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John Passant

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Free speech, army racism, Libya, the carbon tax – have your say in Saturday’s socialist speak out

I am thinking about banning Zionist trolls on my website who offer nothing but name calling and nonsense. Should I?

I see the hired killers of the Australian capitalist state in Afghanistan are racists. Surprise surprise. And the response of the Government and army? Just a few bad apples. Seriously?

What do you expect when you train young men and women to kill other human beings and so pump them full of nationalist nonsense to inure them to their own savagery? Angels?  The racism of our armed forces is systemic. They have to dehumanise the ‘enemy’ to feel OK about killing them.

In Japan Fukushima has highlighted once again the madness of nuclear power. Martin Ferguson, Australia’s Minister for the uranium and nuclear power bosses went on the attack. He said: “You know, we can all sit under the tree and weave baskets with no jobs if that’s what some people in the NGOs and Greens want.”  His favoured nuclear power might get us there soon,very soon.

It is of course a false dichotomy. Renewable energy could create many many jobs if Government had the will and taxed to rich and polluters to pay for it.

In Libya the intervention to save civilians looks like it might have to kill civilians to save them.  And of course in the rest of the region US backed puppets in Yemen and Bahrain are killing their civilians and not a peep out of the West. No surprise there since supporting the rebellion in Libya and suppressing the rebellions elsewhere are part of the same strategy – ensuring US control of the whole region.

Now the revolution looks to have spread to Syria and the regime there has responded with both wage rises and bullets. But the concessions mean there is more to come and as the demonstrations grow and grow there won’t be enough guns to stop them, especially if the Syrian working class as working class takes action.

In Canberra a group of protestors held up sexist placards to attack the Prime Minister and campaign against the carbon tax. The tax will cut workers living standards.

The lack of a real left in Australia sees the middle class and disaffected and non unionised and even unionised workers looking to the Right for answers to their problems.The task is to build that left, especially as the movement at Parliament House was of a downwardly mobile middle class and angry but unfocused and non-class conscious working class . This is the classic base for fascism.

The lack of a sizeable real left in Australia will be on display on Saturday in New South Wales when voters wallop the Labor Party and after 16 years vote in the Liberal Party. Most of the swing against labor has gone to the Liberals, although the Greens might pick up 2 lower house seats.

Barry O’Farrell as the new Liberal premier of New South South Wales will have as much chance of fixing the problems of the state as I do of winning the 100 metres at the Olympics.

One thing is certain. He will, like Labor, attack workers.



Comment from Tony
Time March 26, 2011 at 11:29 am

John, I think bans are not the best way to address this. Maybe you could look at changing the operation of the site so that you can ‘troll’ list posters that consistently post in such a way and fail to answer direct enquiries on their intent? Continue to provide full access to their posts in a troll thread on a per “troller” basis (so all their post history is displayed in chronological order on one page). In the discussion threads rather than show their contribution there, link to the full post in the troll list, which is on a separate page. Once these people have been identified, they will soon find somewhere else to pollute the discussion.

Comment from Cal
Time March 26, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Dear John Passant
I seriously urge you to consider the implications of your suggestion to ban certain people/views from this website.

Surely one of the tenants of a free society is the open exchange of views and discourse? If you select whom you wish to hear from and select what views you want to hear, then that puts you at a level with Alan Jones and those shock jocks who refuse to take calls from people who disagree with them.

Having an open website and expressing your views means you invite public comment and feedback. If you seriously do not want comments from people who disagree with your world view, then I suggest you write a newsletter or have no space for comments.

But I am genuinely surprised and stunned that you would seek to censor people’s views or ban them – I see that as anathema to the issues you have championed in other countries and in other contexts.

What would your view be if the Canberra Times said they would not publish letters critical of the US or Israel; what if other social media said the socialist viewpoint is to be banned? How would you react if pro-worker comments were banned from public discourse?

You may not like what I or others write, but to go down the path of censorship is aligning yourself with the very regimes and people you have fought against all your life.



Comment from John
Time March 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm

The Australian never publishes my letters to the editor. Perhaps you should campaign for them to adopt what you call free speech. I am merely following a time honoured tenet – posts that add no value to my political post I will exclude, especially those full of childish name calling such as hypocrite and supporter of murderers. I find it odious in the extreme that this stuff ends up on my blog and not where it belongs, some right wing site. Andrew Bolt’s site is more appropriate for this stuff, or perhaps a long duet with Alan Jones.

