I’ve been banned from three climate change blogs or websites. All three are run by global warming advocates. None of my bans were due to me misbehaving in any way at their sites. It was always due to them disliking me or what I had to say. I know what it means to be censored.
That’s why it bugs me to no end when people make bogus complaints of censorship. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. If enough people claim they were censored when they weren’t, few people will believe me when I say I’ve been censored. Today, I’ll look at an example.
For background, John Abraham wrote an article for The Guaridan criticizing Richard Tol. Readers of this blog will be familiar with it as I’ve previously discussed the disagreement between Tol and Abraham. I won’t revisit that. Instead, I’d like to focus on a new issue which has arisen from it. On Twitter, Tol said:
I saw people retweet this, so I responded, suggesting they ought to consider the possibility Tol was the one in the wrong. I then asked to see the comment which had been deleted so I could judge for myself whether its deletion was reasonable or not. There was a series of exchanges I won’t get into, but they showed nobody knew what the comment had actually said.
Tol had already posted some 20 comments on that site without problem, but as soon as one comment got deleted, Tol claimed he was being censored. How could people see this one deleted comment as proving censorship if they didn’t even know what was deleted? I couldn’t understand that conclusion when and originally this was all the available information:
There are lots of ways to draw attention to something. Some are good. Some are not. Without more information, I wasn’t willing to draw a conclusion. Few others took this reasonable precaution. When Tol explicitly said he had been banned:
Over a dozen people retweeted him. A number of people responded in support of him. Nobody did anything to verify he actually had been banned. One person (other than myself) did ask to see the comment which (supposedly) got him banned, and Tol responded:
I took issue with two things about this tweet. First, accusations of dishonesty are commonly banned in comment sections. One could easily assume the reason this one comment was deleted while the other ~20 or so were not is this comment specifically accused John Abraham of lying.
Second, at the time he tweeted that image, a functionally equivalent comment from him was visible on the site. It said:
A point by point response to Mr Abraham
It’s difficult to see how this comment could have been posted if Tol had been banned for an earlier comment. It’s also difficult to understand how Tol was being censored if a comment serving the same purpose as the one which got him “banned” passed moderation. The only meaningful difference between the two comments is the unacceptable one accused a person of lying while the other did not.
Both of these are obvious issues with Tol’s claim of censorship. Nobody else seemed to notice them. Nobody even noticed when Tol went on to post:
Banned? Disappeared? What is he talking about? The screenshot he posted showed two comments from him which weren’t deleted. Both of these comments were made after he was supposedly banned. How does posting a screenshot of comments allowed after you’re “banned” prove you were banned (or disappeared)?
In fact, the only other comments anyone has pointed to as having been deleted were comments which discussed moderation decisions, like:
But there is nothing remarkable about such a comment getting deleted. Tons of sites prohibit discussions of moderation decisions in their comments sections as those discussions are off-topic (amongst other things). That’s not censorship. It’s enforcing basic rules.
As far as I can see, there is no censorship here. Richard Tol was allowed to comment many times, and he was allowed to link to whatever material he wanted. The only thing we have evidence he wasn’t allowed to do is accuse people of dishonesty. The only thing we have evidence anyone else wasn’t allowed to do is discuss moderation decisions in the comments section of that article. People can disagree about whether preventing those things was right or wrong, but it wasn’t censorship.
There has been no evidence provided indicating censorship happened. It’s possible censorship happened, but unless or until evidence is provided to show such, there is no reason anyone should assume it happened. Moreover, there’s multiple pieces of evidence indicating no censorship took place.
No skeptic should take Richard Tol at his word. No skeptic should willfully ignore evidence which contradicts him. No skeptic should jump to conclusions without evidence to support them.
Only a person operating on bias should believe censorship happened here.