Don’t listen to him, he’s a bollix!

That, in paraphrase, was the first comment posted in response to something we blogged from Minister McDowell some months back. I’ve just removed and banned someone posting here for the first time, for a nasty personal attack on the Blanket, which had nothing to do with the subject in hand.

Whilst Slugger is neither Republican or Unionist, it does seek to create a space where all can put their views forward and have the reasonable expectation that they will be heard.Now I don’t want to ban anyone. And neither do I want to be seen to protect anyone from incisive and knowledgeable criticism either. But there is a nasty tendency to believe that certain people and parties can be treated with contempt because they are somehow beyond the Pale.

Osama Bin Laden is welcome to post here, so long as he sticks to the argument. But if you insist on acting a bollix and persist on playing the man rather than the ball, you will have to leave the field of play.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • ingrammartin


    From someone who has been guilty previously I agree and I will play ball.


  • Busty Brenda

    Drats!!!!! I always miss the action. Who got banned and what did they say?

    at least tell me who got banned. I can’t stand not knowing?

    pleeeeeeesssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeee. Somebody?


  • Mick Fealty

    BB, I don’t know who and I don’t care either. The point is anyone is free to post here, so long as they stick to the minimal rules we have for engagement. That I have to leave it to trust most of the time should not allow people to forget it exists.

    I also have a suspicion that the nasty stuff almost universally comes from people who are not following the links to read the original material being talked about.

  • You have to ban does who need banning. Arguements about Northern politics are so passionate and can easily decend into name calling. People need to be kept on the path of good debate

  • TL

    BB (GREAT NAME!!!)
    Take the link, I’m guessing post number 8.

  • Busty Brenda

    TL thats not it, its already removed. Maybe we will get it on the cached page later.

    LOL someone else as nosy as me.

    good one!!

  • TL

    Wow, #8 was pretty nasty too. Keep me posted ; )

  • Leonard

    It’s a sublime irony that a thread that is about defending freedom of speech should result in a poster being censored and banned for exercising that very right.

    You just couldn’t make it up.

  • TL

    Mick is doing JUST what I’ve been begging be done on another thread… playing the part of responsible editor! Way to go Mick!

  • Leonard

    One other point: IP’s can be easily changed by using proxy servers. So, if anyone censors you by IP-banning your voice, just change your IP and your freedom of speech on public forums is restored.

  • TL

    I think the action is symbolic.

  • Naoise Nunn

    Leonard, Slugger’s strength lies in the fact that any discussion and argument is kosher as long as it doesn’t degenerate into a slanging match of name-calling and personal ad-hominem attacks. If gratuitous insults – with no attendant rational argument – were not challenged and actively discouraged, the site would quickly degenerate into an unreadable morass. I for one value Slugger too much to see that happen supposedly in the name of free speech and to facilitate childish petulance. What do you think?

  • Naoise Nunn

    Post No. 12 was by Naoise Nunn.

  • Leonard

    “If gratuitous insults – with no attendant rational argument – were not challenged and actively discouraged, the site would quickly degenerate into an unreadable morass.”

    Nunn, but isn’t that the very argument advanced on that thread to justify the publication of the insulting drawings about Islam: that freedom of speech contains within it the right to be deliberately offensive to others?

    If The Blanket author is sincere in his views about defending the right to freedom of speech, I expect he will come forth and denounce this censorship of the views that were expressed about him.

    Further, if you are offering judgement about the ceonsored post and poster, you are doing so from an advantage that the rest of us do not now have: it has been censored from our judgement.

    (I know that Slugger is a private forum (but open to the public)).


    I think there is a world of difference between legitimate satire and an insulting contribution to a discussion forum that adds nothing to the debate.

    Someone would perhaps have a right to feel aggrieved if everyone on Slugger was calling them a twunt and they were being denied the right of reply.
    Islam, or rather ,extreme elements of islam wants to have a voice without allowing others the right of offering an opposing opinion, or valid criticism.

    If you differentate between the cartoons issue and the owners of this site insisiting on basic courtesy rules, then I’m afraid there’s not much more I can say.

  • Naoise Nunn

    Leonard, my point relates specifically to the editorial imperative of this site to maintain its integrity and usefulness. That this means a curtailment of an absolute right to free speech – when such free speech means the right to call people names without contributing meaningfully to the discussion – is something I’m prepared to live with. Anthony McIntyre’s decision to re-publish the infamous cartoons is another matter entirely since his website is not run on the same open discussion platform as Slugger and he, therefore, has a different set of editorial principles to observe. Let’s not conflate the arguments.

