December 12, 2010 | Graham

Human Rights Awards, Chris Sidoti, Pauline Hanson and On Line Opinion

Congratulations to Therese Rein, winner of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s 2010 Human Rights Award, and all the other winners. It was particularly interesting to see the Internet get a look in with GetUp winning the Community (Organisation) Award.

Other winners included Nina Funnell, an occasional contributor to On Line Opinion. You can read about the awards, and see Ms Rein’s speech here.

On Line Opinion was a sponsor of the awards, which might seem a little strange. Why would an organisation that struggles with its own budget sponsor something as high profile and well-established, and well-funded (the awards lunch was at the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney)?

Well, the sponsorship allowed us to give value through one of our most under-estimated assets – our readership. We gave the commission 500,000 ad impressions over the course of 5 months. That’s a lot of ad impressions, and the commission got a lot of click throughs to their site from them. We were able to do this because while On Line Opinion is a good advertising proposition, we don’t get as much demand for our space as we should, so there is generally inventory available that doesn’t get filled. (We’re currently filling it with Google ads, but if you have something you want to get out before Christmas, please email me now).

So it was a good deal for the commission, and a good deal for us.

But there was another reason why I responded favourably when approached for sponsorship. The Human Rights Commission, or at least some people associated with it, had a part to play in the beginnings of On Line Opinion, and I was very happy to catch-up with one of them, former Human Rights Commission Chris Sidoti, at the function. So I felt like we had some sort of a debt to repay.

I met Chris in 1998 through Margie Cook, who was the Communications Manager for the Commission, but who also had a contract to manage election night coverage for Channel Nine. 1998 was the year that Pauline Hanson burst onto the stage in Queensland with One Nation winning a larger share of the vote in the state election than either the Libs or the Nats, and I understood more about the dynamic of how that happened than just about anyone else in Australia.

As One Nation was obviously going to be a factor in the federal election Margie picked my brains a lot and involved me in the Channel Nine coverage of the Federal Election that year. Chris Sidoti was also personally concerned about the One Nation surge as well and we had a number of conversations about how you should deal with its  rise.

At a tactical level my advice at the time, which formed the basis of a number of op-eds, was to stop talking about One Nation. The greatest force behind Pauline was publicity.

The second greatest force was the propensity for the elites to look down on her and talk down to her.

That is partly where On Line Opinion came in. I saw Hanson as a symptom of a problem in society, not the cause of it. And the problem was that people refused to engage with people with whom they disagreed, and worse, denigrated them and denied them the right to hold their opinions. With the cultural megaphones of broadcast and print media in the hands of the elites this created enourmous tension which erupted in One Nation. (As a result of the One Nation phenomenon and the movement it forced in public discourse, one can now see similar tensions building up on the left).

On Line Opinion was an attempt to level the playing field, at least in one corner.  Our underlying proposition has always been that no matter how wrong it might be, you are entitled to hold a particular opinion, and to personal respect, even if the opinion might be seen by many as objectionable.

We reason that it is better to get opinions out in the open and discussed than to allow them to fester in private and eventually explode. We also figure that with enough argument and discussion opinions will change.

We won’t publish everything but we do publish widely within the law.

The first edition of On Line Opinion was in April 1999, and Chris Sidoti was one of the five original contributors via a piece on his “Bush Talks” project, which was an outreach project by the commission to hear the concerns of people around the country – just the sort of approach that I was recommending. In an OLO tradition I also wrote a piece criticising some of Chris’s ideas – discussion and dissent, particularly amongst friends, is healthy and necessary.

The OLO approach is one that many find difficult to accept, and we are currently under attack from a number of gay activists because we dared to publish this piece by Bill Muehlenberg (which is mostly a pastiche of comments by gay activists) even though the majority of articles that I can find on the site on the issue support gay marriage.

And by attack I mean attempting to intimidate me, sponsors or advertisers.

How ironic at a time when we are sponsoring the Human Rights Awards.

Posted by Graham at 9:30 pm | Comments (14) |


  1. Ironic indeed, given that you don’t practise what you preach when it comes to commentary on articles. As Chief Editor and sole arbiter of On Line Opinion you are becoming quite notorious in your unfair treatment of articulate and reasonable people who argue against the truly hateful and bigoted bile that you encourage to be posted there.

