Well, it's been quite a week for me over at Political Betting. I was called a "c***" seven times, I was told that my support for a Scottish Olympic team makes me a racist, and last but not least I've just been banned from the site for the fourth time. I say 'fourth' - that tally does of course include my original 'technical fault' blocking, which by an astonishing coincidence occurred just two seconds after the site owner noticed I had sharply criticised his random banning of my fellow SNP poster Stuart Dickson, and which lasted for 36 hours in spite of me clearing the cache, rebooting my computer, and experimenting with different browsers. Well, what kind of world would this be without coincidences like that to enrich our lives?
I appreciate that some of you must by now be heartily sick of hearing about my running battles at PB. However, one of the advantages of having my own blog is that I don't have to let the cowardly Tory moderators (and I use the word 'cowardly' advisedly, as you'll see) get away with it when they use Orwellian tactics to cover their tracks. The most Orwellian part of all, of course, is that when the moderators abuse their position, anyone who calls them out on what they've done is then subject to an instant outright ban - because even referring to the fact that moderation exists on the site at all is a straight banning 'offence'.
Anyway, simply sit back and marvel at the brazenness with which certain comments are erased from history, and certain comments remain intact, in the following exchange. I've had to reconstruct some of it from memory, such was the speed with which the Tory moderator 'The Screaming Eagles' deleted comments and secretly blocked people from posting in a pathetic attempt to make it look like he had effortlessly won the argument.
For the uninitiated, Mick Pork is a fellow SNP-supporting poster, who tonight was banned for the fifty-sixth time (literally).
The Screaming Eagles (Tory moderator) : Yup, Lord Coe is judged to have down a brilliant job by 68% of Scots.
I was told he wasn't very popular up there.
Me : Now if I was praying in aid Scottish subsample data (such as, for example, the YouGov data over the last two weeks showing that the Olympics has had no impact on support for the SNP), what would the reaction be?
Desperate, desperate stuff.
Mick Pork : The reaction?
You mean from pitiful cowards who can dish it out but can never take it back? Who can say? It's not as if we'll see it for long anyway. But we'll still know it was there and laugh each and every time it's proved. ;^)
The Screaming Eagles : Name the cowards.
Come on name names.
Me : I think among others he's probably talking about you, TSE, for abusing your position as moderator. That would be my guess, since you specifically asked.
(ABOVE COMMENT WAS THEN DELETED AND I WAS INSTANTLY BANNED - BUT AS USUAL ALL OTHER POSTERS WERE OBLIVIOUS TO THIS.)
Mick Pork : Those who can dish it out but never take it back of course. Who else would it be? :-)
The Screaming Eagles : Specific names please.
Mick Pork : Well since you said please I'll give you the name and even the surname.. Wait a minute! you're trying to get me to break the site rules by actually naming posters Like Pluto did? You are a very naughty TSE aren't you?
The Screaming Eagles : No, their posting names.
Mick Pork : Well that wouldn't be fair either would it? Here's an idea, take a wild f**king guess instead and stop behaving like a petulant child demanding I do exactly as you say. Because as an ordinary poster on PB like everyone else on here you have ZERO ability to force me to do anything.
That must be terribly frustrating for you but sadly that's life.
The Screaming Eagles : As I thought.
You'll throw insults around, but when asked to give specifics, you'll turn into a feartie.
Mick Pork : I named the poster in a reply to James Kelly but sadly for you his post magically disappeared and my reply along with it. I'm assuming because of bravery. How very tragic and incredibly telling. As usual.
(ABOVE COMMENT WAS THEN DELETED. STRANGELY, I WAS THEN TEMPORARILY UNBANNED - FOR A FEW SECONDS.)
Me : TSE, I take it you're now going to tell me the fact that my comment was deleted and you banned me for ten minutes was a "technical fault"?
(ABOVE COMMENT WAS DELETED.)
"PBmoderator" (almost certainly The Screaming Eagles) : No, you violated OGH's rules, and the comment was deleted.
You are blocked from posting while this happens.
(THE ABOVE COMMENT WAS LATER DELETED TO ENSURE THAT OTHER POSTERS WERE OBLIVIOUS TO WHAT HAPPENED IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS.)
Me : "you violated OGH's rules"
Rubbish. A moderator posed a question, and I answered it.
What glorious irony that you were in the middle of trying to 'disprove' the claims of cowardice, and of some people not being able to take back what they dish out.
(THE ABOVE COMMENT WAS THEN DELETED, AND I WAS BANNED AGAIN. I REMAIN BANNED. AT THE SAME TIME, MICK PORK MADE CLEAR THAT HE HAD ALSO JUST BEEN BANNED FOR A 56TH TIME - HE DID SO BY CHANGING HIS STRAPLINE, WHICH IS THE ONLY WAY OF SENDING A MESSAGE WHILE BLOCKED.)
Chris g00 : You wouldn't talk to that character [Mick Pork] away from this site for obvious reasons, my advice is to ignore him. A great night of sport and still some people appear bitter about life.
The Screaming Eagles : Sage advice.
The site's resident Sun journalist (posting incognito), who seems to be quite chummy with The Screaming Eagles, then trotted out the traditional snide suggestion that Mick's claim to have been banned/victimised must be a figment of his imagination or a recurring technical fault. It's almost like psychological warfare - "we don't have jails, but we have a high concentration of locked doors", "we don't ban you from posting, but our software feels you should take the odd break".
I actually asked Mick a few days ago by email if it was possible that experimenting with a different browser might resolve his problem with being constantly blocked, and this was his response -
"when it started happening all those months ago I did as you say. Tried every conceivable technical fix including every different browser I could, logging in and out and clearing cookies and cache, cleaning the whole drive with CCleaner, rebooting whenever it happened, checking my internet connection settings. etc. You name it I tried it. And none of it worked. Because it simply isn't a Disqus problem. It's a moderation problem."
Given my own experience, I haven't the slightest doubt that's entirely correct.