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Editorial Policy

Margo redrafted these guidelines for the new site, and we'll stick by them, subject to your input:

G'day. Since I started Webdiary in 2000, I've envisaged it as a space for civil discourse between Australians of different political viewpoints – a democratic conversation. I was heavily influenced in this idea by my experience covering Pauline Hanson's 1998 election campaign, when it became heartbreakingly clear to me that Australia was two nations, the inhabitants of which seemed unable to understand what the other was talking about, let alone have a chat about it. I wrote about this in my book Off the Rails: the Pauline Hanson Trip (see Chapter 18, We're all poor lean people and we're bangin' on your gate).

Thus, Webdiary's Charter states, in part, that its mission is "to help meet the unmet demand of some Australians for conversations on our present and our future, and to spark original thought and genuine engagement with important issues which effect us all, to link thinking Australians whoever they are and wherever they live and to insist that thinking Australians outside the political and economic establishment have the capacity to contribute to the national debate".

I am a small l liberal by inclination. I hold my views strongly, and one of them is that people with different views to me have the right to be respectfully heard and engaged with on Webdiary. To that end, in 2003 I published Webdiary ethics, which adapts the Media Alliance Code of Ethics for Journalists to meet the online experience and sets out my expectations of Webdiary contributors ethically. Here are my expectations of Webdiary contributors:

As a journalist I have ethical obligations to readers; as a contributor you do not. Still, there are a few guidelines I'd like you to follow.

1. If you don't want to use your real name, use a nom de plume and briefly explain, for publication, why you don't want to use your real name. Please send me your real name on a confidential basis if you choose to use a nom de plume. I will not publish attacks on other contributors unless your real name is used.

2. Disclose affiliations which you think could reasonably be perceived to affect what you write. For example, if you are writing about politics, disclose your membership of a political party.

3. Don't plagiarise, that is don't use the ideas of others without telling us where they came from, and don't copy the writings of others and pass them off as your own. There is no need. Put quotes around the words of other people, and tell us who they are and where you got them from. If you've used online sources for your contributions, include the links so others can follow them up.

4. Be truthful. Don't invent 'facts'. If you're caught out, expect to be corrected in Webdiary

5. Robust debate is great, but don't indulge in personal attacks on other contributors.

6. Write in the first person. Remember, we're having a conversation here.

[Added August 2007] It follows from the guidelines above that a question on the identity of other Webdiarists should be taken up with the editors, who will make whatever checks they consider necessary, but such questions will not be allowed within published comments, as it may be necessary to protect the identity of some Webdiarists, and in the classic double-bind of these things, answering only some questions on identity openly exposes the ones we can't answer openly.

From 2000 to August 2004 Webdiary's process for reader participation was through emails to me, which I cut and paste into my Webdiary entries. It was a cumbersome process, to say the least, as more and more emails came in. Sometimes, when interest was very high, like post-Tampa and during the led up to war in Iraq, I couldn't even read them all, and advised Webdiarists accordingly.My policy was to run all emails critical of me or Webdiary except those which were obscene or content free abuse. Apart from that, I picked emails relevant to the topics I was pursuing at the time and did not run emails which I felt breached Webdiary's ethics.

In September 2004 Fairfax handed over all responsibility for Webdiary to me via a new discrete Webdiary self-publishing system as part of my move from employee to contractor (see New Webdiary, frustrated Webdiarists). The new system provided for reader comments, and reader contributions exploded.

The new system challenged my editorial policy on reader contributions, and I struggled to adapt for months. At first, my policy was skewed heavily towards free speech whatever the downside. Some Webdiarists stopped commenting, telling me the space no longer felt safe due to the level of personal abuse I published. Thus, my free speech bent started to impact adversely on my goal for Webdiary, to facilitate civil democratic conversation on important issues for Australia among people of differing views.

