[LINK] Moderator Censorship

Robin Whittle rw at firstpr.com.au
Sun Mar 27 15:58:14 AEDT 2011

Short version: I argue the benefits of kookishness (by a particular
               definition) and dispute the assertion that moderation
               of a list such as Link is "censorship".

               I also correct what I think is Tom's impression that
               I am trying to prevent him writing to the list about
               nuclear safety.

Hi Tom,

You wrote, in part, quoting Ivan Trundle:

>> Thankfully, it's unusual to see dismissive, extreme or 
>> antipathetic comments on Link. Most of us have thick-enough 
>> skins and keen grey matter to deal with it, especially when 
>> we see elements of trolling, ad hominem arguments or 
>> patronising views.
>> I see Link as a self-normalising entity, and if there is 
>> sufficient interest and passion to continue a thread, it will happen.
>> I concur with the other Amigos: can we leave the personal 
>> denigration and mockery to off-list conversations?
> Would that apply to Moderator Warnings as well ?

Please read what I just wrote in reply to Craig Sanders (Re: [LINK]
Moderation note: Attempting ...).  If you still believe what I wrote to
you as a moderator is "censorship", then please argue your case in detail.

I am supporting all list members, including yourself, freely discussing
a range of subjects - in this case including nuclear safety.

I defended you against Craig's negative value judgement of being a
"kook" by arguing that kookishness frequently a positive quality in a
discussion list such as Link.

By "kookishness" I mean unconventionality in thinking, information
sources etc.

I don't mean someone who misinterprets the actions and intentions of
others, is overly dramatic, paranoid etc.  Nor do I mean someone who is
aggressive, ungenerous, inclined to be disparaging etc.

> I believe the first moderator warning was issued in reference to:
>> Now could we stop discussing it, please. Or could we move this rather 
>> moribund discussion to alt.rec.henny.penny

I was responding to this in the context of your ~600 words directly
preceding it (plus footnotes, which I welcome) which did discuss nuclear
safety.  You seem to be asserting that you should be able to discuss the
subject as you wish, and then have the last say with everyone else being
inhibited from discussing it from that point onwards.

> Followed by:
>> Postscript: An open mind has been proven to prevent the sky from falling.
> The above was obviously an attempt at polite, witty sarcasm - I said
> please - a word that is hardly conducive to the alleged heavy handed
> attempt to:

>> Please don't write to the list trying to discourage other
>> list members from discussing any particular subject, or 
>> expressing any particular opinion.]. 

I don't see how this postscript relates to, or lessens, the problem of
you attempting to dissuade other list members from discussing the subject.

> Now as for the escalation component of our minor contretemps, 
> I have a habit of replying to all. Had the moderator flamed me
> offlist my comments in reply would have been read by him only.

I didn't intend to flame you.  If you perceive I did, please argue why
in detail.

> Unfortunately, the moderator seeing my list of references in
> comparing deaths from nuclear versus alternative causes realised
> that he didn’t have much of a leg to stand on so like any person in
> a corner he lashed out with what little power he had left, that of
> judge jury and executioner.

You seem to assume you know my thoughts and reasons for acting.  You are
mistaken in several respects:

1 - You seem to think that I am trying to stop you discussing nuclear
    safety.  That's not the case at all - please discuss it.

2 - You seem to think that I felt defeated, cornered, powerless or
    whatever.  That's not the case.  The dangers of various forms
    of power generation are what we are discussing - and I acknowledge
    that fossil fuel power generation has serious health and safety
    problems too.

3 - "lashed out", "judge jury and executioner" ???  I think you are
    being way over-dramatic.  If I wanted to lash out at you, flame
    you or whatever, I would do a proper job of it.  What I did was
    tell you not to write to the list in a manner which would
    discourage other list members from discussing a particular subject
    which the moderators considered to be on-topic, or to write in a
    way which unconstructively disparages individuals or their opinions.

Your statement above attributes anti-social motivations and desperation
to me which I avow are not the case.

> Being the Judge and Jury and also either plaintiff or defendant is
> frowned on in almost every culture I know. It certainly isn’t
> permitted in any of the Berne Convention Countries, particularly
> those practising the Westminster justice system. However when I
> consider Guantanamo Bay, I could be wrong on that.

You seem to be inferring that my approach to moderating the Link list
has something in common with the Guantanamo Bay prison.  Yet, you
provide no detailed arguments as to why this is the case.  Please either
refrain from making such unsubstantiated comments about my or anyone
else's motivations - or argue in detail as to why you think my
motivations and actions really are as censorious and oppressive as you

> The second moderator warning was in reference to the term claptrap. I said:
>> I would never ever attempt to censor anyone opinion under any circumstances. 
>> Robin, you lost serious points with the above claptrap and should probably 
>> dismiss yourself from further comment on the basis of a conflict of interest. 
>> Damn, I did it again but this time, I wasn't joking.
> The Moderator jumped on that and responded:
>>  characterise what other people write in such negative terms 
>>  ("claptrap") without sufficiently detailed supporting 
>>  arguments - then 
> Huh ? "Without sufficiently detailed supporting arguments" ????
> OK - Here goes:

Yes - but you should include the arguments in the same message as the
extreme negative value judgement.

