Anyone who’s spent time in the blogosphere has seen it happen, and most of us have been on the wrong side of it once or twice. A blogger or commenter says something silly, gets called on it and doubles down. Before long, they are engaged in meta-disputes about who said what about whom. As the flame war escalates, all sense of proportion is lost, and innocent remarks produce threats of litigation. Somewhere along the way, Godwin’s Law comes into play. If the process runs its full course, the blog in question is taken down (but of course the Internet never forgets), or the commenter identity is abandoned, leading to suspicions of sockpuppetry when someone with similar style and opinions turns up.
Of course, most of us stop before it gets that far. The wisest and most gracious recognise error, thank those who set them straight and may even emerge with an enhanced reputation. Those of us not quite as sensible stump off in a huff before making complete fools of ourselves.
But some go all the way. That’s sad for a blogger, but disastrous in the case of a national newspaper.
Of course, I’m talking about The Australian. In the course of defending Chris Mitchell’s bizarre litigation against academic Julie Posetti (for accurately reporting the public statements of Mitchell’s former environment editor Asa Wahlquist) various Oz writers were wheeled out to advance the bizarre claim that
Oceania the Oz has always been at war with a supporter of Eurasia mainstream climate science.
But within a matter of days, the Oz was multiply contradicting itself. First, there was a hyperbolic editorial in which, among other things, journalists were accused of presenting views on global warming that differed from those of ‘Middle Australia’ a term presumably used as code for “our readers” (the idea that journalists should report the facts, whether or not that’s what the readers what is obviously passe.
Then we get this delusionist rant, notable for a couple of things
(i) Massive Godwin Law violations (or confirmations if you want to be pedantic)
(ii) The fact that the author, Michael Asten, is a bona fide academic, though with no relevant publications according to Google scholar which reports what we in the business like to call a ‘solid’ track record of work in mining-related geology. Sad to say, Asten makes a complete hash of the science. Tim Lambert does garbage pickup.
If the Oz were a blogger, I’d be expecting about now to see the full meltdown post in which some combination of personal hell/substance abuse/mental illness is revealed. But I have no idea how the process ends in the case of a national newspaper employing a large number of journalists, some of them with a substantial track record.