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Thanks to commenters

March 19th, 2004

A variety of recent events, leading to the need to read comments threads at other blogs more than I usually do, have reminded me of the contribution made to this blog by commenters[1], regular and occasional. On almost any issue, I can count on getting incisive comments, both critical and supportive. And even though some of us get bad-tempered from time to time, the tone of debate has remained civilised and constructive. I’ve been pulled up from time to time by my commenters when I’ve lost my own temper, or tried out arguments that seemed clever to me, but turned out to be too-clever. Equally, I’ve been pleased to see, in recent disputes, that commenters who rarely agree with my position on the issues have supported my view of what constitutes legitimate debate as opposed to misrepresentation.

If you’ve been reading for a while, and thinking about posting a comment, why don’t you try it now? Anonymity is assured if you want it, and you won’t get an aggressively hostile response unless you deliberately set out to provoke it.

Anyway, thanks again to all the commenters who make such a big contribution to this blog, and thanks also to all my readers!

fn1. “Commenters” or “Commentators”? I’m not sure.

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  1. March 19th, 2004 at 07:20 | #1

    Definitely “commenters”!

  2. March 19th, 2004 at 08:36 | #2

    i agree with tim…

  3. James Farrell
    March 19th, 2004 at 09:29 | #3

    Yes, this is an easy one. Commentators provide commentary; commenters post comments in comments boxes. Some of your commenters’ comments may amount to commentary, but others are content just to make facetious and pedantic comments.

  4. March 19th, 2004 at 10:51 | #4

    Yes, commenters have all the fun of blogging, without the ball-busting labour of managing a blog.
    It has been my irresponsible pleasure.
    And let a hearty three cheers for Pr Q ring right throughout the halls of the internet for being gracious enough to put up with our tantrums, long-winded rant and idle chatter.
    Hip-hip…Hooray! (X3)

  5. March 19th, 2004 at 12:32 | #5

    i vote for “commenters” too – it’s simpler and sounds better.

  6. March 19th, 2004 at 14:18 | #6

    It is a very civilised bunch of commenters. Personally I think Q’s karate photos might have something to do with it.

  7. alphacoward
    March 19th, 2004 at 14:24 | #7

    Crikey have just done an excellent article hitting that nitpicking conspiracy theorist warmonger Tim Blair or as Crikey say “The clown prince of Australian columnists”…

    check it out at:

    greg sheridan and tim blair are losers

  8. PK
    March 19th, 2004 at 15:20 | #8

    Interesting topics lead to interesting comments, so you can take the majority of the credit John.

    Thanks for the thanks though. Where do we send the bill?

  9. Geoff Honnor
    March 19th, 2004 at 16:09 | #9

    Thank you and thank you, John.

    I support the hypothesis that commenters comment on commentators’ commentary. I could go on about the positioning of commentators in relation to the commentariat but any further comment would probably be excessive.

  10. March 19th, 2004 at 17:46 | #10

    Sheridan is a disgrace to political journalism. The shock of being duped [found out?] on the non-existent WMD issue has caused the pro-war party to have completely lost their grip on reality.

    For the nth time: the war on terrorist-propagating fundie sects is not identical with the war on WMD-proliferating rogue states.

    The two wars are more likely to be competitive, rather than complementary, in conjunction.

    Yet the pro-war party persist in making the fallacious identification, in order to transfer their remaining credibility for vigorously prosecuting the war on Al Quaeda onto the their dwindling credibility of wagin the dis-credited war to rid Iraq of WMDs.

    Clearly the Spanish people accetpt the validity of the former war on Terrorist Sects whilst rejecting the validity of the latter war on Rogue States.

    Given the non-existence of WMDs one can hardly blame them. Instead the neo-cons blame the electorate (shades of Trotsky’s I am disappointed with the proleteriat and Brecht’s “elect a new people” remarks)

    Here is Krauthammer in typical foam-flecked mouth mode:

    The Socialist Party placed the blame for the attack not on the barbarians who detonated the bombs but on the Spanish government that stood with the United States in its war against the barbarians. The Spanish electorate then voted into office the purveyors of precisely that perverse view.

    The Spanish government sided with the US in the war against Iraq, which may have been a bad state, but was not the same as, or acting in cahoots with, the “barbarians” who launched 911 or the Madrid attacks.

