FREEDOM OF SPEECH: A calm analysis of strange events at The Slog yesterday

sloghitsptWhy did the Slog’s hits fall by 60%?

In the context of yesterday’s main news, I’m still baffled as to exactly what happened to my Autumn Statement piece

For those not up to speed with this site’s problems yesterday, a brief summary. At 8.48 am, I posted a less than complimentary article about the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. By 1.35 pm, it had received 109 views. Shortly afterwards I posted an equally damning piece about Murdoch hypocrisy. Its total at 1.40 pm was 57 views. Those levels were roughly 17% of the average at The Slog. During the afternoon, things improved noticeably, although I was too busy trying to work out what had happened to post anything beyond a brief reference to the mystery. The final tally for the day was 4,105 views – the lowest recorded apart from Christmas Day for nearly three years.

Given the topicality of the content, this is hard to explain. Even harder to explain are the following anomalies:

1. My US hits were normal. By the early afternoon, they were over half the total at the site. That is a first since The Slog started up.

2. The Osborne piece got 27 5-star reviews – second highest of all time – but only 17 comments. That too is a first. The same reviews/comments reversal applied to the Murdoch piece.

3. The total views of the main piece yesterday were 332. That is, by miles, the lowest viewing of an article that was very well received in The Slog’s history.

3. Some Sloggers reported things were normal, but more said either (a) they’d gone to the site without prompting, and the Autumn Statement piece wasn’t visible; or (b) they’d received the prompt, but the link showed ‘Page Unknown’. On my own browser, once it showed ‘unable to connect’, another time it popped up immediately. Other people had the exact same problem. For my own administration of the site, I couldn’t get through to my site stats before 3 pm within the site: but I could by going to favourites on Google for that page.

4. In the hours already used today (it’s now 5.30 am GMT) the joint score for both pieces is already half yesterday’s total.

5. There can be no doubt that, by the early hours of yesterday, No’s 10 & 11 Downing St were incandescent with rage about BBC coverage of the Autumn Statement. The Daily Telegraph dropped all Home Page discussion of its content, and switched instead to a banner headline proclaiming ‘Cameron and Osborne at war with BBC’.

By mid-morning Osborne delivered this rant live on Radio 4:

‘“When I woke up this morning and listened to the Today programme it felt like I was listening to a rewind of a tape of 2010 with BBC correspondents saying Britain is returning to a sort of George Orwell world of the Road to Wigan Pier and that is such nonsense. I would have thought the BBC would have learnt from the last four years that its totally hyperbolic coverage of spending cuts has not been matched by what has actually happened. What I reject is the totally hyperbolic BBC coverage on spending cuts. I had all that when I was interviewed four years ago and has the world fallen in? No it has not.”

He went on to say that under his tutelage, the deficit had halved – omitting to mention that his 2010 Election promise had been to wipe it out completely. Also, I fancy he might regret the closing “No it has not”: yesterday’s Institute of Fiscal Studies (the IFS is a neoliberal think tank) published a piece saying that a return of the Coalition in 2015 would “inevitably result in draconian cuts”. The BBC had its revenge yesterday evening by giving the IFS paper extensive coverage, noting on the website, ‘The chancellor has insisted that the impact of the reductions have (sic) been exaggerated….But Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, which is independent of the government, said he saw a ”colossal” change in the amount of projected spending per head in the next few years…’

6. Not a single US Slogger noted any problems at all with the site yesterday.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this one, but facts are facts. By normal means, they’re inexplicable beyond the conclusion that some ISPs decided (or were instructed) to black out/nobble the piece. If that comes under the latest Slog troll’s definition of “grandiloquence” on my part, then so be it: but the stats I have about The Slog suggest that its readership is heavily biased to upmarket male professional readers….as are my Twitter followers. There is also a hint in the data that I have an above-average share of media-based professionals in the awareness figures.

As for WordPress well, they’ve gone off the radar. As of this morning, I still await a reply, let alone an explanation. But I don’t think the problem lies with them.

On January 18, 2012, a series of coordinated protests occurred against two proposed laws in the United States Congress—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).  According to protest organiser Fight for the Future, over 115,000 websites joined the internet protest. 

During and after the January protest, a number of politicians who had previously supported the bills expressed concerns with the proposals in their existing form, while others withdrew their support entirely. By January 20, 2012, the political environment regarding both bills had shifted significantly. The bills were removed from further voting, and Opposers noted the bills had been “indefinitely postponed”.

We are at a pivotal point in history here. The braindead leadership of the Coalition is becoming increasingly intolerant of any criticism. The ‘non-violent extremist’ laws are going ahead; conceptually, they effectively tear up Magna Carta. And politicians (plus their ‘political advisors’) are wising up fast to what the internet can achieve as a weapon. The Labour Party has in fact lost its role as The Opposition, and the more liberal press titles are going to the wall. The internet (not the Blogosphere – it’s much bigger than that) is now the last line of resistance.

Like Mr K in Kafka’s classic The Trial, I’ve no idea who, what or why two specific and highly critical articles about a depraved government and its even more depraved master suffered from communication problems yesterday. But those pieces on that day – with the Coalition’s fiscal credibility at stake – just happening to go AWOL….well, it is one helluva coincidence.

Do not underestimate the roughshod nature of these apparently well-heeled folks: they are barbarians who recognise no rules, ethics, laws or morals. We have seen them foiled over Iraq, but then coming back and winning. We have seen them steeped in the mud and gore of US Middle East policy. We’ve seen them cornered by an EU that blocks every attempt they make at looking influential in Europe. We have seen them losing over education, the NHS and welfare, but still pushing through their agenda. And we have stood by as crude legal attempts to make suing bloggers a cost-free exercise were only stopped by the diligence of The Law Society.

Above all, they are vandals, ripping our values, traditions, society, and independent future to shreds. They will lean on the cps, politicise the police, attack the free broadcast media, and indeed anyone or anything who stands in their way. The Mayor of London – a born blustering bully – knows what is coming…hence his investment in water cannon, and militarisation of the Met. He too is part of the wider web of deceit and depravity that makes up the neoliberal-bank-City-Newscorp axis of cultural destruction.

None of this is new. I merely restate these facts as a reminder that opines: do not laugh this kind of thing off. There may be an innocent explanation for yesterday, but there probably isn’t.