This discussion does not seem at all pointless to me, and this seems like a fine place to have it—-if only because Chris refuses to have it at his blog, and he can’t ban his critics here.
IMHO, the biggest problem with Chris’s behavior with regard to “William” and Ophelia is not that he failed detect a sock puppet. It’s that he let “William” (as “bilbo” and lesser sock puppets) and others vilify and libel various people including Ophelia on his blog, evidently because they were staunch supporters, while imposing much, much stricter standards on people critical of him.
He continues to misrepresent his opponents and critics, as he has done for years, and he is now misrepresenting his blog moderation policies, which have compounded that problem for years.
He claims that many recent postings about the “William” debacle were disallowed because of “unfounded allegations.” Perhaps some were, but I know for a fact that many postings were disallowed because they contained well-founded allegations. I wrote some of them, and I’ve seen some by others, and none were what he claimed. They were merely critical and questioning, as well as making some unflattering but well-founded observations about Chris and his behavior.
This isn’t particularly sour grapes on my part. Chris has generally treated me surprisingly well, allowing me to say things on his blog that almost anybody else (such as Ophelia Benson) would have been banned for. I’ve been one of his severest and most explicit critics for quite some time, and I am personally grateful to him that he hasn’t treated me the way he has treated others—-i.e., unfairly. He has generally refused to answer pointed questions, and largely ignored what I’ve said (as he generally does with his critics, unless they’re quite prominent) but he has almost always allowed me to have my say.
(Until the latest debacle, that is. He’s shut down commenting on the relevant threads and last I checked, isn’t allowing anybody to have their say.)
Chris Mooney’s comment moderation policies are quite bizarre, and conveniently slanted.
“bilbo” and a number of “William”‘s other socks have been allowed to be quite vicious and frequently patently dishonest, which would unquestionably have gotten anybody sympathetic to the “New Atheism” banned.
John Kwok, William’s socks, and some other commenters have been allowed to make false charges against various people, notably John and another commenter repeatedly falsely claiming that Ophelia Benson was “a liar,” which would generally get anybody Chris and Sheril don’t like banned. Ophelia herself—-for no reason anybody can figure out except that she persistently questioned Chris and Sheril’s claims—-was banned and not allowed to reply to such charges.
They even silently put in filters so that any mention of Ophelia by anyone would get their post disallowed. Several people made many unsubstantiated allegations, over and over, and NOBODY was allowed to rebut them, much less allowing Ophelia to defend herself.
One of the most striking examples of their moderation policy was the thread in which their loyal trolls accused commenters at Pharyngula of advocating or even threatening sexual violence and murder against Sheril.
Seriously, to make fun of Sheril’s pearl-clutching vapors, somebody at Pharyngula used obvious humorous hyperbole—-on Pharyngula, not the Intersection—-of the “oh yeah, well fuck you sideways with a rusty knife!” sort, and bilbo, Kwok et al. went ballistic with repeated, patently bullshit claims that it was a serious attempt to advocate sexual violence.
(That had, of course, gone completely unnoticed by Pharyngulans who are out as feminist rape victims, and who regularly call out other Pharyngulans for perceived careless misogynistic language, whether it’s meant that way or not.)
Worse, Kwok actually described such joking, over-the-top banter as death threats against Sheril.
Chris has recently revealed that for a long time now, they’ve been carefully moderating John Kwok, and holding a large fraction of his posts back.
Kwok has been quite repeatedly seriously libeling people as having issued death threats and repeatedly made it absolutely clear that he is absolutely serious in that claim.
But Chris and Sheril posted those comments, clearly falsely accusing people at Pharyngula of very serious crimes.
(Note: I do not claim that Kwok’s claims are actually technically libel, because I think that he may out of touch with reality—-he may honestly believe such things. That doesn’t excuse Chris and Sheril posting such scurrilous accusations at the expense of people at Pharyngula, while clearly disallowing vastly less serious accusations about themselves and their supporters.)
It inconceivable that Chris or Sheril would let a New Atheist sympathizer make such patently false accusations of criminality against them or their sympathizers. It is dead obvious that they would ban somebody who did that, if that person was not one of their supporters.
I have some questions for Chris and Sheril:
If that didn’t get you to ban John, what on Earth finally did? What could he possibly have said that was more obviously serious, offensive, unfair, and inexcusable?
If it wasn’t that he was critical of you, what did the trick to get you to finally shut him up on your blog?
Likewise, when “bilbo” kept describing that as advocating sexual violence, etc., why was he not banned for that, before we all found out that he was sock puppeting? Did you really need to wait until you found out it was a sock puppet repeating such libels before taking action?
Do you seriously expect us to believe that your long tolerance of such obviously dishonest or crazy behavior from “bilbo” and John had nothing to do with them being your supporters, or with their victims being your critics? Good luck with that.