Saturday, 5 March 2011


Part 2 here

The Argus Leader of Sioux Falls practices willful censorship of those ideas with which its editors do not agree.

We at C.A.G.E. have repeatedly publicized evidence that the media shows bias against opinions and even facts that are not politically correct, especially when it comes to the issue of tobacco and smoking bans. The typical mainstream newspaper will print only a very negligible number of letters on such topics, and even then only if they are not too compromising to their political comfort level.

By posting opinions and information in various mainstream media sites, we have unfortunately encountered some biased moderators that simply ignore our posts and decide never to publish them. The CBC is one example that readily comes to mind. Their form of biased censorship is frustrating and unacceptable, especially when practiced by a corporation sustained by the citizens’ taxes. In the past, our complaints have yielded some results, but we still have much ground to cover in order to overcome the mainstream media bias against politically-incorrect opinions. Notwithstanding this perennial bias, organizations and citizens with values such as ours have been effective in freely expressing themselves through diverse channels and have thus contributed positively to the growing shift in public opinion away from nanny-statism .

As it has become customary, when smoking bans are to be or have been recently enacted, media forums attract an increased participation of both pro and anti-ban contributors. There is, however, an abnormally high apparent participation rate from the pro-ban side, probably because they have received their cue from the tobacco control directors as part of their campaign tactics such as we have illustrated in our blog entry of February 11th. Be that as it may, we have no difficulties in countering their arguments on a rational and factual level and we are in fact quite happy to have our own beliefs challenged. The ensuing debates provide us with the much desired opportunity to debate the issues in public and to offer to the general audience a challenging viewpoint to the politically correct pre-determined side of the story. This is one of the reasons why open debate and free speech are considered among the most crucial principles of democracy, and the media fulfill a crucial role in facilitating such open debates. It is in no way an exaggeration to refer to the media as being an important “guardian of democracy”.

We have recently uncovered another newspaper that does not appear to value nor respect its role and obligations as a ‘’guardian of democracy’’. The Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, SD, does not only practice blatant censorship, but they do so in a most despicably hypocritical manner. Not only do they remove comments of which they do not approve, but they also use a technique called ‘’shadow posting’’ whereby the comment is invisible to everyone but to the person who has posted it. The latter can post as many opinion pieces or arguments as he wishes to, and no one will see them but himself! This means that the contributor is not even aware that he is being censored and is thereby fooled into thinking that his comments have been duly shared, but nobody else actually sees what he posts. This under-handed practice was discovered by the vice-president of C.A.G.E. as she logged out of the Argus Leader forum and suddenly realized that she could no longer see her own comments. The following notification appeared instead:

Name withheld

10:26 PM on March 1, 2011

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.

When she logged back onto the forum -- lo and behold -- her comment reappeared unaltered.

You are probably wondering if the comment which she had posted was uncivil, distasteful, or an ad hominem attack that should have rightfully warranted some form of censorship. We will allow you to be the judge. Here below is what happened when the comment was copy-pasted from the visible (logged in) version of the site. Please note that the sections highlighted in red were not apparent on the forum but only suddenly appeared like magic in the Microsoft Word document upon which we pasted the block of text that we had copied:


2:40 PM on March 1, 2011

This comment has been removed from our system.

This comment is hidden because you have chosen to ignore Cyzane. Show DetailsHide Details

If protecting the non-smoking public and employees was what concerns anti-smoking activists and governments, solutions to keep harmony within society without killing businesses and jobs, do exist. Designated smoking rooms, and smokers’ only venues, are good alternatives, yet they are forbidden.

In fact smoking bans have nothing to do with non-smokers' health or comfort. They are designed to coerce smokers into quitting their habit by making their life as miserable as public opinion will permit. Winding up non-smokers against them, combined with the fact that they have brainwashed smokers to believe that they are too severely addicted to quit on their own, profit the powerful pharmaceutical industry who makes billions selling nicotine replacement treatment throughout the world, albeit their very low rate of success. What better business partnership between governments who collect taxes, the pharmaceutical industry that profits from the repeat sales of virtually useless nicotine replacement treatment as well as dangerous drugs such as Chantix and Zyban (and soon the anti-smoking vaccine) and anti-smoking activists who profit from the grants of both?

