Category Archives: Blogging

Australian Politics in a Digital Age

A Dr Peter Chen at the University of Sydney is doing some research for a book Australian Politics in a Digital Age, and is asking readers of this blog (and a few others) to participate in a survey on their political engagement. If you’re interested, the survey won’t take long.

The results might be interesting.

Venting Thread – WordPress edition has gone and changed the commenting system on us. There doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it, but I know people are annoyed so – here’s a thread to vent about it. Or anything else that’s been annoying you.

Hacked again UPDATE: old error taken advantage of

SEE UPDATE:Somebody hacked this blog over the weekend and introduced a link to their new pissweak parody site. It’s been removed, but since I don’t quite know how they hacked this blog, please be alert for strange things they might have introduced while they were here.

Funnily enough, my long-time stalker publicised the new smear site within hours of it going up; and then promptly trumpeted the hack (a tiny change in my sidebar) as supposed “proof” it was me. You draw your own conclusions.

It’s almost funny how little these people must have going on in their lives. Can you imagine how lonely they must be? I kind of feel sorry for them.

UPDATE: Didn’t occur to me to do this, but one of the people with an intense interest in the minutiae of this blog and my life in general has suggested checking the wayback machine, which reveals that the error was there probably from when I first typed the blogroll link. Sitting there, pointing to a vacant wordpress blog that the hoaxer – after trawling through all my links in case there was one he could take advantage of – eventually used.

That’s a relief – the thought the hoaxer had been tinkering around inside my WordPress account doing god-knows-what was rather disturbing.

So: it appears there was no hacking – just a very old URL error that one of my bizarrely dedicated followers (what did you do today, dear/lonely old man next door? I went through every detail of some Victorian barrister’s weblog to see if I could find something to abuse him with! My life has meaning!) took full advantage of until I fixed it.

The lesson is: check your links. And check the wayback machine if you think someone’s tinkered with your site.

UPDATE #2: Thanks to my devoted typo-checker monkeys, typo in the update corrected.

On Line Opinion vs people’s opinions

Where do I sit on the now infamous On Line Opinion spat?

On the one hand, I do believe in free speech. But on the other… if you’re publishing something, either an article or a comment, you are doing more than just listening to it – you’re promoting it. Do you, as a website owner, have an obligation to publish any material, no matter how hateful, dishonest, misleading and downright damaging to honest debate?

I don’t think you do have such an obligation. I think publishing such material is making a choice – and a statement. You are saying “this view is not so extreme and destructive that it is beneath contempt; I think it is a legitimate part of the debate”.

The background, as I understand it:

  • On Line Opinion (OLO) published this ludicrous piece by Bill Muehlenberg in which he revealed that he spends a lot of time reading “the gay press” and attempted to suggest that gay people can’t take marriage seriously because some gay people don’t agree with his views on marriage.

  • The following comment was published:

    “It’s interesting that so many people are offended by the truth. The fact is that homosexual activity is anything but healthy and natural. Certain lgbt’s want their perversion to be called “normal” and “healthy” and they’ve decided the best way to do this is have their “marriages” formally recognised. But even if the law is changed, these “marriages” are anything but healthy and natural. It is, in fact, impossible for these people to be married, despite what any state or federal law may say.

  • Reader Greg Storer objected to homosexuality being declared a “perversion” and asked OLO to remove the comment.
  • OLO refused.
  • Storer and others contacted advertisers.
  • ANZ and IBM pulled their advertising.
  • OLO complained.
  • The “Australian Christian Lobby” came to its defence, as did The Australian. (Ouch.)

I’d argue that publishing an argument from someone like Muehlenberg which amounts to little more than an ad-hominem attack on gay people via insulting some prominent gay political figures is an editorial choice which is not required just because you’re trying to give reasonable space to both sides. And publishing a comment calling many of your readers relationships “perversions” is

The former is not an honest or reasonable contribution to debate, anyway. It’s the kind of thing that smothers genuine discussion – it certainly isn’t part of it. And the latter is, in reality, indistinguishable from hate speech.

