Friday, February 15, 2008

To Delete or Not to Delete...

My colleague at the Telegraph, Iain Martin, has just sent me this email, regarding the comments in the Most Fancied Journalists thread...
We’ve linked to your 20 most fanciable political journalists item, as it is clearly designed as a gentle bit of fun. You wrote it is as such. But some of the comments
which have appeared from readers below it are at best bad mannered and at worst
vile, sexist drivel. Why is this misogynistic rubbish tolerated in the blogosphere when it wouldn’t be allowed on television, radio or in print? We all have a responsibility for what we choose to publish and I appeal to your innate good sense: please moderate, or remove, such comments. Feel free to publish this on Iain Dale’s Diary and I will handle the inevitable wave of abuse from the dribbling inadequates who think it amusing to be abusive on web sites about people they don’t know.

Very best regards, Iain Martin.

I imagine this will provoke a response of its own, but let me put in my twopennyworth. Journalists can get very prissy when they have to deal with the agression which they and their readers normally reserve for politicians. They don't like it up 'em, it might be said. And without picking at old sores, there have been a couple of examples on this blog in the past.

Having said that, Iain Martin does have a point. I think I am often far too lax at letting insulting comments through. It's not done deliberately; it's usually a question of not having enough time to read each and every comment in full. If I'm busy I'll skim read and if I don't see an f*** or worse, it often gets through. I then rely on readers to alert me to anything they think is beyond the pale. That happened today, when a commenter objected to how another commenter had insulted him. I then removed the comment. I went back and looked at the sixty odd comments on that thread and deleted three or four which were perhaps a bit OTT.

The Tim Irelands of this world suggest that if I introduced mandatory registration it would stop this sort of thing. It might, it might not. It certainly doesnt on the Telegraph's own site, as I know from the comments made about my own articles!

Many people who comment on here do so anonymously because they are civil servants or cannot be identified for other reasons. Others use the anonymous facility to hurl abuse. I believe in freedom of speech and hate censoring, but I know I must be harder on anonymous comments, and I shall try to be.

NOTE: Just for the record, Iain gave me permission to publish his email. Please be constructive in your responses!

AFTERTHOUGHT: My West Ham blog gets around 3,000 vistits a day. I moderate comments on that, but I can't remember the last time I had to delete one ... apart from the day it was invaded by Norwich City fans. I wonder what it says when the satndard of debate on a football blog is higher/more polite than that on a political blog!


Liam Murray said...

To my mind you should be far, far tougher - the free speech argument is a huge red herring since it's actually very straightforward.

Never, ever suppress genuine dissent and disagreement, no matter how vociferous - always, always suppress infantile abuse and foul, intemperate language.

If readers trust you to get that judgement right they'll stay, if the don't they won't. In your case I'm sure they would. End of story.

Where free speech comes into it I don't know....

Anonymous said...

at the risk of being one of those f****n respondents, Iain, your f*****n respondents do their own thing. f**k him. This is a great independent blog.

Seriously. You have a unique slant on things political. I have no interest in CPH or Guidnuts.

Keep it up buddy.

Anonymous said...

get over it Iain, I have made a few (mmmph) comments about Verity but actually think you do a pretty good job of policing your blog without, you know, you being a total bitch. Good work. It's a v.individual blog. Off the Tories who think you need to change it.

Anonymous said...

Cassilis - Iain has already said that he doesn't have time to read every single comment. I think he does often censor infantile and pointless abuse (meaning fanciful abuse that has no relevance to the subject of the post or what the poster who is being abused wrote). I think on the whole, his balance is good, especially given that most people who are drawn to Iain's blog are fairly robust.

Iain - One doesn't have to register to post on The Torygraph.

Anonymous said...

you've been off the boil for a while Dale but tonight you have come out fighting. Good to see it.

Anonymous said...


What you do as your moderation policy is up to you. Personally, I don't have a problem with "foul" language.. its just part of English. But I accept its your blog and you make the rules. Fine.

What I do find a bit rich though is someone coming along going 'we want to link to your blog, so change it'. It is what it is, if they want to link to it, do so; if they don't like the content, then don't.

Though frankly I would expect no better from the Telegraph these days.

Anonymous said...

It's not the f***s that worry me but using pail where you meant pale..

I'll get my coat.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr Dale on both main points.

Boorish denigration of a woman's looks have no place in any public discussion.

"They don't like it up 'em." Indeed not, and those who (generically) are unable to take what they routinely dish out to others deserve all they get.

