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Original post made
by Marianne Dean, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 8, 2007
*This city deserves better.
Why should all posts be ignored if not signed. They are clearly real opinions by real people.
There's little enough discussion on these boards as is. If people were required to sign their names, that level would drop about 90%. Besides, half the fun is figuring out who wrote which post.
There are other forums in which people can express themselves orally or in signed written form. This is a place where the focus can be on ideas on not on individuals, and it's a place where one doesn't need to be fearful of personal attacks that are far too prevalent in our town. I like Town Square the way it is.
As an artificial person, I object to your bigoted attempt to limit Town Square postings to real people.
Marianne Dean wrote:
"I suggest all posts should be ignored that are not signed with a real name. They are simply hot air. This city deserves real better."
I couldn't agree more -- the anonymity afforded in these forums makes a mockery of serious discourse, and of democracy in general. Just the other day I came across the following letter, one purportedly written by Menlo Park Planning Commissioner Henry Riggs and posted by Almanac staffer Renee Batti:
The content of the letter is so ridiculous that I assumed someone had misappropriated Mr. Riggs good name, but I have since learned the letter is genuine. The example holds, however, and these forums are vulnerable to the whims of anonymous miscreants who would see our communities and our democracy crushed under the weight of umbrageous nonsense.
I think that easily offended people should definitely ignore the many, many things that offend them.
Well, let him out!
(There's a little Bart Simpson in all of us! Well, many not Mr. Riggs - or Ms. Winkler - or former Mayor Jellins - but most everyone else, I'm sure.)
Some clever person has way too much spare time. If you'd like to stop by, I have a stack of laundry and a house that needs cleaning.
P.S. Marianne, you're welcome to help out also!
Don’t read this, because I’m anonymous.
If, by the city deserving “better”, Marianne Dean means more truth than less truth, then there is a good case that anonymity, despite its costs, produces more truth.
A thoughtful article that uses the recent Libby trial as a vehicle to explain long-standing back channels and relationships between press and politicos can be found here Web Link
Those unfamiliar with the degree of interrelationships between reporter and official were probably surprised to learn that in one case "senior administration officials" later turned out to be Karl Rove and Lewis Libby, mouthpieces of the President and Vice President respectively.
Did you ever think that “senior administration official” in a newspaper article meant the President of the United States? The author of the article, a former reporter himself, recalls an incident in which he granted this kind of anonymity directly to President Johnson. Granting it to Rove or Libby is almost no less direct.
There are many, many reasons why those who routinely speak on the record also routinely speak off the record. And even though anonymity afforded by the internet can produce a lack of civility it also lets real insiders disclose deep background that the press routinely does not know and would likely never learn.
In Menlo Park, there are about 100 people on both "sides" who are deeply involved in a fuller version of events than the press, because they are elected officials, appointed officials, former appointees, staff, or political organizers– principles themselves in current or former public processes. They are not just airing opinions, they are also providing deep background and historical context, and they often cite or give fuller meaning to official facts that appear on the city's website that sit mostly unread by the public.
The Henry Riggs editorial/Almanac Derry story is a perfect example. Recently, the Almanac reported an "agreement" citing "sources close to the negotiation.” Did you ever think that source might be say, the Mayor or another council member? Why anonymously?
How did the source establish bona fides with the reporter, and why did the reporter grant anonymity? The article does not address either of these, but in this case, if the source was a council member, (no council member has been described as being a party to the mediated talks) then he or she might have leaked it for personal political reasons, and the reporter might have certified the hearsay as an institutional courtesy while granting anonymity for personal reasons of his own, both to protect his source and to keep the on-going relationship.
The argument for anonymity in this case is the story would not otherwise be publicly available, and worse, a long-standing and valuable source would dry up.
Since the real parties in interest to the Derry project are described as being in “mediation” it’s likely they are bound by some form of non-disclosure agreement as they move through detailed discussions. Did one of them talk to the reporter?
Ironically, confidential mediation might enable an un-intended “cheap shot” where lucky Henry Riggs, who enjoys a public title but no real knowledge, shouts loudly and publicly into a standing vacuum, challenging Derry referendum organizers who know better but who might be duty bound to remain silent. Anonymity would allow responsible rebuttals without jeopardizing trust among negotiating parties so long as no important details were disclosed.
Marianne Dean resorts to ad hominem by implying that the anonymous are gutless, but being gagged is not the same as being gutless. Perhaps Henry Riggs signs his name simply he because he enjoys that luxury.
Another subtlety of politics is that “policy” can never be isolated from “personality.” In politics, there is always a chance that the author of an opinion will become the story. Frankly, who needs that?
Henry Riggs himself goes on the personal attack quickly moving from issues about Derry to ad hominem issues about petition signers and organizers and the current council.
But what is truly amazing and evident in the vast number of anonymous responses to Riggs post is their subject matter discipline. Only one of the respondents makes his or her response about Riggs. The remaining responses speak directly to the issues raised. In this case, those who responded anonymously were far more civil than those who did not.
For whatever reasons, good or bad, right or wrong, some who post opinions into the public sphere anonymously on this forum are often deep insiders to the processes they write about.
Shut your mind if you want, but for the discerning eye, there’s gold in some of “them thar” anonymous posts. It’s your job to mine the gold, but the Almanac is very savvy in putting this forum on its own web page.
People need to very skeptical of the information in anonymous posts. Posters have no responsibility to get their facts right.
I agree with the previous post. I really dislike being anonymous, but I'm in a situation such that giving myself away would be tantamount to professional suicide.
Posting anonymously is fun, no question. It frees the mind to go with the flow. But I don't see having fun as being in the same ballpark as having a responsible discussion.
I couldn't Agree more!
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