Blogs can be echo chambers for the disgruntled in opposition

Something I have noticed on political blog commentariats since the 2017 election is the increase in moaning on Kiwiblog, and a better tone at The Standard. For forums that are largely aligned with the left or right, or with National or Labour, the tone of comments seems to be significantly affected by whether the preferred party and politics are in Government or in Opposition.

This came up at Kiwiblog today in response to what are common complaints about the perceived affect of moderation on commenting there.

mara:

By the way moderators, what has happened to what was once a robust, feisty liberal blog? It appears to be moribund now and I wonder why I bother to write. It is sad to see the passing of good history.

Charmaine Hawke:

I will also add what happened to if we can determine who you are you will bypass moderation? It seems to me very few of the regulars are getting through.
DPF why didn’t you just say everyone will be moderated and leave it at that.

SGA:

the real time conversations you used to be able to have to thrash out ideas

That’s been slowly dying on KB for a while now sadly, imho. It was happening before moderation.
KB was better when National was government. Now it’s a bit of an echo chamber for the disgruntled. I’m guessing the Standard was a bit like that when Labour was in opposition.

I think to an extent at least SGA is right.

The Standard commenting quality seems to have improved since the Labour led Government took over, and Kiwiblog does seem to have taken over more of the  “echo chamber for the disgruntled” mantle.

Whale Oil has also become more or an echo chamber for the disgruntled, but the chief disgrunter was moaning a lot about the last government when he was cut out of the information and leak channels. Now with SB in charge she seems to be trying to model on more on Breitbart, with more ‘conservative’ (extreme) Christian leanings as well.

Has The Daily Blog changed?  I don’t follow things much there, I find the website a mess and difficult to find my way around, so don’t bother most of the time, but there are indications that Martyn Bradbury has moved his criticisms of National to criticisms of Labour since the change of Government. he isn’t keen on the greens and there is no other party that suits his politics to back.

Update – I just checked out The Daily Blog and Bradbury, obviously dismayed at the CGT capitulation, is promoting the idea of a far left ‘anti-neoliberalism’ party to challenge Labour’s lack of real transformation:

A new political party in the wake of the CGT betrayal & the Politics of Kindness vs the unCivil Service

Comments are the lifeblood of blogs

Posts are obviously essential for blogs, that’s what they primarily consist of. But comments give blogs life. A healthy commenting community is almost aan essential

There are exceptions – No Right Turn is followed and respected with no comments.

But mostly a blog with no or low comments is a sign of struggling to reach an audience, or ‘moderation’ that deters lively discussion – The Daily Blog is a good example of this (but the awful site layout and difficulty with knowing what the latest posts and comments are are also problems there).

Whale Oil still has an active commenting community, but this has diminished somewhat and seems to be concentrated on social rather than political discussion – a sign that message control moderation suppresses decent debate. Activity at Whale Oil has noticeably reduced since Cameron Slater had a stroke and stopped commenting altogether. Site failure to disclose what happened and apparent pretence that nothing had changed – possibly an attempt to try to protect revenue streams – has probably disappointed a number of now ex commenters too.

The most active commenting is on Kiwiblog – significantly more than on Whale Oil on political issues. This works in parallel to the often well informed posts from David Farrar. Very light moderation encourages a lot of commenters and comments, but detracting from this at times is the level of abuse tolerated there.

The Standard has changed significantly over it’s eleven or so years, in part due to substantial coming and going of authors. It’s commenting community has also changed quite a bit – recently I think for the better. They used to revel in gang attacks on anyone deemed some sort enemy of of ‘the left’, which was a form of self trashing as a serious forum for debate.

Then they turned over authors and moderation was dominated by ‘weka’, who tried to manage and manipulate comments to fit her agenda. She suddenly disappeared at about the same time Greens got into Government with Labour and NZ First. Since then there seem to be fewer posts apart from stalwart mickysavage keeping things ticking over, But the often toxic commenting environment seems to have improved significantly.

Recently MICKSAVAGE posted The Standard a decade on:

The site itself I believe offers a rich historical repository of contemporary New Zealand politics.  If you want to understand what has happened during the past decade from a left wing perspective then this site is a good place to start.

