Thursday, April 8, 2010

Most Prolific Writer

By far the most prolific writer, even before the Whirled Wild Web, remains Anonymous. And there are some folks that take issue with that.

A recent AJC editorial posits that anonymous posts and comments have no place in "legitimate journalism". Legitimate journalism is readily identified by phrases like "unnamed sources" or "remaining anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the record" or "unidentified sources". That's where the irony gets knee deep. This editorialist cited a case where a judge may have disclosed information on a case that, well, that judge just shouldn't ought to have. That's right. Legitimate journalists are the only ones allowed to divulge information, especially when it is sensitive. But it gets better. Because this is the electronic age no one can really prove that the judge actually made the offending comments, or even that the judge's computer was used. The only thing that may be certain is that the judge's internet account was used.

Then it gets local. A Dunwoody blogger, who shall remain nameless, thought he might encourage greater and more lively debate by allowing anonymous comments. Indeed. This change also did what it generally does, which is remove any inhibitions some folks might otherwise have against vitriol. That anonymous posting degrades the quality of conversation is well demonstrated in local school and police blogs (where anonymity is rationalized as necessary to prevent retribution from the man). Anonymous rants on these blogs have rendered them virtually useless, totally predictable and incredibly monotonous. But there are large number of comments on any given post.

So this Dunwoody blogger gets blasted by a local blog-o-phile, we'll call him "Roger Luddite", who has a consistent non-stop rant about folks "hiding behind anonymous" and using "fake names".  He seems to think that the value of the comment is directly related to whether the poster uses his "real name", a pseudonym or simply remains anonymous even though the "real name" is the only one that cannot be verified. (As Thaddeus Osborne Dabell once remarked: "it isn't the name that matters, it's the initials".) Now Mister Luddite considers himself quite the mover and shaker and presumes that everyone in Dunwoody knows him, knows he really exists and assumes we actually give a rodent's rectum that he does and what he says. But in his rather narrow world, if you're posting on the internet, then by god, you should use your "real" name or your comments just don't count. But in taking such a strident view, he prevents open discourse by implying that given a "real" name he might launch an ad hominem attack to advance his own opinion, especially since he already engages in ad hominem in absentia.

Of course this ignores a few key realities. First, since the days of 1200 baudbps modems and bulletin boards, folks have been using "handles" when posting online, much like folks did and still do on CB radio. It is, and has been, the way these bulletin boards, and now the web, work.

And, if you follow Mister Luddite's logic, what must we think of "Poor Richard" or "George Sand", and other great intellects forced by circumstance--often an ignorant and bigoted populace--to use pseudonyms? Are their works somehow diminished  by the fact that the "real" author's name remained hidden or has the world been a better place because important ideas were offered to the public? Is a good idea, or a sound and legitimate criticism, any less worthy because the mind behind the words chooses to remain unknown? Conversely, is there any value, positive or negative, in knowing that it was indeed Mister Luddite who said something?

At the end of the day, if you cannot filter the sound comments, the profound analysis and the informed opinion from the increasing noise on the internet, regardless of the name on the tagline, then maybe you're not as smart as you think you are.