As someone with a deep-rooted antipathy to journalists and indeed every other organ of the British nomenklatura, I shall assume that Iain Martin's outburst was directed at the first type of contribution and not the second.

If I am wrong, then I think he knows precisely what he can do.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

A "dribbling inadequate" writes:

Dear Iain Martin,

Thank you for your constructive contribution to this debate. As you have said, the thread in question was intended to be a bit of fun and not to be taken seriously.

People need to let off a little steam now and again, in the direction of those who consider themselves to be our betters and arbiters of good taste, like yourself.

Private Eye has predicated its exsitence upon this idea and is generally considered to be a good thing.

We no longer asassinate people in this country, we throw eggs or purple flour at them. It is messy but fair.

And now to your complaint. I am surprised that being the exalted journalist you are, you have not given concrete examples of the kind of comment which causes you indignation. In which case, your complaint amounts to a rant,a string of cliches, and not a very articulate one, since you don't seem to be able to come up with a synonym for the word "abuse". Is the thesaurus just out of reach?

I have largely given up writing to Newpapers because it is clear that, as Iain says, "they don't like it up em"

You, Mr Martin, like to pretend that you hvae the moral high ground, and when your cleverer readers deflate your puffed up little bit of ultracrepidarian penny hack glop, you get all righteous and press the delete button.

No thanks. You are yesterday's news. Time to get used to it.

@molesworth_1 said...

As Stephen Fry once commented, concerning free speech, "You're offended? So fucking what."

Anonymous said...

come on Iain - yeah - DC was a bit of a let down. Whatever. Get over it.

Verity - come in here and say something nice....

strapworld said...

Dear Ms Martin,

You write for a newspaper that does not print letters which criticise their correspondents - unless they are written in a humourous manner!!

The comments you object to are written in a humourous manner, but by people you obviously look down on.

Mr Martin. In every public opinion poll ever conducted, over the past fifty years, can you please direct me to one that shows the newspaper reporter/journalist or correspondent in a well placed position ? NO!!

and that is why, sir, we enjoy taking the urine out of you pretentious lot!

Grow Up.

dizzy said...

This thread will no doubt kick off yet another boring essay on loopy lou's website.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Iain get rid of the foul mouthed comments as you do. Leave the rest, thats why we read blogs and not newspapers. The press is far to PC and is wimpish in its stories.

Anonymous said...

big hug then

gather round boys (and Verity)

feel the love

Anonymous said...

It's called having a sex drive, being grounded, not being androgynous, not being afraid to say you fancy someone, being human, not being a plastic clone, having a sense of humor, being human.

Ian Martin lives his life in fear of lawyers. I picture this sad middle aged man lying in bed wondering who he could have offended that day, worried whether his repuation for being androgynous has been harmed, worried whether has been caught.

He's no more human than the machines that print his papers.

Ted Foan said...

Iain - slightly OT, I congratulate you for all your blogs today. You are definitely back on track and living up to the tag lines on your banner head (if that's the right expression!)

Back OT, it seems your "most fanciable political journo" list commenters might have been invaders from the Guido ghetto where that type of personal abuse is the norm.

As for surpressing it, I suspect that most of your readers just shrug and pass on. OK, cut out the swearers if they start to get too brazen - they'll soon get fed up.

Keep up the good work - and don't do so many lists! (They're just my pet hate!)

Anonymous said...

It's not the fact that you're lax Iain, it's the fact that you're inconsistent.
You will ban someone for making abusive comments about someone who supports you, but then you will let insults slander and libel against someone else that pulls you up on a point.
You cannot have it both ways.
Either introduce registration so you know who is commenting, people can still remain anonymous to the outside world, (by using something called a 'pseudomyn') or do not have moderated comments and put a disclaimer on the place.
Your behaviour and your comments policy is a joke.

Newmania said...

Well Iain , its your blog and you can do what you like. I tend to feel that in a blogging manifesto you body forth your political and personal position though and in the past this blog has been about a level of freedom including the freedom to employ mischievous invective cruel caricature and a rich meaty stew of ideas conflict and on occasion malicious ..god forbid ..childish …amusement . Sometimes Gasp! At the expense of a journalist … by all that’s sacred …..
But then I like smoking in pubs , approved of hunting , support the C of E don’t much like foreigners and posses innumerable attitudes which combined with social gracelessness make me unacceptable to all manner of people. Never mind being deleted from your blog I fully expect to be entirely illegal as a human being in my lifetime.

