Saturday, June 13, 2009

Is anonymity worth it?

WisOpinion won't publish the remarks of any writer without his or her name. At the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog, we won't publish a comment without a full name or valid e-mail address. The idea, I suppose, is that it encourages intellectual responsibility and civility.

Some of the anonymous and pseudonymous comments on this blog are trenchant - even if I don't agree. But many are a waste of time. The ones that really bother me are filled with partisan bile but written by people who I suspect could make a point if they really tried.

Shouldn't we encourage responsibility? Aren't readers entitled to know who is talking to them. Shouldn't I ban anonymous or pseudonymous comments?


Sandra said...

The ones that really bother me are filled with partisan bile but written by people who I suspect could make a point if they really tried.

I don't know if that's fair. I think Dad29 makes his point sometimes.

Anonymous said...

In looking at the comments on different sites, I would say that you are about the only one that lists his name.

What good would it do?

capper said...

A few things to consider, Rick:

1) Anonymity is a honored tradition in this country. Remember, many of the founding fathers issued their documents under pseudonyms. These very same writings are the cornerstones for some parts of society.

2) There are people, such as myself, who have become known by their nicknames. Even though I came out about a year ago, and have my name on the front of my blogsite as well as on my profile page, I chose not to change my moniker as that is how many have come to know me. I use both my real name and my nickname interchageably.

I understand your frustration with anonymous hacks. We all get them. But unless it gets to the point of extreme personal attacks or spam, I say let free speech reign.

On a side note, I can't help but notice that it is almost always right wing bloggers that want to put the commenter to identify themselves. The most the left wingers do is put moderation on to control the personal nature of some of the comments.

Clutch said...

Shouldn't we encourage responsibility?

Thank you, yes. That's substantially my interest in internet political discussion and the occasional intervention. For example, irresponsible criticism of an opinion column, based on factual inaccuracies and uncogent reasoning, should be diagnosed and held to account.

Aren't readers entitled to know who is talking to them. Shouldn't I ban anonymous or pseudonymous comments?

These are, of course, crashing non-sequiturs in relation to the first question. I urge you to reason and write more responsibly. ;-)

elliot said...

I used to get angry that Wisopinion wouldn't include From Where I Sit because Elliot is a pseudonym.


I still get angry.

capper said...

Elliot, you can't help be get angry. You are conservative, after all. ;)

Jay Bullock said...

There's a difference between anonymous and pseudonymous comments. I allow both, but I could understand if you wanted to camp down on the anonymity. Make people pick an identity and stick with it, which allows readers (and you) to get a sense of personality and POV. I believe the blogger software gives you that flexibility.

John Foust said...

What's the test performed at WisOpinion and the MU Blog? Someone judges that a name and an email address don't smell fake? Lots of business folks would love to see a way to prove identity on the Internets. It's very difficult. It's just as easy to forge a false identity as it is a real one. (I was banned from Boots and Sabers for pointing this out.)

Making trenchant or at least what I think are pointed remarks with my real name has resulted in endless personal insult when I comment at some conservative blogs. It's not just writing. Recently, it's risen to the level of at least two different individuals from making multiple insulting and threatening crank calls to my office over the past few months. At least when someone insults you personally here on your blog, you can delete their comment. As a commenter, I have no such option to erase someone else's insult.

With anonymous personal attacks, at least we can blame the Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory. When it's not anonymous, I guess we can blame poor character.

But no, don't ban the anonymous commenters. That's just a slippery slope to admitting that it's a good thing to know who is behind speech and political ads, and that'll risk your position at the front tables at WMC luncheons. Similarly, encouraging responsibility and the courage to face the public with one's opinions might reduce contributions to important lobbying groups.

William Tyroler said...

Shouldn't I ban anonymous or pseudonymous comments?

Yes. In fact, that was precisely the thought that occurred to me while reading the comments to this post. There's something about anonymity that encourages incivility. Put somewhat less charitably, a fair number of anonymous posters may well lose their nerve for throwing verbal brickbats if they have to first pop up from behind a wall.

The comments on this very post all pretty much take a different position. But I also note that those signed by an identifiable person are tightly reasoned and temperate. I don't think it's a coincidence.

Dad29 said...

Sandra, clearly I am not bilious enough if clarity overshadows that quality.

George Mitchell said...

I would ban anonymous comments. Some who disagree allude to the Federalist Papers as part of a long tradition. That is not persuasive, in my opinion. I view blog comments more like letters to the editor or as extensions of a "news story" originated by the blogger. It is helpful to know the author of letters to the editor. In a similar vein, consider how meaningless news stories would be if all comments were attributed to anonymous sources.