    It is regrettable that the Spanish electorate took the occasion of the Madrid bombings to express its displeasure at the Spanish Conservative-US admin alliance, but one can hardly blame them for drawing the conclusion that the Iraq nation-building game was not worth the terrorist-targetting candle.

    The neo-cons have only them selves to blame.

  11. March 20th, 2004 at 02:08 | #11

    Getting back to Jack’s earlier comment, I really do hate saying this sort of thing in places where I know JQ is likely to read it, but there is some malicious ignorance afoot in the blogosphere. For those who somehow might not know, JQ is unquestionably Australia’s brightest and most lucid alternative economist, and we’re all very fortunate indeed that he bothers to run this blog. What also really annoys me is that he’s a gentleman. Thank goodness he lives in Queensland and has no idea about Bob Dylan. Still, even taking into account the seriousness of the latter demerits, the balance of appreciation can only run one way.

  12. d
    March 20th, 2004 at 08:39 | #12

    Again, it’s great to see your remarks Q. To me the issue of civilised debate is the most important one in current practical politics.It is, perhaps, one liberal virtue we gained from England.

    A technique exploited famously by Dr Goebbels to lead people by the nose is to vilify another tribal group and then exploit our very human tendency to shun “the evil people in this world” (the other?) to achieve questionable or even vile ends.
    Large numbers of people instinctively take no notice of “baddies” because, well, they’re baddies don’t you know. That why I take such a strong exception to personal abuse as a way of winning arguments.

    Sadly, the best exploiters of this technique are arguably (parts of) the Green movement. When Green untruthfulness and slander causes people in Africa to be deprived of food, and economic , environmentally favourable cropping techniques to be shelved, as they are about to be, it seems, in Australia, then I draw the line.
    And my remarks are NOT, emphatically not, an attempt to slur the Green movements in general, but iresponsible untruthfull organisations like Greenpeace, who for example sabotage research and repeat untruths about GM “golden rice” for years.
    If anyone can explain why knowing and wilful 10-fold exaggeration the amount of “golden rice” needed to prevent blindness in malnourished third world people, or denying Africans ddt to prevent malaria is responsible and humane, please let us know. The “success” of such Green exploits is driven by vilification of selected target groups.
    In short, lies and slurs kill.

  13. March 20th, 2004 at 14:00 | #13

    Call me a cynic if you like, but I suspect that Golden rice is as likely to make the people concerned better off as introducing the potato did the Irish, the Finns, the Moroccans… In all cases the introducers’ motives had to do with reducing the problem a starving peasantry presented them with (rather than the peasants’ own condition as such), and no sooner had they relieved the peasants’ condition than they proceeded to claw back all the gains by exploiting them further. What point is there in a dislocated package of individual improvements, freighted with clawbacks and drawbacks? (Those are actual technical terms as well as metaphors – look them up.)

  14. d
    March 20th, 2004 at 16:11 | #14

    PML
    Just what is the evidence for your assertion about Professor Potrykus’ motivations and indeed what is the relevance of the motivations to judging the value of golden rice?
    Is short, spell out what you are getting at PML

  15. James Farrell
    March 20th, 2004 at 21:50 | #15

    WARNING. MODESTY FORBIDS BLOG HOST TO READ YET ANOTHER SYCOPHANTIC POST.

    Despite the best intentions, Chris has actually managed to sell the Captain short.

    John is in fact the brightest economist in any category. Of course it depends a little on how you measure bright. Quite a few Australian economists, for example, are good at abstract theory (without outshining John). But if you go by Keynes’ definition -

    `The master-economist must…be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher – in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought.’

    - then John is the outstanding Australian economist anywhere on the doctrinal spectrum.

    In any case I doubt he would characterise himself as alternative: his tool kit is quite orthodox. His opinions are unconventional only because his starting point is scepticism toward, rather than faith in, the invisible hand.

  16. Andrew
    March 20th, 2004 at 23:32 | #16

    d

    If the motivation of the ag companies in pressing golden rice on Africans was the relief of poverty then I would expect them to waive their patent rights over the grain and the seed produced. However they don’t.

    This, in an age that finds scepticism, indeed cynicism, a necessary adjunct to any assessment of a statement of international generosity (particularly by a business), tends to bolster the suspicion that all is not as it is presented.

    DDT has been dealt with comprehensively in earlier posts on the blog.