Proposals for suggested changes and critiques all welcome.

An interesting comment from Te Reo Putake (whose approach to blogging has evolved somewhat over many years involvement there):

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people.

For mine, it is the commenters who make this place special. If you look at our comrade Bomber’s blog, which often has posts on the same topics as TS, there is no life in the comments section. As I understand it, each comment at TDB is held until released by a moderator. That means that there is no flow, no conversation, no engagement.

It’s different here. The commentary is effectively live and takes on a life of its own. This permissive approach to debate is vital to the Standard’s success. As WtB notes above, the community has to a large extent self regulated and the moderation workload has dropped considerably in recent times.

That may in part be due to a change of Government changing some agendas, but there seems to have been a noticeable change in moderation practice, with open support for diverse views being expressed, quote a contrast to past toxic intolerance..

I’d also like to give a nod to the righties who comment here. TS is not an echo chamber and differing opinions make for good debate. It’s great that conservative opinion is not shouted down, but rather, is argued against rationally. Well, mostly!

The site is better for the contributions from people we don’t agree with, in my opinion.

In my opinion this is a positive change at The Standard.

I’ll take up the challenge “Proposals for suggested changes and critiques all welcome”.

Fewer posts attacking the Opposition.

More posts debating topical Government initiatives and proposals, and allowing wide ranging discussions (with personal attacks discouraged).

Through that I think that The Standard could become a more useful part of wider political discussion in New Zealand – comments are the lifeblood of political blogs. Too much bad blood is a real negative and puts many people off, but The Standard seems to have found a fairly good formula for now.

Have we started the year off ugly and angry?

Politics seems to have kicked off early this year, largely because of the attention being given to Donald Trump (New Zealand politics is only slowly emerging from holiday time).

Anger and affront – whether real or an activist tactic – is one of the more visible aspects of political discussion, so naturally some people have started the year angry.

An unusually perceptive post from Martyn Bradbury looks at this – Glitterboobs, tinned tomatoes, racist menus and golliwogs – have we started the year off angry?

I tend to want to follow politics, economics and the political process because with an untested left wing Government, a looming economic crash and an orange fuckwit on the nuclear button, the shit storm that is about to hit demands our full attention.

But sometimes things happen and people say things that are so ugly and ignorant you need to pause and just say, ‘Oi. You. No!’

Have we started the year in an ugly and angry way? I think we have and I think some of the ugliness in our dialogue has been fuel injected by social media platforms where vilification and maximum emotional outrage have rendered us too fried and bitter to even bother checking the better angels of our nature’s twitter feed.

Social media has enabled an overdose of ‘cry wolf’ outrage. It has become difficult to see the issues that really deserve attention amongst the plethora of petty attacks.

I’m still not sure whether Trump is a reactive self obsessed idiot, or a carefully staged act to mask what he or his handlers are trying to achieve quietly. I suspect it’s a mix of both.

I look at the four issues that have recently erupted on social media and some of the things I see people saying is woefully stupid and just misplaced fear and anger that is being spouted by wounded and insecure individuals.

If a woman is walking naked in public, you don’t have any right whatsoever to touch her. Yes, self-defence law doesn’t cover her chasing the dickhead who did this down and hitting him four times in the head, but that’s a side salad to the initial issue of him sexually assaulting her in public in the first place. There’s no defence in the world where it’s justifiable to grope her. None. Zip. Why the Christ are you still trying to justify that?

If you are getting indignant about being told what food to donate to women who are escaping domestic violence, perhaps you need to appreciate that charity isn’t pretty. It’s ugly and real. If you are offended that women in a state of shock from domestic violence require comfort food as opposed to a Jamie Oliver ingredient list, then perhaps you need to check who this charity is actually for, you or the person you are donating it to.

If you think racist menus are funny because they make fun of the way people speak, it not only demeans the food you are cooking, it demeans you as a person. The needlessness of the spite and the joy in revelling in the ‘naughtiness’  of being politically incorrect speaks to a pretty base level ignorance that is childish and beneath everyone. How can an asian restaurant do justice to the spirit of the kai when that restaurant is mocking and humiliating the culture that kai comes from?