Early this year the comments volume became so great that I could no longer both process comments and write for Webdiary, and I employed long time Webdiarist Jack Robertson to be Webdiary's comment manager. Jack did the hard work tightening up our publishing guidelines to make the space safer for all participants and ensure that debate was civil. He even instituted a temporary 'red card' system to force the issue. Jack drafted discussion guidelines, called a 'no abuse trial', and reported to readers on how it was working. Much commentary from readers ensued. See Jack R to pull beers at Club Chaos, Webdiary discussion guidelines and Webdiary 'no abuse' trial - week one.

Here are the guidelines I've carried over to our permanent home:

Posts that contain personal abuse of another Webdiarist will not be published. Serial offenders may be permanently banned.

'Personal abuse' is a difficult and subjective notion, but the following are likely to be so:

a. any criticism of a Webdiarist's actual or imagined physical appearance or characteristic (voice, inherent intellect), or non-physical qualities over which they have no immediate control (writing ability, education level, life or work experience);

b. posts which contain sneering or foul-language criticism of views and opinions, as opposed to witty and pithy critiques;

c. criticisms that depend for their sting even obliquely on a Webdiarist's specific (known or imagined) sexuality, gender, race, religion or nationality;

d. most criticisms that assign a pejorative adjective or noun to a person rather than an adjective or an adverb to that person's actions (including the action of expressing of an opinion);

Another useful guide to apply when deciding whether or not your post is 'personally abusive' is to ask yourself: 'would I be prepared to make this comment face-to-face to my fellow Webdiarist if we were standing at the bar of Club Chaos?'

Since then, I've found that more women have joined the conversation, and that debate has become more civil. The idea is simple – respect other people's points of view, and strive to engage with them on the merits. Passion is cool, and so is respect. If you think you've been unfairly edited, or that we've wrongly refused to publish your comments, please feel free to query our decision by posting a comment. This sometimes happens, and leads to an online discussion of the meaning and interpretation of the guidelines.

Next year I will set up a system whereby Webdiarists who feel hard done by can complain to someone other than me. That person, a Webdiary Ombudsman, will have their own section where he or she would publish non-frivolous complaints, my response, and their views on the matter. That way we can flesh out the guidelines as different issues arise.

Since September 2004 I have banned several people from Webdiary when I am satisfied that they are not commenting in good faith, but rather to destroy the safety of the space for the civil debate I'm seeking to foster. I will also ban people who make allegations of unethical conduct by me and refuse to either substantiate or withdraw their claims on request. I am a member of the Media Alliance, and for several years I've published the Alliance Code of Ethics for journalists and invited people who believe I have breached the code to complain to the Alliance, which has a process for determining ethical complaints against its members. Given that this process is in place, I won't put up with cheap allegations of unethical behaviour from me. I take such allegations very seriously, and expect those who make them to do the same. Respect for others includes respect for me. Banned posters will also be able to complain to Webdiary's Ombudsman.

Fiona Reynolds and Richard Tonkin moderate Webdiary comments. We do not delete any comment posted to Webdiary, and the statistics of how many comments we don't publish and why are provided regularly by Webdiary's managing director David Roffey in comments to his management updates). To date we have published 97% of comments posted to the independent Webdiary.

Webdiary will not publish comments or host discussion on the following matters:

1. Denial of the existence of the holocaust.
2. Allegations that a Western power or powers were behind the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001
3. "False flag" theories.

Why these three? It isn't just because of the content, but also because experience of these debates tells us that in fact no debate is possible: the two (or more) sides endlessly repeat the same arguments to which the other side isn't listening. There are plenty of sites around devoted to these subjects where the interminable repetition is welcome: go debate them there. When you're there, remember that the complete lack of any evidence just shows how well the conspiracy is working. Obviously it can be difficult to draw the line, particularly when debating 9/11, and that can lead to some inconsistencies between editors, but that's life.

=====================

Discussion guidelines are always a work in progress, and your input is always welcome.

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What a proper investigation would have revealed

In his first comment on Webdiary, made on the conversation thread associated with Australians - What Are We?, Paul Morrella challenged this comment made two days earlier by Phil Kendall:

"the time for arguing the theft of Iraq's oil is over"

There followed over two days some reasonable exchanges between Phil and Paul and others. 

