A common topic in blog discussions is tone. It's usually a waste of time. People complain about what name a person calls them, how people phrase their criticisms and all sorts of other stuff that's just... boring. It's so bad there's a phrase for it, "tone trolling." You may remember this came up during a funny Twitter exchange where after I said:
I hope you realize how idiotic that sounds. @theresphysics
— Brandon S? (@Corpus_no_Logos) October 15, 2015
The blogger Anders responded:
Seriously, how stupid are you? I'm not tone trolling. I haven't criticized you for your tone at all. @theresphysics
— Brandon S? (@Corpus_no_Logos) October 15, 2015
My response to Anders shows how bad things have gotten. People have gotten so used to complaining about and hearing complaints about tone they just expect it all the time. I was actively insulting Anders during our exchange, and he still somehow managed to believe I was complaining about his tone. And the truth is, many people would.
That's what I want to highlight today. Thomas Fuller, a blogger whose book I recently criticized with some harshness, recently banned Anders from his site. Visiting the post where he announced this, we find:
You’re a KKK member looking to kneecap your policy opponents no matter what they believe about the science.
That's pretty vile. I get why a blogger would ban users who write comments including remarks like that. I don't think tone is all that important for discussions, but even so, I accept there are lines. Calling people KKK members is inexcusable.
The problem is Fuller said that, not Anders. Anders was banned for bad behavior by a person who said, "You disgust me" while calling him a KKK member. Apparently Anders had a reason to think I might complain about his tone while insulting him.
Now, in theory Anders might have been behaving worse than Fuller despite how pathetic Fuller's behavior was. I don't know. You see, Fuller didn't just ban Anders from his site. That wasn't enough for him. Instead, he went the extra mile and then deleted all of Anders's comments from his site so nobody could read them.
That's inexcusable. If Anders wrote comments which were bad enough they needed to be moderated, it's fine to moderate them. Deleting every single comment he ever wrote is not fine. That's pure spite. As I've said about this sort of thing when we've seen it before:
The problem isn’t that his comments got deleted. The problem is they got deleted now. Why wait several days to delete comments? Why delete comments days after you edited them for moderation reasons?
Going back and secretly deleting every comment from a user, despite having already moderated those comments, is dishonest.
I stand by that statement. What was done to Fuller was dishonest.
Yes, I said what was done to Fuller. You see, Fuller apparently got this idea from something that happened to him a few years ago. He had posted at a site run by Stephan Lewandowsky (the man known for his work painting global warming skeptics as conspiracy theorists) for a few days when he got banned. When that happened, all of his comments got deleted. This led to a post by Steve McIntyre which read:
Conspiracy theorist Stephan Lewandowsky, in keeping with SkS style, has rewritten the history of his blog hosted by the University of Western Australia.
Tom Fuller, who does online commercial surveys for a living, has sharply criticized the Lewandowsky’s tainted methodology – a methodology that relied on fake data to yield fake results.
Over the past week or so, Fuller has commented frequently on Lewandowsky threads here, here, here and here.
Although Lewandowsky snipped some of Fuller’s comments, over the past week or so, all or part of about 50 comments were approved.
Today, Lewandowsky (who is being assisted by an SkS squadron) liquidated every single comment by Fuller on the entire blog, leaving rebuttals to Fuller in place without the protagonist. This is different from not approving the blog comments: it’s an after-the-fact cleansing of Fuller from the blog.
The University of Western Australia should hang its head in shame at Lewandowsky’s Gleickian antics.
So we can see Fuller has done the exact same thing that was done to him to someone else. Just as it was wrong when it was done to him, it was wrong for him to do it to Anders. People should be just as outraged over Fuller doing this as they were over whoever handled Lewandowsky's moderation doing it three years ago.
Actually, people should be even more outraged. As McIntyre noted in an update to the post:
According to a comment at Lewandowsky’s blog operated by the University of Western Australia, Lewandowsky’s moderation is being done by (presumably) members of the SkS squadron, who were merely trying to silence Fuller as a commenter on the blog, stating that their liquidation of the history of Fuller’s comments was an accidental by-product of silencing Fuller.
Fuller's liquidation of Anders's comments wasn't accidental. He did it on purpose. He specifically said:
Update: Sorry for those in the comment thread. I just booted ATTP and yanked his posts. It will disrupt the threading. That’s four people I’ve booted in four years. Sigh…
That means he did this one purpose, which is far worse than it having been accidentally done to him.
Now obviously, I'm no fan of Anders. He's no fan of me. I'm banned at his site, and he's blocked me on Twitter. That doesn't make this okay. This is horrible and wrong. Thomas Fuller has, in keeping with SkS style, rewritten the history of his blog. He should hang his head in shame at his Gleickian antics.
For people who don't get the reference of this post's title, Steve McIntyre originally titled his blog post, "Lewandowsky's Pogrom." Some people took issue with this, and he changed it to it's current title, "Lewandowsky's Cleansing Program." I chose this title as a callback to that as a hint for people who remember that. I also put pogrom in quotation marks to show I'm not trying to compare this to an actual pogrom.