August 1, 2013

Newsnight Acknowledges Controversy, Misses Point

In the video you can find here, Newsnight's Paul Mason acknowledges that his story about the Atheism+ Block Bot has generated considerable controversy. However, he continues to make what I consider to be a serious error in what he chooses to communicate about the nature of the controversy.

In the video, Mason notes that he has been contacted by many Twitter users who have been "put on the annoying list" (Level 3 of the Atheism+ Block Bot) who see being put on this list as a form of harassment "because they've been named as in the same ballpark as the serious stuff." Right so far. Here's where he misses the point entirely:
So it's a he said, she said situation.
No, no it isn't that at all. Calling it a "he said, she said" situation implies that there are two equally valid points of view and the whole thing is just a difference of opinion. This is not the case here. As many of us listed on the Atheism+ Block Bot have explained (and as Mason himself appears to be at least somewhat aware), the issue is that we are being put on a list he publicly described as a list of abusers in spite of the fact that we have not abused anyone.

Whether we belong on a list of people James Billingham finds "annoying" may be a matter of opinion, but this is not the issue. Whether there should be a Block Bot at all is a matter of opinion but also not the issue. The issue here is with the manner in which Newsnight has chosen to cover this subject. Specifically, the issue is that they described the Atheism+ Block Bot as a list of "abusers" even though many of the people included on it have done no such thing.