Bad language on blogs

Much has been made of a clamp down on bad language being behind the clampdown on comments and commenters at Whale Oil. In his announcement of Travis qutiting Whale Oil yesterday Pete Belt later conceded he over emphasised it. He initially said:

There has been a shift in culture, where we’ve changed a bunch of foul mouthed blokey commenters for (what they see) a knitting circle.

It all comes down to the ability for people to swear in the comments, and old commenters that could not change being resentful that they’ve lost “the only place on the Internet” where they felt at home.

Many pointed out that the issues were far wider and deeper than “the ability for people to swear” so later Pete conceded:

Travis has alluded to it – I deliberately oversimplified things. It isn’t just about swearing.

I’m puzzled by the over-emphasis on swearing.It seems to have been a simplistic approach that ignores a much bigger problem – abuse.

Note: I infrequently swear on blogs but was banned from WO for, apparently, using the phrase ‘man crap’. The word crap is used so obviously allowed on NZ Herald and Stuff online.

Attitudes to swearing have changed markedly in my lifetime. When i grew up swearing at school was severely punished and you just didn’t swear in front of adults. Print media, radio, movies and TV were very particular about what language must be excluded. That has relaxed a bit in print media and radio, and substantially in movies and in TV programs where nearly anything goes at times. It reflects real life.

Younger people in particular swear far more openly than they would have last century.

While I don’t swear much I usually don’t have a problem when people swear, I’m now used to it being common, including on blogs.

I don’t recall much if any criticism of Whale Oil for the swearing. There was a far bigger problem with personal attacks, regardless of whether swearing was involved. Non swear words are commonly used to viciously attack people.

One of Cameron Slater’s biggest moments of infamy was not for swearing – he was quoted without censorship for language in the Greymouth Star:

Blogger puts the boot in

Provocative right-wing internet blogger Cameron Slater was today standing by a headline that described Greymouth car crash victim Judd Hall as “feral”.

Mr Hall, a 26-year-old from Runanga, died when a car in which he was a backseat passenger left the road and crashed into a house about 11 o’clock on Friday night.

At 7.21am on Saturday, Mr Slater’s Whale Oil blog site carried a brief story on the crash under the heading, ‘Feral dies in Greymouth, did world a favour’.

When contacted by the Greymouth Star today, Mr Slater accepted that he did not know Mr Hall or his family, but justified the “feral” description by saying: “It is Greymouth, isn’t it? Didn’t Helen Clark say that you are all feral?”

He said anybody travelling at 140kph in a car in a 50kph area was ‘feral’, whether on the West Coast or in south Auckland.

He did not regret the headline and would not be apologising for it.

Mr Hall wasn’t even responsible for the crash. Many may consider calling the driver a fucking idiot far more appropriate than the language Slater used.

Excessive swearing can detract from blogs, as it can detract from conversations, depending on the context and the company you are in.

But I think are worse than swearing on blogs are abuse, personal attacks, harassment and stalking.  And message control censorship.

Whale Oil didn’t have a bad reputation for swearing, it had a bad reputation for attacking people, sometimes viciously. Slater led by example.

The Standard has a bad reputation for one sided abuse and attacks, protected and even promoted by the site moderation, with lprent leading the way.

Kiwiblog doesn’t have a bad reputation for swearing, it has a bad reputation for personal attacks. David Farrar isn’t criticised for his occasional swearing, he’s criticised for allowing too much free speech – and his recent moderation improvements have clamped down on abuse, not swearing.

There’s probably more annoyance expressed and complaints on blogs about bad grammar than swearing. I saw someone complaining yesterday about mixing brought with bought. For some people the misuse of apostrophe’s seems to be a major offence (and I deliberately misused one there).

So what’s more important on blogs, having swearing police or grammar police?

I’d prefer that people were allowed to freely express their opinions and feelings, as long as it’s not done to attack and abuse.

I’d prefer less religious or Bain argument on Kiwiblog than less swearing.

I’d prefer an even playing field on The Standard to less swearing.

I’d prefer less silent censorship on The Daily Blog than less swearing.

I’d prefer more honesty on Whale Oil than using swearing as an excuse to ban people to sanitise and propagandise  the comments.

