by Oliver_Halle
 The Agitator
January 10, 2012 03:35 PM | 2594 views | 5 5 comments | 152 152 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

In a MDJ story dated 1/10/2012, “Grand jury suggests higher pay for police officers”, there were 22 comments underneath it at the time I wrote this, almost all negative, and all written by anonymous writers. Admittedly, I have a more positive opinion about paying police for the job they do for us, so at least I shouldn’t fear a knock on my door by one of Cobb’s finest for being on the wrong side of this issue. But it baffles me that even in responding to innocuous newspaper stories, most commentators hide behind anonymity and make some of the nastiest personal attacks about the subjects of an article or column. It would be nice to know who these folks are so that the readers can determine if the writer has a personal agenda, if it is a political opponent, or if there is something else driving the attacks. Same for those writers who support the people named in a story---we should know if they too have some personal interest or connection. I don’t like a lot of our elected officials at all levels any more than most other people, but I give them credit for putting their names out there when they float something controversial. I give them credit for letting the public jump on them and their ideas, for not hiding in a bunker when they say something likely to generate controversy. I think more of us would like to see some names behind the comments. Somehow I suspect that the nasty tone of many of them will become more civilized; they might not want their children, spouses and friends to see the kind of personal attacks that might otherwise be made on them. Perhaps too, some of these anonymous writers, who so often seem to be closet pundits on any subject, should give the rest of us the benefit of their knowledge, wisdom and experience, and run for office themselves.

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Oliver G. Halle
January 13, 2012
That anonymity has become acceptable as the rule vice the exception with more and more media, in my opinion, doesn't make it right. There are any number of examples one can provide to demonstrate the problem with it. If a political candidate uses the blogs to write anonymously, how can the reader determine, and factor in, the credibility of the anonymous writer? I thnk we can all agree that if we know someone's agenda, it makes a difference in how we form our opinions. It also makes a difference in many instances to know the author's background, if they have a financial stake or interest in a topic. In a civil or criminal trial, these issues and more are brought out on cross-examination of witnesses so that a jury can better determine the truth. Knowing the identity of writers, with limited and valid exceptions, helps the readers to get a better handle on what is truth.

On this subject, Mr. Foster, we will have to respectfully disagree, but I do respect and appreciate your opinions and willingness to reveal who you are.

Oliver G. Halle
January 12, 2012
Mr. Foster, I don't disagree for a second that anonymity may be necessary to expose or justifiably criticize someone or something, but by all indications that is not the case with the majority of the bloggers to MDJ stories. As of 7:45 p.m. today (Thursday, 1/12/2011)there were 22 people who commented to the story of Scott Sweeny being elected to school board chairman. All the writers are anonymous. Many of the postings are nasty and fall into the category of destructive criticism; they don't move the ball down field toward fixing something. I would be willing to bet that most of the writers aren't employed by the school system, and that most have no legitimate fears of some kind of retribution. From my own experience I find that people don't like personal criticism, and if the readers knew who these folks were, perhaps some of their shortcomings would be revealed.
Tommy F
January 13, 2012
I am not implying that anonymity is always necessary.

But it is an accepted part of the internet and online culture and always has been. There is a trade-off of civility vs. quantity but generally sites have opted to allow anonynous posts.

It interests me that somehow the MDJ online contributors think this site should operate under a different set of rules or norms.

Which do you think the publisher would prefer, an article with two named safe and civil comments or twenty anonymous comments that cover the full spectrum of reader's thoughts whether they be valid or not?

I can tell you which gets more page views thus getting the advertising more exposure.
Tommy Foster
January 12, 2012
Your blog echoes the sentiment of most of those that contribute to the online version of the MDJ.

While ad hominem attacks are never acceptable to me, I understand that anonymous comments have a place in the digital domain and just as long of a history.

The primary reason for anonymity is to avoid retribution. For example, it enables a teacher to comment on an education article without fear of the comments impacting his or her working relationship.

I would encourage you and all contributors to the online MDJ to find and read "A Case for Pseudonyms" by Jillian C York.

Insightful comments - although uncommon - can be made anonymously.
January 11, 2012
Yes, Mr. Halle. Ignore anything you hear unless you have seen the person speak the words you have heard and obtained their pedigree. A substantive comment is not worth consideration unless we know exactly who the person is that made said substantive comment. Cowards they are! All of them. Listen not to the words they put forth!

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