(If your main concern was me throwing in the word ‘kai’ in that last sentence, you’re either someone who thinks this menu is hilarious or Don Brash.)

Talking of Don Brash – Golliwogs.

I appreciate you might have had a Golliwog when you were a kid. I appreciate you cuddled up to the Golliwog and I appreciate that you aren’t racist. I get that. However the Golliwog is a crass caricature of the very racist Black and White Minstrels and just like the n word, it’s not really something white people get to claim. And yes, unfortunately sensitivities to many centuries of slavery and racism do in fact outrank your childhood memories.

This last one is a tricky one. I get that we should all be more sensitive to what may offend others. But should we sanitise our pasts and presents in case someone might be offended by something?

Sometimes people are quite justified in being offended.

But sometimes – increasingly via social media – people use ‘offence’ as an excuse to attack or to shut down valid debate.

In each of these four examples,  the Glitterboobs, tinned tomatoes, racist menus and golliwogs, people are wanting to be wilfully offensive to one another. It’s not a case of ‘forgive me I didn’t realise that’, it’s a case of, “Fuck you I don’t care”.

That’s correct – to an extent. Some people are deliberately offensive to attract attention – Cameron Slater is a good example of this.

But some people deliberately claim offence when none was intended. Just about any time I comment at The Standard people (a small number) pile in claiming offence, deliberately misrepresenting and making false accusations. This is a widespread problem in social media – ‘offence’ is used as an attack weapon.

Perhaps it’s because the first reaction is always, ‘you racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/xenophobic heteronormative patriarchal redneck…’ that people’s heels dig in as deeply as they do. Social media has bypassed gatekeeper media, but it’s also unleashed a cacophony of resentment that removes compassion in favour of online assassinations.

That’s a big statement from Bradbury, because he has been known to have some fairly over the top first reactions.

The ugly anger being spouted by many on social issues that cut to the very heart of our individual identities is a backlash long in coming. The wounds that so many are speaking from can’t be argued with, they need to heal first before they can listen and I don’t  think there is going to be a lot of listening in 2018.

He is right that some wounded people can’t be argued with, it is too emotional for them to see other points of view. Some have suffered for their lifetime.

But politics is different to a large extent.

Some of the worst arguing and not listening on political issues is not from a position of personal aggrievement, it isn’t based on personal hurt and suffering. It is based on perceptions and ideological passions that often bear little resemblance to reality.

Is there a way of separating real personal wounds from impassioned political activism? If there is it won’t be easy.

Having thought this through perhaps Bradbury can address some of this at The Daily Blog this year. Not everyone will start to listen this year, but if he puts more thought into posts like this, if he reduces his own anger and ugliness,  Bradbury may increase his audience and change political discourse for the better.

And each of us could do likewise.

Anger can be an essential safety valve, but ongoing ugliness is counter productive to making social and political progress.

Blogs hard out on attack

Political blogs tend to cater for their own audiences much of the time, but in an election campaign tend to put a lot of effort into attacking the other lot. That’s certainly evident at this stage of the campaign.

Kiwiblog is run by David Farrar, who has close associations with National. He can be critical of National and praise other parties, but is mostly posting praise of national and attacks on others. Posts over the last day:

Farrar should be considering displaying an authorisation statement under the Electoral Act, something The Standard displays as a precaution. Recent posts there:

For some time the Standard posts have been promoting the Greens and attacking National, and have recently rediscovered their Labourness joining the Ardern adoration club.

Whale Oil has been noticeably anti-National and pro-Winston for months, but recently has been spreading attention across the spectrum, attacking Ardern and Labour, the Greens, TOP – pretty much anyone but NZ First.

The Daily Blog is a mess of messages. Authors are out in force trying to promote their favourite issues.

John Minto doesn’t see much hope in Who to vote for?

Voting involves a moral choice.

In a capitalist economy you either vote with capitalism’s winners or with the losers. With those who have used the system to enrich themselves at the expense of others or those forced to struggle at the margins.

After this election the new government will be dominated by either National or Labour – not the dramatic choice it should be because Labour brought only a tentative, watery policy mix to the election and capitulated on tax before the first vote was cast.

