Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The "non-aligned" forum Political Betting once again shows its true colours, as I become the second SNP poster to be banned in the space of 24 hours for "insolence"

Well, I've had another eventful few days over at PoliticalBetting.com. On Saturday morning, I was subjected to a series of highly personalised rants from "Jack W", one of the site's supposed "treasures", who can therefore do no wrong. Rumour has it that he is the alter ego of a former high-profile parliamentarian (probably a Tory, reading between the lines). A handful of the PB "inner circle" are in on the secret of his identity, and titter along sycophantically to his "hysterical" conceits about being 109 years old and a Jacobite. It's been evident for some time that my political views have been getting on his nerves, and his irritation finally exploded in the following fashion -

"Utter bilge.

Your initial statement was tripe and your attempts to bolster your non existant case is risable. Your froth and bluster might work with some PBers but this Scot isn't taken in by your lame arguments."

"You should learn from "tim" that repeating lame arguments doesn't make them any truer.

Once again you try to hijack Scottishness and then attempt to favour only posters as a Scot who suit you.

I'm an old hand here and those old hands are Scottish to their old bones and my hand will indeed "choose".

I choose the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

"Firstly I'm most certainly not your "mate".

Secondly, what you don't like is being challenged for over-hyping the SNP position by a fellow Scot.

Lastly it would take more than the pin pricks of inane "debate" with you to "unsettle" me. Yet again you substantially over-hype your own significance to me .... that is nil.

Oh .... I forgot my manners - Good morning."

(Incidentally, the pretext for this diatribe was two patently ludicrous and malicious misrepresentations of what I had said - namely that I supposedly claimed to speak on behalf of "all of Scotland", and that I had claimed that the total percentage of seats won by the SNP last year was on a par with Tony Blair's record hauls in 1997 and 2001. His excuse for the first misrepresentation was that I had used the word "we" in response to him, but he didn't have the slightest reason for thinking that "we" referred to Scotland, and it must have been obvious to any reasonable person from the context that it wasn't intended to. On the second count, I had of course been comparing the Blair landslides to the SNP's vote share, not seat totals, which would have been a silly comparison given that Holyrood is elected by PR and Westminster is not.)

Now you might naively think that the owner of a forum who was in any way concerned about contributors making personalised attacks on others would be unlikely to react to that outburst by calling it a "wonderful bitch-slap", but that was exactly what Mike Smithson chose to do. Fair enough, of course, just so long as consistency is applied, and posters of all political hues are allowed the same latitude in the free speech stakes.

But wait, what's this? On Sunday morning, SNP poster Stuart Dickson was astonished to receive an email "warning" him for making personal attacks on other posters on the overnight thread. He in fact had made no comments at all on that thread, as he had gone to bed early. The only explanation I can think of is that the warning related to a single comment earlier in the day in which Stuart had poked fun at the Tory posters HD2 and Fitalass. That comment was mild compared with JackW's "bitch-slap", but nevertheless in a stirring display of consistency it was instantly deleted by a moderator, as opposed to being applauded as "wonderful" by the editor, and "liked" by no fewer than 27 adoring members of the PB Tory Herd.

On Monday, events took an even more farcical turn. Stuart mischievously pointed out that the PB Tory Herd were being slow to pay any attention to the latest Angus Reid poll showing a handsome Labour lead, and that this was somewhat mysterious given that Angus Reid had been the Herd's favourite pollster back in the days when the company used to show higher Tory leads than anyone else. Smithson, in an apparent attempt to bolster his legend as being scrupulously independent from the Herd, reacted with undisguised fury and ordered Stuart to "stop sniping". Stuart's response was the following ten words -

"Pure comedy gold. Your lack of self-awareness is stunning"

And for that he was summarily banned from the site for a second time on the grounds of "insolence" (the previous banning, which occurred for no reason that anyone could discern, lasted two years). As he pointed out to me later - "On the PB scale of rudeness and insolence, I'd reckon that reaches about 3 out of 10." I can certainly vouch for the truth of that, having on a daily basis been subjected to mindless personal abuse (including many suggestions that I am mentally unstable) with absolutely no protection in sight from the moderators.

