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The floggings shall continue until morale improves

By DOUG THOMPSON
Owner, Editor & Publisher
Capitol Hill Blue
March 5, 2012

 

Last month, I put myself on a self-imposed sabbatical to recover from pneumonia and exhaustion.  My doctor felt that my habit  of working 70 or more hours a week was too much for a 64-year old man.

At the same time, the editor of Capitol Hill Blue established a set of new guidelines for posting comments to news stories and commentary.  I did not review those guidelines until this past weekend.

In my opinion, the guidelines were too restrictive and the decision to place some posters on a “permanent” moderation status was an over-reaction to some of the problems that have arisen with some comments posted to stories.

Since I own the place, my opinion usually prevails when it comes to editorial decisions and the revised guidelines have been rescinded.  I am re-assuming the role as editor of Capitol Hill Blue along with my duties as publisher and an occasional writer of articles and columns.

Does this mean commentators are free to say whatever they want? Not necessarily.  I’m asking those who comment on stories to stick to issues, avoid attacks on each other and to avoid sounding like teenagers trying to outdo each other with cute insults.

It was also suggested that I have outright bans on links to certain web sites.  Posters are free to cite sources that they feel validate their arguments.  If I — or another poster — feels those sources are bogus they — or I — have the right to question the source and cite our reasons.  I draw the line at links to dedicated white supremacist and racist web sites or those that openly advocate bigotry but I have not seen any links to such sites in a long time so that issue is probably moot.

Our goal here is open discussion on issues but not a free-for-all on insults or personal attacks.   If I feel a poster is out of line, I will tell them so.

Please understand this:  The only person who speaks for me is me.  The only person authorized to speak for me is me.  No one has the authority to do anything in my name or to represent me.

If I write something for this web site (or any other web site, publication or broadcast entity for that matter), it will have my name on it.  Articles written by others appear under their names.  Articles provided by news services are identified as such.

The only place where names are not used as a matter of policy are the comments posted by those who choose — for whatever reason — to use anonymous “handles” rather than their own names.  I would hope that posters have enough courage in their convictions to present opinions under their actual names but the Internet has become a vast wasteland of anonymous bomb throwers.

The time may come when all posters to this web site are required to register and comment under their names but — at this time — we do not have the resources to establish such a system.  Using social media — such as Facebook — as a filter for comments is one possibility but no decision has been made on that front nor is one anticipated for the near future.

As for the staff, the floggings shall continue until morale improves.

So enough talk about rules.  This is an important election year.  Let’s get back to business.

67 Responses to The floggings shall continue until morale improves

  1. Bill Cravener

    March 5, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Doug, as you must be aware of I have very strong feelings about anonymity on comment enabled boards. I’m old enough to remember that before the existence of the internet public debate involved introductions or the shaking of hands in courtesy before any honest discussion began. With the advent of the net its anonymous nature and total lack of accountability, honest discussion has been lost. Anonymity enables an individual to behave irresponsibly with impunity without incurring any of the social costs that would ordinarily accrue to those who behaved that way in public. How is anonymous posting any different then that of the graffiti posted on a bathroom stall?

    I have been posting comments using my real name since back in the early 80’s on dialup message boards, was a regular poster back in the days of CompuServe and to this day the World Wide Web using my real sir name without fear. Over my many years posting comments online I have witnessed the quickening death of human dignity. Anonymity seems to offer a cheap and easy way to speak out against authority when in reality it is ineffectual and may ultimately prove to be very costly. If the nature of online anonymity continues to flourish it will certainly bring on the breakdown of the fabric of our society. In fact as I’ve seen over these many years it is well on its way in doing so.

    Requiring commenter’s to use real names would in my opinion promote civil discourse and help to stop this growing anti-social behavior widely seen on the net. Accountability lies at the very heart of our democratic tradition and I feel it crucial to the continued stability of our free and fair society. History is made by those brave enough to speak out despite any personal risk, it does not come from those who wish to hide behind anonymity.

  2. Hal Brown

    March 5, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Welcome back Doug.

    Spring will be early in your neck of the woods, thanks to global warming, and soon you’ll be out on the Harley.

    I appreciate the illustration with this column since it depicts yours truly (fifth from the left between Phil Hoskins and Rob Kezelis).

    As you know my reemergence into the world of the living has been marked by my more frequent comments on CHB. Most of my comments either are an attempt to expand on what is in the article or column or to present my own opinion.

    In the former category I will add the following from the website where I think you found the 1879 Edward Shippen public domain flogging drawing:

    “The master-at-arms [assisted the prisoner] off with his shirt, leaving him naked to the waist, but throwing the garment loosely over his shoulders. Removing the port gangway ladder, his wrists were made fast, with a lashing, to the brass man-rope eyebolts, and his ankles to a small grating laid on the deck. Thus standing straight up, his arms were stretched considerably above his head. The assistant surgeon then stepped up close on one side of the man to see that the punishment was not excessive. The boatswain had, in the mean time, produced a green baize bag, which contained the ‘cats.’ These consisted of a wooden handle, about fifteen inches long, covered with cloth, with nine tails of white line about as thick as thick pack-cord, twenty inches long, and the ends ‘whipped,’ not knotted. One of these cats was handed to the chief boatswain’s mate, who was mildly cautioned by the captain to ‘do his duty, and not favor the man, or he would be triced up himself.’ …At this the master-at-arms removed the blue shirt, and [the] boatswain’s mate swung round and brought the ‘cats’ down across the man’s shoulders, the master-at-arms called out, aloud, ‘One – two,’ and so on, until ‘twelve,’ when the captain said, ‘Stop. Take him down.'” Quotation and illustration from Edward Shippen, Thirty Years at Sea; the Story of a Sailor’s Life, 1879. Sea Service Discipline

    If you ever decide that you need a master-at-arms to assist you with the floggings, consider this my application. You already are familiar with my curriculum vita.

  3. egc52556

    March 5, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Mr. Cravener, in today’s world the equivalent of a handshake is an invitation to accept viruses, denial of the use if my “home”, inspection of every aspect of my personal life, spam, etc, etc, etc.

    As long as I keep my comments civil I also will keep my anonanymity.

