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316 responses to “On Line Opinion and the advertising and “free speech” controversy”

  1. sg

    did anyone arranging or advocating a boycott of OLO know that they would be affecting a bundle of blogs?

  2. sg

    kind of makes claims of a “secondary boycott” action a bit redundant, doesn’t it, until someone can clarify that.

  3. sublime cowgirl

    “I don’t presume to adjudicate on that, but I do observe that LP has a strict moderation policy which prevents the posting of comments designed to cast aspersions on groups, or individuals on the basis of alleged or actual group membership and identity, and we do not and would not condone homophobia and/or hate speech being published here”

    Yikes, where is Silkworm gonna go now 🙂

  4. Don Arthur

    … LP has a strict moderation policy which prevents the posting of comments designed to cast aspersions on groups, or individuals on the basis of alleged or actual group membership and identity

    Kim, I think LP’s policy is more complicated than this. In a 2009 LP thread one commenter writes about a "pentacostalist-loopy-protestant element that infests the forced-birth (“pro-life”) movement" while another attacks "creepy RC cardigan men". The comments about Catholics led some readers to complain about anti-Catholic hatred. Nobody stepped in and deleted the comments.
    I suspect that two things are going on here. One is that LP moderators feel that some groups are powerful enough to stand up for themselves while others need special protection. And the other is that the moderators believe some groups deserve to have aspersions cast upon them. For example, nobody’s going to step in to defend a KKK member who complains that they’re being bullied because they’re white and proud of it (and no, I don’t want you to start defending sensitive Klan members).
    If I was intellectally sympathetic to the religious right or conservative Catholicism, I wouldn’t think LP’s moderation policy was very strict at all. In fact I’d probably say some of the comments threads incited hatred and ridicule of my beliefs.

  5. sg

    but Don, the pro-life movement and KKK are identifiable through their politics and ideological choices, not through their race, gender, disability/ability, etc. A comment policy that protects people from vilification bassed on who they are, but not on their political activism, is hardly earth-shatteringly inconsistent.

  6. Mark Bahnisch

    While Kim rightly notes this post is her own view, not a collective LP position, but I think it appears clear that LP authors have a different approach to this question than most of the other bloggers affected. I certainly share the concerns about homophobia.

    I’d add that, irrespective of the chain of events leading up to this kerfuffle, I haven’t been sanguine for some time that mainstream advertising would continue to provide a reliable source of revenue for niche political and public affairs sites. The potential risk for them probably appears greater than the benefit. I said on LP that I think that if we decided we needed the money (and that would probably be for expansion, otherwise we can muddle on through) I wouldn’t think it impossible to sell space to ideological soulmates, as is done by some US liberal blogs. Such a strategy wouldn’t work for OLO, and I wonder also if advertisers decide to vacate the field of political sites, whether or not there might be some pretty dire implications for publications such as Crikey and New Matilda.

    I would also think that the MSM publications would have a lot to lose if advertisers become more wary of association with virulent comments threads, particularly some of the News Limited “blogs”.

  7. Don Arthur

    sg – I don’t think it’s that simple. A person’s moral beliefs are often tied up with their religious and ethnic identity. You might say that a person raised in a traditional Jewish or Islamic culture CHOOSES to maintain the beliefs and practices of their community. But is that a good enough defence for mocking those beliefs and practices?

    Pauline Hanson insisted that she never objected to anyone based on their race. She said it was their culture she objected to. Your argument sounds similar.

  8. Patrickb

    Re your last par Mark, it’s almost unthinkable from a public policy perspective that the law would force advertisers to advertise in forums that they judge either not give them any commercial return or serve to damage (by association) their brand. Of course I suppose an aggrieved party could try to recover financially but I suspect that isn’t what the 2ndary boycott crowd are looking for.

  9. sg

    You might say that a person raised in a traditional Jewish or Islamic culture CHOOSES to maintain the beliefs and practices of their community

    Yes, I would, and I would attack them for their political positions, not for being a Muslim or a Jew. And I do love the reflexive right-wing trick of trying to imply that there is a double standard for Jews and Muslims. The right need to get over their persecution complex and learn to argue.

  10. Helen

    If I was intellectally sympathetic to the religious right or conservative Catholicism, I wouldn’t think LP’s moderation policy was very strict at all. In fact I’d probably say some of the comments threads incited hatred and ridicule of my beliefs.

    And if you did I’d point out how LP allows ongoing contributions from people like Wozza, JPZ, SATP and others who hammer leftwing people nonstop, every day.

    LP is hardly the leftie echo chamber some people like to make it out to be.

  11. CJ Morgan

    I’ve said my bit in the Saturday Salon thread, but @ #5:

    1. I understand that Graham Young is the only moderator at OLO – which I think is the source of most of the problems underlying this stoush.

    2. I was once suspended from OLO for writing “Sieg Heil” to a white supremacist troll who had linked to Stormfront.org.

  12. Terangeree

    RC cardigan

    Why would anyone want to have a radio-controlled cardigan?

  13. Anita

    Bill Muehlenberg’s stuff on-line has nothing much going for it, although one piece on Bono was mildly amusing.
    But ost of his stuff is homophobic ranting, pure and simple, under headings like ‘Pink Mafia’, ‘G’day Augaylia’,’Targeting Our Children’,’Turning Heterosexual Children into Criminals.’Even ‘In Praise of Incest’- same sex marriage being the slippery slope you know, the thin end of the wedge.
    Muehlenberg could never “stimulate a public discourse” on gay marriage. “Tolerance and civility”? You having a lend, Graham Young?

  14. Don Arthur

    Kim – I’m not complaining about LP’s comments policy. I’m just saying that it’s not as straightforward as you were suggesting.

    And yes, I think it’s entirely reasonable to have some “sympathy for the argument that those with privilege are being very specious when claiming to be vilified.”

  15. Robert Merkel

    Having had time to reflect on this issue, I largely agree with Kim.

    I am more firmly of the view that the IASH policy is poorly worded. Causing offence for the sake of causing offence is a bad thing. However, in strongly disagreeing with somebody’s strongly held views, causing offence is sometimes entirely foreseeable and inevitable, but a necessary part of public debate.

    But, to quote Kim:

    It doesn’t seem to me to be a cogent argument, in the context of the capitalist market place, that advertisers are bound to continue to support whatever anyone wants to publish on the internet, if they believe it’s inconsistent with their corporate values or likely to harm their corporate reputation.

    Advertisers have been withdrawing their sponsorship from every medium that ever existed, for every reason under the sun, since the dawn of the printing press. I find it somewhat strange that people with considerably more libertarian views than my own seem to be aghast that advertisers might choose to exercise this long-established practice in this particular case.

  16. Fran Barlow

    And personally, I was trying, some time back, to persuade advertisers to withdraw support from the OO, principally due to that rag’s consistent policy of lying about Climate Change matters. I see no problem at all with advertisers making up their minds which media should carry their promotion.

  17. patrickg

    Cry me a river, Young, Marohasy et al. Right-wingers are always such big believers in the marketplace of ideas or otherwise until the marketplace decides it doesn’t want to associate with their bilious, hateful bullshit. I’m amazed frankly, they haven’t been sued out of existence before this – or pulled up before govt bodies etc.

  18. Patrickb

    OT but I’ve just noticed that there’s a “This weeks most popular” sidebar. It’s showing some very ancient posts.

  19. Mark Bahnisch

    @23 – I think it’s a bit Borked.

  20. jules

    I think Bill Muehlenberg’s article is pretty sad, but the reaction is a bit over the top. I wouldn’t have thought that before I read this tho. And perhaps Australia isn’t as tolerant as where the author lives, but I think it actually is, as much as you can make that judgement. Muehlenburg’s article is crap but BFD.

    Indeed, legalising same-sex marriage is not a minor or peripheral social shift. It is social change on a massive scale.

    He’s wrong there. It seems the social shift has taken place already. If anything the push for same sex marriage is an effect of something thats already happened. The article above seems to indicate this.

    Boycotting OLO cos of that article doesn’t allow people to point out that the shift has actually taken place – that its too late Bill. (Well it does for the people who don’t boycott it.) If anything it gives cred to the clown and look at whats happened. Instead of criticising him there is a divisive debate about censorship.

  21. Paul Foord

    I find the attacks and vilification of Gregory Storer at OLO and Club Troppo a problem. IMO Graham Young does selectively moderate, and very much allows ad hom when it suits him. I am with Fran Barlow. (I can’t get ‘all’ to work at OLO to read the comments.)

  22. jules

    I disagree that this is an issue of “free speech”. It doesn’t seem to me to be a cogent argument, in the context of the capitalist market place, that advertisers are bound to continue to support whatever anyone wants to publish on the internet, if they believe it’s inconsistent with their corporate values or likely to harm their corporate reputation. Put simply, the concept of a democratic public sphere is not and should not be dependent on corporate support, and it seems to me that the arguments made in this context are quite incoherent when examined.

    Kim, does that only apply to advertisers?

    LP relies on corporate services to function, maybe not as an individual blog, but in the context of the internet, and how we use it at the moment, the whole thing is a corporate space, not a public one. I’m only typing this cos I paid my ISP bills.

    Its more like a shopping mall or a theme park or some gated communities online, than it is like a city with public parks and roads.

    In some ways denying internet access to Egypt was similar to the advertising boycott. It wasn’t the state acting on its own, corporates were involved and agreed – they boycotted the protesters and others that would threaten the stability their business relies on. Probably the corporates involved believed it would be in their best interest.

    Thats a disturbing implication wrt how reliant we are on … well the whole of modern comms.

  23. Pointybirds

    I agree with Robert Merkel’s (@17) thoughts here. To recap on the OLO publishing code:

    is unlawful, threatening, abusive, defamatory, invasive of privacy, vulgar, obscene, profane or which may harass or cause distress or inconvenience to, or incite hatred of, any person.

    I think you can make cases — of varying merit — to permit on occasion material that falls into most of these categories. The intention of the author is important, but so is the receptive attitude of the reader. Common sense should prevail in the majority of cases, but as with most stuff, the interesting bits happen around the edge.

    And yes, if you’re going to lean towards a libertarian definition of freedom of speech, then you ought to be completely unsurprised when a corporation, of all entities, moves its money around in accordance with its own best interests.

  24. j_p_z

    I haven’t followed this issue but lookit, there’s two types of “free speech”: legal/constitutional, and organic/climatic.

    Strictly speaking the only one you have a legal ‘right’ to is the legal/constitutional one: viz., can the State, or can it not, restrict your human right to speak the truth as you see it, as you please? If it “can,” then you live under tyranny. Full stop.

    The organic/climatic sense of free speech is more important but also more difficult to describe which is why we fall back on legal philosophies.

    We consciously set limits (or at least we do in the US) on what the State can require of you. But that doesn’t account for 90 per cent of life: I’m a reasonable peaceful person, I don’t rob banks or break the law, so I assume that the State should take no interest in me most of the time. Most people live their lives that way.

    But if they live in a climate or an organic circumstance where their speech, their thought, their range of expression are deeply circumscribed, not by the State, but by its extralegal arms in the guise of various powers of sanction, then this effectively isn’t liberty at all; it is tyranny under a funny mask, and it must be resisted as strongly as tyranny by the State.

    The problem arises in the different sets of limits we inscribe by different powers of say criminal and civil jurisdictoion; philosophically the problem arises because we don’t teach a true theory of civics to young people, but rather a warped and partisan one.

    I’m not going to step into this instant issue which I don’t grok; just sayin’ that the theory of free speech is ontological before it is legal.

    In fact that’s exactly WHY we enshrine it in law.

  25. John Passant

    @7 mark, I’m with you. I also think Kim is right to say this is not a free speech issue.

    Indeed I think this is, or is becoming, perhaps fortuitously, an OLO subscription drive by Graham.

    Or some sort of ‘save OLO (and LP and my blog etc by extension) from the nasty boycotters’. Send money now.

    As one of the comments on my blog said, this is about vilification. It is a fight against homophobia and vilification. It’s a battle against oppression.

  26. Hal9000

    There seem to me to be two separate issues here, namely first whether what can be defined as hate speech ought to be protected by free speech principles, and second whether advertisers have the right to punish media by withdrawing their dollars on political grounds.

    Dealing with the second issue first, I think it’s unwise for any medium that supports airing of views counter to the dominant paradigm that underpins capitalism to be dependent on the corporate dollar. I know this isn’t the case with LP, but as others have said, advertisers can and will choose where their dollars go. They do it on grounds of taste, communities of interest and audience reach. I can’t see how it would be possible or desirable to quarantine political leaning. The ‘secondary boycott’ argument of Pearson’s is, like almost all the man writes, bogus. Advertisers are customers, not suppliers of goods, services or labour. End of story as far as the FTA is concerned. Customers can boycott all they like.

    On the first issue, I think it’s on balance a good thing that bigots get exposed to audiences wider than their own coteries of like-minded morons. The light of day, as they say, is the best disinfectant. The basis of homophobic arguments against ‘openly gay’ individuals being treated equally with other citizens comes down to a fear that homosexuality is a hugely attractive lifestyle choice, and that the moment the weak are exposed to homosexuality they’ll become converts.

    Racism and religious bigotry are similarly risible if exposed to any scrutiny, and IMHO boil down to similar deep feelings of insecurity and (often s*xual) guilt.

    The argument in favour of denying publication to such views relies on a similar view about the susceptibility of the weak among us. At bottom, the argument is that ‘I’m ok, I know better, but those weak and ignorant people…’. This is elitist nonsense. In fact, the few who consume and enjoy hate speech are already beyond redemption and are unlikely to be influenced by any argument. If the the ranters of hate are exposed in a public forum, however, the value of their statements can be assessed. The undecided are more likely to come to reasoned conclusions. I’d far rather that Bolt’s winged monkeys carried out their acts of mental coprophilia on his ‘blog’ than on some hidden chat room. Without bothering to read Rodney Croome’s response on OLO, I’d be pretty confident it comprehensively dealt with the offending article. And that’s how it should be.

    One last point. Context is of course important. The ability to argue won’t prevent an angry and drunken group of young men from turning their inchoate rage into violence if incited by a bigot. Where hate speech turns into actual incitement is of course a moot point, and one that has been the subject of criminal proceedings for a long time.

  27. j_p_z

    Kim — yes, but duzn’t matter. I repeat, freedom of speech is ontological in nature before it is legal in nature. That is, in a hierarchy of human priorities, freedom of speech must pertain to being human before it pertains to being in conformity with the (ephemeral) “law.”

    If I travel to Australia tomorrow and say things that violate your “legal” speech codes (short of actual libel etc etc), you can arrest me if you please — but morally and ontologically, I am right and you are wrong. In all cases. In all possible worlds. End of story.

  28. patrickg

    On I guess a more mature or reflective note, I do find it interesting – as touched on by a few other commenters like Kim and Tim – how Young’s immediate response is one that’s very dominant in online spaces, a kind of flamewar, if you will. Yet that kind of reaction and approach is almost if not totally absent in both the corporate and governmental worlds, where definitive, escalative actions like it are almost unanimously frowned upon as uproductive – and worse – unprofessional.

    In this respect, not only do I think Young and his bevy of winged monkeys have made a particularly silly and/or category error, but further, they may wish to contemplate why such brinkmanship is avoided in the corporate world.

    If Young et al were focused on outcomes rather than sturm und drang, they would have changed the tenor of their response substantially. It’s negotiation 101, to speak in a mutually comprehensive language, and any professional with a mote of experience could have told them so.

    Disclaimer: I work for IBM currently, and whilst I certainly can’t champion every move the company makes I am damned proud of its genuinely world-leading and progressive diversity policies, and am stoked to see them take a stand against divisive and gratuitous homophobia like this.

  29. patrickg

    that should read “silly and/or naive category error”

  30. j_p_z

    Hal9000: “…whether what can be defined as hate speech…”

    Get this, loud and clear —

    THERE. IS. NO. SUCH. THING. AS. “HATE. SPEECH.”

    If you dislike another’s speech, for whatever reason, your remedy is MORE OF YOUR OWN SPEECH. You do not, and more importantly CANNOT, have the right to ascribe the speech of others to a sanctioned category on an a priori basis. To do so is to be a tyrant.

  31. Adam

    j_p_z, this is not about the State.

  32. Adam

    And it isn’t about metaphysical assertions about the nature of freedom.

  33. jules

    There is such a thing as hate speech jaspers and you’d know that if you’d ever had it directed at you, and personally I think there comes a time when the answer to hate speech is no longer speech, but something like this.

    And thanks for the excuse to listen to it again.

  34. j_p_z

    “…you’d know that if you’d ever had it directed at you…”

    And what exacrtly makes you think I haven’t, and don’t?

    Velly naïve.

    What was directed at me (on many occasions I might add) was a species of incitement to riot, with a credible threat of violence. How many times would you guess I’ve escaped death or injury by mob violence? I grew up in New York City. Do you know or understand the racial politics of the place? Go ahead, guess, and make a fool of yourself. I’m bored, self-righteous jackoff, this’ll be interesting.

  35. j_p_z

    Kim — it’s not my derail, Hal9000 brought it up.

    If you introduce it into evidence and it’s disputable, then it should be disputed. Viz., it ain’t “my” bugbear.

    Unless of course you have an a priori bugbear of your own that you wish to shield…

  36. tigtog

    Apologies in advance, Kim, and delete if you feel appropriate, but I can’t ignore this:

    j_p_z #1:

    Get this, loud and clear —

    THERE. IS. NO. SUCH. THING. AS. “HATE. SPEECH.”

    j_p_z #2:

    “…you’d know that if you’d ever had [hate speech] directed at you…”

    And what exactly makes you think I haven’t, and don’t?

    So which is it, japerz? Hate speech does not exist, or you’ve personally experienced the pain/threat of it. You really cannot have it both ways.

  37. j_p_z

    Tigtog: you’re not being a serious person here. Or perhaps you don’t quite know what the world is really like.

    What I described was harassment with credible threat of violence, not “speech.”

    When you’re a fifteen year old boy going home from work on a subway late at night, and a mob of six or seven kids of a (let’s just say) different race, armed with knives, says “Get the (person of a different race who doesn’t have a knife)!” — this is not the same thing as a newspaper editorial which you don’t happen to like.

    And when it happens on a regular basis, you start to form a view of things.

    And then you guys get all huffy when I treat you as children.

  38. Russell

    I don’t see ‘free speech’ being threatened, but rather that it’s the right of anyone, or any business, to support who they choose.

    I don’t ever read The Australian, I don’t even look at Harvey Norman advertisements (I have many personal boycotts) and if I owned a business I wouldn’t advertise in Murdoch papers. It’s just the same as shunning an individual whose behaviour you find repulsive – why should there be some duty to stay around them and listen to their offensive ranting?

