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A Plea For Common Decency….

January 28, 2009

4043Our friend Captain Ned just posted a comment on the book blogs that will inevitably be deleted. At the risk of appearing immodest, I publish it here because it perfectly articulates what has gone wrong with Comment is Free (ho-ho):


28 Jan 09, 9:38pm

One of the Books Blog’s most consistently entertaining and intelligent posters, artpepper (aka misharialadwani), has become so hacked off with the trigger-happy behaviour of the GU’s moderators that he has gone off to start his own blog; another excellent former poster, worderd7, did the same thing a while ago. Sarah Crown and colleagues: do you have any idea of how much your behaviour is infuriating people – I mean the people who are the most regular posters here, and whose opinions you ought to value? When in doubt, censor: that seems to be your motto, to the very great detriment of a once first-rate website (in addition to all the other deteriorations that have set in). If you have any regard for these people – your readers, for Christ’s sake – then please respond to this post.

I have a question. I posed this question in my first post on mishari’s new site, but I want now to pose it to you, Sarah Crown. How often has a deleted post been reinstalled? Maybe it’s a routine occurrence, but I can’t think of any examples. Has it ever been done? Or are protests simply ignored? Now, I’m a technological ignoramus, so I don’t know, maybe it’s just not possible to have deleted posts reappear. But if it is, I’d like to know what your policy is regarding objections to the moderator’s baleful handiwork. Do you pretend to a degree of authoritarian infallibility? Is the referee’s decision final? I know that sometimes, as here, you do deign to offer something by way of explanation of your actions, but these seldom amount to more than vague, half-hearted references to the Talk Policy. When posters are dissatisfied and ask for more, they are met with silence, and when they have the audacity to express their continued dissatisfaction, their posts are censored. It’s incredible. Measured, even-tempered posts, which ask in entirely reasonable terms for nothing more than your engagement, are disappeared for no greater crime than daring to express a few doubts about the unimpeachable perfection of the blessed moderators and their majestically mysterious ways. This simply won’t do.

Now, I have not used any swear-words. I have not been abusive. There is no reason on Earth why this post should be censored. But it is an indication of the frequent, arbitrary unfairness of your working methods that I should, not without cause, fear that deletion is precisely the fate that awaits these words. You just don’t seem to able to tolerate dissent, which in a paper that is supposed to uphold the liberal ideals it so loudly proclaims, is disgraceful. If you do decide to plump for deletion yet again, I can only hope that before you manage to get round to it, enough readers will have seen it for its point to have been made. I know that I am not alone in my frustration.


Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

This post from @Hegelian, which preceded Cap’n Ned’s, is also highly amusing and destined for the chop if past form is anything to go by…

@Hegelian, 28 Jan 09, 6:04pm

A draft for an acceptable comment:

“I think this was a particularly nice piece. It was written very nicely. Though in some respects I dissent from the opinion on Mr McCrum I think that he is probably right in his general claims. The other comments were very nice. I would also add that cloudy skies are my favourite – but only when there isn’t too much variation in their shades of grey”.

although @Hegelian was being sardonic, I suspect that this really is the acceptable template for all future comments.

As predicted, Cap’n Ned’s post has been deleted. There’s no reasoning with the regime of dim wankers who run the Grauniad. These cretins are unteachable. They’re small in every respect excepting dull-witted and entirely baseless self-esteem…

  1. 3p4 permalink
    January 28, 2009 11:08 PM

    i have once had a post restored after deletion,,i have seen one other reference to this happening
    i read almost all the threads every blog every day
    and i believe its a very rare event

    my deletion was the (clearly)result of sloppy reading by the mod

    wordnerds site carry several examples of bizarrre deletions and i have already posted the favourite one of mine on this site,,you cant tell
    which post it is,,looks like an apphorism,,

  2. mishari permalink*
    January 28, 2009 11:18 PM

    Personally, I’ve never seen it happen. There was a time when you’d get an e-mail from the mods, explaining why they felt they had to delete your post. You could argue, (always a waste of time) but at least you were gven the courtesy of an explanation. It also fostered the impression that the Grauniad actually had some respect and consideration for its readers. This is no longer the case. The mods would feel right at home in North Korea…

  3. 3p4 permalink
    January 28, 2009 11:56 PM

    in the reply to CaptNed on the mccrumb thread

    this may be due to my method of complaint which was to complain about my own post,,i reported myself for abuse,,and in the subsequent popup textbox pointed out i was the abused one and the mods were the abusers,,i have refered one other time in a post to this mechanism but needless to say the reference has been wiped,,so this one probably has a short scroll life,,

    i never got any emails from mods about deletions
    apart from the restoration incident which email offered very little by way of apology or acknowledgement of error,,
    i still thanked them nicely

    The mods would feel right at home in North Korea,,

    no,, in north korea one would have to be signed in to innundate the mods with high priority emails via the report this comment link,,

    he mused,,

  4. January 29, 2009 9:41 AM


    I’ve posted a request for reading suggestions for a precocious 18 year old student on Wordy’s blog. Why don’t you link to it? He often sues the forum so I think he can take it. What reading suggestions would you give him in Arabic or English?


