Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Comment Moderation Turned On

Well, our would-be troll has not taken a hint.  I was initially completely skeptical of the possibility that Ugo raised, that someone might be being paid to disrupt my blog (no doubt amongst many others).  However, kjmclark notes that online astroturf campaigns are definitely happening in some places, and I guess I don't doubt that this is well within the depths of depravity that some vested interests and their PR firms are willing to sink to (though what makes them think that this will persuade anyone, I don't know - certainly that's not the impulse it creates in me).  And clearly the troll in question has no intent of making an effort to follow whatever social norm I might establish here, and is instead being deliberately disruptive.  There is an air of continued determination about the effort which would be consistent with someone being paid - either that or a well-entrenched personality disorder.

At any rate, to allow me to head the situation off at the pass, I have now enabled comment moderation on all comments.  This will obviously mean that comments are a little less timely, and I apologize for that.  I think the trade-off is well worth it.  Possibly the situation will blow over.  If not, I may eventually appoint trusted moderators from amongst regular commenters willing to volunteer.  One way or another, I will host a civilized discussion of these issues amongst people of open minds and good intent; everyone in that category (which as far as I can tell includes all recent commenters but one) should continue to comment at will...

8 comments:

Nebris said...

As a rather determined Meta-Troll myself I understand and sympathize. I have been torturing Objectivists on the "Atlas Shrugged" trailer comment thread on YouTube for a month as of yesterday. Some of my arguments are logical and some are pure sadism. I do so because I truly consider them enemies and hate them with the burning fury of ten thousand suns. I say that half in jest and wholly in earnest.

I have no doubt whatsoever that there are those who feel the same about you. We live in an era of Existential Crisis and it has now become clear to even the densest among us that forces seemingly beyond our control are driving us to some unknown and likely unknowable destiny and that terrifies people. Scares me, brother, and I've been paying attention for a long time.

Fear of course drives us to Hate. And then we hate those who tell us things that scare us more. And, Dr. Staniford, would be y'all. I vaguely recall one of the Hebrew Prophets saying, "Tell the Truth, but have a house waiting by the city gate." Good advice, I'd say.

Nebris said...

That would be "..have a horse waiting.." dammit!

Hypnos said...

I am not sure if I am more scared by the crisis itself, or by humanity's reaction to it.

It seems that people's worst instincts (gut reaction, denial and hatred) are being magnified by the Internet. Denier blogs top scientific blogs 10 to 1 in visits.

Would it be better if there were no internet, and information was still the preserve of a rather more restricted elite? Would scientists have an easier job if they only had to persuade politicians and media personality, rather than fight against millions of bloggers and commenters stoked by vested interests?

And unfortunately, it is not you that they are trying to convince, Stuart. It's the random, possibly undecided surfer that might stumble on your blog, read some worrying statement on NPP decline, then hop down into the comments and see an onslaught of derision, criticism and trolling (the aim of online astroturfing campaign seems to be to get the first 50 comments - people rarely look beyond those). The comments will persuade him that you are a crank and your opinion holds no merit, because otherwise there would be someone defending it in the comments, no?

Hal said...

I read this and the recent blog and comments by John Michael Greer and also the comments linked there by H2 at The Oil Drum, and, gee, I read you all because you're some of the most intelligent voices I can find out there, but I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that there are paid trolls. Can the big economic/political interests really have the resources to fight such backwater brushfires as these? I mean, how many people are going to log onto the handful of sites having these discussions compared with the millions tuned in to American Idol? They could buy a 30-second slot on prime-time TV and reach more in one night than have ever been to this and all of the rest of the educated sites since the internet was invented. Or is my perception warped from living in the state that's #50 in everything good and #1 in everything bad?

Nebris said...

I just watched this trio of mini-interviews with Bruce Sterling and the second vid I believe applies to the matter at hand: http://technoccult.net/archives/2011/03/18/bruce-sterling-network-culture-is-incompatible-with-representative-democracy/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Technoccult+%28Technoccult%29

Mr. Sunshine said...

"There is an air of continued determination about the effort which would be consistent with someone being paid - either that or a well-entrenched personality disorder."

Now that was funny!

Of course, you can't rule out the military and HBGary: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/02/18/revealed-air-force-ordered-software-to-manage-army-of-fake-virtual-people/ ... together, a combination of both.

jaggedben said...

I'm absolutely positive there are paid trolls. Whether they would target a blog of this readership (as opposed to the New York Times or CNN) I'm less sure of. It's anyone's guess what kind of resources they have and how they decide to deploy them. In any case, I'm saddened that Stuart has been forced to moderate comments, totally supportive of his action in doing so, and positive that his being targeted is a sign of his effectiveness.

Big Gav said...

Paid trolls have been around for years - I remember a company named Netvocates who managed to draw a bit of unwanted attention to this phenomenon back in 2006 :

http://peakenergy.blogspot.com/2006/06/netvocates-privatised-propaganda.html