16th December, 2011

Christopher Hitchens death is no reason to avoid criticism of him

by Kulvinder at 11:03 pm    

The death of any prominent individual – let alone one who held controversial views – always results in a certain amount of aggravation as the skeins of supporters flock to various forms of media to have one final fight about the irreplaceable stature or utter irrelevance of the recently deceased.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Blog,Culture,Media
15th September, 2011

James Delingpole’s blogging

by Sunny at 7:35 am    

Yesterday evening I may have given the impression to some people on Twitter that James Delingpole’s blogging for the Telegraph was shit and repeatedly wrong.

Now, the first part of that is obviously true. More intelligent ppl than me have pointed out to me that the second accusation may get me into trouble. So, before my ass gets sued, a clarification. Delingpole writes comment and doesn’t know much climate science at all. He admitted he interpreted interpretations by other people. But I can’t find any instance of him apologising for lying about anything, so if people wrongly got the impression I had accused him of worse, I withdraw the accusation. As he mostly opines on various issues, technically he cannot get factual stuff wrong. I don’t want to accuse him of stuff he didn’t do.

He is however still a nasty person. Last year he published the name and details of an innocent member of the public who had contacted their MP with questions about the environment. After Delingpole’s readers started harassing this individual, the Telegraph took the post down. Neither the website nor Delingpole issued an apology for that as far as I know.

Filed under: Media
25th August, 2011

Does Howard Jacobson look at Asians and think ‘terrorist’?

by Sunny at 5:55 pm    

I can’t tell if the Independent columnist Howard Jacobson has lost his god damn mind or if he’s always been like this.

In an interview with the Evening Standard today he says:

The good thing that came out of the riots was a renewed sense of community. “How does one put this without sounding gross … it was terrific to see the Asian communities on telly and not to have to think about terrorism, and not to have to think about the thing I’m always thinking about… do they want to kill Jews?”

Is that meant to be a joke?

Jacobson looks at an Asian person and thinks they might be terrorists or want to kill Jews? What is he smoking? Has the paranoia got to him?

Does he look at me and think ‘Hmmm, this guy has brown skin. Maybe he wants to kill me. I better run and hide!‘. Perhaps he should stop reading Jihad Watch or something. Idiot.

Update: a few people on Twitter say he’s saying it positively.

Let’s try a thought experiment. If I say: “Isn’t it great we can stop thinking of these white people as morally degenerate savages for a bit and see them as nice people who cleaned up after a riot” – that wouldn’t be highly patronising?

Filed under: Media,Race politics
21st August, 2011

Reviewing papers with Nigel Farage, on Sky (video)

by Sunny at 11:54 pm    

This was Friday night – and don’t say anything about the shirt I was wearing!

Filed under: Media
11th August, 2011

It’s a Girl! film trailer

by Rumbold at 3:51 pm    

A film examining the mass killings of baby girls in India and China is to be released in early 2012 (trailer below). Researchers estimate that the gender imbalance in these two countries is such that it could only have been achieved through the mass abortion of female foetuses and the murder of millions of baby girls. Look out for Pickled Politics contributors Rita Banerji and Mitu Khurana at 1:41-1:54 in the video.

The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.

9th August, 2011

Why there’s a good chance the London riots have already peaked

by Sunny at 7:56 pm    

I said this earlier on Twitter so I best justify it quickly:

I’m going to stick my neck out and predict tonight will see a lot less trouble than yesterday. I think this has peaked.

Of course there is a good chance people will read this later tonight and laugh. But that is the whole danger with predictions.

My thinking is this. Whatever ‘alienation’ and ‘dispossession’ these youths feel from society (and why are they mostly men?) – the looting has flared up mostly because there is a widespread perception that the police cannot do much about it, and this is their chance to get some free stuff and have one over the police.

This has become a socially driven event, where the expectation that they can get away with it drives it further. Without that expectation, it should in theory die quickly.

I say ‘in theory’ because the other problem is that a lot is dependent on flash-points. Without the spark, a tense situation can easily dissolve into nothing.

The police talking up their numbers and showing shots of them suiting up in heavy armour should have an impact. So will the raids last night on some of the looters.

If London is much quieter last night – it will show that the flare up of the London riots (following Tottenham on the first night) was driven more by the sense of weakness with the police (or ‘shorting the law’ as Alison Charlton called it) than by deep rage (though I accept there is low-level rage present regardless).

