A few commenters have wondered recently why I tolerate knee-jerk dissenters like HarryTheHat on Hot Topic. The answer is both easy and complex. I got started on all this climate stuff as a result of a naive belief that if climate cranks could be shown where they were getting the science wrong that they would thank me, amend their views, and move on. From the early days of the NZ C”S”C when their site allowed comments, I enjoyed jousting with cranks, but I was sadly mistaken about their ability to recognise reason when it was presented to them. In that sense, giving Harry (and batnv, et al) room to play is a part of what HT is about. Perhaps one day they’ll remove their rose-tinted spectacles and see the real problem. Perhaps HT will have helped.
I believe in freedom of expression, no exceptions. No point of view on any subject should be suppressed.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I find that my two most recent attempts to post at his blog have been censored. And that shortly after it became apparent that neither was going to appear, a new “comments policy” page turned up.
A few months ago a commenter here asked me to pop over to Poneke’s Weblog to offer some support in a debate over climate change. I did so, and ended up with another sea ice bet. Since then, I’ve kept an eye on his blog, and commented occasionally on posts related to climate change. The posts seem to have developed a pattern. Poneke discovers the latest bit of crank effluvia (probably by regularly checking the “dissenting voices” side of Denis Dutton’s deliberately misleading Climate Debate Daily site), duly posts about it (often at great length), and then appears to become upset when his readers point out the errors in the original.
Most recently, he posted about noted “dissenter” Roy Spencer’s recent testimony to Congress about negative feedbacks in the climate system. My first comment duly appeared (after a long time “in moderation”), with in-line response from Poneke. Later, George Darroch posted links to Open Mind‘s excellent three-part deconstruction of Spencer’s thinking. I picked up on that, and attempted to post the last paragraph of Tamino’s piece (here), to demonstrate why Spencer doesn’t get much traction in the climate science mainstream. It disappeared. Then a comment from malcolm appeared below, referring to peer-review. I then attempted to post a link to Spencer’s well-documented belief in creationism. Neither post appeared. But Poneke’s new comments policy did. And look at rule one:
No personal abuse of people mentioned in articles or of other commenters, especially abusive remarks about someoneâ€™s ethnicity, religious or political beliefs or sexual orientation.
In other words, if Poneke writes about you, you are above criticism on Poneke’s blog. And that seems to apply to all the crank pantheon, from Lindzen and Spencer on down.
Also telling is the final paragraph:
The comments section is not under any direct moderation, but WordPress and Akismet moderate comments with multiple links (a sign of spam), and some names and issues are marked for moderation in an attempt to prevent potentially defamatory comments. As a result, your comment may not appear immediately, though most do.
My name was clearly marked for moderation very early on, but I don’t believe that it had anything to do with defamation. I’m not going to post comments on a site which so transparently stacks the odds against a fair debate. And that’s why Harry and his friends remain “welcome” at Hot Topic. In the last 18 months I’ve only deleted one non-spam comment, and that was at the commenter’s request. I’ve edited one or two for rudeness – and reserve the right to do the same in future.
Poneke’s blog is an interesting place, his posts always well written and often challenging, as you might expect from an established journalist with a long track record. I can’t share his enthusiasm for the minutiae of Wellington’s public transport system, but then I dare say he’d be bored rigid by talk of truffles. And he is at least very sound on Ken Ring. But if he walks like a crank, if he quacks like a crank, then he must be…