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    So Called Censorship And Real Censorship
    By Sascha Vongehr | April 23rd 2012 03:21 AM | 9 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    A statement about more people focusing on the content (rather than side issues) of my column lately has led to an out of hand comment section over on Enrico Uva’s Quote of the Week. The comments are mainly people* complaining about “censorship” on Science2.0, supposedly especially occurring at my column here.


    [* Not surprisingly, all people whose comments I removed, mostly crackpots, one schizophrenic that talks to aliens, who I remove because she is a stalker (nothing more vicious than rejected love).]


    Simple minds who have swallowed hook, line, and sinker a pseudo-democratic doctrine that justifies murdering all over the world in the name of such flimsy excuses as “war on drugs” and to mass incarcerate one's own people, destroying the lives of those who dare to try alternatives and misinforming the rest, they come here and scream “censorship” when some unknown bloggers remove a few comments to ensure that the comment sections are informative to readers. This is so ridiculous that I hereby retract my previous justification for removing garbage.


    I just started the whole writing adventure then and felt the need to justify something that should not be justified, as all such can do is inherently supporting the view that there is some sort of ill defined “free speech”, perhaps especially on the internet, which could not be further from the truth, as I will outline below with my experience of real censorship as a good example.


    I then already wrote:


    I did not sign up for participating in pseudo-democratic façade painting, giving the masses the feeling that they have a say, that internet somehow gives them the long awaited glorious path to some misconceived freedom instead of being the next evolutionary stratum that will enslave the sub-systems like it usually and quite inevitably happens in any by evolution emerging layer. I am not paid for stabilizing a playground where a certain part of the population may abreact their energies so the real shit can go on undisturbed.


    But afterward I wrote about pseudo-science, somewhat in order to appease the usual progressive type of science blogger. Here is the only reason that should be pointed out for deleting comments:


    I delete whatever the hell I feel like** deleting, period.


    [** I never delete because of “dissent”, nor because of the F-word, as long as comments stay clear of, say, racism, i.e. if they go unfairly against others who are already discriminated against etc. Important is whether comments are useful to the readers I like to attract. If there was "dissent", it wasn't argued scientifically enough. If you feel that I have overlooked the deeper level of your argument, write your own pieces. Such is a mature response, like I have done here for example after I felt that Ethan Siegel did not properly respond to my comment on his blog.]


    No justification is necessary when it comes to so called “censorship”, because such presupposes a free speech that simply does not exist. Censorship is when substantial criticism is effectively silenced. Now consider this, those of you who are enraged about my moderation of comment sections:


    - While having published quite a number of peer reviewed papers, all my critical work has been effectively censored although it is written to a higher standard than the work that gets accepted. None of my criticisms of certain methods in the field of nanotechnology for example have passed the peer review system in proper ways. While being able to use the methods to participate in constructing false knowledge, I am censored from speaking out for many years now and my career has suffered accordingly. I could be a professor leading a large research group for many years now if it was not for censorship - real censorship.


    - Even my straight physics articles are not linked to anymore on any science site out there since I ventured to speak out against primitive anti-China propaganda. Just one or two articles pointing out to progressive science bloggers, who claim to be for secularism and science being considered in politics, that the Chinese leadership is full of secular scientists, is enough to be banned even from being looked at on topics like black hole physics or nanotechnology.


    - I am not linked (let alone on the blog roll) even by those bloggers who are supposedly critical about some of the establishment science, say crackpots like P. Gibbs or P. Woit, who after having had a few passable arguments against string theory hype years ago now resorts to poo-pooing modern cosmology because he isn’t able to grasp the many world interpretation or the multiverse. I dare to criticize naïve scientism, for example that much “science outreach” is mere trying to sell mediocre books, trying to get speaking engagements and so on, reducing science to a niche market to be exploited. I dare to speak out against distortions of science, regardless whether they are from global warming deniers or from cheerleaders for unenlightened scientific substitute religion. I dare to insist on reason, yet am painted as a traitor for daring to touch on science priests like Tyson, and subsequently ignored, i.e. effectively removed from the discourse, i.e. "censored". Substantial criticism is censored all across the blogosphere by right wing crackpots and left wing pseudo progressives alike, while racist, misogynous crackpottery a la Lubos Motl is linked to in order to claim openness.


    - The IEET does not publish my articles anymore although they claim to be all about Ethics of Emergent Technology, precisely what I write about! One reason is that I exposed pseudo-science in academia, which the big guys there find “unprofessional”.


