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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Our house, our rules

I am fairly used to intermittently getting peeved e-mails from people who get their comments deleted wailing about how they cannot understand how a ‘libertarian’ blog can ‘censor’ free speech (never mind that Samizdata is a blog that has many libertarian writers, rather than a libertarian blog per se).

But today I got two such e-mails within minutes of each other, one from a racist troll whom I have long banned and one from a Muslim troll who keeps posting passages from the Koran in random articles. As a result I thought I would revisit the issue yet again, even though Samizdata has several articles on this subject, such as this one.

It is really simple: this is private property and as a result anything published here is at the sufferance of Samizdata’s editors. We invite comments but that does not mean we relinquish control over our property, just as when you invite people into your house, you do not relinquish the right to subsequently un-invite them if they act inappropriately or if you just want them out for whatever reason.

Apart from spam comments, the main reason we axe people’s remarks are that they are gratuitously insulting, grossly and uninterestingly off-topic (interesting but off-topic is sometimes tolerated) or they are endlessly repetitive. Racists and Muslim extremists, who between them make up 85% of the non-spam deletions, almost always fall into the last category. It does not matter that their arguments are shredded and rebutted, neither group are psychologically capable of accepting their questions have been asked and answered unless they have been agreed with. Even more annoying, the racists are capable of hijacking a discussion about cricket or Beethoven into yet another absurd phrenological rant about racial IQs. The Muslim extremists tend to just reply to reasonable questions with great long quotes from the Koran as if that will magically end all arguments. Well life is just too short to tolerate such people flogging their dead horses on our turf and preventing rational discourse and reasonable progression of a discussion.

And when certain commenters wear out their welcome, sometimes they do not just get their comments deleted, they get banned completely. This is often a shame because a couple of the banned commenters had some interesting things to say when on the rare occasion they can bring themselves to stop obsessing about the issue that dements them. Yet there are only so many hours in the day we can spend moderating Samizdata (we do have off-line lives, believe it or not) and when the majority of a person’s comments have proven to be obsessive rants, they get banned.

And who gets to make that call? We do. Our house, our rules. End of story.


48 comments to Our house, our rules

  • Stevii

    Man, who does these frikkin ultra cool graphics???

  • Well put! I used to have this problem a lot when I had a popular site.

    So many people don’t really understand free speech!

  • I was amused to read Bloggers4Labour having a similar rant about rogue commenters and it was the blog owners right to delete anything he didn’t like.

    It just didn’t carry the same conviction from someone who doesn’t actually believe in private property rights.

  • Nick M

    Libertarianism is all about private property (I still can’t bring my self to say “several”) and only an idiot would look at the blog and not know that. You also make it obvious, to anyone who reads the editorial policy that with respect to Samizdata, at least, you are Gods.

    You’ve evicted trespassers. Shame you had to go to the bother, they should’ve read the sign at the gate.

    I am constantly amazed by the number of people who don’t “get it”. The whole beauty of the internet is to create something entirely of your own in a way that wasn’t really possible in the past. Certainly, that’s why I built my first site.

    We the Comentariat salute you!

    (And are glad we’ll never again have to have M O’H interrupt a disccussion with “racial realism”).

    PS. Who did that graphic?

  • ian

    Well I know who would be at the top of my killfile, but I don’t ‘live’ here. If anything I wish you were a bit more robust.

  • Ian: There are several commenters on Samizdata I find irritating and with whom I generally disagree but neither of those facts will gets you banned here (though insulting the editors can get you electrocuted fairly quickly).

    I think if one sets the bar too high, all you get in an Amen Chorus, which is pointless, but if you set it too low, you get any attempts at intelligent discussion drowned out by obsessive trolls.

  • So these people think it’s okay not to allow commenting at all, but not to moderate comments?

    Most of the time my comment moderations consist of correcting typos and spelling errors. Maybe I should just let them embarrass themselves.

  • The great thing about the blogosphere in general is that every blog has a slightly different definition of who is a “racist” or an “Islamofascist” or just a “troll”. So those who really want to profit from their blogiversations gravitate toward those sites with whose definitions they tend to agree. Kos’s definition of a “right-winger” is about as far from Samizdata’s as Protein Wisdom’s definition of a “communist” is from that of the Idiotarian Rottweiler. And many Samizdatistas reject the whole right-left thing entirely. You guys do a good job of maintaining a balance while keeping an edge on the discussions. If Verity and EG can comment interestingly on the same post without dissolving into flames, anything is possible!

