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:

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. Pete,

    You’re a fool.

    The current rioting in France and the drastic cuts in the UK are a result of 65 years of Progressive/Leftist policies…….the bill has come due and the Ponzi schemes are beginning to unravel.

    The Socialist/Marxist model is based upon promises made by crafty/slick talking politicians writing checks that their ass can’t back up. It’s now time to pay the piper and it’s getting very ugly.

    It’s going to get much, much worse……and yes, unless the US government does the same as the current UK government is proposing then things will get ugly here also.

    All that being said, money for goofy, pie in the sky “green” fantasy projects are going down the drain right along with the politician’s promises to loafers (union labor) that they can have something for nothing as long as they vote left.

    Better stock up on the canned goods and the ammunition.

    It was only a matter of time……..and in this case, it seems that 65 years was the “tipping point” (pun intended).

  2. Brute,

    So I’m a “fool” for not believing unconditionally what a bunch of politicians are saying? I must say that is a strange line of argument from someone who considers that they are quite capable of not only lying about Climate Change but bribing the whole scientific community to go along with their scam too.

    If you take a look at the level of National Debt in the UK over the 20th century (I’m sure it will be a similar story for both the US and France also – but you might like to check it out)

    You can see that while 68% is slightly higher than it was few years ago it is still quite low by historical standards. From what I can make out in the UK, the population is being told that debt levels have never been this bad before and therefore there needs to be massive cutbacks.

    Have you considered the possibility that conservative politicians in all three countries are overstating the severity of the situation in order to make the sort of cuts that they would like to make anyway?

  3. Sorry Peter but theres no point in blaming Conservative politicians.

    We have a considerable structural deficit, so each year we are spending far more than our income and to cover the shortfall we have been borrowing. Debt is historically high but has been hidden under a nunmber of stones which don’t appear in official figures. Therefore you cant compare with other countries as it is not a like for like comparison.

    For example pensions are not properly accounted for and neither have the liabilities incurred under the private finance initiative. Our interest bill is racking up at such a rate that within 5 years debt will top £1.25 trillion.(this is at low interest rates-it will rack up even quicker when interest rates return to their historic norm)

    It was the financial incontinence of the previous govt who was spending money we didn’t have in order to support their pet schemes, much of it in benefits. The welfare state has been very much a double edged sword although the basic idea was fine.

    I suspect the US debt is worse and that all started with Clintons Ninja policies. I believe Obama took on some ninja court cases in his earlier days. He seems to be adding greatly to the US structural deficit although they have had a serious problem for years. In their case it was financed and hidden by selling bonds and property to foreigners and letting the currency fall.

    As far as the UK goes the cuts are very necessary but it is doubtful if they are large enough to retrieve the situation and another round is likely to be needed as all that has happened is that spending is rising less fast than previously, It hasn’t actually been cut in any meaningful way.


  4. Yes Pete, you’re a fool……….you’re a fool because you believe that stealing money from productive people to fund a unlimited, bloated, government Ponzi scheme can continue forever.

    It has failed………….period………and the evidence is apparent on the streets of France right now.
    Your vaunted Marxist model has failed…………

    You know what Pete? I don’t care.

    Smart people have prepared for this…………those that believed in the Marxist claptrap (like you) will suffer……….and no matter how much you deny the facts, it simply will not work………ever. Get smart quickly and avoid the suffering.

    No one……not me, not you, not any government………can continue spending more money than they make.

    You mentioned at one point that you operated some sort of business…………if you had someone in your employ that cost your business more money than he generated would you continue to pay him?

    Think about it Pete.

  5. Well my prediction is that:

    1) as the cuts take effect more people will lose their jobs

    2) As more people lose their jobs spending and therefore the tax revenues will fall.

    3) As the tax revenues fall more cuts will be required to try to balance the budget.

    4) More people will lose their jobs , the tax revenue will fall further and more cuts will be required to try to…..

    Its not my theory – its Keynes’. I don’t think he was quite such a fool as Brute might think.

