There's this viral video on YouTube at the moment; Nek Minnit. We don't quite understand the hype, but we did understand the parody video that Clare posted on Red Alert of an apparent flip-flop from John Key. So we thought we'd be clever. We added this comment:
"Phil Goff sold $9b worth of assets in the 1980's; nek minnit..."
Now that's not what we'd consider offensive or abusive. In fact it's a statement of fact. Phil Goff was a member of the Labour cabinet throughout the period 1984 to 1990, when asset sales were on the agenda. And as cabinet is bound by the principle of collective cabinet responsibility for decisions taken, Phil Goff was indeed an asset-seller.
We struck a nerve; within a few minutes, this appeared:
You are now banned. Clare
Now Clare Curran is an expert in public relations. She was such an expert that David Parker wanted her to work for the Ministry for the Environment a few years ago, leading to the infamous Erin Leigh affair, which had an airing in the Supreme Court two weeks ago. And before she won selection for her electorate seat in Dunedin, Ms Curran used her expertise within the party. Muriel Newman, former Act MP blogged this in June 2006:
“Framing” is the political left’s new buzzword for what used to be called brainwashing. It has been developed into an art form by George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics at Berkley University and forms the basis of a paper prepared by communications consultant Claire Curran for last month’s Labour Party’s Southland Regional Conference. Called “Language Matters: Setting agendas - taking charge of the debate”, the paper describes the necessity of capturing the language for the center-left if Labour is to win the next election. It provides an insight into their communication strategy.The key message delivered in the paper is that Labour must take control of the language: “This paper is about Labour taking greater charge of the language of debate and discussion in New Zealand . It is called ‘re-framing’ and it means gaining (or regaining) the use of concepts and phrases that spark public and media interest. If you control the language, you control the message. The media doesn’t create the message, they run with it”.
Clare Curran most certainly takes "control of the language" at Red Alert, as we found out last night. Red Alert is not the last bastion of free speech, as you would expect the blog of a liberal, progressive poltical party to be; if the moderators don't like what you say, they indeed take "charge of the debate" to ensure that no contrary opinions are expressed.
Now it's their blog, and it's their right to allow or refuse any content. But we reckon that the moderators at Red Alert, mainly Clare and Trevor Mallard are too quick on the trigger. Cameron Slater managed a few "nek minnits" before being put into moderation, whereafter his attempts at irony and sarcasm disappeared into cyberspace.
We've been blogging longer than Red Alert has, and we can say with pride that we have NEVER banned anyone. We have deleted a few comments; probably less than 50 out of almost 18,500 which people have left at Keeping Stock; generally because they were irrelevant or off-topic, and generally after a warning as Robert will testify. We have tolerated a level of personal abuse, and abuse of the choices we make with our life. We prefer to leave comments in place, and as we have said before, we reckon that they reveal more about the person making the comment than they do about the subject of the comment.
So we say this to Clare and Trevor; controlling the message is one thing, but if you want open and honest debate, you need to lighten up a little. When even Labour-aligned bloggers such as Robert Winter and Imperator Fish are questioning the value of Red Alert, you should be listening. Shutting down debate will just take that debate elsewhere.
We'll cop our ban sweet, and wear it as a badge of honour, as we do our ban at The Standard. And we'll continue to encourage debate at our place from right across the spectrum, with our usual tolerance, good humour, and the patience of a saint, and without a thought to controlling the language; because we're just ordinary folk; not PR experts.