  4. Hal Brown

    March 5, 2012 at 8:49 am

    To reiterate what I wrote elsewhere on CHB, I believe there is a significant tradeoff when you post under a pseudonym instead of your own name. No matter how cogent and compelling your comment is, you will add credibility if people not only know who you are, but can, if they choose, search for verification of your bona fides online.

    I have chosen to become so public that if you search my name and hometown of Middleboro you can find my life story. (In the early days I shared the first ten online search results with only two others with the name Hal Brown.)

    When search engines began and I was, like Bill, using CompuServe via a dial-up connection, posting on various websites. I mostly posted on what was then a community of New York Times forum regulars who all were familiar with each other. I even visited one of them, Elaine Supkis, a five hour drive from near Boston to eastern upstate New York. She now has her own website “Culture of Life News”.

    I would support Doug if he decides to require the use of real names because I believe that in the day and age of media saturation from the Internet to 24/7 cable news the courage to publicly stand up for you convictions is important. The most recent example of course is Sandra Fluke.

    We need, as “little people” to be able to speak truth to power. The Internet enables us to do this, and to make the best use of this ability we need to use our own names.

  5. Joe Keegan

    March 5, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Welcome back! Give that one remaining lung a break.

  6. Almandine

    March 5, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Mark Twain would be proud…

    • Doug Thompson

      March 5, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Hold on a second Almandine. Weren’t you the one who just posted this yesterday?

      Our host has lost the belly fire… the will to continue… his millions-words legacy sparks only the lingering fires of debate – sometimes turned debauchery – without the cherished closure of his mind’s intent. There’s no fitting end… no generous recognition of the job well done… no mechanism to shower the fruits of vast labor… just a handoff to the next generation. Death would be more forgiving.

      The end is now clear… the new paradigm has arrived… the strictures a mere sendoff… a homily intended to buck up the show.

      Do yourself a favor, Doug… sell it this time and move on.

      :)

  7. Almandine

    March 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I did… and at the time it was apropos.

    What seems clear, now and perhaps yesterday, was that you likely didn’t craft the new “rules of engagement,” much like the last iteration of “bringing the miscreants to task,” when you also had to disabuse Mr. Thomason of his newfound, self-assumed right to flog the troops. Improper actions were recalled.

    Importantly, not just your ownership of CHB, but your understanding of what journalism portends is critical to these events. There is no need to remind that journalism is rooted in the tenets of the First Amendment, that those who would censor for miniscule reasons or undeserved advantage would do damage to its legacy, and that professionals like yourself are exactly such because of the heartfelt adherence you have brought to those principles. A Beacon, while lesser lights glow dimly.

    This understanding came through in your follow-on piece the other day in which you lamented the state of politics, described your newfound need to return to your journalistic roots, and suggested that attending to local issues would make you happy above whatever CHB was now providing. Not hard to imagine… but as has become clear on more occasions than this one, your natural “reach” is larger than that… your purpose more.

    So here we are… reset to another day… Doug’s leading his pack, which has fallen back in line. The miscreants are restored to their musings… some of them too would censor to achieve advantage… often deliriously in the name of “freedom”. The lesson is that some can lead, while some must follow, and you see it’s not too hard to sort out why.

    So, yes, Mark Twain would be proud… but, lest it seem like I’ve gone gushy with my rosy analysis… we both know something will soon come along on which we can’t see eye to eye.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better.

  8. Sandy Price

    March 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    This is a test to see if my words are still “awaiting moderation.” I tried to delete the offending try at humor but even my try for deletion was awaiting moderation.

    As far as writing under my own name. I got an email years ago based on a commentary I wrote for Etherzone and it made it to Google where it was picked up by the state of Vermont where they wanted to use my information for their Brochure introducing Hospice in that state.

    I stand by what I write but if I am rejected by any owner of any site, I will do it with dignity. I will be pissed but in a dignified manner.

    Love ya Doug

  9. Gregg

    March 5, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    To Repeat a post I made in response to Bill Cravener in ReaderRant:

    Inherent in the protections afforded by the First Amendment is the right to speak anonymously in diverse manners.

    I believe that everyone is aware that this right has been a long tradition of American advocates speaking anonymously through pseudonyms, such as James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, who authored the Federalist Papers but signed them only as “Publius.”

    Benjamin Franklin and other great thinkers have been published under assumed names. The first amendment to the US constitution recognizes its importance and grants substantial protection to anonymous speech.

    In fact, the issue of anonymity has been in the courts for sometime. The follow is a list of just the few cases that’s brought some light as to where the judicial standpoint is:
    _______________________________

    Dendrite Int’l, Inc. v. Doe No. 3, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. App. 2001). Plaintiff must make an effort to notify the anonymous poster that he or she is the subject of a subpoena or application for a disclosure order, and give a reasonable time for the poster to file opposition; must set forth the specific statements that are alleged to be actionable; and must produce sufficient evidence to state a prima facie cause of action. If this showing is made, the court balances the strength of that prima facie case against the defendant’s First Amendment right to speak anonymously before deciding whether to quash the subpoena.

    Doe v. Cahill, 884 A.2d 451 (Del. Supr. 2005). Plaintiff seeking identity of an anonymous poster must support his underlying claim with facts sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion.

    McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334 (1995). Recognizing that anonymous speech is part of an “honorable tradition of advocacy and dissent.”
    _____________________________________________

    I enjoy the right to free speech. And yes – I even enjoy it without the expectation that I have the right to be heard.

    Why would anybody go to sites that makes one feel that other people who participate on that site blatantly doesn’t care about accountability. Or doesn’t support having an environment where the requirement for some level of having respectful discourse is mandated through the site rules. Or going to a that site fails to facilitate a reasonable sense of fair play by those who participate?

    We are in CHB by CHOICE, not FORCE.

    This site doesn’t tolerate outrageous anarchy by a poster to has the need self-will-run riot for the purpose of verbally abusing or violating others rights who voice their opinions that are within the rules made by the owner of this site.

    So in the spirit of an honorable tradition of advocacy and dissent – I disagree with Bill’s “opinion” about anonymity on the Internet…or elsewhere.

    GREGG

    • Bill Cravener

      March 7, 2012 at 5:43 am

      To Repeat a post I made in response to Bill Cravener in ReaderRant:

      I’m sorry, I must have missed your post over at RR. What pseudonymous handle do you use over there?

  10. Hal Brown

    March 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    How about somebody addressing my point about having more credibility if you post with your real name.

