France anyway) and students plus even 16-year old school children have joined in. (Not becuase 16-year olds have any thoughts about their own retirement, but because they have been filled by the unions with the fear that 60 to 62-year olds will “take away” their job opportunities!)

    This was a government that also enforced the 35-hour maximum work week they had enacted by raiding business offices and arresting or fining managers who dare to violate the law (these had to move “overtime” work to hotel rooms to avoid fines!).

    Cameron has inherited an essentially bankrupt state left over by several years of “New Labor” grandesse and silly spending sprees (as will Obama’s successor in the USA if the trillion dollar bleeding there doesn’t get stopped by Brute and others there soon).

    So you have to look further than just the present governments to find the root causes of the problems in France and the UK, Peter.

    The poor guys that are in office there now have a major cleanup job to do, which was inherited from their earlier governments.

    Max

  24. Max,

    Isn’t that what President Obama and his supporters are saying in the US?

  25. Max,

    Well I’m not sure if the level of debt in the UK and France is that much out of the ordinary by World standards.

    Latest figures are
    UK 68%, France 77.5%, USA 52.9%, Japan 190%, Belgium 97% etc
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_by_public_debt

    Those lucky Mozambiquans! No public debt to worry about at all!

    I’m sure that the Conservative government in the UK have blamed the previous Labour Government just as the Democrats have blamed the Republicans in the US. That’s politics. That’s what politicians do.

    But as always the truth is somewhat different and more complex.

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