The following is my opinion as a member participating in this discussion.
A Conspiracy Against ATS?
So here we are, sitting on the worlds most popular site for alternative topics and conspiracies, and yet there's one that never really gets
discussed, and that is the Conspiracy against ATS.
"What the hell are you talking about Nef?"
I hear you ask.....
I sit here in a unique position. I'm a site member, I'm a moderator too and
amongest other things that brought me to the dance here, I'm a
What that means is two things really - firstly, I get into some really weird conversations at parties, and secondly, I tend to look for trends/links
Let me start with an obvious example.
Towards the back end of last year ATS found itself in a particularly unique position. Whilst the Presidential campaigns were running we found out that
we were being visited extensively
by the RNC and DNC's hosting servers, which - you may recall - ultimately ended up in ATS having to crack
down on some particularly nasty trashy political discussion.
The crack down, in turn drew attention from the actual subjects of the election that mattered (because it focused on cleaning up the trash and rubbish
that was caused) and the vocal minority then set about making out allegations that ATS suppressed peoples rights to free speech etc, when actually
what we were doing was trying to raise the bar and promote decent political debate.
The people involved deliberately posted all kinds of spurious rubbish, regurgitated it, turned it all ways round, crossed the line in the sand that
the site owners drew up deliberately, broke the T&C and then complained that they
were the injured party.
Unsurprisingly, when the election passed, the "attention" dropped off.
"well Nef, that's politics for you, and it was an election...."
Yeah, I knew you'd say that. That's not the end of it.
Like I said, I notice trends.
Before I became a mod, as a member, I noticed that ATS was being visited by a "cluster" of bigots. These people manifested themselves in a number of
ways, some were subtle, some more direct. Their MO was to appear "reasonable" whilst they lined up their agenda, and then they banded in to promote
it - the eventual subject of choice for them at that time was holocaust denial. There were two or three of them tag-teaming each other in threads, all
with the same or very similar message. I could, and did, make predictions of who would post in certain threads at certain times.
The message - disturbing as it was to me - isn't the issue in this case. Its what happened when the people were called on it, at first by members,
and then by staff - the complaint and protestation from the "cluster" was that ATS was at fault, that the rules were too restrictive.
The people had deliberately positioned themselves in place to break the T&C, did it, then tried to make out that it was ATS's fault.
When the Israeli incursion into Gaza happened recently, we saw a massive resurgence in hate speech. And by that I mean real hate speech, so much so
that, once again, ATS had to step in and draw the line.
Guess what happened? Allegations once again that ATS was at fault, by people who had deliberately positioned themselves to break the T&C.
Then there are the simple ones. The "blazes of glory". Again, they come via deliberate T&C infractions, stuff that is very basic - usually from
people who claim to be new to the site but seem to know an awful lot about the rules here. Sometimes they latch on to a particular mod who has
done/said something to them. Its never their
fault that they cause a problem, its ATS's fault....
You know where I'm going with the next one I'm sure.
Let me address the drug thing, and provide some context from a mod perspective.
The drug issue has mostly bubbled under the surface for a long time. It was a minor thing for most folks - some threads got started, some got moved to
RATS, some folks had their wrists slapped, the odd one or two were banned for posting really stupid things, but generally, it was a benign thing for
the most. A sore point for some, yes, but tolerable to members and staff alike. The rationale behind putting stuff in RATS was explained, and most
people lived with it.
Shortly after the heat of the US Presidential Election died down the staff noticed that the experiment with relaxing the ultra strict, zero tolerance
on these topics on the main board, and instead keeping them in RATS, was starting to go wrong and stuff was beginning to spill out to the main forums
just like the political mud slinging experienced previously did.
This started coming to a head around the end of January requiring such in inordinate amount of staff time/resources that SkepticOverlord and Springer
had to "draw another line in the sand" - one that that essentially ended up illustrating a whole host of problems via posts filled with the typical
vitriol about "selling out, censorship, government control, the death of freedom speech, etc..." in spite of the fact the real issues were clearly
expressed and had nothing to do with any of that.