Labour by itself won’t make a significant difference. Ardern has addressed the desperate social situations of child poverty and homelessness with the usual hand wringing rather than policies.

Labour talks values but these are useless without policies to give them meaning.

The best hope for a half-way decent, policy-driven, progressive government comes with a strong Green Party in coalition with Labour.

Greens are the only option this election for left wing revolutionaries.

Anyone voting National this election has a personal moral deficit.

Trying to attract voters by shaming them? Negative political attack is the fall back option for political activists, and that is evident across the blogs.

Labour called ‘lying losers’ over Sir John pettiness

There have been a number of attacks on John Key after his knighthood was announced in the Queen’s Birthday honours. These have largely come from Labour associated sources.

One of these attacks was in a Standard post Arise Sir John, which set the tone for many dirty comments there.

While no party seems to want to associate with Martyn Bradbury he also blasted the knighthood in Why I will never call John Key Sir. Ever:

This vacant optimism merchant banker whose laid back persona struck a chord with middle NZs anti-intellectualism made this country far worse for the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us.

That sums up a common level of pettiness and bitterness in New Zealand politics.

David Farrar blasts another example in Lying losers:

What a bunch of lying embittered losers.

Once she was out of politics, John Key gave Helen Clark the highest Honour there is – Order of New Zealand. He supported her campaign for UNDP Administrator and gave her 100% support in her campaign to be UN Secretary-General. He also knighted Michael Cullen and gave him significant board appointments.

Key is retired and out of politics. But the nasty losers at Labour are so choking on their bile they actually authorise an advertisement smearing and attacking him for getting a knighthood. Have you seen anything so petty before? They also repeat their lie about taking $1.7 billion out of the health sector when in fact Vote Health increased $4.8 billion in nominal terms, $3.0 billion in real terms and by over 10% in real per capita terms.

This was in reference to this post on the Young Labour Facebook page:

YoungLabourJohnKey

In the fine print at the bottom…

YoungLabourAuthorised

…is an authorisation notice: Authorised by Andrew Kirton, 160n Willis Street, Wellington

Kirton is Labour’s General Secretary so this attack on Key seems to be authorised by the Labour Party.

I’m not a fan of titles, but using Key’s knighthood announcement as an excuse to attack Key’s record in this manner looks bad for Labour.

Debate over Green’s budget support

Greens voting in support of the Government’s budget tax package has raised eyebrows and prompted debate at The Standard.

Micksavage: What the feck Greens

The Green Party caucus decision to support the Government’s tax reduction legislation is hard to comprehend and has created a perception of messiness in the way the Labour-Green MOU operates.

It appears the Labour Green Memorandum of Understanding did not work as well this week as it was intended.  The Greens decided to vote for National’s tax reduction legislation while Labour voted against it.

I am struggling to understand why the Greens did this.  This budget does nothing beneficial for the environment.  It promises more irrigation allowing more dairying and more polluted streams with a miniscule amount set aside to address the consequences.  It does not address New Zealand’s response to climate change.  Putting to one side the environmental devastation that will be caused it does not address how we as a country are going to address the $14 billion hole in our finances that the payments required under the Paris Accord will cause.  And the home insulation scheme is being cut, completely.

But they chose to support the Government’s tax reduction law.

There are some interesting discussions on that thread. It seems to have prompted two posts from a Green supporter.

Weka: The Greens on record

Despite rumours to the contrary, the Green Party was highly critical of National’s Budget.

There’s been a fair amount of speculation about the Green Party’s position on the Budget. If you want to see how they are voting, or to discuss that, have a look at the post The Greens and voting on the Budget.

There are a lot more links to Green responses too.

Weka: The Greens and voting on the Budget

Wondering about what the Greens are voting for? It might not be what you think.

The various Bills going through Parliament currently can be seen here. Explanations of how the Budget process happens are here.

Spokesperson for Māori Development, Social Housing, Human Rights and Pacific Peoples, Marama Davidson explains in a blogpost why they are voting for that Bill that gives a little bit extra for those on low incomes.

But that has sparked more debate.