    • Gregg

      March 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      My post regarding Bill’s comments on anonymity…my comments is the very same in responding to yours Hal.

      It is YOUR opinion as to the outcome of what the Internet would be like if real names were somehow mandatory.

      I recently read an article that stated that there are more people on the Internet who post under a false name, which appears to be real – than the number of people who post under handles.

      So I’m so assume that if I showed my name as Gregg Brown, you’d automatically have more credence in my post as opposed to just Gregg, which is my real name, by-the-way? And of course Gregg Brown is not my real name.

      Under most circumstances. Participating in forums similar to this – you don’t have a clue who is displaying a real name. But yet, you’ll belief them to be more accountable, more honest, have more integrity if a name “looks real”. Gezzzzzz.

      In other words,

      You are simply assuming to know how ALL people on the Internet will respond (regarding accountability, honesty…etc) to posts made, which are underscored by a digital name appearing on a screen. Your opinion in this matter is bordering on mysticism…in my opinion.

      If Doug does REQUIRE real names, then you won’t be assuming that I will no longer come to this site. It is a fact…

    • Sandy Price

      March 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      I addressed it and added why I use my real name. The problem may have been that I was monitored therefore my words were held for approval.

      I’m with you, kid.

    • Walter F. Wouk

      March 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      I agree that posting a real name underscores the writer’s credibility.

      In my opinion the majority of anonymous commentators wouldn’t dare to post their comments if they had to use their real names.

    • griff

      March 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Well Hal, I would say that posting your real name affords you no more credibility with me than if you posted under the moniker Mickey Mouse. I don’t know you even though you do post your real name, so all I care to know about you is what you write.

      • Doug Thompson

        March 5, 2012 at 8:13 pm

        Taking this logic to extremes, maybe I don’t exit. Maybe I’m really a nine-year-old who sits in his basement and makes all this up. Or maybe I’m a computer program that generates posts at random.

        Of course, this would come as a shock to my wife, and my dog, and my creditors and my child, and my mother who depends on me to keep her comfortable in her assisted living facility.

        Maybe Doug Thompson never existed. Maybe this site doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s a mass hallucination.

        Then again, names — and a biography — helps the reader decide if the poster has some area of expertise in a given field or some depth of knowledge that helps define his or her conclusions.

        But asking that observations have some basis in fact and backed by a measure of knowledge in a given field might be asking too much in our “everyone is a self-appointed expert” culture where opinions are measured in volume, not depth of knowledge, and where too many feel that the purging of verbal diarrhea is a God-given right.

        Is it too much to ask that discussions have merit? Is it a pipe dream to think that substance can triumph over shallowness? Is reason beyond our grasp?

        Good questions. Sure with I had the answers.

        • griff

          March 6, 2012 at 10:41 am

          I don’t know about the rest, but over time I’ve been able to ascertain who among us are “real,” and it has nothing to do with the name by which they post.

          I post using my life-long nickname, by which most people know (and love – ha) me.

          It’s good to have you back, Doug.

          A man noticed that his axe was missing. Then he saw the neighbor’s son walk by. The boy looked like a thief, walked like a thief, behaved like a thief.

          Later that day, the man found his axe where he had left it the day before. The next time he saw the neighbor’s son, the boy looked, walked, and behaved like an honest, ordinary boy.

          Lieh-tse, taken from “The Te of Piglet” by Benjamin Hoff.

          It all depends on how you lok at things.

  11. Hal Brown

    March 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    By posting using my real name anybody can, if they choose, Google me and judge for themselves whether I have credibility beyond merely what my words convey. For example when I was writing columns offering my psychological assessment of politicians they could read about my background as a psychotherapist and as a mental health center director.

    When I was writing about law enforcement they could read about my experience as a reserve police officer and author of one of the two most read websites about police stress.

    When I wrote about PTSD among veterans they could read newspaper articles about the treatment program for Vietnam veterans which I initiated and ran which was one of the first in the country.

    Ideally we should be judged by what we say and not by who we are. However, the issue here is credibility as others may see it. Our ideas should trump who we are. That isn’t always the case.

    Simply publishing your real name may be meaningless unless you have online references and a body of work which can be evaluated.

    It is simply false to state that I am “simply assuming to know how ALL people on the Internet will respond (regarding accountability, honesty…etc) to posts made, which are underscored by a digital name appearing on a screen.” I did not assume anything of the kind, with or without the capitalized “ALL”.

    Saying that my “opinion in this matter is bordering on mysticism…in my opinion” would be a valid enough opinion if I divined how ALL people on the Internet respond to anything. If you are familiar with my columns and my comments you would know that I am a stickler for backing up any statements like this with polling data and other research.

    • Gregg

      March 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      So, Hal, for all the little people who don’t have your credentials. Those who aren’t widely published in professional matters related to the human sciences…or in any other capacity.

      Then I ask:

      Exactly how, other than a divine knowing, would you assess a person’s accountability, integrity, etc, who sitting behind their computer in a place far, far away?

      Unless you have some type of direct access to a “digital person” you see on the Internet, or an opportunity to know them in ways that truly allow you to actually assess just how accountable and honest a person is…or isn’t…HOW DO YOU REALLY KNOW?

      Now you might easily detect from a person’s post their level of understanding the content and/or context of a particular issue.

      You can certainly determine outright ignorance or someone “playing to be ignorant”. No doubt stupidity might give rise during some exchange, but then again, playing stupid works for some.

      “If you can determine for sure a person” is who they say they are, you might see an artistic talent such as a painting, photographs, article, book, etc. that he or she has made available on the Internet.

      But for the most part. When it comes to the regular Joe and Jane’s on the Internet…you are basically powerless to really and truly know how honest and accountable he or she is regardless of the name you see.

      May I please offer you a little Shakespeare:

      All the world’s a stage,
      And all the men and women merely players;
      They have their exits and their entrances,
      And one man in his time plays many parts.

      Thanks…

      • Doug Thompson

        March 5, 2012 at 8:25 pm

        Gregg:

        I would argue that if a person has the courage of their convictions they should be willing — and happy — to express those convictions without the shadow of anonymity. When I served as a newspaper editor we insisted that letters to the editor be signed by someone using their names and city or town of residence. Those names were verified before a letter was printed.