* The lonely despised ( but oddly handsome)hero trudged off warmed only by a sense of his own perfection *

Anonymous said...

I don't see why you should ask Mr Martin's permission to publish his email.

He didn't bother asking Brian Monteith's permission when he published a private conversational email to a Mr Iain Martin.

Nevertheless if Mr Martin is referring to just plain abuse and calling people names then he has a point - though the sticks and stones does spring to mind.

In the past it was said "don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel".

As the barrels get less and less for the news media and blogs and news comment sections replace them perhaps the phrase should now be "don't pick a fight with an army of people with online access".

Yes, it must be annoying when such folk question your motives at publishing stories, for being one sided in a news article rather than a commentary piece, being wrong etc etc when you genuinely didn't think you were.

But then it is probably even more annoying when they have found you out.

But that might just create a better generation of journalists. Ones who report the facts and both sides of the story rather than continue with agendised news items.

That some find it a bit tough only speaks for their fragile egos.. The ones who will survive are those who can own up to mistakes or bad judgement and move on from it. That's the way of the two way media and the ones who have a sense of wit and humility are the ones who will survive as the ones who can't run for the copy editor jobs.

If Mr Martin wasn't referring to that then I apologise if I got that impression.

Anyway, he's probably jealous the far more dishy Fraser Nelson made it to the cut over him.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this might explain Iain's flight of peevishness.

Simon Pia's Diary,
The Scotsman, 4/4/01


TALKING of our little sister, media luvvies and politicians were out in force rubbing shoulders at the wedding on Monday of the deputy editor of that organ, Iain Martin.

Labour's Susan Deacon and Frank McAveety were there along with Nats Duncan Hamilton and Andrew Wilson, while Ben Wallace was representing the Tories.

When it came to the telegrams, John Boothman, the BBC producer and Deacon's bidie-in, had forewarned all party leaders they'd get no election coverage if they didn't contribute.

David McLetchie's was very chummy and affectionate, as was John Swinney's. Alex Salmond also sent his best, wishing the happy couple "a fruitful union unlike other ones".

Henry McLeish was sure the couple would be very happy as "both are in love with Iain." Waspish maybe, but then again Ian had just given Henry another going over in his column the day before.

But the real controversy came when the master of ceremonies, Alan Cochrane of the Torygraph, proposed a toast to the Queen and several bums remained firmly planted on their seats. Rather than "out" those who remained seated, a bigger problem would be exposing all those who got to their feet, including members of the SNP.

Nich Starling said...

Don't disrespect the Canaries Iain !

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Cassillis. Don't be preposterous. Do you know how fabulous The Devil's Kitchen is? Do you ever visit it? DK has turned swearblogging into an art form. "Genuine dissent", couched in the argot of the people, and not our elders and betters, is, to the trained eye of a literary critic, extraordinarily democratic and liberating. Read Paulo Freire for God's sake. It is man's basic right to name the world around him, and if he thinks it's a crock of sh!t, then he must name it so, name it in the most honest way he knows.

Molesworth, Strapworld, Newmania, javelin et al. Well done for giving this pygmy short shrift.

Anonymous said...

Javelin writes re Iain Martin: "I picture this sad middle aged man lying in bed wondering who he could have offended that day, worried whether his repuation for being androgynous has been harmed, worried whether has been caught.
He's no more human than the machines that print his papers."

That is abuse.

I suspect Javelin does not know Mr Martin, so how he "pictures" him is, because based nothing but the poster's own psychology, worth zero as a comment. Although it tells us rather more than we want to know about Javelin.

Anonymous said...

As long as the speech does not go against the law... what is the point of censoring it?

Smart people don't take stupid abuse seriously anyway, and this kind of thing is better out in the open where the entire blog village can rally round to flame the silly child enthusiastically.

Censoring can easily become a way of creating a reality that does not exist. Don't do it.

Anonymous said...

always good fun at this late PM part of the blog - especially when Verity gets going and starts accusing others of abuse. Go girl.

Raedwald said...

Many people have heard of Iain Dale, but who, pray, is Iain Martin?

dizzy said...

Oh how I love seeing people moaning about consistency and then throwing in the libel and slander stuff. I mean let's take 'Outraged of Guildford' as an example. The amount of times outright lies an bollocks and conjecture masquerading as fact have been published on OoG's site in the last year makes such moaning all the funnier.

