Why is This What You'd Argue About?

As most of you will know, I have been critical of Steve McIntyre recently in regard to a number of issues, including simple things like him (basically) claiming a person using Microsoft Outlook couldn't possibly be using a Google e-mail account. In my criticisms of him and his writings, I have repeatedly discussed factual, verifiable matters. Steve has chosen not to address... well, basically any of them.

Today I'd like to discuss a bizarre case where Steve decided to take a stand and firmly say I am wrong. For the life of me, I can't figure out why this would be an issue he'd want to take a strong stance on.

The issue is simple. Two days ago I tried to comment on a post at his site. I had previously submitted several comments on the same post. However, when I submitted a comment this time, it didn't appear. It fanished complete. It didn't even show up as being held in moderation.

I thought perhaps my comment used some word on a blacklist and that got my comment trashed. That happens on blogs sometimes. I decided to write another comment to mention the disappearance and test to see if it'd go through. It disappeared as well. I couldn't see anything in either comment which stood out as a likely candidate for what got flagged by the blacklist so I tested some more. Eventually I submitted a comment which said only, "Testing." That comment disappeared as well.

At this point, it seemed clear the problem was not the content of any of my comments. The next logical step was to try commenting under a different account. I made a dummy account and tried submitting a comment which said, "Just checking something." It appeared correctly. That told me the problem was not with the site itself or my connection to it. I then tried posting another comment with the dummy account which said:

Testing to see if the name Brandon Shollenberger been put on some sort of blacklist, or if it’s just comments submitted under that name which are disappearing.

To see if it my name was in some sort of filter. I know another user, Nick Stokes, had a problem where anyone even mentioning his name would have their comments held up. That comment went through as well. This told me it was neither the contents of my comments nor my name which was causing the problem. It must have been something else, perhaps my e-mail address. I decided it wasn't worth pursuing any further and tweeted:

Figuring I'd leave it at that. I knew people often use third-party services to handle spam filtering so it was possible some issue like that was to blame. The best solution seemed to be to draw a bit of attention to it in the hopes doing so would produce information. Perhaps my name got added to a list inadvertantly, perhaps I was intentionally banned, perhaps what happened was a mystery of some software quirk. I said as much a few hours later in a response to a user who responded to my dummy account:

I’ve had comments disappear before because of what was in them, but this is the first time I’ve had it where every comment I make, no matter what it says, vanishes (doesn’t even show up as in moderation). When I can’t even post, “Testing” under my name yet can post freely under any other name, it seems my name/e-mail address has been blacklisted.

I don’t know how it happened or why, but I’m not going to try to dodge moderation to participate in discussions either.

I made sure to include a note saying I didn't know how this had happened or why so people wouldn't think I was saying I had been banned by some blogger who was trying to censor me. I also inclueded a remark saying I wasn't going to try to dodge moderation so nobody thought I'd keep using the dummy account. If I had been banned intentionally, that'd be inappropriate.

Up to this point, everything was relatively unremarkable. Having comment you submit on a blog vanish might be a bit annoying, but in and of itself, it is hardly a big deal. Then I saw McIntyre tweet:

And I figured hey, he didn't ban me so it was probably some issue with my comments getting flagged by software. I didn't see another tweet from him so I figured I'd wait a day or so then try commenting again. As far as I was concerned, it was a minor oddity that was working itself out.

That was until tonight when I decided to try going back and seeing if things had worked themselves out. When I did, I saw McIntyre had added an inline response to my comment:

Steve: I checked moderation queue. Zero comments from you in moderation queue. Your accusations that I blacklisted you are completely out of line.

This blew my mind. I mean, I had explicitly said I didn't know how any of it had happened or why. Why would McIntyre say, "Your accusations that I blacklisted you..."? I didn't accuse him of anything.

I had also clearly said whenever I submitted a comment under my name, it "vanishes (doesn’t even show up as in moderation)." Why would McIntyre respond to that by saying, "I checked moderation queue"? Even if you don't know much about how your blogging software (in this case WordPress) handles comment submission, surely you should wonder if a person saying a comment doesn't show up as being in moderation means not finding it in the moderation queue is non-dispositive.