        A true believer, in my opinion, should be willing to put their name and reputation on the line to stand behind their beliefs. It’s too easy for those with ulterior motives or questionable ties to one side or another of a partisan debate to hide behind a “handle” or fake name.

        • Gregg

          March 5, 2012 at 9:02 pm

          Doug,

          I appreciate your comment. I think that this is an issue, much like abortion, religion, and etc…there will always be opposing opinions.

          My argument posted in relationship to Bill’s comments is how I feel about the matter.

          I respect your opinion regarding anonymity. However, I don’t agree with your opinion.

          I’ve been participating for years in CHB and ReaderRant. Your site rules makes clear to me about your values, accountability, and integrity. You set the guidelines so that members understand the parameters, or your moral principles (rules), if you will, that one must abide in order to participate in this forum.

          Even with your best efforts to maintain your rules, over the years I’ve seen you remove a number of folks because they didn’t live up to your requirements. They in someway violated your standards that you deem as some form of accountability, respect, etc.

          If your site required verifiable information in order for me to apply for membership, and you had a clause declaring that my information wouldn’t be rented, sold, barter, or exchanged…and that my information never be made available on this site. In that way, I will have made an contract with you that links my participation and my true identity. I might consider joining on that basis, but still have the right to go by whatever name I wish.

          Obviously, by my presence I haven’t violated your standards.

          But at this point, I have to assume that you, and several other members of CHB have reason to call into question my accountability or my being an honest person.

          So I ask you now. Do you prefer that I not participate on your site?

          • Doug Thompson

            March 6, 2012 at 4:45 am

            Gregg:

            As I said in the original article that prompted this thread, I would prefer that posters use their names but I do not — at this time — have the staff or capability to implement a discussion system that requires it. Full names are not required at this time. The issue is what you post, not how you sign it. You’re welcome here, just as others who post without their names.

            • Gregg

              March 6, 2012 at 10:15 am

              Doug,

              Your opinion of those who post anonymously is something like me being allowed to visit you at your home, but on my arrival at your front door you ask me to wait until you lock up all you valuables.

              So each time that I post in CHB front page, apparently I’m an automatic suspect of being a less than credible, accountable person by you and a number of upstanding members whose name “looks like a real name” and of course the professional members who have displayed their lives across the world-wide-web.

              Groovy…

              Well, I’ll refrain from imposing my shady, unreliable, possibly dihonest opinions on CHB henceforth.

              • Doug Thompson

                March 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

                Interesting analogy Gregg but one that I think is a stretch at best. This has nothing with being inside my home or even my business. It has to do with the perception of arguments in a culture where debate between anonymous people who don’t know each other often descends into nastiness, name-calling and hyperbole.

                Let’s say you get a daily newspaper delivered to your door and an article makes you want to write a letter to the editor. That newspaper will require your name, your address and your phone number before considering your letter. They may even call you to verify you wrote the letter.

                That’s a better analogy. If you choose to comment here that’s your choice. Nothing prevents your form doing so. It appears to me that you are looking for an excuse to walk away mad and make a scene…anonymously of course :)

      • Hal Brown

        March 5, 2012 at 9:07 pm

        Gregg apparently still thinks I am saying I can divine the credibility of a person posting anonymously online even though I said no such thing.

        As for the quote from “As You Like It”, I have no idea why he thinks these famous lines have anything to do with the discussion at hand. While not a Shakespeare scholar my understanding is that what the bard is saying is that life is like a play in that all people go through various phases. Far less familiar is the rest of the Jaque’s description of these:

        “His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
        Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
        And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
        And shining morning face, creeping like snail
        Unwillingly to school.”

        He ends with:

        “Last scene of all,
        That ends this strange eventful history,
        Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
        Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

        Read the middle portion here.

        Offering an appropriate literary quote may make someone seem erudite, and enhance a point. However, for the life of me, I can’t understand how this particular quote relates to our discussion of Internet posting anonymity.

        • Gregg

          March 6, 2012 at 12:26 am

          Hal…as you well know, we do all play out many parts in our lives.

          In fact, by you jumping directly to the Shakespeare quote, and avoiding the greater questions of my post, I guess my error was to give you a way out of responding to my more important points.

          So be it.

          Like Doug and I…who will never agree in this matter. Neither will you or I agree.

          But if I felt as strongly about this issue as does Doug, I think that I would blaze a new trail with “my convictions”. You know, be a game changer. Put my beliefs into action. Require all members to post a real name.

  12. woody188

    March 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Does this mean and end to the AP/Reuters posts too? They don’t really add much to your site as we can pull them from just about any corporate site. AP/Reuters has done more to destroy national and international journalism than any other organization.

    • woody188

      March 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      I’ve added a link to my Facebook. There goes the anonymity!

    • Doug Thompson

      March 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm

      No, we are members of The Associated Press and subscribe to Reuters, AFP and other news services. When we see stories that we feel are worthy of publishing, we will use them.

      I’m sorry but I cannot share your opinion that AP or Reuters have “done more to destroy national and international journalism than any other organization.” I worked for both AP and AFP as a staff photographer and wrote for Reuters for a while. I still string for all major news services and write and photograph extensively for news organizations that use their material.

      From my perspective — more than four decades in the profession — I see them as solid, professional news organizations. That’s why I’m proud that this news site can affiliate with them.

      • woody188

        March 5, 2012 at 9:04 pm

        I don’t make the claim lightly. It used to be that every rag had to have their own reporters and their own take on national and international events. AP/Reuters has brought that all under two houses and everyone just re-prints what they want from the feed. That makes every rag the same save the local and editorial coverage. It is easy to manipulate to the advantage of the few. It’s one of the core reasons real journalism is on the decline at that level.

        It’s cool you are a stringer and all, but isn’t it local? Do you even know the guys reporting in AP/Reuters on the national/international level?

        And I’m confused because I swear you told me not long ago that you never have and never would use the feeds? Maybe I’ve really lost my mind this time?

        • Doug Thompson

          March 6, 2012 at 5:00 am

          Where did you get this notion:

          It used to be that every rag had to have their own reporters and their own take on national and international events. AP/Reuters has brought that all under two houses and everyone just re-prints what they want from the feed.