  6. Don’t sell Keynes short Pete…….he was a tremendous fool……

  7. No need for predictions Pete. The Keynesian Economic model has failed everywhere it has been implemented….every time.

    “Government cannot create new purchasing power out of thin air. If Congress funds new spending with taxes, it is simply redistributing existing income. If Congress instead borrows the money from domestic investors, those investors will have that much less to invest or to spend in the private economy. If Congress borrows the money from foreigners, the balance of payments will adjust by equally reducing net exports, leaving GDP unchanged. Every dollar Congress spends must first come from somewhere else.

    This does not mean that government spending has no economic impact at all. Government spending often alters the consumption of total demand, such as increasing consumption at the expense of investment.”

    When stimulus packages are created the money has to come from someone via taxes, or be printed. Both are net negatives to the economy. Economic growth only results from producing more goods and services (not from redistributing existing income), and that requires productivity growth and growth in the labor supply as productivity not only increases wealth but also wages and wage opportunities.

    Historically of course government spending has reduced productivity and long-term economic growth due to some obvious reasons. As government spends more it raises taxes which reduces profits, productivity and wage and job creation. As government incurs more debt through stimulus and demand side packages it reduces the incentive to produce and displaces money by removing the more productive private sector from the economic equation and replacing it with a far less effective state dollar, taxed or printed on government printing press. The inefficiency of government policy in health, housing, education, and general industry are obvious creating huge costs which must be borne by ordinary taxpayers – ineffective solutions at a higher price one can say.

    And as Reidl sources and proves:
    “Mountains of academic studies show how government expansions reduce economic growth:
    1.Public Finance Review reported that “higher total government expenditure, no matter how financed, is associated with a lower growth rate of real per capita gross state product.”
    2.The Quarterly Journal of Economics reported that “the ratio of real government consumption expenditure to real GDP had a negative association with growth and investment,” and “growth is inversely related to the share of government consumption in GDP, but insignificantly related to the share of public investment.”
    3.A Journal of Macroeconomics study discovered that “the coefficient of the additive terms of the government-size variable indicates that a 1% increase in government size decreases the rate of economic growth by 0.143%.”
    4.Public Choice reported that “a one percent increase in government spending as a percent of GDP (from, say, 30 to 31%) would raise the unemployment rate by approximately .36 of one percent (from, say, 8 to 8.36 percent).”

    It is obvious that Keynesian economics and demand management are tools for fools. Wealth, a better society, a cleaner world, a higher level of development is not coerced by government. It only occurs when free people operating in free markets are allowed to interact and determine the price and supply of various goods and services. Government involvement ensures the opposite and is a theory mired in cultish theological absurdity.

  8. Brute,

    Keynsian economics was applied widely and to good effect during the war years and beyond.

    It wasn’t really an option to run the war on the principles of balanced budgets. It may still be going on if that had been the priority!

    Money, to governments, isn’t quite the same as it is to individuals. They can print it or borrow as much as they like without ever worrying about bankruptcy. Whereas it is natural for an individual to want to avoid debt and interest payments, as they are wasteful; Governments they have to take the view that having high levels of unemployment is probably even more wasteful than a higher than normal level of debt.

  9. World War Two created tremendous debt……that is, we spent lots of money to destroy things. Is that your solution? You think we should spend money destroying things in order to create jobs rebuilding?

    See the article below………

    The Failure of Keynesian Economics

    Even with total financial collapse being possible, our government is looking to a failed economic theory for help. It’s called Keynesian economics. This theory has been shown by both logic and history that it is not a successful economic system. Keynesian economics is the theory that the government can stimulate economic growth by intervening in the private sector.

    Many times, a theory will look good on paper, but ultimately fail in the real world. Keynesian economics is not one of those theories. It fails both in theory and in the real world, and I will show a couple of reasons why.

    Keynes says GDP=C+I+G+NX So he assumes that if you increase any variable in the equation, the GDP will increase accordingly. This is what his entire theory is based on. However, he consistently forgets that simply moving the wealth around is not creating wealth, but rather just allocating it differently. I’ll show some examples of this fallacy.