    - The pre-print archive has black listed me; not just the linking to this science column when it writes about pre-prints, but they do not even allow me anymore to post pre-prints of already accepted peer review journal articles in my field of nanotechnology! This while people who are obvious pseudo-scientists (like the one I outed) still post their garbage prominently on that very same archive.


    - And lastly much more that real existing censorship prohibits me from writing about without suffering severe consequences that I am not willing to take just for the entertainment of silly know-nothings who use the internet as a convenient gutter.


    So, to all those who accuse *me of all people* of censorship: If you were not so simpleminded and actually cared about the core of what "censorship" is while having a grain of reason in you, you would take your stupid heads out of your dark stinky holes and start supporting me, for example putting links to my articles on sites etc! That you instead scream censorship *at me of all people* confirms that your comments are much too silly for having a place anywhere near my articles.


    And again: Wake up kids. This is the real world, also the internet. “Free speech”? If you think that I can just write what I really think here on my science column, think again!

    Comments

    Dubious Virtue
    Free speech is about governments censoring anything, not about individuals.
    I don't see what's so hard to understand.


    vongehr
    So, if the government does not censure anything directly because silencing is already taken care of some more effective way via what cn be very loosely described as "market forces", you call it "free speech"? I am not objecting; it is your decision what terminology you employ, but you will via such a description have to agree with me that whether there is or is no "free speech" means practically nothing for the freedom people have for expressing themselves, participating in so called "democratic discourse", criticizing the way they are forced to live, are manipulated to vote and so on.
    Dubious Virtue
    That's a more nuanced argument.
    If you don't want to publish a comment on your blog that is not censorship.
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps it's more nuanced, but it's also more pertinent.  After all, what's the point of "free speech" if everyone or anyone can restrict it, except the government?  Which is the more effective and insidious?

    I would agree that editing on a blog is not censorship, especially if individuals have recourse to other means of publishing their views.  However, we do need to be careful in how exuberantly we proclaim "free speech" while denying it in every practical way. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    ...especially if individuals have recourse to other means of publishing their views.

    Gerhard, on target again--- you just reminded me of something that happened last year.  In my   comment on
    Science: The Next 9/11 , with humor, I made it obvious that I didn't see the scenario as very likely. Feeling ridiculed, Sascha was courteous enough to check with me before deleting it, and not offended, I replied, "Go ahead. It's your blog."

    But it did give me an idea for an article on how scientists die at work, revealing how rare it is for scientists to kill others, at least directly. (Then again, Norway is a relatively safe place, and we all know what happened last summer; there were no prior invasions of US mainland prior to 9/11; etc)

    The point is that rather than dwelling on deletions, people blogging here can decide to be proactive and write a separate blog in response to something they feel is off the mark.




    Dubious Virtue
    Just as we need to be as equally careful in how exuberantly we proclaim censorship.
    vongehr
    Precisely - that is why I do not, in spite of all the many years of experiencing certain social systems' immune reactions, scream censorship at every turn. If at all, I mention "effective censorship" and suchlike. "Censorship" is a propaganda word. What we need is an open discussion about the selective pressures in the publish-or-perish environment of academia, the flawed peer review system, market forces homogenizing the internet even more than the traditional media, and so on.
    What we need is an open discussion about the selective pressures in the publish-or-perish environment of academia, the flawed peer review system...

    The incidence of paper retraction , however low percentage wise, is close to the homicide rate in New Orleans!



    Further reading.
    rholley
    A bit of G.K.Chesterton:

    The Censor of Plays is a small and accidental eighteenth-century official.  Like nearly all the powers which Englishmen now respect as ancient and rooted, he is very recent. . . .  The origin of the thing was in truth purely political.  Its first and principal achievement was to prevent Fielding from writing plays; not at all because the plays were coarse, but because they criticised the Government. Fielding was a free writer; but they did not resent his sexual freedom; the Censor would not have objected if he had torn away the most intimate curtains of decency or rent the last rag from private life. What the Censor disliked was his rending the curtain from public life. There is still much of that spirit in our country; there are no affairs which men seek so much to cover up as public affairs.

    from “George Bernard Shaw” (1909).
     
    This hiding the motive seems to be ingrained in British politics, and probably applies to the academic as much as the political sphere.  My father once said of one of our Prime Ministers:
     
    “Don’t call him Janus – Janus had only two faces.”


    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England