          AP has been around since 1846. AP reporters provided news to newspapers during the Civil War. It is a cooperative owned by news organizations. Reuters was founded in 1851. Agence France-Presse, where I worked as photographer for several years, started in 1835 and is one of the oldest news services in the world.

          Yes, I know many of the writers and photographers reporting for AP/Reuters/AFP. I’ve worked with some of them for more than 30 years. On 9/11, Larry Dowling of Reuters and I spent more than 36 hours at the Pentagon together. I’ve worked alongside some in war zones, race riots and natural disasters. We’ve shared film, compact flash cards, camera batteries, notebooks and coffee together. We’ve patched each others wounds, shared stories of conflict, danger, happiness and families. We’ve attended too many funerals of those lost in the line of duty.

          Many of these people are my friends. More importantly they are my colleagues: men and women I trust, ones who toil away in a profession that is all too often maligned by those who neither understand the pressures of getting to the truth on a day-to-day basis or the challenges that go with the job.

          We do not produce pap for “rags.” We seek the truth for newspapers, for web sites, for television stations and for other media outlets that subscribe to the concept that freedom of the press provides a much-needed service in this nation and world.

          Most of the wire service material printed on this web site comes from people that I know personally. And their work, like mine, has been a part of Capitol Hill Blue from the beginning.

          What I said earlier is that I don’t use automatic feeds from any source. Every story that appears on Capitol Hill Blue is selected for its content by an editor. We don’t use RSS feeds or a computer-generated feed.

          We do our jobs. It’s a lot of work and — all too often — the work that goes into producing a site like this is neither understood nor appreciated.

          • woody188

            March 6, 2012 at 10:47 am

            Rag is just slang for newspaper. I’m not trying to ruffle your feathers buddy. I just think those wire services have outlived their usefulness and contribute to a decline in journalism in this age, the 21st century. Often it’s what isn’t reported that says the most. Take the five primary states thus far where election fraud has been uncovered. Where is AP/Reuters with the story?

            I see my confusion was in I was referring to the wire as “feeds” and you were referring to RSS. Problem solved.

            • Doug Thompson

              March 6, 2012 at 11:11 am

              No harm, no foul. I don’t agree with you about the value of wire services. Maybe that’s because I do a lot of work for them.

              We looked at the claims of voter fraud and, in our opinion, there’s not enough there to warrant coverage or consideration.

              For example, those citing widespread voter fraud make the claim that “more than 950 ballots cast in South Carolina’s presidential primary were also from the ‘nonliving.'”

              A report issued by the South Carolina Election Commission last month said the alleged fraudulent ballots date back from 74 separate elections, not the primary. The commission investigated 207 recent votes and found that 10 weren’t properly documented and 197 were valid. The commission could not find a single ‘nonliving’ voter among the claims.

              When we see some substance in the voter fraud claims, we will look into it. So far, we haven’t found any.

  13. Jon

    March 6, 2012 at 5:30 am

    I disagree with those who believe that some Google-able identity somehow reinforces their arguments.

    It is, on its face, an ‘appeal to authority’.

    I would like to draw your attentions back to the idea that our arguments should stand alone. That what we say should be judged upon what we have said, not who said it.

    Jon

    • Doug Thompson

      March 6, 2012 at 7:07 am

      Sorry but I disagree. Arguments from anonymous sources, in my opinion, too often lack credibility because we can’t judge the level of knowledge of the source. Anonymity on the Internet contributed, I feel, to the cheapening of debate and an increase in coarseness. Most of the attacks come from those who throw out verbal bombs while hiding who they are or what group they might represent.

      I am not convinced that those who post anonymously have the true courage of their convictions. I know the names and backgrounds of some who post here anonymously. Others, I don’t.

      It’s a moot debate at this point because we do not — at this time — require posters to prove their identity. That could change in the future. I don’t know yet.

    • Hal Brown

      March 6, 2012 at 8:22 am

      On its face it is an appeal to authority”, however beneath its face it is a way for those who are so inclined to determine, or gain more information, for themselves about the background and credibility of a poster.

      One of the personal examples I used was my writing psychological profiles of politicians. I did this from time to time when I was a regular columnist on CHB. I made it clear that I wasn’t a trained psychohistorian, but was a long-time psychotherapist. Verification of that could be easily found on a Google search, including proof that I had a state license as an independent practitioner.

      Columnist Phil Hoskins sometimes wrote about personal finances. Columnist Robert Kezelis also is an attorney. You can easily prove their credentials with a Google search.

      Rush Limbaugh, come on out

      In the past many website comment sections, message boards and forums had people who tried to disrupt discussions. They were dubbed “trolls”. CHB won’t allow obvious “trolling” but if real names were required here it should be possible to determine if somebody was posting contradictory opinions on another website (assuming they were using their real names there).

      If Rush Limbaugh decided to post here using a handle and air extreme liberal views which he could later use to prove that liberals were lunatics, would you want to know?

      Simply Curious

      And then there is the matter of simple curiosity about a poster. I admit I am curious about some of the people who comment here. I’d like to know their background. Some of them seem bitter. I’d like to understand why. Some lean towards being sarcastic or even nasty and try to jab at other posters, myself included, without going far enough to be banned. I’d like to understand why.

      Self Disclosure

      Unless they reveal more under their pseudonym I will only be left to speculate. “So what” I can hear a few voices saying. What can I say except that I believe strongly that being self-disclosuring is a positive characteristic in human relationships, in person and online.

      Whether somebody wants to reveal more about themselves to readers here is currently entirely up to them. Some readers may be curious enough about Doug and his stomping grounds, for example, to want to read Blue Ridge Muse. I enjoy looking at his photographs (for example the shot of the girl looking at her team mascot in the current edition).

      If someone does have an online presence that, unlike Blue Ridge Muse, isn’t linked from CHB, a real name will sometimes satisfy that curiosity.

      • Sandy Price

        March 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm

        Gee Whiz, I guess my commentaries didn’t count. Oh well, I will remain the house drama queen. It’s funny Hal but on my secular humanist sites, I’m considered a “gem.”

        Old what’s her name

  14. Bill Cravener

    March 6, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Over these many years of the nets existence it has clearly become an old and tired argument that anonymity enables people to more freely express their thoughts. What anonymity really has done is enable the anonymous to freely express their feelings. More often then not anonymity values feelings over thought and immediate expression over that of thoughtful reflection.