    Before I address these issue, I would like to point out each variable I will use and give it’s definition:

    GDP- Gross Domestic Product

    C- Consumption

    I- Investment

    G- Government Spending

    NX- Net Exports (Exports-Imports)

    T- Taxes

    MPC- Marginal Propensity to Consume (How much is spent out of every dollar)

    First, consider this: C= c+{MPC*(Y-T)}. So in order to increase G, you have to increase taxes. Increasing taxes adds value to the variable T. Increasing T means that C will decrease. That is unavoidable.

    So the increase in G is offset by the decrease in C due to higher taxes.The GDP doesn’t expand, it is just proportioned differently. A decrease in T (Taxes) has more of an effect on the economy than increasing G (Government spending) Why? Because consumers will only consume what they demand. We decide what has value. If we decide that iPods are more important to us than a parking ramp, iPods have more value. That’s because only the consumers can choose what has value by demanding it.

    So when G is increased, production may increase, but not necessarily production of something we demand. For example, if government spending is increased to pay for a parking ramp in the middle of a cornfield, is that good? No, because something was produced which has no value because it’s not in demand. So government spending takes from consumers (the only people that can give value to something), and spends it on things which may not have value.

    Consider this: According to this logic, shouldn’t the government hire people to run around and destroy things? If that was done, the government could spend the money to repair these things. It’s an increase in G and also gives jobs to people. So shouldn’t Keynes want that?

    Of course, the problem is that nothing was created with value. So it did not expand our wealth.

    All kinds of porblems arise when employment becomes an objective rather than a result. Keynesian economics is in large part a theory dedicated to fight unemployment. Since this is the case, all Kenesians are opposed to all technological advancements that make us more productive and successful, right? Of course, not, that was be ridiculous. But it would be entirely consistent for Keynesians to hold that position.

    Another thing to understand, is that an increase in C (Consumption) is not intrinsically good. This is especially true when NX (Net Exports) decreases when C is increased.

    For example, if our nation imports 90% of its goods and services, our NX will be negative, subtracting from our GDP. So what happens if our C increases by 50%? The -NX will increase enormously. So when we have a deficit in NX, when our C increases, the increase in C is offset by the decrease in NX.

    Keynes even came up with a concept knows as the “Multiplier”. The concept states that government spending is a more powerful tool of economic growth than letting the market consume. The equation for the multiplier is: 1/(1-MPC). Say that every consumer spends $0.75 out of every $1.00 they make. That makes the MPC=.75. So now apply it to the equation: 1/(1-.75)=4. This is called the “Multiplier effect”. Keynes says that if the government spends $1,000,000 to “stimulate” the economy, you multiply it by this multiplier. So in this case, as I showed above, the multiplier is 4. So you multiply the government spending by whatever your multipler is. So in this case, it would be 4 x $1,000,000=$4,000,000. And POOF! That money taken from taxpayers just quadrupled.

    Of course, if you actually think this through, it’s a ridiculous concept. As I mentioned before, the only way value can be added to a product, is through consumer demand, which only the consumers can decide. So when the government consumes, it is taking our money, and spending it on things not in demand. Since worthless things are produced, there is no growth. The only change, is that the consumer who add value to products, have less spending power because the government has taken it and spent it elsewhere.

    The entire concept of a multiplier is a joke, yet it is still the most widely accepted economic theory today.

    So that’s my shallow critique of the problems associated with Keynesian economics and basically any type of government intervention in the economy. Our economic problems will continue of we don’t break away from this mindset that the government can fix the economy by interfering and printing money.

  10. Brute,

    No I’d rather spend lots of money to fix the CO2 and GHG problem.

    You can find lots of criticms of Keynes which mainly come from right-wing sources. The real dislike of Keynes is because he advocates counter-cyclic government intervention to regulate the economy. “Government” and “regulation” are words that generally don’t sit well with that sort of political philosophy. In case TonyN thinks that this is all OT, these are precisely the same motivations involved in opposition to the implications of the acceptance of AGW as a problem to be solved.