Filed under: Media
23rd July, 2011

A ‘Bad Man’ With Good Looks… and serious religious messages

by guest at 10:02 am    

This is a guest post by Sarah. She blogs here.

Going through the BBC News website yesterday, I discovered Muslim comedian Humza Arshad, AKA ‘Badman’ for the first time. What I didn’t know then was that he has already had literally millions of Youtube hits, been on BBC Asian Network and will soon be starting his first comedy tour, joined by several well known British Asian comedians including Jeff Mirza.

After a hilarious half hour, during which I was mostly literally laughing out loud, I found out all this and more. Humza Arshad- sorry, ‘Badman,’ has a Youtube channel through which he runs his comedy video diary. It’s called- you guessed it- Diary of a Badman. The caption of his first Youtube video describes him as ‘a badman with seriously good looks.’

According to BBC News, Humza hopes his comedy will not only entertain, but also challenge perceptions of Islam. His videos are filled with moments of fun about everything from the iPhone 4 to the Asian woman’s Tupperware obsession- something that all British Asian children of a certain age know only too well!

But what makes Humza Arshad stand out is that each of his videos ends with a serious message connected to Islamic teachings. In the first, after a fight with his mum, he ends by recalling the Prophet’s words about respecting mothers (by tests forge richards). In his Eid video, he explains that the festival is all about sacrifice and in the latest, he makes sure to thank Allah, along with his fans, for his success.

If Humza Arshad’s comedy sounds like your cup of ‘chai,’ you can watch his whole series of Youtube videos here. He also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. And he now takes bookings- he can be emailed at badmanbooking[at]hotmail.co.uk.

I, for one, can’t wait for his next video.

Filed under: Humour,Media,Muslim
22nd July, 2011

Muslims and the media

by Sunny at 4:40 pm    

A national poll of Britons has found that the media industry is seen as most to blame for ‘fear of Islam’.

Muslims abroad and far-right parties such as the BNP and EDL come a joint distant second in the poll by Comres.

They were asked: “Which one of the following groups, if any, do you think is most to blame for Islamophobia, fear of Islam, in the UK?”

29% of Britons blamed the media. 14% blamed Muslims abroad and 13% blamed far-right parties.

Just 11% blamed Muslims in the UK for ‘Islamophobia’, with politicians getting the same amount of blame at 10%.

Around 1% agreed with the statement: “I do not think that Islamophobia exists in the UK”. They’re the ones who spend most of their time trolling websites.

Another question by ComRes asked whether people thought the Qur’an justified use of violence against non-Muslims.

Around 14% thought it did, while around 65% disagreed.

Filed under: Islamists,Media
21st July, 2011

Guardian’s decision to give Jonnie Marbles some space was right

by Sunny at 7:47 am    

Occasionally I get the odd hard-left idiot screaming at me for publishing an article on Liberal Conspiracy they don’t like. Everything from detailed, nuanced arguments on why Labour councils should pass cuts, to articles on silly student protests to the last one on Charlie Gilmour.

In each case, they’re not fussed about the argument itself, however nuanced it may be, but that it was actually published on Libcon. How dare you! WHERE IS THE SOLIDARITY YOU SCAB! I’ve given up trying to debate such idiocy.

But it seems this kind of thinking is not just limited to some hard-lefties.

Yesterday, a whole bunch of people were annoyed the Guardian gave space to Jonnie Marbles to explain why he tried to pie Rupert Murdoch in the face.

I thought the stunt was idiotic and counter-productive, but if he had offered that article to me I would have published it on Liberal Conspiracy without a doubt. The whole point of building a platform is to give space to a wide range of people. No, that does not automatically mean you chuck in Holocaust deniers and Neo-Nazis, as someone suggested to me. There is a slight difference between throwing a pie in someone’s face and hardcore racism.

Jonnie Marbles was already a big story before the Guardian gave him space: Google News recorded mentions in nearly 10,000 articles. Just because you don’t like a view doesn’t mean it should not be out there. And yes, that includes the BNP and Muslim extremists (after all, Newsnight, Today regularly give the BNP / Anjem Choudhary a space. What I object to there is giving them excessive space).

I bet someone will now try to dredge up some supposed instance of me contradicting myself. Even if I did that in the past – this is my stance now. People complaining about being subjected to alternative views they don’t like – especially when they haven’t paid for reading it – really need to get a grip.