I don’t mind debating Zionists. But not the abusive and those who a d nothing to further the debate from a left wing perspective.

It detracts from my ability to both put my point of view, ie swamping my right to free speech, and my attempts to build a revolutionary organisation that is part of the working class ultimately establishing real democracy.

Comment from Calligula
Time March 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Is it only ‘Zionist’ trolls you are worried about, John?
Or are you getting a bit crusty at this stage in life?
Maybe like the spare parts man at the motorcycle shop all those years ago who wouldn’t even sell me a light bulb ‘cos I’d customized my sled.

In his opinion I’d ‘debased the marque’ by ‘dangerously modifying’ it.
His ‘straight arrow’ attitude had me nipping down the street to purchase a better quality headlight that didn’t burn out instantly – much less dangerous than the crap he was selling.

Now dear old Ron (the spare parts dude) definitely couldn’t be Zionist – leastways going by his Nazi demeanor at that stage in his life.
But in conversation with him almost forty years later he conceded – “funny how new motorcycles are now being made looking like those chopper things you used to build – even got good lights and accessories”.

Which just goes to prove that even the most narrow minded son-of–a-bitch can mellow out – it only takes about forty years.
Hell, even your Zionist trolls might soften a bit eventually.

BTW, John, is it possible to leave a blog to someone in a will?

The above observation (about Ron) also sort of applies to the young soldiers in Afghanistan and to what is happening in Libya – so long as ‘Calligula’s Law of Limited Options’™ is applied.
‘CLLO’ states –“Within the confines of a given scenario a younger, subordinate, person, no matter how constrained, will exploit any option at their disposal in order to confound, embarrass and/or cause the utmost detriment to, any person apparently superior, of authority, or of influence, over or within that scenario.”

Calligula’s Theorem’ – “The annual attrition factor amongst young subordinates shall be calculated as – (A) = the square root of – (I), the incidence of ‘scenario options available’ multiplied by (s), the total number of subordinates – divided by (S), the total number of superiors.”

CLLO, the corollary – “Young people who learn to survive become old and crusty.”

So, for instance, with one option, six youngsters, three bosses/supervisers, the A factor is about 1.4.
Which means in any year about 1.4 young people out of six (within that scenario) are likely to fall foul of their bosses and get the chop one way or the other (which amazingly enough matches ABS small business employment attrition figures and suggests that young people tend to get the sack just for being young).

Now, the figures for Afghanistan are somewhat difficult to borrow from the military but taking a rough guess about troop numbers, Officers, NCOs and a guesstimate of days deployed – the calculated factor rattles between about 120 to 160 – which would be about right for the number of young people among about 3000 troops to be put on an actionable disciplinary charge each year.

As for Libya, etc – it depends on who reckons they are bosses but opportunities for getting up to what those bosses’d call mischief must be high and the resultant attrition rate consequently outstandingly higher.

Amazing. I’ve just invented a new sociological ‘Golden Standard’ !

Just think about it.
From now on all we need is a few statistics and three seconds work with the trusty calculator and we can shove the undeniable results in the bosses faces – demand most of ‘em resign or at least move to Libya which, with any luck, will soon begin its own boss reduction program.

Comment from Tony
Time March 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm

It has been alleged by posters to various mainstream websites, including the ABC, that their comments have been censored or not published arbitrarily based on the ideas they have projected, containing no invective or other legitimate cause for censorship. I’d say this is far worse than not publishing letters to the editor as there is no tangible space limitation/editorial limitation online. However, just because these other agencies do it doesn’t mean it is the way to go. I think they are wrong to do so.

A situation where refusal to publish could be considered acceptable is if items are posted off topic or any post with personal aspertions. If the poster objects by posting an objection, post only the objection and respond with an explanation as to why it was not published (possibly quoting a relevant portion of the original piece). If they continue to do this on the same thread, you are then in reasonable standing to block the posts. If it crosses threads, refer back to the previous explanation. This is a rather blunt instrument, but as long as the rules are clear and posts are clearly not based on a relevant line of argument that is simply one of dissent, objections have little standing.

Therefore, I’d consider something along the lines of my original suggestion would at least retain openness (people can click through to see such posts should they wish to), but move trolling activities from the main discourse. However, as the site may require significant changes to the way it operates, it may not be feasible in the interim.