  11. Alex Cull says:
    October 22nd, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    As you will gather, I have been quite shocked myself by this. To the extent I was moved to share it in some quarters where I was, and am interested in the informed views of others.

    The replies I am getting are proving consistent, if not reassuring (at least to be concerns). For which, now, thank you. Here’s my reply to two on a BBC thread:

    I was prepared to be told, and if necessary concede that my science was flawed, my interpretations poorly reasoned, but so far I sense my fears are at least founded in empathy.

    ‘As to the kids, just tell them that at that level, the task is to show that they can do as you are told by teachers. It doesn’t matter is any of it is true. It’s just like learning to act a part in a play. None of that is true either. It just shows that one can give a good performance.

    Having arrived, with heavy heart, at that very conclusion, mostly by the wisdom of a 14-year old who knows ‘what it takes’, I am damned to agree, and comply. But it rankles. A lot. I can only imagine how it feels to be a teacher who cares, and has to inflict this upon fresh, bright minds.

    Thank you for at least being amongst those who understand. It helps when you see certain windmills are, for the sake of others dear to you, best not tilted at.

    I am, for once, stumped as to what to DO, for best, as surrender, for now, seems the only course.

  12. PeterM

    You wrote:

    I’d rather spend lots of money to fix the CO2 and GHG problem

    Fine. Please feel free to do so (with your own money, Peter). But not with my money.

    Because, after looking at all the data out there, I have concluded that, scientifically speaking, there is no “CO2 and GHG problem” (see our discussion on NS thread).

    My logic goes as follows:

    No empirical scientific evidence of a “CO2 and GHG problem” = no “CO2 and GHG problem” problem

    No “CO2 and GHG problem” problem = no need to spend lots of money to “fix” the “CO2 and GHG problem”

    Quite simple, actually, Peter.

    But, hey, spend your money any way you want to.


  13. I’ve moved JunkkMale’s comment about homework problems, and the related comments, to a new thread here:

    This is a topic that deserves it’s own space.

  14. I think that looking at the blatant censorship meted out by the Guardian on its comment pages from a purely political-bias-perspective is wrongheaded, not because the Guardian doesn’t have a bias – it certainly does – but because the real issue is freedom of expression.

    Frankly, as a physicist, I think comments by climate-change deniers in the Guardian’s CIF section and anywhere else are not worth the time it takes to refute – just writing BS would be too much trouble. But, while I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” I do think climate-change skeptics (and flat-earthers and hollow-earthers) have as much right to express their inane beliefs as anyone else; readers who disagree have the choice of ignoring their comments or replying to them, and, any way, such comments tend to be self-refuting.

    Your give the Guardian too much credit and readers too little by believing that comments are taken down just because someone clicks on the “Report” button (I’ve found it difficult to have even personally insulting comments removed). When the Guardian wants to enforce its bias, it does so in a much more direct and effective way, namely by letting moderators know in advance what is acceptable and what is not. Have you noticed that inarticulate readers can post the most inane, embarrassing, and intemperate nonsense without having their comments taken down? There are two reasons for this: First, leaving such harmless comments in place gives the impression that the Guardian is so, so tolerant, and, secondly, because the comments are silly, their presence serves to make the arguments of the relevant article seem sensible in comparison. Conversely, individuals who make compelling, incisive, well-written arguments that run against the Guardian’s bias are going to get into trouble sooner than later. They may be allowed to post contrarian opinions for a while, but at some point their usernames will be flagged so that moderators will know in advance that their comments are to carefully scrutinized for deviant ideas and when such opinions are found, are to be treated as violations of CIF guidelines (which, as you can see if you read them, have so much built-in wiggle room that they can be interpreted to mean just about anything). From then on, it’s just a while before pre-moderation is invoked, and when it is, the user involved is advised to know that they should stop expressing the wrong opinions or be prepared to find that someday in their immediate future they will not be able to log in because their account no longer exists.

    People who post comments in the People’s Daily have it easier; they at least know what is allowed and what is not and can act accordingly.

