Thursday, 30 April 2009

Jay and Ally

Another Comment is Free stalwart, Jay Reilly, has been banned this morning, apparently after calling Tony Blair "a c*nt". It's not elegant, it's not clever, and it's not what I would have said and of course it was going to be deleted. The thread in which Jay disgraced himself, in which Tony Blair sang the praises of Sierra Leone (and, by implication, his own interventionist foreign policy) went down particularly badly with the Cif posse. Well over half the 84 comments were deleted before it was shut down after little more than an hour. By the time I spotted it, it was already too late...

Matt Seaton, Cif's increasingly embattled editor, came on about half way through to wag his finger:

Good morning, campers.

I'm afraid it's not a very good morning here, though. Please do not use this thread simply to vent spleen and post abuse of Tony Blair. It's not funny or clever; it's just boring, as well as pointlessly vacuuming up our moderators' time and attention.

The topics of this thread are Sierra Leone, development and Africa. If people persist in using it to post abuse of Tony Blair, we will judge that as off-topic and, if that's all that's going on here, then we will close the thread peremptorily.

What did he expect? That Tony Blair would reap bouquets of compliments? This is Tony Blair we're talking about.

Jay now joins Woolly Minded Liberal, Khartoumi, Hank Scorpio and several other familiar pseudonyms on the increasingly long banned list. There seems to have been a change of policy recently: an increased willingness to ban, rather than simply delete, people who annoy the powers that be, a determination to wrest control of "the Cif community" from the fractious, sometimes witty, sometimes intemperate, but often incisive band of regular commenters who actually constitute the community and reassert central control. Matt Seaton seems to be taking advice from the Gordon Brown school of public relations. Cif as we've come to know it for the past few years seems, as a result, to be close to collapse. It will soon become indistinguishable from any other newspaper website.

Well, refugees are welcome to come and contribute here.

There follows a brilliant post on the "what do you want to talk about thread" from above-the-line writer Ally Fogg - one of the best - which says it all, really.

AllyF

For a couple of years Cif has been clearly the best political comment site in the UK, if not the world.

Why? You think it is because of the authors? The Guardian columnists and Cif occasionals? Wrong.

Go to the Independent or the Times or further afield to Salon or Alternet or Huffington, and there are hundreds of writers who are easily a match for any of us here. In many cases they're actually the same people!

What has Cif had that the others haven't? I'll tell you what.

WoollyMindedLiberal
HankScorpio
Monkeyfish
SzekelyKarl
Tehrankid
JayReilly

...and all the other passionate, intelligent, angry, interesting, bloody-minded, foul-mouthed, awkward buggers from across the political spectrum.

Every time the moderators ban an interesting poster from these pages, Cif is seriously diminished. Every time someone is banned, a bunch of others either leave in disgust or become considerably less frequent visitors - as the magic of Cif is further diminished (Kizbot is, by popular consent, the funniest, most insightful, most likeable poster Cif has ever had, but I wouldn't be surprised if she is serious about quitting. Nor would I blame her.)

So, Jay said something exceptionally offensive about Tony Blair, did he? Good. Just as well I didn't see the post while it was open, because I'm sure I'd have said something similar to the murdering, mendacious war criminal, and presumably I'd be out on my ear too. Whatever Jay said, I very much doubt it was as offensive as killing a million people on a tissue of lies.

But whatever. Delete the post. How long does it take the moderators to delete a post? A tenth of a second? With the likes of Jay and Woolly, even if the mods have to delete ten posts for every one left standing, that one post would still be adding considerable value to the thread and to this forum and would be worth the deletions.

What I find really disturbing is that it doesn't seem to be persistent breach of guidelines that gets people banned, it doesn't seem to be expressing vicious fascistic, racist, homophobic or misogynist attitudes that gets people banned. What DOES get people banned is persistently challenging the moderators' decisions. Nothing personal, coz I'm sure they're all lovely people in the pub, but at work they come over as a bunch of mini-Cartmans yelling "YOU WILL RESPECT MY AUTHORITAAAAAY"

I find it hard to believe that Jay has been banned for persistent foul language. I don't want to believe that he has been banned for expressing political views that don't fit the Guardian ideology. I strongly suspect he has actually been banned for being a pain in the arse to the moderators. Well sorry, that's worse than political censorship in my book, because it means we are all missing out on the very best of Cif because some moderator has got a hump on. Tough, mate. That's your job.

If the mods are too busy answering complaints about moderation from posters who've had their posts deleted, then maybe they should be instructed not to engage with posters beyond a stock reply. That would be annoying and unhelpful, but not half as annoying and unhelpful as banning people.

Sort it out, Matt, or Georgina, or Emily, or whoever supervises the mods. please. This is killing Cif.

21 comments:

Martin said...

I have had an idea about the bannings. Those of us who are not banned could use the blockquote and link to report the contributions of WLM, HankScorpio et al. Of course they would have to post comments on another site, such as this.

