The Ergosphere
Sunday, May 09, 2010

The enforcement of orthodoxy at The Oil Drum

You may have wondered why I haven't been posting much lately.  Well, I've actually not been idle.  I've had a very important multi-author post ready to go at The Oil Drum since roughly last August.

You haven't seen this post, you say?  That's right.  You haven't.  Why?  The road to that point is a bit rough.  I'm going to digress a bit before I get there.  Just hold on through the bumps and keep reading.

I don't remember exactly how I came to this comment, but I think it says a great deal more than the author intended (emphasis in bold added):

This site does not take any of the many positions possible on the AGW debate. This article is not intended as a statement on AGW. Oil Drum staff members have a wide range of beliefs on the subject. HO is by no means alone in his beliefs.

I think an AGW agenda has been pushed by those who do not want to talk about peak oil. We can disagree on how important that agenda is. I personally think the direct and indirect impacts of peak oil will trump the impacts of AGW, so AGW (whether true or not) is of vastly less importance than the information in the press would suggest.

Those pushing the AGW agenda would also like to promote the idea that BAU can continue, if we only adopt renewables. I think that is just a bunch of hype, to make politicians look good, and avoid facing up to the real issues.

Here we have the thinking of the Editor-In-Chief of The Oil Drum laid out in so many words:  AGW is a denial of Peak Oil, and it's an excuse for BAU.  In other words, it's some variety of heresy (gnosticism, whatever).  The main point is that Gail Tverberg appears to see herself as holding the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the [One True Peak Oil] Faith.  In Catholicism, the office of that name was held at different times by Joseph Ratzinger and Torquemada.  (That will be relevant later.)

Which brings us to my various rebuttals to false claims and ill-supported arguments made by Michael Dittmar.  He makes a lot of those.  Dittmar was shredded in the comments to his 4-part series posted on TOD.  His economics, his timelines, his resource projections... every bit was shown to be based on little more than wishful thinking and the desire to continue Megatons to Megawatts.  None of it held up under examination.  His remedy to this was to sneak comments in just before the discussions closed, so that his claims would stand without response and give him the last word.

He didn't limit himself to his own guest posts.  He tried it with this comment to another post in January.  I caught him, and posted a reply showing that his claims were not firmly supported even by his own reference if one took more than a selective reading.

See it?  Neither do I, because my rebuttal was "hidden" (censored) by an Oil Drum editor.  Not even I have access to what I posted there.  And I've been asking for it to be returned, either reposted or mailed back to me, from a few hours after the act until April 27.  I posted it under the terms of the Creative Commons license, essentially giving it to all of humanity so long as credit is given.  I never thought it would be stolen from everyone including myself, but that's what happened.

Rather, that's what some editor did.  Exactly which editor, nobody will tell me.  Nobody will take responsibility for the act.  This conveniently relieves them of the need to justify it.

Since I brought this up, I've heard from other Oil Drum contributors.  One said one of his comments was censored for being "too pro-nuclear".  Another said that his comments in Drumbeat had been censored, but ad-hominems aimed at him were left standing.  Both have stopped posting at The Oil Drum.

There appears to be a growing pressure toward doomer orthodoxy at TOD.  This is not unlike creationist orthodoxy:  inconvenient facts, no matter how obvious, are shoved underground even if they must be removed by editorial fiat.  Gail Tverberg appears to be the main force in this direction, though she could not exercise this power without Kyle Saunders and Nate Hagens being complicit.

This overt bias has the effect of making people angry.  The blatant half-truths and untruths and artless evasions of Michael Dittmar in his four (four!) guest posts of last year got a great many people angry too.  The response of TOD's doomer-editors was to censor his critics for tone, regardless of the facts.  I didn't even think this could have happened until much later.  I had been going over the comments to those posts looking for pieces of analysis posted in rebuttal to Dittmar's claims to collect them for a multi-author response, and couldn't find ones I recalled.  I thought that I was just not remembering them clearly enough to find them in the tsunami of words which followed each post.  I now realize that they could not be found because they were censored.

Dittmar's whining about tone (backed up by editorial censorship) came back to mind when I saw this Pharyngula piece about a Carlin Romano review of a Massimo Piliucci book.  Just a few minor substitutions in the final paragraphs aim them precisely at the target:

RomanoTverberg has written a kvetching reviewabused her editorial power in which she reserves all of his bileher censorial impulses for the fellows promoting an evidence-based view of reality, and provides nothing but gentle strokes for people who favor fantasiesdoomer porn over hard truths…and hisher complaint is that scientistspro-nuclear, pro-wind realists are insufficiently conciliatory to those deceitful purveyors of faith and fablesdoom and anti-nuclear dogma. Tone does matter when you use that brand of argument to beg special treatment for liars, and to justify chastising those who deliver a blunt truth — it means one is pandering to faith-baseddoomer folly.

Tone matters, because too many have been insufficiently fierce in their criticism of pious excuses for sloppy thinking. Tone matters because we haven't been rude enough in the face of special claims of privilege for religiousdoomer inanity. We need to flip that tone argument around 180°—the problem isn't that our tone is so harsh, it's that yours is so inappropriately soft towards people who lie....

Tone matters.  Lies deserve the most hostile tone, because treating lies leniently is corrosive to principled debate.  The censors who protect lies from refutation owe the censored, and the public, both an immediate reversal and a very public apology.  Then they owe us their resignations.  No forum where they exercise such power can be trusted, and The Oil Drum discredits itself every day it allows such people to hold authority.

That multi-author post will never appear at TOD under the current editor.  But look for it here in the near future.

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