  5. January 29, 2009 9:50 AM

    He often “uses” the forum not “sues” the forum.

    What an unfortunate typo.

  6. January 29, 2009 10:04 AM

    What’s also odd is that some comments just dissappear completely whilst others inform you in funereal grey that the content has been moderated.

    Reading the whole thread is the visual equivalent of Tourette’s syndrome where comments in response to something that’s been deleted just look like the random outbursts of the insane.

    I was thinking of just adding an outraged comment about something that has not been in the thread just to emphasise this but under advice from my doctor have thought fuck it instead.

  7. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 10:25 AM

    Another strange feature of GU is that CIF (older and separate from the arts blogs incl. the booksblog) has always been much more communicative with its audience/posters, even though there have been far, far more seriously abusive exchanges on that site.

    Tbh I think the power of Sarah Crown — a generally pleasant and reasonable online presence, I’ve always found — to decide mod policy is fairly limited, as *none* of the arts blogs have ever treated the posters with much respect. And whenever I’ve had contact with the mods themselves, they’ve similarly struck me as perfectly sane and reasonable sorts. I suspect the real responsibilty here lies with the chief of the arts blogs (whose name escapes me as I haven’t really been hanging around there since it turned dull a year or so ago). Compared to CIF, her communication with her audience has been absolutely dreadful.

    But does anything suggest that GU will listen to complaints like this? Of course not. The solution therefore, as we’ve said, is sites like this and wordy’s and obooki’s and others. Who knows, there may be ways to mobilise the post-GU talent pool in more organised/hefty ways yet.

  8. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 11:59 AM

    I noticed that too, Al. Very peculiar, as though some posts merit the extreme sanction of disappearance while others are deemed less heretical.

    I’m not sure what your asking for Isa…English books for an Arab or Arabic books for an English speaker.

    I agree, Sean…the solution lies with us. Dive into the blogosphere with gusto, strike enough sparks, start a conflagration…it’s the only way.

    Busy now, but I’m going to post later on explaining why the whole Guardian farce so infuriates me (to do with a life-long relationship with the paper)…

  9. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 12:28 PM

    SA’s comment, deleted within minutes:

    29 Jan 09, 11:05am (1 minute ago)

    Where the interactivity of the online forum trumps “print” (and more than makes up for the inbuilt chaos of the medium), though, is in its dangerous ability to rip the masks off. “Print” presentation is static and peremptory and much better at simulating authority because it’s written in stone, effectively, while speaking to our material fetishes. Long long ago, you’d buy a literary rag and read what was proffered like varying degrees of Moses receiving The Word. If you were so presumptuous as to actually want to talk back to it, you’d have to mail off a letter and wait a month or so and pray that your letter, out of thousands, was chosen. Very few radical, dissident or otherwise authority-irritating letters were ever chosen.

    Before the television chat show, the famous writer was a priestly or oracular figure; the chat show demystified that, to some extent, but replaced the famous writer’s classic delphic mystique with the modern mystique of celebrity. The internet is demystifying even that, now. Just as it demystifies politics.

    And this thread demystifies the virtual literary rag: it’s just people behind it all and the machinations are not mysterious… we see them carried out in real time, with transparent cause-and-effect to illustrate the lesson. People have their moods and personalities. My favorite pop tautology: people are people.

    The glamour is gone but it is replaced with a bit of truth. I’d like to see this gradual dissipation of publishing mystique continue to the point that sticking 100,00 words between two slices of cardboard and slapping a compelling photo on the result will seem nothing more than just that. Text qua text: wouldn’t that be something?

    This GU blog comment thread (and all such forums) inadvertently hasten that day’s coming. The demystifying effect of human administrators doing all-too-human things on the pseudo-authoritative GU site feels like a betrayal now, but, in the end, it’s a service.

  10. parallax permalink
    January 29, 2009 1:04 PM

    “I’m going to post later on explaining why the whole Guardian farce so infuriates me (to do with a life-long relationship with the paper)”

    mish – I’m looking forward to this – you always tell it like it is*

    In the meantime I’m opening a book on whether Boris will appear in the Politely Homicidal’s thesis – any takers?

