Saturday, March 12, 2016

Denier weirdness: About face on "free speech" at WUWT

Anthony Watts is competing with Roy Spencer with most unexpected results (archived here). Roy Spencer has just announced he has disallowed comments on his blog. Roy got fed up because his blog became infected with a physics denier called Doug Cotton. Perhaps Anthony sees stopping comments as a status symbol.

In addition to the possible competition motive, it could be that Anthony was feeling under-appreciated. He may have been feeling the need for a little love and affection and hoped his article and poll would garner lots of compliments. What else can he do to distract his readers from the rapidly warming world?

Whatever the reason, the very peculiar result from all this is that almost 40% of WUWT readers do not support unfettered "free speech".

Free speech poll shows a startling about face from deniers - almost 40% don't support it

Anthony wrote an article (all by himself, I think), playing the victim card. Anthony is saying (I think - it's not clear) that if he stopped all comments "It would certainly give me more time to research and write articles.".

Most of his article was letting everyone know what hard work it is to to run his blog (which I don't doubt). Anthony very rarely writes a blog article composed by himself. Most of his "effort" seems to be copying and pasting press releases sent to him from Eurekalert. About the only thing he adds is a headline prefaced with the word "claim", meaning his readers are not to "believe" science, Some time ago, Anthony handed the keys to other wannabe bloggers to post articles as Anthony's "guests".

Anthony did pay homage to his moderators, who have to sift through the comments to make sure that not too many sciency ones get through. That probably isn't as difficult as it used to be, when more people who accepted science were allowed to comment at WUWT.

The oddest thing is that it turns out a large minority of his readers don't support unfettered free speech. Anthony posted a poll, asking his readers whether or not he ought to shut down comments on all articles, some articles, or not at all. Interestingly, at the time of writing, almost 40% of his readers do not support unfettered "free speech". Only 60.4% said "no" to stopping comments altogether. Here are the results at the time of this article:

Do you find that as peculiar as I did? All the talk at WUWT about free speech and almost 40% are against it. I suppose it isn't all that odd. When deniers argue for free speech, what many of them mean is that you can say whatever you like about anything (lies, half truths, defamation) provided it supports what the denier wants to believe.

I'm not arguing that a blogger should allow any and all comments. Without moderation, most blogs would soon descend into spammers' heaven, apart from anything else. (By spammers I mean advertising spam and linkbots, which is different from normal or abnormal comments.) Even after filtering out spam, a blogger has a right to decide what comments to permit and from whom. All I'm saying is that it's a peculiar result for WUWT, where up to now, I thought most fans imagined (wrongly) that there was no "censorship", and applauded that stance.

From the WUWT comments

Out of 253 "thoughts" at the time of archiving, only two contained the words "free speech" and only three six contained the word "censorship" "censor" or variant. Some of the rest were about how Anthony could make more money from comments. Others were about the pros and cons of anonymity. Others were about those dreadful "trolls" (ie science advocates). And a couple were complaining about perceived bullying from, or singing the praises of WUWT regulars like Willis Eschenbach.

The first comment was somewhat ironic. Gloateus Maximus (not his or her real name) wrote:
March 11, 2016 at 10:59 am
How about requiring a subscription to comment or verify more about commenters than that they have valid emails? Maybe require use of real names, unless applicants can plausibly show professional harm from not toeing the Party line.

Doug suggested (with a smilie) that people be asked to pay for the dubious privilege
March 11, 2016 at 11:04 am
I agree with Gloateus. There ought to be some way to verify. Like with a nominal yearly fee or some such. That way the payment method is the proxy for the account verification. :) 
JimB echoes that thought, much later:
March 11, 2016 at 3:14 pm
Howza bout trying what the newspapers are doing? Set up a subscription to WUWT and only let subscribers comment. If anyone abuses the privilege, cancel their subscription w/o refund.
Even a small subscription rate would still give you control.

rogerknights suggests a real money-spinner for Anthony. An easy way to make money - by charging per deleted comments, doubling as a way to cut the number of comments (does Anthony really want that?). In addition he proposes outing the Scrooges!
March 11, 2016 at 4:05 pm
Excuse me if this was suggested above: a three-level system:
1. Registered commenters sign up via a small annual credit card payment, plus maybe a $5 entrance fee. Pen names are OK. A $5 charge for deleted comments. Comments are posted immediately.
2. As above, but on a “whitelist” of old-timers so their comments are flagged as such internally, so moderators can just skim them after posting.
3. Unregistered. Their comments are held for moderation. This delay would eventually encourage them to register if they comment often. Borderline trollish comments would be allowed, but in a lighter or smaller typeface, or at least in an
unusual typeface.
This would bring in a little money for WUWT, cut moderators’ workload a bit, and cut down on dopey commenting a bit. (I don’t think it has a downside.) Then we can decide on the next step.