The question I’d ask OLO is – where do you draw the line? If you had some anti-Semite spouting foul slurs about Jews, would you give her space? Is a reprehensible view acceptable just because you know several people who share it? Where do you draw that line? How many people need to believe something obviously false and dishonest before you’re willing to publish it as an “alternative opinion” in the guise of “balance”?

And if you choose to draw the line too broadly, why shouldn’t advertisers choose not to support your site?

To be honest, I’m not sure what kind of advertising really suits a genuinely free exchange of ideas, anyway – corporate money is fairly wary of anything controversial, which would hardly be something such a site should shy away from.

I suspect if you don’t want to scare away mainstream advertisers, you need to keep your content within certain bounds. Bounds which exclude publishing naked hate speech and misleading rhetoric.

Sorry, but on this occasion I think OLO stepped over the line, and it shouldn’t be surprised by the result. (And not just because they’ve got the ACL in their corner.)

The Reassurobuddy 3000

A new product announced in last week’s Bugle:

The Shankhound Reassurobuddy 3000, the pocket-sized friend that never disagrees with you, programmable to fully back up your world view and personal opinions. The Reassurobuddy 3000 will be a pal to you whenever your real friends think you’re being an unreasonable tool, an offensive prick or a general pain in the arse. Set the Reassurobuddy 3000 to customisable settings how you want. Whether you’re hard right wing or blindly communist, cold-bloodedly practical or wishy-washily idealistic, a tolerant and friendly philanthrope or a short-tempered bigot, the Reassurobuddy will back you up with generally supportive comments like “Damn right mate”, “Couldn’t have put it better myself” and “Yeeaaahh.”

As well as more specific internet-generated political and personal remarks, insults and out of context bendy Micro-Facts (TM) about whatever you are talking about.

Also, new for the Reassurobuddy 3000, the Over The Top button, to make the Reassurobuddy go way further and more extreme than you. Not only can it make you think you’re right about something, but now with the OTT facility, it can make you think you’re actually being quite reasonable about it by comparison.

The Reassurobuddy 3000, because you’re not always right, but you always want someone to tell you that you are.

I can’t think of anyone who’s been hanging out for one of those.

I’m sorry Dave (& Jeremy), I’m afraid I can’t do that

If anyone’s wondering what’s happening at Pure Poison, there’ve been some kind of server issues at Crikey. (ZOMG IS IT A CONSPIRACY OR HAVE THE COMPUTERS TURNED ON THEIR MASTERS EXCLAMATION MARK NUMBER ONE NUMBER ONE EXCLAMATION MARK.)

But Ha-al, people need to read my most recent retort to Andrew Bolt no-ow!

They’re apparently restoring the last day’s worth of posts and comments at the moment, so they should reappear very soon – hopefully fully intact and with all the comments up to the point where the system went awry.

UPDATE: 2.30pm maybe? They’re still working on it.

I blame Anonymous – I told Dave we shouldn’t have blocked credit card payments to Wikileaks, but he’s all like “hey, they’re traitors and need to be stopped”, and then he offers to help the Egyptian government to block the internet, and next thing we know our blog stops working. It’s either the vengeance of internet freedom fighters around the world, or a run-of-the-mill computer error AND WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF SUCH A THING.

Me, elsewhere

The two previous posts both have updates referring to me-related content elsewhere:

And to top it all off, this blog features a self-promoting stub of a post all about stuff I’m doing elsewhere! Yes, I never stop giving.

Think about it

The Pure Poison podcast is uploaded to PodBean; PodBean collapses under “unusually heavy traffic”. Coincidence? Sure it is.

A Voice for Print

Looking for a new podcast? Check out the Pure Poison Podcast, featuring Dave Gaukroger and me as we take the piss out of the trollumnists of the week.

You can download the podcast or listen to it online at our Podbean page – or download directly into iTunes.

Grog-gate: Outing as bullying

So, some News Ltd journalist who I’d never heard of before this morning has outed a blogger/twitterer (who very effectively criticised the lame efforts of the media during the last election), on the flimsy grounds that he’s a public servant WHO HAS POLITICAL OPINIONS he expresses in his non-work capacity and for some reason it’s “in the public interest” for us to know who he is. You know, in case we run into him in the street and want to have a chat. Or we’re his manager and can be persuaded to sack him.