  17. d
    March 21st, 2004 at 08:22 | #17

    “If the motivation of the ag companies in pressing golden rice on Africans was the relief of poverty then I would expect them to waive their patent rights over the grain and the seed produced. However they don’t. “!!!!!

    But (i) commericial companies were NOT the developers of “golden rice”; Professors Potykus and Beyer funded by the Rockefeller Fund were
    (ii) Africans were not the primary recipients, Asians are
    (iii) Companies have in fact waived certain of their rights on components of Potrykus and Beyers invention at the request of Potrykus.
    (iv)the rice as yet has not been “pressed” on anyone, and I expect any opportunity to grow it will not be compulsary

    Seems to me that Andrew’s remarks are complete off target in that regard. Why is there such a compelling need to portray an ostenively helpful initiative as evil. It is likely to be another example of the original point of my post on this theme- the use of unnecessary villification as a political tactic.

    But perhaps you do have one valid point Andrew , the seemingly altruistic claims of international businesses, such as Greenpeace, need to be viewed with suspician today.

  18. March 21st, 2004 at 12:24 | #18

    Aussies love to abbreviate (such a bloody long word) why not describe most commenters as commies or connies?

    Let us acknowledge that anyone who airs views just a milidegree on the left from Blair must be a commie!

    Right is naturally always right no con or pun intended!

  19. March 21st, 2004 at 21:00 | #19

    What “assertion about Professor Potrykus’ motivations”? Indeed, what statement about anybody’s motivation? I was drawing attention to how “gains” of this sort got clawed back. Yes, the example I used had clawbacks that were implemented by people who had motivations, but I was pointing at the clawbacks not the motivations.

    What is relevant to golden rice is whether it will do anybody getting it any good. If you choose to start by looking at motives of this or that person that is your affair; I personally was pointing at the means and opportunities, because my cynicism tells me that there is always going to be someone with enough motive and not enough conscience to take any chance of exploiting that turns up. That is why it makes more sense to stop those chances turning up than to get into people’s psychology. The good professor doesn’t even come into it – he is upstream of the point that counts.

  20. March 21st, 2004 at 21:07 | #20

    Looking over that, I see I still wasn’t clear enough. I wasn’t looking at X or Y and asking about his motives; rather I was stating that whoever did the introducing (of the potato, in that example) was found to be involved with exploiting, not helping. Thus, I didn’t specify an “anybody” who had a motive, I was starting at the other end and observing the behaviour of those who did the introducing.

  21. March 22nd, 2004 at 23:28 | #21

    Getting back to the original topic:

    “Commenters” or “Commentators”? I’m not sure.

    While acknowledging the learned opinions of other distinguished bloggers (yikes, the Strocchi style is catching), I dare say the question is not clear cut.

    Implicit in the question, I take it that a ‘commenter’ is generically less substantive, or at least more derivative, than a ‘commentator’. A ‘commentator’, I implicitly take it, is someone who reads the main game, a guide for the crowd or audience or readership or whatever.

    By contrast, a ‘commenter’, by inference, I take to be someone who makes additions or asides on, or offers qualifications on, or makes challenges to etc, the commentator’s reading, the latter being the commenter’s primary text, just as the main game is the commentator’s main text.

    Let me concede at the outset that there is no question that many, and almost certainly most, weblog comment box entries are comments on the original post, which leads one automatically to the ‘commenter’ conclusion, as, in Strocchi-speak, learned colleagues have pronounced.

    But what actually is the status of the post itself? Often, is this not itself a comment on something another someone has ‘commentated’ on elsewhere? In which case, are not blogger and commenter ‘commenters’ together, with the blogger, at most, lead commenter?

    Or, alternatively, if the blogger is classified as a ‘commentator’, then would not the not unusual appearance of equally, or not uncommonly more, substantive comments, also mean these authors also rise to the status of ‘commentator’?

    Thus, I conclude that the defining element largely turns on the status, not automatically of the contributing writers by virtue of the fact that their thoughts etc appear in either the weblog ‘posts’ or ‘comment’ boxes, but the blogger her/himself and the actual contributors; which, in sequence, largely turns on the status, substance and direction of the blog and post in question and the responses it attracts.

    I might even go so far as to suggest that the best blogs could turn on the extent to which blogger and comment box contributors equalise as either or both ‘commenters’ or ‘commentators’ together.

    But let me think about this a bit more.

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