  39. paul walter

    Your own active censorship polices have turned round and bitten you.
    What hope the voice of GL’S and snd rad feminism be heard, when this grouping itself denies free speeech and right of reply to others and is prepared to violate precedent, even at the expense of open discussion on social issues, on no more than personal delusion, whim and prejudice.
    How can we ever challenge someone like Chris Mitchell, who edits the Oz on personal bias, when the “identity” left is so ready to do the same to others assuage its paranoia and hangups about itself?
    In validating the likes of Chris Mitchell, you validate a future “Dr Haneef /Aboriginal Intervention” type society where NO ONE will get a say..

  40. Paul Burns

    In terms of the advertisements component of this debate, I would have thought advertisers frequently, though not always have some influence on the content of a publication. (blogs being publications) There’s really nothing new in what ANZ and IBM has done, or other companies have done in the past with, say, newspapers, is there?
    Now free speech. I’m a great advocate of free speech, but with free speech comes great responsibility. Now I see nothing wrong with people criticising any group they don’t like, but, it has to be done with civility. When that criticism descends into vilification, then its not actually free speech. It is, IMHO, speech intended to inhibit free speech.
    I’m not sure if one could have a reasonable debate with the ACL on homosexuality, because, as I understand it they begin with assumptions about homosexuality that preclude debate. Not being one of those people who follows the ACL, I couldn’t really detail them, but I’ve undoubtedly heard them elsewhere. Festival of Light, for example. And even when these assumptions aren’t insulting, at the very least they’re just plain stupid.I don’t think I need to give examples.

  41. Chris Grealy

    It is just nonsense to suggest that a site has a right to advertising dollars. Anyone who would push this line (I’m looking at some lawyers here) has thrown commonsense out the window. It is too bad that LP and Andrew Bartlett and other worthies will lose some revenue due to someone else’s slack commenting policy and plain bad judgement, but that’s the breaks.

  42. Jacques Chester

    Of course, j_p_z, as you may or may not know, there is no constitutional right to freedom of speech in Australia.

    Incorrect. In Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth it was found that there is an implied, but enforceable, right to freedom of speech about political matters. Subsequent cases have explored the boundaries of this right at great length and frankly I do not recall the details.

    Essentially, the Court reasoned, since the right to vote is guaranteed, and because open discussion of political matters is required for the full exercise of that right, then free political discussion is a necessary implied right.

  43. Jacques Chester

    For the interest of readers, I host Ozblogistan at my own expense, though I have sometimes received donations from bloggers. LP does not pay for hosting and I don’t expect it to.

    I use Ozblogistan as a resume item and a testbed for web technologies. It’s a fair trade, and indeed I am considering growing the network (so contact me if you’re interested).

  44. Brian

    It seems to me that Graham Young’s initial error of judgement was to publish the Muehlenberg piece, which did not meet minimum standards of quality, irrespective of ideological orientation, and was bound to elicit the kind of comments that it did.

    Furthermore, Young should have known in advance that moderating such a thread would be a daunting, time-consuming task, approaching impossible. There are times when one (I speak for myself) don’t post on particular topics because one knows that the comments thread is likely to be an unedifying mess and/or not contribute to a greater elucidation of the topic.

  45. Brian

    I agree with Kim that the issue at hand is not one of “free speech”. In fact “free speech” as commonly conceived is probably an abstract theoretical concept, having no embodiment in the real world.

    Speaking is a social process within a social context, imbued with norms and values. As such it is conducted by intrinsically social beings whose rights are themselves socially constituted. Within this framework it is possible and necessary to speak of freedom of speech, but that is a topic for another day, as the discussion would need to be set up by a post for that purpose.

  46. Fran Barlow

    Whatever else may be said of Graham Young’s campaign, his claim that he was the decisive actor in Jennifer Maharosy getting online will surely cool the ardour of potential supporters.

    I have long rejected the proposition that advertisers are not politically responsible for things said on their dime, to use the Americanism, so this news doesn’t change my general position. Nevertheless, the thought that ANZ and NAB were in effect, giving aid and comfort (perhaps unwittingly) to the circulation of disinformation on climate change puts Mr Storer’s action in an even more positive light.

  47. Adam

    Brian @ 63: Agreed, that is what strikes me about much abstract free speech discussion – there are some basic problems with its associational basis that aren’t usually given their due.

    There are certainly some broader issues raised here about a context where corporate calculation is the basis for viable public discourse. But then the article and comments thread in question were hardly examples of that. And if there is really a legal question here, then that just shows us how far the law can sit from anything resembling justice.

  48. harleymc

    ANZ and IBM did not censor, they withdrew their subsidy. There is a huge difference.
    Having a corporate sponsor is a privilege not a right. The corporations have a right to protect their brand and the marketing of their brand against third parties (in this case the blog) that bring their brand into disrepute. Common sense says that if you want the corporate dollars that you do not vilify the customers, staff and who knows the board of management or any of the people who may fit into any of those categories.

    We can contrast this with the shutting down of financial services to Wikileaks and their supporters. Which is at very least a secondary boycott by the financial institutions. Paypal, Mastercard and others are directly preventing their customers from making payments to Wikileaks.

  49. j_p_z

    Kim — that was fair. Of course I think so b/c in a way you proved my point.

    From a legal/constitutional point of view, the blog is more your property than it is ours; so you have a legal/constituional “right” to delete comments for whatever reason you please, however zany.

    But if you did that on a random or personal basis, given that the blog is about politics and society, you’d be contributing to an organic/climatic environment in which the human claim to free speech was suppressed. You’d be legally right, but morally wrong.

    Instead what you did was give clear warnings about what you disapproved of, backed up by reasoning which, though it could be disputed as most things can be, was nonetheless “reasonable.”

    And you repeated your warnings, more than once. Then, when you ran out of patience, you at last took action.

    You weren’t peremptory or arbitrary, and you were within your rights. Thus, even though you performed an act of censorship, you weren’t tyrannical, and it can be argued that your actions were not contrary to the human claim to free speech.

    IOW, brava!

    Of course other arguments could be advanced, but it strikes me that, in a certain respect, you illustrated part of a way to adjudicate competing claims…

  50. Fran Barlow

    Well said Brian …

  51. tigtog

    There are certainly some broader issues raised here about a context where corporate calculation is the basis for viable public discourse.

    It’s an old question about artists/philosophers and patronage. When one does not have the resources to publish without the financial support of others, and when one gains a particularly famous/influential patron through one’s talents, then the enhanced visibility, prestige and security given one’s work via their eminence always comes with a quid pro quo of having to consider the patron’s interests as well as one’s own (if one wishes to patronage to continue). Unsurprising, over the last few millennia, there have been quite a few creative works exploring the tension between artistic and intellectual integrity and the need for help in having one’s “voice” be heard.

    The only thing that’s changed now, apart from lower entry costs for mass publication/communication, is that instead of having an aristocrat or prince of the church for one’s patron, one has a corporation. Some of the old complexities of the patronage relationship have been replaced by new complexities of the sponsorship relationship, but it’s still an old, old story.

  52. Christopher Pearson

    Paul Burns # 58

    You say the Christian lobby works on assumptions that preclude debate, then fail to specify them with airy disdain, equate the with FOL of all people and say that — even when the assumptions are not insulting — at the very least they’re just plain stupid.

    This strikes me as mere attitudinising, rather than an argument.I’m sure that the conversations you recently referred to on this site with your Catholic friends is far more measured and tolerant.

    I’m not a member of the lobby but I’ve read enough of their material to say that, when it comes to the law, the only resolute stands they take are on gay marriage and adoption and the right of church schools and charities to employ people in sympathy with their ethos. They say they deplore institutional homophobia, for example, which is a good place to start when it comes to opening a debate.

    Of course they can’t ignore what the Bible has to say about homosexual acts, but then no reasonable person would expect them to, any more than we expect other major religions to selectively ignore their scriptures and re-invent themselves to conform to the current Zeitgeist.

  53. sg

    no reasonable person would expect them to, any more than we expect other major religions to selectively ignore their scriptures and re-invent themselves to conform to the current Zeitgeist

    because there’s certainly none of that sort of expectation happening recently, is there?

  54. derrida derider

    Comments threads are tricky. A lot of the responsibility for a good thread falls on the poster, not the moderator. They need to make a post whose substance and style are both such as to interest people and generate a fairly robust discussion, without igniting an unproductive flame war. That’s a lot harder on some topics than others – Israel/Palestine is about the toughest for some reason. Trying to focus more on issues than personalities is one thing that helps. It takes thought, skill and emotional maturity to do this so I admire posters who achieve it (even those I vigorously disagree with).

    But that’s about what makes a good post, not about who should be allowed to post. It is indeed terrible that one of the constraints on free speech is advertiser opinion, but I can’t see a practical alternative. Certainly trying to force people to pay for ads where they don’t want to (for whatever reason) is a cure worse than the disease.

  55. David Irving (no relation)

    Christopher @ 73, I think the point Paul was making (feel free to correct me if I misrepresent your position, Paul) – one which I agree with, btw – is that the Christian lobby starts from the baseless assertion that homosexuality is morally wrong. This is not a position that’s amenable to reason. You demonstrate this yourself:

    … they can’t ignore what the Bible has to say about homosexual acts, but then no reasonable person would expect them to …

    I’m a reasonable person, and that’s precisely why I don’t accept that biblical authority can be the basis for an argument for or against anything. Next thing, you’ll be telling us we can’t eat shrimps or ham sandwiches, with equal (lack of) authority.

  56. Kim

    @77 – it also ignores the fact that the meaning of Biblical passages said to be relevant is highly contested, and has been for several decades. Obviously, the official position of the Catholic Church is that same sex sexuality is sinful (which is far from equivalent, incidentally, to the vile rubbish on that OLO thread from some commenters – ie “abomination” etc). However, many biblical scholars and theologians disagree, and have adduced reason based arguments for their position. Many Christians, and I dare say, adherents of other monotheistic religions, also disagree.

    In any event, it’s hard to see how any of this has much pertinence to what purports to be a discussion of the merits of a public policy issue.

  57. Christopher Pearson

    DI (nr)@ 77

    There is another longstanding philosophical tradition, that of natural law, which persuaded a great many unbelievers — eg Edwardian rationalists who couldn’t swallow Christianity post-Darwin — that homosexual sex is immoral.Please note, not the orientation, which is blameless, but the act. You may be a more reasonable man than Aristotle,from whom that tradition derives, but I’d take some convincing.

    Just a word on shellfish and ham: the dietary proscriptions of Leviticus et al are one thing. St Paul’s condemnation of sodomy is quite another. The last time I heard this preening conflation of the two was in a sentiment aired by the fictional Jeb Bartlett of West Wing fame, recycled by Joe Hockey under the illusion that it was somehow clever. I’m sure you can do better than that if you try.

  58. Paul Burns

    CP @ 73,
    See David Irving @ 77.
    I;m not going to go off on a trope about the intolerance of the radical right in Xanity. If you don’t know how unXtan they can be, you’ve been lucky to avoid them. I’m definitely not antiXtan,(though I have a tendency to make jokes about them) but I am strongly against policies that lack humanity. Putting shit on gays who, so far as I can ascertain, just want the rights all other Australians enjoy, nothing more and nothing less, seems to me to lack any semblance of Xtan charity/

  59. Adam

    Tigtog @ 71 – the patronage to sponsorship issue is obviously part, but I’m also wondering about what we might call the public sphere (or public spheres), and how those relate to various powers that be, and how the issue of that relationship is configured in the present (as opposed to its numerous past configurations). You’re right, though, that these are old questions, even if they are always answered by way of the history of institutions and media etc that have changed substantially.

  60. Adam

    *of this issue

  61. Kim

    @79 – I’m not sure why we’re having this discussion.

    I’d remind people that we are talking about a specific set of issues, and not debating the attitude of some Christian churches and religious righties to homosexuality. Or Jed Bartlett or Joe Hockey!

    The usual caveats about the deletion of off topic comments should therefore be regarded as having been entered!

  62. Jacques Chester

    My main problem with the Australian Christian Lobby is that I think they go too far. God can enforce His own laws, is my reckoning; indeed that seems to be the entire point of Revelations (“it’s totally gonna happen, dood, if you don’t shape up!”).

    I have biblical authority, too. Romans 12:17-19. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord”.

  63. Jacques Chester

    Sorry, I think I’m OT too.

  64. David Irving (no relation)

    Christopher, I realise we’re straying off-topic here (apologies, Kim), but it seems you’re conflating a belief in Natural Law (about which we could argue – I think it’s bullshit, frankly, but the margins of this blog are too narrow to contain my argument, and we’d just annoy our host) with the Edwardians’ distaste for homosexuality, possibly derived in equal parts from their discarded Christianity and the memory of unwelcome advances from others at school.

    If you wish to invoke natural law, you could do worse than observe the quite natural homosexual behaviour of any number of mammals (other than ourselves. You could start with Bonobos, for instance, or dogs.

  65. sg

    I don’t think this is off-topic, Kim, but sorry if it is.

    Pearson, at 73 you say

    I’m not a member of the lobby but I’ve read enough of their material to say that, when it comes to the law, the only resolute stands they take are on gay marriage and adoption and the right of church schools and charities to employ people in sympathy with their ethos. They say they deplore institutional homophobia, for example, which is a good place to start when it comes to opening a debate

    but this is just disingenuous defense of reprehensible behaviour. How can these people you speak of “deplore institutional homophobia” while demanding special protection under law to deny gay adoption, gay marriage, and the employment of gays in schools and charities.

    If that’s not “institutional homophobia” what is? And do you understand anything about this topic that you’ve weighed in on?

  66. Paul Burns

    Christopher,DI (nr)
    If you want to transfer our debate to Saturday Salon, I’ll be happy to continue it, but it might be a little while before I get back to you as I’m in the throes of finishing a chapter in my book at the moment and you know how exciting that can be.

  67. Jennifer Wilson

    Unlike most commenters here, I’m not a great fan of moderation.

    I’ve observed on many threads that those who post offensive comments are quickly dealt with by other commenters. There is often a self-regulatory process at work, as there should be when adults are communicating with one another.

    I dislike the attitude that there are groups that must be protected by a moderator from other groups. I think it is patronising and controlling, except in pretty extreme circumstances.

    Apart from anything else, silencing offensive opinions does not make them go away, it sends them underground where they continue to fester. Because such commenters feel additionally injured by being silenced and marginalised, their hostility increases.

    In the OLO example of the Meuhlenberg article, Graham Young subsequently published an article by me that challenged and refuted every point Muehlenberg tried to make. Mine was only one of several equality in marriage articles on the site.

    In taking this approach, Young provided the opportunity for Muehlenberg to be thoroughly discredited, and relieved him of the necessity of complaining loudly that he’d been censored. The opportunity to present cogent arguments that demonstrated just how prejudiced and ignorant Muehlenberg’s position is, did far more to address the problems than just shutting him up ever could.

    I make the same arguments for the comments in the forum.

    The problem with Storer’s campaign to financially knee cap OLO, is that if he succeeds, he will silence any number of voices expressing any number of opinions on any number of topics. Such a site is rare.

    In doing this, Storer’s actions are indeed an attack on free speech. An attack that is possible because it is an economic attack, financed by a gay lobby, against an on line community that addresses a wide variety of political and societal concerns, including many of Storer’s own.

    The site does not have the financial resources of Storer and his fellow travelers with which to fight back and resist their economic sanctions.

    This, in my understanding, is an example of bullying and standover tactics on the part of a group, made possible by their superior financial power.

    I’m surprised this doesn’t cause some considerable alarm in the blogosphere.

    finally, as an adult I engage with other adults on line. I do not require a moderator to protect me. I can leave a discussion and return to it at any time I want. I can take offense at or ignore any comment I like. I am in charge of my reactions and responses.

    I find it offensive that so many people apparently have an assumption that so many other people are incapable of exercising these choices, and are in need protection in the form of moderators.
    Jennifer Wilson.

  68. Mark Bahnisch

    Update: [by Mark] LP has now made a statement about the matter on behalf of the blog.

  69. Pavlov's Cat

    I find it offensive that so many people apparently have an assumption that so many other people are incapable of exercising these choices, and are in need protection in the form of moderators.

    As a longtime LP reader and commenter with not a lot of leisure time, I’d just like to say that I find it offensive when someone says something on a comments thread that’s offensive. I’m deeply grateful for a bit of moderator-activated protection from fools and wankers, if only because it saves me from having to think ‘Oh God, there’s another half hour of my life I’ll never get back’ which is what I sometimes think when I’m stupid enough to read threads at MSM “blogs” (which are also moderated, although you’d never know).

    Jennifer, you seem to be leaving completely out of your reflections the fact that blogs are run by individuals or teams or collectives who have a right, given how much time and money they invest in providing this commentary and these spaces, to maintain a reasonably civil and enlightened standard of discussion on their blogs. They also have a right to protect themselves from defamation allegations, about which many commenters still seem astonishingly ignorant, especially when it comes to the question of who is legally responsible. It’s not censorship, it’s editing. Editing and sensible self-protection.

    You might as well argue that the ABC ought to choose which tweets they run on Q&A by pulling them out of a hat, though frankly that might improve the quality. And you’d have a much better case, considering that the ABC is involuntarily paid for by us.

  70. Mark Bahnisch

    Indeed, Dr Cat.

    The OLO thread in question literally makes painful reading, and half an hour of my life, etc…

    The point is not about “censorship” at all. As the OP pointed out, the premise of the classical liberal view of free speech (as exemplified, for instance, by John Stuart Mill) is that through reasoned argumentation, truth may emerge (it’s not a given that it will, as Mill is very well aware). All those prattling about “Socratic dialogue” and “Enlightenment values” should be aware that truth is not meant to be an outcome, either necessarily or contingently, of a series of ridiculous, risible, repetitive but hurtful and harmful slurs.

  71. Fran Barlow

    Jennifer

    Personally, I’m OK with moderation. Regrettably, without moderation you get enormous amounts of spam and utter drivel, and then there’s the Overton Window question.

    The reality is that voices of misanthropy and ignorance are far more numerous than those of reason, which is one important why governance is the way it is. Absent moderation, this place would be flooded by trolls attempting to make this another place not worth visiting. Every halfway sensible thread would be nuked. I spent a long time in usenet where there was no moderation, so I know how it goes.

    The perverse consequence is that free speech which certainly encompasses diversity, is underpinned by sensible moderation. In practice, there are few points of view that cannot be uttered here in some form or another, for those who have the wit. All the witless need to do is acquire some or go some place unmoderated where nobody cares what is said because none of it matters.