    • Hal Brown

      March 6, 2012 at 10:04 am

      Nobody has convinced me that it doesn’t boil down to credibility.

      Some readers don’t care and others do. They will judge a post solely on its content.

      Others do care.

      If a poster wants to appeal to both kinds of readers they will reveal their true identity. Additionally when relevant they will reveal information about their qualification to opine on a subject. They will also include biases and potential conflicts of interest.

      One of the books that shaped my belief in being open about myself was “The Transparent Self” by the late Canadian humanist psychologist Sidney Jourard. I read it when it was published in 1964 and was convinced that the personal benefits or self-discolusre outweighed the risks.

      Are you a self-disclosing person? Take the test from Psychology Today and find out how you rank.

      My score was 71 out of 100:

      “According to your responses, you are generally comfortable letting the floodgates open and sharing with your pals, rarely holding anything back. You seem to have reached a level of comfort, trust and closeness that allows you to show even your vulnerable side to friends. As you are likely aware, connecting with other humans is a natural need, as is feeling loved and understood, and you appeared to have found this special connection with your closest companions. Moreover, if your openness is reciprocated, it should lead to deeper bond and higher level of friendship.”

      I wonder whether those who comment here would have scores on self-disclosure that reflected how they felt about revealing personal information about themselves online.

      • Bill Cravener

        March 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm

        Hal, that was an interesting lunch time adventure. I guess you and I are two peas from the same pod. :)

        Self-disclosure score – 73

        “According to your responses, you are generally comfortable letting the floodgates open and sharing with your pals, rarely holding anything back. You seem to have reached a level of comfort, trust and closeness that allows you to show even your vulnerable side to friends. As you are likely aware, connecting with other humans is a natural need, as is feeling loved and understood, and you appeared to have found this special connection with your closest companions. Moreover, if your openness is reciprocated, it should lead to deeper bond and higher level of friendship.”

        • Hal Brown

          March 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm

          Bill, I am happy and proud to share the pea pod with you.

  15. Almandine

    March 6, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Just how erudite does one have to be to evince credibility? Said differently, I’ve known a lot of educated fools replete with credentials that merely attest to the sad state of our education system. And then there are the elected ones…

  16. Sandy Price

    March 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    How can anyone question the credibility of Hal Brown? He wrote for the Home Page here and opened up a dialog on many issues based on human activity. I loved the fact that he shared his family with us in pictures and comments. I fell in love with the dogs along with the words that he brought here. He is a patient man much more so than I am a patient female.

    I missed hin when he took a break to recover from the loss of his beautiful wife. I don’t want him to go away again.

  17. Jon

    March 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    There are arguments, opinions, and expert opinions.

    Arguments start with postulates and logically move to a conclusion. They do not require any identification. If p then q, and everyone agrees on p, then q. QED.

    Opinions are just that. They consist of anecdotal evidence that someone somewhere felt like writing that down (typing it in, perhaps). If Rush Limbaugh decided to write anonymous liberal screeds, that’s his choice, opinion, and right.

    Expert opinions do require qualification. For someone writing psychological profiles of politicians, or claiming expertise in journalism, it is perfectly reasonable to expect some sort of cross-confirmation that this alleged expert is in fact an expert, and that does require identification.

    Comments on the news consist of all these things (sometimes in the same comment), but I think it is important that they be kept separate.

    Anonymity and pseudonymity may well breed incivility and cheapen debate, but they are absolutely essential to keep speech free. Many expressions of unpopular opinions (or unpopular arguments) can have serious repercussions on individuals espousing them, whether the opinion or argument is reasonable, logical, or not.

    The classic example, referred to again and again, is “Publius”, who wrote about crimes against the King, itself a serious crime. Illegal may not be immoral, immoral may not be illegal, but both can have serious consequences if those in power have different ideas of morality and legality than you.

    I believe (opinion here) that throwing out anonymity to ‘raise the level of debate’ is throwing out the baby along with the bathwater. Yes, you get rid of a lot of dirt. But that’s not the point.

    I’ll leave you with this: “I may not agree with what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.”* And rights are worthless if the exercise thereof comes with crippling retaliation.

    Jon

    * Attributed to Voltaire (itself a pseudonym) although apparently used first by one. E. B. Hall, also writing under a pseudonym… J.

  18. Jon

    March 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    (As a trivial aside, cross-confirmation of expertise doesn’t necessarily require a real name either. Consistent pseudonymity can do the same; e.g. if an individual unfortunately named (in 1932, perhaps) ‘Adolph Hitler Smith’, decides to go through medical school twenty years later as ‘Albert Harry Smith’ and is issued a diploma in that name, what his real name is is irrelevant to his medical expertise.)

    J.

  19. Mick

    March 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Hal, It doesn’t seem that anyone is attempting to convince you specifically that it all boils down to credibility. I would submit to you that to people who post anonymously do so for varied reasons and are apparently quite happy to do so, otherwise they would use their “real names” or would not post at all. But, “boils down to credibility”, compared to what?

    I must admit I’ve read only a couple of the articles you’ve written. If poster credibility has been an issue that’s bothered you in the past I’m not aware of it. Please point me to the article if I missed it.

    It’s certainly possible I’m missing something, but to tell you the truth, RR is, in my experience one of the best moderated political forums on the Internet. In fact, I can’t give you the name of a more reasoned and credible forum. I don’t know that there is one. If there is a more informative and more credible political forum lead the way, I’ll follow.

    I don’t have any interest in psychotherapy and I don’t see the relevance in regards to Internet BB anonymity, and in fact, in a quick web search I wasn’t able to find anything. While I can understand that it may play a big part in your forum participation, it doesn’t appear to be a consideration for much of anyone else. I’m a bit confused by your position as you (nor Bill) post much at all on RR.

    Finally, I’ve tried to find recent examples of blatant dishonesty and cowardice expressed by anonymous posters on RR and I really can’t find any recent and egregious examples. This subject of your concern seems to be a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

    It has long been the policy of RR for members to cite sources and to do so in within clearly defined guidelines. It is my opinion that Phil and the Mods have done an outstanding job in managing the site. Beyond that, Ranters do well at policing themselves and each other. People who are abusive, disruptive, or unwilling to cite sources when requested don’t remain on the forum.