Meanwwhile Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog: Can the Green Party of NZ do anything without taking a huge smelly dump on the chest of the Labour Party?

The Greens have allowed themselves to get played by the National Party who are right now running around telling everyone who will listen that even the Greens support this rip-off Budget, bloody Bill English did yesterday!

I wonder if Bradbury applied for a job at Greens, he certainly isn’t happy with the person who was successful (at getting a communications job).

My understanding from sources within the Party is that there are deep divisions over how James Shaw has run things since becoming leader.

I doubt that Greens and many others will put much weight on Bradbury’s understanding.

Serious question time, if these schoolboy errors in political tactics and strategy are all the Greens can muster how the Christ can they be trusted with Executive Power?

It’s a bit tragic that, similar to Cameron Slater, Bradbury has been left flailing around without a political home because no parties want anything to do with them.

But there does seem to be quite a bit of discord on the left over the Green vote last week and over the Green-Labour Memorandum of Understanding.

Bradbury does dirty

This morning Martyn Bradbury posted

BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: Massive online ACT Party data breach

The Daily Blog has been contacted with information that the ACT Party database has been left open online…

…we’ve had a look, and they are right. There is a huge data base of members and donors on the list, alongside a fascinating document from Franks/Ogilvie to the hard right NZ Initiative outlining their hatred of Maori gaining any power under the new RMA.

As far as I can see the entire database of donors and members are just open on this and I estimate there maybe about a 1000 names there.

To protect their privacy we won’t publish any of their details, but ACT might want to hire someone to make their database secure.

If ACT did have insecure date publicly accessible on a website that’s embarrassing for them and fair enough to point it out and to score a political hit.

But beyond that Bradbury has acted in an inexcusable, despicable way, as did the person he claims alerted him to it. This looks to be as dirty as when Cameron Slater went far to far when someone found insecure data on a Labour Party website.

This is as bad as finding an unlocked building and entering and rummaging through cupboards and drawers, and taking copies of information and publishing it.

Bradbury published information that could reasonably expected to be not intended for the public to see.

The person who enabled Bradbury to breach privacy like this is more culpable.

If the data was still insecure when Bradbury publicised it that put it at great risk of other people finding and copying data and information.

Again, going online publicising an unlocked door is highly unethical.

As per the Slater-Labour breach, fine to publicise lax security, but accessing and searching and publishing information is inexcusable and possibly illegal.

The proper thing to do would be to advise the owner of the data that it was insecure, and after it was secured then fair enough to go public.

What Bradbury has done here is admit himself to the dirty politics hall of infamy occupied by Slater.

Bradbury promotes The Daily Blog as a shiny new alternative to mainstream media (similar to Slater and Whale Oil). Very sadly both operate in the social media gutter.

This makes him more like a sensation and attention seeking scummy dirty blogger. D

It’s hard to believe how irresponsible Bradbury has been here – more so than whoever was responsible for insecure data.

Other contributors to The Daily Blog should be concerned and embarrassed by this.

The second largest bollocks in NZ

As soon as I saw this headline at The Daily Blog – Blog Rankings: TDB second largest blog in NZ – I knew what bollocks it was about.

And that bollocks continued in their lead paragraph and article.

The latest blog rankings are out, The Standard are no longer making their stats publicly available to Ken for the blog rankings and that makes The Daily Blog the second largest blog…

This election we intend to bring you commentary you can’t get in the right wing corporate mainstream media.

Last month lprent said he was ditching Sitemeter that Open Parachute basis it’s rankings on so is now off the list.

Looks like I might have to cut statcounter (one of our trackers) out of the site. It looks like they may be having some problems.

For a start, we’ve been getting some delays from statcounter over the last month not responding and slowing the page loads down. Something that is frigging irritating bearing in mind that only reason for having a visible tracker is to provide the Open Parachute ranking.

I’ll watch statcounter to the end of the month. If they continue to screw up then I’ll remove their drag on the site.

He must have discontinued before the end of the month. That doesn’t suddenly make The Standard smaller than TDB.

In March The Standard was slightly ahead of TDB in visits and well ahead (50% higher) in page views.

And Whale Oil will still be larger than any of these blogs by clicks. They dropped Sitemeter early last year.