    How many “progressive” users have you summarily banned lately, Graham – for having the temerity to try and reason with you? Is it true that some are considering legal action because of your discriminatory actions and allegedly defamatory comments about them?

    The network of such people who are talking to each other and sharing information is growing all the time. It would be ironic indeed if they decided to get together and make a complaint about you to HREOC. Indeed, I think it would be a great idea for HREOC members to closely examine what you allow on your website and compare it with what you censor.

    Speaking of which, I don’t suppose this comment will last very long…

    Comment by CJ Morgan — December 19, 2010 @ 9:26 am

  2. I (I’m not gay nor any member of nay Gay Rights Group), have been suspended from OLO merely for uttering the words that I “disagreed with the moderator” when I requested some particularly noisome hate-speech; be it against victims of domestic violence, activists for gay marriage, non-Christians, non-white – in fact name the minority, Graham Young has permitted many denigrating posts and punished those who dared to disagree with him.

    I can easily provided evidence of the above, therefore, when I read the claim below:

    “On Line Opinion was an attempt to level the playing field, at least in one corner. Our underlying proposition has always been that no matter how wrong it might be, you are entitled to hold a particular opinion, and to personal respect, even if the opinion might be seen by many as objectionable.”

    I was left utterly stunned by the audacious hypocrisy of Graham Young’s claim to an egalitarianism his online Forum has yet to present.

    Comment by Severin — December 19, 2010 @ 11:55 pm

  3. I’m one of the ‘gay activists’ who ‘attacked’ online opinion, however, I took exception to some of the comments that where posted after Bill Muehlenberg’s piece, not the actual essay.

    I defend Bill’s right to his opinions, he should have he’s stuff published, but it’s the disrespectful and outright hatred of the comments that follow that are objectionable. As a person who is gay, I find those comments disturbing and they shouldn’t have a place in our society.

    And I did the right thing, I raised the comments with Graham Young, he made it clear he thought the comments where ok, so the next step is to approach the sponsors and advertisers to make them aware of the sort of site they support and to express my disgust.

    Online Opinion does a great job in allowing people to express their opinions by publishing their articles. The comment sections leave a lot to be desired.

    Comment by Gregory — December 20, 2010 @ 3:30 am

  4. I agree with Gregory – the articles published by OLO are for the most part a wide range of topics.

    I can only endorse that the comments sectoin requires unbiased moderation.

    For anyone interested in following my claims I recommend checking my own posting history OLO as ‘Severin’ or ‘Fractelle’ and compare to the posting history Graham Young deems as acceptable such as ‘Proxy’ or ‘Formersnag’ or ‘Runner’ – posters who rarely make valid comment and indulge in hate-speech against many people with who they take issue.

    I have tried to reason with Graham Young and found his responses to me exceedingly distressing.

    Comment by Severin — December 20, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

  5. Graham Young knows very well that it’s not the articles at On Line Opinion that are the cause for concern. Rather, it’s his biased moderation of comments that is the problem: he allows any amount of outright bigotry to be expressed – which wouldn’t be such a problem if he didn’t censor those of us who argue against the bigots and haters whom he allows to dominate his forum.

    I think his claim about Muehlenberg’s article is so disingenuous as to approach outright lying.

    A supporter of freedom of speech and of human rights? What a joke!

    Comment by CJ Morgan — December 21, 2010 @ 7:04 am

  6. Well it’s pretty obvious what we have to put up on the comments section of OLO. Here we have three people who are intolerant of any views but their own and try to do financial and reputational damage to the site so as to impose their will on others.

    They represent the very worst of authoritarian view points.

    They pretend to be in favour of free speech but in fact are trying to make the site unworkable and financially non-viable.

    CJ Morgan pretends to be an academic and runs a hate site where he lampoons me and, amongst other things posts photos of me wearing a Hitler mustache. He then tries to get away with similar lines of abuse On Line Opinion and wonders why he is banned.

    He has also tried to circumvent the ban a number of times by registering under new personas in a breach of the rules which he agrees to accept as a condition of accessing the site.

    Gregory was asked to indicate which posts he found hateful and initially wouldn’t. Eventually he did, but none of them deserved to be deleted. For example he complained because someone referred to homosexuality as “a perversion”. Might be news to him, but that is a common claim and not one I am going to censor because he doesn’t like it. It is up to him to argue his point with the poster, not prevent them from expressing it.

    Severin and Fractelle are the one and the same vexatious poster who resorts to abuse when dealing with posters with whom she disagrees. She has also registered as a sock puppet, just as CJ has.

