Club Troppo and Lavartus Prodeo have withdrawn from the Domain group of blogs because of Graham Young’s comment moderation policy at Online Opinion. All this came about because of comments to (and supporting) a post by Bill Muhlenberg under the heading Dismantling a Homosexual Marriage Myth.
Some of the comments are highly unpleasant. It’s hard to disagree with Ken Parish’s words (at least the first sentence) in his letter to Graham
Many of the comments are hate speech of an almost indescribably virulent kind and conceivably even unlawful in some jurisdictions. Moreover, emotive, vindictive comment threads generate an atmosphere inimical to clear and effective communication and have a polarising effect on participants.
Graham, has right from the start of OLO, made it clear that OLO is a forum allowing a wide spectrum of ideas. Some time back, Clive Hamilton, who had been contributing announced that he would not do so any more because OLO is publish climate change sceptic pieces. Hamilton:
On Line Opinion claims it is just pursuing “balance” in the space it gives to climate change scepticism. But, as a number of journalists and authors have pointed out, “balance” means bias in the case of the climate change debate because by giving a “balance” of views On Line Opinion is communicating to its readers that there is a legitimate debate among scientists about the weight of scientific evidence on global warming.
Although Hamilton said OLO had been “captured by climate change denialists” it seems his objection was to any AGW-sceptical articles being published.
Ken Parish (Club Troppo) and Mark Bahnisch (Larvatus Prodeo) set out their reasons in letters to Graham. Both explain that they cannot continue to be associated with a blog with a comments policy like that followed by OLO. You might call it the 2 Corinthians 6:14 justification for severing a relationship.
But there is more to it. Advertisers (following, it seems, complaints from gay activists) withdrew their advertising from the Domain. No explanation was given. I think that casts CT’s and LP’s actions in a different light.
Let’s change the facts – let’s say the offending comments were equally strongly worded attacks on the role of the banks in the GFC. And let’s say the banks withdrew advertising as a result. My guess is that CT and LP would be outraged at the banks trying to control what is said on a blog. They would tell the banks where they can put their advertising dollars.
Instead, Mark says – Graham should negotiate with the aggrieved advertisers and agency in a commercial fashion. We feel other modes of conflict resolution might have better secured continued financial health for both OLO and blogs associated with it for advertising purposes.
Can you imagine LP, or any other blog or indeed any mainstream media doing that on any other issue? “Let’s have a chat, BP. I am sure we can sort out this little misunderstanding about our reporting on the unfortunate events in the Gulf”.
Incidentally, from my business experience, I’d be fairly sure that the advertisers did not make a considered decision to pull out, based on the issue, but rather decided that, for a few thousand dollars of experimental advertising, it was not worth any fuss. I doubt they would be interested in talking about it.
I can understand any blog not wanting to be publicly associated with another blog that publishes hateful comments. But the only association between the members of Domain was to sell advertising. There was no masthead or branding linking them. Few readers would know of the association.
So we have to conclude that it was the loss of advertising that sent CT and LP off.
If I am right, it is a very unfortunate precedent for the blogging world. To be at all influenced by what advertisers think is disastrous for the medium.
I’d prefer Clive Hamilton’s reasons.
Disclosure of interest
1. I have made donations to OLO.
2. I believe that gay relationships that resemble marriage should be recognised as if they are marriages, though I would not go to war over whether they should be called “marriage”. No correspondence will be entered into on this point.