Censorship: I’m guilty as charged

Paul Raven @ 05-03-2012

So, I stand accused of censorship by someone whose comment I declined to approve on this post. I figure anyone willing to throw around accusations of censorship is probably a big fan of radical transparency; hence, by way of amelioration, here is the digital papertrail for the full exchange. (Email headers available on request; they’re all archived. I’ve been doing this for a while, and some lessons get learned early.)


Unapproved comment left on The Future Always Wins, 8:27am PST, 24th February 2012:

  • Comment author name: “xd”
  • Comment author email: ~ELIDED~@hotmail.com

Comment body:

wow. The video is so full of holes it’s unreal.

1. US oil production isn’t in permanent decline. Decline halted seven years ago.
2. Roads aren’t only made of asphalt. They’re also made of brick and/or concrete.
3. She says one year’s worth of oil is the same as fifty years of fifty nuclear reactors and yet she then says later than you need 10,000 nuclear reactors to cover one year’s supply of oil. So which is it? Sloppy math.
4. She points out that 95% of transportation energy depends on oil and there are substitutes in other areas. OK. Electric transportation works though is expensive. Electric transportation is also at least twice (and some would argue four times) more efficient than oil based. Thus we need HALF the current oil use to provide the same motorized transportation. Not to mention substitution to mass transit or bicycles. Or living closer to work.
5. She says that when you are using more energy to get a barrel of oil out than it contains, it will no longer be done. Wrong. We will use more energy to get a barrel of oil out than it contains if you can sell it for more than you can sell the energy used for extraction for.

I could go on, but why bother. The whole thing is ludicrous and full of holes if you think it through. Most people won’t though.

Which is not to say peak oil is a big joke. It’s not. If we don’t make necessary substitutions in time AND depletion is fast enough then we will see severe dislocations in the economy and perhaps large sections of the global economy collapsing accompanied with mass starvation. It is that serious. BUT there are solutions if we get our heads out of the sand.


Email from: paul.raven@futurismic.com

To: ~ELIDED~@hotmail.com

Email body:

Hi Dan (I’m guessing that’s actually your name, so apologies if not!);

Thanks for your comment on the There’s No Tomorrow post from a few days back; I’d like to ask you to resubmit it with links or citations of your refutations, most importantly the one re: halt in discovery decline. Not picking on you individually here, but as I said in the post, I’m all done with hosting claims without citatitions after years of debating this stuff on Futurismic and elsewhere, but if you’ve got real data, I genuinely want to see it! (I work in infrastructure futures, so it’s not just point-scoring or pettiness; I need and want to see references when it comes to energy supply and consumption!

Re: your other points:

2 – well, yes, but ask any driver whether they’d rather drive on brick or concrete or asphalt. The former don’t handle heavy or fast traffic at all well; the latter is a crucial component of a car-based economy.

3 – I don’t see that those statements are necessarily mutually exclusive, as one is durational (50 reactors over 50 years) while the other is a straight like-for-like without temporal constraint; I’ll concede it’s poorly stated, but then it’s aimed at a lay audience, and the assumption (on both sides of the debate!) regrettably still seems to be that talking down to the public is the way forward.

4 – I’m not quite sure where you’re going with this one; can you expand?

5 – Oh, I fully agree that scenario might well occur, yes. But in my opinion that possibility only serves to validate the complete insanity of our hunger for petrochem, and the dichotomy as seeing it as anything other than one very out-dated energy source among many more suitable alternatives. It’s an issue of myopia, I think; same reason so few people save for the future, even though they know they should. If it’s there to use, we use it, and we only start thinking about alternatives when we’re down to the vapours. :)

Like I say, would love you to resub the comment with a cite for the first point so we can have it up there for everyone to engage with. In the meantime, thanks again for taking the time to drop by. :)

Best…


After that, heard nothing. Until this evening, in fact, when this arrived:

  • Email via Futurismic contact form from: ~ELIDED~@hotmail.com
  • Subject: censorship

I’m going to respond to this in chunks; blockquoted material is courtesy Mr Browne:

I made a post taking apart the peak oil spiel using logic. You chose not to publish it.

Actually, you made a comment poking at the peak oil spiel using uncited claims, in direct contravention of my explicit request in the post in question for all debunk-type responses to include links and citations, and I emailed you politely to ask you to expand it to meet my criteria for publication.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t publish posts that don’t agree with your position you are effectively part of a “groupthink” and not coherent.

No, here’s the thing, my friend: you roll up to my blog and make an [an/pseud]onymous comment that completely ignores not only my request in the post body that counterarguments should contain citations, but also my clearly linked and labelled comments policy (which clearly and explicitly reserves me the right to publish – or not – any damned comment I so choose), using an email address that either doesn’t work or doesn’t exist (or that you just don’t check, perhaps); when said comment isn’t published, the same anonymised identity emails me to accuse me of censorship and groupthink.