At the same time as banning Stuart, Smithson also announced that the use of the term "Herd" to characterise the stifling Tory group-think on PB would henceforth be disallowed. Again, an SNP poster seemed to be the main target of this ruling, because Smithson pointed out that Mick Pork would now be required to change his tagline "Not Of The Herd". Mick instantly complied by changing it to "Nick Clegg is crap". Smithson was incandescent by this point and told Mick : "If you want to post here you do not stick two fingers up at me. Understand." Yes, who could conceivably think that a political forum's "non-aligned" status is in any way compromised by the editor regarding an attack on the Deputy Prime Minister as an attack on him personally?! As a last resort Mick changed his strapline to "kittens are nice", in honour of the untouchable cat-loving queen of the PB Tory bullies, Ms Plato.

Upon learning of Stuart's fate, I went on the site to observe that this development should finally lay to rest any suggestions that those of us who have pointed out that PB has a politically biased moderation policy are in any sense being "paranoid". Ms. Plato retorted : "Have you being banned, James? Or other SNP posters?" I explained to her that in fact a second SNP poster (our very own Ezio) had indeed been the subject of a longterm ban, again for no apparent reason, and that while I hadn't been banned yet, the way things were going it could well be only a matter of time.

Well, how prophetic those words proved. I was banned today, without warning or explanation, when I simply responded to other people's attacks on Stuart, who for obvious reasons was not there to defend himself. I'm going to reproduce the entire exchange here, because of the risk that it will now be deleted and subsequently misrepresented -

Me : FPT, Gwynfa : "Such very, very extensive users of the site must surely have made significant financial contributions to its running costs via the Donate button, right ?

Don't tell us, I think we can all guess the answer to that question!

If I had been very rude to a host, I'd be turning up the next day on the doorstep, apologetic, and with a good bottle of Penderyn. It seems appropriate that Stuart should contribute to our hosts running costs, as way of apology?"

You must be bloody joking - as we're forever told that this site is loss-making, then I'd have thought that every active user is vital to bringing in advertising revenue. In other words, why we've been contributing to the running costs for free and subjecting ourselves to torrents of mindless abuse along the way is something of a mystery.

But if the management ever feel like doing the decent thing and compensating us, that'll be grand.

As for Stuart and "rudeness", it was in the opposite direction. Mike sent him an email "warning" him for making attacks on other posters in "overnight comments", which as Stuart pointed out was physically impossible because he had made no comments at all overnight. He was then banned, without even the courtesy of being notified, for making a tame ten-word reply (which would make a mildly angry Nick Palmer look like the Antichrist) to a provocative comment from Mike.

In contrast to his thread-headers, Mike routinely makes scathing political comments in his posts, both towards parties, politicians and fellow posters.That's absolutely fine, but if he does that and then throws his toys out of the pram when he gets a little bit of the same thrown back at him now and again...well, I'm sorry, but that's pathetic. Utterly pathetic.

Alan Brooke made the comparison with Anthony Wells yesterday - totally missing the point that while AW has a more stringent moderation policy, he is also unfailingly courteous and does not make deliberately provocative and partisan comments which he then expects to be 'reply-proof'.

So, yes, if financial compensation for rudeness is the order of the day, then Mike has Stuart's contact details, and I'm more than happy to supply the 'wonderful' Jack W with mine.

Chris g00 : Get over it. You are cluttering up the threads with your constant whinging, if you don't like it, go away.

Me : If other posters don't want people to put the other side of the story, they should stop posting on the subject themselves.

That was a direct reply to Gwynfa - take it up with him if it's making you feel grumpy.

Socrates : James, with all respect, you really need to learn when to let a subject drop.

Me : And with an absolutely equal dose of respect, the reply I gave to Chris g00 applies equally to you. My post was a direct reply to Gwynfa - if you want the subject dropped, take it up with him, and the countless others who are choosing to continue criticising someone who isn't here to defend himself.

Mick Pork : Telling James when he should stop posting on a subject was not required to say the least.

You may not have noticed that he and I are getting more than enough of that already since some gleefully want to keep trying get other posters banned, exiled or just go away now that they think it's working.

