According to one correspondent, Untold is no better than ISIS.

By Tony Attwood, publisher of Untold

A few days ago a comment appeared on Untold which struck me as very odd.  It said…

“guys every time you delete a comment that does not resemble yours your no better than ISIS as far as I’m concerned apart from the unfortunate killing of innocent people. Free speech !!!!!!”

This occurred just at the time of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, something that affected me far more greatly than any other appalling atrocities during my lifetime, primarily because of its direct relevance to freedom of speech.

Now I am not trying to discuss the outrage in Paris – there are many many sites far better suited for and equipped for that job.  So, please let’s not go there.  But the issue is that the writer compared Untold to ISIS because we did not publish his comment.

In fact, as it happened, the only reason we hadn’t published the comment up to that point was the fact that the writer had not written in before from that computer location, and so his comment was held in moderation, and we didn’t have anyone handling moderation that night.

But the point the writer made, just at the time of the direct attack on freedom of speech in Paris, gave me pause for thought.

Although constantly accused of acting otherwise, I’ve always tried to keep Untold open to commentaries of all types, but month by month, since we started seven years ago, it has become harder and harder to do so not least because of the huge rise of late in people writing in, dismissing our entire research base with a couple of sentences saying exactly the opposite to what we’ve said, but supplying no supporting data for their view, and indeed saying the same thing as had been said by others many times before.

And that is at the heart of our issue of freedom of speech.  Is it really worth publishing the same type of comment backed up by no evidence over and over and over again?  I think not, because all it does is put off people with something original to say, or people with evidence to back up their thoughts.  We publish the same old same old, and lose the insightful new ideas.

There are around a quarter of a million comments on this site that you can go and read – I don’t want to stop them coming in, but I don’t see the point of buying ever more web storage space to see the same message repeated over and over.

And yet, for years, I have been publishing such comments along with a reply that says something like, “We’ve published our conclusions based on a wide range of research and inferences drawn from evidence that we have also published, while you have simply stated that this position is unfounded.   If you would care to consider our evidence and then come back with yours, we can have a debate.”

But to return to the man who compares Untold to ISIS, original comment is not without interest…

Ahhh yes the blame game continues. Blame everybody else bar the one person the blame actually starts and stops with, you know the man that has final say on everything the man that if he has a plan “we follow it if he doesn’t we just shut up”. Just answer one question for me ” Do you believe Arsene Wenger can win Arsenal FC a major Trophy in the next 2+ years”

That is a comment we receive here very regularly and as I say we have published it quite a few times, with detailed answers, but after a while it gets boring.  I’ve said so many times that I think we will win more trophies – do I have to keep saying that each time someone writes in and demands an answer?

But after that comment wasn’t published I got some more abuse from the same source, the gist of which that I was gutless for not publishing his comments.

The notion that somehow this particular person has an absolute right to comment on Untold is, for me, at least, odd.  Does he imagine there is some sort of constitution in the UK that says that everyone has the right to comment?   Does he think that saying that Untold is on a par with the Islamic State is likely to influence us into turning to his way of thinking?  Or is he just being abusive?  I am really not sure.

And more bizarrely does he actually think that after nearly 5000 articles we have not actually got a body of evidence upon which the views propagated in Untold are based?  What does he think Walter has been doing all these years?

Indeed leaving aside the abusive commentary, what he seems to be wanting is that he is allowed to put a point of view that is contrary to the viewpoint expressed on the banner headline of this site, and then demand the right to dictate that his point should be debated.  So presumably on the basis that he can’t influence what is debated in the House of Commons or in the Financial Times, they too are also no better than ISIS.

Overall this approach seems to be somewhat like me writing to the Daily Mail and saying, “everyone knows that immigrants from Europe contribute more to the financial well being of the UK than they take out in benefits; do you really think that by trying to pull us out of the EU anything will get better?” and expecting it to be published.   The difference between Untold and the Mail is that the Mail would not even publish my viewpoint if I backed it up with a lot of relevant and well-sourced data, whereas anyone who writes in giving a contrary view to that proclaimed on the site, with the same level of evidence as we give to support our views, does get a hearing.