    Postscript. Just to show how far Guardian censorship can go, and how it functions, consider this: Just last week, a feminist writer wrote a Guardian piece which was a visceral critique of an article by George Will that appeared in the Washington Post. The author failed to mention what passages in Will’s article she found offensive, believing that screaming “misogyny, misogyny!” was enough to get her by. A reader who found this unfair posted the comment, “Here is an excerpt from Will’s article. Make up your own mind.” This was followed by a 160 word excerpt. That’s all. The reader’s comment was removed almost instantaneously.

    What’s interesting about this case is the flagrant, almost contemptuous disregard for basic decency shown.


    All my comments were removed and I was placed on pre-moderation. I take screen shots and PDFs of the pages so that I can show my comments in context. I recommend everyone to do this.

    The many skeptics are right wing but their many left wing GHG skeptics including the late Alexander Cockburn of Counterpunch. It appears that the Guardian very concerned to keep their readers believing that man made climate skeptics are by definition right wing.

    I wrote this complaint:

    To Cif Moderator,

    Thank you for your email, could you give your name? Please remove the pre-moderation you placed on me, restore my comments and apologise for wrongly censoring my comments. Here are the reasons.

    You wrote
    Although article dealt with Global warming, your posts addressed a different aspect of this debate (if climate change is anthropogenic/greenhouse gas related) which was not discussed in the article.

    Your argument is outrageous and your political manipulation via censorship of opposing argument is made more evident. The Kyoto protocol’s subject is man made greenhouse gas or GHG. Which is why the protocol is about limiting emissions of man made (anthropogenic) greenhouse gas (GHG). When the author says:

    “Two centuries – if that is what it takes – may seem like a long time, but there is no red button to stop this process. Reversing the climate system to what it was in the 1970s seems unlikely; we can barely get a grip on emissions that have tripled since the Kyoto protocol, which was designed to hit reduction targets. Slowing down climate warming remains a good idea, however – the Antarctic system will at least take longer to get to this point.”

    Reversing the climate system and linking to Kyoto Eric Rignot is talking about doing so by reducing GHG, my unpopular but never the less on topic comments directly related to the subject of the article which is reducing Global warming or Climate Change by reducing man made GHG.

    My comments were removed and I was placed on pre-moderation because anthropogenic/greenhouse gas related global warming was off topic? Man made global warming and the Greenhouse effect is what the article is about.

    At the core of the article is a link to the UN Kyoto, link

    The Kyoto agreement linked to in the article states:

    Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

    During the first commitment period, 37 industrialized countries and the European Community committed to reduce GHG emissions to an average of five percent against 1990 levels. During the second commitment period, Parties committed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18 percent below 1990 levels in the eight-year period from 2013 to 2020; however, the composition of Parties in the second commitment period is different from the first.

    GHG = Greenhouse gas

    Kyoto Protocol

    Targets for the first commitment period
    The targets for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol cover emissions of the six main greenhouse gases, namely:
    • Carbon dioxide (CO2);
    • Methane (CH4);
    • Nitrous oxide (N2O);
    • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
    • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and
    • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6


    Re: Comments not Censored mentioning Anthropogenic Global Warming, CO2 and Greenhouse

    The 4th comment on page 1 mentions AGW.

    The comments are about reversing Climate change, Greenhouse Gas and what can be done.
    Greenhouse Gas is mentioned in the comments 3 times on page 1, 4 times on page 2, 2 times on page 3, 4 times on page 4, 3 times on page 5. CO2 one of the main greenhouse gases according to Kyoto is mentioned more than 20 times in the comments.

    Please verify. You allowed other Comments on the subject but censored mine effectively silencing free speech for political reasons.

  16. When the guardian published an item referring to the temperature hiatus I signed up and made the comment that “The temperature hockey stick looks increasingly like a limp penis”.
    Instant and continuing censorship from that day forth.

    The political left always, as a matter of course, work hard at controlling free speech in any of its forms.
    It’s in their DNA.

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