As it happens, WordPress has two separate filters for comments. The first is a moderation filter. A blogger can provide a list of words which, if found anywhere in a comment (not just the body of it), will cause WordPress to place the comment in the moderation queue. When this happens, the user will be able to see their comment along with a note telling them it is awaiting moderation.

The second filter is the "Comment Blacklist." It works the same way, except comments flagged with it don't go to the moderation queue. Instead, they go straight to the trash. That was clearly what was happening with my comments. That's why I made sure to say I was "blacklisted" and to mention my comments were not showing up as being "in moderation." I did these things to try to be precise about what was happening.

I don't know why McIntyre responded how he did. However, by doing so he created an awkward situation. I couldn't post screenshots of my comments proving I submitted them as they never appeared. Even if I had taken screenshots of them prior to submission, that wouldn't prove I actually submitted them. How could I hope to prove McIntyre wrong when he said my "accusations" (not that there were any) were "completely out of line"?

Well, it turns out there's a pretty simple way to resolve this. Every comment submitted to a WordPress blog is assigned a comment ID and placed in a database for that site. That's true even if the comment lands in moderatiion or gets placed in the trash because it ran afoul of a blacklist. The comment IDs are just numbers which increase by 1 with each comment a user submits.

That means the comments I submitted all have unique ID numbers falling in a sequence which can be matched to the timestamps of comments. The first comment by my dummy account has a timestamp of May 4, 2018 at 4:00 AM (Central time). The last comment before it has a timestamp of May 4, 2018 at 3:05 AM. This is a 55 minute window. The comment ID numbers are 781319 and 781324. That means there were four comments, numbered 781320, 781321, 781322 and 781323 submitted between those two yet aren't visible on the site.

After my first comment with the dummy account (#781324), it was only three minutes until I submitted my next comment. That comment has an ID number of 781325. The next comment on the site came at May 4, 2018 at 9:56 AM, nearly six hours later. It's ID number is 781328. This means comments 781326 and 781327 were submitted somewhere in those six or so hours but never got displayed. My contention is after finding out users could use my name in comments, I went back to my original account to try commenting again.

Similarly, when a person responded to my dummy account in comment #781330 (comment #781329 is also present on the page but has no connection to any of this), the timestamp was May 4, 2018 at 10:12 AM. The next comment on the site was from my dummy account at May 4, 2018 at 12:19 PM. That comment had a number of 781332. Comment #781331 was missing. I contend it was from me trying to respond to that user under my real name. When I was unable to do so, I switched back to the dummy account and responded with it.

Now, I don't have access to the WordPress admin console or database for McIntyre's website. I can't go into either and prove these missing comments were the ones I submitted that never got displayed. However, I think the mere fact there are missing comments which coincide perfectly with the comments I said vanished upon submission makes for a compelling case. I can't imagine a scenario where these gaps would be a coincidence.

Now, if McIntyre wishes to prove me wrong, all he needs to do is find the comments which have those ID numbers and show they are not from me. It'd be easy. Why he'd choose to pick a fight over an issue where it'd be such a trivial matter to verify who is correct is beyond me. To me, this was an unimportant issue I wouldn't have given another thought to had it resolved itself like I expected. Instead of allowing it to be that unimportant and unremarkable, McIntyre decided his respond would be:

Steve: I checked moderation queue. Zero comments from you in moderation queue. Your accusations that I blacklisted you are completely out of line.

It's bizarre. I have raised so many different factual disputes on topics McIntyre feels are important. He ignores them. Yet here, on an issue that is so unimportant, he decides to take a strong stand and slam me as making accusations which are "completely out of line" even though it would be trivially easy to verify what I said was correct.

I don't get it. Why would anyone choose this as the issue to respond to and get all huffy about? I directly accused McIntyre of fabricating false stories about what other people have said to criticize them. He didn't say a word about that. But I say I can't comment at his site under my real name for a reason I don't know, and... that's what he gets hissy about?