Sitemeter and Open parachute have had obvious inaccuracies as well, so at best they are a rough comparative guide on those blogs that participate – many don’t, including a number of the biggest.

And I suspect some sites like Whale Oil and The Daily Blog are designed to force more clicks to be able to read full content.

And there’s other things that mess around with the numbers too. For example Alexa has some odd percentage of visitor numbers for TDB:

  • New Zealand 55.8%
  • France 17.8%
  • United States 7%
  • India 3.8%

That seems very low for New Zealand. Here it’s 77.3%, Kiwiblog is 77.5%, The Standard is 70.7%, Whale Oil is 63.8%.

All Open Parachute does is give blogs like The Daily Blog some bragging rights and a performance hit.

I’ve never cared about relative rankings here, I’m more interested in maintaining a manageable size with ease of use more important than click harvesting.

Blogs on ANZAC Day

David Farrar has a very sobering reminder of the size of war casualties in Lest we forget:

  • 1914 – 1918 WWI – 17 million killed
  • 1917 – 1921 Russian Civil War – 6.7 million killed
  • 1927 – 1949 Chinese Civil War – 8 million killed
  • 1936 – 1939 Spanish Civil War – 700k killed
  • 1939 – 1945 WWII – 60 million killed
  • 1950 – 1953 Korean War – 1.3 million killed
  • 1954 – 1962 Algerian War – 700k killed
  • 1955 – 1975 Vietnam War – 1.5 million killed
  • 1966 – 1970 Nigerian Civil War – 1.7 million killed
  • 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War 300k killed
  • 1980 – 1988 Iran-Iraq War – 600k killed
  • 1983 – 2005 Second Sudanese Civil War – 1.4 million killed
  • 1998 – 2003 Second Congo War – 3.6 million killed
  • 1979 – 2000 Afghanistan War – 2.6 million killed
  • 2001 – 2013 War on Terror – 600k killed

WWI saw 42% of New Zealand men (of fighting age) serving in the NZ Forces. 103,000 served, 17,000 died and 41,000 were wounded.

Both my grandfathers served in WW1, although one was as a British soldier (and was seriously injured). Two great-uncles were killed in action.

Quiet at The Standard so far on Anzac Day.

Lest we forget.

There is a list of Anzac Day services here, and a list of peace vigils here.

An appropriate day to contemplate “the meaning of honour”.

The Daily Blog: TDB will livestream alternative ANZAC Day commemorations 11am Tuesday

Auckland Peace Action are hosting an alternative ANZAC Day service 11am from the Band Rotunda at the Auckland Domain.

That was well down their dog’s breakfast home page.

Whale Oil has started off just about exclusively ANZAC orientated:

Cameron Slater: This is my ANZAC Day trib­ute post­ing. ANZAC Day means a great deal for me and my fam­ily. I sup­pose it is because we have a con­nec­tion to the orig­i­nal ANZACS in 1915 and Gal­lipoli and to a vet­eran of a war much fresher in our minds, Viet Nam.

 

Blog armies and militia

I don’t know if whale Oil does their ‘Whale army’ thing much any more but they included a reference in The Whaleoil Dictionary last year:

Oilers One of a number of names for WO readers, followers and fans. (Alternates: Whale Army and Ground Crew)

Earlier last year in A winning strategy for social justice warriors:

Milo Yiannopoulos, who reminds me so much of a gay, fashionable, fabulous version of Cameron (he doesn’t have a Whale army but he talks about the Milo army)…

Is organising an army of helpers a Breitbart thing?

The Daily Bog is trying something similar, but of course needed a different name – Don’t forget to join our social media militia and spread the views this election

Comrades, as the Daily Blog gears up to cover the 2017 NZ Election, we want to send out a reminder for you to join us on our social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter so that you are able to share and retweet blogs you want to spread.

Please join us today to keep up to date with the election this year.

Cheers

TDB crew

Does this mean war between the WO Ground Crew and the TDB crew? Perhaps fighting amongst themselves is all they have left, they have both become toxic to parties and their campaigns.

Like WO The Daily Blog claims to be an alternative to traditional media but are looking more like political activists.

.