Each blog to their own. Cameron got around his own swearing ban yesterday by using an acronym – FIFO. That means fit in or fuck off. I don’t think it’s the swear word that is cringe in that, it’s the intent. If you’re careful not to speak contrary to the Whale Oil authors or sponsors and you’re lucky not to strike Pete Belt on a bad day (which seem to be frequent) then you can keep commenting there.

Fuck, I’d rather promote free and robust (with respect) expression than be mob controlled with crap like that.

The most damaging language in society and on blogs is not swear words. Bad language isn’t controlled by using banned word filters.

I’d prefer no censorship and more relaxed language dictates – and as I have my own blog I’m free to have that.

Leave a comment


  1. Farmerpete

     /  17th November 2014

    I grew up in an abusive house and I detest bullies with a passion. Personal abuse is rife on blogs. It is indicative of an abusive personality in my view and also intellectually dishonest. Abusing someone and labelling them as , say, a troll means you don’t have to deal with your own troubling inadequacies such as when your argument is shown to be shonky.
    There are a pack of abusers at The Standard, but the king of them all was Cameron Slater. Many of us gave him a free pass on his excesses not dreaming that his opinions were for sale. That was truly troubling to me. Dishonest, unethical, and hypocritical. I can honestly say I have never abused anyone on a blog, and never been rude or crude. But it doesn’t matter at WOBH – seriously question them and you are gone. And if what we suspect is true – that they accepted cash from corporate interests to denigrate their competitors then that is just despiocable and they deserve to be gone.

    • silverbullet

       /  17th November 2014

      Seriously question any of the Precious Darlings on The Standard and you are gone, too.

      • Been there, done that. Several times. Once deemed a class enemy (it’s often pretty much instant) you’re a target. If you question enough they first try to drive you away, and if that fails they engineer a ban, I’ve seen it happen often.

      • Agent BallSack

         /  17th November 2014

        I have disagreed with lprent and several others there and never got banned…Even got called Cameron Slater lol, AFAIK I am still able to comment

  2. Phil Wild

     /  17th November 2014

    Some people live in surroundings that that the constant use of swear words is the norm, often those however moderate their own language when in different company. I believe that someone who has to consciously include a written swear word in their sentence lacks the ability to make use of the english language to express their thoughts.
    Although a long time reader of W/O the constant use of swear words made me reluctant to both comment and recommend to others. So readers, sorry but when I see someone resorting to a series of swear and words of similar ilk, I will be lowering my opinion of the thoughts you may be wishing to portray.

  3. Mike C

     /  17th November 2014

    Excellent Post Pee-Gee !!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading every single word you wrote above.

    When I was at the Whale, I rarely read right through Slaters posts, because the way he writes is often very hard to follow and is all over the place, not to mention the damned adverts that interrupt the flow of the article every couple of paragraphs. I used to skim read Slaters chicken scratchings just to get the general gist of the topic, but I got most of the information I needed from what the other commenters had written.

    I am pretty sure the word used to describe this situation is “Irony”. LOL.

  4. Kathy Maddren

     /  17th November 2014

    It is such a relief to finally know the reason Pete Belt banned me, was because I was a “Foul-Mouthed Bloke”. LOL.

    All this time, I thought that he banned me because I have a good sense of humour, and he doesn’t 🙂

  5. Agent BallSack

     /  17th November 2014

    It didnt stop Cameron Slater from taking a voice message from the mother on his phone calling him a whole host of abusive names and featuring it on his blog. He then lead the charge calling her a stupid drunk bitch, no wonder she had lost 4 children and a slew of other uncouth and disgusting statements. Then running and hiding when the heat got too hot. Hope the clickbaits were worth it.

    • Kathy Maddren

       /  17th November 2014

      The only thing Cameron Slater cares about, is the feeding of his ego. He does not care about his wife or children or employees or loyal supporters or donation contributors, as much as he cares about his own ego.

  6. kittycatkin

     /  20th November 2014

    I can’t say that I never use rude words,but in a public forum it sounds ugly and aggressive, and surely the point can be made without effing and blinding.It makes the debate seem more mature and civilised when such language is absent, I think.


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