  • ian

    If Verity and EG can comment interestingly on the same post without dissolving into flames…

    I must have been on holiday!

  • Nick M

    Free speech in the context of any organ of the press (web MSM or talking drums) means having an editorial policy, or at least editorial authority. Otherwise, you get no distinct flavour from each publication.

    Some may argue this is a form of censorship. Indeed it is. But to complain about it is as ludicrous as for someone to walk into Pizza Hut and demand a biryani. To them, I say find somewhere that will cater to you, or set up for yourself.

    Verity and EGs double-headers don’t dissolve into flames, they mainly dissolve into tedium and pedantry.

    BTW. I haven’t seen EG about here for a while. Where’s he been? Anyone know?

  • Julian Taylor

    EG’s the one in red methinks …

  • Richard Easbey

    Nick M:

    I think EG, as we say in the states, took his ball and went home. He didn’t like getting caught in his own inconsistencies and self-contradictions.

  • guy herbert

    I haven’t seen EG about here for a while. Where’s he been? Anyone know?

    He said goodbye a week or two ago, having got fed up with being kicked, not argued with. On this thread. Them as knows no latin might have missed it.

  • Snide

    Paul Marks is quite right though, EG is just a troll who resets his position after every argument, making any continuity of discussion impossible.

  • GCooper

    guy herbert writes:

    “He said goodbye a week or two ago, having got fed up with being kicked, not argued with”

    Oh, he was argued with, well enough. The problem was that his idea of a response was to minutely shift the subject, thus generating an endless game of shadow-boxing, after which, when he had finally ground down all other commenters, he would claim their groans of frustration as some kind of victory.

    Like several others here, I simply grew so tired of trying to fight his intellectual blancmange that I concluded he was either a troll or at a tangent to reason, so I simply gave up trying to argue with him.

    It’s trolling, Jim. Just not as we know it.

  • Nick:

    PS. Who did that graphic?


    Man, who does these frikkin ultra cool graphics???

    Short of an answer from the landlord(s), allow me to give self-credit where credit is due: I do.

  • Nick M

    Well, well.

    So, EG “took his ball home”… D’ya think he’s in a darkened room repeating, softly to himself, “Verity, Verity”………………Sorry, I’m trying to avoid spilling beer on the keyboard. Oh, well.

    Last time I’ll use “well” in this post.

    Dissident Frogman,

    Two thumbs up! Care to divulge any details? There are enquiring minds who wanna know…

  • Nick M

    I meant “spitting”, such were my chortlings…

  • Nick M

    Not in rage ya understand, I was engulfed in hilarity (and almost) Stella.

  • ND

    The comments above piqued my interest about what this EG chap had to say for himself, so I followed the link and read his comments, plus those of the other contributors to the thread.
    I must say that I found his statements well reasoned and clearly stated, with none of the distasteful language others seemed to need to stoop to. I did not agree with everything he had to say, but the only problem that I could see with his ideas which could possibly engender such vehement attacks were that they disagreed with the ‘party line’. Many of the points he made about views held by other contributors were, in my opinion, entirely valid refutations of their arguments. Never a popular trait, I suppose.
    He was not, as is claimed above, always argued with, but arguments (in the technical sense) are very rarely a feature of pub philosophy, a level that some comments struggle to atain. Libertarianism must surely have as one of its products the freedom to accept the possibility (and I must emphasise possibility, I do not enjoy being verbally abused after all) that libertarianism is not the correct answer to everything.
    I felt this was relevant to a post about censorship as the holding of an unshakable (and I personally would say irrational; as a belief that you will not alter is beyond reason) belief in your own opinion’s veracity is in itself a dangerously pervasive form of internal censorship.

  • GCooper

    ND writes:

    “The comments above piqued my interest about what this EG chap had to say for himself, so I followed the link and read his comments, plus those of the other contributors to the thread.”

    Stranger breezes in and becomes, for no obvious reason, fascinated by the fate of a disgruntled former commenter and decides to read the relevant back and forth across successive threads over many months, so as to form an impartial opinion which s/he is so exercised about as to post at some length, in defence of the departed one.

