Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Disassociation From Tasmanian Times

Update (March 2020): Tasmanian Times has a new owner and at this stage the moderation problems I encountered with the site have not returned.  The current situation is that I am still not going to post on TT, but will now link to the site as appropriate.


Until yesterday there was an image link to this website in the sidebar of Tasmanian Times (which I ceased writing for in 2012).  Such as it was (I'm no graphic designer!), it looked like this:

However I have now decided to disassociate this site from Tasmanian Times to the maximum extent possible.

The nature of this decision is as follows:

1. It is no longer possible to reach this site via the sidebar on TT as the link has been removed at my request.

2. I have asked the TT editor to cease promoting and linking to my site on TT.

3. Barring a major improvement in TT moderation or other satisfactory solution, I will not post any more comments to TT in the future at all.  (Since leaving the site as a writer in 2012 I have only commented there rarely anyway.)

4. All future links to TT that I may post here in the course of my coverage or debate will be to a Wayback Machine version of the content only.

The cause of this decision is dissatisfaction with TT's failure to take a sufficiently proactive approach to the moderation of comments.  Although comments on TT are screened and commenters are asked to abide by the TT Code of Conduct, comments about me that are defamatory and/or breach the TT Code of Conduct continue to slip through.  This was one of the problems that caused me to leave TT as a writer in the first place, but even since leaving I have had to complain to TT in order to have material removed at least six times, most of these involving personal attacks that came completely out of the blue.  A highly defamatory article about my election coverage was also recently published on TT, though I let that one go and even linked to it as the author was a candidate and in the interests of election-season colour and amusement.

The following available solutions are unsatisfactory:

1. Complaining to TT to have material removed, because this requires me to waste effort and time explaining why some thoughtless toss-off by a TT poster should be removed, and because by the time I become aware of the comment and ask for it to be removed, the comment has already had most of the exposure it is probably going to get.

2. Replying to the comments, because replying to braindead comments on TT breeds more braindead comments on TT and increases the defamation-magnet factor involved with any mention of my name on that site at all.  Also, TT commenters tend to make slurs without even trying to substantiate them, so there's often nothing by way of argument to actually engage with.

The following solutions have been explored without success:

1.  TT moderating comments properly and taking more care not to publish material that obviously breaches the TT Code of Conduct, particularly when it involves someone who no longer frequently posts there.  TT has frequently paid this concept lip service but obviously isn't serious about it.

2. TT taking proper responsibility for the behaviour of its poster base by apologising for letting such comments through and reminding its posters of their legal obligations for material they publish.  Although TT has apologised in some cases in the past it completely ignored my request for an apology for a recent comment about me by Ted Mead.

3. TT granting me moderation powers for the sole purpose of allowing me to clean up these comments myself.  A similar arrangement exists between me and another website where similar problems occur.  TT was initially very interested in this solution only to come back to me with a no-can-do from their tech person who said it wasn't possible to make me a moderator in ExpressionEngine, the software TT runs on.  This is quite bizarre as there is plenty of documentation online about the ability to create administrator and moderator powers in various versions of ExpressionEngine, including TT's old version 1.7.3.  If TT's current post-upgrade version does not have this ability then it must be remarkably hobbled.

Ted Mead's Completely Clueless Potshot

I also think it's worth commenting here about the silly comment that triggered the end of what positive relationship remained between Tasmanian Times and yours truly.

The commenter was Ted Mead, an environmental campaigner and TT regular who has also made problematic comments in the past.  Recently Mead has displayed a pattern of empty triumphalism in his comments about me and forestry, trying to suggest that the issue is a weakness on which I might be attacked and even that it is where my "demons lay" (er, what?)  He has been utterly unable to make this stick and, in a tacit admission that he doesn't even understand where I am coming from, wanted to have a chat with me about it - an offer I rejected in view of his personal attacks.

In this instance Mead posted a comment that, while mostly complimentary about my psephology work, nonetheless threw in a completely gratuitous one-line personal attack concerning forestry.  In this slur - which has been deleted from TT and also erased at my request from Google - Mead attacked both my understanding level of forestry and what he alleged to be my position in the forestry debate.  Mead provided no evidence for either of his claims.

Mead is entitled to his opinion of my opinion about forestry, though it would help if this was based on my actual opinion.

Mead is not, however, entitled to his own facts regarding my understanding of forestry issues. For starters, I am undeniably knowledgeable about certain aspects of the forestry as a professional scientist who has worked in invertebrate forest ecology.  This has included work on threatened species management within a forestry context, and work on projects assessing the recovery of invertebrate fauna after logging.  It has also included one paper which made an early contribution to the massive body of worldwide literature that has completely debunked the once-popular view that forestry plantations are "biological deserts" or have only "the biodiversity of a carpark".

Indeed it is Mead who has demonstrated at least some deficiency in his own understanding of forestry, as he showed on this TT comments thread where he falsely claimed that forestry "obliterat[es] every living thing in a landscape", a claim that I promptly demolished, following which he ran away from the debate.

Curiously Mead last year wrote a piece about avoiding trolls (WARNING: link contains a Leunig cartoon), but in the exchange above tried to boast about having caused me to "take the bait" (a standard trolling boast, though an extremely feeble one in Ted's case).

Mead's comments are typical of a number of people within the Tasmanian green left (especially its more extreme fringes) who love my psephology but feel a need to make condescending and usually misinformed remarks about my politics.  These people will not see that the same interest in trying to present a factual and informed analysis that I bring to my pseph work is also the reason why my views about forestry and many other environmental debates have long been different from theirs.


  1. Keep fighting the good fight against those greenie punks, Kevin! ;)

  2. The quality of Comment Moderation, their tone and presentation on Tasmanian Times has recently improved.

    1. Has it? How and over what time frame and based on seeing how many threads? Have there been any flamewars recently based on which this could be judged? Especially, have there been any in which deep greens have attacked posters who are not blindly anti-forestry?

      In any case, what I mean by a "major improvement [..] or other satisfactory solution" such that I might consider posting there ever again should be clear from the article. TT must guarantee to me that no further defamatory or Code-breaching comments about me will be published again, and explain how they will achieve that goal. Failing that, TT must provide me with the ability to remove such comments myself when they occur, and unlimited license to do so.