Sep 29 2011

Anonymous Political Bloggers Are Cowards

Published by at 11:30 pm under blogs,politics,social media,Vancouver

Yup. That’s my opinion. Anonymous political bloggers are cowards who don’t have the guts to stand by their own words.

This blog post is an open thread. Bring the debate, people. Comments are open.

Mind you, anonymous commenters are cowards, too, IMO.

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33 responses so far

33 Responses to “Anonymous Political Bloggers Are Cowards”

  1. don munteanon 30 Sep 2011 at 12:44 am

    Hey I agree! I have since year 2000 done all my postings online – political and otherwise – using my own name! I figure that posting can either be a badge of honor or it can be a disgrace – anonymous posters can more often end up within the second category.

  2. nomdeblogon 30 Sep 2011 at 3:58 am

    Your opinion has logic but is only relevant to those running for elected office. The reason a conservative cannot (although the climate is improving) come 100% out of the closet is similar to gays in say the 1980’s. If you live in a mega city which is progressive to the nth degree it is only recently that in conversations at work or socially one could dare expose themselves as a conservative without being attacked by a room full of self-righteous progressives. Many of us do that now and actually enjoy the resultant game of verbal swordsmanship. But you have to pick your spots.

    However on blogs were we to use our real names, many of us would be subject to cut and paste snips that could impact 2 things …our financial interests or our families who may not agree with us and in any event should not have to spend their time defending themselves for what we said. A couple of examples:

    If a conservative sits on a board of a public company and says things that are anti-government of the day then since companies are more and more regulated by progressive apparatchiks we would be exposing that company to needless poltical risk. As a writer you put your thoughts in a book in hopes of making money. You use your blog to promote your books …to make money. But in the example cited many of us could only lose money. It’s like the Merchant of Venice.

    If we have young family members still in school or members who work in the MSM they would be subject to needless attacks for what their blogging family member said with regard to being pro free market capitalism or pro America or Global Warming Religion Skeptics or other intolerable subjects that the teachers’ unions or the MSM trade would not find acceptable.

    Does that mean we never speak up at a PTA meeting about the distortion of showing Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth? No, but be prepared for a kick under the table from a spouse who correctly thinks that is an unnecessary risk of having the teacher turn on our kid at exam time.

    Canada does not tolerate diversity of thought; witness section 13.1 and the behaviour of HRCs. The day we get rid of those is the day we might go 100% public with our thoughts in every venue.

    That may make some of us “cowards” but there is a fine line between courage and stupidity.

  3. Anonymous Cowardon 30 Sep 2011 at 4:21 am

    How incredibly short sighted.

    Your opinion has obviously been formed in the context of the past 50 years or so of relative freedom, prosperity and peace. In that context there’s nothing particularly brave about about recording an opinion – be it controversial or not.

    However, governments change. Democracy has a limited lifespan. To somewhat protect this fragile institution, it is imperative that the truly brave shut up until the time is required. Let the cowards revel in their easy, free speech and spew forth 99.9% content free opinion. Nobody is listening anyhow.

    Throughout history, if the brave had been the loud mouthed we’d still be living under tyrants. For if they’d opened their mouths to let their position be known, they’d have been easily rounded up.

    If you think that our future won’t have fascists and tyrants then you are incredibly naive. But by all means, keep talking – we’ll be ready to take action when you no longer have the courage to speak.

  4. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 7:48 am

    nomdeblog and Anonymous Coward:

    You point out drawbacks to using your own name. But I never said blogging under your own name came with no risk. That’s the point: standing by words can be a brave act. Being anonymous never is.

    Your example of a rep from a public company being worried about backlash against his company for political blogging on the side is moot. I can’t think of a single real-life example — or credible hypothetical example. Governments just don’t go after individual companies — unless your company hasn’t paid your taxes, dumped radioactive waste in a lake or is in a position to monopolize an entire industry. And if a public company is doing stuff like that, they have bigger things to worry about than that a Vice-President in the Marketing Department likes to opine about election results on his private blogspot blog.