    No… neither did I.

  • permanent expat

    Oh my Gaaaaahhhhd………………..!
    EG is back! In the shape of ND!

  • Nick M

    I don’t think there is a “party line” here. EG was (I think) generally welcome here. Certainly I found a few of his comments interesting and intelligent… But he did have a capacity to keep on and on. Have you seen the lengths of some of those threads… They were the only samizdata threads I’ve been involved with where (for the sake of sanity) I had to give up on, promising though they may’ve been at first. I like a bit of cut and thrust, but with EG (especially if Verity was on the case – she always seemed to light EG’s tail-feathers) it descended into the sort of minutiae that is mind-numbing.

    Now, I’ll cut to the chase. If EG isn’t with us anymore. That’s his decision. He wasn’t forced out, quite the reverse. That’s not censorship. That’s choice.

  • Verity

    Nick M in the Keep up, Honeychil’ category: “Verity and EGs double-headers don’t dissolve into flames, they mainly dissolve into tedium and pedantry.”

    I haven’t responded to EG in over a year except occasionally grouped in a tiny bunch of others as we all peeled away. The only people engaging with EG were newcomers who kept coming in for another hit of Euan Gray logic because they just couldn’t believe it. They felt if only they could explain – while Gray quietly changed his position by tiny incremental degrees.

    You mean there’s someone on planet Earth who didn’t know the Diss did the graphics around here? And designed the “support Denmark” flags which are now flown on blogs around the world?

  • Midwesterner

    Euan handles ideas like a lawyer, not like an investigator. He seeks not truth, but victory. I don’t believe I have ever seen him adjust his ideas to facts or reason. Almost every other one of the ‘usual suspects’ does. Sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes with a simple “whatever”, sometimes by dropping off of the thread. Almost all the others adjust their ideas to what they learn in the discussion. Euan adjusts the discussion to fit his ideas.

    Arguing for victory’s sake, in defiance of facts or reason is, to me at least, the arch sin in the search for truth. Shifting the context of the debate is the last defense of a lost case by someone who cares not for the truth..

    Although not always successful, I try to not be irritated when I run afoul of the spam and troll traps and filters. This is an amazingly free wheeling yet on-topic site. I often remind myself of all the work, mostly invisible, it must take to keep it that way.

  • Verity

    Midwesterner – You nailed it. “Euan handles ideas like a lawyer, not like an investigator. He seeks not truth, but victory.”

    Very well said. I hadn’t thought of it like that.

  • ND

    I admit that using this ‘EG’ to frame my point may have been a mistake. I am not fully aware of his posting history, and so it was perhaps unwise to use the one thread as my basis. I agree that pedantry and argument simply for the sake of winning is of no use to anyone.
    What I will stick with is my observation that some comments in the thread I looked at (and others) had the appearance of people frantically trying to uphold their rigid dogma. In my opinion, there has been quite a few people writing things in various threads that suggest they cannot comprehend that the best solutions may involve ideas other than their own (here that obviously tends to be liberalism). This is a trait in the whole of society which agitates me, and so it was a fairly innocuous warning (warning is far too self important a word, but alternatives escape me at the moment and so it will have to do) against such behaviour that I wished to communicate.
    I do not by any means believe that the warning is relevant to all, or even many, of the contributors. The majority of the posts stemming from mine prove that. I know that such a warning from me is of very little use or interest to others, but sometimes you have to go with the urge to say something. I do not particularly want to defend EG. I’m sure he can do that himself. At length, if what has been said is true.
    For the benefit of GCooper’s disbelief; I am meant to be doing work, so anything that involves not doing that suddenly becomes of vital importance, hence the longish posts. I’m sure you will be able to sympathise with that.
    I will breeze back out.

  • veryretired

    I come here because I can say things that are not acknowledged by the common political wisdom accepted on so many political forums as legitimate positions. It is to the credit of the moderators that the kind of insulting, profanity filled attack comments found in many other places are not allowed here.

    I have abandoned other sites because they were taken over by cliques of collectivists who made any posting espousing a non-statist position a target for relentless attacks.

    Even though I am not a proper libertarian by any means, I have not had any experience like that here, even though, certainly, any number of other people have disagreed with my comments.

    Ideas have consequences. This is a place where ideas can be discussed and examined in a respectful atmosphere. It is a cool drink in a hot and dusty world.