Perhaps more than anything else it is like writing to a Bolton fans blog saying “supporting Bolton is stupid” and expecting that to be published and claiming that they are no better than ISIS if they don’t.

And yet that is the sort of thing (obviously about Arsenal and Arsene Wenger not Bolton) that we get day after day by the hundreds.  For yes, we’ve got about quarter of a million comments published on this site, but we’ve had the same amount again that have not been published. If anyone thinks I am being unreasonable in doing that, I suggest they set up a blog and get it up to the readership level of Untold, and then see how you cope with the barrage of abusive and irrelevant comments that turn up each day.

There’s no absolute freedom of speech, as Blacksheep pointed out to me most clearly on Sunday as we discussed these matters driving to London, (we do take these things seriously at Untold and spend ages agonising over such issues.  But beyond that, as publisher I know that if I don’t put some sort of focus and control on the debate, then the really insightful complex commentaries (which are the ones I really value and want to encourage) get lost in the mess of shouting rather pointless repetitive questions and comments and the mindless abuse.

Believing that one has a right to have any comment published on another person’s blog is just stretching freedom of expression to ludicrous proportions – especially when one remembers just how many blogs there are out there run by the aaa.

Anyway, because I’ve got a bit fed up with writing my explanations so often about why I am not publishing comments without any evidential backup, I have written down a rough set of rules that reflect how we are running on the site at the moment.  There is a link below.   What I should also add is that while we do put some people in long term moderation after they have been abusive once or twice, other people who have really gone too far are just banned from making comments completely, so we don’t have to see what they say, not so much because it is upsetting, but rather because the endless repetition of the same old stuff without evidence is just so dull.  That might not be ideal, but it saves time, and it is a damn sight better than the policy of one of our rivals of taking any comment that they don’t like and actually changing it, in order to make fun of the sender.

I think we’ve now done comments and what is and what is not published, to death, so let’s leave the topic now.  I hope you understand, and if not, I’m sorry, but there are many, many blogs out there that don’t work on an evidence base and do have a totally opposing point of view to that espoused on the front page of Untold.  And there are many much more important topics to talk about than whether I choose to publish a particular comment or not.

The rules on comments



39 Replies to “According to one correspondent, Untold is no better than ISIS.”

  1. Thanks Tony. Again.

    I really enjoy this site, the articles and the comments from the regulars – plus informed and constructive outsiders who can bring something fresh.

    I am happy to read something I disagree with if it is backed up by evidence or in some other way original or thought-provoking. But all the usual hostile drivel is just a waste of bandwidth. It adds absolutely nothing and costs real time and emotional equilibrium. I have long since ceased trying to post positive comments on hostile sites – I know I am unlikely to change closed minds through the force of reason – so just let them get on with it. Sad, but what else can one do? In fact I hardly ever read sites that I used to enjoy because of the demeanour of many of the authors and commenters.

    Online Gooner and ANR are two great examples of sites which used to be favourites of mine but have now deteriorated to the point of one-eyed absurdity.

    There are still plenty of great Arsenal sites with interesting and positive and/or balanced material such as Positively Arsenal, Poznan in my Pants, Goonerholic and Arseblog. I would welcome pointers to any others I might find rewarding.

    Ultimately, time will tell who was “right” and who was “wrong”, but until then I think we will just have to live with the split.

  2. Pete, have a look at ‘the Arsenal Collective’. Best Arsenal site on the web for those o who genuinely love the Arsenal and football without all the moaning, bitching and incredibly stupid acronyms

  3. Tony,
    Editorial control is perfectly acceptable.
    Another, less kind, way to put it is that the FT”s Lex column doesn’t tend to be written by a Sun readers as it doesn’t meet the requirements of the readership. Reductio ad absurdum, I grant you but I’m afraid the analogy is apposite here.

  4. Tony, the reality is that Untold openly (and correctly) declares its support for the club, team and manager. The site has rules; some people and some groups of people continue to try to bend or circumvent those rules – and the person who made the ill considered comparison is one of those.