I notice that in these exchanges Paul asked a lot of questions of Phil and avoided providing any answers to questions asked by Phil.

By his 5th comment on Webdiary, Paul decided to use personal abuse directed at Phil Kendall:

Wasting my time, man
Submitted by Paul Morrella on May 22, 2007 - 5:59pm.

...You claim to be a "truth seeker". Perhaps you might like to start by telling some?

I think it best, I make my fifth post to you my last. Rather than correct a simple error or exaggeration, you appear to employ dubious methods to prove a point. This is a waste of my time, and an attempt to treat me as a fool.

That's effectively claiming that Phil tells 'untruths'.  It could reasonably be interpreted as Paul calling Phil a liar. 

Why did Paul turn to that kind of ad hominem argument in that 5th comment? 

Well, he provided a clue to help us answer that question. He reveals that he felt he was being made to look "a fool". 

Why did he feel like "a fool"?

It looks like it was because Paul was not 'winning' an argument on the very topic that he'd introduced with his first comment (the one challenging Phil's earlier comment on theft of Iraq's oil).

The next day Phil Kendall submitted a comment with the title Rude, Crude And ...

Phil concluded that title as the first line of his comment with:

"...  socially unacceptable? Unattractive? Nah, uninvited."

He was talking about the US invasion of Iraq and oil theft.  The pun on 'crude' makes this reasonably clear.

It may not have been so clear to Paul, who appears to have concluded that it was directed at him for shortly after Phil's comment was published we see the second example of Paul using personal abuse directed at Phil Kendall:

Standards
Submitted by Paul Morrella on May 23, 2007 - 3:58pm.

Phil Kendall, calls me:

.. socially unacceptable? Unattractive? Nah, uninvited.

It is called having standards. Incoherent political rambling, mixed with poor attempts at sarcastic wittisms [sic], do not take away from your attempted deception. Most people (on being caught) would accept it, and learn from it. It would seem you are not most people. I suggest you read the link carefully http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayson_Blair.

Did Phil call Paul those things? No.  Was Paul feeling a little paranoid at the time? Only Paul can answer that.

Why did Paul accuse Phil of "deception" again?  Why did he effectively level the liar accusation a second time? Why did he suggest Phil read that link carefully when it is about a reporter "aught plagiarizing and fabricating elements of his stories"?

Following the chronology, Phil then sought relief from the personal abuse in his comment titled: A pot-boiler

It wasn't attended to by Webdiary's editor at the time.

I know now that Phil sent an email to Margo and that email was ignored. 

I know now that Phil followed up and Margo told him that she would not deal with his complaint.

Both Phil and Paul then ceased exchanging comments and moved on to other aspects of the topic of the conversation thread.

On the thread examine Paul Morrella came back after a few weeks to take issue with the comments made by John Pratt in a comment titled Revolution?

John didn't take the bait and that was that.

Meanwhile on other threads Paul continued to target and try to bait Phil Kendall.  I can outline that pattern of "trolling" in another comment.

I believe that if Margo had dealt with Phil's legitimate complaint when it was first raised, it is probable that the outcome would have been very different. She could have quickly reviewed the material, seen what had occurred and direct an editorial comment at Paul Morrella clarifying Webdiary Ethics and the Editorial Policy.

ethics/morality

 Subtitle: "Do we need 'em? Wither, without?"

«1. If you don't want to use your real name, use a nom de plume and briefly explain, for publication, why you don't want to use your real name. Please send me your real name on a confidential basis if you choose to use a nom de plume. I will not publish attacks on other contributors unless your real name is used.» [emphasis mine]

[WD/Editorial Policy]

I have said in the past, that "It's all data to me," so on a purely debating perspective, would a non-sanctioned nom de plume be so wrong?

