I don't intend to devote all that many threads to the things going down on TT in response to my departure. Further thoughts may be posted in comments to this one. I strongly believe my departure is permanent, but there are negotiations going on that may enable excerpts from my future articles and alerts about live blogging (which, once I master it, will hopefully become live-means-live) to appear on the site down the track. Just without the author of course; if you want to ask him questions you'll have to do so over here, or wherever I am at the time.
My original brief announcement that I was leaving can be seen here, with comments. As full an announcement of my reasons as I could manage before making a failed attempt to get significant sleep before work today can be seen here and comments on that entry have very wisely been closed. Strangely, single quotation marks have appeared around the title of my piece that were not there in the otherwise apparently unaltered submitted version; I'll take it as some gremlin paying accidental homage to Bob Dylan's ' "Love&Theft" ' and pass on by.
I'd like to thank those who've posted intelligent and thoughtful comments whether they agreed with me or not ( two thoughtful comments for every braindead troll in the first 12 posts is not too bad).
I'd like to take up just one thing that interests me in all this so far; the metaphor of the "umpire's decision" used in Bob Hawkins' generally friendly post #4.
As noted on the site,my comment was referred to "TT’s independent adjudicator."
As not noted on the site, TT's supposedly independent adjudicator is anonymous. This is supposedly essential. In reality, it's daft.
I know a few things about "umpiring", although in chess we usually call it refereeing or arbiting, and I've been doing it for most of my life. I've observed how it works in a lot of other sports too.
The institution of respect for umpires relies on many things that help the players to have confidence the umpire is doing a fair job, and that if the umpire is wrong now and then they are just doing their best and making errors without bias and at a hopefully minimal level. But that respect does not appear out of thin air. It appears because steps are taken to ensure that it is earned.
The players know who the umpire is, so they have an opportunity to object to the appointment of an umpire who might be biased against them. Chances are that vetting for bias, through such mechanisms as bars on same-nation umpires in internationals, or bans on parents umpiring their own children, will often occur anyway, depending on the sport. The umpire is frequently someone who is a known former player, so that the players realise that the umpire understands their situation and is likely to display empathy. Knowledge of who the umpire is also helps the players to be aware of whether they tend to consistently interpret the laws of the game in a certain manner. And it helps the players to know that they have an umpire who has hopefully displayed good standards of fairness and accuracy.
My situation as regards the deleted post and the verdict on it is this. In the sense of wanting to post a certain kind of comment about the consistency of Richard Flanagan to a given thread, I have been given out, under the laws of some kind of one-sided croquet, though I thought that it was cricket we were playing (with bumpers and sledging allowed, within some specified limits). I don't know who appealled, but it certainly wasn't the bowler, and it might have just been some drunk lout in the crowd. I don't know what they appealled for. I don't know who the umpire is and I don't know if they have really played the game (though I suspect they've been playing a different one, that can be found in courtrooms). I don't know if they've been watching the ball bounce off the pitch for the last several overs, or if they were just beamed down to referee one ball. I can't know if they're really neutral, or if they really want one side to win, or have some other ideological stake in how this all pans out, or a questionable view of what is in the interests of the site.
In my experience, Lindsay Tuffin has displayed generally excellent judgement when he has had to deal with incidents involving me himself. Not flawless, and I have become frustrated at times, but generally very good especially given how far he is from the political centre. I appreciate it and I hope others have experienced it too. And I know from experience in so many things that he is right to worry that personal bias, or bias motivated by his own view of the value of some posters, may mar some of his decisions. So there is no problem with delegating or letting others do the work, in principle. It's how you do it that counts.
When it comes to picking his assistants on TT, the so-called "elves", Lindsay's judgement has been terrible and the moderation they've inflicted on non-leftist posters has significantly damaged the site. Can I trust that someone coming from a position as way to the left as Lindsay is is going to do a perfect job of picking a truly fair, unbiased referee? Can I trust this knowing nothing even of this person's background, how they were selected or what the editor knows about them? Can I trust even that one referee, if they become familiar with debates involving the same suspects over time, will not develop views about their cases?
Sorry, no, I do not think I can.
Sports umpires are not anonymous. Debating referees were not anonymous at least when I was in highschool. Judges are not anonymous. So why on earth is anonymity necessary for a jumped-up forum moderator?
The view that anonymous refereeing works could perhaps be borrowed from the sciences. But in the sciences, it is actually on the rack if not on the way out - a centuries-old institution that many scientists are realising serves to slow the flow of ideas and waste the time of academics while delivering standards of quality control so inconsistent as to be bordering on arbitrary, all in the name of an implied argument from authority.
If TT is going to have these referees, it should have a panel of them, not just one. And readers should know of their names and backgrounds, and I'm sorry to unload the b-word again in my quest for appeasement here, but the panel should be politically balanced.
The current black-box stuff is just a blot on what TT is meant to stand for.