    I’ve never made a distinction between those who post their “real names” and those who post anonymously. I’ve never actually given it any thought. Perhaps I view posters differently, but when I have difficulty with a stated position or “fact”, I have no problem asking for sources.

    At present I am not aware of one, not one, regular poster on RR who doesn’t think critically. That’s pretty astounding when you think about it. It also means that people on RR know the difference between sh*t and Shinola and they are not fooled. That is what makes it such a phenomenal political forum, not how people are identified. Hell, we have an entire collection of presidential hopefuls whose names we all know yet none of them seem to be all that friendly with honesty and truth. I was asleep the day they taught Shakespeare but I do remember, “What’s in a name?”

    Mick

  20. Hal Brown

    March 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I haven’t posted on RR in years, and only have been commenting on the main section for a few months. I stopped all my writing when my wife died two years ago but prior to that I wrote a few hundred columns for CHB.

    My reference to credibility and using my background as a psychotherapist had to do with the fact that during the prior presidential primaries I wrote a number of columns addressing the psychological motivations of candidates.

    Not to get off on a tangent but you did quote Shakespeare and I am not sure how Juliet saying this to Romeo ties into your point.

    Tis but thy name that is my enemy;–
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title:–Romeo, doff thy name;
    And for that name, which is no part of thee,
    Take all myself.

  21. Bill Cravener

    March 8, 2012 at 7:58 am

    • Hal Brown

      March 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Good to see I’m not the only one who read Poynter.

      • Bill Cravener

        March 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm

        I don’t visit often Hal but “Top Stories” is my favorite section! :)

        • Hal Brown

          March 8, 2012 at 2:34 pm

          My late wife, Betty, was a reference librarian so she turned me on to several good websites. She also schooled me in the necessity of backing up your facts with reliable sources.

  22. Jim B.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Great article and comments!….I haven’t read all of them….and I do believe in being as transparent as possible, but there are times when cloaking a person’s identity can help that person….Job seekers, I believe, must be stingy in giving ammunition to potential employers to reject them. Companies now hire firms that do searches or do some searching on their own of prospective employees’ various web sites they created or visited — Facebook, blogs, and other sites where they may have written something. Complete transparency all the time could hurt a person’s chances of employment, because there’s no telling what could raise a red flag in the mind of an employer.

    • Hal Brown

      March 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      I agree.

  23. Sandy Price

    March 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    If one writes in a way that offends no one then using a read name is fine. Many of my opinions are way off those of a majority and soon I developed a label rather than an identity. I have been an Atheist since I was 9 years old and I am now 79. I’m an old pro at defending individual concepts for living in America. I do not see race, I do not respect any God that carries prohibitions. We live in America where our individual states have laws that we can choose to live within or move.

    We have seen millions of Americans trying to give the Constitution prohibitions that do not exist. It has caused millions of us to lose respect for America.

    I had so many threats that I closed down my website and quit writing for several sites. Even here at CHB I took a terrible verbal assault for my lack of faith. The world is not ready yet for free thinking based on the individual mind of our species. I gave it my best.

    My enthusiasm for the Internet has dropped considerably and I now used Google only for research. I used to throw out opinions here and gave that up.

    • Hal Brown

      March 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      I figure that if you write something on politics, religion or social issues and you don’t offend someone, or at least provoke some ire, you might as well not write at all.

  24. Doug Thompson

    March 8, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Here’s an interesting statistic. Today’s story on potential problems for the Ron Paul campaign has brought — as of a few minutes ago — 162 comments into the moderation queue. All 162 were flagged because:

    1–All were anonymous and 143 used fake email addresses. The email addresses which could be verified included obscenities and threats;

    2–Seventy three talked about how proud they were to be a Ron Paul supporter and/or contributor yet not one was proud enough to go public with their name;

    3–Nineteen contained racial slurs against Barack Obama; sixteen contained slurs against Mormons and nine advocated violence against liberals;

    4–Eleven contained anti-Semitic slurs;

    5–Not one contained a link to any web site supporting their contentions or claims.

    That’s why not one of the comments were cleared for posting. This ratio is typical anytime we run a story about Ron Paul.

    Also, on an average day, we receive more than 200 posts containing racial slurs. All, of course, are anonymous and none, of course, are cleared for posting.

    • Jim B.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Doug, it must be scary and depressing to read those….I’m sure I’d need a stiff drink…or more…after a day’s work of peering at such comments…and I’m not joking.

    • Jon

      March 9, 2012 at 1:49 am

      It is worth noting that there is a lot of dirty bathwater out there. For every “Publius” there have been thousands of anonymous libellious flyers for every election in the USA since George Washington.

      For more fun conspiracies, I’d like to hearken back to Dr. Brown’s remarks about Rush Limbaugh using anonymity to post liberal screeds to later rant about; The raising of straw men to fight against is an equally time-honored (?) practice.

      This may be the case – That people do not like Ron Paul, and are posing as his followers while being deliberately nasty in order to paint all Ron Paul followers as nasty people.

      It’s not that far-fetched, really. Here’s an example from a recent Canadian election:

      http://www.disinfo.com/2012/02/canadas-robocall-voting-scandal/

      (You might have to cut and paste that link. I’ll work on making them clickable).

      I may not convince anyone else, but I’m still convinced that the ideal of free speech means you get a lot of crud for everything worthwhile said; but dealing with that crud is the price you pay for freedom.

      Jon

  25. Bill Cravener

    March 9, 2012 at 6:51 am

    The internet is breeding a nation of cowards afraid to backup there words with their identities and yet we are expected to believe their unidentifiable bull. The right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and that right is commonly subject to limitations such as on “hate speech” which is clearly what Doug must deal with on his privately owned and operated news site. History in America is made by those who are brave enough to speak out despite any personal risk, it certainly does not come from those who speak out anonymously. This Paulbot filth that Doug must deal with whenever his site posts an article about Ron Paul, by anonymous posters, is clearly cowardice!

  26. Gregg

    March 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Bill Cravenner: “The internet is breeding a nation of cowards afraid to backup there words with their identities and yet we are expected to believe their unidentifiable bull.”

    Wow! Seriously…wow!

    If I gave you my real name – I am willing to make a healthy bet that by doing so – it won’t back up my words. I might be a vile pathological liar…as you’ve come close to calling every person on the net who doesn’t display what you consider to be a “real name”.