And it's not just McIntyre. Here are two comments from a user on the page:

If our host has banned Brandon Slanderberger, I say long overdue. Brandon has made clear his distaste for Steve, which has morphed into an irrational hatred, and one can only wonder why he returns at all. Same for Don Monfort, who left due to moderation, what, four times, only to break his vow and return again. I compliment our host for not responding to these attacks. Questioning the media narrative does not make one a Putin stooge (as if). And this post raises clearly valid questions, I don’t see any hard conclusions drawn. Should be obvious from Libya and elsewhere that the worst of the worst benefit from the failed state environment, but if I say that, Don will accuse me of calling Putin a lamb. Don, your comments to Omar clearly indicate you think you know more about Syria than a Syrian, can you just once try listening?

And now we see our host has looked into Brandon’s claim of banning, and responded. Don, why wait for our host to “blacklist” you (don’t hold your breath)? You are as free to not post as I am to skip your comments. Moderate yourself. Why spend time in a place you consider weird?

I don't get it. How could people be so certain I'm wrong and terrible and ugly and stupid that this is an issue they'd latch onto? What mentality would you have to have to think I'd randomly go to a site I've commented on dozens of times, create a new account and write a couple comments just to pretend I'm unable to comment under my real name when it'd be trivially easy to prove I was lying?

18 comments

  1. Who knows Brandon. It's unfortunate. I would just use a pseudonym if you want to comment. Exactly the same has happened to me at another blog, which I won't name. The proprietor I believe was actually lying about it when contacted. But its not a significant loss because the blog in question is an echo chamber.

    Generally, blog owners have a lot on their plate and it takes a lot of time to moderate all comments or even those that contain banned words. I would first blame a misunderstanding and only with a high evidentiary standard blame dishonesty.

  2. Whatever the issue was before, I was able to comment on the page today. Had McIntyre not made that stupid response, nobody would have thought anything of it. Maybe McIntyre will realize his mistake and acknowledge it was just (I presume) some issue with whatever service he uses for spam filtering (probably Askimet).

    Or maybe he'll double down. Or maybe he'll just ignore what I said and refuse to correct his mistake. Who knows?

  3. I assume you are astute enough to keep a copy of comments you have posted, at least until they show up. Try posting the exact text of one of your missing comments using a different ID. If it doesn't appear then, maybe some banned string of characters (doesn't necessarily have to be a whole word) may be the cause. Maybe the WP parser rearranges line-breaks in unexpected ways depending on the theme in use.

    Just a thought.

  4. Do you know that Steve recognized your use of "blacklisted" as a WordPress term?

    In common parlance, I think it is reasonable to interpret your tweet as akin to saying: "Steve has banned/barred me from his site."

    Of course, even so, his response that you were "out of line" is rather snowflakey nonetheless - he could simply have said something like: "You're mistaken, I haven't blacklisted you."

  5. I had not seen Brandon's tweet, when I commented on this at climate audit. It could be interpreted as Brandon implying that he at least suspected Steve of blacklisting him. However, Steve's tweet in reply doesn't indicate that he took offense. It's almost as if he thought: Did I blacklist this guy? I'll check.

    Anyway, searching the moderation pile wouldn't solve the case. Poor auditing. And while he was at it, Steve could have released some of my brilliant comments that languish there. I am guessing that he is spending a lot more time on twitter. Bigger and more gullible audience. Climate audit is sinking. Changing his byline to Syria Audit hasn't helped.

    PS:I just noticed he changed it back to Climate Audit. That should fix things.

    PS:again

    Steve:"Acknowledgement: The above analysis draws heavily on work done by analytic tweeters Ilmastotiede, MichaKobs, Adam Larson, Qoppa, orbi, Philip Somerville, Charles Wood and others."

    I looked up several of these famous analytic tweeters. Axe grinders.

  6. Don -

    ????

    Could you explain your comment about "Syria Audit?" A joke? What "byline?" On Twitter?