    Sometimes Tony I feel you are more than tolerant to those who try to bend the rules and use this site for their own anti Wenger agenda, but I appreciate that you are trying to be fair.

    The imbecile who made that horrid comparison was obviously pissed off when he didn’t get his own way – tough – but what a ghastly way to react.

  5. There is a particular brand of Arsenal “fan”; the Wenger Out brigade. they are full of vitriol but lack supporting facts.
    They live in a fantasy world where Wenger was supposed to buy 1/2 the German national team, every midfielder in Spain, and every “hot” defender. The real world seems to elude them. FIFA15 has seduced them them into a “pie in the sky” team selection.

    Those of us who are older and have been around a while hope this level of ignorance and self gratification will pass. But alas, the Twitter Twats take to the web and proclaim their football expertise.
    Keep in mind that every single one of them knows more than every manager in football.In fact I propose that they upload their FIFA15 tactics to every manager prior to every EPL game.

    The lesson? Empty barrels make the most noise.

  6. Thanks Tony, it must be a lot of hard work, and not very edifying, but your filtering work makes this site so much more enjoyable for the rest of us.

    I don’t see why you should have any less right to do some editorial work on the blog that you started and that you run than any other editor who decides what is or isn’t published in a particular publication.

    If I write to the Evening Standard, for example, my chances of being published are slight, no matter how good the evidence I present. Free speech is a very relative concept in general.

    As you say, the intention of this blog is clear in its title and it is reasonable to wish that discussion should be generally conducted on that basis.

  7. Free speech. Freedom of expression. These words have been abused the most in the history of mankind.

    Expression or speech (personal or political) is never free when it is offensive, abusive and inappropriate.

  8. @Tony and Walter,

    Thank you again for all of your hard work including the moderation of the message board. The quality of the articles and most commentators is what truly distinguishes this blog from other Arsenal blogs.

  9. Keep up the good work ,Tony , and don’t let them bedbugs bite .’They’ bother me none as I totally ignore them and never encourage them by engaging them .Laugh and poke fun at them ,yes ! Si ! Oui ! Pisses them off faster than any rebuke!
    Most of them are just like ye olde limp and flaccid flasher – trying to elicit a shocked response ,but soon retreat in shame when you laugh at them .
    I have always laughed at every little thing !

  10. I wonder if the commenter actually knows ISIS and what it is all about, beyond that which appears in the “media”. They obviously do not know Untold, so to try and compare two things he/she/other has no clue about is plainly stupid i think.
    So it looks to me like this season is going to be a better season in the end, mark my words HERE. We are on the way.

  11. @ Tony, thanks a lot for this article. It just very well be that being compared to “ISIS” these days is the equivalent of being compared to “Nazis” (truth be told, it is not far fetched).

    It should be noted that in the art of debating it is a known logical fallacy to employ “Reductium ad Hitlerium” argumentation – which (a) shows that the debater is essentially a bit of a douche [applies here obviously]; (b) has inferior debating skills [likewise].

    @ Arsenal 13 – I think that our concepts regarding freedom of speech are very different. Free speech is not relevant when the message is all nice and agreeable – it is tested when it IS offensive, abusive and inappropriate. There are checks and balances to balance out negative outcomes of unlimited free speech but the rule is that speech is free, even when offensive (see Smith v. Collin, also known as the Skokie nazi march supreme court decision).

    My point is, that the burden to contend and prove that some form of speech might be offensive, abusive or inappropriate, to an extent that justifies silencing that speaker – lies with the party who wants to stop the speaker.

    To be honest, a contention like yours, if you think about that deeply, is EXACTLY what the Charlie Hebdo murderous scum would have used to support their actions. Insulting the prophet is not free speech, since it is offensive, abusive and inappropriate to many many people. In dark regimes, insulting the prophet, or Kim Jong Un, or whoever is beyond insult – is punishable. I don’t think we want to support those kind of ideas.