I was referring to those who are still doing it even on this thread and not you in particular.

Moses : Jeez! come back after a few hours and he is still bloody whining.

Enough already! What part of "The referees's decision is final" don't you actually get?. You don't like it then pick up your caber and feck off.

Me : What part of "take it up with Gwynfa" don't you actually get?

And since "f*** off if you don't like it" seems to be the vogue comment of the day, might I gently suggest that the same advice applies to you if you find my "whining" so objectionable?

Mike Smithson : The reason you could find no comments from Mr. Dickson on that overnight thread was that the offending contributions had been deleted.

Me : Mike, did you actually read Stuart's reply to your email? The reason that the comments were not there was not because they had been deleted, but because he went to bed at 9pm and did not post on the overnight thread.

If there were any "offending" comments (and I strongly suspect there was only one that related to HD2 and Fitalass) they must have been much earlier in the day.

The final comment was never actually published - when I attempted to post it I discovered I had been banned. So that's that.

As he can no longer defend himself on PB itself (and I gather he may not go back even when his seemingly temporary ban is lifted), I'll leave the last word to Stuart Dickson. I hope he won't mind me using a small excerpt from an email he forwarded to me yesterday -

"I have been treated disgracefully. I know that Mark Senior had a hand in my first ban, although a reason (public or private) has never been forthcoming.

The latest ban is even more inexplicable, considering the vicious personal attacks that Mike not only allows, but even encourages, day in day out. My rudeness was miniscule in comparison with things one reads every day on Mike's threads.

I actually concur with something Plato said yesterday: she asked James why he legitimises PB by contributing to it? I strongly suspect that PB will self-destroy itself anyway when the post-coalition Con/LD hatefest begins, and I suspect any bystanders to that main event will experience the full wrath of Mike, at the smallest excuse...

It was fun while it lasted, but Mike bears a huge proportion of the blame for the destruction of his own creation/monster. My sympathy for him, considering that he happily houses some of the biggest bullies, thugs and idiots in the blogosphere, is limited."


  1. Ezio Auditore da FirenzeMarch 13, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    We Florentines rarely say "I told you so" and this will be no exemption! But you were told so...by me!

    PB grows ever more extreme and dictatorial. Our lives are richer without it.

    IMO, we (that is to say, the pro independence posters who previously contributed to the right wing swamp) shouldn't seek to waste our time on the place.

    Instead, from now on, let's use every free minute of our time to advance the cause of independence for Scotland (then we can turn our attentions to a free Florence!).

    Rather than arguing in circles with crazy libertarians on that hellish site, let's spend the time writing letters to newspapers in Scotland to advance our cause. Let's do some canvassing in our local areas. Let's sign new members up to Scotland's party.

    Let's forget about the swamp. We seek to free ourselves from the loony rightism of Westminster with independence. Freeing ourselves of the loony rightism of PB is the first step.

    Yours for Florence
    Your auld pal

  2. You're quite right, of course, Ezio. I can't even remember the last time I submitted a letter to a newspaper. I had one published in Scotland on Sunday about a billion years ago, although for slightly complicated reasons it was published under my mother's name (much to her 'delight'!).

  3. PB is weird and getting weirder.

    Getting into power causes Tories to relax, drop their guard, and reveal just how icky & strange they really are. Last time around it was just the same. And today, for example, Scots Tory grandee Lord Fraser has published a strange erotic fantasy about bombing his countrymen 'to hell' if they decide to become independent. Nice.

  4. The people at Political Betting merely echo the stance of presenters like Paxman, Anita from the Politics Show and all the rest who view independence supporters as outsiders trying to muscle in to the establishment club with their unwanted opinions.

    The posters at PB are able to take their lead from the way Salmond is treated by Paxman and his journalistic chums.

    If it's established at the highest level that our First Minister is an upstart who can be likened to Robert Mugabe (with impunity) then what chance do ordinary posters have of being taken seriously or treated with even basic respect?

    The hard work being done in tandem by British nationalists in Scotland to portray independence supporters as shrill cybernats shouting down decent union supporting people provides valuable back up to this stance from Jockland itself.