As long as the rules are clear and consistently applied, nobody has any legitimate recourse.

John, as the moderator, it’s ultimately up to you, but there are some thoughts you may wish to consider.

Comment from Ross
Time March 26, 2011 at 8:51 pm

It is not nuclear power that is the problem John,it is the idiots controlling it. Keith Snow used to work for GE the company that built the reactors at Fukushima and says that it is a total debacle.Reactors built in the wrong place,poor designs and lack of safety standands on multiple levels.They stored 30 yrs of spent fuel rods just above the metal core surrounding the internal reactor core.These reactors are 100 times larger than Chernobyl.It they all go,they will produce radiation 24 thousand times greater than Hiroshima.There is no doubt they are covering up the real dangers and we will not know the true story for a long time.Radiation cannot be smelt,tasted or seen.We will not know for decades the true impact on the health of the Japanese.

Uranium reactors are old technology but the corporates want to extract maximum profits from uranium before moving to safer alternatives.Thorium reactors are much safer and cleaner.We should never put blanket bans on developing technologies or bigotted Zionist trolls.

The nuclear industry needs a more open system of accountability.The technology is still in its infancy and so needs tighter regulation.

Comment from Cal
Time March 26, 2011 at 9:25 pm

I will respect your wishes John Passant and refrain from stating my views and opinions as they seem unwelcome. But I note that you wrote these very words:

“Reddit Australia and censorship –
Remember that censorship is not just something the State does. The struggle for free speech is just as often against private as well as State interests.
Posted: December 19th, 2009 under Australian politics, Censorship, Conroy, Internet filter, reddit.”

I ponder this to you and your readers by way of moving this discourse from one topic (mid east) to a more interesting one (blogs and bans): is not banning certain views and people from responding to your posts the very same action which you rightly rallied against re: Reddit?

I hope you consider the merits of this. There are many issues I agree with you on, many I don’t. It would be a shame to make this site a place where only one sided views are permitted.

Comment from Shane H
Time March 26, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Of course you should block trolls who disrupt democratic discussion. This is a blog not political party. There’s plenty of platforms for Zionists to express their views.

Comment from John
Time March 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm

I am very very reluctant to do anything like banning people because my view of what trolls are might be merely an excuse to end discussion. One option is not to respond.

I have deleted what I regard as defamatory material from a post once since I might bear the burden, not the writers, and I once removed an entire post which was nothing but an unsubstantiated diatribe against people I certainly don’t agree with but which was totally defamatory. Other than that nothing, although I think once or twice I may have removed critical material by mistake.

I remember when Reddit Australia blocked me for posting links to my own material they called it trolling and I made the point that this was censorship under another guise.

I need to be careful not to use my power to stop debate and if that means a few Zionists get to sprout attacks on me then OK, they attack me. I can get a thicker skin, although after 57 years that is unlikely.

Comment from John
Time March 26, 2011 at 10:25 pm

See my comment above, which I posted before I read this.

Comment from MarianK
Time March 27, 2011 at 10:18 am


You are completely within your rights to block trolls of any persuasion from derailing reasonable discussion or taking up too much commentary space. This is moderation, not censorship – and virtually all public forum websites do it. Those that don’t – like Online Opinion (before the recent kerfuffle) – end up with a permanent commentariat of thick-skinned bigots derailing reasonable discussion and wasting everyone’s time.

As long as you are clear about your terms and conditions, and upfront about the types of commenting style you will not tolerate – e.g. defammatory, irrelevant, personalised, excessive quibbling, repetitive posting, unwillingness to respect disagreement, pushing bigotry etc – most people will respect your stance. Those who don’t will find another blogsite that better ‘understands’ them.

Comment from John
Time March 27, 2011 at 11:07 am

Thanks for the comment Marian. I understand that. My concern is that I will brand people as trolls who are actually just a little over eager in pursuing their point of view, and of course it will be a point of view I disagree with. So iIwill err on the side of caution and allow comments unless they are completely over the top. I won’t allow racist or sexist or homophobic comments. As to Online Opinion I would have removed those homophobic comments. Came to think of it I think I did remove one comment from a Christian right winger who launched a diatribe against gays and lesbians.

Comment from Calligula
Time March 27, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Dear Mr. Passant –
The worst sort of blog is that of the ‘unified viewpoint’ so I’m very pleased that you’ve decided to put up with the odd dissenter on your pages.