    This place is the cyber equivalent of a club. Every club has rules and if you don’t like them and can’t change them, you find somewhere else more to your liking. Simple.

  72. patrickg

    Storer and his “fellow travellers” and their “financial resources”? Are you kidding me?! Dude complained to two sponsors off his own back.

    I’m finally beginning to understand how Hendo and so many fusty right-wingers were commies in their youth. This sudden regression has been illuminating, to say the least.

    To argue – sans OLO – there’s few places on the internet to express opinion? Good lord. OLO becomes LOL. I want a corporate sponsor for my incoherent gibbering, too. And I’m outraged there isn’t one! It’s against

  73. patrickg

    [comment cut short due to lack of funds]

  74. tigtog

    To argue – sans OLO – there’s few places on the internet to express opinion? Good lord. OLO becomes LOL.

    OLO could quite easily be transformed to a free site on wordpress.com (or movable type, whatever) and still have all those different voices. Of course, they couldn’t have advertising, but they’d also have minimal costs (domain mapping costs ~$20 p.a.).

    This fiasco might be the end of some people making money out of OLO, but it needn’t be the end of OLO itself.

  75. Jacques Chester

    As I understand it, tigtog, OLO actually pays wages to staff, which is why its costs are high compared to other blogs.

  76. tigtog

    All the more reason then to behave professionally with respect to addressing the concerns of advertisers. Which they haven’t been, and are still not, doing.

  77. Jennifer Wilson

    I did say “in pretty extreme circumstances” – which of course are entirely subjective.

    It’s beyond me why anyone would continue reading anything they found painful – and it’s apparent quite quickly I think, when a comment falls into that category. I certainly don’t have much trouble noticing that and moving on.

    And I wasn’t suggesting that anyone leave themselves open to defamation. I didn’t expect to have to spell that out for this audience, but clearly I should have. I think that possibility would come under “pretty extreme circumstances, don’t you?

    It seems my comments have been interpreted as a criticism of this site, which was not my intention, but thank you, Ms Barlow, I am well aware that I may come and go from this or any other site as I please.

    I did not state that there are few places on the internet in which to express an opinion.

    I am wary of people who claim to know what “truth” is and where it comes from, Mr Bahnisch, and I prefer not to close my mind to the possibility of it emerging in the most unexpected places. In my experience this is very often the case.

    I am still surprised that an unidentified group using economic sanctions to forcibly close down an on line community does not alarm you, given your position on moderation. It is after all a thuggish, ignorant and witless course of action to take in protest against against any site.

    Patrick, if you are under the impression that institutions such as the ANZ and IBM place or don’t place their advertising in particular forums just because an unknown individual rings them up and tells them what he thinks they should do, well, LOL right back at you, dude.

    Thank you for your responses.
    Jennifer Wilson.

  78. Mark Bahnisch

    Jacques, fewer staff then before. Susan Prior, who was a professional editor, left last year when income became insufficient to continue to employ her:

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11090

    I think Fyodor may have been onto something at the first Troppo thread:

    What others said: this isn’t about free speech, but a flawed business model.

    Voltaire apparently never said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    Yah. He also never said,

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will fund to the death your right to say it.”

    http://clubtroppo.com.au/2011/02/06/troppo-bullied-by-corporarte-thugs/#comment-422987

    I’ve made the point before with respect to New Matilda: making an opinion website pay with full time staff is, in my view, virtually impossible. Someone recently calculated the ad income for News Limited’s Punch as just a few grand a week, so they must be losing lots of money if they’re a cost centre.

    Having said all that, I thoroughly agree with tigtog that if the aim is to save OLO in its present incarnation, the tactics are deeply counter-productive.

  79. Mark Bahnisch

    I am wary of people who claim to know what “truth” is and where it comes from, Mr Bahnisch, and I prefer not to close my mind to the possibility of it emerging in the most unexpected places. In my experience this is very often the case.

    Dr Bahnisch, thanks! If you feel you have to be formal! 😉

    I chose John Stuart Mill quite deliberately, Jennifer, given all the stuff written about “The Enlightenment” by the persons concerned. Having said that, I think he’s right. The truth is never going to emerge from a bunch of stereotypical religious right homophobic talking points, and there’s very good reason not to publish same.

  80. Jennifer Wilson

    tigtog, OLO was unaware that advertisers had any problems until after the ads were pulled.

    Graham Young then contacted ANZ, who knew nothing about it, as the pulling was done by their agency, without reference to them.

    Gregory Storer in fact contacted all the advertisers on the OLO site, and requested they all withdraw their business. I understand that others as well as ANZ and IBM did this.

    It’s unclear what influence Storer and others exerted in order to persuade them to do this.

    ANZ has since come under considerable attack from the ACL and Muehlenberg for taking a “pro gay marriage” stand.

    There are no staff at OLO. Young is it. It is his income.

  81. Jennifer Wilson

    Mark – I repeat, I am still surprised that an unidentified group using economic sanctions to forcibly close down an on line community does not alarm you, given your position on moderation. It is after all a thuggish, ignorant and witless course of action to take in protest against against any site.

    No comment on this?

    Dr Jennifer Wilson, if we are being formal.

  82. Calligula

    Jennifer, John, (ladies first)
    I’ll be sending this to Mr.Bartlett too.

    Mentioned above that my interpretation of what was happening was darker than John’s.
    I’ve taken time to follow that pingback above through Andrew B’s site then down the links ‘til I found a letter written by the person who lodged complaints with the advertisers at question.

    Seems, like me, that person found it necessary to write to Mr. Young and like me they found his response unacceptable in the extreme. (I’d best not go into the details)

    I chose to stop wasting my time by contributing to OLO – it wasn’t a difficult choice since I found myself reacting so badly the whole show became depressing – enough loonies out the front door any day.
    This other person, however, chose to take affirmative action and in result essentially had everyone’s advertising bombed.

    It is a shame that this action caused grief to others not involved directly but Mr. Young has been acting in ways that contradict the standards of his own charter.

    I note that some comments to Andrew express the same sentiment.

    It goes this way on the face of the record –
    OLO has a huge list of contributors; some quite prolific
    By going to the list they can be accessed as can any of their contributions.
    A significant number of those listed however seem to have had only a few bites of the cherry and then moved on.

    A reasonable person, having noticed this, might become curious and search through the files in order to discover the reason.

    That person, upon discovering – that these minor contributors were variously put down with escalating ridicule, sarcasm, ignore-ance, then abuse; seemingly staged in such a way to divert them, burr them up, embarrass, anger, then finally see them on their way – would become reasonably convinced the moderator of that weblog condoned that activity.

    Looking at the files from another angle reveals that a large number of the pen-names listed only contributed once.
    They went to a fair amount of bother to sign up and register for that one contribution which raises the question as to whether they were somehow put off bothering again, dropped dead suddenly, or are maybe merely being listed there as bums on seats to bolster Mr. Young’s resume’?

    A hard core of Mr. Young’s contributors, at first glance, appear of leftish/green persuasion. The same people first appearing as all sweetness and light soon resort to spite at the slightest excuse.

    They do not speak their own piece forthrightly rather attack viciously to the extent that they do their own professed cause irreparable harm.
    It is the way that this sort of thing is choreographed on the pages mentioned here and others that leads me to suspect that these actions are intended to harm certain causes that these pages claim to foster.

    Goebbels himself couldn’t have done a better job.

  83. Mark Bahnisch

    Jennifer, I can’t see any basis for claiming there’s an “unidentified group using economic sanctions”. All I see is a couple of aggrieved people (rightly aggrieved in my view) complaining to advertisers after their concerns had apparently been dismissed by OLO. It’s a mystery to me where all this conspiratorial stuff is coming from. However, it does seem to segue nicely into the fantasies some people seem to want to entertain about a “gay lobby” and “the pink dollar”.

    Obviously ANZ and IBM have great economic resources. But I’ve made it clear I think the argument that they are under some obligation to place their advertising at OLO, despite the fact that they believe aspects of what’s published there to be inconsistent with their stated values, is deeply incoherent. Similarly, I do not believe they are under any obligation to support someone’s conception of “free speech” if they choose not to.

    As I said in my first comment on all this, the notion that a democratic public sphere is something that is dependent on corporate funding is a wrong one, in my view, and indeed, antithetical to how market values and behaviour are normally understood.

    In any case, the frenzied attacks on them are hardly likely to encourage them to rethink. In my view, Graham Young would have done much better – in his own interest and that of OLO – to have approached them in a conciliatory way with the aim of entering a dialogue.

  84. Calligula

    The above is being sent around the ridges as a bit of a test of free speech.
    If I agree with some idiot ‘til the cows come home I get to have my say.
    If I disagree – or speak the truth on the face of the record I get censored.

    Some blog with a bare patch – compared to a send record – proves censorship as well as a mob of hoons burning books.

  85. Jennifer Wilson

    Do you really believe that one dude asking ANZ and IBM to remove their advertising from a site that upsets him will cause them to do just that?

    If its so easy, I’ll be on the phone all day tomorrow.

    Even the indefatigable Melinda Tankard Reist has to round up at least 1,000 signatures before she can get anything taken down.

    I have made no argument anywhere that the ANZ, IBM or anyone else is obliged to place their advertising with OLO. Of course they aren’t. I haven’t criticised either institution for removing their advertising, either.

    I’m not aware that Young has made “frenzied attacks” on ANZ and IBM. As far as I know his wrath has been largely focused on Gregory Storer.

    There are far more frenzied attacks on the ANZ from the ACL, Muehlenberg, and followers, who are beside themselves with outrage.

    As the ANZ bank is the biggest funder of coal fired power in Australia, does this mean we can expect them to remove all their advertising from sites that contain articles critical of fossil fuels? As they would be inconsistent with their stated values?

  86. Jennifer Wilson

    BTW, Mark, I’ve never mentioned the Enlightenment or Socratic dialogue either, but I can if you want.

  87. jules

    Mark when there are as many people in Australia who hold those views as there appear to be, then there are very good reasons to publish them.

    One of them is that otherwise these views will go unchallenged, and it does appear that OLO published a rebuttal. A reasoned well written rebuttal that does contribute to allowing any potential truth to emerge. That helps uncloud the truth.

    You can’t actually do more than call people out on their opinions in public and then rebut them.

    Not without crossing some lines anyway.

    If this debate is about online community standards, then I see a “meta” similarity between this sort of boycott and belting some drunk racist redneck who used words beginning n, c or b in a pub. Tho perhaps in this case its gone beyond that and the person has trashed the pub “as well”. (Or really “instead of” cos it doesn’t seem to have harmed BM.)

    Obviously there’s no physical violence involved. But OLO isn’t a physical venue or entity either.I’m still unsure how I feel about all that, especially give who is involved. I can think of other more prominent “bloggers” who allow room for odiousness in their comments yet who still have bank advertising. OLO certainly seems like an easy target in comparison.

  88. jules

    (Mark @102 – oops.)

  89. Mark Bahnisch

    @108 – Jennifer, it’s really not for me to justify ANZ and IBM’s decisions.

    The comments about a “Socratic dialogue” and “enlightenment values” refer to Graham Young and some others who’ve been arguing his part. I didn’t say that you had used them. However, if you agree that free speech is not the same as licence, presumably you must have some notion of what it is and why it is a good in mind, which I presume refers back to the usual sort of Millian position. If I’m in error about that, I’m sorry, but if you argue using contested terms, I think there is an onus on you to specify what you understand by them. A lot of this debate arises precisely because the meaning of “free speech” – in use – is far from obvious.

  90. Mark Bahnisch

    That’s also a question I note that Kim has posed to Graham on the Troppo thread:

    http://clubtroppo.com.au/2011/02/07/online-opinion-and-the-norms-of-debate/#comment-423247

  91. Mark Bahnisch

    @110 – jules, I think the article by Muehlenberg is a piece of confected rubbish, but I could see a case for its publication given that there was a desire to represent a variety of views on a contested public issue. Perhaps there isn’t anyone who is capable of writing something more considered, argumentative or persuasive? I don’t know: fortunately, perhaps, I’m not obliged to go around looking for cogent positions against same sex marriage.

    It’s certainly not a “literature review” as Graham described it. It’s an amalgam of quotes seeking to portray “homosexuals” as having an “agenda”.

    However, it has become pretty clear that the whole thing actually turns on the comments thread. No one, to my knowledge, has been able to offer a defense in particular terms of the vile stuff published there. Perhaps you haven’t read it?

  92. Nickws

    Update: The person who apparently made the complaint has had his say at On Line Opinion.

    Just how important was Gregory Storer in getting ANZ and IBM to withdraw their support from the ‘the domain’?

    These comments bother me:

    I wrote to every advertiser I could find on the site, and in true fashion, most didn’t bother to respond, some responded and dismissed my complaint, others said the editorial decision was up to the site, and some withdrew their funding.

    I’m not an ‘activist’ I’m a citizen of Australia

    I think Storer’s perfectly entitled to do what he did, Young was just asking for it with his glibertarian free-for-all comments policies.

    I just don’t like the fact he automatically decides to deny the true import of what he’s set in motion (“but most of the transnationals I contacted wouldn’t even return my call!”). There’s no reason why he shouldn’t own the whole context of this, admit to being an activist, and, at this point, being a bloody successful one. One seriously doubts he has to worry about gibbering experts defending non-OLO amateur bloggers from restrain of trade or whatever.

    IMO hamfisted attempts to take the politics out of politics in all this will only make the Rightwingers declare there to be a secretive gay mafia at work behind the scenes (which I suppose will generate another rote Weekend Oz article about how it’s really the progressives these days who play the man and not the ball, yadda yadda yadda.)

  93. Nickws

    Oh dear, I swear I hadn’t read through to the end of this thread when I wrote about debate [sic] turning towards ‘secretive gay mafia at work’.

  94. Mark Bahnisch

    Was just about to say, Nickws! 😉

  95. jules

    Mark @114, I think that Muehlenberg actually sums up the arguments against Gay marriage very well. And I agree with your assessment of his “piece of work”.

    That yet again the arguments against same sex marriage have to be shown to be bigoted, baseless garbage is a reflection of our society. Unfortunately, because of the changes to the marriage act, and other puritan bullshit we have bad legislation in Australia. So effectively Muehlenberg is the “mainstream” view, regardless of what the population really thinks.

    Sad but true.

    I’m not offering a defense to those comments. I’m not gay, but I have some pretty strong views about “race”/colour based bigotry, and so I can understand why Mr Storer acted the way he did. I can see the similarity – hate speech is hate speech. personally tho I’m against moderating it. I’d rather shout it down. (And of course what other people do on their own blogs is their business to a point.) And if Mr Storer was acting “as a citizen,” I understand his actions, and don’t object to them either.

    However, in this case there are 2 things I find disturbing. The first is that Mr Storer appears to have been the Secular Party candidate for Melb Ports last election, but doesn’t declare his position, as nickws mentioned @ 115.

    Secondly the consequences of his actions – his target isn’t Muehlenberg but a publisher. Now this reminds me a little of what happened with Paypal, Visa etal wrt wikileaks late last year. I’m not wholly comfortable with it. Most of my unease centres around Mr Storer not mentioning what appears to be a Party Political affiliation, regardless of how personally he was acting.

  96. Jennifer Wilson

    Mark @112,
    I agree it isn’t for you to justify these things.

    But as you pointed out more than once that ANZ and IBM have a right to refuse to advertise on sites that do not accord with their pro gay marriage and anti vilification values, you might also have an opinion on whether or not applying those ethical standards only to the issue of gay marriage is discriminatory on the part of the bank.

    There is a difference between conspiracy theories and common sense.

    Common sense should tell anyone that it is highly unlikely that any large organisation will plan its advertising placements around a complaint from one individual.

    Perhaps I can test this tomorrow. I can ring the bank, tell them I am offended by the continued use of fossil fuels, and will they kindly remove their advertising from every opinion site carrying articles that support this.

    As the climate change debate generates as much if not more abuse and vilification than does the gay marriage debate, I should be able to back up my complaint by pointing out that when I object to the use of fossil fuels, I am roundly abused by people from the coal industry, among others.

    Of course the ANZ will listen most sympathetically, and remove their advertising straight away.

    Because that is what nice banks do when one person is upset.

    Of course, if the climate change thing is too difficult, I can ask them to remove all their advertising from sites carrying vilifying articles about asylum seekers – such as the SMH, the Australian, etc., as vilification does not accord with the ANZ’s organisational values.

    Then I can move on to IBM and as they’ve proved with Gregory Storer, they too will heed the complaints of one individual and stop advertising in places where I’m being offended.

    And now I’m going to sleep because I have a very big day tomorrow, making nice with friendly, sensitive global corporations who are waiting to financially punish the sites that have abused me, and I need my rest.

    Thank you all for your engagement.
    Jennifer.

  97. FDB

    “It seems the “Christian Lobby” here is perhaps more active in trying to influence decisions made by these corporates than the ephemeral “pink mafia”.”

    Well yes.

    The difference is pretty stark between a ‘pink mafia’ – really one person – who in a fit of pique called the advertisers’ attention to the kind of crap they were indirectly (and inadvertently) supporting, and an actual, well-funded group for whom this sort of lobbying is core business.

  98. FDB

    Also, I’d suggest that the people who made the decision to rip the ads were seeing it as a PR exercise.

    Not too big a hit to their broader ad exposure (no offence intended to anyone’s audience share), and possibly a bit of a winner with the gay community.

  99. anthony

    Ken Parish

    Does advertising render our efforts relevantly indistinguishable from the commercial media?

    Bless.

  100. Jennifer Wilson

    Kim – people may comment here all the time without disclosing party affiliations, but I bet they don’t try and shut you down.

    That’s the reason Storer should have declared all his interests –

    Plus what makes me even more curious is that all articles on OLO dealing with gay marriage have similar comments to those provoked by Muehlenberg’s article. Probably written by the same loony people.

    Yet Storer has never, not once complained about any of them.

    I have asked Storer if there is personal/political antagonism in progress between him and Muehlenberg, and if this is the reason he decided to complain about being offended. Using OLO as a means to settle private scores.

    Otherwise, why hasn’t he complained before, I asked him.

    No answer to that question, plenty of answers to all the others I asked.

    He could have said he hadn’t read the other articles, but he didn’t.

    Muehlenberg is the spokesperson for the Family Council of Victoria who have an anti gay marriage position. Maybe there is history and that explains Storer’s decision to make his complaints. I did ask.

    BTW apparently the ANZ felt their values had been transgressed by the article, not the comments.

    The problem with being so dismissive about *conspiracy theories* or something resembling them is that once in a while there really is one and you miss it.

    Then again I could be quite wrong. That bank could just be really really nice.