Well, any person deploying a non-sanctioned nom de plume would be making an intentionally false statement, which means that (apart from being in breach of WD ethics), the said person would be a filthy liar[1]. Not too good for credibility, and rather undermines all statements made by such a person which are not clearly evidence based (i.e. accompanied by credible, checkable references.)

In addition, the same said person would be putting the WD management into ethical jeopardy, if/when said person made an attack on another WD poster.

Finally, the public unmasking of any non-sanctioned nom de plume might be more than slightly embarrassing (mostly for the liar), and would work to discredit any and all debates that such a person might'a taken part in, hmmm? And a public unmasking might even stifle debate on a far wider scale.

This problem is not localised, eh?

-=*=-

Ooops! All of the above assumes that morals matter, and in particular here, that liars shouldn't prosper. Clearly, (only so far?) no majority of the Anglo(Christian)CoW® electorate thinks so...

-=*=-

Part 2.

While we're discussing dodgy morals, what about another side of this coin, namely the courage of conviction?

Recently I said:

«Thesis A+B: That when the US, Israel and the Israel Lobby infesting the US are combined we get USrael, and the whole show is neatly summarised as: the wannabe world hegemon plus its illegal sprog and the poodle with dag, all mass-murdering to enable theft (of oil, land and water).

Q: Is that an inflammatory description?

A: Possibly, but it's only words; actual mass-murdering to enable theft is far worse, almost infinitely worse.

Also, this: anyone is free to argue against my theses; just prove it ain't 'murder for spoil.' Go on, it's a challenge.»

[pushing the paradigm, aka propaganda]

In recent times, I have directly challenged certain posters with quite pointed questions; as with the general statement above, I have received either point-blank refusals to answer - or (rudely?) no response at all.

What, then, is the status of any of my statements, and to mention the sharpest, 'murder for oil?'

I think it's fair to assume, that either these challenged people - and non-respondents in general, either accept the truth of my statements, or suffer a certain lack of courage in their convictions... hmmm?

-=*=-

Ooops again! Part 2 also assumes that morals matter, and in particular here, that murdering thieves shouldn't prosper. Clearly, (only so far?) no majority of the Anglo(Christian)CoW® electorate thinks so...

If morals just don't matter, what's to stop us all embarking on a life of crime? Perhaps it really is, that "Might is neither right nor wrong; it just works mate." [MDB]

Just in case that morals do matter, is there anything one could do? Well, one thing that could be done, is to mark the candidate(s) of the most immoral parties (aka those in the Anglo(Christian)CoW®, perhaps?) at the bottom in the order of preferences on the next set of ballot-papers...

-=*end*=-

Ref(s):

[1] lie2 —n. 1 intentionally false statement (tell a lie). 2 something that deceives. —v. (lies, lied, lying) 1 tell a lie or lies. 2 (of a thing) be deceptive.  give the lie to show the falsity of (a supposition etc.). [Old English] [POD]

Well now Phil - we are going to have to..

OK G'Day to you too Phil Kendall:

Now I already figured out the blasted bananas (and understood toadally) so until the corner shop here finds me some, I will not mention said inflated, prohibited fruit never ever again.  Forget about Roslyn, this girl has not had a taste of said crooked fruit in three months and I'm pining I can tell you. Can't you folk sent some out here from the big smoke for a gel instead of hijacking the lot down there? I'll pay anything, so long as you don't tell Peter the Banker otherwise the old mortgage might take another hit. Blaming it on the poor old said yellow bent fruit. Never heard the likes!

Thanks for the tips and I think if you see my little defence of that terrier (and leave him out of it because I'm still in mourning, notwithstanding the fang marks that will forever be my lasting memory of his unfailing love and gratitude) I did a pretty good job on the Irises, don't you? Now all I gotta do is work out how to insert the links and I dare not ask the other half to show me again.  He gets a tad impatient if I drag him off the roof of the shed. So when in need, would you mind if I asked nicely?  

Now to a very serious point. If we gonna be the Aussie kulcha police, we gonna half to watch our step Phil. There's me misquoting the old Banjo to you, and not a soul picks me up. So I will just sneak a word in here if you don't mind. Sunlit  plains...  From Banjo Paterson, Clancy of the Overflow. There fixed it!)