Obviously JayReilly should not have called Blair a c*nt as it is fairly disrespectful to c*nts.

I saw the article, but could not bring myself to take a peak.

Things can only get worse....
.... but it would be funny if Bush tried to write an article for the Guardian (or any newspaper.

Chris said...

The death spiral of a forum when freedom of expression hits a tightening of moderating policy is never edifying viewing.

Here's hoping the banhammered posters have found somewhere more open to the robust free exchange of opinions.

Doug Chaplin said...

Absolutely. Let sad bastards have their say, as long it disagrees with those fuckers in power.

olching said...

Heresiarch, posted over at the refuge, but re phishing you can contact Ishouldapologise (Phil Hall). His patch is xuitlacoche.blogspot.com. He also left some comments regarding this here.

As far as CiF is concerned, I more or less done with it; undoubtedly for different reasons to others, but on a whole I think many of us agree it has changed and not for the better.

CiF is linked to the Guardian, and the Guardian has become obsessed with meaningless non-politics, demonstrated on CiF most aptly. The decision to publish Tony Blair on an international policy issue is one of a number of culminative factors that has really disenchanted CiF (others - amongst many - for me being the 2.0 revolution, trolling, increase in faux right-wing outrage at the few remaining left-wing articles, Matt Seaton's 'frappucino culture', and the moderation(though less so than for others)). I know you and others don't necessarily share that view, but it's fair to say it's not my scene.

BTW, Martin mentions Bush writing an article. Here's what I think: I doubt very much he'd elicit as angry response on CiF as Blair did. In fact I can't think of anyone who comes close to causing such a reaction. Even when Brown or Cameron write an article, the vitriol is nowhere near as bad and threads certainly don't have to be shut down after 1 hour with a 95% deletion rate. Why? Because Blair is a uniquely disgusting c*nt.

Edwin Moore said...

Olching agree absolutely.

By the way, I thought your running debate with Wheatie the other week was a great advert for Cif.

Anonymous said...

>Whatever Jay said, I very much doubt it was as offensive as killing a million people on a tissue of lies.

Strange. From what you said, I thought this bloke or blokette was going to be insightful, rather than just an other ignorant, crap-and-cliché-peddling mouth-breather. Blair was right about Iraq and wrong about everything else. You'll see. Btw, I'm Anonymous only because Google keeps forgetting I have an account, and I can't be arsed to keep setting it up.

gazzaofbath said...

Regretfully I'm not banned on CiF but have voluntarily departed after WML's expulsion.

But I think this Blair article is typical of the restrictive regime for comenting now on the Guardian.

I was once a Blair supporter (well, willing to give New Labour a chance). And Blair wasted all the good will on his election. And most of all there's his awful foreign policy.

So anytime that guy tries to present an opinion on any issue I think its fair game to attack his judgement based on all his cock-ups.

Maybe the c-word is unsubtle but attacking Blair's view on any foreign policy issue based on his related track record in the field is definitely 'on topic'.

The CiF moderators are so up their arses nowadays.

JayReilly said...

Thanks Heresiarch,

After a fine effort from the CiF faithful and a few emails between myself and the CiF/Guardian staff i neogitated a months ban rather than an outright one. But the issue of WML, Hank et al still remains, so a general CiF amnesty is the main thing we're angling for now i think. Hopefully the upcoming thread on modding and the new modding guidelines will be an opportunity for people to lobby for this amnesty.

Edwin Moore said...

Hooray!

HankScorpio said...

"Whatever Jay said, I doubt it was as offensive as killing a million people on a tissue of lies."

Well, take a bow, anonymous, you've gone straight to the heart of the issue, the hypocrisy of the NL project and those at the Guardian who are able to keep a straight face and a close eye on their wallet while they continue to push a sordid agenda and restrict debate around it.

I'm pleased to see that Jay's posting rights on CiF have been reinstated but, as one who remains banned, I'm bound to ask why the mods, or Seaton, or whoever, have taken the decision to reprieve Jay but not me, WML, Monkeyfish or other members of the awkward squad.

This doesn't reflect on you at all, Jay, obviously, but it seems to me that the mods went on a bit of a killing spree a few weeks ago, and caused a storm of outrage which kinda died down, and then stoked the fires again by banning you and realised, when such as Kiz and others protested, that they should offer you a deal.

Well, given that Seaton was vocal in supporting the decision to ban you, why are they now offering you a deal, and ignoring the wider issue that the rest of us who have been recently banned have been equally subject to the same capricious decisions?

As I understand it, the only poster who's previously had a ban rescinded was CommanderKeen. No problem with that, or with the rescinding of your ban, but the biggest gripe us regulars have is the inconsistency of the modding policy. And this latest episode is a prime example.

I remain perplexed and angry.

The Heresiarch said...

Hank, I'm guessing Jay grovelled a bit more. On your knees, boy.