Filed under: Media
16th July, 2011

Stephen Pollard’s delusions

by Sunny at 3:05 pm    

This has got to be framed somewhere. The odious Stephen Pollard writes:

As it happens, my own view is that Rupert Murdoch is one of the few genuinely great men of our times, a man who has done more to enrich our lives than any other single human being of the past generation and who should be a hero for his commitment to freedom.

Awesome! HE IS THE GREATEST, WHY CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT YOU EVIL LIBRULS?!

Filed under: Humour,Media
6th July, 2011

News of the World boycott

by Rumbold at 8:59 pm    

After the disgraceful revelations around the News of the World hacking case, the response from campaigners has been heartening. Rather than just criticise the News of the World, people have begun to threaten to boycott companies who carry on advertising with the paper. As of 5:15pm this evening, seventeen companies have already withdrawn their advertising, and more are likely to follow in the near future. Why is this heartening? Because it shows that activism can have an effect on an issue, as well as showing the benefits of leaving such campaigns up to a free market (companies don’t want to lose their customers, so they pull out), rather than calling for greater regulation etc. (which probably wouldn’t work anyway). Undoubtedly some companies would have considered pulling out anyway regardless of any campaign, however, increasing the pressure is on them is likely to see a better result.

Filed under: Economics,Media
29th June, 2011

A short note about Brendan O’Neill and his past

by Sunny at 8:43 pm    

I don’t suspect many people will be taking lessons from Brendan O’Neill – editor at Spiked Online – on journalism ethics: he’s wading in over the Johann Hari controversy. Oh, of course Paul Staines is citing him, but even Staines’ old chum Iain Dale wouldn’t defend the former’s intentions on radio earlier tonight.

I want to clarify one point though. I said earlier that Brendan O’Neill was at Living Marxism magazine when it accused ITN of fabricating stuff and lost its legal battle and ran out of money. What I should clarify is I don’t know if he played a part in that scandal. I don’t want it to look like I’m insinuating he was part of that legal battle (he most likely wasn’t). I have little time for the RCP / Living Marxism / Spiked Online crew – but to accuse them of something they didn’t do would be wrong. And I don’t want it to look like I’m doing that.

Filed under: Media
28th June, 2011

Everyone… let’s join the Twitter mob!

by Sunny at 11:26 pm    

If you spend long enough on Twitter, sooner or later you see, get involved in or are in the centre of a “Twitter storm”. If you’re not that well known, it might not even be a storm… but if you’re as well known as Johann Hari – it goes international.

I was involved in a minor one a few years ago, when I off-handedly tweeted that I welcomed that right-wing demagogue Rush Limbaugh ended up in hospital. Immediately, Conservative Home and Iain Dale were furiously trying to whip up outrage against me. No one outside their circle took the bait and the pitchfork mob never came. I survived.

But it usually works like this: (group 1) there are some sensible people who make valid criticism. In the case of Johann Hari, there were some journalists and professors who thought it was unethical. Fair enough. (I thought what he did was wrong but the “scandal” had gotten out of hand by noon… it was still going strong at 6pm).

(group 2) Then there are other prominent tweeters who just like to get on the bandwagon and offer their opinion on the issue. The bandwagon starts to roll apace. (Group 3) Then there are people who really hate the person in question. Hari has a legion of haters out there who think he’s too much of a softy liberal. Their politics isn’t necessarily leftist, they’re just nihilists. They rage at anyone and pretty much everyone. Twitter is there for them to rage at, and if they can join a mob to rage with, all the better. They love the opportunity to point out how principled they are.

(group 4) Then there are the right-wingers. They usually want the bandwagon to gather pace before dipping their toes, partly because they’ve complained about lefty Twitter mobs in the past. But they don’t like missing opportunities to lay into political enemies. So when Harry Cole, Iain Dale and Toby Young start to become sanctimonious about journalistic ethics – it’s an unstoppable bandwagon with every man and his dog on it. I’m surprised YouGov didn’t do an instant poll.

The whole Hari hate-fest became an unedifying spectacle of immense proportion that took up most of the day. Before anyone accuses me of being biased – I’ve objected in the past when some tweeters were raging against a writer at the Daily Mail complaining how difficult life was for the middle class. That became really unedifying too.

I was accused of leading a Twitter mob against Rod Liddle too, but that was just Catherine Bennett complaining that I’d blogged about his racist crap a few times on Libcon. (I stupidly used the line “I’m part of the mob and I’m proud of it” at the end of that article – not again).