    Depressingly some prominent political commenters in Scotland have joined in too. Being a "more thoughtful" independence supporter eager to distance oneself from the "cybernats" has become a bit of a trend.

    I often wonder who it is they seek to impress. Labour Hame ? Gerry Hassan? Better Nation?

    I'm undecided as to whether being a "better sort of nationalist" in the eyes of such commenters is an achievement or not.

  5. Come back James, all is forgiven! Mike S has said in terms that you are NOT BANNED AFTER ALL

    Do you ever feel you overdramatise a bit? PB is a blog, and a bit of fun. You behave as if it were the raw material for the future official biography of the late James Kelly.

    And I will tell you two more things: first, any sane tory respects the right of self-determination as a fundamental principle and concedes (unless he is Scottish) that he has no right whatever to dictate what Scotland does. You are fighting a war which you had already won before it started, and winding you up over the trivia of currency changes etc is just so much trolling which you do rather invite.

    Secondly: I agree that JackW is 109 years past his sell-by date but I can well understand his fury at your attempt to classify Scottish people who don't agree with you as somehow less scottish than Scottish people who do.

  6. A betting site that uses a bet welcher as a moderator isn't a betting site any longer.

    Which was what used to drain the toxins.

  7. James
    I am more than happy to read comments and take part in discussions about Scotland and the merits, or otherwise, of outright independence.

    When you are being balanced and engaging in debate you were an interesting participant.

    But you became totally one dimensional in your outlook, approach and comments to virtually all threads that you just became boring.

    This is your blog and so you are free to offer a platform to whom you choose. The same is true to Mike Smithson.

    So IMHO you should stop winging and slagging off others, grow a pair of Bo!!*ks and act like a man.

  8. James,

    Have you tried posting since yesterday? I had some trouble with comments not getting through yesterday but it was fine this morning.

    You may not actually be banned.

  9. Two quickies

    PB.com may run at a loss, but Mike has a carreer in the media as a result. That loss amounts to a marketing spend on building the Smithson brand

    Sadly Stuart D is one of the most aggressive, personal and willfully self deluding of posters on PB.com. It is a shame that he blights good comment with needless petty bile.

  10. Two quickies

    PB.com may run at a loss, but Mike has a carreer in the media as a result. That loss amounts to a marketing spend on building the Smithson brand

    Sadly Stuart D is one of the most aggressive, personal and willfully self deluding of posters on PB.com. It is a shame that he blights good comment with needless petty bile.

  11. James,

    remember the "non-aligned pact" has members such as Turkmenistan, Cuba, Belarus and Somalia...

    it doesn't mean "impartial" and its not the BBC

    Having said that I've enjoyed your posts at PB and its a shame you're not there any more. However its the blog owners party, and he'll cry if he wants to etc

    All the best


  12. principles of non-aligned movement (from wikipedia)

    Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty
    Mutual non-aggression
    Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs
    Equality and mutual benefit
    Peaceful co-existence

    (I don'T even know where to start wrt PB.com...)

  13. Because Blogger only allows comments up to a certain length, it'll probably take me several goes to respond to people.

    First of all, on the question of whether I am actually banned, Mr Smithson's claim that "James Kelly is not banned" is somewhat less meaningful than a big yellow message at the top of the page saying "The site has blocked you from posting new comments", and the disappearance of the comment form. If the hint is going about that my banning is a technical fault (and I note that Mike has not said that explicitly), then all I can say is that the moment this fault chose to manifest itself was convenient in the extreme. It happened at the very instant Mike noticed and responded to my post about Stuart Dickson's banning, and 36 hours later I remain blocked (I've tried two different browsers to make sure). In three or four months of using Disqus, I had never previously experienced this 'fault'.

    I would also note that my blocking follows exactly the same pattern as Stuart's ban 24 hours earlier - it happened without announcement or explanation, immediately after each of us had made a criticism of Mike. With the best will in the world, some coincidences are just a bit too coincidental.

    Nevertheless, in the light of his claim that I am not in fact banned, I may well send Mike an email to seek clarification.

  14. Anon II : "You behave as if it were the raw material for the future official biography of the late James Kelly."

    When I work out what that means, I'll let you know whether I'm offended or not.