It is always best to remember that any weblog’s profile is largely maintained by the number of hits it continues to receive and those who ‘link’ with your pages in numerous ways often not obvious.

Remember that many of your regular readers look for a bit of an occasional ‘stir’ – that, like me, they tend to eschew a ‘mutual admiration society’.
Believe me when I say that there are far too many of them out there studded with comment as numerous as and aligned as well as the Coldstream Guards on parade.

Without cutting too close to the quick – while ‘the sound of one hand clapping’ could be a way of describing a unicameral and overly censored webpage it also politely defines onanism.

So when someone writes in and calls you a bit of a flogger, for what?
For being courageous enough to spend hours compiling and publishing your views – for being human enough to occasionally appear to be biased or inconsistent –

When someone abuses you for that and yet you still publish that blarney – it is them and their principles that appear suspect and by doing so lend more weight and merit to yours and the forthright but more polite correspondents whose contributions make your pages such a delight to read.

Comment from John
Time March 27, 2011 at 6:21 pm

It’s not the odd dissenter. It’s those who think my blog is an outlet solely for their views and who brook no difference and do little to add to the discussion, other than calling me a hypocrite or supporter of killers etc etc. I’ll let their comments go through to the keeper.

Comment from Ross
Time March 27, 2011 at 6:58 pm

John, your site is one of the few that will let me post references to 911 scientific facts.Now that takes a lot of courage on your behalf because I know you will be targeted by the fascists who really did it.

Even the elites do not realise that a fairer world will make it a safer world.They want it all for themselves and live in a seige mentality of subjugating the masses who enabled their bubble elite status.They just don’t get it.

Zibigniew Brezezinski said that there is a “Global Political Awakening’.This observation from the man who wrote ‘The Grand Chessboard’ gives us inspiration to free all humans from the slavery of debt.

Comment from John
Time March 27, 2011 at 9:10 pm

As you know Ross, I don’t regard them as scientific facts.

Comment from Tony
Time March 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm

So the pro-war left decries the early calls to arm revolutionaries to be capable of neutralising the Libyan airforce because they might use them against “us” and instead enforce a NFZ with the result being that “coalition air strikes fail to dislodge government forces from around key contested towns”.

Now the actors are mulling over having to do as we suggested, arming them for a fair fight, but they want to train them too. Arming to make it a fair fight is one thing, but training? Isn’t that simply too much like a proxy war and setting conditions for a client state?

As for the NFZ bombings, the collateral damage, will anyone ever know? Do they really care? Remember, Afghanistan has had a NFZ for 9 years. Maybe they are hoping Gaddafi will pass at his own accord?

How long until they decide they have no choice but to deploy land forces?

Comment from Wendy
Time March 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I visit here every so often to see what’s what but you know, I think this banning comments is a curious creature.

When someone accuses the President of being a war criminal it pretty much invites a response. Sure enough, you mightn’t like what a bunch of people say, but when you say you’ve been accused of being a ‘hypocrite’ that kinda pales next to some of what you’ve dished out.

Isn’t that the beauty of freedom? We can say hooey to all sorts of folks, we can give it and take it but no one comes to blows and no one gets hurt.

I got no idea what a ‘troll’ is, but I’m guessing it’s someone who posts stuff you don’t like. Well my friends, welcome to cyberspace. I’m sure as heck Sarah Palin gets all sorts of nasties in her In Box, so just goes to show you, doesn’t it?

Comment from John
Time March 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Of course Obama is a war criminal. Bombing civilians with drone bombs is a war crime. He won’t be tried because he is too powerful and the ‘justice’ that exists in the world exists for him to mete out to others, not to have meted out to him. It is a tool of the powerful.

So Sarah Palin’s inbox gets all sorts of nasties. How much of that does she publish?

Comment from Wendy
Time March 28, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Hey, I don’t want to engage in a slanging match or tit-for-tat blogs – say what you like man, it’s a free world (or my part is anyhows) but like I say, you accuse the US President of being a war criminal (and that pretty much puts him in the dock next to Hitler and Stalin and the Japanese and Pol Pot) and yet you go off when someone calls you names.

I reckon President Obama is a great humanitarian and one of the finest leaders of modern times. 70 million Americans think so too. He’s a man of peace and history will hail him so. I’m sure if he’s what you say then justice will be done. It caught up with Nixon so no man is above the law.

Great that we can have these views hey.