    The comment from Anonymous Coward is particularly dumb. He writes:

    “If you think that our future won’t have fascists and tyrants then you are incredibly naive.”

    I never said that. Sorry, what’s your point again?

    “But by all means, keep talking – we’ll be ready to take action when you no longer have the courage to speak.”

    Oh, so, after I am hauled into room 101 by some totalitarian regime that is just around the corner (riiiiiiiiiiiight) and put through the ringer, you’ll be “ready to take action” even though you’ve been too gutless up to this point to even give your own name?

    “I’m a coward now so I can be brave later when it’s really needed”? Is that your reasoning?

  5. CQon 30 Sep 2011 at 8:24 am

    If you’re including pseudo ID handles along with ‘pure anonymous’ then that is a many times debunked and naive argument.
    There have been a large handful of situations where bloggers and online commentors have had their personal and public lives recklessly and/or vicously interfered with – rather than just being disagreed to within a discussion forum context.
    Openness is a lot easier when you have capable long-term financial security or reasonable expectations there of, limited family concerns, a neutral or, even better, endearing visual image (for those who post self-photos), and a safe home base. Ordinary people get ‘silently blackballed’ all the time.

  6. John Baglowon 30 Sep 2011 at 8:30 am

    Obviously I’m in complete agreement. Refreshing to see this.

    For far too long, bloggers cowering behind their anonymity have taken it upon themselves to stalk me around the ‘sphere using my handle “Dr.Dawg” (a nom de guerre, not a disguise) and my real name in conjunction, frequently accompanied by frankly defamatory comments.

    They don’t seem to like it much when their cover is blown–two in the past few weeks, two before that, and more to come. Who can oppose leveling the playing field?

    Sometimes naming the problem can make it disappear.

    Well said, Mr. Narvey.

  7. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 10:56 am

    Re: Dr. Dawg

    Ummm… aren’t you quite close with a cowardly anonymous (well, now “outed”) blogger who made the most vile and malicious comments about other people, and who threatens people with lawsuits just for using his real name in private emails?

    That’s weird. I could have sworn it was you.

    Perhaps you should have a talk with your friend and let him know how your opinion has evolved.

  8. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 8:41 am

    Of course I include pseudo-ID handles.

    There are bloggers and online commenters who had their lives interfered with. In some cases, they were guilty of defamation or other breaches. Others have been accused of such violations without merit and they will be vindicated. In all of these cases, Anonymity was no defense.

    Free speech is not absolute. There are rules. Don’t incite to violence. Don’t libel. Beyond that, you’re free to say what you want. And if someone comes at you, you’re free to go after them.

    I see some interesting rationalizations in this comment thread for why people want to continue to be anonymous. I’m not convinced these rationalizations make them any less cowardly.

    I am not arguing that standing by your own words is at all times painless. Of course, people may come after you. So? We don’t live in Syria or North Korea. If you don’t feel brave enough to stand by your words while living in the most free and liberated societies in the history of the human race, when will you feel it?

  9. Ray K.on 30 Sep 2011 at 10:06 am

    Unless the commenter is claiming some personal expertise or authority as the main thrust of an argument, what does their name have to do with the ideas in their commentary?

  10. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 10:24 am

    Only everything.

    If you’re not claiming personal expertise or authority, you shouldn’t be blogging. No one is interested in anyone’s uninformed opinion.

  11. Sueon 30 Sep 2011 at 10:26 am

    I do appreciate that full disclosure would be ideal. But why limit the debate? I would think that most readers and commenters are not daily contributors and only from time to time check in with the latest offerings from folks like you. That’s how we do it. We don’t always have the sign up details handy for each website and haven’t yet made them uniform through Disquos or whichever. I suppose we should in your school of eligibility.
    Incidently, I work in the public market sphere and a previous comment is actually fairly accurate and unfortunate. Gov’t grants and even public financing efforts can easily be affected and impacted particularly within certain fields like climate remedies and systems.

    By the way, in the past you have been very keen and receptive to comments which extol complimentary statements about your writings, even when signed by anonymous.