    "first, any sane tory respects the right of self-determination as a fundamental principle and concedes (unless he is Scottish) that he has no right whatever to dictate what Scotland does. You are fighting a war which you had already won before it started..."

    If that was the case, we wouldn't have seen the quasi-colonial intervention from the Westminster government trying to dictate to the directly-elected Scottish Parliament on the question to be asked, the date of the poll, and the extent of the franchise. Most especially, the Westminster government would not be trying to ban Scotland from holding a consultative referendum on Devolution Max. I would point out to you that the US territory of Puerto Rico is about to hold a multi-option referendum on independence, free association with the US, or becoming the 51st state. Two of those three options would "not be a matter for Puerto Rico alone" (to use the vogue phrase about Devo Max), but the principle of self-determination allows the people of Scotland and Puerto Rico to determine for themselves what they want the objective of any constitutional negotiations to be.

    "I can well understand his fury at your attempt to classify Scottish people who don't agree with you as somehow less scottish than Scottish people who do."

    I have never done any such thing, and will never do so. Instead of "understanding" Jack's "fury" at something that never happened, try understanding my fury at his malicious misrepresentation of what I had said. (A fuller explanation of the misrepresentation can be found in the blogpost.)

    A different matter entirely is the question of whether Jack actually is Scottish himself. It was very noticeable that having initially claimed to be "a Scot" on that thread (apparently believing that gave him some kind of special authority in dismissing my arguments), he then switched to praying in aid his Scottish ancestry. That led me to suspect that he's "Scottish" only in the David Cameron sense of the term, ie. he isn't. But that's merely a suspicion, and unless he reveals his identity we'll never know.

  15. Republican Tory : Don't be insolent.

    I should really thank you, though, because by making such a rude comment, you reminded me of one of the finer examples of Plato's consistency of thought from the other day. Apparently if one of her PB Tory chums visits my blog and makes a critical (or indeed outright abusive) comment about me, the correct response from me is to be suitably chastened, and take on board the fact that the person in question almost certainly has a valid point. But if someone visits PB and makes a critical comment about Mike, apparently the correct response for him is to conclude that the person is "anti-social" and is despicably abusing their posting "privileges"!

    Well, I'm sure it all makes perfect sense in her head...

    The reality is that while Mike is perfectly entitled to have the most politically biased moderation policy in the world if he wishes, he cannot then credibly claim that his forum is still "non-aligned". That is the essence of the point I and others have been making.

    As for your claim that I am "boring", we have long since established that is the standard PB codeword for "but...but...you're talking about a non-Westmister topic! Again!"

  16. Matt : Thanks for your good wishes.

    Yes, there's a very good Blake's 7 episode on the theme of "the many faces of neutrality"!

  17. Further to GrassyKnollington

    I've spotted that, on the 'serious' political blogs like Better Nation, there is a tendency there for the Independence minded to distance themselves from 'CyberNats'

    As if the media and Unionists commentators wouldn't call them CyberNats themselves

    Anyone who espouses Independence is to be mocked in whatever sphere they turn up in, they aren't part of 'serious politics' which, of course, only happens at Westminter

  18. Absolutely. If we go back to what seemed to be the original meaning of CyberNat, ie. someone who liberally chucks around abuse about "traitors", then clearly that is to be deplored. But somehow the term has mutated into meaning any independence supporter who dares to engage in robust debate, or to make their points forcefully.

    I don't particularly want to be "better" than that.

  19. Having formally given up contributing to PB 2 or 3 weeks ago I can recommend that approach to you.

    The degeneration of the site into a Coalition enclave (Labour & SNP posters being particularly despised) leads me to conclude that PB ought to be disqualified as the supposedly No 1 "Non- Aligned Blog"

  20. Maybe a few years ago, I quite liked that site. Mainly, it has to be admitted because someone on there had a real clue about F1. The betting on politics was actually atrocious. I occasionally pop my head back in to see if they have anything to say about political betting, and they don't.

    it is a bit sad that Mr Smithson isn't giving us any worthwhile tips anymore.

    To be fair, I don't go back often these days. I may have missed them.