We all make mistakes and sooner or later I’ll say something stupid on Twitter too. This will not doubt be used by people who hate me (I also have legions, possibly even more than Johann has because I’ve been blogging for six years) to whip up a Twitter storm. Today brought me a step closer to deleting my Twitter account. Some things are not worth the hassle.

All I’m saying is this. If you’re one of those people who gleefully participated with your pitchfork today – just hope it never happens to you.

Filed under: Media
23rd June, 2011

Did Geert Wilders deserve to be acquitted over ‘free speech’?

by Sunny at 5:46 pm    

Reuters reports:

Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders was acquitted of inciting hatred of Muslims in a court ruling on Thursday that may strengthen his political influence and exacerbate tensions over immigration policy.

The case was seen by some as a test of free speech in a country which has a long tradition of tolerance and blunt talk, but where opposition to immigration, particularly from Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries, is on the rise.

But its a fallacy that Geert Wilders is just a critic of Islam as a religious doctrine – he frequently makes a jump from criticising Islam to demanding discrimination against Muslims. The idea that Geert Wilders believes in free speech is also a fallacy.

Both myths keep getting perpetuated by a media that pays no attention to what Geert Wilders says nor make any attempt to pay proper attention to the issue.

In a completely under-reported speech by Geert Wilders a few years ago, he laid out a “ten point plan to save the west”. These were the ten points:

1. Stop cultural relativism. We need an article in our constitutions that lays down that we have a Jewish-Christian and humanism culture.
2. Stop pretending that Islam is a religion. Islam is a totalitarian ideology. In other words, the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam.
3. Stop mass immigration by people from Muslim countries. We have to end Al-Hijra. 4. Encourage voluntary repatriation.
5. Expel criminal foreigners and criminals with dual nationality, after denationalization, and send them back to their Arab countries. Likewise, expel all those who incite to a ‘violent jihad’.
6. We need an European First Amendment to strengthen free speech.
7. Have every member of a non-Western minority sign a legally binding contract of assimilation.
8. We need a binding pledge of allegiance in all Western countries.
9. Stop the building of new mosques. As long as no churches or synagogues are allowed to be build in countries like Saudi-Arabia we will not allow one more new mosque in our western countries. Close all mosques where incitement to violence is taking place. Close all Islamic schools, for they are fascist institutions and young children should not be educated an ideology of hate and violence.
10. Get rid of the current weak leaders. We have the privilege of living in a democracy. Let’s use that privilege and exchange cowards for heroes. We need more Churchills and less Chamberlains.

Only a fool would call those demands the hallmark of an advocate of free speech.

Saying that, I think Muslim organisations in the Netherlands are making a mistake by making this about discrimination, when they should point to these speeches and make it an issue about free speech.

Filed under: Islamists,Media
22nd June, 2011

Crowing over Brian Haw’s death

by Sunny at 10:30 am    

You may have heard that peace campaigner Brian Haw died last week. Haw wasn’t a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination. But he had good ideals, he was campaigning for peace and he stuck by his mission. I deeply respect him for that. LBC radio regularly called me for a comment on why Haw should have the right to occupy that space and I resolutely defended his right every time.

Far from showing any sympathy however, Harry’s Place regular contributor “Libby T” is crowing over his death, calling him “insane to the end”, a “nut”, “lunatic”, “mad” and a “political quack”. I’m sure the fact that Haw opposed a war in Iraq that bloggers at Harry’s Place keep defending (like a bunch of inbred disease-ridden rats) has nothing to do with it.

Gimpy, who blogged about Brian Haw’s condition is right when he says:

Mr Haw’s cancer was almost certainly incurable, but rather than spending his final days being cared for by medical professionals in the UK, he was sent to Germany by conspiracy theorists, offered the false prospect of a cure, and was subjected to unnecessary and ineffective treatments.

There is certain to be a resurgence of debate about Mr Haw’s principles, politics and behaviour as a result of his death, but probably little on the circumstances surrounding it. Regardless of what you may think of Mr Haw, perhaps the greatest injustice he has undergone in the last decade is not the disruption, court actions and parliamentary discussion surrounding his protest, all of which have been debated and ruled on by a transparent democratic and legal system, but the falsities told to him by supporters of alternative medicine in denial of the facts.

Homoeopathy is dangerous when it gives people false hope. Maybe Haw believed that it could help him where conventional medicine couldn’t. Desperate people do desperate things.

But all this is irrelevant to bloggers at Harry’s Place. What matters there is the willingness to use the death of a person to advance the convoluted argument that people who opposed the war were “mad”.

