Episode 82 – 29th April 2011

We speak to Polly Toynbee and Natalie Haynes, James perhaps crosses the line with sexist remarks, we slag off David Cameron, Birthers, and trolls… and more!

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SETI RIP (2:13) by Sean Ellis
Calm Down Dear (7:07) by Liz Lutgendorff
Birthers (12:05) by Paul Day
Voltaire Lecture (19:17) by James O’Malley & Liz Lutgendorff (ft Natalie Haynes & Polly Toynbee)
Anonymous Hate Comments (31:04) by Tania Glyde
Skeptical About Children (36:31) by George Poles
Submarine Patents (43:31) by Salim Fadhley
Group Psychology (50:45) by Dean Burnett
Met Poetry (60:12) by James Firth

Follow-Up Links

13 thoughts on “Episode 82 – 29th April 2011

  1. A method to slightly restrain trolls, from the Guardian, or other sites would be to publish the IP address the comments are coming from. It’s certainly no solution, but it’s certainly worth a try.

  2. I noticed lovely Tania, with the greatest of respect and love of your work, that you didn’t actually quote any of these ‘viscious’ and ‘nasty’ and ‘hateful’ comments, so the listener only had your word for it as to their content and intent.

    One person’s troll is another person’s ‘voice of reason’.

    The only time I have asked for a comment to be removed is when it relates directly to an individual and is personally ‘hateful’.

    I agree there are quite a few of these personal, hateful comments on Cif, which could be removed. But I also know from my own and others’ experience, that a lot of comments are removed, not for being hateful but for going against the Guardian party line. Or directly slagging off the Guardian itself!

    I think the Guardian articles on gender are so geared towards a ‘nasty’ and ‘hateful’ form of feminism that the comments underneath often react strongly against that. The Guardian is quite provocative and offensive, even whilst claiming to be upholding some middle class morality. I think its articles deserve some level of ‘backlash’. I also think the Guardian revels in people’s personal accounts of drama and suffering, especially women’s. And this too will create a ‘backlash’.

    As long as the Graun takes the moral, respectable high ground, the ‘trolls’ below the line will make their feelings known.

    Yours sincerely,

    a troll

  3. Robert – publishing IP addresses would just encourage more ‘trolling’ in a less controlled way. People going onto each other’s websites and emails etc and harassing each other. I run a blog and I consider people’s email and IP address to be their private identification that is not mine to pass on to others. I am not F****Ing Facebook!

  4. I thought the troll whinge was a bit pathetic. Blog posts or articles are never going to be forums for cogent arguments because THE POST AUTHOR IS NOT CONSTRAINED.

    When confronted with a post that a reader totally refutes, it is sometimes reasonable to put the article into perspective – and that can mean challenging the validity of the author. Otherwise you are in danger of just entering “do you still beat your wife?” level arguments.

    Cif has a fair share of snide comments, but they are just part of the different comment styles in public places. They are perfectly valid signals of discontent.

  5. This was never going to be an easy one. QRG – you’re right, some specific examples might have been useful, though no one has to look very far to find them! I was using examples that come up again and again in patterns. I agree that party line censorship happens all over the place and is not good. And that it’s very important to challenge current feminist dogma, as you do. But if someone is just haranguing then it just causes others to switch off. Perhaps I’m in a minority here, but I would rather keep channels open as much as possible to advance my point of view than just shout at people and get doors slammed in my face.

    DB – thanks for the CAPS. Challenging validity is only useful if you have useful evidence about it. Crowing your amazing discovery that an author is, to use one of my examples, ‘middle class’ isn’t a worthy or purposeful argument, unless they are actually lying about themselves in some way to advance their own point of view. I don’t buy the idea that snidery for its own sake is a valid signal of discontent at all. And there I think we differ.


    Okay, my pathetic attempt at trolling but I think the IP address idea is probably quite bad. The lesser of 2 evils allows trolls to survive. The other option, full disclosure, would potentially put many casual commentators off commenting.

    Whilst the trolls and “outraged of Farnham” may seem to add very little to the debate, one often gets some glorious gems from drive-by commentards.