    There is absolutely no way to make people backup their comments by displaying a supposed real name.

    How do you ENFORCE whatever you call “BACKING UP THEIR WORDS”? Oh…right…kick them out of a site, right? There are thousands of sites to turn to. People who are of the caliber that you make all anonymous posters out to be…will laugh all the way to another site.

    I see people who are claiming to display a real name lie their tails off. They can get vile, vulgar…totally off the wall crazy.

    What’s gonna happen? A Mod shows up and says, “Hey John Doe…you can’t say such things. You’re suppose to be an upstanding Internet citizen. You don’t say those things because you display your “supposedly” real name.

    You don’t have a clue as to whether or not a real looking name is real. There are millions who use a very real looking name…that aren’t. But yet…they must be more credible, more accountable because they have a real looking name.

    I consider your claim that the Internet is BREEDING A NATION of COWARDS – to be outrageous and a very skewed minded assessment.

    I say lets all take up a collection for Doug in order to get the necessary software to FORCE individual members to post his or her real name.

    Then I’ll predict that in short time, this site will go silent.

    I consider your ranting on, calling people cowards…is a form of HATE SPEECH. But you have the right to rant on…

    The First Amendment completely protects anonymous speech.

    If you want to tear down the foundation of the First Amendment because you don’t like its meaning. Then fire away.

    The Internet is like TV or Radio…or other media outlets. You don’t like what you see…then turn the channel, flip the page.

    The Internet wasn’t invented just for your personal use and pleasure.

    There are billions of people on the net…many of which aren’t near as cool and savvy, and honest, and accountable as you…but in the end, our Constitution protects them…just like it does you.

    You do have a choice, Bill. Don’t read posts that don’t SHOW A REAL LOOKING NAME.

    This isn’t a LETTER TO THE EDITOR forum…yet. If it becomes one, then I might consider furnishing my FULL real name If I seek to get my letter published.

    Thus far I guess I’m only a half-ass coward and half accountable, half way honest. Gregg is all you’ll get.

    If this site becomes a runaway train for Doug…then I have no doubt he’ll make a choice to shut it down, or make the investment to enforce people listing “what looks like a real name”.

  27. Gregg

    March 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    I read the post by Doug.

    And my question is…what’s that got to do with me?

    What do you want from people who participate in forums…or even to gain privilege of having access to the Internet? You want their birth certificate, drivers, licenses, Social Security card, their bank account numbers…to PROVE their identity?

    Then once you have it…and you don’t like what I post or how I participate…you gonna call the Accountability Police to come pick me up. After all you’ll have everything you need to prove who I am.

    Knowing my name falls way short of knowing my values, beliefs, traditions, integrity, etc. I could be crazy as a loon or smooth as most psychopaths are. Very cool, calm, collected…and very calculating.

    You and Hal gloat about the disclosure test. Super for you. I wonder how much Hal understands about disclosure issues with regard to those he works with as their psychotherapist? My guess…not much.

    You have every right to condemn, vilify, demonize each and every person on the net who doesn’t met your moral standards.

    You don’t have the right to be heard by those who you call cowards…the ruination of an entire nation.

    In my itty bitty opinion…that’s completely absurd thinking.

    But in the end, UNLESS you own a website where you require full name and ID disclosure to participate…then your stance on this is no more of value than mine.

    I think you have a lot of balls arbitrarily calling people (and I can only assume you mean ALL people) cowards…and degrading our nation…because you disagree with anonymity on the Internet.

    You’ve rarely posted in RR…yet, you slide in and start slinging mud about this issue…then when all didn’t bow to your standards, and beliefs…you slide out again in silences. You know…and kind of hit and run deal.

    I can think of a number of CHB (RR) participants who I respect their posted comments and opinions more than yours. And I don’t have a clue as to who they claim to be.

    All of the above said…when you see Gregg or AustinRanter in RR…it will be a total waste of time reading my post henceforth. They’ll be worthless lies, distortions of the truth, character smear against all other participators, etc,. Right?

  28. Doug Thompson

    March 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Gregg writes:

    I say lets all take up a collection for Doug in order to get the necessary software to FORCE individual members to post his or her real name.

    Then I’ll predict that in short time, this site will go silent.

    I guess what I find incredible is that this discussion has gone on for so longer and with so much obvious passion on both sides.

    What is even more amazing is that we have not indicated that we have any plans to require full names. I’d prefer it but, as my granddaddy used to say, that horse left the barn long ago.”

    Let’s get one thing straight, however. I don’t publish this site to solicit comments. I don’t judge a story by the number of comments it receives. I judge a story by its news value and the number of people who post comments have no effect on that judgment.

    This site will never “go silent” is people choose not to comment or even if I choose to limit or end the ability of readers to post those comments. It is published for the readers and the vast majority of them visit every day and never comment on a story.

    • Jon

      March 10, 2012 at 12:55 am

      I like the comments. They are part of what I come here to read.

      I find it fascinating to occasionally pop my head out of my little prairie dog hole and read the commentary of people with views wildly different from my own.

      Some are visibly unhinged. Others have grasped some detail or logical sequence that I have overlooked. It’s interesting, and, to some degree, influences my own writing, as I learn more about how any one phrase can be interpreted many different ways.

      Back to the anonymity debate, it is acknowledged that a blanket ban was never considered, but your loyal minions did propose that the anonymous (and pseudononymous) might be held to a different, and stricter, standard than those using “real names”.

      (I put that in quotes, because it’s a trivial matter to set up a quick and dirty online presence with any name you like; a few throwaway email accounts, some garbage on Facebook and LinkedIn, and you’re done. If I told you my real name was ‘Harrison Patrick Potter’, would you understand why I might be less than inclined to use ‘Harry Potter’ as an online handle, despite that being what everyone called me?)

      Finally, a large part of the passion may have appeared *because* we believe it won’t get us banned for anonymously supporting anonymity.

      Jon

  29. Almandine

    March 10, 2012 at 10:28 am

    As always, whether it’s the news stories, editorial opinions, or comments from the peanut gallery, “caveat emptor” is the watchword of the day.

    Whether it’s govt statistics, expert opinions, MSM offerings, or mere musings for fun, it’s always up to you to divine the value of the information.

    Here’s hoping you can sort the wheat from the chaff and know how to consider the source.