Politically Motivated Biased Censoring

by cactus

Troll. Troll. Trooooooolllll. And Later: “Unscientic Politically Motivated Biased Censoring.”

I think its safe to point out that Dan, who runs Angry Bear on a day to day basis, has wrestled with the idea of what to do with trolls. Here at AB, there are plenty of readers/commenters with plenty of opinions, some of whom have very different beliefs than the regular writers of the blog. But most of those folks make the blog better and more informative; we really only have a few active trolls.

Now, Dan has tried a number of remedies, from moderating comments, to banning certain IP addresses. But trolls resist counter-measures and come back even after they’ve concluded they’re not welcome.

At this point, a word about what constitutes a troll. I’m not sure, but I think what makes someone a troll is the whole bit about resisting counter-measures and coming back after they’ve concluded they’re not welcome. For what its worth, I’ve clearly been banned from the comments section of a certain econ blog. I found it surprising – while the site is clearly on the right side of the political spectrum, the site owner and I corresponded a few times over the years, and just about every comment I left at his site provided at least one link to data. Often, the site owner would e-mail me a personal response when I posted comments, and sometimes we’d go back and forth for a while. But then, it stopped. And when I realized that neither I nor my links to data were welcome, I stopped coming back. And yes, I can change my IP address too if I feel like it, or disguise myself as someone else. But time is limited, and I’ve got too much to do to show up and talk with people who don’t want anything to do with me and find links to data to be offensive.

Besides, as Bruce Webb has pointed out, this isn’t a free speech issue: you have the right to say anything you want, but you don’t have the right to say it in someone else’s living room unless they give you permission. Right now, this is Dan’s living room. If he boots your IP address, he’s telling you to get the $#%^ off his property.

So what do you do about people who think differently? Well, its always useful to understand what motivates people. I think what trolls want is to elicit responses and to disrupt the conversation.

Now, let me change gears. Let me tell you about an individual who couldn’t possibly be a troll. Sure, Dan and some of the other Angry Bears tried to get him out of the living room a few times, but of course, that was their bad. A guy like this one is always welcome everywhere, but the rest of us truly aren’t worthy of his wisdom. Now, I won’t mention any names, and if you post a comment on this thread, I’d appreciate if you don’t either. Let’s keep everything on the up and up.

Anyhow, let me excerpt from an exchange I had with this particular gentleman over the weekend. It took place in the comments section of a post I wrote noting some of the warning signs that told us GW was going to be a failure, in particular, that they relied on crazy wishful thinking (i.e., double digit economic growth) and treated that as an economic plan. I also stated we should keep our eyes peeled for those signs with Obama, and if we saw such problems, it was our duty to speak up, rather than do what Hubbard or Mankiw did for GW and defend them.

The gentleman’s first comment (11.07.08 – 12:30 pm) was to tell us:

Bill Clinton’s claim to an economic legacy rests with his claim that he set out to balance the budget, succeeded, and this led to lower interest rates which led to the economic expansion in the 1990s. Yet when we look at 10 year treasuries the highest rate in the Bush years are lower then the lowest rates in the Clinton years.

He then gave us ten year treasury figures.

I was busy, sadly, when I arrived, I was less than polite. This gentleman has schooled me on the fine arts of etiquette and logic in the past, and it doesn’t always stick with me – I get too excited when I see him posting knowing the experience that will follow. Anyway, here was my response (11.07.08 – 6:30 pm):

As to whatever you were trying to peddle upthread with respect to treasury rates and Bill Clinton and paying down the debt (whatever the heck that has to do with the post I don’t know), why don’t you check the correlation between the 10 year treasuries and the fed funds rate, and then compare that to the correlation between the treasuries and the size of the deficit?

In other words – I made it clear his point didn’t seem to have much to do with the topic of the post, but that besides that, it was also pretty irrelevant.

Proving himself extremely untrollish, as he would through much of the exchange that followed, the gentleman responded quickly (11.07.08 – 7:01 pm):

I think the 10 year treasury bond is a better base instrument for long term investments and the numbers say interest rates were lower under Bush then under Clinton. Under Bush the federal debt went up and interest rates went down. Clinton’s claim that the falling interest rates caused the economic upturn that kept him in office following his impeachment is just not supported by the data. Again, treasury bonds — the common benchmark were lower under Bush.