    Jes sayin’.

    (We really do like your musings Jonathon)

  12. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for the kind word, Sue. I appreciate it.

    But I really don’t see signing one’s name as a particularly difficult thing. Registration (where it is required) usually takes just a few seconds. It’s not overly burdensome. For instance, you could just have easily signed your name “Sue Smith” instead of “Sue” just now. I assume you weren’t afraid of a backlash for commenting here — you were just in the habit of not leaving a last name.

    I think the default position for everyone should be to leave a full name except in the common-sense cases where identifying yourself might leave you open to physical danger (eg. the bloggers or tweeps who were murdered this month by Mexican drug gangs). For bloggers in North America, 99.999999 percent of the time, there is no such danger.

    Of course, my main argument is about bloggers, not commenters. If they want to be taken seriously, the least they can do is identify who they are. I think the corporate example you cite is kind of moot. Bloggers are not obligated to provide opinions about anything. If it doesn’t serve their purpose (ie. they might lose funding), they simply don’t blog about that. It’s common sense. But for the stuff they do blog about, why not let people know who you are?

  13. Russ Campbellon 30 Sep 2011 at 10:58 am

    I agree and would include those who comment anonymously.

    I can imagine very, very rare situations where I’d agree anonymity is justified and not simply a cloak behind which to hide while libeling adversaries.

    Anonymous political blogging and commenting on same is akin to writing poison pen letters–not a nice thing to do.

    On the other hand, a nom de plume is quite acceptable on non-political blogs, IMHO.

  14. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 11:00 am

    Re: “On the other hand, a nom de plume is quite acceptable on non-political blogs, IMHO.”

    I agree with that.

  15. Anonymous Cowardon 30 Sep 2011 at 11:32 am

    > Oh, so, after I am hauled into room 101 by some totalitarian regime that is just around the corner (riiiiiiiiiiiight) and put through the ringer, you’ll be “ready to take action” even though you’ve been too gutless up to this point to even give your own name?

    You do realize that Germany was a functional democracy prior to the rise of fascism, right? Arguably stronger than any democracy in existence today. Spain, Italy and a long list of countries that nearly followed them into that dark abyss overnight.

    We have a technology that few of us understand the implications of. And you, obviously, have thought very little about it. And although our laws, our governance and even our mores and values are changing rapidly – the internet freezes your opinion out of context of the time and place in which it was written. That offhanded remark you make today could come back to bite you in the ass. Or worse, it could mean you are identified as an enemy of the state in an almost inevitable future.

    Clearly you’ve never experienced any true unrest or witnessed how quickly these changes come about. Nay, you can’t even make a good argument (“dumb”, really?) Sadly, it’s your ignorance and complacency that will swing wide the doors for fascism in the information age, where it will be far easier than it was back in the days when they needed to use punch cards to enumerate and identify.

    And besides, you have no clue where I’ve raised my voice and why. And that’s the way it ought to be – there’s no need to have every opinion, every thought and political viewpoint documented and ascribed to a thinker. Unless, of course, you salivate at the obvious Orwellian undertones.

  16. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 11:44 am

    The Weimar Republic was not a “functional democracy”. It was a joke. And the brownshirts and reds battling it out in the streets knew that.

    It’s not up to me to prove that the political systems of Canada or the USA are going to be democracies well into the future. The burden of proof is on you to show that we’re about to drop into the abyss.

    Not. Going. To. Happen.

    It’s silly to suggest that anonymous political blogging is necessary here. In China, sure. Syria? Definitely. New York or Toronto? No way.

  17. Ray K.on 30 Sep 2011 at 12:26 pm

    “politics, current events and life in Vancouver, along with other interests such as environmental sustainability, business and technology.”

    You are an authority on all of these topics, in some measurable manner other than “because I read about them”? Good job. Otherwise any commentator anonymous or not can make that claim, and the only way to verify is to read the comment and decide for yourself. Something that does not depend on the string of characters representing their name in any way.

  18. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 12:43 pm

    If you would like to verify my expertise in these areas, my background and education are quite easy to check — precisely because I’m not anonymous.

