Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom has now taken to responding to people he doesn’t like by altering their comments to make them look stupid.
In this comment thread, we see these comments, purportedly from Patterico reader EricPWJohnson:
EricPWJohnson writes me to say that he did not write these words. He left comments, but they have been rewritten by Goldstein.
This also happened to me recently at Protein Wisdom. In a post that coupled my name with the terms “anti-Semite” and “asshole” (to better smear me on Google), we see this comment, purportedly by me:
That’s not what I wrote. The comment has been rewritten, under my name.
[UPDATE: See UPDATE x2 for yet another example of alteration -- this time to commenter and Patterico supporter "Leo Tolstoy."]
Anyone who comments at Protein Wisdom is potentially subject to this treatment — that is, if they leave comments critical of the site host.
In my case, my offense was posting comments at Goldstein’s site that quoted him making threats of violence to my commenters and various other people. This was done in response to Goldstein’s actions in posting several entries that have included my full name and job title (Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney) coupled with the term “anti-Semitic.” Here is one example among several:
The clear intent of these posts was to seed Google with disparaging references to me, that will (Jeff hopes) be found by people searching Google for my name and job title. It’s not mere argument; it’s an attempt to silence me through intimidation.
I decided to defend myself by putting on those threads (and several others, primarily where I had been slandered) comments that contain accurate quotes from Jeff Goldstein, with phrases like “I READILY ADMIT TO THREATENING TO BEAT CERTAIN PEOPLE’S ASSES” and “I’ll break him like a toothpick” and “I’d have no problem — and feel no guilt — about snapping their ACL” and “Just before I broke their fucking ankles” and “I would beat their ass without hesitation.” The content of the comments I left is here. It’s nothing but accurate quotes from Goldstein, designed to give casual Google surfers a picture of just who is writing these posts coupling my name and job title with (purportedly ironic) insinuations of anti-Semitism.
Goldstein evidently didn’t want me repeating his violent threats on the threads where he tried to slander me as an anti-Semite. So he has now taken to altering words posted under my name.
I have no idea how many times comments I left at Protein Wisdom have been altered. This one came to my attention only because commenter Pablo brought it to my attention (saying it was done for “lulz”).
I have seen behavior similar to this in the blogosphere only one time before — from a blogger calling himself the “Liberal Avenger.” I wrote about it at the time, and Cathy Young had this to say about the corrosive aspect of changing other people’s words:
Liberal Avenger’s “prank” is not only juvenile, unethical, and offensive; it is also dangerous to blog discourse. If people know that a blog administrator can tamper with comments at will, it could have a truly chilling effect on speech in the blogosphere. Any blogger, liberal or conservative, should take this very seriously indeed.
Commenter Bill Roper had this observation:
People with integrity think that editing someone’s comments in this way is always bad behavior.
People without integrity think that editing someone’s comments in this way is just fine, unless it is done to someone that they actually agree with.
I fall into the former category, and I pledge to you that I will not alter your words.
One thing is for certain, though: if this becomes an acceptable practice in the blogosphere, we are all at risk. I literally have no idea how many of my comments over the years have been modified at Protein Wisdom. Jeff Goldstein could have altered dozens or hundreds of my comments, for all I know. He might still be planning to.
When a blogger engages in behavior like this, how is one to trust anything posted at his site?
Like threatening violence, this is not a normal debating style. It’s a tactic designed to intimidate people who disagree with the blog host.
If you have commented there, it could happen to you, too.
UPDATE: Goldstein’s response is linked in the comments. He admits he altered EricPWJohnson’s comments. He admits he also altered comments from another supporter of mine going by “Leo Tolstoy.” But, he claims, Pablo is the one who altered my comment.
I don’t know why anyone would believe anything he says. But even if you did, he admits altering comments by my supporters — and he sanctions another person altering mine.
Again: it could happen to you. Maybe it already has.
UPDATE x2: As for “Leo Tolstoy,” I remember reading several measured comments by “Tolstoy” that took my position in this controversy, and told Goldstein he had acted badly. Here’s what Goldstein says about Tolstoy in tonight’s post:
I also altered the comments of “Leo Tolstoy” — who shouldn’t really mind, his being long dead. After Mr Tolstoy tried chewing up my bandwith by posting chapters from Ana Karenina, I didn’t much care what he had to say. I replaced long comments with things such as, “I adore ham.”
Reading that, you would get the impression you get is that “Leo Tolstoy” simply spammed chapters from the real Leo Tolstoy, and made no substantive comments. This is not the case. If it were, then would Goldstein alter one of his comments to complain that Tolstoy had run down Jeff Goldstein without having met him first?
This could happen to anyone who comments at Goldstein’s site — that is, unless you agree with him. Then you’re probably OK.
UPDATE x3, HOPEFULLY FINAL UPDATE: Goldstein has now admitted changing around 270 links in almost 40 comments I made at his site. He admits doing this without any notice that the links had been changed.
What he doesn’t admit — but which is also true — is that he also changed the wording of several of my comments over there. For example, he added language to comments I left on posts written by Darleen Click and Dan Collins that makes it look like I criticized them as violent. I did not include that language; it was added by Goldstein, and it makes my comments look nonsensical. And again, there is no notice that the comments have been changed.
(He also has one of his minions trying to draw a false moral equivalence between his alteration of comments without notice, and a couple of instances where I changed comments with bracketed explanations, coupled with other examples that are even more misleading than that. The minion’s case appears compelling only until you click the links, at which point it falls apart and is revealed to be a dishonest smokescreen.)
More random evidence of widespread comment-altering without notice at Protein Wisdom: this comment was altered without notice, as caught by commenters here and here; alterations threatened by a
guest poster; an admission of over 100 alterations by Pub poster dicentra; and a commenter telling Goldstein that he disagrees with Goldstein’s practice of changing comments:
Which is why I’ve decided that the whole changing comments thing is such a bad idea. Not fisking them. Not adding snarky comments in brackets. But just flat out changing comments. Because if comments are what are causing the damage, then an accurate record is what is so necessary. Because if comments started getting changed, then anyone anywhere is vulnerable to being accused of something they didn’t do.
Now I think that you disagree with me on this. About the whole changing comments. Fair enough. On an earlier post I said that changing comments meant that we wouldn’t really be able to tell who was slandering and libeling people when it actually went to court.
And you responded that yes, the comments might be changed, but you kept a permanant record of the original on some sort of … internet tech…comment recording thingy. Which is good, but damages come from a public viewing of false facts, not a private one.
And it’s in the public verson of the comments where Goldstein’s alterations are not made clear to readers.
Which is why you can’t trust anything written at his site. Which is why I intend never to speak about it again. It is an utterly worthless site that has become nothing but the plaything of the site host, to fool the world about what you said by altering it without notice.
A site with so little integrity is not worth my time, or yours, and I’m sorry I wasted so much time writing about it in recent days. That ends, now.