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Silencing dissent

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 4 July 2008


Clive Hamilton's dissing of On Line Opinion ("The sad demise of 'On Line Opinion'" On Line Opinion July 2, 2008) is replete with irony piled upon irony in its brief, and almost content free, 849 words.

Consider this. If On Line Opinion is in fact in its death throes, why is Clive taking the time to write to its editors, publish an article in it at their invitation, and then issue not so veiled threats to target its funding base?

"… I wonder whether the esteemed institutions affiliated with On-Line Opinion want to be associated with climate rat-baggery …"

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All this from a man who has forfeited any right to take part in this debate. As he says in New Matilda "when I first joined the climate change debate, I decided there was no way I could pretend to have a comprehensive grasp of climate science … I had to decide not what to believe but whom to believe."

How do you decide who to believe if you have abdicated your right to analyse the arguments?

And if he does not understand the science, he cannot be part of the argument. He must leave it to those with the intellectual grunt and application to undertake that task.

On Line Opinion is an enlightenment project. We believe that there is such a thing as the truth, and that it is out there, even if none of us will ever perceive it more than dimly.

We are also an egalitarian project. When I set-up OLO I saw a need for a site where Australians of whatever political persuasion - no matter their background, their training, their age, their gender, their race - could engage on important issues. It was to be a site which would open up a place for new voices, which would seek out people with special expertise to share their knowledge.

One that partook of the larrikin Australian character, being no respecter of reputations and hierarchies for their own sake.

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No contributor has special privileges on OLO. We don't do editorials, and when I contribute to debate, apart from rare appearances as forum moderator, it is on the same basis as everyone else.

On Line Opinion is also a place for political connections. We welcome lobbyists as well as academics, politicians, activists and citizens. We want to put citizens in touch with decision makers and those with influence, and we don't differentiate between them because they might have a particular point of view, or draw their paycheck from a particular source.

Our fundamental tenet is that while there is such a thing as the truth it demands constant mining and refining for it to be discerned, and that it is not our place to tell others what to think. Consenting adults can come to this site and see opposing arguments laid out before them and make-up their own minds. Clive is under-estimating the ability of our average reader.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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