    These co-ordinated posts on this blog post are an example of the sort of disruptive behaviour they have been guilty of on OLO.

    Comment by Graham — December 21, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  7. Graham, while it’s clear that honesty doesn’t come easily to you, you really should try a bit harder.

    I’m a retired academic, as you’ve been told many times. The “hate site” to which you refer was a private blog for various former OLO users to discuss the abysmal way that you run the Forum section of your site, of which the Muehlenberg thread is a classic example. It wasn’t set up until after a number of us had become frustrated with being censored by you, and I didn’t lampoon you there out of the blue. [Deleted. Defamatory.]

    I don’t suppose it’s occurred to you that you wouldn’t have been compared to Hitler if you didn’t behave like him? As for sock puppets, if you ban people from your site for arguing with the racists, homophobes, misogynists, Islamophobes and AGW denialists that you [deleted defamatory], what do you think people who value their free speech are going to do?

    Indeed, you’ve never actually informed me that I’m banned from your site – rather, you just deleted my account. You don’t seem to regard other people changing their OLO IDs as sockpuppetry, so to refer
    to us registering new IDs as sockpuppets is disingenuous at best.

    I’d invite anybody who’s interested to look at the posting history of “talisman” [ ] to see the sort of “disruption” that Graham claims. Talisman has also been deleted by Graham without explanation, and about the only thing he was disrupting was the continuous stream of hateful bigotry that passes for acceptable commentary to Graham Young. [Deleted. Defamatory.]

    Indeed, I think Graham should invite his contacts at HREOC to compare talisman or CJ Morgan’s posting histories with those of Proxy, ALGOREisRICH, Antiseptic, runner, Jay of Melbourne or any of the other sycophantic bigots and haters [Deleted. Defamatory.].

    The Forum section of OLO is rapidly degenerating into a real hate site, similar to those of Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair, [Deleted. Defamatory.]

    I’ve never wanted to “disrupt” OLO, and most of us agree that it could be a good forum if it was properly managed. However, due to Graham Young’s actions I think that it’s approaching time for a formal complaint to be made to HREOC, the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal or some similar body.

    Comment by CJ Morgan — December 21, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  8. CJ Morgan, if you were who you say you were you’d provide details. As you don’t I can only assume you aren’t. It is beyond belief that a real retired academic would spend their time putting Hitler moustaches on people or any of the other things you have done.

    I’m going to close the thread after this post, and I have deleted some defamatory parts of your comments above.

    It’s interesting that the site has actually become much more diverse and lively since you and your allies were excluded. The amount of cyber-bullying has declined and discussions are much more rational. There also appear to be a few more female posters at last.

    The site does not encourage “racists, homophobes, misogynists, Islamophobes and AGW denialists” anymore than it encourages anti-Christians, misandrists, global warming hysterics or the simply intolerant. What it does is provide a space where users can discuss issues as long as they are prepared to abide by the rules and respect others’ rights to have an opinion.

    People are not disqualified from participating in debate simply because they may hold views that are wrong.

    You refused to abide by the rules and persistently tried to get around the forum rules. You were banned from the site.

    You’ve recently tried to come back to the site under different guises, the last being “Talisman” who you cite above.

    Comment by Graham Young — December 22, 2010 @ 7:37 am

  9. […] on December 12 here, Online Opinion editor Graham Young said he and his advertisers were “under attack” and being […]

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  10. […] article, when in fact the objections were to the moderation of comments on the article. This response to Young’s December blog post on the issue makes the distinction quite plainly. Far from being an […]

    Pingback by En Passant » The fight for equal love — February 6, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

  11. […] unacceptable, that she was a bad or stupid person for holding them, and that she should shut up. In a December 2010 post Graham Young […]

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  12. […] Reader Greg Storer objected to homosexuality being declared a “perversion” and asked OLO to remove the comment. […]

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  13. […] a large chunk their advertising revenue after a gay reader complained to OLO’s advertisers. Gregory Storer complained about disrespectful and hateful comments published in response to an article by Bill Muehlenberg. […]

    Pingback by Club Troppo » Who’s responsible for keeping speech free? — February 13, 2011 @ 6:46 am

  14. […] then went quiet for a couple of weeks, then Young published this blog, in which he expresses his opinion that he’s under attack by a number of gay activists. and […]

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