Maybe we could ask for a review of the old policy here. Every post from OZ land to be required to have at least one quote from old Banjo or his mates. Why we might even propogandise the flaming Pommies (that allowed?) and drive old Willie Shakes right back to where he came from.

So for a start you unkulchad lot out there, who wrote this?

May the old bush tracks you've trodden be again beneath your feet,                                                                                                                  Your dusty lungs drink deeply of the clean air cool and sweet     
In a by-way of the ranges where a she-oak avenue                  
Gropes for cloud capped mountains wrapped in Murrumbidgee blue
And there stand awhile in silence whilst a greenheart bows its head                                                                                                                    
To a deep full bosomed daughter of the ancient watershed
May you hear her sweet contralto in old pillared limestons halls,  The broken water romping on the staircase of the falls.....

The Bulletin. C 1952. Well it has got to be better than the host of golden daffs surely?

Now for the vegan brigade: Greenheart. Early type wooden fishing rod. 

:

Recte agis nil timeas

Phil Kendall: You have my apologies for adding an extra l to your name in two previous posts. It was an oversight which you might note I have since corrected in the latest. If it had bothered you before, you should have said so at the time. N'est pas?

Do you also apologise for failing to even address me by name once in the previous post? Despite the reference to the now inflated said fruit, I was actually asking myself all the way through the digressions in that post, is he talking to me here? In the end I figured out you were. Were you being discourteous Phil, or was the total omission of my name an oversight? I note in the above the usual courtesy of stating at the beginning who you are talking to was again bypassed. Apology Phil? Oh never mind. Let neither of us be petty.

Canada? I try to see that the canned fish I buy does not come from there. Where I can, I buy Australian in most things, even though it is generally more expensive. I find the manner of killing the seals abhorrent but nonetheless can accept why the indigenous people may depend on the sale of the skins.

Kulture or kulcha. Just careless. No good at stick and paste Phil. Always stuff it up. But that, and the ref. to sp and OED? Totally in jest. God, you are a walking OED. Me? I had to look up impudent at age ten on the misdemeanour note I was being sent to the Head with. Wise decision that. Into the bin, and hide out for an hour.

Same about price of land. I know where the problems lie in the bush, and what causes them. We have one of the best properties in the district in terms of soil husbandry, and tree conservation. As farmers move more and more to no till, things are getting better I think, though there is a hell of a long way to go. But there is a ricochet effect of urban expansion into the best farming land, with rate increases now too prohibitive, so farmers move further out. But even out here due to the ageing population there is overall population decline, with property aggregation evident all around us. Whether that will be a good thing or a bad thing in the long run I do not know. But what I do know it is its getting bloody lonely out here. Cubby? Never should have been allowed.

I openly admit to light hearted, (as opposed to malicious) provocation. But I can get a bit tetchy at times, to that I will admit also. Then again, I don't think I be sitting on a lonely island.

Anyway, I do think we are on different wave links so maybe it is best we don't go a fishing' together. So Godey to you Phil (with only one L) Kendall. BTW: The Aussie kulcha is alive and well out here. Spare us from those country singers and their pseudo Yankee accents.

Editor: I'm probably over the breathalyser limit. So you may have to shove me to the end of the Q. Trying to ignore the tax returns!

Fiona: What type of tea, Jenny? Ah, of course – the Burgundy of teas – Lapsang Souchong….?

Recte age - and pass the tea... please!

Fiona: Hi. Fifty years on. It was probably age but the old Latin is as rusty as the French. Hell, and school motto and all. This is getting serious!

It was Do right, fear nothing. Trouble is, I was always in detention. Never could quite do right in the eyes of some. Oh well. C'etait la vie!

And what's this Godey to Phil, with the one L, Kendall? Did I write that? Must be that damned Chinese tea. He'll reckon I am trying to bless him.

Cheers to you in Bleak City.

 

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