  19. Anonymous Cowardon 30 Sep 2011 at 1:04 pm

    In summation – your argument is that western liberal democracy has, in fact, achieved perfection. That the founding fathers were needlessly fretting when they saw that democracy indeed had a limited lifespan and attempted to put in place enough checks and balances to hold the leaky vessel intact for a few generations at least. Have you learned this from your… what… two decades on the planet? No democracy has lasted. Nor has any political system. But this time, honest to goodness, it will. Right? Right?

    Yeah, your entire arguments rests on a point that would have you laughed out of a first year poly sci, history or philosophy class. Even Fukuyama had to revise his silly thesis.

    I actually knew better than to respond to your obvious troll. And having given you a few extra hits and perused a couple of your rather juvenile posts I’m a little embarrassed about taking the bait.

    I don’t agree with either the lefties or the righties (as you binary folk like to label), but at least the lefties can put forth an interesting and intelligent debate.

  20. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Re: “In summation – your argument is that western liberal democracy has, in fact, achieved perfection.”

    No, but it’s the best thing going right now. And it’s not about to get taken down by Chinese totalitarianism, Islamist fascism or Cheney-style corporatism.

    That being the case… what exactly do political bloggers ensconced in these free societies have to be fearful about? If you’ve got an opinion — put your name on it. It’s not so hard.

  21. Anonymous Cowardon 30 Sep 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Oh, and btw… if you are actually a man of courage why aren’t you fighting alongside those who could actually use your help in ushering in the history-ending, perfect political system of the west? There’s people all over the world that could use the courage of a brave soul like yourself to stand in the face of tyranny and oppression, to scoff at anonymity. Go to Iran or China or any other place and poke those tyrants in the eye with your mighty pen. Or do they not deserve your bravado? Or is your bravado really nothing more than ignorance and complacency – the courage of one who doesn’t fully comprehend the possible consequences?

  22. Anonymous Cowardon 30 Sep 2011 at 1:21 pm

    > That being the case… what exactly do political bloggers ensconced in these free societies have to be fearful about?

    Well, at least you’ve admitted that you don’t grasp the issue. And with that… adieu.

  23. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I do what I can. Perhaps you’ve heard of my political magazine?

  24. John Baglowon 30 Sep 2011 at 1:23 pm

    You might try getting your basic facts straight, Mr. Narvey.

    I’ve always been “out”–everyone knew who “Dr.Dawg” was from the get-go, and I certainly made no attempt to keep my real name a secret.

    I have no idea what “private emails” you’re talking about. I have certainly never threatened to sue anyone for sending me email. I see that you are a writer of fiction, so a certain amount of inventiveness can be expected from you, but this comment of yours is simply a lie.

    I have never intentionally defamed anyone, by the way, and would be prepared to take my lumps if I did. But by the same token I do not put up with defamation–and a claim that I have written “vile and malicious” comments comes pretty close–nor should anyone else.

  25. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I did not accuse you of making the vile and malicious comments or of sending the threatening emails. That was your special friend. Re-read what I wrote.

  26. John Baglowon 30 Sep 2011 at 2:12 pm

    It was the “I could have sworn it was you” that threw me. I thought you were being clever.

    But just for the record, my special scorn is reserved for those who hide behind aliases but make free with my real name. That’s even more cowardly, and their outings, now in progress, are richly deserved.

  27. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 2:47 pm

    “But just for the record, my special scorn is reserved for those who hide behind aliases but make free with my real name. That’s even more cowardly, and their outings, now in progress, are richly deserved.”

    I agree that it’s a terrible thing. I’ve been subject to the same kind of abuse — including, from that odd acquaintance WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED, LEST THE OLD ONES RETURN FROM DEEP SPACE.

  28. canadiannaon 30 Sep 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I write a political blog and I write anonymously. You’re right, I’m a coward, but not because I fear the state or I want to freely slag politicians or other public figures (which I do, but not badly enough that anyone would want to sue me, except maybe Garth Turner, but that’s another story).