    Thanks again for all the effort it requires to maintain and operate this remarkable site.

  • Gah! What is it about the right to speak that makes dumbasses think everyone else has an obligation to listen?

  • Nick: and what kind of details would these enquiring minds inquire?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Perry, I am glad you have taken a firm line sir. I’ll be blunt: as a writer for this site since Day One, I got a bit alarmed at the number of comments that were racist, and am glad they were shown the door. I began to wonder why this blog, which is an individualist, pro-reason, pro-technology blog, was attracting such scum on such a scale. It occured to me that they are paying us a sort of backhanded compliment. They know that libertarians are their real enemy. They hate our individualism, our optimism, our focus on reason. That is what pisses them off.

    As for Euan Gray, I actually found some of his points perfectly sensible, and he was superb at debunking racism. But all too often he was slippery in argument, replying to a point by quietly shifting the topic at hand. As a result, he became a tiresome individual. But he was rarely offensive.

    The EG’s of this world I can stand. The O’Hallorans, Luniversals and the rest are a bunch of vicious losers.

  • ian

    Whatever Euan is/was it isn’t a troll. Nor did he change his views. I’m not sure why he came to this site nevertheless, because he clearly has very little interest in exploring the sort of things discussed here, only in refuting them, so the that extent, yes, he wrote as a lawyer.

    In his ‘goodbye’ thread, however he did make several perfectly valid points. Unlike many of those who responded to him he has always been impeccably polite. He is correct too in saying that libertarianism, of what ever flavour, is a minority viewpoint. Its strength on the internet is by no means matched in the real world. Failure to recognise or accept that, will not win libertarians friends or influence people – and influence is needed. When you can’t slip an ID card between Balir and Cameron on most matters of policy – who really believes Conservatives would repeal ID card legislation? – it is by influencing those who find themselves cast adrift that libertarian philosophy will make progress. If libertarians are not willing to try to exert influence then libertarianism will end up like Stalinism/Leninism and many other isms- a stagnant backwater.

    Influence does work – I know my views have changed in the 3 or 4 years I have been reading sites like this not by empty headed abuse however, but by rational discussion from people like Guy Herbert – and even by Perry on occasions, although he may be surprised to find me say so!

    Of course when the publications of the Libertarian Alliance run the gamut from Kevin Carson and Ken McLeod to Sean Gabb, that rather begs the question of which libertarianism…

  • Nick M

    Well DS,
    Ashamed to say, I didn’t know you did the Samizdata graphics, just thant funky Danish flag till now. I’ve been admonished by Verity and hang my head in shame.
    No trade secrets are required of course, but how’d ya do the lightning?

    Spot-on analysis of EG’s behaviour. I wonder, is he actually a lawyer?

    “Troll-traps” – Afterall we have to keep our Billy Goat Gruffs safe, don’t we?

  • Nick M

    Just saw this:

    “We’re not a Nazi party. People can look at our manifesto online and see we’re committed to a libertarian position in many things, and most certainly to the extension let alone the maintenance of democracy.”

    Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP following last nights local elections.

    Perhaps the nut-jobs think they’re libertarian…



  • Ah, yes, the old comment moderation bugbear. I had this problem a couple of months back. At that point I didn’t have a specific policy. When plagued by a ZANU Labour supporter who thought appropriate comment included gratuitous insults directed at both the host and other commenters, I took swift action to delete and ban. I also implemented a simple policy – this is my place, don’t insult me or my guests.

    You’d think such a principle would be obvious, wouldn’t you?

  • Unfortunately, Nick M, the term libertarian is fresh and groovy which means lots of nutjobs are attempting to grab it for their own ends. In time the term is likely to become as pointless and inverted as liberal has. Check out this bunch of nobheads.

  • Longrider: indeed, you’d think so but that is not in fact the case. As a result I suppose I will ocassionally have to just put up articles like this one to re-state the position.