  101. anthony

    However, had I been the editor of OLO, I would not have published Muehlenberg, because he did not argue a cogent case, but rather strung together a series of unrepresentative quotes designed to claim, in the precise manner that the Religious Right has made long use of, that there is some universal “homosexual” agenda. That’s rubbish, and this mode of argument is neither fair nor reasonable.

    THIS. Young’s portrayal of himself as the enlightenment trumpet through which the winds of opinion blow is an avoidance of his own agency. It is, as they used to say, an act of bad faith.

  102. anthony

    Absolument!

  103. FDB

    Not to mention bad taste.

  104. Jennifer Wilson

    Kim @122 – Never suggested this had to take place at any high level. This stuff often doesn’t.

    Given the campaigns being waged by the fundies, who do have a wide reach and a lot of supporters on the gay marriage issue across all demographics, whoever made the decision to pull the ads because of Muehlenberg and comments didn’t think it through.

    *Corporations tend not to want to fund vilification of minorities.* Does this mean the ANZ won’t mind losing customers because the ACL etc (who vilify minorities) persuade them to shift to Westpac?

    After all, so many of those anti gay marriage customers with mortgages and loans funded by the bank are actively engaged in vilification of homosexuals, in direct conflict with the bank’s organisational values.

    What an interesting dilemma.

  105. Nickws

    Wow, that Menzies House diatribe is full-metal Danish cartoonist martydom stuff.

    There is some major ideological & culture war behaviour at work here.

    Bugger the supposed powers of a pseudonymous Internet commenter upset at other pseudonymous commenters, I think the real lesson here is that certain Howard era highbrow meeja non-Leftists still have what it takes to get people all riled up about imagined persecutions. And that Liberal junior G-men will stil ask ‘how high’ before jumping in support of that argument.(Or: Arthur Chrenkoff> Tim Andrews. Everything has been done before. We are all aware of all Internet traditions.)

    Also, I wonder if that child of the Enlightenment Graham Young is about to find himself drawn towards accepting corporatist thinktank funding for his site. I suppose in theory that would be a damn shame, but seeing as how I haven’t read anything written there since the middle of the decade it’s not going to hurt me personally if they go and dance with the devil.

  106. jules

    I don’t think a “pink mafia” needs to be invoked, even if he enlisted support, which hasn’t been established. And there is a fledgling lobby group trying counter the likes of Muehlenberg, J Wallace and others. I’m sure they’d be happy to attack BM and good on them for it. I’ll support them too.

    They are not a “pink” group in any way, cept they reject discrimination. Its no great assumption to make a link between his potential support whether he sought it or not.

    It seems to me significant that he was approached to resolve the matter first. I still think Young’s best approach would have been to resolve the issue through negotiation and dialogue with those with whom his site had a commercial relationship. He’s chosen instead to launch what is in effect a political campaign. I doubt that will persuade those advertisers to rethink their decision.

    Kim @121

    Yeah that makes sense to me. Honestly I don’t see either side as right, and at first glance would probably support Storer against OLO on principle. Definitely if he initiated or initiates a boycott against BMs business interests (if he has any). Young certainly hasn’t responded well, then again sometimes people react badly to situations, and say and do things they might regret or wish they hadn’t done.

    I still feel a little odd about this. See Jennifer @126. I think GS should have declared all his interests, even if he stated he was acting independently anyway.

    Online connectivity changes power balances, and regardless of whatever Clinton did in the past, right now financial viability does effect modern tech based communications and connectivity, so in that sense I do still see a similarity between the OLO situation and wikileaks last dec.

    Honestly I’m not comfortable with what happened, and its not cos some gay guy stood up for himself. I had friends at Tasty nightclub when it was raided. That was another example of the state based discrimination that Muehlenberg is trying to defend, and that comments that followed enable and promote.

    And thats what is at issue here for me. I don’t think a potential MP should be acting the way Storer has without declaring that he is a potential MP, even if he was acting just as a citizen.

    Its too much like the same thing from the other side.

    As far as IBM and ANZ, well its not often I commend corporations but they acted in an ethical way and responded to a social justice concern, tho with minimal real research it seems, and Young didn’t help the situation. Of course as you say the outlay etc is negligible so its not a big deal for them.

    But it does have a powerful effect on OLO, and associates.

  107. Brian

    Jennifer, believe it or not corporations do at times take positions on ethical grounds that cost them business.

    Other than that I wish to point out that on at least two occasions you have used non-evidence as a basis for making up your mind when there could have been other explanations.

    @ 126, there could have been many reasons why Storer didn’t answer you. He may have been concerned about the way you seemed to construe his other answers, or there could have been something nonverbal in the interaction that sent his mind off on a different track. Or whatever.

    Then there was this @ 108, and elsewhere:

    Do you really believe that one dude asking ANZ and IBM to remove their advertising from a site that upsets him will cause them to do just that?

    Yes, I do believe it was possible quite apart from how likely it may have been.

    Your hypothetical experiments of getting them to take similar action on other fronts prove nothing and are irrelevant.

  108. Jennifer Wilson

    I remain intrigued by the assurances that all I have to do is pick up the phone or send an email, tell ANZ and IBM that I want them to pull their ads, and they will do that.

    Every time I’ve been involved with trying to pull ads, it’s meant petitions, signatures, blah blah blah.

    Can’t agree with you that the motivations, history, affiliations of someone using economic force to close down an on line community are irrelevant.

    But we must agree to differ now. We’re about to go round in circles.

    For some reason some bloggers seem to have their knives out for Young, don’t know what that’s about. But the almost gleeful self-righteousness at his misfortune as expressed in some quarters is remarkable. *He had it coming,* is writ large.

    Mostly people seem to be outraged at what’s considered his lack of moderating in the forums – which I find a little precious, considering comments I’ve seen in other places.

    I think I agree with Menzies House about LP’s statement.

    And the initial reactions to my first comments on this blog tonight were pretty nasty.

    Somebody called Barlow told me straight away that this site is a club, and If I didn’t like the rules of the club I should leave and find another.

    Not the kind of abuse you can complain about and have moderated, but abuse all the same.

    MB pulled an I’m more intellectual than you number, just to let me know the company I’m in here, but backed off a bit when I revealed I’m a doctor too.

    Mmmm. All in all, not a great experience mixing it with the LP crowd.

  109. Brian

    MB pulled an I’m more intellectual than you number, just to let me know the company I’m in here, but backed off a bit when I revealed I’m a doctor too.

    Jennifer, I know him better than most and I can assure you you’ve got that all wrong.

  110. Jennifer Wilson

    Thanks for that, Brian.

    I haven’t used any evidence to make up my mind, because I haven’t made up my mind. I have presented the full situation as I’ve experienced it, and raised questions that remain unanswered for me.

    Is there some objection here to me doing this? Or is it only acceptable to reveal those snippets that comply with the dominant narrative? Is this one of the club’s rules? If so you really should make that clear to anyone who ventures onto your site.

    *Your hypothetical experiments of getting them to take similar action on other fronts prove nothing and are irrelevant.*

    Oh? And why would that be? You offer no justification or evidence for that statement. You have not put my hypotheticals to any test. You seem to believe you have enough authority for your opinion to be accepted as fact.

    In other words you have used non evidence as a basis for making up your mind, and very rudely and offensively dismissing my hypotheses.

    I was not aware that hypotheticals were intended to prove anything.

    What is it with you people?

  111. rumrebellious

    Thanks for the link to Bill, Kym. Does anyone know how to join the ‘gaystapo’ (presumably they’re the militant wing of the dangerous ‘pink mafia’) in their fight for ‘gayocracy’*?

    They sound so cool. A light-hearted link.

    *Also credit to Bill for using a word that appears only 452 times on the entire internets according to google. Gaystapo gets 15900 if anyone is interested.

  112. Jennifer Wilson

    Brian, if I’ve got that all wrong I can’t say I’m very concerned about it.

    Navigating MB’s idiosyncrasies of expression is not high on my list of things to do.

    I’m expressing an impression – again one that apparently does not comply with the dominant narrative on this site.

    And there is no reason why I should know MB, or be dismissed because I don’t.

    With the exception of I think one commenter, I have read a list of comments addressed to me this evening that have patronised, ridiculed, dismissed, lectured, preached and one that pretty much told me to clear off, I didn’t belong in the club.

    None of them could be subjected to moderation. But they were abusive, unfriendly, and offensive in tone and attitude.

    Obviously you believe yourselves to be superior to the commenters at OLO, and I suppose to Graham Young.

    Clearly you don’t like strangers in your midst unless they agree with you.

  113. Brian

    Jennifer, I’ve said what I said and I think I’ll leave it at that. To answer your every point would stir up a lot of dust with a low effort/reward ratio.

  114. Paul Burns

    Well, this has been very interesting reading. Rather novel, and thought provoking, to see LP from an outsider’s perspective.

  115. Paul Burns

    I’ve read through this thread, parts of it more than once, and I’ve had a bit of a think. The very interesting revelation to me, is that this bloke Storer is a member of the Secular Party. As you all know by now I have absolutely no time for Xtan fundies. So what I’m saying should in no way be seen as a defence of the ACL. Politics is a peculiar thing, and people can be motivated in very odd ways by their political beliefs. I gather the Secular Party is virulently anti-Xtan. So this does make me wonder whether this guy’s motivations are far more than a protest against anti-gay vilification. If it was only the latter, I’d be quite happy with his actions, and in any case, it doesn’t seem the protagonist and antagonist in this debate has covered themselves in glory. I think I’ve just about said what I want to say. If any of you want to get into a flame war with me over these observations, forget it. That’s never going to happen again after my last experience a week or so ago. I just won’t respond.

  116. Paul Burns

    Oh, and I think having Jennifer wilson around as an LP regular would be heaps of fun.

  117. tigtog

    @Brian:

    MB pulled an I’m more intellectual than you number, just to let me know the company I’m in here, but backed off a bit when I revealed I’m a doctor too.

    Jennifer, I know him better than most and I can assure you you’ve got that all wrong.

    I don’t know Mark as well as Brian does, but I’m confident that Jennifer’s got that all wrong too. Let’s just examine exactly what Mark “pulled”, eh?

    @JenniferMark, upthread, in response to Jennifer:

    I am wary of people who claim to know what “truth” is and where it comes from, Mr Bahnisch, and I prefer not to close my mind to the possibility of it emerging in the most unexpected places. In my experience this is very often the case.

    Dr Bahnisch, thanks! If you feel you have to be formal! 😉

    So Jennifer, given that you were engaging in the pompous condescension of “Mr Bahnisch” for rhetorical effect, he punctured your sly pomposity with a display of heightened mock pomposity, and marked it with an emoticon to boot. Other people know how to play with rhetorical flourishes too, you know.

    Thus, in my opinion only of course, what Mark “pulled” here was “giving Jennifer some of her own medicine” in a playful manner. Your response of waving your own doctorate in an offended manner rather than playfully showed you weren’t going to own that you took the first shot, which is when he “backed off” from your disingenuousness. Which you are now, even more disingenuously, trying to reframe as him taking the first shot.

    HTH, HAND.

  118. tigtog

    P.S. Doubtless my contribution above will be added by Jennifer to the list of hostile comments, and I’ll grant that it’s certainly not especially friendly. Obviously it’s hard to come onto a site where one’s opinions/challenges run so strongly counter to the zeitgeist that they are challenged from all sides. I’m not sure what else one should expect though.

    Jennifer, you have shown repeatedly that you jump immediately to the most negative interpretation possible of other people’s comments. It’s hardly any surprise that this elicits some mirroring behaviours. You object to somebody mentioning that this site is a club with rules, but it’s true, because it’s true of every other site on the internet that interacts with commentors – every single one of those sites has rules about which comments will and will not stand (even the ones who initially thought they didn’t need them), and every single one of those sites has a core commentariat which sets the tone, because they are the regulars. This is just how human interaction works, even on OLO, it’s not some special wall that LP has built around itself.

  119. It's all about me!

    (Long and OT Concern-Troll Repellent ahead. Readers interested in the topic please skip over this one)

    Jennifer @ various:

    I have read a list of comments addressed to me this evening that have patronised, ridiculed, dismissed, lectured, preached and one that pretty much told me to clear off, I didn’t belong in the club…

    …they were abusive, unfriendly, and offensive in tone and attitude…

    …Obviously you believe yourselves to be superior to the commenters at OLO, and I suppose to Graham Young…

    …Clearly you don’t like strangers in your midst unless they agree with you…

    …You seem to believe you have enough authority for your opinion to be accepted as fact…

    …In other words you have used non evidence as a basis for making up your mind, and very rudely and offensively dismissing my hypotheses…

    What is it with you people?

    Oh, I don’t know, Jennifer. But please, by all means, go ahead and free-associate, project and misattribute whatever motivations you like onto the cartoon image of the LP ‘club’ ‘hivemind’ you’ve cooked up.

    I mean, you opened your remarks here with this statement:

    I am wary of people who claim to know what “truth” is and where it comes from,

    But you’re pretty darn declarative when it comes to labeling the reception you’ve received as ‘rude’, ‘offensive’, ‘patronising’ or whatever.

    What if I told you that my impression of the reception you received is that people have been a model of patience and forbearance, and extended a presumption of good-faith to your efforts– right up until around @138-140, when you seem to have used some frankly fairly reasonable, moderate and well-argued replies as grist to affirm the prejudice with which you arrived here? (That we’re all ‘offensive’ and ‘patronising’ etc.)

    Now, according to you, you “prefer not to close my mind to the possibility of [truth] emerging in the most unexpected places.”

    And yet you seem to have exited from here with exactly the same views with which you entered.

    Sorry we didn’t have what you were looking for.

    Kthnxbai

  120. Fine

    Gee, Dr. Wilson is one precious little petal.

  121. Jennifer Wilson

    Wow!

    I rest my case.

  122. Fine

    Dr. Wilson, you arrived here offering a robust argument, quite forcefully put. You were met with similar style arguments. I suspect you thought you would be met with people who couldn’t counter your point of view. But you were, so you flounced.

    You also chose to get quite insulting about Mark, whose place this is and whose tolerance and good humour seems amazing to me at times. People didn’t like that much either, I imagine. Could I suggest that the first time you visit a blog it isn’t that clever to tell people how they got it all wrong, and then insult the host?

    Could you point out some examples where you met with abuse?

  123. adrian

    Precious petal indeed, but since her case is rested it may be the last we’ll hear from her.

    Well said Fine.

  124. CJ Morgan

    Dr Wilson appears to be waging some kind of campaign against Gregory Storer, on behalf of OLO. What she refuses to acknowledge is Graham Young’s role in creating the situation where Storer felt he had no further redress after Young dismissed his complaint, other than to take the action he did.

    Neither does she acknowledge the partiality of Young’s moderation decisions, which tend to hold ‘progressive’ commenters to a much higher standard of discourse than the wingnuts, homophobes, denialists, misogynists and racists that create what Andrew Bartlett has called a toxic environment at OLO.

    Those of us who’d been around OLO much longer than Dr Wilson aren’t at all surprised that somebody finally retaliated against Young’s draconian and unfair treatment of progressive commenters on his site. As someone else has said, it’s a case of chickens coming home to roost.

  125. patrickg

    Patrick, if you are under the impression that institutions such as the ANZ and IBM place or don’t place their advertising in particular forums just because an unknown individual rings them up and tells them what he thinks they should do, well, LOL right back at you, dude.

    Jennifer I’m not at liberty to discuss this as I would like because I work for one of the companies in question – in their communications department, no less, so it’s not appropriate for me to continue this discussion beyond this point.

    However let me guarantee to you, that one individual can have this kind of impact very easily, if they are viewed as representative of a broader cross section of the community. The money these companies were paying for this is chump change for them, and they are constantly assessing ad-spend.

    FYI I understand that OLO or the agency was approached more than once about removing advertising from the piece in question from at least one of the orgs involved, before all advertising was removed.

    And that’s all I will say about this.

  126. Pavlov's Cat

    Jennifer, your first comment on this thread — and if I understand you correctly, on this blog — begins with the words ‘Unlike most commenters here’.

    That is, your opening move was to declare yourself in opposition to the entire site. (As you saw it, anyway, and you clearly saw and continue to see it as some kind of homogenous blob, not unlike the way you see ‘the gay lobby’.) If you really didn’t intend that opening remark to look like a direct challenge and provocation, and if you really thought it wouldn’t/shouldn’t get people’s backs up, then you just can’t be thinking clearly about how language works.

    But I’ve just been and had a longish read of your blog (which is amazing, BTW) and it’s very clear to me that you know exactly how language works. I think you knew exactly what you were doing from the outset, so it’s a bit disingenuous to complain about the reaction you got.

  127. derrida derider

    I too was very disappointed by that LP statement. It betrays a wrongheaded attitude to debate, with more than a whiff of “Young had it coming” in it.

    Just bear in mind that there is no such thing as a right not to be offended. That a statement is offensive – even deeply offensive – is not of itself a good reason to suppress it, so Storer has done an evil thing. There needs to be a more specific harm, such as (at one extreme) thread derailment or (at the other) directly causing violence. If people refrain from feeding trolls the risk of flame wars is fairly low anyway.

    Generally I disregard denuciations about “political correctness” – they tend to be deeply hypocritical and designed to shut down, not expand, debate. But I think the Catallaxites are right about this one.

  128. Jennifer Wilson

    Fine, I am mildly offended that you assume an arrogance on my part sufficient for me to anticipate that I wouldn’t meet anyone on this blog capable of countering my point of view.

    That is very far from who I am, and from my attitude and approach to others. However, I don’t expect you to know that because you have never met me.

    As you have never met me, I can only speculate that the assumptions you’ve made about my character, on the strength of a few comments, may well contain an element of projection.

    Abuse, especially the less overt variety, can, like beauty,reside in the eye of the beholder.
    I merely expressed my personal sense of the tone of the comments addressed to me.

    Or are personal impressions forbidden on this site?

    I have not once told anyone “how they got it wrong.” I am amazed that your understanding of robust disagreement is one party telling another they’ve got it all wrong.

    I have willingly and forthrightly expressed my own uncertainty about some of the matters I’ve raised. I thought I was in a discussion forum, where it is permissible to raise possibilities, express one’s own uncertainty about those possibilities, and wait for other opinions.

    If I have insulted the host, I’m sure he is more than capable of addressing the insult directly with me. Again, experiences of insult and abuse can be entirely subjective.

    I don’t think I was particularly forceful in my opening comments about my views on moderation. I was polite, I was clear, I presented a point of view other than that which seems to dominate this site.

    Having looked at other threads here, its my opinion that it is very much a closed blog, that the comments are largely exchanged between those of like mind, and there is very little outside commentary. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I make no criticism. It is an established safe space, where the dominant ethos is not seriously challenged. Everybody needs one from time to time.