  12. I felt so confident before the Stoke game with the selection Wenger had made & the fact that so many were on the cusp of readiness to take the league…..& then Debuchy is assaulted. We are still the best team in the league with fair officiating. It is time for a van Damme type of player who knows how to injure without much effort.

    I am hoping that Moss or one of the BBC pundits re-examines the incident and calls it honestly. It was a push (perhaps without the malice) but responsibility has to be accepted. It is unsporting & a foul & deserves a sanction. I would give at least a 3 match ban.

    If the club appeals the club should also be fined sufficient to ensure this kind of foul is not repeated. – I can see flying pigs….

  13. I am really surprised that the player who pushed Debuchy causing him to fall and injure himself gets off scot free, because it was off the field.

    So if the same player had instead pushed Debuchy after the game causing the same injury, i’m sure he would have been punished, do you not agree?

  14. Tony
    I find it absolutely incredible that you have to explain the Rules and conditions to those that visit this site. I think whoever takes time to read the Bloggs and discussions on this site, will find its not about do we like Arsene Wenger, the Board or buying players, its about discussing the Events that happen and supporting the Club. I wonder if these same negative Arsenal supporters will go to a fish Market and demand the retailer sell them a meat of their choice, it beggars belief. Anyway Tony, you and the Team keep up the marvelous work, dont let uninformed/uncontrolled/unwise bloggers distablise this very good site. I think I’ll visit some of the AAA sites and spread the good word and see if they like it.

  15. Personally I had the feeling that the writer comparing UA to ISIS wasn’t interested in Free Speech at all but just wanted to manipulate the basic guides to posting on the blog.
    I wager some big money he’d never even heard of Charlie Hebdo before last week.
    In the end all he wanted to do was slag off.Its as if by slagging off AW on here you actually reach the man himself rather than sticking to a blog with an anti Wenger stance(where everyone’s doing the same thing.Perhaps we should be grateful these people can vent spleen on blogs!?
    Strangest of all(and perhaps Im mistaken) but Ive always felt it is possible to crit. the team and AW on UA, just depends on the words you choose.
    The Cologne manager stopped chatting with fans on Facebook after the game this week,(he normally has a natter after the game) due to the torrent of abuse he received( Köln lost). What an angry time we live in. What a fearful time we live in.

  16. I nearly called it a day on this site a few weeks ago when a couple of anti-club posters seemed to take up permanent residence in the comments section, because their actions were spoiling the enjoyment I had bothered to seek out. Fortunately they seem to have gone quiet, perhaps because there have been a few wins recently. I am all for free speech, but also feel that an attempt should be made to fit in with the house rules of any club you voluntarily choose to visit.
    But I have a serious question – or rather a trivial question that is asked seriously. I enjoy the articles that are posted here – I enjoy them very much indeed – and am enjoying getting to know the regular contributors to the comments section. However, such is the prodigious nature of Tony and Walter that new articles spring up before a particular line of discussion in the comments section is exhausted. Might there be a forum section so that good comments don’t go missing due to enthusiasm for a new post?

  17. @foreverheady
    Agree but what may be easier to follow could be a like / dislike tab AND a reply section. What does Tony think?

  18. The key thing about free speech is that people who post/comment things that you disagree with are not locked up. And that clearly does not happen here. But as it is Tony’s forum he has every right not to accept comments for any reason whatsoever.

  19. @Tony

    Essentially you have positioned this blog as one that requires thought and consideration from those that read the articles. I like that. Most people reading blogs will skim read and they most definitely wont go back and read past articles …in that respect I think you are being a tad unrealistic especially as you are getting traffic from news feeds and from non Arsenal supporters.The alternative is the bear pit that are the comments sections of blogs like Le Grove. I would rather this. I was put in moderation on that that particular thread as well and I have been commenting here for a long time. I didnt take offence. It happens.

    I read the comment about ISIS and initially laughed and then thought “what an idiot”. The modern equivalent of being called a Nazi I think but totally uncalled for.

  20. GF60,
    I know that at some blogs you have that option but in the software we use you don’t have that option. Well I can’t find it anyway if it would exist.

