The ABC is so afraid that the public might read comments from global warming skeptics that they frequently censor or delay reasonable comments, while allowing defamatory, unprofessional, and unsubstantiated ones through. (Guess which way the editors of The Drum vote?)
Marc Hendrickx describes how hard it is to get rid of a single baseless defamatory comment on the ABC taxpayer-funded-site:
The following anonymous comment was posted to [Sara] Phillips’s blog shortly afterwards:
Annie : 03 Dec 2010 7:07:53pm
The denialist clowns return again . . . climateaudit.org . . . run by Stephen McIntyre a known climate denialist and extremist right-wing provocateur . . . you are a joke as are your answers . . . laughing hysterically.
Marc Hendrix suggested it be removed as defamatory. The ABC editors protested, and here’s the weird thing, it would have taken them less time to just say “yes” — after all, it’s only a comment. But in the sum total editorial-calculation-of-the-day there was apparently some net benefit in fighting to keep an unsubstantiated insult visible among hundreds of other comments? (Go figure.) According to the ABC editors: “He [MacIntyre] could reasonably be described as ‘right wing’ as a speaking member of the George C Marshall Institute, which is known for its right-leaning politically conservative views. ‘Provocateur’ is a name given to describe those whose thinking goes against that of the status quo, another label that could reasonably be given to Mr McIntyre. As such, the comments from Annie are not unfounded and therefore not defamatory.””
Hendrickx then passed on the ABC editorial point of view to Steven McIntyre, and he replied:
I am not a “member of the George Marshall Institute”. This allegation on your part is untrue. I once spoke at a briefing session sponsored by George Marshall Institute, but that does not make me a “member” or imply any endorsement on my part of their views. I would have been delighted to make the same presentation at a session sponsored by the Pew Centre.
Nor is there any basis for characterising my political views as “extremist right wing”. I have seldom expressed political opinions, though I once said that, in American terms, I would have been a Bill Clinton supporter. My only recent political contributions have been to a left-wing municipal politician in Toronto, Pam McConnell. I challenge you to provide any evidence that I hold “extremist right wing” political views. The comments by Annie are totally unfounded and defamatory. Yours truly, Stephen McIntyre
And only 6 days after McIntyre’s reply and three weeks after the initial comment was posted, the ABC managed to take the ten seconds needed to “delete” the offensive comment, long after the thread would have run cold.
Why did it take so much effort to remove the offensive comment? How did Phillips obtain permission to run such a biased and unbalanced opinion page at the taxpayers’ expense?
In an era where there are a multitude of opportunities for ABC staff to express their opinions by setting up their own blogs or personal web pages, how does Mark Scott justify the use of taxpayer funds to foot this bill?
Mark Hendrickx runs the blog ABCNewswatch.
Des Moore also writes this week on the ABC way of smothering complaints (read it at Quadrant).
Wes George captures it in comment #3 on the thread about spambots and black propaganda:
Here in the Lucky Country we don’t need no stinkin’ botware conspiracy to manage opinion. We do it the fair dinkum way:
We taxpayers fund a state-owned and operated Ministry of Information which is the de facto propaganda arm of the Green/Labor coalition. It’s called the ABC. It’s totally legit, operates with impunity day and night, 365 days a year… The ABC even has its own websites and edits all comments to perfectly reflect the latest groupthink.
And the Left is worried that software bots are comin’ to git ‘em?
Please copy and log the comments you post to the ABC site (if you can be bothered wading in). I want to host an “ABC-Rejects” thread to show the kind of comments they allow, and the kind they don’t. (At least one reader has an interesting theory on the pattern of what gets through, that I’ll share soon). I could use a few more samples.
UPDATE: As Marc Hendrickx so rightly points out the real problem is the absence of stories.
It wasn’t so much the comment that offended. That comment is typical of the level of debate on the ABC – ignorant innuendo based on uninformed web gossip. It was that it received the support of a senior ABC journalist and the support of the supposedly “independent” ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs. This proves bias in regard to climate change reporting, thus explaining the absence of any significant coverage of Steve McIntyre’s work including his brilliant take down of the Hockey Stick graph and more recently his work with Chris O’Donnell, Nic Lewis and Jeff Condon refuting Eric Steig’s botched analysis of Antarctic temps. ABC have missed many more important journal articles that refute the iPCC consensus, and it’s clear now why this is the case.