    *obooki, if you’re out there, that sentence construction was just for you – I must be close to (deservedly) getting my on-line obooki MA by now, surely?

  11. freepoland permalink
    January 29, 2009 1:27 PM

    There were plenty of uncontentious comments struck off the thread, which merely referred to the moderation – which rendered the thread unintelligible because many posts remained which referred to deleted matter. In the C17, book burning was undertaken by the common hangman, often a corrupt individual. Just because there are no cinders doesn’t mean people have not been arbitrarily and, at least rudely censored. I remarked that Comment Is Restricted would be a suitable mission statement. It was deleted.
    I’m off to put up bookshelves.

  12. parallax permalink
    January 29, 2009 1:29 PM

    btw obooki* I can’t post on your thread – have you reconfigured/tweaked your settings? There used to be a comments box at the end of each thread to add to the discussion – but now I’m asked to log into wordpress and supply a password. Cool, if that’s how it’s meant to be – just checking…

    *apologies for using this thread to talk to obooki

  13. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 1:31 PM

    Talk to anyone you like, para…this ain’t Comment is Muzzled.

  14. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 1:44 PM

    good point, Sean…what little mystique remained has long since dissipated. Smoke and mirrors don’t work. Implausible waffle won’t work and the bastards are too reactionary to consider truth and openness.

  15. January 29, 2009 2:37 PM

    English books for an Arab

  16. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 3:01 PM

    Sorry, Isa, you’ll have to be a little more specific. Without knowing his or her reading level, purpose, etc. it’s impossible to say. There’s hell’s own amount of books one could potentially recommend but it would be pointless to suggest a novel if he/she only cares for non-fiction, equally pointless to recommend Ulysses if their reading level is not up to it…you see what I mean, I’m sure…

  17. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 3:17 PM

    It was Steven Augustine’s point, mishari. Soon deleted of course.

    His latest point seals the issue: if many of those posts were deleted because they referred to other deleted posts, then why wasn’t ‘Zadie Smith”s post — referring as it did largely to Oscar and SA’s deleted posts — deleted?

  18. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 4:11 PM

    consistency’s not their strong point, is it?

  19. Captain Ned permalink
    January 30, 2009 6:25 PM

    I sent this e-mail today; I wait with baited breath.

    Dear Community Moderator,

    Apologies for what is no doubt an irksome disturbance to your hectic schedule, but I would be most grateful if you were to devote a few moments of your time to replying to the points I would like to put to you. It would not surprise me in the least if, following the recent kerfuffle that broke out over on the McCrumb thread, there has of late been some small degree of discombobulation in your neck of the woods, or seat in the clouds. You have held yourself above the melee with admirable equanimity, but even the best of us are liable in private to be disconcerted by such disagreeable outbreaks of rowdiness. The aloof restraint you have thus far shown accords in many ways with the higher sort of wisdom with which one would naturally associate you, but if there are a few odd doubts behind that inscrutable facade of yours, fear not, for it is no shame to admit it. Indeed, there are many of us here below who would welcome the odd peep behind the mask from time to time. But let that be; I must keep to my purpose. If I may be so bold as to make without further ado an observation or two, I hope you will not take it amiss.

    Your decree that we, as groundlings, should direct our communications to you via e-mail has been noted, and thus it is that I am dispatching this missive. However, I would venture to suggest that this is, in the present circumstances, a less than satisfactory procedure. The concerns that have lately been raised are not particular to one instance of the exercise of your authority, but relate to a wider pattern of behaviour that has been in evidence for quite some time. There are many of us, I assure you, who share these concerns, and our unease has been growing steadily. When you consider just how widespread is this discontent – but discontent is too strong a word, for who among us can be truly discontent under your blessedly magnificent rule? I’ll call it a discomfort instead, for we are inveterate and ungrateful grumblers all, and would not wish to convey the impression that these complaints are meant to be so very much more vociferous than our usual gripes. This discomfort, then, is widely shared, and I feel it would not therefore be inappropriate if, the next time these matters are brought up, your responses were to be open and available to all, that all might have the benefit of your matchless sagacity. A great deal of needless ill-feeling would thereby be circumvented, and many thorny disputes be laid to rest. These words are submitted to you with all the crawling humility befitting to one of my station; if anything herein is offensive to your thrice-majestral holiness, then I offer my most abject apologies.

    Yours, in fear and trembling,

    Captain Ned

  20. mishari permalink*
    January 31, 2009 6:13 AM

    If only you could post an accompanying video of yourself tugging your forelock.

    I had an email exchange with the mods last year but gave up after pointing out the flaws in their logic and contradictions in their various stances and being referred to the Talk Policy, as though it were some sort of mystical, Kabbala-like text through which all mysteries would be revealed.

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