Fellow blogger Neil D defends the blog-post in the comments below by asking: “Are we to remain silent while Penny and Benn wax lyrical about him?“. No, clearly you’re meant to react by dancing on his grave. Just wow.

23rd May, 2011

Damning: how BBC coverage is biased against Palestinians

by Sunny at 2:12 pm    

Former BBC journalist Tim Llewellyn has a damning article in the Guardian today, exposing the BBC’s failings when reporting on Israel / Palestine.

He says:

There is no attempt to properly convey cause and effect, to report the misery, violence and pillage that demean and deny freedom to the Palestinians and provoke their (limited) actions.

For example:

>> In the bulletins they examined, the BBC gave 421.5 lines of text to Israeli explanations of why they attacked Gaza: the “need for security”, “enemy rockets”, “to stop the smuggling of weapons”. The BBC devoted 14.25 lines to references to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories and 10.5 lines to the blockade. The BBC repeatedly stressed the word [Israeli] “retaliation”, and also implied that police stations bombed by the Israelis were military targets, describing other casualties as “civilian”. It described these civilian installations as “targets”. Newspapers such as the Guardian did point out the distinction.

>> “The offer that Hamas was said to have made, to halt this exchange [rockets v shells and air strikes] … was almost completely absent from the coverage,” say the authors. They cite a BBC reporter saying: “Israel feels itself surrounded by enemies, with reason.” They add: “We have not found a commentary noting that ‘Palestinians feel themselves to be subject to a brutal military occupation, with reason.’ Israel’s official view is given as fact, they say, but the Palestinian view, on the rare occasions it is found at all, is not. Israelis “state”, Palestinians “claim”.

>> Any Israeli casualty is headline news, shown in high quality images. BBC teams are based in West Jerusalem, de facto Israeli territory, and are on hand. Arab casualties may be shown in reports of a funeral, usually agency film, the victim anonymous. The Israelis, it seems, are for the BBC “people like us”. The Arabs are “the other”.

>> For example, the BBC consistently describes illegal Israeli settlements as “held to be illegal”. But they are illegal. Even the Foreign Office says so. The BBC always adds “Israel disputes this.” Well it would, wouldn’t it? Why these caveats?

Shame on the BBC for not improving its coverage of the Middle East.

And I’m sure people will say ‘just watch Al-Jazeera instead’, but that ignores the BBC not only has a duty to proper journalism but also reaches vast parts of the country in a way al-Jazeera can’t.

9th May, 2011

In defence of Laurie Penny

by Rumbold at 7:26 am    

I do not share Laurie Penny’s politics. I am not a regular reader of her material, and I strongly dislike some of her assertions, such as comparing housing benefit reforms to the murder of six millions Jews. From what I have read, there is plenty to criticise in her writings, and she should be held to the same standards as everybody else. But she isn’t.

Ms. Penny, more than any other writer, attracts a tidal wave of hate-filled abuse. In the comments on one critical post, her death is called for, her looks are dissected and scorned, she is called a ‘cow’ and ‘bitch‘ various times and attracts other comments too unpleasant to link to.

And that is just under one post. Posts frequently emerge attacking her, often leading to a plentiful supply of hateful comments, especially those focusing on her appearance. Much of the abuse is sexual/gendered in nature, and I can’t see a male blogger attracting the same sort of vitriol.

The other frequent criticism of Ms. Penny is due to her privileged background. She is quite open about this, and it is unclear why having a privileged background should stop an individual from taking the stances that Ms. Penny does (as long as she practices what she preaches). Would her critics prefer that she ignores the issues she cares about and instead revels in the advantages her upbringing has given her?

Some people manage to criticise Ms. Penny without resorting to either of these tactics, as they should. Those who can’t manage to criticise Ms. Penny in a civil way should hold their tongues, as they are nothing more than bullies.

Filed under: Media,Sex equality
4th May, 2011

BBC Newsnight patronises British Muslims again

by Sunny at 10:07 am    

Yesterday BBC Newsnight needed ‘Muslim reaction’ to the death of Osama Bin Laden’. They couldn’t find any Muslim who would support OBL, so they thought that would not balanced. They wanted some sparks and needed Muslims to argue with each other, so they invited Anjem Choudhary.

ANJEM CHOUDHARY! The guy who leads about 50 nutjobs and has been banned from almost every Mosque in the country. The guy who is constantly ridiculed and pilloried by other British Muslims for his attention-seeking stunts and promoting his extremist minority sect. This is the guy BBC Newsnight decide should be part of a two-man panel representing British Muslim voices!

