James Dixon on censorship

Shu People Earthen Cooking Utensil in the Sanxingdui Museum, Sichuan Province, China, 4800 - 4200 BP.

Shu People Earthen Cooking Utensil in the Sanxingdui Museum, Sichuan Province, China, 4800 – 4200 BP.

When James Dixon tried to post a comment on this site he was met with the standard WordPress response that first posts need to be approved by the site administrator.  But once approved, subsequent posts are published immediately. James felt this WordPress anti-spam device was a devious piece of censorship on my part and vented his spleen in subsequent emails.

Well, well, Bitey. Pre-mod, eh? What’s that saying about power and corruption again!?

Now, I’m assuming you’re not going to let this post through, which, I suppose, is your prerogative, but seriously, if you’re going to just stand on the side-lines and take potshots, at least try and get something remotely resembling target-calibration sorted out, yeah!?

and

Otherwise, as a self-confessed campaigner for truth, and setting the record straight, or whatever (to which, should this post not make it, I’ll add ‘bane of censorship’ too), you’re just going to look like a bit of a hypocrite, and, if I can speak frankly, more than just a little bit stupid!!

The same comment was also posted on The Untrusted and attracted the following from MrsBootsraps:

Wotcha James – yeah, the irony is enormous that the bastion of free speech, the protector of the morals of the free world, that righter of wrongs, that archivist of archivists, bite the hand, has set up a blog where the comments go into premod.

When I returned from a week away, James’ posts were duly published and attracted an honest apology. 

In response to these accusations, James was called on to defend or condemn the censorship and banning policy of The Untrusted which was quite the opposite of the public pledge made by MontanaWildhack when she set up the site and subsequently confirmed by various posters since then.  Here’s James again, defending Montana:

See, you’re still assigning a level of significance to something when it isn’t, perhaps, your place to do so, and you’re deciding that the UTs gone back on some immutable, sacred commitment, gleaned from nothing more than two lines of an effing comment.

Not two lines that were on the masthead, or even posted repeatedly, but that were posted once, nearly four years ago

There is of course a vast amount of evidence such as the following exchange that took place of CiF’s WDYWTTA on 18 September 2009 when I posted the following:

I would like that well respected member of the CiF community, Montana Wildhack to be invited to come to CiF to explain and defend her decision to host The Untrusted website.

imogenblack responded at 6:01 pm:

bitethehand: Speaking as someone who has been on the reciving end of random belittling on The Untrusted I can understand how you feel.

Its odd to find yourself talked about/bitched about- in my case even obsessively googled – on a site that you haven’t signed up to- or in my case ever visited! However, i do actually think The Untrusted is fairly harmless as a place to go vent – and probably at times serves a great function of continuing debate: it would be sad if posters there ruined the site for MontanaWildhack by ignoring her laudable opening statement.

Its not so different to people bitching verbally – the fact thats its written on the web for all to see is the difference, but its not like The Untrusted is a massive site. And if you e-mail them I’m told they are really quite prepared to remove stuff thats upsetting.
Just be glad you don’t post under your real name!

I replied at 6:44pm

imogenblack, yes I read some of the comments aimed at you, although I’m at a loss to know what provoked them, and remember wondering at the time what you’d done to deserve such appalling treatment. And I agree the site is fairly harmless and as I’m not really Mr Bitethehand, I find the verbal bitching more amusing than belittling. As you say I’m glad I don’t post under my own name. What I do find somewhat annoying is the way its subscribers are prepared to reduce serious threads on CiF to meaningless gossip and flippancy once they feel they’ve had their say. something I’ve observed all to often.

At which point BeautifulBurnout joined in:

BiteTheHand

If you don’t like what’s being said on the Untrusted, why don’t you come and tell us on the Untrusted, instead of whining about it on here?

Anyone can post there. There are no membership requirements. No secret handshakes. No rolled-up trouser legs. And no moderation.

Or is it just a way of deflecting from your own intenable arguments when challenged to defend them by saying “Ooh but look, somewhere else she said something mean about me. Look everyone, isn’t she nasty? I don’t see why I should answer her questions”?

Try responding properly on threads when you take a position that others don’t agree with and backing up your position with conviction, instead of scrabbling to deflect any criticism by raking up previous posts from that commenter in an attempt to smear them – even posts on another bloody website ffs! – and perhaps people will have more respect for you as someone with whom they can have a sensible debate.

You are capable of so much better. It’s such a pity that you so frequently choose to hide your writing talent under a bushel of petulance and cattiness.

So there from another UT stalwart – And no moderation.”

Naturally this needed and got a response:

BeautifulBurnout

Faint praise and sarcasm, a welcoming smile and a slap in the face, friendly advice and cynical denigration all in the same short post. Quite an achievement.

When posters take a position on one thread which conflicts with what they’ve said on another and particularly when they’re trying to undermine the argument of someone they disagree with, it seems to me to be quite relevant that they’re reminded of their earlier statement.

I know it’s a bit embarrassing to be reminded of your past statements that might conflict with what you now want to claim is your current position, but if you don’t want to be quoted, don’t post.

So are you really suggesting that you and your fellow Untrusteds can post the most contemptuous comments about below and above the line contributors to CiF, and The Guardian’s employees, and expect no one to call you to account? And you a lawyer?

And finally, here’s what MontanaWildhack said…

I’d like someone to explain to me how it is that I can be blamed for comments made by people I’ve never met, simply because those comments were made on a blog I started? The comments there aren’t moderated and people can (and do) even post anonymously. Because I’ve chosen to leave comments unmoderated, I couldn’t possibly ban anyone from commenting there, even if I wanted to.

There have only been a couple of times when I’ve deleted comments made by other people, one of them being the situation imogenblack referred to when she and a friend of hers were referred to by name in comments that were, frankly, out of line. It was unfortunate and unfair to them and I think Imogen knows that I feel bad about it. Fortunately for me, she is intelligent and mature enough to realise that I can’t control comments that are made by people who live on a different continent from me and doesn’t seem to blame me for it.

Frankly, I regret having deleted comments on one previous occasion, because it did end up making me look like a hypocrite. I’m not losing too much sleep over it, however, because I don’t think there are too many people in this world who don’t commit the occasional sin of hypocrisy. The only other times that I’ve deleted comments have been at the specific request of the person who’d made the comments.

I’m going to have to break my personal policy of not addressing Bitethehand here and say that I’m pretty sure that most people who post on the Untrusted would, quite frankly, be happy to forget your very existence, if only you would let them. Honestly, BTH, if you will insist on continually and deliberately misquoting people and making spurious accusations about them, then you must expect them to dislike you. If you apologised to someone once in awhile, you might earn some respect. You are almost universally despised here because you try to fight dirty and then you try to play the victim card when you’re called on your tactics. If you’re going to engage in fuckwittery, you will be called a fuckwit at some point in time. Call it Wildhack’s Law of Posting.

If you want people to stop bitching about you on the Untrusted, stop trying to smear people here on Cif. Stop misquoting things that people said five months ago to try to score cheap points. It makes you look worse than it does the person you’re trying to smear.

To others who have made supportive comments here: Thank you.

Of course psychology was never one of Montana’s stronger points. It’s the “bitching” Montana that keeps this place going.

So there’s a little history for James.

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