    Imagine a debate interesting to victims of domestic violence? Would they like to comment if it risks disclosing their IP address? Or even voices in support of emotive topics like pro-choice or animal experimentation when opponents on these topics have on occasions shown themselves to be rather direct in their action against some proponents.

    It’s possible to unmask the owner of an IP address, sometimes surprisingly easily; either “legally” through a court, or using “grey” detective methods, or illegally if the rumours are to be true, at about £20 a pop to ISP support monkeys.

    “Legal” option is to apply for a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO), making some spurious claim that the poster had defamed you and you needed to identify them to issue libel proceedings. Both NPOs and libel are calling out for reform given their potential for misuse, but that’s another story.

    Grey detection methods range from scanning emails groups may already have received from a vocal opponent (IP addresses are often transmitted with email, even when using some webmail providers), through to setting honeypot traps and correlating several separate pieces of intelligence to identify an individual. It can and has been done. Notably (but not directly related to IP addresses) to unmask Belle de Jour.

    Also another phenomenon has swept the internet over the last few years. Self-identification. Bloggers and commentators, some who’ve spent years posting anonymously, suddenly decide to use their real name. In exchange for a picture of your face and your name in the public eye many have found the payback in suddenly being taken very seriously by serious organisations – ie making a difference instead of just adding moans to the foot of CIF.

    That’s kind of how I ended up being asked to write a CIF piece instead of lurking “below page”.

    Some subtle devices can be used to make people think twice about posting. One is regional identification using IP address geolocation. “Anonymous Troll in the Surrey area things: blah”. Whilst only narrowing down the poster to a pool of 1.1m Surrey residents such a device is believed to remind many posters that their cyberspace posting activities are very much a part of real life too. It also gives a bit of a hint when multiple troll aliases push pretty much the same point home and all from the same country.

    So in summary, anonymous commenting = bad, non-anonymous posting = worse.


  7. Hi James
    There are problems in ‘coming out’ even for non-sex worker bloggers. Once you have a ‘name’ for yourself as an alias, people often find it easier to hurl abuse at you than if you were a named person. I think a lot of the things said about me, e.g. by JOURNALISTS who write for THE GUARDIAN (sorry about caps I can’t do italics) are said because they know there probably won’t be any comeback as I have an online alias. The ‘anonymity’ issue goes both ways.

    But even if I ‘came out’ I am sure cif wouldn’t publish my articles above the line as I have already pissed off the powers that be too much at The Graun.

    I find the distinction between ‘ATL’ and ‘BTL’ quite funny to be honest, as I find many journalists’ output downright awful, and some commenters’ contributions to discussions pretty amazing and astute.

    I don’t know what to say really. I don’t think censorship is a way forward. I think mixing up the kinds of articles on cif would be an option. And encouraging more commenters BTL to write ATL if they were prepared to be ‘non-anonymous’.

    Although, I think some bloggers with well-known aliases should be able to write under those aliases. What would happen if they did? Would there be a break in the space time continuum?

  8. Quite right, Quiet Riot Girl. Agree on all counts and plead guilty to choosing emotional topics when the arguments apply to a whole range. Even just plain old conflict with employer’s interest. It’s often hard to have an honest debate about e.g digital ethics and privacy when e.g. One of your companies main paymasters might be e.g. Google, Facebook or Apple.

    It’s such a complex area but on balance I think trolling and trolls are the lesser evil and occasionally add value.

    So little prospect of a flame war on this thread, yet?!


  9. well James you never know. QRG has a bit of a reputation as a ‘troll’ herself…

    But the thing is, I get accused of ‘trolling’ (I did today as it happens on twitter) and causing ‘flame wars’ simply for stating my views. In quite bare, clear terms. But still without emotive language or ‘hate-speak’.

  10. Hi James,
    You make some good points.
    Although I was mainly thinking of the sockpuppets and Social Media software tools supposedly used by some PR companies, rather than OutragedDailymailReader from Reading

    IP addresses are not covered by the DPA, and only really identifiable by the ISP, any Support Monkeys would be out of a job if caught giving them out. But it wouldn’t surprise me that some do so for journalist friends.

    I’ve never seen QRG being trollish, I think the word is “outspoken”

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