Let me try and put this into focus for you - at the end of January, one or two threads popped up, and they were dealt with. Following on a few more
popped up, and they were dealt with too. Then issues of useage started appearing in otherwise rational threads. That propogated itself like a virus
and suddenly the benign became an issue. And where closing and warning and advising used to work, we suddenly saw that - almost overnight - threads
that were closed got starred and flagged to the top of the front page on ATS. (....yeah we figured that one out....)
The end result was that after
Springer and SO stepped in, once again to protect their
site, and to enforce the T&C and suddenly accounts
that had not been active for years
suddenly stepped into the fray, and they all had an opinion, and guess which way it leant? And once again,
those people who deliberately positioned themselves to break the T&C cried foul, and tried to make out it was ATS's fault.
Seeing a trend here?
Not only that, but after
the crackdown, and subsequent discussions/olive branch from the site owners, a few select people put themselves in a
where they broke the T&C, causing chat to be shut down for a while - end result - more drama, with more
claims that it
was ATS's fault.
As a mod and a person, I know that everyone has off days. I know full well that sometimes what you read on the net can get you so damn riled up that
you want to punch out your screen - every mod knows this
. Despite the negative image that some folks intentionally
want to portray us
in, we are just normal folks. (Yeah I've seen the descriptions, been insulted, got the T-Shirt thanks!) We come from all walks of life, and have
experienced all kinds of things. We have differing views on subjects, and embrace different politics and different philosophies
None of us are "out to get" anyone. What we want is a place where all the interesting stuff we like can be discussed freely, with a dose of civility
and decorum that is generally lacking from most areas of the net. In other words, we try and promote the standards set out in the site T&C, because we
believe in what ATS tries to represent.
You would be amazed - probably astounded - at the discussions that surround actions taken in a lot of cases. I'm not breaking any confidentialities
when I tell you that the staff discussion on the recent drug action is currently on its 13th page, and has 257 posts in it, which when you consider
the actual number of staff, is quite a lengthy discussion.
What I'm saying is that we don't take the stuff we do lightly. And we most certainly can see when people are mocking us.
The ATS Terms & Conditions have been around since the site started, except for a few noted additions added over the years. Its freely available for
anyone to read who visits the site, any time.
ATS members are probably the most intelligent group of people I've personally come across on the 'net gathered up in one spot. The reason we're
here is because we're interested in the different subjects, and we see things a little differently than most folks. We're all intelligent and most
certainly we can all read. We all live in a society that has rules, and we all know the do's and don'ts of acceptable social etiquette.
So when I see people deliberately line themselves up to break the site T&C, and then cry foul after they've done it in order to cause as much
drama as possible
, I have to ask a simple question.
Why would someone want to do that?
Is it organised? It seems so. The politics thing certainly was externally, but also there were other elements involved that jumped on the bandwagon.
And each time those "other" elements are involved, the allegations are the same. "Suppression of free speech...., "Cointelpro....", "Sold
out....", "In it for the money....", "CIA front...." (there are more)
My conclusion - theres a hard core of people out there who want to see the site go down. They use some fairly standard cointel practices - disseminate
into the population, instigate, protest, and then disappear either through enforced banning, or self-withdrawal. They have many accounts, set up over
a long period of time, and some just sit and sleep, or participate in benign threads until one day, one of them goes rogue and forces an "issue" -
usually over a single T&C item - that allows the usual round of allegations to be lobbed out, in the vain hope that someones gonna crack. People get
drawn into such things unwittingly, and some issues become bigger than others (as is the case with the recent one)
And any defence that ATS puts up to protect its name and image gets a "Well you would say that..." response.
Who is this group? I have no idea. Could be disgruntled ex-members, could be something else more sinister indeed. This stuff has been going on for a
loooong time, but believe me, its there.
There is your conspiracy folks.
Disclaimer - I'm not out to start a witch hunt or poke fingers at anyone here. I'm certainly not inferring that anyone who has been involved in
debating the issues that I've mentioned above is in the frame. What I am saying is that sometimes you - as members- and we - as staff - our are
having our buttons pushed for us - quite deliberately in my opinion
As is true with everything in life, you need to question motives sometimes. Be it as significant as an artificially induced stock market crash, or as
minor as an artificially induced drama debate.
Am I being paranoid? Maybe. But then a good conspiracy theorist is always a little paranoid....
As an ATS Staff Member, I will not moderate in threads such as this where I have participated as a member.