    Naoise Nunn

  • Mick Fealty


    “…a poster being censored”.

    That’s a very grand term for removing offensive asides. You can call it censorship – but that raises it to a point of principle, of which I’d like to hear more.

    What I’m attempting to do is to introduce one very simple rule which is aimed at preserving civility and through that civility some degree of diversity in the people who comment here.

    This from the historian Irene Whelan in the Irish Times today:

    “If there is any lesson that can be garnered from our troubled history, it is that any such debate should begin by removing itself from the polemics and bitterness that created much of the division in the first place. In other words it should take place in the kind of civil and polite manner of which grandmothers might approve.”

    James Crabtree, one of the brightest twenty somethings I know cottoned on to something essential about blogs and blogging a few years back. I especially like his analogy between blog and a pub. Rampant incivility in a pub situation leds to trouble and the ‘quality’ customers stay away in droves.

    You call it censorship if you like. I call it trying to keep an orderly house.

  • Leonard

    See, what is unwittingly uncovered here is a double standard. On one hand, we decree that we have a right to deliberately offend Muslims by depicting their prophet Mohamed as a terrorist, thereby implying that Islam is a religion of extremist violence. That statement, whatever about the right to say it, is utterly false. Further, we decree that we now have more than a right to offend Islam in decreeing that we now have a duty to cause offence.

    On the other hand, there are those who point out that rights do not have to be exercised and that there is often a greater good in ensuring that we do not exercise them. Provoking Muslims by gratuitously insulting their prophet leads directly to civil disturbance in the same way that, for example, running into a synagogue dressed in Nazi regalia and singing anti-Jewish war songs will provoke civil disturbance – and will almost certainly get 40 shades of shit beaten out of you. So, we have the right, but we wisely chose not to exercise it. There is no innate risk to the right whatsoever by making that choice.

    This message board is a microcosm of that right to free speech and of the restrictions that we choose to place of it in-order to serve a greater good. We have the right to offend others as we wish, but most of us choose not to do so. If we didn’t choose to restrict that right, the board would not function. Again, that relates exactly to our right to offends others in our society: we can do so, but we choose not to. Except, of course, those who choose to offend others and seek a cover story for their malice that they are offending others to defend free speech and not simply because they hate those that they choose to offend.

    So, if Slugger censors the rights of others to freedom of speech, there is no need for an “I Am Spartacus” demonstration where every poster here stands up for freedom of speech and begins publishing offensive comments, much like certain haters in the media publish hateful drawings on that exact pretence. It is Slugger’s right to impose the censorship that others fail to impose on themselves – much like it should be the right of state’s to ban religious hate-mongering.

  • Mick Fealty

    Did our posts cross?

  • TL

    It is simple really, freedom of speech does not mean complete anarchy.

  • missfitz

    I am not a legal eagle, unlike some of the posters, so I don not have the definitive answer on these questions, but surely the right to free speech has specific limitations. If nothing else, isnt the spread of untrue stories about another called scandal? And isnt it an offence?

    That is just a note to Leonard, and his most recent post. I dont think that we have a gratuitous right to offend. In any case, surely this place on the web can create its own rules or indeed, have them created by the owner of the site.

    If those rules include respect, maintenace of dignity, adherence to house rules and creation of a safe space for discussion, is it not incumbent on us as the users of the site to adhere to that?

    You can go a long way for a bit of an intelligent dialogue these days, and I enjoy either just reading the views on Slugger or indeed participating from time to time. The degeneration into mud slinging, or the disgraceful and defamatory comments that appear from time to time serve no-one in a positive way.

    Like Busty Brenda, I love a bit of gossip too, but maybe the original post was correct…. could you share it with your ganny?

  • missfitz

    darn that was missfitz at 9.14 pm

  • Busty Brenda

    Well I did find out who the poster was -or the name he uses anyway and I am surprised to say the least. disapointed too that he is gone, BUT mizfits is right you can go a long way for a bit of intelligent discussion these days, and the bar analogy that someone made, i agree with it too.

