Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The 1st Amendment Doesn't Require A Nametag

Some great insight has been left so far in the Fear? post. Some were even anonymous! Gasp! Theorris: "Considering a lot of political writing from the past was done either anonymously or pseudononymously, it is dificult to justify." Anonymous: "Posting anonymously allows another opinion to see the light of day without fear of personal retribution." Anonymous: "No one should have to fear retalliation if they hold to certain political beliefs." Rob quoting Eric Hoffer: "You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."


Blogger CapitalCarnage said...

While I agree with the points made that anonymous comments should be available to protect people from vicious retaliation, I also think that it is noble of a blog administrator to require people to sign their comments. This will help people, and potential voters avoid flagrant lies that are intended to manipulate the public away for the truth. (Especially at election time.) The current nature of politics on all levels is far too full of Rhetoric, Sophistry, Half Truths, and Misdirection. This is intended to divert people attention away from important facts and appeal to their emotions. I for one think that it does a great service to the blogging community to have blog administrators stand up and say (write) that we expect more. How you balance this against the importance of protecting potential whistleblowers I am not sure, but people who lie and deceive in order to retain or gain power ought to be held accountable. Whether on blogs talk radio CNN or anywhere else.

6/14/2006 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger steve u. said...

I can't tell who you are saying fears anonymous comments. This seems like a bit of a strawman.

Also, I'm concerned about all the talk of reprisals (by government, I guess the allegation is) against free speechers. If that kind of stuff is going on, we should identify the specific instances.

My broader concern is that it is not going on but that, by the empty allegation being repeated so many times, people will be cowed into remaining silent for fear of mean Big Brother.

As Theorris points out (I quite enjoy his comments), anonymity has a solid spot in moving good things forward. But so does signing our name to things. It is bolder, tougher.

I have a position of some prominence in the State (sobering thought, I realize). I appreciate when people challenge my thinking; it's the process's way of finding the best direction.

On the flip side of that coin, there are many others with positions of greater prominence and power in the State. I don't feel the least bit afraid to respectfully challenge their ideas. I won't be put in jail and my soul won't be revoked.

If they don't appreciate what I'm doing, they could decide to step on my political career or political projects I undertake, but, that shouldn't be considered a "reprisal" that is harmful to democracy or free speech. If they succeed in that, it means I wasn't good enough to get the job done, and I should be replaced. By design, politics is tough business. And it should be tough business. That is what forces leaders to find compromise and solutions.

6/14/2006 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger theorris said...

There seems to be a real fear in the community that saying the wrong thing is going to get you either persecuted or in legal trouble. The second part is apparently due to our rather letigious society, the first part--I don't know where that comes from.

I will say I use a pseudonym simply because I am a private person and don't really operate a political blog. I find myself more and more, however, commenting on political blogs now that they are gaining a foothold in Utah. I still value my privacy, however, even though this is a public venue. I have in the past had no problem with showing my true name etc and, in fact, blogged for 4 years with my real name (this is around fifth year of true "blog" blogging). I just perfer for people think of me as a wookie, I think.

Ok, I am just joking there. I won't bore you all with other reasons I have chosen a pseudonym at this point, but suffice it to say it has something to do with what my original intention for my own ecclectic blog was: a study in how a personality or a person is created in a text.

6/14/2006 01:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My fear is not the government it's Rebecca Walsh.

6/14/2006 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Reach Upward said...

I think anonymous comments are fine, but that they cannot be considered to carry the same weight as signed comments. I too use a pseudonym, but people can discover my true identity with one click of the mouse.

6/14/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger steve u. said...

Though use of a name carries greater weight with me (as Scott, I mean Reach Upward, says) and creates possibilities for more comprehensive off-line conversations, it doesn't matter to me whether someone chooses to do so. People have their reasons, such as workplace restrictions. (a.k.a., "the man"). My comment is more to (1) who, if anyone, fears anonymous comments and (2) whether the fear-factor element of political retribution has any basis.

Theorris, I've always thought of you as a wookie. And a yankee-doodle-doo one at that.

6/14/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger theorris said...

That's a good question, Steve. Why would there be a fear of anonymous comments? Is it a socially received idea that someone who speaks anonymously is somehow speaking the truth? (In other words they have nothing to hide.) Of course this is also paired with its opposite: that people who are anonymous are hiding something and perhaps trying to distort "the truth" by hiding out in a fake name. (A wolf in sheeps clothing as it were.)

6/14/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger theorris said...

Just to explain a little further, you will all, of course, note the contradiction in what I just wrote. Either someone is hiding because if they don't hide they will be harmed and what she or he has to say bears great truth or they area hiding because the person is a scoundrel and what he or she is saying is a scandalous lie meant to harm someone.

I think we need to examine the power/influence of a commentator and of a public fora like blogs in general. Just because it is said or talked about doesn't make something harmful. It does, however, put people to work thinking how to adequately respond. Politicians, of course, are put on the spot all the time. Perhaps we all can help them give better responses than just the simple canned ones by carrying on a reasoned, civic-minded discourse and not, as an anonymous commentator in a previous post said, resort to name-calling and character-bashing.

6/14/2006 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger theorris said...

And one more (sorry I am quick on the trigger finger today!): a person might just choose to be anonymous because they wish to engage but they don't want to be hauled in front of a spotlight and mocked or attacked.

The state of political discourse seems to create that desire to remain unknown (as I mentioned previously). I think if we reform our approach to dialogue (and take on a less acrimonious discourse) we will see less fear of being open.

6/14/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Anonymity has great value in certain contexts, some of which (fear of political reprisal, fear of employer reprisal, fear that your neighbors won't like you anymore) have already been mentioned.

On the flip side, though, anonymity is often abused to take cheap shots and make unsubstantiated, manipulative and harmful comments. Paul Allen wrote a post a couple of months ago titled Anonymous is a Coward that makes this point much better than I would.

On my site, WordPress requires (and not by any setting that I remember choosing) that all commenters enter a name and an email address. Honestly, I don't care if the name is "Anonymous" and the email address is "", although if I had a lot of comments, it would be helpful if multiple anonymous commenters don't all choose the same name. :)

6/14/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see steve u's point about "politics is a tough business" and he needs to work harder to get his point across, etc. But for many people, they don't want to be part of that side of the political process. Some are just not cut out for the stress or don't have the economic clout or are doing something else valuable with their time. This doesn't mean that they are not knowledgeable or that they don't have good ideas.

But a lowly precinct chair in SLC knows full well that if he or she says certain things with their name attached to it, they will be slapped down in some form. Most often that is in the form of denigration and labeling. Many are just not cut out for that type of intimidation and humiliation. This way (blogs) their voices can be heard.

6/14/2006 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's remember that the mainstream media relies heavily on "anonymous sources". If it's good enough for those guys, why not here?

6/14/2006 04:31:00 PM  

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