Bill is one of several who, against all evidence, seems to think that Anthony or his moderators would be in any position to judge whether a commenter is "knowledgeable" or not.
March 11, 2016 at 11:09 am
Have a registration system for knowledgable commenters only. As with any normal scientific discussion group and many Facebook groups, not everyone is allowed to participate.

Chic Bowdrie  wants to remain anonymous:
March 11, 2016 at 11:39 am
Huff Post began requiring a SINGLE Facebook account for its commenters. I quit posting there because I prefer to remain anonymous. I would like to think my contributions, albeit few, are constructive and would not like to be censored for wanting to remain anonymous.

lsvalgaard is optimistic that Anthony or his moderators would know the difference between science and nonsense. There's no evidence of that. There is more evidence to the contrary:
March 11, 2016 at 11:00 am
In addition to the trolls there are the people peddling their own pseudo-scientific nonsense. And then there are the willfully ignorant and the learning-resistant fools. Many a good post eventually become hijacked by such people. It might be a good idea to close down comments once the density of such aberrations becomes high enough. 

michael hart claims that climate hawk David Appell is a troll, presumably because he likes science more than science denial:
March 11, 2016 at 1:57 pm
So which bridge is David Appell going to troll now that he can’t do so at Roy Spencer’s? 

Eric Matthews suggests a whitelist. I think Anthony already has that.
March 11, 2016 at 11:00 am
If it gets really bad, can you at least have a whitelist commenters who prove to contribute well?

Tom Halla explains how he found comments that supported his science denial very helpful:
March 11, 2016 at 11:02 am
Much of my undertstanding of this field, especially early in my following, came from the comments expanding on the more technical articles. I think cutting off discussion is a bad thing, despite the obvious trolls and sock puppets.

MCourtney was one of only two who expressed the issue as one of "free speech"
March 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm
I voted for free speech.
Even morons should be allowed their space. It’s always possible that I’m a moron and they are not.
But I very much agree that nested comments has encouraged closed minded bigotry and unscientific circular arguments.
Go back to organising comments by time and we can skim over those that we aren’t bothering to engage with. That way we can see if they add something new and re-engage.
But if they are nested then we leave them in their bubble. 

Bernard Lodge  was the only other person who mentioned the words "free speech". Even then he proposes limiting it:
March 11, 2016 at 2:26 pm
Don’t use the same tactics so common on the CAGW side. Shutting down opposing voices is not the answer. Who decides what gets shut down? Who guards the guardians? Free speech should be protected – though of course no one has a right to take over a thread.
The real issue is trolls who take over a thread with dozens of comments which add little value and deliberately annoy or suppress other readers so much that they give up and leave. The answer to this is quite simple, limit any poster to say three posts per thread. Anyone can comment but no-one can take over the thread. This would also encourage posters to collect their thoughts before posting – not a bad thing in itself.

gymnosperm talked about the dangers of censorship. Does he know how many people have been banned from WUWT for advocating science?
March 11, 2016 at 11:45 am
Censorship is dangerous. It easily becomes the inverse of my own banishment from Carbonist sites. 

u.k(us) seemed to think WUWT has a lot more readers than it probably has. (Most bloggers would be over the moon at getting 750 responses to a poll in just a few hours).:
March 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm
FWIW, I voted “no”.
As of this time there are only about 750 votes.
Where is everybody ?, I’m starting to wonder about our reach, it is a totally anonymous poll.
Why is nobody voting ?

Marcus proposes readers vote on comments they don't like. That would soon rid WUWT of any remnant nuisance science lovers:
March 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm
..Adding a SPAM button would let other readers decide when some one is just trolling ! If enough readers hit the SPAM button, the comment and commenter are blocked for the day ( or a week ) !