Iain, you're policy is very simple, you publish what you want to and to hell with the moaning and bleating. It is a sad fact that online where administration and moderation exists there will always be cycles wen someone screams about censorship, and, thanks to the joy of not being able to prove a negative there is nothing one can do about it, and it's only fallacious tits that complain about it.

Paddy Briggs said...


As someone who usually (not always) takes a contrary line to conventional Tory attitudes I am sometimes subject to abuse on your blog. I was upset by this at first, but have come to the conclusion that those who resort to personal insults and abuse diminish themselves and their arguments by doing so.

Some of your more rabidly abusive contributors seem to reside on the outermost fringes of the Conservative spectrum - indeed I wonder whether they are Conservatives at all. They certainly are not in tune with the modern Tory Party which I have to say is a breath of almost fresh air compared with the recent past!

In the same way that you tolerate me, even though you no doubt disagree with much of what I say, I suppose it is right that you give space to those who launch their attacks from the unpleasant stomping grounds of the extreme right. But I wouldn't tolerate personal abuse against other contributors - indeed I wouldn't tolerate personal abuse against anybody - politicians included!

A healthy debating forum is one in which different points of view are expressed without anyone getting into a personalised slanging match. Most of your contributors adhere to the rules of common decency. Some don't - but you know who they are and it’s your call!

Unsworth said...

Who the hell is Iain Martin?

What business is it of his?

As so often, it's attempted control freakery by the intellectually stunted.

Frankly anyone who signs off 'Very best regards' is a numbskull. Are we into some sort of comparative levels of 'regards', then? How would he feel about just 'best' regards, or 'pretty bleeding average' regards, or just plain old regards?

This man (and I'm making a wild assumption as to his age) is firmly inserted in his own fundament - and should not be extracted.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Iain, on taking those thirty pieces of silver...

All that bollocks, and it is bollocks about the 'dead tree press', and how you are so fearless, ring pretty hollow now. Either you are willing to challenge the orthodoxy of the main stream media, or you are a part of it . Which is it to be ??

p.s. I can just imagine Guido's response to a 'Telegraph journo' who asked him to tone down his 'totty watch'. Before long you'll just be another variant of 'Comment is [edited by moderator] not very expensive' on the Grauniad..

Oscar Miller said...

The words pot kettle and black come to mind. The most inane, childishly abusive and stupid comments are published on the Telegraph's Three Line Whoops. I only posted there once (clearly an aberration) and got accused of being the kind of person (were I American!) who would live in the mountains with a gun and a goat waiting for the second coming. Actually that one still makes me laugh. Iain - you get it just about right. Don't start self censoring just because of the fragile egos of MSM journos.

Oscar Miller said...

On the topic of abuse there was a serious case of that today - not from the blogosphere but from the Today programme. In a fantasy 'satire' of the problems Britain might encounter at the 2012Olympics the BBC stooped to a truly below the belt attack on Boris Johnson and in the process didn't hesitate to use racist language. (just goes to show how selective their supposed 'sensitivity' about racism is). In this fantasy scenario PM Boris Johnson embarrasses the nation for his use of the term "fuzzy wuzzies". The Today programme should not be using language like that on air - never mind the context. And the context was of course disgraceful. It was obviously an attempt to bolster Livingstone's campaign to inculcate the idea that Boris is a racist. It was very insiduous stuff - under the guise of 'a joke' indoctrinating the public with Livingstone inspired smears against Boris. On every level it was despicable. I hope people will complain.

Chris Paul said...

Funnily enough it is not "political blogs" in general that have the problem with moderated tourettes it is Tory Boy Blogs and most particularly your own and (worse still) Guido's.

Basically these "uncivil" civil servants etc have a vocabulary problem rather than an anonymity problem. Though having the vocabulary problem may make them more keen on the anonymity problem.

The same oafs presumably leaking documents and making trouble?

Bring on the surveillance of ID and GuF blogs and let's find out which of the swearers is Basher Davis, which Boris Johnson, and which "Lord" Ashcroft hisself.

Oscar Miller said...

Chris Paul - you are joking right? If you want to get really vicious attacks - majoring in anti-semitism - try reading Comment is Free down at the Guardian. By and large the right are setting the agenda and making the arguments in the blogosphere while the Left have nothing better to do than troll around posting derisory smears. Rather like you.

Anonymous said...

There's narfink wrong with uz Narch fans Iain...

Anonymous said...

Where exactly is the misogyny in that original thread? Methinks Mr Martin must be a sensitive flower (though perhaps the threads you have now deleted were particularly scandalous).