Notice the dexterity with which he ignores my response completely. Notice the grace with which he repeats himself.

Once again, I responded many hours later, noting (11.08.08 – 6:15 am) that a) I had already pointed out the problem with the strawman he was so graciously trying to assign me, and b) asking once again what his comment had to do with the topic of the post. I’m kinda dense that way.

The gentleman in question is nothing if not quick on the draw, and kind enough to persist when trying to alleviate the ignorance of his inferiors (11.08.08 – 8:55 am)

You blame the economic downturn on Bush and suggest that he had bad economic policies that led to the slowdown. Yet you can’t point to anything. Interest rates were lower and oversight of business was higher in the last 8 years then during the 1990s.

An argument like this is as fine as anything you might find deposited inside your shoe on a cold day if you happen to have cats. Or on a warm day. Come to think of it, neither the argument nor the quality of said deposits are affected by the weather. But I digress. In any case, an argument like this (or a feline regurgitation) gains a certain something with frequent repetition, and the pattern went on. And on. And on.

Here he was, much later (11.08.08 – 9:41 pm):

The argument against Bush and taxes goes like this. Bush lowered taxes which raised the debt that caused interest rates to rise increasing required rates of return and depressing investment. But interest rates fell under Bush so you lose the point.

Typing fast or slow does not change the fact that you’re a data miner trying rationalize a cause.

I tried once more to explain my mental feebleness, that I was not one of those enlightened folks who made the argument he felt I should have been wise enough to make in order for him to then alleviate my ignorance by disproving that particular argument.

Given the gentleman’s laser focus, I tried to find common ground from another angle:

But we try to be helpful here at Angry Bear, so let me suggest a solution. Since you’ve convinced yourself that I am some sort of a spokesman for a theory I have never mentioned and have never believed in, why not also convince yourself I am now abasing myself for having realized that this theory I have never mentioned and have never believed in is wrong. You should find it satisfying.

Sadly, that wouldn’t do. His response was that I couldn’t explain what went wrong with during the administration because (get this!) interest rates were lower under the GW administration than under Clinton. I know, I would never have imagined that – thank goodness he was around to tell me yet again that interest rates were lower GW. I would never have guessed.

I then committed the ultimate faux pas. I provided links to a number of posts I wrote which provided explanations for the difference between the performance of Republican and Democratic presidents, at least one of which looked at GW in particular. Somehow, I believe in all of those posts I might have failed to mention “interest rates” – which would make me just as bad as Bob Dole in his speech accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for President in 1996, George Bush his speech accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for President in 2000, George Bush in his speech accepting the Republican Party’s nomination (again) in 2004, and John McCain accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for President in 2008. I clearly failed to treat a very Republican issue seriously, instead grasping at straws like tax cuts and “small” government.

Which, apparently just goes to prove my nefariousness. Or is that nefariousity? Regardless, I am ashamed to say it was too much of an offense against the sensibilities of a gentleman (11.09.08 – 3:11 pm):

I’m not going to chase your posts around. I pointed out that interests rates were lower under Bush, provided the data, and provided a link in case you wanted to verify the data. The post was self contained.

I suppose with all your data mining you also looked at interest rates under different presidents but because they are lower today under Bush then under then the three presidents that preceded him it does not make the case you like so you don’t present it. See, I understand your trick, you search all combinations of data and you censor the ones that don’t make your case and present the ones that do. You fall down on causality though since your method is characterized by unscientic politically motivated biased censoring.

See – unfailingly polite to the end. He was kind enough to note that he would ignore the posts I had spent a lot of time writing, and would have to conclude that I didn’t dig in like a tick on an issue irrelevant to most Republicans because I had engaged in “unscientic politically motivated biased censoring.”

Now, you may be wondering why I went through this, when I’m too ignorant to fully internalize the fact that I was supposed to be arguing that… well, if you’ve read so far, you know what I was supposed to be arguing. Its simple. See, if the learned gentleman deigns to once again attempt to dispel my ignorance, whether the issue is interest rates or tax cuts or pyramid power or even the mighty fish people of Mulgar, well, what he has to say just doesn’t fit in my poor ignorant head. But I’d hate to be impolite, and not respond to him, so I’ll do it the only way I can – by linking to this post and mentioning that I am only capable of “unscientic politically motivated biased censoring.” Perhaps eventually he’ll transcend to a higher plane where there are others of his kind.

by cactus