    I know that where you have that option you can by disliking a comment make it disappear after a while. LOL would be a nice way of dealing with some comments 🙂

  21. @tommiegun,

    Well, I don’t think our concepts are different.

    The way I put it, maybe wasn’t good enough.
    Poor utilization of my freedom of speech and expression…

  22. Good idea @foreverheady. I do have to look through several articles & sets of comments sometimes to keep up with a particular thought. I am also sure that I’ve missed a few gems in the process.

  23. Thanks Tony for another insightful and thoughtful post this time on the trials and tribulations of editing an Arsenal blog site. I wonder if it would be technically feasible to categorize your moderation headings and send an automatic reply to the sender eg Rude and Offensive but could be submitted again if you omit the personally offensive elements and sufficiently reduce the crude vulgarities, Repetitive to Other Posts but re-submit if you can add something new or different to the debate(this would clearly be better received by correspondents if you can add the like/dislike response option), Simple Contradictions so the assertions need supporting facts and argument to justify them.

    All this would be courteous which I know is the automatic default mode of both Tony and Walter as principal blog editors and would give the correspondent the opportunity to understand the reason for moderation interference and what they need to do to correct their comment and so get it published on re-submission.

  24. Tony, I wouldn’t worry. Any person that would liken a friendly old blog site to a disgusting organisation that takes pleasure murdering innocent people, is a complete idiot. Not surprised that he is batting for the other side. Blame society, its going backwards for sure.

    Chelsea and wages
    Chelseas wage bill disclosure has left a lot of people with egg on their faces. Those people who said Arsenal had a bigger wage bill, yet didnt have the intelligence to conduct a proper analysis of the facts, are quiet. ‘That’ blog has yet again exposed itself to its failings and its complete disregard for facts.

    Chelseas wage bill is £195.5m (They also have 30 players on loan and therefore a large amount of those ‘wages’ will be excluded. Helps Fifa’s break even test (winks at camera).
    Man Utds wage bill is £214.8m
    Man Citys wage bill is £205m
    Arsenals wage bill is £165m

    So all those that have been beating Wenger around the head about our wage bill being bigger than Chelsea’s were yet again clutching at straws.

    This follows on from the ‘Wenger injures our players with his backwards fitness regime & over playing of players’ garbage.

    Hopefully, people will also see how our club is getting beaten up all the time. When I say beaten up, I mean in both senses of the word:

    Debuchy is out for 3 months after being assaulted (no foul, no card) like Wilshere (no foul, no card) and no retrospective bans. On the back of that, guess which team is allowed the fewest fouls per booking? Yep, its us.

    Arsenal Football Club. Constantly pissed on by the media, pundits and a section of its own fans YET out of a bunch of corrupt clubs and questionable officiating they shine like a beacon of light. About time our great club and its manager got the credit it deserved.

  25. Foreverheady

    “I nearly called it a day on this site a few weeks ago when a couple of anti-club posters seemed to take up permanent residence in the comments section, because their actions were spoiling the enjoyment I had bothered to seek out. Fortunately they seem to have gone quiet, perhaps because there have been a few wins recently. I am all for free speech, but also feel that an attempt should be made to fit in with the house rules of any club you voluntarily choose to”

    Very well said.

    I too stopped visiting for a while for very similar reasons following a couple of poor results. I just couldn’t stand the constant abuse aimed at Arsenal, and Wenger in particular.

    Discussing the team, the performance, the substitutions, the ref is one thing.

    At certain times the level of vitriolic abuse aimed at one man reaches such levels that, in my opinion, it is simply unacceptable.

    Criticism is one thing. What certain people resort to is another thing altogether.

    Alas, a price to pay for freedom of expression ?

    Even now, WITH all the editorial calls that Tony makes I will almost certainly not come here if we lose on the weekend. I will be upset and disappointed if we lose. One thing I will not be is angry or abusive and the last thing I want to do is listen to people that are.

    I will discuss the game, but at a later date when the abusers have disappeared.

    Whatever my issues with certain posters at certain times this is still a magnificent blog, full of interesting, insightful, amusing and passionate posters.