    Personally, I prefer a far wider exchange of views, and I don’t mind how disparate those views are. Given my preferences, this site is not one that would satisfy me, and most certainly I would not satisfy the commenters established here.

    Thank you for your unsolicited advice on blog etiquette.
    It has been fun.
    Thank you all for your engagement with me.
    Jennifer Wilson.

  129. Jennifer Wilson

    Pavlov’s Cat – I am astonished at your interpretation of my opening comment.

    I was establishing that I am coming from another point of view –

    I do not come from a culture where establishing another point of view is immediately interpreted as deliberately designed to “get another person’s back up.”

    It is just what it is, announcing another point of view. It wasn’t an announcement of war.

    The fact that you have interpreted that opening statement as a combative opening stance on my part says everything about the prevailing attitudes on this blog.

    Disagreement is to you, apparently, a declaration of hostilities.

    I do indeed have considerable knowledge of how language works. I dislike your implication that it’s been my intention to conceal this, and that you have somehow “outed” me by reading my blog.

    One of the things I know about language is that meaning is determined as much by the reader of the text as it is by the writer. You are responsible for your interpretation of my words, and it’s a mistake to assume that interpretation bears any correspondence at all to my intentions.

    Is this some kind of group paranoia?

  130. Terangeree

    Having read through the discussion so far, I’m still of the opinion that the relevant advertising agency just decided that their clients’ money would be more effectively spent elsewhere and that this has nothing to do with “freedom of speech”, “censorship” or any similar issue-de-jour.

  131. Paul Burns

    Well, I thought Mark was being facetious. (He is sometimes, you know, to my great delight.)
    Now re the LP public statement on ONO. I can see why it was made. LP has a comments policy that is, broadly, anti-vilification. This is necessary on a political blog, because sometimes, hopefully, topics chosen for discussion are, hopefully, highly contentious and one doesn’t really want to see them descend into people calling people [insert the most offensive denigratory term you can think of relating to a topic.]
    OTOH, LP was mentioned only in an article by Pearson, and I do wonder if it may not have been better to remain silent rather than playing into Pearson’s hands and creating further, potentially negative publicity on the issue. But that’s me.
    I don’t think it was a cowardly act, but I’m not sure if it was a necessary one so early in the debate. (If this thing gets legs it could go for weeks.)

  132. j_p_z

    Dr. Wilson — ah, come on, take that chill pill and mellow out a bit. I’m one of the resident contrarians here, I get kicked in the shins all the time, it’s really not that big a deal. If you get a bit more accustomed to the atmosphere and tone, LP has IMO some of the highest conversational standards to be found on the intertubes.

    I disagree with these folks a lot, but they’re generally witty and smart and they try to make their case, and they very often do a good job. There’s a lot of areas where it’s quite clear that I’m never gonna convince them, and they’re never gonna convince me, but you know what? it’s a big world. People can talk constructively without joining everybody else’s fan clubs.

    Take a break and have a nice cup of miso soup and a think, and then come on back and join the tumult. I don’t have a clear sense of your outlook, but you’re clearly very sharp, and that’s worth a thing or two. Relax!

  133. tigtog

    You are responsible for your interpretation of my words, and it’s a mistake to assume that interpretation bears any correspondence at all to my intentions.

    Pot, I’d like you to meet Kettle.

    Is this some kind of group paranoia?

    It’s a group of people who, at least those contributing to this thread, aren’t impressed by your arguments so far. Not quite the same thing.

  134. Paul Burns

    Oh, obviously my view on this topic has changed as more information has come out. At first I thought it was just a plain free speech issue, then it became clear it was in fact a vilification issue. Like most sensible people I’m against vilification (also a reasonably sensible attitude for a disabled person to take, since I have copped a little vilification in my life.) (As I said in another comment somewhere, vilification isn’t free speech, its the denial of free speech.)Then the vilification issue got a bit confused as it appeared the complainant may have had political Secular Party motives as well as the perfectly justified objection to gays being vilified because they’re gay.
    For future reference this doesn’t mean robust debate on a contentious issue isn’t okay, but it just shouldn’t be all out insulting. (Well, most of the time. These RWDBS get me saying things harshly sometimes.)

  135. tigtog

    @Terangeree,

    Having read through the discussion so far, I’m still of the opinion that the relevant advertising agency just decided that their clients’ money would be more effectively spent elsewhere and that this has nothing to do with “freedom of speech”, “censorship” or any similar issue-de-jour.

    I’m with you. I note, however, that it’s another fine example of how many free-speech-online folks really, really don’t like it when other people exercise their own free speech rights to criticism and activism against whatever has been said. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, and if one of those consequences is a critic writing to an advertising agency and saying “Are you sure your clients’ interests are being best served by being associated with this content?” and the ad agency saying “Yowzers, no!” then everybody in this scenario is acting within their rights and is not trampling on the rights of anyone else.

    Certainly, there may be criticism in many directions able to be allotted on various other grounds, but not on the grounds of anybody’s free speech rights being abridged.

  136. Fine

    “Abuse, especially the less overt variety, can, like beauty,reside in the eye of the beholder.
    I merely expressed my personal sense of the tone of the comments addressed to me.

    Or are personal impressions forbidden on this site?”

    Abuse is quite a serious claim. I imagined there were specific words that caused those personal impressions. Otherwise, I don’t know where that personal impression could have come from.

    “If I have insulted the host, I’m sure he is more than capable of addressing the insult directly with me. Again, experiences of insult and abuse can be entirely subjective.”

    Mark is entirely capable of addressing this. I was explaining why some commentators here might have found it inappropriate.

    And I wasn’t using “forceful” as an insult. Just pointing out you were met with forceful arguments, most of which disagreed with yours.

    I honestly don’t understand why you’re feeling offended and abused. As jpz (with whom I disagree with about 80% of the time) said, mellow out a bit.

  137. Jennifer Wilson

    CJ Morgan,
    My position for the millionth time, is that I am not in favour of closing down an entire on line community, with many many different views on many many different topics, and using economic sanctions as a means to do that.

    Graham Young owns his site, it is his small business, it is his workplace, it is his source of income.

    I think it is a very dangerous thing when anybody exerts their economic power against another, to the degree that you destroy their business, and their livelihood, because they haven’t done what you wanted them to do, even if you are justified in feeling aggrieved.

    It is the action of a tyrant, and tyrants everywhere do exactly the same thing, and I don’t care what side they are on, it is still a tyrannical exercise of economic power over those who do not have the means to fight back economically.

    Now, Storer has legitimate grievances. He doesn’t feel they were adequately addressed.
    So he is right to destroy another’s livelihood, and destroy an on line community, and silence people like me who’s opinions would not be published anywhere else, because he is dissatisfied?

    You, and apparently many others, feel that Storer is justified in ruining Young. Indeed the savage glee at his situation is sickening.

    You too have grievances against Young, and I am not familiar with what they are, neither am I interested so don’t feel obliged to let me know.

    You too seem to feel that your grievances are such that they entitle you to advocate for the closure of the site and Young’s financial collapse.

    Do you actually understand that this is what the consequences of pulling the advertising will be? This doesn’t bother you? Young’s ruin is just punishment for the suffering you’ve endured?

    None of that matters to you, you can’t even hear this aspect of it because you are so blinded by your self righteous determination to get the satisfaction you feel is due to you.

    This is an infantile and narcissistic and immoral attitude to hold. In my opinion. You will trash everything there is to be trashed because you are owed. Very mature.

    And what will change? You will bring an end to vilification? You will bring an end to discrimination and oppression? You will make the world safer for everybody?

    Of course you won’t. You won’t change anything.

    You’ll get your own petty personal satisfaction and your momentary thrill of revenge at his downfall. And that’s all you’ll get.

    There is , as derrida derider says, no such thing as the right not to be offended.

    I also am suspicious as to Storer’s motives and his agenda.
    I don’t even know Graham Young.
    But what is going on disgusts me.

  138. Natalie

    @124 FDB – agreed, although I think it goes a little deeper than that. Although I do think PR comes into it, I doubt that any marketer worth their merit wants their brand to be associated with this vitriol. It’s not about economic sanctions, it’s about good marketing sense and corporate image.

  139. Fine

    But no-one closed down his business Dr. Wilson. Advertisers decided they didn’t want to spend money with that business, for commercial reasons, presumably.

    I didn’t realise that ‘freedom of speech’ meant a demand that advertisers support your speech financially.

  140. adrian

    “Young’s ruin is just punishment for the suffering you’ve endured?”

    You sure he’s going to be ‘ruined’ by the the withdrawal of what is by all accounts a meagre amount of advertising revenue?

    “…and silence people like me who’s opinions would not be published anywhere else, because he is dissatisfied?”

    You have your own blog do you not?

    I have a degree of sympathy (rapidly diminishing) for your position, but it is certainly not helped by the ridiculous hyperbole in which you indulge above.

  141. tigtog

    @Jennifer Wilson,

    I’m not gleeful at the possibility that Graham Young will be ruined by this, if indeed the website is his only source of income. I just don’t agree that he has any right to expect corporate sponsors to support his business. Nobody has that right.

    I also still don’t accept your repeated premise that there is any exertion of economic power by Storer going on here, which invalidates for me the further arguments you build upon that premise. Storer wrote a lot of letters of complaint, and it looks like ONE of them caught the attention of a decision-maker who didn’t like what sie saw on OLO once zie looked at it. That’s the exertion of Storer’s own free speech rights combined with diligence, persistence and a bit of serendipity, not an exertion of economic power.

  142. Jennifer Wilson

    I’ve just had two comments on my blog from Michael Barnett, who is Gregory Storer’s partner.

    Michael: I have the answers to your questions and you’d be surprised and disappointed with them.

    Me: Well, tell us the answers, then.

    Michael: I don’t need to tell you what I know. You can trust me on this. You expect everyone to trust you on your blog don’t you?

    Very straightforward and above board.

  143. Fine

    Given your antipathy to Storer, I wouldn’t blame him for not telling you. Although posting that he had the answers seems a bit silly.

  144. paul of albury

    I’m a bit puzzled by the relevance of the secular party line. I could understand this being an issue if there was an inference that the action was to improve the tactical position of a party, as typically seen in contrarianism adopted to score political points off your rivals.

    But I can’t see that the secular party are significant enough for this to be an issue (apologies for the slight but I doubt you’ll be forming government soon). I’ve also seen no evidence that this is about recruiting support for the party.

    On the other hand I could see an argument that secular party membership implies an irrational hatred of deists, which has driven this action. But I think it’s quite reasonable to assume that it’s abuse like this that drive a distaste for religious politics. That representing the secular party is consequent to reaction against abuse rather than acting because of party affiliation.

    I note also that the argument seems as much or more against the actions of OLO in censoring pro-gay comments as in OLO not censoring the abuse. It seems to be about fairness, not censorship.

    I also find the argument curious that Storer had never complained before so has no right to do so now – is this like the child complaining that the dog bit when it never did that while being tormented before.

  145. CJ Morgan

    Jennifer,

    I haven’t in any way “advocate(d) for the closure of the site and Young’s financial collapse.”

    Neither has Gregory Storer.

    What I have advocated is that Graham Young finds a better model for managing the often vilificatory comments that his site attracts. Indeed, I think that it would be a shame if Young’s disingenuous intransigence results in the demise of OLO.

    But if that happens, it will be entirely down to him, not Storer or anybody else whose concerns Young has treated with contempt.

  146. tigtog

    @Fine,

    Given your antipathy to Storer, I wouldn’t blame him for not telling you. Although posting that he had the answers seems a bit silly.

    Assuming that it was indeed the real Michael Barnett and not just somebody wearing a sock.

    P.S. since Jennifer would obviously be “surprised and disappointed” to learn that her theory of vast economic power at the fingertips of Storer was a fantasy, whoever is doing it is almost certainly just trying to wind Jennifer up.

  147. j_p_z

    Fine — I think what you’re really trying to say is that you’re wrong 80 per cent of the time. 😉

    tigtog — your position has the virtue of being solid and compact, and as I say I don’t (and never will) fully understand this situation.

    But I worry about the famous so-called “chilling effect” on speech that may be a part of all this. I can’t speak to the thing in detail b/c there’s simply too much I don’t know/don’t understand about it, but I do believe that the environmental ripple effects here are at least worth an investigation. Maybe after a consideration they would be shown to not matter, I don’t know. But I feel that dimension is not negligible, and an overly cut-and-dried account is somehow not satisfying.

  148. Fine

    You’re wrong, or I’m wrong 80% of the time jpz? Surely, it must be the former!

  149. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Fine and j_p_z: it’s possible for both of you to be right 60% of the time. 😉

  150. Fine

    That arithmetic is way too hard for me.

  151. tigtog

    tigtog — your position has the virtue of being solid and compact, and as I say I don’t (and never will) fully understand this situation.

    But I worry about the famous so-called “chilling effect” on speech that may be a part of all this.

    Consequences do have chilling effects, sometimes. Yet people have to take responsibility for the choices they make with their right to Free Speech, and respect the rights of others to Free-Speechify right back at them.

    It’s also wise to remember, and respect, the rights of others to Free Association, which one’s Free Speech might well provoke them to exercise against one rather than in favour of one.

    There’s always a tension between Free Speech and Free Association, as well as their natural affinity. One can’t force others to agree with one in their own free speech, and one can’t force others to continue associating with one either.

  152. Jennifer Wilson

    Young’s advertising revenue is down 96% since Storer took his actions. Not only IBM and ANZ pulled out.

    Young’s income comes from this revenue. His work is On Line Opinion.

    Young says his situation is dire. I have no reason to believe that he is lying. I don’t immediately assume people are lying when they say something about themselves.

    Adrian says – you don’t find CJ Morgan and Storer’s demands for satisfaction “hyperbolic?”
    You don’t find the comments about Young stewing in his own juice, and getting what he justly deserves hyperbolic?

    You don’t find the smug self congratulatory lectures on what Young has done wrong and why he deserves everything he gets hyperbolic?

    I guess like everything else, hyperbole is also subjective.

    And you don’t seem to be able to distinguish between hyperbole, and sarcasm – sorry that went over your head.

    Young’s sponsors have been perfectly happy to do business with him up till now. He’s providing them with a service, he isn’t being “supported” by them, anymore than anyone is being “supported” by the people who pay them for their services, whatever those services may be.

  153. j_p_z

    Down and Out — it gets worse. If both of us are wrong 80% of the time (but not necessarily at the SAME time), and we calculate that we’re _really_ right only 60% of the time, then you have to assume that that 60% is also 80% wrong.

    Am I crazy here?

  154. Fine

    Eeek jpz!

    Dr. Wilson could you tell me which “lectures” and what bits of them are “smug and self-congratulatory”?

    And again, where have people “abused” you?

    Are you getting any vibe as to why the world “hyperbolic” was used?

  155. Jennifer Wilson

    Michael Barnett (aka Mikey Bear) has left a photo with his comments so I guess he’s who he says he is.

    Have no idea why he contacted me with this, however he hasn’t exactly wound me up. Its his game, not mine.

    I’m getting a strong impression from many of these posts that you are all approaching perfection in your personal ways of being in the world.

    Which actually makes you a pretty boring lot – moral flaws make for interesting characters, those without sin are soo not sexy –

  156. Kim

    I think the bottom line is this.

    As Mel eloquently put it on Troppo, the gist of a lot of those comments is a claim that LGBT people are:

    a threat to civilisation, a danger to children, a perversion and a spreader of disease

    http://clubtroppo.com.au/2011/02/07/online-opinion-and-the-norms-of-debate/#comment-423254

    It’s absolutely no surprise to me that people might find this offensive, and LBGT people experience this sort of vile crap as directly personal; as the “Christian activists” who post it well know.

    It’s not some “Socratic” discussion of a public policy issue.

    All this talk about conspiracies, “the pink dollar”, the “Gay lobby” is tripe. I don’t know anything about Gregory Storer to know that this is vile and calculated rubbish that should not be published. Graham Young needs to address the fact that this stuff was published on his site. Most of the rest of the debate about “free speech” is blather.

    Young offers only a lame defense of this stuff, and refuses to defend its particulars, while preferring to argue a furphy that it was Muehlenberg’s article which was the subject of complaint. It is now very clear that’s not so.

  157. Fine

    Gee, Dr. Wilson, it might be an idea to engage with some of the arguments put to you, instead of striking poses.

  158. Kim

    Young’s sponsors have been perfectly happy to do business with him up till now. He’s providing them with a service, he isn’t being “supported” by them, anymore than anyone is being “supported” by the people who pay them for their services, whatever those services may be.

    Fo’ shizzle, Dr Willson.

    As quite a number of people have indicated repeatedly, Graham Young had and perhaps still has the option of opening a dialogue with the advertisers and other parties aggrieved by what’s published on his website. That would be a businesslike and professional way of proceeding. It seems to me that it has been quite possible at several points for him to resolve this issue to everyone’s satisfaction, including his own and in protection of his business interests.

    That he has chosen instead to launch a public campaign is also his decision. He is responsible for both that and his original moderation decisions and responses to people who comment on and read OLO.

  159. Helen

    My position for the millionth time, is that I am not in favour of closing down an entire on line community, with many many different views on many many different topics, and using economic sanctions as a means to do that.

    As Tigtog pointed out, it’s not necessary to have corporate sponsorship to run a group blog. If LP writers depended on the ad revenue we’d all have starved to death and would not be able to reply to you.

    Graham Young owns his site, it is his small business, it is his workplace, it is his source of income.

    My husband owns a “message” T shirt business. It is his small business, his workplace, it is his source of income. If he were to print homophobic slogans on his T shirts, he’d be booted out of most if not all of his outlets tout suite. (He’d end up divorced as well, but this is a counterfactual, in case you’re reading sweetie 😉 )

  160. Jennifer Wilson

    Again Fine, it’s only my perception – feel free to disagree with it, it’s only the opinion of an outsider – as someone pointed out earlier, it is interesting for you all to have the opinion of an outsider, apparently it doesn’t happen very often, or at least, one who disagrees with you… robustly, that is.

    I don’t entirely agree with some of CJ Morgan’s allegations of abuse, but hey, they are his perceptions and nobody can tell someone else what they feel is right or wrong –

    I’m just not trying to financially trash anybody I feel has been abusive towards me – I’m not asking corporations to protect me like Storer is – what is wrong with people these days can’t stand on their own to feet and defend themselves, have to get some corporation with a big stick to do it for them?

    Tragic.

  161. tigtog

    Young’s sponsors have been perfectly happy to do business with him up till now. He’s providing them with a service, he isn’t being “supported” by them, anymore than anyone is being “supported” by the people who pay them for their services, whatever those services may be.