It boggles the mind how patronising some people at the BBC still are. They aren’t interested in representing a broad range of mainstream Muslim opinion: they just want to see the ethnics argue.

At one point Jeremy Paxman turns to Taj Hargey and says, “What do you think of that response [referring to Choudhary] when you hear it, purporting to represent your community“. – oh FFS! Paxman, we’re not in the fucking British Raj any more.

No one owns or leads entire ethnic or religious communities. It boggles the mind that this is 2011 and this is how BBC Newsnight still conduct their debates.

27th April, 2011

Why don’t people pay more attention to what shifts views?

by Sunny at 10:30 am    

Activists and campaigners on the left are forever focusing on finding ways to exercise their frustration. However, I always fear they don’t pay enough attention to shifting public opinion.

There’s an excellent blog post by Ethan Zuckerman here that gives me some pause for thought.

In 1986, Hallin introduced the idea that we can understand journalistic ideas in terms of three “spheres”, widely recognized, though rarely articulated. The “sphere of consensus” includes ideas that are so widely agreed upon that they are generally uncontroversial. As Brooke puts it, “Democracy is good, slavery is bad, all men are created equal. Here truths are self-evident and journalists don’t feel the need to be objective.” Then there’s the “sphere of legitimate controversy”, issues we are used to arguing over, like taxation policy, abortion, gun control and capitol punishment, where reasonable people can disagree, and where journalists generally focus their attention. Finally, there’s the “sphere of deviance”, where ideas are deemed unworthy of a hearing. Brooke offers the “pro-pedophilia” position as an example of the deviant sphere

That’s a good way of thinking how thoughts are organised. But then how to forced ideas to go from being ‘controversial’ to a ‘consensus’? That’s the big question.

With increasing polarisation, which is the environment we are in now, this job becomes harder because people have different spheres. Hardcore libertarians think taxation is like violence, while ultra-socialists may consider it as key to a civilised society. I think political discussion on the internet can exacerbates polarisation.

This means the clash of spheres is intense. This leads to even more conflict for two reasons. Firstly, because people end up congregating in areas where others agree with them. That confirmation bias is fed daily and it creates a sense of solidarity and community. People like that. But they start thinking most people in the country share those spheres of thinking.

So when they encounter someone of a different ideological bent, that frustrates and angers them.

Phenomena like confirmation bias (a tendency to overweight information that agrees with our preconceptions) and disconfirmation bias (the tendency to discount information we disagree with) contribute to a pattern of “motivated reasoning”, where our emotions distort and shape our “rational” thinking. Mooney suggests that there’s deep neurological reasons for this behavior – we literally have a hair-trigger “fight or flight” reaction to types of information that challenge our belief systems.

As a result, confronting a highly polarized argument with facts frequently backfires.

So not only is there a problem with polarisation, but people of different ideological bent are highly unlikely to be persuaded easily. Especially when approached with ‘facts’ or ‘logical argument’, which lefties are prone to try.

So there’s a point here about polarisation, another one about how that leads to even more conflict, and why it makes persuading people difficult. I’m just thinking out aloud here. But it does also offer a glimpse into the mindset of people who become intensely polarised.

Filed under: Media
12th April, 2011

The difficulties in moderating large websites and blogs

by Sunny at 6:24 pm    

Women’s Views on News has an article criticising the comments that many feminist articles on CIF get.

Instead of dealing with these misogynistic and deeply offensive comments, CiF allowed them to dominate the thread.

The editorial team must be aware of the power of their online platform, and their trusted name, and how damaging it is when set to promote an agenda which is discriminatory and founded upon misleading facts and lies. So, why is it doing it?

As a writer for CIF (but I criticise the Guardian enough so I’m not doing this merely because they occasionally pay me for articles) – I’ve also had similar comments being chucked my way. So I sympathise.

But ultimately I sympathise with the CIF crew, partly because I face similar complaints at Liberal Conspiracy.

I think there are a few ways to approach this.

A conflict of rights
Big blogs have to weight up the right to free speech and a mix of views (which we believe in) within the boundaries of the rules. The rules are that misogyny, racism, homophobia, ad hominem abuse etc is deleted. But the line is not always clear-cut and I constantly get abused for being a ‘censorship nazi’ (which I relish). Most of my co-moderators are more afraid of deleting comments in case they get it wrong and are criticised over it heavily.