  • Nick M

    Wow. I have now seen it all – and I thought “Jews for Jesus” were trying to have their cake and eat it. I personally find it a great shame that the term “liberal” has been so devalued and twisted. I used to term myself as such until I realised that people completely misunderstood what I meant. I was thinking “Free Trade”, they were thinking “Fair Trade”. One of these days Perry’s gonna have to set up a “Classical Libertarian Blog”.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Ian, interesting reflections. After a while, I, like Paul Marks, doubted that Euan – who is no fool – argues in good faith about libertarian views. His paternalism was so deeply embedded that he assumed that so many aspects of Big Government are unmovable facts of life. He had no axioms, no philosophical compass against which to test a view. It was impossible to pin him down on certain issues. It became a wearying process trying to debate the guy.

    It is rather difficult to keep one’s temper in the face of such mule-headedness and pomposity. Euan is probably a decent fellow, but he drove many reasonable folk to distraction. He may not have started as a troll, but he became one.

    I think he has started his own blog, by the way.

  • Midwesterner

    “libertarian communist strains of thought”

    From that site Mark and Nick referred to. I think this must be a typo. It would be correct if they left out “of”.

  • Nick:

    No trade secrets are required of course, but how’d ya do the lightning?

    That’s the meeting point between graphic design and masturbation: both arts procure the best achievement and contentment when done by hand. (I suppose it’s also the reason why many graphic artists qualify as wankers, but that’s just a wild guess).

    In the case of graphics however, helpers and tools such as one of these truly are sine qua non additions (“pressure sensitive” mind you. That’s very important. Also: “(…) improved ergonomics for right- and left-handed people and effectively reduces physical stress and strain (…)“. You bet.)

    Apart from that, layers and the Blur Gang (Gaussian, Zoom, Box and of course… Motion) are the handyman’s bet friends.

    Doh! Did I just say Gang Blur? So-orry.

  • Nick M

    Thanks DS.

    Often wondered about graphics tablets.

    Alas, I saw the price… And I really don’t do enough graphics to justify spending that much.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Nick,

    Yes, these are indeed expensive – however, unlike many computing peripherals they don’t become obsolete 6 months after the purchase.

    Mine is a Wacom UD digitizer II, which I bought nearly 10 years ago (but then again, I’m the conservative type when it comes to expensive pieces of hardware.), using it on a daily basis. On the long run – and granted of course that you do have the need for it – it’s quite reasonable actually.

    Was a bit alarmed when I realized that my new Dell, following the trend, didn’t come with a serial port (there was no such thing as USB 10 years ago) but I managed to find a USB>Serial cable for a mere €20.

    Looks like me and my Wacom will have fun for another 10 years, probably.

  • Nick M

    Yeah, that whole “legacy ports” thing… In my quasi profession as the area’s general computer Mr Fix-it (I did something trivial for the neighbourhood gossip and the rest is history… Well a nice side-line anyway.) I come across a lot of that. Usually I end up advising them to buy new rather than bugger about with patching old peripheral to new machine because it isn’t worth the bother with an ageing inkjet or bargain basement scanner. And then there are the drivers…

    Well, I’ve decided to push the boat out a bit and turn my “hobby” into a bit more of a money spinner.

    I’ve decided in a very small way – website, flyers, business cards, that kinda thing to market myself as (don’t laugh) Dr Compustein “We can re-animate it”. I’ve got a vaguely gothic look going and Corel-ed some PD photos of lightning into my logo. It looks OK. Certainly it does the job I need it to, but at first I tried drawing it… That was a wasted few hours.

    So, that’s why I asked about the lightning.

    You never know, if this goes well (amongst my other enterprises) I might just get a tablet for the hell of it – I mean, I first thought “Cool!” when I saw one connected to an Amiga!

    It’s really cheering to hear of a piece of PC kit lasting that long and still being useful. Hope it keeps going for you.

  • Uain

    Re; Mark Hollands link;

    In the USA, we get the same sort of nut cases who when they sense that “liberal democrat” isn’t getting traction, they will claim to be libertarians. In the 1970s I had low regard for libertarians, who at college tended to be legalize pot, single issue shallow thinkers. During the Reagan years, I started meeting more folks at the republican meetings claiming they were libertarians, and they could actually carry an informed debate and were multidemensional in their thinking!

    I applaud this fine site and the people here who enjoy, annoy and challenge one another, all with at least a modicum of good humour and respect. It is quite a rare find.

  • Charles Copeland…. That’s just got to be the fellow banned for the rascist remarks!

  • I think there are comment rules as well as moral rules in the social world. And the author of any blog has the right to remove insulting ones.