On August 16 I wrote about how a post at the Coffee Party website, titled “Reversing the Coffee Party’s decline,” had been removed from the Coffee Party website after I called attention to the post on August 13.
The removed post, along with dozens of comments, chronicled the struggles of the Coffee Party as well as complaints about lack of transparency in the organization:
Having visited Coffee Party chapters in two states, and having heard from other city and state organizers, I definitely know we’re in decline. Chapters have folded, events are less well-attended, and morale is at a low….
At the root of [that problem] is that the organization lacks democratic accountability. Event decisions are set at the top and conveyed downward. This is totally turning the idea of a grassroots movement on its head.
The post appeared simply to have disappeared. A commenter just called my attention to some shenanigans with the disappeared post.
The post has reappeared under a different post title, now called Sept. Convention: Reversing Coffee Party’s decline, with a date/time stamp of “Wed, 08/04/2010 – 6:01pm.,” just like the original. The problem with the date/time stamp is that as of August 13, the original was still up and visible, so how did someone at the Coffee Party change the post title and url link at some point after that yet maintain the original date/time stamp? (Perhaps some of you internet detectives can trace the history of the new url.)
The person who made the change was not the author. In fact, in the comments to the new post, the original author, identified as “Nonpartisan09” was very upset that he did not know about the change, and accused the Coffee Party of “Orwellian” attempts to silence debate. Here is Nonpartisan09’s comment on August 31 (emphasis mine):
My OP was titled “Reversing the Coffee Party’s decline”
Nonpartisan09 – 08/31/2010 – 5:59pm
It’s now called “Sept. Convention: Reversing Coffee Party’s decline.” Would the moderator/webmaster kindly explain this Orwellian move? Is the leadership so afraid of the outside world that it’s unwilling to invite candid discussion to its own forum?
The webmaster/moderator, identified as “Adam Selene” responded by accusing Nonpartisan09 of making the change (emphasis mine):
I have no idea.
Adam Selene – 08/31/2010 – 7:03pm
* * *
At the risk of insult, are you sure you didn’t do it? 🙂
I, personally, cannot imagine what possible, justifiable (as opposed to self-serving) reason there could be for why I would have changed it and on that basis alone am certain that I did not. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’d remember it if I did. I’ll query my fellow moderators and others with that level of control in an effort to figure it out and ensure that such changes are only made as appropriate.
Occasionally threads are moved to a more relevant forums or given more descriptive titles so that contributors might have a clue what they’re about. This change doesn’t feel necessary in that way and so, if you didn’t do it, it feels a little creepy, yes. Any change of that nature from us should have been accompanied by a note explaining why it happened at the bottom of the post. (I’m not sure the term “Orwellian” has any legitimate meaning anymore.)
Please accept our apologies. Regardless of why the change was made or who did it, you certainly should have been notified by some means.
The Coffee Party Moderation Team
Nonpartisan 09 responded by again denying he had made the change (emphasis mine):
Thank you, Adam Selene. Plz post your findings here
Nonpartisan09 – 09/01/2010 – 7:49pm
To be clear, no, I didn’t change my title. I didn’t even know that was possible (and can’t think of any good reason why it should be allowed by non-moderators, especially if a thread is well-developed). I also didn’t receive any notification of the change.
Please share what you discover here. Like you said, there’s no justifiable reason why anyone should have changed it. In my mind, that leaves the many less-than-noble reasons.
I think all forum participants deserve to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that moderators here exercise their authority with prudence and restraint. Thanks for your time and attention.
The effect of changing the post title and backdating the link was to cut off access to the post for everyone who had the url. of the original post, as well as Coffee Party commenters who were discussing how to reverse the Coffee Party decline. The scrutiny and the dialogue came to a standstill.
Here is how Wikipedia describes the term “Orwellian“:
“Orwellian” describes the situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free society. It connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past, including the “unperson” — a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments.
I would say the strange circumstances by which some unknown person at the Coffee Party “unposted” the original post about the Coffee Party’s decline, changed the post title to reflect a more positive spin, and reposted it weeks later with the original date and time stamp, fits the definition of Orwellian.