    Okay. Strike the word “support”, and I will endeavour to be excruciatingly precise.

    An advertising agency or agencies, acting on behalf of large corporations, were happy to do business with Graham Young until a certain situation on OLO was brought to their attention. The agency(ies) found the situation disturbing, and asked for some changes on OLO. Graham Young was unable or unwilling to make the required changes. As a result, the agency(ies) decided to cut business ties with Graham Young altogether, not just with respect to advertising carried on OLO. Is that precise enough for you, and do you agree with this summation?

    I wonder, and I’ve been trying for about ten minutes to soften this, but I can’t really work out how, so here goes anyway: did Graham offer a compromise position of unbundling OLO from The Domain group of Australian poliblogs that Graham was negotiating advertising placements (and receiving commission on same) for? Because if no such offer was made, or if the agency(ies) asked for this separation and were refused, then how exactly are the consequent effects on other blogs and the comprehensive hit taken by his revenue stream the fault of anybody but Graham himself?

  162. Jennifer Wilson

    Whoa, people ! You are many and I am one!

  163. Kim

    Ps – Dr Willson, on your to do list, in my humble opinion, should be an answer to the question of how you understand free speech asked of you @112:

    http://larvatusprodeo.net/2011/02/07/on-line-opinion-and-the-advertising-and-free-speech-controversy/#comment-261256

  164. Fine

    Dr. Wilson, people have asked you questions and put forward arguments. Fair enough if you’re feeling overwhelmed. But, instead of offering rhetoric, you could try answering the questions and rebutting the arguments.

    I know we’re weird and all, but usually that’s what happens here.

  165. Eric Sykes

    I have had the dubious pleasure of two articles published on OLO. Around that time I realised that it was really the wrong place for me, the wingnuts there rule the comments threads. IMHO it is a very (very) ugly place. Sounds like this blog maybe the wrong place for you Dr. Wilson.

    OLO has been around a while, and as a blog the OLO methodology seems well out of date…eg: only allowing so many posts over a 24 hour period from a particular person really closes down debate real quick. This may have changed, but I doubt it.

    If we expect a blog to make a little money to cover some hosting and other costs then we could have ads. Expecting a blog to provide us with enough funds to pay the supermarket check out, the rent and petrol costs may have seemed smart some years ago, but now it just seems silly.

    If we depend on ads then we survive at their behest. If they choose to leave us we’d better have a back up plan, or we’ll be straight down to Centrelink eh? And then (former) OLO comment posters can insult us at other blogs as the great unwashed ugly dole bluggers that we have suddenly become.

  166. Liam

    I think it is a very dangerous thing when anybody exerts their economic power against another, to the degree that you destroy their business, and their livelihood, because they haven’t done what you wanted them to do, even if you are justified in feeling aggrieved

    I’m going to try this argument out the next time I have a boss who wants to fire me.

  167. Kim

    Oops, I see I’ve given you an extra ‘l’ in your surname. Not sure why – apologies.

    I myself, btw, have a Master’s degree rather than a Doctorate, so perhaps while we’re discussing nomenclature, I could be known as Mistress Kimberella during this debate.

  168. Pavlov's Cat

    Jennifer at #157

    I dislike your implication that it’s been my intention to conceal this, and that you have somehow “outed” me by reading my blog.

    I am as astonished by your interpretation of my words as you apparently are by mine of yours. I made no such implication, for the excellent reason that that’s not what I think. I take people linking to their blogs when they post comments here as a self-identifier and an invitation to read said blogs, and that, when I have time, is what I do. And (apart from the recent stuff about the so-called ‘gay lobby’, stuff that I do indeed dislike and of which I am suspicious), I think your blog is terrific. What I imply and what you infer are two different things.

  169. Eric Sykes

    Pardon me..that’s bludgers I think…

  170. adrian

    But we are boring, ‘soo not sexy’, and in my particualar case, unable to distinguish between hyperbole and sarcasm.

  171. tigtog

    I myself, btw, have a Master’s degree rather than a Doctorate, so perhaps while we’re discussing nomenclature, I could be known as Mistress Kimberella during this debate.

    Woe is me, I am but a humble Bachelorette. Although I’m also ordained on the internet, so perhaps Reverend Bachelorette Tigtog will do.

  172. Pavlov's Cat

    I could be known as Mistress Kimberella during this debate.

    What, only during this debate?

  173. Paul Burns

    Liam @ 194,
    I just laughed so much I had a coughing fit.

  174. Russell

    “I think it is a very dangerous thing when anybody exerts their economic power against another, to the degree that you destroy their business, and their livelihood, because they haven’t done what you wanted them to do, even if you are justified in feeling aggrieved”

    I’d never thought of myself as dangerous before (isn’t that even a little bit sexy?), but I’ve been maintaining the rage against Nestles for half my life. My boycott started because I read of the damage Nestles was doing in third world countries with its advertising of baby formulas. Many other people read similar things and we all stopped buying Nestles products. It didn’t bring down Nestles, but it may have effected a change in the way they do business. Were we wrong in threatening to destroy their business?

  175. Tatyana

    Looking at this from a business point of view, if we accept that OLO was a ‘small business’, it’s a bit naive to rely on only two major streams of advertising revenue for the site’s survival.

    Also, why should this be the end of OLO? It can always try to attract other corporate and private sponsors, if this is its chosen and preferred model of operation. Or it can, as someone suggested up-thread, think of other creative solutions: go with a free hosting facility, engage volunteers and not pay their contributors.

    Running a publishing business, if this is what the site is, is not a guaranteed privilege. In many ways, OLO and indirectly other sites in this advertising ‘bundle’ have been quite fortunate to enjoy a relatively long period of uninterrupted association with a stable number of companies. Commercial publishing, rightly or wrongly, has to observe one basic rule: ‘never take your income for granted’. What a publisher does with content and publishing policies when there are editorial vulnerabilities imposed by complicated commercial imperatives, is where the craft of publishing becomes really interesting.

    It’s an old story …

  176. Helen

    I could be known as Mistress Kimberella during this debate.

    And I wish to be known as “The Bachelorette”, since I only have a Bachelor of Arts – practically illiterate as far as this site goes 😀

  177. Helen

    Oh sh**! I skipped TT’s comment @199 somehow. Now I really look illiterate. I’ll consider “Bachelorette” taken!

  178. Kim

    Update: Ken Parish has made an apology to Gregory Storer and revised his position on the controversy:

    This post and Don’s on the same topic have generated considerable debate and resulted in disclosure of information not originally known when I wrote this post several days ago. Mel(aleuca) has suggested in the comment box to this post that an apology to original OLO complainant Gregory Storer is warranted. Given what we all now know, I agree.

    I wrote the primary post on information that a mysterious but identified small group of “gay activists” within ad agencies had effectively ambushed OLO (and by extension Troppo and the other Domain blogs) by orchestrating a campaign for an advertiser boycott of OLO because it had published an article on gay marriage by Bill Muehlenberg which they found offensive (as do I). Had that been the situation, the activists’ actions would have been highly objectionable in my view, despite the offensive nature of the original article, for the sorts of reasons discussed in the primary post. The events would also have raised secondary boycott issues (albeit with significant legal, evidentiary and practical uncertainties as discussed earlier in the thread).

    It has subsequently emerged from discussions here and at LP that the actual dispute was about the extremely toxic/offensive comment threads to the Muehlenberg post rather than the article itself, and that there had been extensive dealings between OLO and the complainants (most prominently Gregory Storer) where they sought unsuccessfully to have the problem addressed. It appears they would see themselves as having approached advertisers as a last resort. Personally I would have preferred to see them take less drastic expedients such as anti-discrimination/equal opportunity complaints, because the result of approaching advertisers might well be the closure of a valuable and longstanding independent opinion journal (whatever one may think of its moderation policies).

    In those circumstances I certainly agree that I should apologise to Gregory Storer unreservedly, and I do so. I feel both angry and stupid, but hopefully most of us learn from our mistakes.

    I also want to record that, although this apology is obviously implicitly critical of Graham Young, I’m very unhappy about the impact all these events seem likely to have both on him and OLO. Online Opinion is an extraordinarily valuable publication for Australian political discourse and culture in my view. Many readers may not know that its existence and development are overwhelmingly due to Graham’s efforts, determination and personal financial backing over many years. I can only hope that all of us in the blogosphere will find a way to draw a line under these unfortunate events and do what we reasonably can to help Online Opinion to survive and prosper.

  179. FDB

    Oh well, Helen, there’s still The Biatchelor.

    No wait, I’m bagsing that one for myself.

  180. Jennifer Wilson

    Well, this is a point that comes in all such situations and I know there is never a good time at which to announce an exit when one is the sole voice. There will always follow the inevitable jeers about giving up, losing the argument etc etc, not answering the questions, avoiding the questions and so on. it’s always so predictable.

    Although I have to say this is the first time I’ve actually been a totally sole voice – usually there’s a few others to share some of the burden of argument.

    Of course this is the wrong blog for me, Eric Sykes – I did say that some time ago. Who on earth would choose to continue to participate in a blog where she is the sole oppositional voice?

    It’s been interesting exercise, and very instructive to observe how a group reacts when an single outsider intrudes with opposing views. Your group is textbook. Followed the theories to the letter. Brilliant.

    Don’t often get to see that – not many people will volunteer to play the role of outsider, for obvious reasons. I always have to do it myself and it takes a lot of time and energy.

    It is unusual to find such consensus on a blog – I haven’t seen more than one or two commenters object, and even then, very mildly. Very tightly controlled environment.

    I checked out another thread just to make sure the consensus wasn’t isolated to the topic. And found you all in even more cosy agreement on the qanda thread.

    The only other blog I’ve seen that comes anywhere near your level of agreement is Melinda Tankard Reist’s. Everybody there agrees with one another as well.

    Not that I’m suggesting there’s any other comparison to be made between the two.

    You would probably be surprised and even perhaps offended to know how completely predictable your progress as a group has been throughout this comments thread, even down to the jokes. (I hope you didn’t imagine they were original?)

    Sorry to treat you like lab rats, but there you go.

    Oh,BTW I have been arguing a genuine position – I would never invent that – I always set off with a genuine concern to argue about.

    Thank you for your co operation everyone.
    Bye for now. Dr Jennifer.

    (No I haven’t been funded by Griffith. And I presented at Oxford, BTW. But isn’t it time to let go of these silly university snobberies? No? OK.)

  181. Eric Sykes

    (No I haven’t been funded by Griffith. And I presented at Oxford, BTW. But isn’t it time to let go of these silly university snobberies? No? OK.)

    Dearie me……chip, shoulder?

  182. Fran Barlow

    [email protected]

    You’re right. The word, whosever is unknown to English. The word whosoever, however is known to English and not only that, it’s the title of a journal for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folk of christian inclination.

  183. Russell

    “There will always follow the inevitable jeers ….”

    Apparently, not – just the quiet sounds of relief.

  184. adrian

    Jennifer Wilson, I know this might come as quite a shock to you, but have you ever considered the reason that you are a lone voice on this occasion may possibly be because you are wrong?

  185. harleymc

    [email protected]

    In doing this, Storer’s actions are indeed an attack on free speech. An attack that is possible because it is an economic attack, financed by a gay lobby, against an on line community that addresses a wide variety of political and societal concerns, including many of Storer’s own.

    The site does not have the financial resources of Storer and his fellow travelers with which to fight back and resist their economic sanctions.

    This, in my understanding, is an example of bullying and standover tactics on the part of a group, made possible by their superior financial power.

    jennifer would you care to provide any evidence for the the assertion you have made namely, that Storer has sperior financial power? Maybe you have access to the accounts of the parties in dipute? If not, this is simply an assertion masquerading as fact.

    Now that you have set the ‘frame’ that this is an economic/business battle then all I have to say is that the OLO owners / management have a mercenary business model of attacking other people and being expected to be paid for it. So they are ideological soldiers of fortune nothing to do with a free community.

    There is no attack on free speech, there is an attack on paid speech. OLO can freely publish till the end of time but they need a new business model.

    BTW I know a bit about bullying and standover tactics haveing been left for dead in the street on two seperate occassions and once in my own home. Withdrawing support is not the same as bullying.

  186. patrickg

    And she’s a psychotherapist apparently. Crikey.

  187. David Irving (no relation)

    I just laughed so much I had a coughing fit.

    Be careful, old fellah. We don’t want to lose you just yet.

  188. Pavlov's Cat

    Very tightly controlled environment.

    That’ll be Mistress Kimberella and her whip.

    Apparently one of the things they don’t teach you at Oxford in not to theorise ahead of your data. Like, for example, not to make lofty, de haut en bas pronouncements on the character of any blog (much less one as big and well-established and, dare I say it, heterogenous as this one) on the strength of having read a handful of threads, one of which is full of your own comments and other people’s responses to them. And I also would have thought that ad bloginem arguments were just as invalid as the more usual ad homs and fems.

  189. Pavlov's Cat

    ‘… IS not to theorise ahead …’ (One of the things they don’t teach you at Adelaide U is to proofread your comments first.)

  190. su

    “That’ll be Mistress Kimberella and her whip”

    Awesome. The words “your comment is awaiting moderation” have suddenly become rather thrilling.

  191. Katz

    Such a pity Dr Jennifer had to rush off like that.

    Only infrequently may one feel both improved and reproved simultaneously.

    Now, where is that maze? Pavlov’s dog told me there was some cheese at the end of it. Mmm, cheese.

  192. harleymc

    This debate/fiasco has been exposing the fault lines between bourgeois liberal and progressive libertarian strands of thought. It’s also exposing other faultlines but I was interrested to explore this one.

    The defence of freedom of speech, including the right to denigrate others, is conflated with property relations. i.e. a business owner feels he has the right to be paid to publish but his advertisers have no right to freedom of association if that threatens his income stream. In other words freedom to have the OLO model of business but not the ANZ/IBM model of business. It is a weak divisible form of freedom being advocated.

    However left libertarianism starts from the assumptions that freedom is holistic and that with freedom comes responsibility.
    Under such a train of thought when it comes to a publish a principled position the libertarian publishes and accepts the consequences. However whether a libertarian would have published the article in the first place is not so clear…

    If an author or publisher’s freedom is indivisible from the community then it follows that advocating a ban on marriage attacks freedom in the community. Likewise any article that promotes oppression would not pass the test of principled libertarianism.

    The author (Muehlenberg) was and is free to publish on his own site, but there is no obligation for anyone to publish on his behalf. There is no obligation for anyone to financially support someone who chooses to publish on his behalf.

  193. j_p_z

    Well I’m certainly very heartened to see all these hardcore free-market “money-goes-where-it-wants-to” capitalists emerging from the woodwork alluvasudden. Wouldn’t have anything at all to do wif yer prior judgements though now, wuddit?

    Doc Cat: “Apparently one of the things they don’t teach you at Oxford is not to theorise ahead of your data.”

    Heh.

    Come for the irony. Stay for the people who don’t know how to use the word “irony” properly.

  194. j_p_z

    Well, Kim, in fairness, that’s pretty hilarious too. I get a bit of a shellacking for overusing the phrase “a priori” but I’m not convinced I’m wrong to do so.

    Earlier upthread I tried a resort to simple building-block principles to try and get a grip on what is admittedly a difficult case, but that ran into some problems too.

    I don’t really know what to do with this bizniss, at this point, short of just shut up and go alphabetize my collection of tiny porcelain frogs. That might be the best thing all round.

    Any suggestions?

  195. Paul Burns

    Tightly controlled? I would have described it as herding cats, but if I remember rightly another LP-er got in before me ages ago.

  196. Fine

    Gawd, that whole series of exchanges was just plain weird.

  197. Pavlov's Cat

    There are two things I still don’t understand:

    1) Why anybody thinks they have an automatic right to corporate funding. Anyone with any experience in fundraising or selling advertising space knows the burden of proof is carried by the person who wants the money. Actually I don’t even understand why anybody thinks they have an automatic (individual) right to government funding, and that’s a far stronger case.

    2) Why anybody would want to publish ignorant, vile, hateful, badly spelled drivel on a website in which they took pride.

  198. alex

    Hey, I rarely comment, but as a Psychotherapist myself, I just wanted to point out that we’re not all as narcissistic as Dr Jen.

  199. Fine

    @232 Kim. Yes, she hadn’t bothered to read the thread to see you’d be commenting all the way through. That’s weird.

    And all this projection about the “gay mafia”. So, we have a Special Sekret Army of teh Gayz controlling ANZ. They must be hunted down. Names must be put on a list. Someone’s a little bit paranoid.

  200. tigtog

    I’m rather bemused at the idea (expressed by JW on Troppo) that Storer should have relied on remedies under anti-discrimination legislation before writing to advertisers. I’m really scratching my head as to which provisions of anti-discrimination legislation she imagines would give a person reading a website the required legal standing to lay a complaint of discrimination?

  201. j_p_z

    Dr. Cat — I don’t want to appear to be defending what was written there b/c I haven’t read it, don’t understand the context, etc etc, but as a good and faithful contrarian let me put you a thought experiment; you might consider this:

    “Why anybody thinks they have an automatic right to corporate funding.”

    Maybe that’s not the only way of viewing the issue. Let’s say there is a normative business environment in which this sort of funding is spread about more or less equally, regardless of political viewpoint. I’m not saying that’s the case in Australia, and I’d have no real way of knowing if it were true or not. But let’s just posit it for a moment.

    If that were true, it becomes the case that certain people are arguably being singled out and punished economically for their views. Is this a good or a bad thing? I think it sits in some peculiar place where it should be further investigated. Perhaps after prolonged reflection you might still reasonably concur with how it’s shaken out. Hard for me to say. I can tell you that in the state of California, people who publicly supported Proposition 8 (i.e., people who were simply participating in the civic environment of their state by backing a cause in a legal public election) had their names recorded by their enemies and were harassed at their workplaces.

    tigtog earlier put a reply to me in which she said that free speech has consequences, and teased a bit of those implications out. OK, well and good. I was going to write a more careful reply to her but maybe I’ll just do a cursory version here. Let’s put an extreme case at the opposite end, just to see what it means. Freedom of expression certainly exists in the USSR, it’s just that you have to be willing to bear the consequences of your speech actions. If say you’re Nadezhda Mandelstam, and you’ve got the courage of your convictions, then you should be proud to bear the consequences of your speech act — your husband thrown in prison, your career destroyed, your being reduced to holding clandestine poetry readings in your kitchen at night with the blinds drawn, your writings destroyed, etc etc. Why, you should be PROUD of samizdat as a means of communication!