    Anyway, I’m just a nobody who follows politics and has an opinion. I have a high school education, no credentials, nothing to give value to my opinion and as you’ve said,

    >If you’re not claiming personal expertise or authority, you shouldn’t be blogging. No one is interested in anyone’s uninformed opinion.

    I keep my real name private because deep down I acknowledge the above statement to be true. It’s one thing for passers-by to shrug *canadianna* off, but I’m fairly certain I would take rude comments and emails far more personally if they were addressed to *me*.

    Might sound weird to you, but given this is just a pastime, and I spend my real life in a world far different from the political blogging realm, I’d just as soon keep the two separate. It’s cowardly, yes, but not for a sinister reason. If that means you wouldn’t bother reading my blog, well, maybe you’re missing out on a good read because of my anonymous status – or maybe I’m missing out on a potential reader because of it.
    Generally though, if people email me, and they aren’t being hostile, I write back with my real name. Does that count?

  29. John Baglowon 30 Sep 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Iä! Shub-Niggurath!

  30. Terri Hornon 30 Sep 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Sometimes, political bloggers have employers who frown upon political blogging – especially if it could appear to be lobbying. If the political blogger is too close to the action, so to speak, he or she may have to keep anonymous in order to keep his or her job.

    And sometimes, employers are assholes and bloggers are vulnerable. And if said blogger has kids and/or infirm parents, it’s more than the blogger’s lifestyle on the line.

    And so we keep anonymous. Because we have more than our own asses to protect.

  31. Sandy Cruxon 30 Sep 2011 at 7:09 pm

    It’s not often I agree with John Baglow but in this instance I do and yes, I was one of those on the receiving end of that anonymous “now outed ” vile blogger.

    Mostly though, not wanting to use your own name is paranoia because, unlike what my regular commenter Nomdeblog says, I have never noticed any public reaction to my blog. While reading blogs is certainly more common now than it was back in 2006 when I started, it is a relative few who read them regularly — apart from blogs managed by professional journalists.

    Anyway, like John, Jonathon and Russ, I am glad I chose to stand by “my words.”

    However, as the saying goes, to each his or her own.

  32. Kriilin Namekon 30 Sep 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Jonathon, I understand your reasoning, especially when someone is hurling insults, and spewing vitriol at others. The recipient of said vitriol has the right to know the true identity of their accuser. However, following your logic, why in a free, relatively safe country like Canada, do we still have secret ballots on election day?

    What about Crimestoppers, are they cowards too?

    My point is sometimes discretion is the better part of valour. Some bloggers work in environments where their political views could be detrimental to their employment. I experienced that personally in my younger and dumber days, don’t come out as a conservative in a union shop!

    Conservatism, it’s the new gay!

  33. jnarveyon 30 Sep 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Secrecy is essential for voting in a democracy. And sending tips into the police can be considered a civic duty with no requirement for breaching anonymity. I was deliberately narrow in the scope of my opinion: I’m talking about bloggers. Even more specifically, I’m only talking about political bloggers.

    I’m sympathetic to political bloggers who fear retribution from their co-workers. But I do think the danger is overblown. When I worked in organizations with lots of co-workers, only a slim minority had the same politics as what I was spouting in my blog. I’m no stranger to the workforce — from my own personal experience and from anecdotes from my colleagues, I understand that very few fellow employees would even be aware that we blog in our off time. The few that do know might not agree with our politics, but the most common response is for them to make awkward jokes about it, not threaten retribution.

    And I think people are also confusing two things here. No blogger is required to blast their employer, industry or colleagues for the sake of “authenticity”. If you want to blog about politics but feel like complaining about climate change or the NDP or religious encroachment on public education or whatever is just too complicated to get into — well, there are about a million other topics you can write about.

    To give a hypothetical example, in the extremely unlikely event that an employee of the David Suzuki Foundation thought that policies to deal with climate change were a total waste of time, I would not advise that employee to set up a blog called “Climate Change Is A Lie. Let Me Tell You Why” — at least until they switched jobs to something more in keeping with their real values and passions.

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