Censorship I’ll cop to; says right there in the comments policy that I’ll do it, and even suggests as to what might provoke me to do so, and this is a classic case thereof. I’ll publish any comment that comes with data or research to back it up, though. Have a trawl through some old posts on this very site if you don’t believe me.

As to groupthink, here’s the definition from Merriam-Webster’s:

a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics

As I have a horse in the race, so to speak, I’ll leave the general public to decide which of us - if either – has earned that badge.

From that point of view you have no scientific validity and your blog is a waste of time reading.

So, hey – don’t read it. After all, my loss, right? If you wanna comment here, you play by house rules… and I’m all done with apologising to folk who want me to further their own agendas to the detriment of my own. My house, my rules. Suck it up.

To be doubly clear: the editorial policy of this blog is that climate change is demonstrably occurring, and demonstrably linked to human activity, with emphasis on the combustion of fossil fuels. Counterarguments are genuinely welcome, but without citations or references to back up what you say, you’re just another pseudonym with an unfounded opinion. The burden of proof lies upon those making extraordinary claims counter to the collective opinion of the vast majority of experts in the field. That may not seem fair, or nice. But that’s just the way it is round here.

Your First Amendment (or local equivalent) rights remain intact; the glory of the internet is you can set up your own soapbox for virtually zero cost and say anything you like to the whole damn world.

But this is my soapbox. Here, what I say goes. I stand by every word I’ve written here, under my own legal name. I stand by and take ownership of my errors as well as my successes. If you want to prove me wrong, then you do it with facts and citations (and you prepare to have their veracity probed); if you’ll spar with honour and integrity,  I’d be glad to enter the ring. If that doesn’t suit you, you should feel free to go elsewhere.

I’m all done with “balance”. You wanna throw around accusations of a lack of scientific validity, then be prepared to play the game that scientific validity hinges on: citation, citation, citation.

The ball appears to be in your court, Mister Browne.

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7 Responses to “Censorship: I’m guilty as charged”

  1. Chris says:

    Well done Sheldon.

  2. SMD says:

    I hope you’ll allow me to post a link to a post I made on a similar subject: http://wisb.blogspot.com/2012/01/crying-censorship-why-getting-banned.html

    The short version: unless a blog is publicly owned, it serves the function of a publicly viewable private residence. In other words, you can think of it like a glass house. Just because you can see inside and are allowed, by invitation, to say something through the door, doesn’t mean that you have a right to waltz in whenever you want and do whatever you want.

    For that reason, I think comment policies are little more than courtesies. Everyone has a right to decide what does and does not get the privilege of placement on one’s blog, site, etc. If your thoughts weren’t recorded, nothing has happened that would prevent you from taking said thoughts elsewhere. Censorship is the removal of something from public access, such as a book, website, etc. Last I checked, refusing to approve a comment doesn’t prevent one from taking it elsewhere, such as a personal blog of some sort or another.

    Phew. That’s enough from me…

  3. Josh says:

    You are certainly welcome to have any comment policy that you want. And what you did is without question not censorship. You have no obligation to give space to any windbag that comes along. But, it should be noted, your original post had no citations either.

    “the editorial policy of this blog is that climate change is demonstrably occurring, and demonstrably linked to human activity, with emphasis on the combustion of fossil fuels.”

    I think that’s fine as well and I do think it’s fair to put the burden on climate change deniers. That said, the video that you posted had little to say about climate change. Granted I only watched two thirds of it, but it seemed to be largely about natural resource supplies and usages.

    None of this is to contradict anything that you have said. I’m also not sure that I believe that the video you posted is wrong. Though I did just download the ebook Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. It would seem that they take an opposing view to the video that you posted and the book is supposedly well cited. I approach the book somewhat skeptically and I’m curious to see if I think it holds up.

  4. Athena Andreadis says:

    Online comments are the equivalent of letters to the editor of a magazine/newspaper/etc. These get vetted, and those chosen get published. Not having one’s comment published does not constitute censorship, especially on someone else’s personal blog. Doubly so for ano/pseudonymous comments.

    On the other hand, why dedicate an entire entry to this well-known non-issue? You ended up giving Mr. Browne an even bigger platform than he hoped for. Personally, I hold to the motto “never complain, never explain.”

  5. Realitybytes says:

    Thank you Paul for a lot of writing that I didn’t have to do.

  6. ZZMike says:

    Censorship only applies to the government. If the Times won’t print your letter to the editor, that ‘s not censorship, that’s editorial choice.

    If the government tells the Times not to print your letter, not that’s censorship.

  7. ZZMike says:

    “… now that’s ……”

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