    Now granted that is in fact an extreme case. But I said it was a thought experiment. I’m not here arguing a point definitively because I’m not sure at all what the right answer is. I’m just being a nuisance, asking others to think.

  202. Gregory Storer

    Hello,

    It’s taken me awhile to get around to all the places where my name is popping up.

    Just so we’re clear on this, the Secular Party has nothing to do with my actions.

    I acted alone, I’m not the head of the pink mafia or any other lobby group – that’s such a hoot.

    I have no great wealth, I have acted politely with the sponsors and companies and would be impressed if they did anything just on my say so. I’m guessing they used their own internal risk assessments on withdrawing their advertising, I have no way of knowing. Mostly the advertisers just ignored me.

    I’ve enjoyed reading this blog, but I’ve had more fun googling my name recently….!

    Thanks.

    g.

  203. tigtog

    Freedom of expression certainly exists[sic] in the USSR,

    Cite?

    C’mon j_p_z, you’re getting lazy. The right to free speech, as commonly understood and indeed, in your own nation, constitutionally guaranteed, is explicitly freedom from the bureaucracy of the State interfering with one’s speech. Mandelstam spoke out and the State responded with brutal repression according to the then laws of the USSR.

    Nobody in the OLO scenario is operating on behalf of any arm of government. No privately owned space is obliged to guarantee free speech within its purview.

  204. Casey

    Outstanding Larvatus. From Dr Wilson’s comments at Troppo, I see the blog has been diagnosed with Apocalypse Now Disorder. Now, could someone please sacrifice their head on a pole for Kurtzerella? Before she goes to have a beer and contemplate the horror, the horror?

  205. Mercurius

    Apparently one of the things they don’t teach you at Oxford in not to theorise ahead of your data.

    I guess another thing they don’t teach you at Oxford is to get ethics clearance before you decide to run a “lab-rat” experiment on human subjects to see if the group is a tightly-controlled textbook response, or something!

    Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences

    It also doesn’t enjoin any obligation on the part of others to listen, or take anything you say seriously.

    It certainly doesn’t mean advertisers have to bank-roll anybody if they’re not getting the return they want.

    I’ve worked on both sides of that particular fence: placing ads, and soliciting ads — for blue-ribbon multinational accounts, and for small-to-medium publication. If I got complaints from an advertiser or agency, I’d be very solicitous in how I addressed their concerns. And if I had to call a publication to raise a concern, and got the brush-off, well, no honey for them!

    Probably the mistake here is conflating the realm of political public speech with commercial decisions. Commercial speech certainly ain’t free speech, either, no matter what the US Supreme Court says.

  206. Ken Parish

    Tigtog at #238

    In fairness to Dr Wilson, she was responding to a suggestion I made in my apology that pursuing a anti-discrimination complaint might have been preferable because it would probably have avoided the fairly drastic consequence of OLO going broke and ceasing to exist (which I think would be a very bad thing though probably some here don’t agree) . Both Queensland and Tasmania have anti-vilification provisions in their respective state anti-discrimination laws concerning inciting hatred based on sexuality. There would be little doubt that Gregory Storer could lodge a complaint if he lived in either of those States. However I gather he lives in Victoria, which last time I looked had vilification provisions that only cover race and religion. Thus he’d probably need to enlist support from a gay person living in one of those states.

  207. Mercurius

    BTW the last paragraph of @245 may form a partial response to the questions Japerz posed most recently, because…

    …There’s no state involvement here. Heck, gay marriage isn’t even legal in Australia, so you could make the argument that the homopobic rhetoric expressed by commenters on OLO is basically in accordance with the will of the State. There’s no Gay Commisariat arresting and jailing dissenters, KGB-style.

    Whatever commercial damage has been inflicted is truly down to private capital and private commercial decisions. In fact, as noted upthread, this blog is even caught in that crossfire — collateral damage — as it were, and we’re not exactly crying into our beer about it — although I do genuinely feel for Graham Young who I believe is suffering for his political beliefs but not, I repeat not at the hands of the State. (He is faced, perhaps, with going to the wall because he passionately supports the ‘right’ of loudmouth idiots to say hateful things on his blog, and now as a result of him giving them a soapbox due to his private conscience, he is paying the consequences of their hateful speech)

    But I really don’t get how libertarians can be tearing their hair out over this one. It’s wholly in the realm of the private sector.

  208. Michael Barnett

    The point, Jennifer, of stating that I know the reality of the situation, from Gregory’s perspective, was to clarify for the benefit of yourself and anyone else who is the slightest bit interested, that he is not making this up, that he is not part of some lobby, gay or otherwise, that he is not trying to bring down OLO, that he is not some powerful, financial mogul and that he has absolutely no influence on any corporate aside from the ability to send a simple, well worded email to their contact mailbox.

    I don’t need to state my sources, or justify my words that I have posted on your blog.

    Oh, and I am the real Michael Barnett. I am not an impostor. 🙂

    Michael.

  209. tigtog

    I don’t think Jennifer’s here any more, Michael, but thanks for dropping by and sharing your perspective.

  210. j_p_z

    tigtog: “Freedom of expression certainly exists[sic] in the USSR, — Cite?”

    Why certainly, m’luv: #225: “people who don’t know how to use the word “irony” properly.”

    😉

    But let me put a thought experiment to you that is maybe closer to home. I don’t know if you have ballot initiatives in Australia in the way that certain states in the US do (i.e., a legislative proposition can in some circumstances be introduced by popular petition rather than by the sitting House). But let’s say you do.

    So, a voting proposition is introduced that bars all public funding of Catholic schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc. The thing is hotly contested, but the prop prevails, and the Catholic Church is cut out from all public funding.

    In reprisal, the Catholic Church hierarchy carefully notes down the names and information of all those who supported the prop, and contacts their employers, urging them to fire these people who aren’t “right” with the Church. And a lot of them do get fired.

    In your opinion, is that action by the Church right? Is it justified? Is it fair and square?

    Show your work.

  211. Ken Parish

    I just posted a link to Michael’s comment at Troppo so she’ll probably see it.

  212. tigtog

    @Ken Parish, I just realised that the original suggestion was yours after reading your apology over at Troppo. Apologies for the misattribution. But I think that argument fundamentally only makes sense if you think that Storer could possibly have had a reasonable expectation of his letters to advertisers having this, or indeed any, effect at all. We all know that most such letters do nothing expect release some of the emotional pressure building up in the author.

    Engaging in a lawsuit is an emotionally draining and expensive process, writing a few letters is so much more simple. That this one time such letters caught the eye of somebody motivated enough to go and check the content being complained about, and willing to act upon their knowledge once they decided that yes, the content was problematic for their branding strategy: who could have reasonably foreseen that this time it would work?

  213. tigtog

    Life’s too short, japerz. I have to go out to the opening of a new comedy club!

  214. Ken Parish

    Yes that’s a fair point tigtog. See my comment #86 at Troppo dealing with Jennifer’s argument that it’s inherently unlikely that the corporate action could have been triggered by a single letter of complaint.

  215. Adam

    It’s not right, but there are a number of things about your scenario that make it quite different, I think. For one thing, nobody has been fired over this – though certainly if I said some of the things that appeared on that thread in my workplace I would be at the very least warned not to repeat them or expect to be fired quite soon. There are others: the decision still rests with the employers about how to act on what they’re hearing from the church. Arguably it is those who have decided to fire employees on the basis of something they’ve done as private citizens that is of greater concern. Withdrawing advertising money is not really analogous to this, except under the very loosest account of both.

  216. j_p_z

    “I have to go out to the opening of a new comedy club!”

    Don’t we all, don’t we all.

    Hope it’s fun, though. Have a blast!

  217. Philomena

    @255

    Anyone care to translate this into plain English?

  218. Adam

    Sorry, that was for jpz.

  219. Nickws

    Gregory Storer @ 241, I agree with your actions, I agree that your sexuality or party affiliations shouldn’t be an issue here, yet I find myself surprisingly uncomfortable with your statement “I’m not an activist, I’m a citizen of Australia.”

    That struck me as a deeply unhelpful way to put your original case in this free flowing Internet world we live in, it sounds like you’re an old Ian McPhee tory patrician trying to win a debate with Bruce Ruxton circa 1985. And I think it was probably a reason why someone as level-headed as Parish decided there must be a hidden method to your actions in all this (I can’t speak to the paranoia of certain British educated professionals).

    Sorry to focus on such a little thing, but I really think first impressions matter immensely in these online arguments.

    Eric Sykes @ 193: I have had the dubious pleasure of two articles published on OLO. Around that time I realised that it was really the wrong place for me, the wingnuts there rule the comments threads. IMHO it is a very (very) ugly place. Sounds like this blog maybe the wrong place for you Dr. Wilson.

    I think Young is partly paying for the sins of the entire MSM online presence. From what I recall comments threads at even the ABC and Fairfax sites are hellishly dumb and nasty, even when swearing and outright abuse is ‘moderated’ out of them.

    If OLO is happy to host the same walls-of-dickishness maquerading as reasoned, popular observations then they should take into account the fact they ultimately don’t have the finances to protect themselves when anything goes wrong, not like the faux-Crikey sites the big boys operate.

  220. Mercurius

    You know you’re in The Gay Mafia when…

    …you wake to find a severed pair of Jimmy Choos in your bed.

    …your brother air-kisses you on both cheeks before flying out of Havana.

    …your shop-front for the family business is called Fabulous Friands!

    …you send a hit-squad to the rival family’s Civil Union ceremony.

    …the barber where you go to talk business runs a nice side-line in back, crack ‘n sack waxes.

    …your protection/extortion racket covers all the important shops in town, from the dog groomer to the gym to the antique store.

    …at family gatherings, folks prefer to dance to traditional music from the old country, like, for example, Ricky Martin.

  221. harleymc

    ROFL Mercurius

  222. tigtog

    @Merc, that’s a rather Twink-centric list, my man.

    (Really going now, already 15 minutes late)

  223. Joseph.Carey

    Jennifer’s not here anymore brays tigtog.

    And so back to the boilerplate predictable bullies.

    We will now resume normal transmission.

  224. Mercurius

    @Merc, that’s a rather Twink-centric list, my man.

    Abuse! Abuse! You boilerplate bully!

    Honestly, you’re so predictable. Textbook, actually. I knew you were going to say that before you said it. And I know what you’re going to say next, too. But I won’t disclose it here, I’ll wait until you say it to prove that I predicted it correctly.

    Anyway, we’re losing sight of the important point here, which is, well, me. You’ve abused and offended me! And I knew you would, because you’re so predictable!

    Honestly, the groupthink here is sickening! Don’t you people realise what fools you’re making of yourselves! No, of course you don’t — you don’t even understand irony! Or confirmation bias!!!

    Getting your orders direct from The Gay Mafia, are you? What will Big Toni order you to do next?!?

    That’s it! I’m outta here!

    *flounce flounce flounce*

    Really, I mean it!

    *flounce flounce flounce*

    This is the last you’ll hear from me!

    *flounce flounce flounce*

    Actually, no, THIS is the last you’ll hear from me!

    I won’t be back!

    *flounce flounce flounce*

    I’m…gooooo….oooo…..innnnnnnn….nnnng……

    ….

    ….

    ……….NOW!

    I mean it!

    Just you wait!

  225. Kim

    I think I’ve cracked it! With the help of a beer rather than an Oxford doctorate.

    Much was made by Young and Pearson of an IASH code of conduct Young refused to sign on request by PostClick – his ad broker.

    I think they probably asked him to do this after Storer successfully complained to ANZ and IBM. To reassure other advertisers this would not recur. He refused and all advertising therefore ceased.

    No need to postulate any activist Hydra influencing every company.

  226. Helen

    Dr Wilson has retweeted

    #Vodafone, you’ve got blood on your handsets! Sign @accessnow petition to stop their abuses #Jan25 #Egypt http://bit.ly/eyyzx7
    10:11 PM Feb 3rd via web

    What about all the small businesspeople and their workers employed selling Vodafone stuff? What about THEM?????

  227. su

    Oh come off it, comment 255 was 100% free of sociological terms and perfectly lucid. You’ll have to give up this obsession with Adam, Phil, it’s not healthy,you are morphing into Marjorie Dawes.

  228. Mercurius

    @266 Well, Helen, that is shocking. Just shocking.

    I would like to take this opportunity to quote an eminent expert in the field, Dr Jennifer Wilson, who said…”I think it is a very dangerous thing when anybody exerts their economic power against another, to the degree that you destroy their business, and their livelihood, because they haven’t done what you wanted them to do, even if you are justified in feeling aggrieved.”

  229. Joseph.Carey

    @264 – er, you don’t have the requisite gender attributes to “flounce”. You’re a dude, right? Pretending that you can flounce just makes you look like a wannabe dork.

    Besides, Jennifer the Magnificent didn’t flounce.

    She demolished.

    ’twas beautiful to behold.

  230. Mercurius

    @269 Honey, I can flounce with the best of them.

    But, I will grant you, my crippling inability to understanding irony, and my predictability, and my boilerplate bullying, and my groupthink, and my hivemind, and my textbook responses, might detract from the overall flouncy effect.

    Anyway, I like your version of this thread better. It goes something like this:

    See Jennifer demolish.
    Demolish, Jennifer, demolish.

    I…like this story! Read it again! Read it again!

  231. dexitroboper

    flounce:
    intr.v. flounced, flounc·ing, flounc·es

    a. To move in a lively or bouncy manner: The children flounced around the room in their costumes.
    b. To move with exaggerated or affected motions: flounced petulantly out of the house.

    No mention of gender-specific accoutrements required.

  232. Gregory Storer

    Nickws #259

    yet I find myself surprisingly uncomfortable with your statement “I’m not an activist, I’m a citizen of Australia.”

    I have not considered myself an activist. It’s a label that others like to use about me, and I’m a bit surprised by it. There are real activist out there fighting the battle for equality that I have a great deal of respect for, as far as I’m concerned all I did was complain about some vilification on a website.

  233. Paul Burns

    Merc,The Godfather will never be the same.

  234. Patrickb

    @121
    Actually I think the WikiLeaks example has a much better chance of being successfully argued as a secondary boycott for obvious reasons. I just love legal argument.

  235. Patrickb

    @123
    Not to mention this group having significant representation in all Australian parliaments.

  236. tigtog

    Well, I’m briefly back after watching a 6-headliner lineup for an industry showcase at this new comedy club in Kings Cross. I’m in too good a mood for more of this thread tonight, but no doubt will return like a moth to the flame sometime tomorrow. ‘Night all.

  237. Patrickb

    @140
    “With the exception of I think one commenter, I have read a list of comments addressed to me this evening that have patronised, ridiculed, dismissed, lectured, preached and one that pretty much told me to clear off, I didn’t belong in the club.”
    This is just rubbish. There’s a lot of very value laden adjectives in that par. The person who wrote it must think they are capable of writing in a kind of meaning free bubble, as though none of their comments/responses could possibly carry any connotation whatsoever. I’d buy that for a dollar.

  238. jules

    Gregory Storer @241:

    “Just so we’re clear on this, the Secular Party has nothing to do with my actions.”

    Thank you for taking the time to clear that up here. Thats good enough for me. I expressed some doubts about that earlier but I’ll happily withdraw them.

    It does actually change my view on the subject a bit, er a lot.

    Thanks again.

    This means I can feel ok about hanging it on faux “libertarian” right wing twits on this thread, but I think its been done already.

  239. FDB

    “There’s a lot of very value laden adjectives in that par.”

    This is such an annoying thread already I’m sure I won’t be stinking it up much more by observing that there are in fact no adjectives of any kind in the paragraph you’ve quoted, Patrick. Perhaps you could make an argument for ‘pretty’, but as it’s bundled with ‘much’ as part of what’s really an adverbal phrase, I’m not buying.

    Plenty of long bows drawn with verbs though, and your general point stands.

  240. j_p_z

    Adam #255: I agree that it isn’t a good analogy, too many variables are different as you point out. But I proposed it as a thought experiment, not as an analogy — viz., what do you think about the case on its own terms? How does that map against what you think about the actual case? Is there a line that passes through the points of both your positions? What does that tell you about your view of the world? That sort of stuff.

  241. Helen

    What is this crap.

    One of the scariest things I’ve seen in the course of all this is a comment over at LP. Someone pointed out that there’s more than a little vilification of those not politically or religiously aligned to the LP community. One of them responded that they attack people according to what they believe rather than who they are. Scary, but also stupid. On that logic, you can’t attack someone for being gay, but you can attack them for thinking it’s all right to be gay.

    LP regulars attacking people for thinking it’s all right to be gay? How is that an accurate representation of LP in any universe?

  242. tigtog

    In any case, Helen, IIRC the comment to which someone was referring (and which I can’t quite find) said that “we” “attack” people according to what they say, not what they believe. After all, how can we know what people “believe”? All we know is what they say.

    In any any case, I think a better description of what LP regulars actually do is challenge opinions and statements of fact which they find non-persuasive (which is what happens in every internet debate, isn’t it?), since attacking people based on what they believe rather than what they say is a clear breach of our oh-so-difficult to find comments policy:

    Unacceptable
    […]
    Imputing ideas or motives to others or stereotyping them because of perceived group membership or ideological affiliation.

  243. tigtog

    P.S. In case any lurkers are trying to join some dots here, Jennifer Wilson was challenged right from the get-go because her underlying premise of a large gay activist lobby exerting economic influence over large corporations was immediately perceived as simply laughable. Since nobody accepted that very first plank of her argument, there was really nowhere else to go in terms of debating her following assertions based on that premise.

    This argument was made to her in very many ways, but she insisted on repeating and arguing on the secondary planks of her argument rather than trying to persuade us that the foundational plank had any merit whatsoever. Her choice to argue ineffectively, but just because she appears to be accustomed to debating people with less interest in formal argument structure doesn’t necessarily mean that all we have here at LP is groupthink except perhaps on that one issue about the probability of a shadowy gay mafia with incredibly deep pockets.

  244. Adam

    j_p_z @ 283 I’m thinking this one through, because I’m not sure that the analogy is appropriate, but I need to spend some time on the why. For one thing I find, for myself, that Mr Storer’s and the advertiser’s actions in this case are passing Kant’s test. Whereas those of the employers and hierarchy in your hypothetical are not, though for me there is still a question mark over the actions of the hierarchy.

    My questions for you j_p_z: is there a difference between an employee and a customer? Ought the nature of agreed-upon relationships be taken into consideration when assessing conduct?

  245. Big Toni from The Gay Mafia

    Apparently one of the things they don’t teach you at Oxford in not to theorise ahead of your data.