    So I will duck the shit storms but I will return once calmer waters have returned.

    Keep up the good work lads.

  26. @proudkev
    January 13, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    “Arsenal Football Club. Constantly pissed on by the media, pundits and a section of its own fans YET out of a bunch of corrupt clubs and questionable officiating they shine like a beacon of light. About time our great club and its manager got the credit it deserved.”


  27. Chanting Freedom of Speech (FoS) is what offensive people often resort to when their vitriol is rebutted or they are fed their own medicine. But every time you see anyone whine about FoS, they are often telling the world that they have no idea what the concept means.

    The same goes for defenders and apologists of FoS. On many occasions, I have had to take on fake adults-in-the-room citing FoS as a reason why I shouldn’t tackle people who come here to abuse the players, manager and even the writers and regular commenters of Untold. It is hypocritical and ironic to use FoS to muzzle someone because you think that they aren’t respecting the FoS of another person. Fuck it, unless you are being punished by the STATE for expressing your opinion, FoS shouldn’t come off your lips. Private employers punish their workers all the time for violating one company policy or the other through their utterances; FoS doesn’t cover this. Even government agencies punish civil servants for violating some policies on public utterances.

    The term “Freedom of Speech” is itself very misleading because while the Western democracies have EXPANDED general human rights (which include FoS), there is no such thing as “freedom to say whatever you want” in reality in any country. All nations and societies have their taboo subjects; every one of them! True, not many Western countries would jail anyone for what they say but there are dire consequences for pronouncements that break the taboo code for every society and quite often they can be more painful than incarceration.

    On this commenter likening Untold to ISIS, it won’t be the first time. Another moral-high-ground-occupier was likening the blog to a KKK rally because most of the people on the thread disagreed with him but like our friend from the article, he had the gall to run and whine to Tony about name calling. What I have always noticed about most controversial debates is that the most offensive parties are the first to whine about FoS and civility because others have the temerity to reply to them in kind.

    Just as you have the right to say stupid and bigoted stuff, others have the right to call you out in the strongest (and at times, insulting) way they can. That is what FoS is all about. My favourite Twitter exchange these last few days was between Rupert Murdock and J.K. Rowling. That is how it works.

    To whine about FoS because one’s opinion is not published on a private fan blog is just pathetic.

  28. This site is excellent.

    Like ALL other football supporters I suffer from Motivated Reasoning, and therefore do not wish anything to be published which goes against the general philosophy of UA.

    I am fully in support of any editing rules that bar negative and unsubstantiated responses.

  29. I read that comment on Ua as well Tony and was astonished at two crucial but irrational points that blogger tried to get us to swallow:

    1) That there is a ¨right¨or entitlement to have whatever he excretes published, without moderation, review or editing and yet there is no mention of a responsibility incumbent on those who seek this ¨right¨ to defend their position with salient and well thought-out facts.

    2) That FOS is something that ISIS even considers. They are murderous fanatics who will execute ANTONE who they deem unworthy of their high ideals….so the blogger was clearly thinking just like them. He should have compared himself to these ISIS militants, who will use any means to control others….since he is so ANTI-Democratic himself.

    These two issues present a clear dichotomy between reality and the rational world of UA and these bloggers who manipulate, masquerade and muddy the waters intentionally in order4 to disguise their intellectual weaknesses and their cut and paste chicanery.

  30. I am compelled by my love for propriety, to add my voice to all the posters who urge Tony and his team on. Of course they are doing an excellent job and should continue.

    Those throwing adult tantrums should also continue, but elsewhere. The ethoes of this site are clear enough.

    Thank you Tony for doing something patently good for humanity by setting up and maintaining this site. Your hard work is appreciated, and I believe your diligence and consistency will be handsomely rewarded when we make these goons eat their words time and again by winning titles season after season, starting this present one.

  31. @omgarsenal, @bootoomee @proudkev i just love your comments. Now talk about FoS i just hate that word,when the Professor talk about his prayers being intentionally clobbered and the fuckin refs say nothing about it he is epresing his freedom of speech but what does the FA do??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *