Tuteur/Minchin debate procedure

Debate procedure Maureen Minchin will follow

This process has been independently designed after consulting tech experts to maximise accountability, minimise pointless emotive conflict, clearly delineate what is included and what is not, and create an independent record of all contributions. I am satisfied that the time spent on specialist consultation should achieve the end result of a complete archived conversation presenting both views, identifying points of disagreement, and noting any common ground.

I sought out independent professional advice about constructing a fair and secure debate in ways likely to achieve the desired outcome of a permanent, unalterable online record of both views.

I can and will begin this process on June 19th with or without AT’s agreement, which her latest defamatory post about me suggests is unlikely to be forthcoming. She may be the one to invent a pretext to disengage.

If AT can present convincing arguments as to why this format will not produce considered, accountable debate on the permanent record, I am willing to listen.

But I am not interested in any (even my alma mater Oxford Uni) debating society rules. She would surely know, as I do, that these are geared around VERBAL debate as persuasive performance and emotive entertainment, not as rational discussion aimed at establishing fact.

Nor will I commit to anything beyond my capacity to manage as a woman living on a small income after decades of helping families free of charge. This debate is meant to be my knowledge and ideas contesting AT’s and trying to (a) find common ground; (b) identify points of disagreement; and (c) compare our knowledge and ideas on those contested topics in light of the scientific evidence. A new edition of Milk Matters: infant feeding and Immune disorder will be where any recent detailed referencing and scientific discussion will emerge in due course.

That book is my massive argument for the importance of breastfeeding in every country,. It has been warmly greeted by eminent men and women knowledgeable in various medical fields and public health; my work has led to involvement in their research, membership in scientific societies, and much more. To have a leading immunologist write in an email that I’m their “breastfeeding encyclopedia” suggests that ex-obstetrician Tuteur should be a little more respectful of the many mothers like me, who, because of harms to their children, spend a lifetime learning about a field in which they have no formal qualifications. Outdated medical diplomas collected by those who can afford them are no substitute for a motivated passion to learn. And clinical experience is the basis of much research effort.

That said, I have already wasted considerable time in a busy life on this rhetorical melodrama, and my patience isn’t infinite, even if my obstinacy can be, if I say I will do something. AT challenged me to this debate, and challengers traditionally give respondents the choice of time and means. If AT prefers a different format, but cannot prove that this format won’t meet the stated goals, that’s just too bad. Respondents who specify terms for their participation have no obligation to continue when those terms are ignored or breached, as mine have been already, over and over. I’ve done enough to make this debate happen; I will do what I agreed to*, which is answer the question AT framed. Now it’s over to AT. Will she accept these basic, fair principles? Or does she need a wider audience to play to? Or is she, dare I say it, the one who is afraid to engage? For despite her and her followers multiple taunts, I am certainly not.

* I agreed to consider the matter late May, did so, agreed a topic late May, took time to make necessary arrangements, will begin June 19. Harassed and insulted at every stage by obnoxious posts and persons. Misrepresentation, caricatures, distortion of facts, insults. Is it any wonder people decline to this dogmatic (rather than sceptical) ex-obstetrician?

How we can run the online debate

AT, the challenger, asked MM, the respondent, to answer this question:

Are the benefits of breastfeeding real and clinically relevant or merely theoretical and not reproducible in large populations?

The debate begins when MM posts a reply to the question posed by AT.

An exchange of participant email addresses needs to precede the debate if it is to progress beyond MM’s initial reply. MM’s will be womensmilkmatters@gmail.com


This procedure is an effort at ensuring that each is publishing in ways that are completely transparent and accountable to others, but that do not require either to post in a hostile environment (i.e., controlled by the other participant or people aligned with them in this debate).

Each participant will post on the website of her choice, so that there can be no claims of any unfair advantage or editing. As soon as each post is published online, it will be archived using web.archive.org’s Save Page function (instructions below).

A timestamped URL to the archived post (beginning web.archive.org) will be emailed to the other person immediately after publishing; an email acknowledging receipt would be appropriate. Time-stamped archived versions of the posts will be the ONLY basis for the other participant’s next reply, and the time from which 24 hours is calculated. Any later edits to posts, or additional posts after the first, will be ignored by default, though the person responding has the right to note the edits and/or reply if they choose.

Should either party see anywhere online a post that seems to be  a response in the debate without having received a web.archive.org URL, they may archive the page themselves, then note this publicly on their own site with the timestamped URL, and email the other party to see whether an email may have gone astray. Or the not-notified party may simply refuse any further engagement.


On June 19th at 12am AEST, MM will post her response to the agreed question:

Are the benefits of breastfeeding real and clinically relevant or merely theoretical and not reproducible in large populations?

She will then immediately save the page using web.archive.org’s Save Page function and post that timestamped URL as above. Finally, she will email the timestamped web.archive.org URL of the post to AT, and invite her response.

AT should begin her post with the archive.org link sent to her, so everyone can see the exact text to which she is responding. She can then publish her response to the post on her own website. She should then immediately save the page using the process below, and post the timestamped URL on her site immediately under the post. Finally, she should also email MM to notify MM of the response, including that URL for her post.

A guide to this procedure will be posted before debate begins. I am told that is very simple once you’ve done it once or twice, but have no experience myself.

This will continue back and forth, with an requirement of no longer than 24 hours between a post and its reply, until 12:00am on 22 June AEST. At that time, barring internet outages or similar exceptional circumstances, MM will cease to engage directly in this debate, regardless of whether the debate is neatly concluded. Any future posts will not be added to the official record. Either party is free to walk away at any time, for any reason they deem justifies the action.



No encouragement anywhere in any medium, and active discouragement, of abusive behaviour among followers, peers, and other networks, whether on websites, Facebook, whatever. No posting or hosting of such material – in AT’s case, no further posting.

Full engagement. No “skimming”. Read the posts properly and address all the key points in each response. If a point in any post is not addressed in the other participant’s response, it may be explicitly highlighted next time. If it is still not responded to at all in the opponent’s second response, the point may be taken as having been conceded by default. (Obviously, if the debate ends before a second response is published, there wasn’t an opportunity to respond and no such default occurs.)

Recording the debate

Both participants will go on the record as granting archive.org and the bodies running that site an unlimited, indefinite, irrevocable license to reproduce posts as necessary for the purposes of preserving an accurate record of the debate, and waive any right to demand a takedown of the material, whether under the DMCA or any other legal mechanism. Both also grant each other the right to reproduce posts, but only in their entirety and without modification to the content.

Once the debate is closed, MM will ensure that the archive links to all responses are recorded on a dedicated website, where people can easily find the debate in a single place. She will include the actual content of her posts for ease of access, along with the archive links, on this official record. If AT chooses, she can request that her responses also be included on this central repository, but her archive links will be included whatever she decides. MM will then supply AT with the address to this site and post it online.

Procedure for posting and archiving