    Perhaps another thing they don’t teach you at Oxford is that if your aim is to make valid ethnographic observations, you can’t do it by spending five minutes among the natives, then loudly announcing how deficient and backwards is their culture and, by contrast, how enlightened is your own. But, if that is how you do ethnography, the “conclusions” you reach will be little more than a reflection of the prejudices with which you arrived.

    Dr Wilson. Ethnography. Ur doin’ it rong.

  246. Katz

    From Scepticlawyer:

    The secondary boycott issue hasn’t gone away (although, as Ken says, he has no desire to litigate personally and for my part I have no desire to chase the ACCC to bring a representative action on my behalf). The latter, I think, would require all the affected parties to be on board and both John Passant and LP have made it clear that they are not interested. Jennifer Marohasy is not happy with the situation but she may not be interested either. [And as Ken points out, anything like this is always subject to uncertainties].

    Shorter Scepticlawyer: the secondary boycott issue HAS gone away.

    In fact, the secondary boycott issue never really turned up. If the issue were pressed, a court of law would decide that no secondary boycott ever occurred in these events.

    All the rest is just about good manners. And it is a notorious fact that the intertubes are an uncongenial environment for good manners. This is not a problem to be solved, but rather it is a condition to be lived with.

  247. tigtog

    @adam, your quibbles with japerz’ hypothetical echo mine, with the added dollop of it being a tactic that wouldn’t work in Australia for the outraged church lobby because the employers would say “sorry, the unjust dismissal lawsuit settlements would wipe my business out”, seeing as we don’t have at-will hiring/firing statutes here.

    Seeing as we were talking free speech, I was basing my own points strictly on what is and is not legally permissible/protected. The lobbying of the church activists would be protected as a speech issue. Moral/ethical judgements are a different thing entirely.

  248. tigtog

    Secondary to japerz scenario, it is one in which I would be particularly happy to be self-employed, although I suspect the church activists would probably in such situations start lobbying my clients, since I would be one of the vocal citizens supporting withdrawing public funding/tax exemptions from all religious groups qua religious institutions. Of course, should any religious grouping set up a properly constituted non-profit organisation (such as a school) or a registered charity to further its social aims, then I would be perfectly happy for such bodies to receive exactly the same sort of public funding/tax-exemptions as any other regulation-compliant NPOs and charities working in the same sectors.

  249. Adam

    Agreed, tigtog. The gap between legal and ethical here is an important one, at least for thinking through the attendant issues. I’m with Storer being both legally and ethically in the right, though for me it is more clear at the ethical level because I find some of the law in this area rather difficult to grasp with a cursory examination.

    The case of employment being treated differently to custom represents a place where, in Australia at least, the law is right. The nature of pre-existing relationships ought to be important in determining whether certain actions are right or wrong.

    And if the outcome in both cases is similar – ie loss of livelihood for some individuals – then I would argue that this is not sufficient in itself to suggest similarity elsewhere between the hypothetical and this situation. People can do any number of things that threaten their livelihood, some are wrong or stupid, and the mere fact of somebody having theirs threatened does not indicate wrongdoing by others.

  250. Pavlov's Cat

    Big Toni at #288, yes, that’s pretty much what I meant by theorising ahead of your data, but thank you for amplifying so elegantly.

  251. paul of albury

    It’s also just occurred to me that in the world Dr Wilson expects it should be illegal to advocate that ANZ should not invest in coal? Or should avoid buying products which are unsustainable or exploit workers? Refusing banking services to the coal industry – analagous to the wikileaks experiences – perhaps. It may be that secondary boycott protection is supposed to stymie this sort of activism but if so it is wrong.
    I’m not even sure Visa’s etc actions in refusing to deal with Wikileaks should be illegal, cowardly yes but illegal no. The trouble with credit card companies and wikileaks is that CC companies are really in the position of essential services utilities today

  252. paul of albury

    @295 ANZ is just an example btw – nothing specifically aimed at them over any other organisation

  253. j_p_z

    tigtog — I think it’s fine that you prefer to concern yourself chiefly with the on-the-ground, realistic nuts and bolts aspects of the issue. That’s a reasonable and indeed necessary part of dealing with the whole thing. But there’s more than one way to contemplate the issue. I happen to be more concerned about the overall climatic fact that, say, fish need to live in water whether they vote to do it or not, and so it matters to them what sort of water they live in.

    You say this: “a tactic that wouldn’t work in Australia… seeing as we don’t have at-will hiring/firing statutes here.”

    So, if through some fluke of legislation there happened to be a law on the Australian books that happened to shield OLO in this circumstance, there’d be in your mind nothing further to be concerned about, because a technicality swept it all out of the way? Would that be the end of it in your mind? Would it not matter what sort of water you were swimming in, that a person bothered by a speech act sought to take economic actions against the speaker (even if say unsuccessful) that aren’t directly related to speech itself? Again, we’re talking about “said,” not “did.” Are people to be penalized for speaking their minds, more severely than a good old blog fisking? Forget for a moment what the technical, legal monetary rights of corporations are (which I know are always foremost in the hearts of LPers anyway!). As the law now stands, I’m sure things worked out in a way that’s eminently justifiable. I’m not talking about legal remedies, but what sort of world we want to live in. I’m interested in the water temperature for fish, whether it’s fresh or salt, etc. If the person was bothered by the speech on the blog, why didn’t they simply leave a comment pointing out what they saw as the trouble, and argue their side of the case, and let that be the end of it? Like you and I are doing.

    I’ll admit that there’s a certain amount of basic realistic reasonableness to your position, but I don’t find it fully satisfying or complete, and something about it worries me. Here’s the thing: when I brought up the concept of the “chilling effect,” you waved it away with the notion that “free speech has consequences.” Okay. But why should they be “consequences” other than… further speech? Why should there be physical or legal or economic ramifications to simply making an argument, even if you do it boorishly or crudely (which is what I gather the comments at OLO were)? The purpose of political speech is for everyone to try and figure out a way for a community to satisfyingly order its affairs. If a speaker is threatened with, um, “consequences” every time they step outside an arbitrary line, how can a true debate emerge? It’s a public good, not just an individual one.

  254. Adam

    j_p_z, with the idea of a chilling effect, you seem to be posing a consequentialist argument: if the effect is to straiten or curtail speech, then the means are unimportant because the consequence of that is the wrong outcome. This argument would be seriously challenged by a demonstration that, in this case, there was no straitening or curtailment of speech. Given the ease with which a wordpress or other blog can be acquired – at negligible cost easily borne by an individual – to voice the opinions offered on that comments thread, even a consequentialist argument doesn’t stand up in this case (apart from its merits otherwise).

    “The purpose of political speech is for everyone to try and figure out a way for a community to satisfyingly order its affairs.”

    As for this, yes this is a function of public discourse, or at least a good reason why free speech be seen by all members of a community as legitimate. But this function isn’t served by totally unlimited speech – it is better served by rational, if robust, speech that is free insofar as it does not exceed agreed upon norms. Nevertheless, this is beside the point in this case, because the community is not curtailing speech through the organs of the state.

  255. Patrickb

    @281,
    Yes, sorry. The Coopers had affected my brain.

  256. j_p_z

    Adam — you say this:

    “This argument would be seriously challenged by a demonstration that, in this case, there was no straitening or curtailment of speech. Given the ease with which a wordpress or other blog can be acquired – at negligible cost easily borne by an individual – to voice the opinions offered on that comments thread, even a consequentialist argument doesn’t stand up in this case.”

    But that is merely the argument re-stated on your own terms, which you happen to be comfortable with; as I’ve said, I’m concerned with the overall climate.

    Look at it like this:

    1. OLO was AFAIK run as a business, not as a labor of love (as LP is, and to my knowledge, LP has never purported to be an actual business, but merely a very serious hobby made by its practitioners — so comparisons between OLO and LP are not entirely apt.) Money was involved, and money was an important part of why the activity took place to begin with. (Please correct me if I’m wrong about any of this, b/c I might be.)

    2. So by targeting the economic basis of OLO rather than merely countering remarks that someone found objectionable, an attack was made on a playing field that was not primarily concerned with speech as such. You and I both comment for free at LP, so if someone takes issue with us right here on the blog, well, no big deal. But if someone threatened our livelihoods merely for having said disagreeable things in the course of making an argument about public affairs, it leaps into a whole new category. The fact that blog publishing is cheap and easy is not the primary point here. It may at the end of the day be the final legal point, but that was never my concern to begin with.

    3. The public good is potentially damaged, in my view, by its being made known (through these sorts of circumstances) that if you make certain arguments in public then you are courting vendetta, and people might find a way to come after you personally, in a way that is not simply reciprocal speech. That in my view is a chilling effect in a classical example.

    “rational, if robust, speech that is free insofar as it does not exceed agreed upon norms.”

    Agreed upon norms, eh? SEE UNDER: “Who? Whom?”

  257. Patrickb

    @284,
    AS I said sometime ago, perhaps on this thread, the quality of posts and commentary on most of the conservative blogs isn’t very good. They seem to be very brittle. It doesn’t take much for them to snap when confronted with a reasonable argument that may contain some actual facts or consistent logic. SL has painted themselves into a corner yet with this secondary boycott rubbish so they’ve retreated silently and then turned up again with a whole new approach.

  258. tigtog

    Said @j_p_z in reply to me:

    I’ll admit that there’s a certain amount of basic realistic reasonableness to your position, but I don’t find it fully satisfying or complete, and something about it worries me. Here’s the thing: when I brought up the concept of the “chilling effect,” you waved it away with the notion that “free speech has consequences.” Okay. But why should they be “consequences” other than… further speech? Why should there be physical or legal or economic ramifications to simply making an argument, even if you do it boorishly or crudely (which is what I gather the comments at OLO were)? The purpose of political speech is for everyone to try and figure out a way for a community to satisfyingly order its affairs. If a speaker is threatened with, um, “consequences” every time they step outside an arbitrary line, how can a true debate emerge? It’s a public good, not just an individual one.

    As I elucidated further in that very same comment, the consequences of exercising one’s right of Free Speech to which I allude are those which come under the rubric of other people’s right of Free Association. As someone much more succinct that I has said, paraphrasing:

    The best possible argument for freedom of speech is that it lets everybody see clearly who the jackasses are to best avoid.

    When someone’s Free Speech exposes them as a jackass or worse, others are, and I think always should be, at liberty to withdraw from any Association with them.

    That’s it. Free Speech is on the same level as Free Association – it does not trump it. Just imagine the chilling effect of private or corporate bodies being compelled to associate with somebody whose speech they find repellent?

  259. tigtog

    P.S. btw, I also think folks should continue to have the freedom to withdraw from association with anybody whom they find tedious or untrustworthy or in any other way disaccommodating to their peace of mind, whether Speech (rather than any other act or failure to act) is the particular provocation or not.

  260. Nickws

    I have not considered myself an activist. It’s a label that others like to use about me, and I’m a bit surprised by it. There are real activist out there fighting the battle for equality that I have a great deal of respect for, as far as I’m concerned all I did was complain about some vilification on a website.

    Gregory @ 273, my whole point is that there’s no shame in claiming to have been an activist here in even the smallest sense, even if as it appears you didn’t apply any leverage and instead merely alerted some big corporate actors to bad PR they’d rather not be aligned with. Yet I’m concerned you’ve taken on rhetoric that reinforces anti-political narratives.

    (I’m also bothered by the fact this Leftwing community here are happy to accept you reasoning about your ‘non-activist’ status, because I wonder if [a.] they believe a single actor can’t hold that ‘job description’, that the only activism worth noting is that which is organised, and [b.] people are lulling themselves into a sense of complacency about the ANZ and the IBM decisions here, in the hope that this kind of corporate behaviour can be taken to be the new business-as-usual, i.e. we can relax now folks, from now on they’re going to always behave as good corporate citizens in the face of bigotry and intolerance as per some magical social compact. I for one don’t accept that these companies are naturally the new bulwark for tolerance or that they will make the right choices with their money as a matter of course. That’s why we will always need activists of one sort or another to hold them to account.)

    Ultimately you’re entitled to say you’re not an activist, particularly if you insist that the word be associated with people putting themselves at risk. It’s not my place to tell you what you’re meant to be in all this.

  261. Nickws

    First paragraph above should be blockquoted.

    [beginning tag was missing – fixed! ~ mod]

  262. terangeree

    Of course, it might all be a coincidence, and the decision to pull the advertising from the blogs might have already been made for completely different and unrelated reasons to that being discussed here when Gregory Storer contacted them.

  263. CJ Morgan

    Hi people – I’ve been so impressed by LP’s principled stance on this issue that I thought I’d like to make a donation to the site. However, I can’t work out how. I clicked on the ‘Donate’ link, which tells me to use PayPal – without any other info or buttons. Am I missing something?

  264. j_p_z

    tigtog — I think we’re starting to go round in circles here, so this’ll be the last out of me on this ‘un.

    I agree with you that corporations (or individuals, for that matter) can’t be compelled to spend their advertising $$ in places where they don’t judge that it advances their interest. The whole property-rights and free-association thing makes total sense to me. That’s never been my point; I don’t see ANZ and IBM as the pivotal players in this little drama. I can’t tell whether I haven’t been painfully clear, or if you’re deliberately evading my point. If you merely thought it was wrong or stupid, I’d expect you to just say so, but instead you seem to keep sailing past it. (Or maybe you just don’t think it’s relevant; there’s enough matter in this case for people to build all sorts of unrelated arguments.)

    Human actions are kind of blurry and weird, they don’t have the precision and clarity of say mathematics. We can’t (and shouldn’t) make laws about every single thing in the universe. So my idea here is not about the law, and can’t be, really. It’s about a livable social compact of civics, and we can never really enforce that by brute force of will, we can only try and persuade people about an ethos of the Good.

    If someone disagrees with you in argument, even if you’re adopting an obnoxious manner, then I think their chief burden is to try and make a more convincing argument. If instead they personalize the whole thing, and find some way to go after you materially, it creates a civic environment that is not, in my view, a healthy one.

    MYSELF: Knight takes bishop. Check.
    OPPONENT: I’m telling your wife about what you did at the hotel in Cancun.
    MYSELF: Um, okay then… uh, I guess knight doesn’t take bishop after all. Pawn to useless square in the rook column. Is that OK?

    This exchange is perfectly fine… in a society that doesn’t value chess, right?

  265. Helen

    I’m also bothered by the fact this Leftwing community here are happy to accept you reasoning about your ‘non-activist’ status

    As with Dr Wilson, you’re ascribing one point of view to the entire LP community, most of whom haven’t commented on that specific point.

    DON’T.

    Please.

    You don’t know what “the leftwing community” thinks. You only know what the ones who have actually commented think. Unless you have an agenda to promote the myth that “leftwing communities” are hiveminds.

  266. tigtog

    @j_p_z, you framed your hypothetical within the rhetoric of the principles of free speech. I agree that there are plenty of ethical issues fit for examination from many angles/perspectives here, I just don’t think that free speech is the lens that they should be looked through, and free speech is the topic of the thread because that’s the lens that Pearson/Young chose to frame it within.

    I’m sticking to the topic, that’s all.

  267. tigtog

    @CJ Morgan, thank you so much for letting us know. There used to be a button there, but updates to WordPress have decided that its format is no longer compatible, and we didn’t realise. We shall find a new format ASAP, and will let you know when it’s working.

  268. tigtog

    P.S. to j_p_z,
    I also, frankly, think your hypothetical scenarios have been ridiculously biased analogies compared to what actually occurred.

    I have absolutely no problem, in principle, with complaining to advertisers who give financial support to pursuits/causes to which I am opposed. I have done it myself in the past, and I will probably do it again. Therefore I would be hypocritical to censure somebody else for doing exactly the same thing, even when it’s a small business rather than a giant corporation.

    Certainly there is a proportionality to be considered, but please put on your reality-based sniff-testing hat here: in what way was a disgruntled commentor supposed to know that OLO’s business model could conceivably be so vulnerable to a politely worded letter? Would anybody in the Australian blogging community have guessed? Would any of the bloggers who had agreed to be Graham’s clients as part of the Domain blog-bundle he was marketing to advertisers have guessed it? What past experiences do you imagine could possibly have led to Storer having any reasonable expectation that his letters would have such an effect?

    Attempts to shame Storer for taking a common action that many, many citizens around the world take every single week without any reasonable expectation, merely a flickering hope, that their efforts will have any effect whatsoever: that is misguided bullying, to my mind.

  269. Adam

    Sorry, j_p_z, I’m a little swamped today, so I can’t really keep up with this discussion, though maybe on the weekend. I guess to sum up my position: some actions that curtail speech are wrong, but many actions that have the possible or potential effect of curtailing speech are not wrong in themselves.

    For example, I could easily curtail my own future speech by saying something stupid and losing some friends. Let’s say Joe had reported a stupid utterance of mine, made in his presence, to my friend Charlie (maybe I’d said Stalin was probably okay, knowing that Charlie’s grandparents had barely survived the Ukrainian famine). As a consequence of that Charlie no longer offered me access to his refrigerator full of beer. This would make frank and fearless speech more difficult for me in future. Would that be Joe’s fault?

    If Charlie offered to restore my beer privileges if I agreed not to say anything positive about Stalin again, and I decided that endorsing Stalin was more important than Charlie’s beer, would it also be Joe’s fault that I’d lost the beer?

  270. tigtog

    @Adam,

    I guess to sum up my position: some actions that curtail speech are wrong, but many actions that have the possible or potential effect of curtailing speech are not wrong in themselves.

    Way to sum up my own position so much more concisely. That’s it exactly.

  271. su

    If someone disagrees with you in argument, even if you’re adopting an obnoxious manner, then I think their chief burden is to try and make a more convincing argument.

    I have read your opinion of the concept of hate speech so this is not an argument you are likely to find convincing, but the kinds of statements we are talking about go beyond an obnoxious manner. Dr Wilson’s “what is wrong with you people” is indicative of obnoxious manner, telling someone they are going to hell, and that ‘they’ should all be removed from the country is an extreme form of speech that has more deleterious consequences than just riling one up for an afternoon.

    Public health studies have shown that being part of a group that is reviled and discriminated against has negative consequences that cut across all other protective factors – education, socioeconomic group, diet and exercise etc. We tend to put speech into a different category to other actions in the belief that speech cannot wound in the way other actions can and to a certain extent that is true but the case has been overstated.

    I don’t really know what to do with this bizniss, at this point, short of just shut up and go alphabetize my collection of tiny porcelain frogs. That might be the best thing all round.

    Any suggestions

    Build a scale topographical model of the US in purest concrete, complete with key local landmarks, cement those suckers in and charge a buck admission. I’ll leave you to decide on the key question of the advisability of risque poses.

  272. tigtog

    Folks, this thread seems to have played out, and it’s time for it to close.