HankScorpio said...

Ain't gonna happen, Heresiarch. I'm working class and proud. It's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. Fuck 'em.

Ally said...

Heresiarch, thanks for the props.

Anonymous Pick a number. Any number. Point stands.

Hank The big debate is to come on the long-promised moderation thread. I suspect I'm not alone in planning to make a general amnesty for banned posters something of a prerequisite for good relations between them oop there and what they like to call "the community."

HankScorpio said...

Ally - your post on the "Whaddy wanna talk about" thread currently running on CiF was a gem. I'm sure it helped to galvanise the campaign to get Jay reinstated.

But Jay's said elsewhere (ie on Montana's blog) that he's had to give assurances that he will rein himself in. Why the fuck should he?

I'd love to be reinstated as Hank on CiF but I'm not going to do it if I've got to be looking over my shoulder all the time, wondering whether the mods are keeping a close eye on me, thinking am I one step away from the chop again.

If I got reinstated, I'm sure I'd do my best to steer clear of abusing other posters, no matter how stupid or provocative, but my ban arose from questionning the hypocrisy of the star columnists and of the GMG's tax avoidance policy and I really don't see why those sort of criticisms should be off limits.

Having said all that, Hank would like to be welcomed back into the fold, as would others, and your efforts would be appreciated. But it would be easier to sign the pledge if us recalcitrants knew that we weren't being made to feel hypocrites by doing so.

kizbot said...

kiz here... actually someone besides the commander has been reinstated after a ban... OneTooMany... and as he said on the whaddya thread... He emailed and negotiated... I'd forgotten about it... but tis true he did... must have been about 6 months ago ish..

FrankFisher said...

Very sorry to hear - belatedly - about Jay's banning. AllyF, loathe as I am to consider any collectivist action, count on my support for anything you have planned - I'll dip in to the modding thread as soon as it appears, and try to be as constuctive as poss, but point out how fucking stupid cif "moderation" is becoming. You can always mail me if you have anything concrete in mind.

let's see if we can get you back in Hank

JayReilly said...

Hank

I would be a little pissed if i was you too, it is inconsistent and it doesnt seem fair. When im allowed back i will of course be doing what i can for this amnesty and hopefully they'll do it, as its the whole approach that needs changing, its all got out of hand.

As for grovelling, i did send a fair few emails, pretty grovelly in tone, but actually nowhere near as grovelly as when i've been put in premod (that really would make you sick, it even made me sick).

"But Jay's said elsewhere (ie on Montana's blog) that he's had to give assurances that he will rein himself in."

I dont know if i would say they asked me to rein it in per se, they asked that i made certain i wasnt abusive again, which is fair enough, though they did also say something about "aggression" which troubled me a lot more - i am often "aggressive" in a sort of bolshy and often petulant way, and try as i might any attempts to curtail this would fail in weeks i think, so have to see what happens.

Im pretty sure i can refrain from abuse, as i have managed it pretty well so far other than the Blair thing, but the "aggression" comment wasnt so clear cut. I probably will make effort to be more 'decent', really cant be doing with all this again.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

I'm pleased to hear that JR got reinstated, the Milk Monitors like it when you write nicely to them.

I don't read CiF these days unless someone mentions something here worth following up but I'm amazed how many people seem to think that Dubya wouldn't have gone ahead with occupying Iraq unilaterally. It was always going to happen whatever we in the UK said or did.

Anonymous said...

It's very simple. If they want to call the site Comment is Free they need to not censor comments, except perhaps in circumstances where there is a possibility of legal action against the Guardian if the comment is left visible.

I hardly think Jay or Woolly calling someone a hypocrite when they do something hypocritical is as bad as some of the extreme right BNP shit I've read on there recently.

And you know what else? I don't care if racist posts appear on the site because having to listen to opinions I strongly disagree with is the downside of living in a society where I'm allowed to say whatever I fucking want. So I put up and shut up, or I argue with them.

I don't think any reasonable adult should need protecting from mere words.

RobLangley

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Hi RobLangley.

I tried very hard to not call anyone on CiF a hypocrite. Except Pope Strangelove and Phil Hall / Ishouldapologise maybe. I was always quick on the draw with the links to the Et tu Quoque fallacy on wikipedia. According to Matt Seaton the milk monitors banned me for repeatedly pointing out that Henry Porter was telling untruths. Even MrPikeBishop agreed.

Facts are not sacred at the Guardian, star columnists are. Commentors are allowed to disagree with their opinions but when reality lets Seamus Milne down it is not acceptable to point this out.

Anonymous said...

WML

Appreciate it. I tend not to post often but read entire threads during quiet moments at work and there are certain writers who just demand mockery - Andy B and Mad Bunting spring to mind, always surrounded by so many strawmen you'd think they were farmers.

Never heard of Et to Quoque or heard of it...off to wiki now.

RL