We are confident that you will agree that the above text hardly qualifies as material that should be censored in a free and enlightened society such as the one aspired to in North America. Far less should such a comment be censored in such a hypocritical manner as to mislead the contributor into thinking that the message had actually been duly posted.

Upon discovering this hypocritical and very biased form of censorship, the C.A.G.E. Vice President wrote a letter of complaint to a person in charge of the forums at the Argus Leader asking for an explanation and requesting that her comment and the one from the previous night (similar in content and style) be reposted. Seventy-two hours have passed without our receiving so much as a letter of acknowledgement from the Argus Leader.

We consider the unprincipled behaviour of the Argus Leader to be a story in and of itself, and for this reason the present C.A.G.E. blog entry will be distributed to all other media outlets in the same area and a link will be posted in Facebook and other social networks and blogs. We invite you to do your part to spread this story far and wide. The goal is not only to shame the Argus Leader for their censorship practices in a country that so highly values free speech, but also to serve as warning to other forum participants to be on the lookout for such practices if ever they are posting comments on a site where the administrators are motivated by misguided ethics and a rather totalitarian approach to public debate.

We also provide you with the URL for the comments section of the article in question in the Argus Leader:

We invite you to write short letters to the editors of the competing media outlets, making reference to your outrage at the censorship practiced by the Argus Leader and to this C.A.G.E. blog article. We provide you here below a list of other media  in the region. We trust that these competitors will be quite interested in how the actions of the Argus Leader can affect the reputation of media outlets in general.


Michael J. McFadden said...

I would like to back up CAGE's observations about the Argus Leader's disgraceful treatment of its commenters. The Leader posts a clear set of Terms and Conditions and then seems to blithely ignore those Terms and Conditions when performing the sneaky "Shadow Banning" form of censorship. Their only excuse when emailed is that they allow someone else to control what is printed in the web-extension of their newspaper.

I don't know which is worse: the seeming criminality or the seeming incompetence and irresponsibility.

Those who post on the Topix newsboards should be aware that this practice is also quite common there. If you visit some of the Topix longer-running smoking threads (one in Ohio has something like 30,000 posts to it) you'll find that some unknown "Winston Smith" at Topix has turned literally thousands of posts into unhistory. How can you tell? Simple: match the numbers appearing on the postings to the numbers of total posts posted to the board: you'll see the discrepancy right away reflecting the number of posts that have been "invisiblelized." Spending your time posting on Topix or the Argus Leader may well be a *complete* waste of effort and you'll never know it: You're better off sticking to more reputable news sources.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

jredheadgirl said...

I tried to leave a comment @ ABC7 news in Los Angeles in response to a news piece about 3rd hand smoke. Though I was critical of the media in my comment, I see no reason as to why my comment was deleted TWICE. There was no violation of the "terms of service". This was my comment:

It's official: The anti-smoking fanatics of the 21st century, along with a complicit media, have now outdone the fanatics of the 20th century (think Reefer Madness).

In the very same breath today, you (ABC) told us that low levels of radiation in our food/milk amount to minimal or no risk. Really? Oh, but we are to be worried about 3rd hand smoke? Do you think that maybe you're being a bit biased, due to a pre-determined agenda that sets out to make people scared of smokers?

Science by press release seems to be your new motto. You people scare me.


Why can't I say that? This is supposed to be a free country, right? I'll admit that it's not the friendliest of posts, but given the nature and scare-tactic-like angle of the subject matter at hand(that parents are affecting the health of their infants via 3rd hand smoke merely by being in the same room with them), does my comment really seem that unreasonable? ..and who gets to decide what is reasonable in a free and open society anyway?

BTW, I'll be on the lookout for shadow banning. Lord have mercy.