> I think the following attempt is commonly referred to as the China
> syndrome; but it's Sunday... So ... Digging on...
> Quote/: [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/
> dic·ta·tor
>  noun \ˈdik-ˌtā-tər, dik-ˈ\
> Definition of DICTATOR
> 1
> a : a person granted absolute emergency power; especially : one appointed by the senate of ancient Rome 
> b : one holding complete autocratic control 
> c : one ruling absolutely and often oppressively 
> Examples of DICTATOR
> 1.	The country was ruled by a military dictator.
> 2.	<the dictator had a fierce stranglehold on the country, keeping its people in poverty and ignorance>
> Origin of DICTATOR
> Latin, from dictare
> First Known Use: 14th century
> Related to DICTATOR
> Synonyms: caesar, despot, führer (or fuehrer), oppressor, pharaoh, strongman, tyrannizer, tyrant	
> mod·er·a·tor
> noun \ˈmä-də-ˌrā-tər\
> Definition of MODERATOR
> 1: one who arbitrates : mediator
> 2: one who presides over an assembly, meeting, or discussion: as a : 
>    the presiding officer of a Presbyterian governing body b : the
>    nonpartisan presiding officer
> 3: a substance (as graphite) used for slowing neutrons in a nuclear reactor 
> im·par·tial
>  adj \(ˌ)im-ˈpär-shəl\
> Definition of IMPARTIAL
> : not partial or biased : treating or affecting all equally 
> — im·par·tial·i·ty \-ˌpär-shē-ˈa-lə-tē, -ˌpär-ˈsha-\ noun 
> — im·par·tial·ly \-ˈpär-sh(ə-)lē\ adverb 
> Examples of IMPARTIAL
> 1.	an impartial analysis of the case
> 2.	<an impartial evaluation of the job applicant's qualifications that does not consider age, gender, or race>
> First Known Use of IMPARTIAL 1587
> Related to IMPARTIAL
> Synonyms: candid, disinterested, dispassionate, equal, equitable, evenhanded, fair, indifferent, just, nonpartisan, objective, square, unbiased, unprejudiced
> Antonyms: biased, ex parte, inequitable, nonobjective, one-sided, partial, parti pris, partisan, prejudiced, unjust
> Related Words: frank, forthright, open, straight, straightforward; balanced, rational, reasonable
> Near Antonyms: deceitful, deceptive, dishonest; arbitrary, unconscionable, unreasonable; jaundiced, unfriendly, unsympathetic; colored, distorted, warped
> See Synonym Discussion at fair
> Rhymes with IMPARTIAL court-martial,
> non·par·ti·san
> adj \ˈnän-ˈpär-tə-zən, -sən\
> Definition of NONPARTISAN
> : not partisan; especially : free from party affiliation, bias, or designation <nonpartisan ballot> <a nonpartisan board>
> — non·par·ti·san·ship \-ˌship\ noun
> See nonpartisan defined for English-language learners »
> Examples of NONPARTISAN
>    1. It's a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving our national parks.
>    2. <made a nonpartisan decision that satisfied all concerned>
> First Known Use of NONPARTISAN
> 1885
> Related to NONPARTISAN
> Synonyms: candid, disinterested, dispassionate, equal, equitable, evenhanded, impartial, indifferent, just, fair, objective, square, unbiased, unprejudiced
> Antonyms: biased, ex parte, inequitable, nonobjective, one-sided, partial, parti pris, partisan, prejudiced, unjust
> clap·trap
> noun \ˈklap-ˌtrap\
> Definition of CLAPTRAP
> : pretentious nonsense : trash
> See claptrap defined for English-language learners »
> Examples of CLAPTRAP
>    1. His entire speech was nothing but claptrap.
>    2. I'm tired of hearing all that claptrap about how hard her life is.
> Origin of CLAPTRAP
> 2clap; from its attempt to win applause
> First Known Use: 1799
> /quote
> And:
> Quote/: [http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-cla1.htm ]
> A writer in the The New-England Magazine in 1835, fulminating against 
> the star system that was contributing to the decline of the modern drama, 
> complained that in order to feed the performance of the lead actor, "The 
> piece must abound in clap-traps". Nor was the technique confined to the 
> theatre itself: an article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1855 about 
> a new play said that "All the clap-traps of the press were employed to 
> draw an audience to the first representation."  And in 1867, back across 
> the Atlantic in London, Thomas Wright wrote in Some Habits and Customs of 
> the Working Classes that: "The Waggoner’s entertainment, of course, 
> embraced the usual unauthenticated statistics, stock anecdotes, and pieces 
> of clap-trap oratory of the professional teetotal lecturers."
> The word developed from a figurative theatrical device to encourage 
> applause into a more general term for showy or insincere platitudes or 
> mawkish sentimentality directed at the lowest common denominator of one’s 
> audience. From there it was only a short step to the sense of talking 
> nonsense or rubbish, though the older ideas are often still present.
> /Quote
> -----------------------------------------------

Jeez - and Craig thought I was over-reacting . . .

> I think that covers the reference requirement of Mr. Whittles
> comments.

The above copy-and-paste job doesn't do it for me in terms of detailed
arguments.  What you are referring to as "claptrap" was my message:


but your purported arguments above don't refer to this at all.

Moderators of a mailing list decide what subjects and forms of
discussion take place on the list.  They are indeed dictators of their
own little fiefdom.  If you don't like the way we The Triumvirate (the
Three Amigos) run Link - if you consider our approach dictatorial - then
please make your own non-dictatorial list and invite folks to join.

> Gentlemen, I ran a BBS for nearly eleven years. Not once in those
> eleven years did I ever feel the need to prove my manhood by dressing
> down a user in public.
> Jolly poor show I would say...

I didn't dress you down and I don't prove my manhood on this list.

I support you and everyone else writing about nuclear safety, including
in some ways which other people regard as "kookish".

All I am telling you and other people is not to discourage other list
members from writing to the list.  I am also stating that you should
accompany strong negative value judgements such as "claptrap" with
detailed supporting arguments.

  - Robin

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