    As for the cartoons-can’t say I am interested in religion but I do think in the whole debate there is some unfairness involved toward christians. But I wouldn’t get out of my pram over it.

    i think they’re right to publish the cartoons, even if they offend. It’s not such a big deal these are being re-published now, long after the controversy, I’d have been more impressed if they’d been published during the controversy.

  • Mojo

    Hey, it’s your site. Do what you think best. You’ll get no howls out of us.

  • TL

    Email me the gossip!

  • Mojo

    Holy Safari! I’ve been called a lot of things up here in the canopy, but never Busty Brenda! If the boys in the troop find out about this, I’ll be running from limb to limb. I’ll be lucky not to have my ears chewed off, not like some of those wanderers in back up there in Belfast. Mr. Fealty, my friend, just because I said it’s your site and you can do with it as you will, doesn’t mean you have to give me a new identity.

    Yours in the Treetops,

  • Mick Fealty

    Hoping to get it sorted soon (I know I’ve said that before, but I will. Promise).

  • Francis

    I’m with Leonard the whole way. The hypocrisy here is unreal. Define freedom of speech? Who sets the limits? You can offend Islam but if you say something abouts Jews its going against the pale. I’m not saying you should by the way. Who defines what is freedom and what is hate?

    For example would i be allowed to say Jews are money grabbing bastards with big noses? Is that freedom of speech or am i banned from slugger for preaching hate?

    Yet you can draw a picture of Islam basically saying they are all killers.

    Personally I’m against all those views but its intersting on what society defines as freedom and other views as hate.

    Anybody rem section 31?

  • Mick Fealty


    Both yourself and Leonard seem confused.

    – one, the Blanket’s right to publish (over which I’ve not expressed my opinion), and the general right of this site to insist upon substantive debate rather than playground slagging, are separate issues.

    – two, this space enables free criticism. Nothing substantive has been removed from this thread, especially where it has related to the running of the site. Only gratuitous personal remarks have been quashed.

    – three, if you have solid criticism of the Blanket, I will sustain it here against all comers.

    – four, you both seem unable to distinguish between the trivial and the substantive.

    – five, your invocation of Section 31 is indicative of four.

    – six, Slugger’s definition of freedom of speech is clearly displayed in its commenting policy (top right on the site). It may not be above criticism, but at least it exists.

    Now guys please give me your definitions? And does it include the right of a website owner to know precisely who is using his site to make personal attacks on others?

  • Naoise Nunn


    Just to remind you of your post of yesterday morning – you might let us know just how it deals with the issues of censorship and freedom of speech in an informed and useful manner?:

    “McIntyre loves himself so much its unreal. Publicity is all he ever wants. He doesn’t care about being different from everybody else. It’s just me, me, me. Like a two year old child when a new baby has just arrived in the family. Attention seeking asshole.
    Posted by Francis on Mar 13, 2006 @ 09:05 AM”


  • Francis

    All i’m trying to say freedom of speech is a lie.

    It’s like politicans saying that if was the middle east you wouldn’t be able to critise whilst at the same time your being dragged out of the chamber or room for doing just that.

  • TL

    I agree that the issues have been confused.
    The Blanket has the right to print the cartoons, even if some, like myself, my feel it ill advised. You likewise have the right to monitor the posts and until you begin to remove posts because you disagree with the substance you have not trampled on anyone’s rights. ( still wish someone would tell me who got the red card… I feel so left out! )
    If anyone is interested al jazeera has some opinion works about the cartoons that are intersting…

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay Francis. Naoise has kindly re-instated all of your ‘criticism’ from before. Now exactly which part of that was ‘criticism’ and which was personal abuse?

    I go back to the pub analogy. You can have the kind of licence you are looking for elsewhere on the net. If you want a place to call the odds on people and politicians you don’t like, there are many places open for you to do just that.

    But I’ve been very clear that that’s not the kind of site Slugger is, or at least wants to be.

    Civil engagement is all that’s required, not political conformity. It should improve everyone’s ability to conduct combative argument and defend their positions on various issues more cogently than before.

    If you want to contribute, you are more than welcome, but as I’ve said before, if you don’t you’ll be expected to leave the field of play.

  • BogExile

    This is really frustrating. I’ve tried objectionable prose, unintelligible poetry and all manner of man playing – Roy Keane on a keyboard. And i’ve never been excluded even once!

    What am I doing right?


  • Mick Fealty

    Waiting until the ref’s back is turned? Too trusting me!