[Vision2020] Reddit has let me down

Paul Rumelhart godshatter at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 20 11:10:56 PST 2013

Are you trying to tell me that journalists have to be blessed as bonafide climate change scientists before they can talk about the banning of those who dare disagree on a user forum now?  He's not discussing the science of climate change, he's discussing the moderation policy of a web forum.  What credentials does he need to do that?

The field of climate change isn't even a science if they aren't open to dissenting opinions.


 From: Rosemary Huskey <donaldrose at cpcinternet.com>
To: 'Paul Rumelhart' <godshatter at yahoo.com>; 'Moscow Vision 2020' <vision2020 at moscow.com> 
Sent: Friday, December 20, 2013 11:00 AM
Subject: RE: [Vision2020] Reddit has let me down

Nope, it doesn’t suck to be a non-conformist, but it may well suck to be an opinionated ninny like Brendan O’Neill.  I was unable to find any academic background on him that would provide some information on his credentials to dispute those in the field who might actually know what they are talking about.  Do you have any leads on his training, Paul?
Rose Huskey
From:vision2020-bounces at moscow.com [mailto:vision2020-bounces at moscow.com] On Behalf Of Paul Rumelhart
Sent: Friday, December 20, 2013 8:52 AM
To: Moscow Vision 2020
Subject: [Vision2020] Reddit has let me down
I don't think they have banned climate change "deniers" anywhere but on /r/science, but it's still disappointing to me.  It sucks to be a non-conformist.  Always has, always will.
Reddit has banned climate change deniers, and ripped its own reputation to shreds 
By Brendan O'Neill
Reddit, the massively popular links-sharing website where users post stories, pictures or info that they find interesting, prides itself on being open and liberal. It describes itself as “passionately dedicated to free speech”. In which case, why has it banned from its forums anyone who raises awkward or annoying questions about the science of climate change?

In a move that has been described by one British academic as “positive censorship”, a Reddit moderator has announced that Reddit is becoming “increasingly stringent with deniers”. The Reddit moderator says climate “contrarians” were too often expressing “uninformed and outspoken opinions”, and so the site decided to adopt a much more “proactive moderation”. Now, whenever a user makes a “potentially controversial submission” on climate change, the moderators issue that user with a “warning”. If the user persists in posting “potentially controversial submissions”, he’s “banned from the forum”.

Reddit’s moderators are really happy with the results of their war against the expressers of “outspoken opinions” on climate change. They found that by “negating the ability of this misguided group to post to the forum” (a long-winded way of saying “banning them”), there has been a “change in the culture within the comments”. “Where once there were personal insults and bitter accusations, there is now discussion of the relevant aspects of [scientific] research”, we are told. In short, having expelled outspoken, controversial “deniers” from its forums, Reddit now finds that its discussions of climate change are more measured – that is, on-message, conformist, uncontroversial.

This is pretty shocking stuff. Of course, all online forums – including Telegraph Blogs – moderate their discussion threads, removing libellous, racist, homophobic, and gratuitously offensive material. That is absolutely fine. Such moderation often helps to keep debates on track.

But Reddit is talking about something quite different. It’s talking about removing specific political opinions; it’s talking about targeting the expression of a particular idea – that the case for climate change is overblown – and squashing it. This is political censorship, designed to silence the expression of dissent about climate-change alarmism on one of the internet’s most popular user-generated forums. This is clear from the Reddit moderator’s description of what is being targeted – not just libellous or hateful stuff, but “outspoken opinions”, “potentially controversial” views, and “contrarianism”. In short, critical or eccentric thinking, stuff that doesn’t fit with what the overlords of Reddit consider to be politically proper.

Not content with having purged from its own site the wicked people who deny climate change, Reddit now wants newspapers to do likewise. One of its moderators says that if Reddit can prevent its pages being used as “a microphone for the anti-scientific”, then “is it too much to ask for newspapers to police their own editorial pages as proficiently?” So let’s remove so-called climate change deniers from all forums and finally deny them the oxygen of publicity.

That one of the supposedly most free-speechy sections of the World Wide Web can be so upfront in demanding the “positive censorship” of controversial viewpoints is shocking. It shows just how successfully beyond the pale criticism of climate change alarmism has been put, and how even the young, funky overseers of modern, open discussion forums are willing to rein in free speech if they see or hear something that offends their Greenish sensibilities.

Society is becoming increasingly intolerant of the expression of dissent on climate change. Anyone who raises sticky questions about the politics or science of climate change is branded a “denier” – echoing the victims of the Inquisition, who were likewise accused of “denial” – and risks being expelled from polite society. Reddit might now feel very happy and smug about the fact that its science forums have become much more polite places following the expulsion of certain “contrarians”. But it should bear in mind the great liberal John Stuart Mill’s point that The Truth, including about climate change, can only be established through having the freest and frankest public debate possible: “Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action.”
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