  7. Bob Koss, after I couldn't get a comment which said, "Testing" to appear, I got this comment to appear on the dummy account, "Testing to see if the name Brandon Shollenberger been put on some sort of blacklist, or if it’s just comments submitted under that name which are disappearing." The latter contains the only word the former contained so it would have served the same purpose as what you suggest.

    Joshua, I am sure McIntyre didn't understand what I meant (I suspect he didn't try either). I don't know what point you think you're making though. I didn't claim there was some relevant difference between "blacklisted" and "banned." I said I used the word "blacklisted" because it was more precise, meaning it did a better job of indicating what was going on. The simple reality is all comments submitted under my real name were disappearing while comments I submitted under a different name appeared without problem. That makes it "look[] like" I was banned/blacklisted. Noting that it "looks like" you've been banned/blacklisted from a site in a situation like this should be unremarkable. McIntyre took offense at this because he wanted to take offense, not because i said anything offensive.

    As for Syria Audit, McIntyre had changed the display name of an account to "Syria Audit," resulting in the author byline of most of the posts on his site reading, "Syria Audit" instead of "Steve McIntyre."

  8. Don Monfort:

    I had not seen Brandon's tweet, when I commented on this at climate audit. It could be interpreted as Brandon implying that he at least suspected Steve of blacklisting him. However, Steve's tweet in reply doesn't indicate that he took offense. It's almost as if he thought: Did I blacklist this guy? I'll check.

    The reality is I did have a small suspicion I was blacklisted by McIntyre. I'd have that same suspicion any time this sort of thing happened. If you run a site and a person gets banned from it, that person is justified in thinking you might have done it. If you have made hissy remarks to the person and/or they have been vocally critical of you, that person is justified in thinking you might have done it intentionally.

    So yes, I wrote a tweet which implied I thought McIntyre might have intentionally banned me from his site. I also made sure the tweet did not claim with certainty that I was banned, much less that such a ban was intentional so as to allow for other possibilities. I even posted the follow-up tweet to specify just what was happening to indicate what I was basing my impressions on.

    State your conclusions with precision. Detail the full body of available evidence. Explain why you interpret that evidence as leading to your conclusions. That is how you should make a case (though the order can be switched up). If you do this, there is no reason for people to take offense. They may do so anyway, but if so, they prove the reason for taking offense is them, not you.

  9. Sven, it doesn't seem anyone has reviewed that book for Amazon, and I honestly have no idea what to expect from it. Can you share any thoughts on it?

  10. I think it’s not yet out. My observation came just from the description. A crazy Russian conspiracy story that the independence movements in the Baltic states did not exist and everything was just organized by CIA

  11. And that "It is key to grasping the template that today underlies similar events in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and likely elsewhere, going forward." A superb example of idiotic Russian propaganda.

  12. Sven, I was able to download a sample from Amazon so I think it is out. There's some weird stuff in it though, unconnected to the the content. There are various symbols in the text which makes it seem there was some problem in formatting it tied to the software used. There are also some strange typos (like "signg" instead of "sing"). I'm not sure what to make of it.

    Anyway, the sample I got didn't say anything which seemed particularly interesting.

  13. I just discovered that Amazon has extended the description. It turns out that the people killed in Vilnius during an attack on the TV tower in January 1991 were not killed by the attacking Russian special forces (of which there is ample TV footage) but by (american!) snipers on the roof tops... Seems to be A GREAT book! So, read at your own risk and hopefully your brain will still be intact and you will not turn into a Russia Auditor after that 🙂

  14. I hope Steve doesn't read it. He is liable to further embarrass himself by doing a post on how it was the CIA who took over Crimea and blamed it on innocent little Soviet KGB dictator Putinski.

  15. funny you assume that Steve is the only one with admin rights.
    In your next post it appears you "broke" into some place where illegal activity is taking place and got admin rights..
    unrelated of course, but funny/

  16. Steven Mosher, given I never once attributed any behavior related to blog administration to Steve himself, your comment is bizarre. Claiming someone assumes something when they go out of their way not to say anything even close to it makes you seem either dishonest or delusional.

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