Some of you may have been reading Greenwald’s CiF pieces and their attendant comment threads, and some of you perhaps not.
Those of you following along will be aware that Greenwald came to the Guardian rather full of himself (let’s be honest**), with public statements at his old Salon venue about how he will have “complete autonomy” in his new digs; statements that he then repeated in early comment threads in reply to me and several other commenters about the level of control he had negotiated. Here’s a sample of his original position, in response to a comment from me which included the FAQ boilerplate about how ATL authors don’t have moderation control;
There are a lot of things different about my column. For one, I have full editorial independence, and will be posting directly without editorial review.
Second, I will have autonomy over how my comment section is regulated. The Guardian will still delete comments that create legal issues, spam, overt hate speech and the like, but otherwise, I’ll have supervision over what is done.
This is still being worked out in terms of mechanics, but what you posted does not apply to here.
Shortly thereafter he came BTL again with this comment, again in response to one of mine, and where he quoted from my comment to him;
I was not questioning his ability, but his motivation. Why in the hell would he want to have to trawl through at least three active comment threads with hundreds of comments each on a daily basis to check for legal liabilities under bizarre UK libel laws?
Yes, I obviously can’t (and obviously don’t want to) monitor the comment section all day and night, so the Guardian moderation team will continue to delete for libel, spam, overt hate speech, etc.
It’s the rest of the stuff – the tonal issues, the off-topic flexibility, the ability to engage in strenuous arguments, etc – that I will be shaping to conform to how I think it’s best to maintain the community I’ve built. The mechanics of that are still being worked on, but the concept was agreed to as part of what I negotiated.
In general, my supervision will mean fewer deletions, not more – I have a more permissive standard for what should be allowed than generally prevails here.
A clarification, but still maintaining that he will have control of “tonal” and “off-topic” issues. I have no doubt that is his good-faith understanding of the negotiations that resulted in his being hired.
So far so good, but now, from stage left, enter the Mighty ‘Comment is Free’ Moderation Bunker, with Bella Mackie , CiF’s “community coordinator” (and Rusbridger’s daughter) astride her monumental ego, galloping into the fray.
Slowly, then with increasing frequency, comments that would certainly remain unmolested elsewhere on CiF begin to be deleted, then disappear without trace. Naturally enough, many of the new CiF commenters who drifted in on Greenwald’s coattails began to speculate in their comments about what the hell was happening.
We all know what happens to comments that question the awesome power of Mackie’s Minions. They disappear too. Equally naturally, your intrepid proprietor here felt the need to insert his
nose wisdom into the fray by responding as best he could to the puzzlement and annoyance increasingly on display.
And, again naturally, my comments began to disappear without trace too, which, if you know me at all by now, just motivated me to make more of them, culminating last night with one which ranted about how I’d been deleted on that one single thread more than in the last five years combined (true) and that the only possible justification in the “standards” would be that I was “off-topic”.
I then pointed out that there are fucking rhubarb pie recipes I posted on Tomasky’s old blog that are still there for all to see, and if they weren’t “off topic” then the term has no meaning at all. Also true.
This morning, amazingly, that comment was still there. While corresponding with another commenter (from Salon) who had contacted me via 9thousandfeet here, the comment was deleted, and I am now placed in pre-moderation on CiF.
A badge of honor, really.
I’m not at all sure how this will get resolved, or even if it can be resolved. Greenwald’s work is almost custom-designed to unsettle the comfortable (and quite fictional) belief structures so commonly found on CiF, and all the more so because he names names and his pieces are meticulously researched and referenced.
I hope they do resolve it though. I’ve enjoyed Greenwald’s pieces, and the influx of fresh commenting blood.
** Greenwald is full of himself, as am I with things that I’m good at, so that’s not an adversarial posture I’m adopting there, but just an observation. He can be snarky, dismissive, and (certainly by CiF’s established standards) spectacularly hard on commenters who thoughtlessly carpet bomb threads with tired old one-liners.
This is a style one can either tolerate or not, and I have no doubt that there are many candyass CiF regulars who are so horrified that they will complain incessantly.
Teaandchocolate, et al — I’m talking to you, you silly and insensate cow. You’re welcome.
Update; I have had some email contact with a couple of Greenwald’s Salon commenters, and they are abuzz with concern. Greenwald is in email contact with many of his long-standing commenters/friends about the issue also. He has just posted this comment in public response to the confusion;
I know there’s a lot of confusion and annoyance over this. As I’ve written before, there were lots of things to attend to with my coming here, and we just haven’t gotten to this yet. I’ll definitely make this a priority on Monday and it’ll all be straightened out. Please just have a little more patience and it’ll be resolved quickly and I’ll let everyone know exactly what will happen going forward. Thanks.
He sounds confident, which is good.
Wonder if he can pull some strings to get me off the naughty step?