Ian Macdonald probably thinks that people who accept science only do it because they are paid to do so:
March 11, 2016 at 3:01 pm
“The real issue is trolls who take over a thread with dozens of comments which add little value and deliberately annoy or suppress other readers so much that they give up and leave.”
I don’t think there is any question that this kind of thing is being orchestrated. You get it on other news sites, when any question of climate or renewable energy comes up. Chances are the posters have been briefed on how to run a trolling campaign. What makes this seem likely is the similarity of the tactics across sites. Though, it does seem to be declining. Maybe the funds to pay the trolls have dried up, or maybe they’ve just realised it won’t work anyway.
It should not be a surprise that this goes on, when NGOs are funded by renewables manufacturers, and those NGOs in turn send out pickets to barricade shale gas sites. 

novasportpilot takes the opportunity to support Doug Cotton:
March 11, 2016 at 3:03 pm
I think this is a great site for the other side of the debate. But I read article after article that more or less says the effect of CO2 on climate is nil or so insignificant as to not matter. However people still cling to the Greenhouse Theory. As far as I’m concerned Robert Wood disproved that theory over 100 years ago. If the Greenhouse effect is responsible for 33C of warmth then the increase in temperature due to increase CO2 should be pronounced and observable, which it is not. I think people like DC become frustrated when people will not admit the inconsistency of their position.

Svend Ferdinandsen wonders why most WUWT-ers use a nom-de-blog
March 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm
Maybe it is a custom to dig up spectacular names, but how is it that so few comments with their own name.
You could think they are afraid of there own inner thaughts. It could be a thing of the internet. 

Gunga Din, quoting John Whitman, points out there is a difference between hiding his identity and protecting his real identity - a very fine distinction :)
March 11, 2016 at 3:59 pm
2) Anonymity can be serially abused by some anonymous commenters to the detriment of our host and the WUWT community. I suggest the larger anonymous community at WUWT take more responsibility to stop the destructiveness of the worst of the anonymity abusers. They would be protecting the privilege of anonymous commenting.
In case no one knew, “Gunga Din” is not my real name. I use it because I have a government job where it has “gone green”. While I don’t comment from work or on the clock, there are “Green Goons” out there might seek to cause problems for me.
I don’t use anonymity to “hide” so much as to protect myself.
True, some use it to “snipe” from cover but not all. 

Gary Pearse proposes an orange star system (something like that was tried 70 years ago wasn't it?)
March 11, 2016 at 5:41 pm
Anthony, you are the biggest lightning rod (and enlightening rod) globally in the climate science field. I think this stuff is going to get worse as the CAGW movement continues to decline. I am, however, against closing comments. I’ve just watched what happened with a planned Trump rally in Chicago. Democrat goons succeeded in shutting down the rally. This is the reaction of the anti-democracy left who’s sense of entitlement is so huge and threatened that there can be little doubt this is highly organized. Hillary is particularly terrified of Trump’s popularity. These goons and the ones behind the scenes are cracking the champagne right now. Don’t give the trolls this power.
What needs to be done is to get the positive contributors to stop engaging the trolls. Strongly encourage them to simply ignore them. I’m guilty of engaging these destructive idiots but I’m prepared to make a resolution to not do so in the future. Maybe put an orange star at the beginning of the most egregious trolls as a reminder and sign. I think there should be another post on this subject with this message.

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. Isn't it interesting timing for Roy Spencer to close down comments on his blog? Right when RSS have just published a paper re the updated version 4 of their TMT product and right before Spencer and Christy's paper is supposed to be published (if it ever is)?

    1. I figure he feels under siege from many quarters. He did get very defensive about his satellite records didn't he.

    2. To give him credit on this one, he did predict the UAH data set would show a record spike. I have never had a problem with his science, just his "interpretation" of the results and his political commentary.

  2. Why It's Not Carbon Dioxide After All
    Douglas J. Cotton

    "Without gravity acting to restore the thermodynamic equilibrium which is stipulated in the Second Law of Thermodynamics"

    DJC is a piece of work, that's for sure. Godtard class.

    I've never posted at Roy's blog, but I WAS reading the comments over there wrt v6.0. People were able to post good critical comments even.

    Roy needs to do a Tamino, read all posts beforehand, or some such.