So it becomes a tricky balancing act to ensure that people are allowed to say things that others find uncomfortable or distasteful but are still within the boundaries of civil debate and not bigoted. I’m not saying this line is always navigated perfectly. But there will always be some comments that people find racist, homophobic or misogynist because the intention is inferred rather than written outright. In those cases we have to judge the intention of the commenter, and this is not always straightforward.

The numbers are large
CIF gets tons more comments than Libcon does, which makes it harder to police and harder to quickly judge whether a comment is out of order or not. I’m not always around to moderate comments – and even then its post-moderated. This means people don’t have to wait for comments to be approved before carrying on a debate.

This works on LC because most people are well-behaved (and I’ve rooted out trouble-makers) and on CIF it would be difficult otherwise as they have so much debate going on. But its near impossible to police debates so tightly that all debates go in the right direction. It frustrates me as it frustrates Natalie Hanman of CIF when debates get hijacked. But its difficult to justify deleting a comment that does not strictly adhere to the direction the editors want it to go into.

But it is neither about just feminist topics (any topic can get hijacked, and lots of debates turn into arguments), nor is it that we encourage such people. It is the nature of popular sites that they attract a range of readers.

It is also my view that left-wingers prefer ‘safe spaces’ more than right-wingers: and so they end up dominating on Twitter (which is why I add Twitter trackbacks to articles on LC to reflect that), while right-wingers spend more time commenting across blogs. Our posts on the economy for example turn up right-wingers who work in finance. We can’t ban them nor stop them from spouting right-wing economics. The job of lefties should be to argue back (in a civil manner of course).

There will never be a happy medium
Those hoping the situation can be resolved if enough pressure is put on the Guardian are wrong, I think. It won’t happen. However there are technical solutions I would say they should take up (a popular one is where comments flagged up as ‘offensive’ by enough fellow readers) automatically gets a negative ranking and is then ‘hidden’. It can be viewed by people who want to view ‘all comments’ but won’t appear by default. Slashdot.org had this version of commenting.

Gawker and others also implemented a version of this last year I believe, which gave long-time loyal commenters some extra power in being able to ‘hide’ offensive comments. There are several variations of this.

In the end I would say this. Neither CIF nor Liberal Conspiracy are, by the nature of their popularity, ‘safe spaces’ where one side can just talk amongst themselves with given assumptions (though LC rarely hosts articles by right-wingers as CIF does). I also think engaging with right-wingers sometimes makes them more sympathetic to leftie positions than if they were banished to right-wing websites.

Filed under: Blog,Media
30th March, 2011

Daily Mail’s advertising revenue falls

by Rumbold at 8:40 am    

Seems the combination of demonising immigrants and Muslims hasn’t been bringing in the advertising pound:

The Daily Mail’s website has actually soared, attracting thousands of visitors to the site, mainly towards the seedy gossip pages…. First half revenues are down 8%, worse than what they had predicted, mainly due to a 27% fall in recrutiment advertising.

Like the Guardian and other papers, the Daily Mail seems to survive through cross subsidy from its other, more profitable non-newspaper businesses:

“At group level, turnover rose 2 per cent year on year driven by an 11 per cent increase in revenue at DMGT’s business-to-business operations, which includes Risk Management Solutions, a business selling products for managing catastrophe risk.”

“Income from events management rose strongly, helped by growth in events serving the energy and digital marketing sectors.”

I am not sure why advertisers wouldn’t want to be associated with a paper that publishes stories about a house that looks like Hitler.

Filed under: Media
27th March, 2011

‘Life at a tabloid’ exposure continues

by Rumbold at 4:57 pm    

Richard Peppiatt, who resigned from the Daily Star several weeks ago, has continued his revealing of the life of a tabloid reporter. In his widely-reported resignation letter three weeks ago, Mr. Peppiatt condemned the Daily Star for a number of failings, especially its approach to Islam and the EDL:

It almost never came to this. I nearly walked out last summer when the Daily Star got all flushed about taxpayer-funded Muslim-only loos. A newsworthy tale were said toilets Muslim-only. Or taxpayer-funded. Undeterred by the nuisance of truth, we omitted a few facts, plucked a couple of quotes, and suddenly anyone would think a Rochdale shopping centre had hired Osama Bin Laden to stand by the taps, handing out paper towels.

I was personally tasked with writing a gloating follow-up declaring our postmodern victory in “blocking” the non-existent Islamic cisterns of evil. Not that my involvement in stirring up a bit of light-hearted Islamaphobia stopped there. Many a morning I’ve hit my speed dial button to Muslim rent-a-rant Anjem Choudary to see if he fancied pulling together a few lines about whipping drunks or stoning homosexuals.