And let’s be clear, that’s what this is about. The only relevance of his job is as a target to punish him for pissing journalists off. There’s no evidence that his job has anything to do with his opinions, or that he lets his opinions influence his job, or that there’s something wrong with a person who works for the public service having political opinions like the rest of us. (All of which Grog very eloquently denies.)

Tomorrow in The Australian: James Massola outs the Easter Bunny. IS HE A PUBLIC SERVANT? You’ll find out in the morning.

But why shouldn’t we know who he is? Why shouldn’t news organisations publicise the details of anyone engaged in the political debate?

Because for many people, their livelihood is quite incompatible with their expressing political views in their own name. Sure, they have a right to express those views – but if linked back to their work, via their identity being made public, it could result in serious consequences for their employment. And it’s not in the interest of the rest of us that such voices be silenced.

Which is effectively what will happen if everyone who dares participate is going to be vigorously pursued by the fourth estate, with all the resources at its disposal, and have their public participation deliberately jammed against their personal lives, their ability to earn a living, their support for their family.

Journalists, whose public opinions are directly associated with their livelihood such that there’s no conflict, or those who are their own employers, or those who are unemployed or unemployable, are free to talk sanctimoniously about “owning your words” and “the right to know” and so forth – but that’s because they are personally immune from damage. It’s all very well for James Massola to have his name attached to his words – because they’re what his employer pays him to write. (Although if I were Massola I wouldn’t be so confident that having my name attached to today’s effort will be without consequence in the long run.) It might be different if James wanted to express an opinion incompatible with his employers’ interests, something that could get him sacked – then he would have to choose between participation in the public arena or not going hungry, a choice he shouldn’t have to make. Maybe James doesn’t care about that because he intends to always be a good boy and do his master’s bidding, but that’s not the case for all of us, and nor should it be.

There is a place in the public debate for people who cannot afford to use their real names. As long as they do not take advantage of their work situation, or use their anonymity to pursue work-related goals, or in some other way abuse their anonymity – and expressing a political opinion is not abusing your anonymity – then why on Earth shouldn’t they use a pseudonym?

It’s not, as James disingenuously pretends, about a “right to anonymity”. It’s about a right to participate freely in political discussion, in a world in which employers can be less than sympathetic to such a right. The bullying by Mr Massola and his organisation in this instance, abusing their power to punish a critic, is a problem because it is being used in an obvious attempt silence and prevent such involvement in the future – to send a clear message to anyone else who would dare to question them in the future that WE WILL DO WHAT WE CAN (and that’s a fair amount) TO CRUSH YOU.

Let’s hope that Grog – and his employer – are able to treat the gambit with the contempt it deserves.

UPDATE: Just a question on the etiquette of outing: if outing without a good reason is wrong (and I’d argue it is), then what about outing an anonymous outer? Do they not deserve the justice of having their own names associated with their spiteful act? And if so, then what of the person who outs the outer? Are they immune despite being the outer of an outer, because their outing was legitimate under the previous outing rule? So an outer of an outer of an outer would be back to square one and deserve to be outed by an outer of an outer of an outer of an outer? Yup, I think that’s fairly clear now.

UPDATE #2: If anyone doubted this was about bullying, check out James Massola’s further attack today:

Jericho blogged as a hobby outside work hours. But he sent literally hundreds of partisan political tweets out, during work hours… Jericho’s decision to “live blog” the Media 140 conference (was it a sick day, a day in lieu, annual leave, did he clear it with his supervisor?) made my mind up.

What a vicious little tattle-tale. Will Massola now start timing Grog’s bathroom breaks to make sure the taxpayer’s getting value for money out of his employment?

UPDATE #3: And Tim Dunlop contrasts News’ shamelessly hypocritical behaviour with its campaigning about the importance of anonymity to free speech during the SA election. (I’d still like to know when they’re going to start outing their “staff writers”.)

UPDATE #4: My Pure Poison colleague Dave writes an excellent explanation for journalists who still don’t understand why amateurs might need to stay anonymous.