    1. Quite a good "crank" indicator for me, especially when talking about a supposedly controversial area of a physical process - is invocation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics

      It is used, it seems, like a Harry Potter-ish magic spell that can make any old nonesense true

      Although from the poll results, I think it is a little stretch to 40% are actively against free speech

      And the other interesting comment is the poster who remarks on how so few of them there are - they penny might be dropping

    2. I used the word "unfettered" liberally throughout. There are other points though. Many deniers regard science advocates as trolls (wade through the comments). Plus a lot of them regard as intimidation anyone pointing out where their science is wrong, while they feel free to falsely allege that scientists are committing fraud. They think that free speech is the "right" to wrongly defame.

      So the notion many deniers have about "free speech" is quite limited and seriously distorted. It's basically this.

    3. I once told my students "If you see a reference to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics made by anyone other than a practicing physicist, you should assume it is wrong unless you can show otherwise." A bit of an exaggeration but hopefully a spur to critical thinking.

      One could make a similar statement about "quantum" [adjective].

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. It's been mentioned before (by Sou?) that there appears to be a vast absence of PhD candidates from any institution let alone UA, who want to invest their research into Spencer's satellite series. A couple of months ago Spencer expressed such a fear, these recent comments suggests he now just takes it as read.

    1. PG I'm not sure that's the case. Stephen Po-Chedley (with colleagues) has written a couple of papers - from 2012 and 2015. There've been a number of papers before then, too.

      I'd be quite surprised if no-one was willing to take on the contract if it was up for grabs when Roy and John retire. IMO Roy is trying to claim that people wouldn't want to be associated with the data. He's wrong. People might not want to be associated with Roy and John, but that's a different matter altogether.

    2. I just wish Doug Cotton wasn't allowed to post anywhere using my initials.

    3. Yes Sou, Spencer's pessimism re the future of the UAH series is odd given that climate is hurtling towards being the only game in town.
      (Except of course when those towns are Canberra, Tallahassee, Austin et al).

    4. It is curious that he can't get bankrolled by the denial industry. He says "I sometimes wish we skeptics had a George Soros or a Tom Steyer to bankroll our blog efforts."

      Surely they do. If Spencer and Christy are not able to tap into that it may be because they've come up with the wrong answer. .143C/decade is equivalent to NOAAs .153 and higher than .126 from RSS.

      IF you want to tap into denial $$$ you'd need to do better than back the consensus.

    5. If Spencer's really that worried about not having anybody to take over his work, the obvious solution would be to open-source it.

    6. @MartinM, but then he'd have to reveal his algorithms.

    7. I wonder what John Christy will do as other scientists continue to correct his and Spencer's errors.

      Here's a quote from Christy from a 2001 piece by Discover Magazine

      "Asked what he would do if his data did show the troposphere warming in lockstep with the Earth's surface, he seemed genuinely at a loss. "I guess I'd still be skeptical about forecasts of catastrophe," he said. "That's my nature.""

      The Gospel according to John - Discover Magazine Feb 2001

  5. If Anthony was looking for love and affection he got it from a few people. He may have been disappointed that some people didn't know his name, though (here and here).

  6. Anthony is obviously (IMHO!) seeking some justification for the amount of [Snip]ping of Science he and/or his moderator(s) have been guily of recently. My most recent personal experience of such snippage is documented here:

    Watts Up With DMI Arctic Sea Ice Extent?

    in which Anthony's memory totally fails him. An alternative interpretation is of course that his memory is AOK, as is his Porky Pie Production Line™.

    A rapidly growing collection of such incidents, perpetrated by Mr. Watts amongst others, can be seen on Twitter at the #SnipGate hashtag.

  7. I am familiar with Doug Cotton, he is trying to promote his book or something. He pops up sooner or later on most climate change denier blogs. I think "serial pest" is the way to describe him.

    1. I agree with Dr Roy Spencer on this issue. Comments on blogs has become so compromised its gotten to the point where they are worthless. Too many click-baiters, astroturfers, trolls and general rat bags.

    2. Ha ha. Good catch. I knew Anthony read this blog from time to time. I didn't realise he dwelt on every comment :)

    3. Ha ha.

      One "way thru" is heavy moderation of comments. I consider it reasonable that moderators remove comments that do not add to the discussion about the original article. They are not hard to spot.

      Lots of work though.


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