Now he has discussed more incidences of what can only be described as quality tabloid journalism:

Continue Reading...
Filed under: EDL,Media
8th March, 2011

Poppy burning is a free speech issue too

by Sunny at 4:45 pm    

The Sun and other tabloids are screaming about how a publicity-stunt artist from Al-Muhajiroun only got fined £50 for burning a poppy on Remembrance Day.

The Sun rails:

What kind of deterrent is £50 to other Islamic fascists bent on sowing hate throughout Britain? How much longer must we tolerate their free speech over-ruling the sanctity of the Remembrance Day silence?

As this Economist blog post points out, a lot longer we should hope. The right to political protest and free speech should not be banned by the law however abhorrent the majority finds it.

But there is another point to make. Critics of multiculturalism like Douglas Murray take a similarly muddled approach.

The tabloids and Murray are either always attacking Muslims for not fitting in (sentiments diametrically opposed to creating a democratic, liberal society that allows people to live how they want to), or attacking Muslims for not embracing free speech and democracy. They want to have their pie and eat it too. The Sun, like Douglas Murray, is flip-flopping depending on what issue they can use to attack Muslims.

Lastly, the fanatic from al-Muhajiroun will undoubtedly be ecstatic for the coverage today – their entire aim with these stunts of 10-20 people is to grab media attention. They feed off the Sun, and vice versa.

Related: Alex Massie agrees, and is right to wish we also had more of a first amendment rights culture here, like in the US.

Filed under: Islamists,Media
1st February, 2011

The unfortunate CS gas incident ended up helping @UKuncut

by Sunny at 10:48 am    

Owen at Third Estate complains that focusing on the CS spray incident at the last UKuncut protest detracts from the real issue of tax avoidance.

That is unfortunately the way it goes. The protest needed a different angle and the CS gas incident provided it.

The problem for UKuncut now is that media coverage and interest will offer diminishing returns. They were interested initially and talk about the ‘social media protests’ and then they move on once the story becomes old or repetitive. I’m not blaming them – as an editor I would do exactly the same.

Without the CS spray incident, I bet coverage of the UKuncut protests would have been minimal. Hoping that the media will stick to “discussing the issue” is wishful thinking I’m afraid. They are not going to report every month that some protesters shut down Topshop, Boots or Vodafone.

Going forward, UKuncut need to think not just about new targets, but also new tactics and new imaginative stunts. Without that the media coverage will eventually drop off to zero. Unfortunately that is how the news media works.

PS – Ellie Mae has written a long but excellent account of what happened around the incident. Sympathies go out to people who got sprayed because I’ve had it done to me and its ugly.

Filed under: Media
25th January, 2011

US government’s case against WikiLeaks falls apart

by Sunny at 9:01 am    

MSNBC reported last night:

U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

This is big news, because it fundamentally undermines the US government’s case that this was a case of espionage, the charge they planned to make against Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, the US govt is still illegally detaining Bradley Manning without allowing him visitors properly. Amnesty International have now written a letter to the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates about his treatment.

Given this is a post on WikiLeaks, its also worthwhile reading this post at the New Yorker on how Al-Jazeera may have joined the ‘arms race’ by media organisations to become more like WikiLeaks and start soliciting confidential documents via untraceable electronic networks.

Naturally, I’m all for it. Unlike my fellow blogger Rumbold, I think the Guardian and Al-Jaz were completely right to publish the Palestinian Papers. Not only did they explode the Israeli narrative that the country had ‘no partner in peace’ to negotiate with, they also showed how one-sided the negotiations were. I’m afraid that’s not justice and the Palestinians deserve much more. If the fragile peace in Israel falls apart now, it will be their fault and no one else’s.

Coming back to WikiLeaks and Al-Jazeera, the New Yorker blog says:

If the WikiLeaks model were to grow beyond WikiLeaks—much in the way social networking outgrew its earliest online incarnations—and develop more fully within the ambit of conventional media, it is likely that it would change in a way that reflects the different sources of authority that a stateless publisher and a conventional news organization each draw upon. Some aspects of Assange’s initial vision might get lost. Others, such as the site’s ability to publish things that no one confined to single jurisdiction can publish, might become more valuable.

Sounds like a good thing to me.

Filed under: Civil liberties,Media
« previous posts

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.