Home > All, General Rants, Politics > Comment is Free provided we agree with you

Comment is Free provided we agree with you

September 10, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Richard Aitken (@rajakarta) has had his comment removed from the Guardian’s Comment is Free by its moderators. This is perfectly acceptable behaviour: moderators have a duty to remove profanity, illegality, sedition and so on. But I thought I’d have a look at Richard’s comment noir, which he has reposted here: Paste ID e73dd5950b at PrivatePaste, to see just how evil and immoral he is.

I can find nothing wrong. It is an opinion – but it does criticise our Darling Tony B’s story “Blaming a moral decline for the riots makes good headlines but bad policy” in the Observer. Richard points to the contradiction between the establishment’s hard line against those at the bottom of the social scale and those at the top:

I think the lack of justice meted out to those guilty of malfeasance related to the financial crisis may be indicative of that. It might also explain the double standard, which has permitted expense account abusing politicians to cut a cheque for the balance owing on their transgressions, whereas “otherwise ordinary young people who got caught in a life-changing mistake” (vis-a-vis the riots) wind up in the dock.

In fact, Richard’s views are quite similar to my own:

Until the people feel they have a real say in our country, until equal before the law is a fact not a hollow platitude, until the rich actually pay their tax levies in the same way as the poor, then last week will be just the beginning.
Broken Britain? Disconnected, more like…

I can find no justification for the moderators to remove this comment – other than they might disagree with Richard Aitken. Frankly, the Guardian should change its name: it is certainly not guarding our freedoms. And Comment is Free should change to Comment is Free Provided You Don’t Say Anything Contradictory to Our Editorial Policy.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics
  1. September 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    I have always made a concerted effort to abide by the Guardian’s “Community Standards” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/community-standards). The post which you have referred to http://bit.ly/opkxcy , my comments on Mr. Blair’s 20 August OpEd in the Observer http://bit.ly/pubbuk , have in no way contravened those standards. If the comment had truly been objectionable, the Guardian moderators would have removed it immediately. They would not, as they did, have allowed the comment to remain on the page for two weeks from the date of its post until Sept 4th when it was eventually removed.

    At the same time that my comment on Mr. Blair’s OpEd was removed, the preceding comment, which I had posted on an article related to Channel 4’s “Big Brother” television program at http://bit.ly/q8ti6h was also removed. It has now been reposted here http://www.privatepaste.com/f758c17909 . As this comment was also removed at the same time (on 4th September) we may observe that the comment was allowed to stay posted to the story for 17 days. Considering the matter of discussion was a Channel 4 Reality TV show, it would be difficult to assert that the reason for the removal was simply “Guardian editorial policy”

    One of the questions, which begs to be asked is: Just what was it that happened on Sunday 4 September that caused the Guardian moderators to be suddenly gripped by such a furious impulse toward retroactive censorship?

    Well, I believe part of the answer to that question rests in the third of my comments that was removed on 4 September; and that was my most recent post to CiF, the one which I made on that date, to Paul Krugman’s OpEd. “The Republicans are now the anti-science party” http://bit.ly/oZDZrh I have since reposted that comment here: http://www.privatepaste.com/c93f21e1a9 Once again we can see that there’s no real grounds to assert that the opinion and observations, which I have expressed infringe upon the “community standards”. To clarify my position, I am by no means in denial of the fact that climate change is occurring (unlike many CiF contributors). I am simply stating the fact that a broad cross-section of the scientific community is continuing to support a course of action, which is largely ineffective, and that better (more efficient) approaches need to be developed. Hopefully Durban will put an end to the Kyoto protocol this coming November; Looking forward to blogging further on that; probably not on the Guardian though.

    From the preceding paragraph, we come to an answer for the question “Why 4 September”? but what we don’t get an answer to is – why has this censorship occurred at all? @Kevin, I don’t think that the removal of my comments was done simply because my opinions stood in contradiction to the Guardian’s Editorial Policy; And @martijn_grooten while it would be comforting to think that this might be an incident of a “false positive” – a simple mistake perhaps carried out by a lone overzealous moderator – I don’t think that is correct either. I think it runs a bit deeper, and that in order to discern the true reason, it’s necessary to look at censorship of the Internet more broadly.

    I have quite a few twitter accounts, but I presently maintain three publicly available (non-protected) twitter accounts, which are in my own name. These are: @zebra5thousand; @rajakarta and @tweetcensorship Most of my commentary and links to documents related to environmental issues are available at @zebra5thousand. The @rajakarta and @tweetcensorship accounts focus more on social and economic issues, on matters related to corruption and censorship.

    Over the course of using twitter, my accounts have regularly been subject to various forms of censorship. Twitter has evolved considerably over this period of time (most notably with the evolution from old twitter to new twitter), and so too has the means by which Twitter censors user accounts. I have endeavored to evade this censorship, using a number of different strategies. As time has advanced, however, I have found the types of censorship, which I have had to contend with, are increasingly unassailable. It’s getting to the point where my twitter accounts are actually being manipulated. Most recently for instance, I have discovered (on my account @zebra5thousand) that twitter accounts, which I had not and would not follow, are being added to my following list. I do my best to keep on top of it, but you can’t spend all your time on twitter… so it may be that my days left on twitter are numbered.

    As for the Guardian CiF, unless my previous comments are reinstated my days of blogging there are pretty much at an end. Of course I’ll leave my profile on their server, but what’s the point of commenting further if they are just going to blank them out with their message that says I’ve failed to adhere to their “community standards”. That’s fairly useless as a medium of social exchange.

    We tend to think that we’ve all got unfettered access to one another due to the advent of social media, but it’s not so. Very real attempts are being made to block access of dissenting opinions. Of course it depends on what it is you’ve got to say. But more than just the content of what’s expressed, I think the degree to which one falls victim to censorship – depends much more on matters of identity and motivation.

    Unlike many who blog on CiF, I sign my name. I think that’s one of things that really bothers the likes of the Guardian. You can say what the hell you like as long as they know who you are and you’re anonymous to everyone else. But when they hear people saying things they don’t like and signing there name to those opinions; that puts them on defensive.

    Why do I sign my name? Well that’s the motivation for engaging in these forums in the first place. It’s a topic which is beyond the scope of this present blog, but if you’re interested to find out, then take a look at my twitter bios and the bio’s on Scribd and the Guardian to which they link to. The answer to the question of what motivates me is there; and it’s the same answer as to the question of why it is that the Guardian moderators have made their decision to censor my opinions.

    Richard Aitken
    @rajakarta @zebra5thousand @tweetcensorship
    Jakarta, Indonesia


  2. September 10, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    expressED, that should have said.


  3. September 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Can’t this just be a false positive, a reaction that was removed but shouldn’t have been? It’s not exactly an opinion you don’t hear being regularly express in the paper.


    • September 10, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      Well, let’s hope so. Of course, were it to be put back, that would clinch it.


    • September 12, 2011 at 10:39 am

      But after further thought, it’s not as if the Guardian doesn’t have an agenda. It’s tempting to wonder, for example, why the newspaper didn’t publish the figures from the latest of its own ICM polls (possibly the most accurate of all the pollsters). And it’s difficult not to conclude that it may have something to do with the figures showing a Tory lead over Labour…

      Con: 37%
      Lab: 36%
      LD: 17%


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