|Is anonymous debate useful?|
I like elections. I enjoy the debate. Elections cause me to think about issues. Elections are healthy for a community. But I've been watching a growing anonymity trend that's very troubling for me.
Both of our hometown news organizations, the venerable Laurel Leader and the upstart Laurel Patch are cranking out news, opinions and in a novel twist for a Laurel election, dozens of anonymous online comments.
Go to the bottom of any article, especially in the Laurel Patch and you will see a handful of people strenuously debating. Some of the comments are a bit over the top to say the least.
Some commenters are using -- what appears -- to be their real name. And others are commenting behind a screen name. Of course, there is no way to know for sure that commenters are offering their real names. A commenter could easily use any name, even the name of a candidate. Who could really know the truth?
Yesterday's mail also delivered to me a four page article anonymously attacking the Sarich campaign. It looks like the authors spent a lot of money mailing the piece to every registered voter in Laurel. This is a considerable investment in time and money for over 10,000 voters in the city. Unfortunately, these authors chose to only identify themselves as "17 Laurel Taxpayers."
And finally, a neighbor told me last night that she was called by an anonymous phone pollster. She was asked who she planned to vote for in the Mayoral race. The caller did not provide any affiliation.
I've written about anonymous comments in the past. While I allow them here, I believe that anonymous articles, comments and polls are not very useful. I think anonymity diminishes credibility. It also tends to encourage people to be more rash, untruthful or hurtful in their comments. However, we have a tradition of anonymous political speech in this country. In some cases, anonymously speaking truth to power is useful for the good order of society.
So what do you think? Opinions about candidates aside, does anonymity help or hurt political debate?
Please respond below. Feel free to respond with your real name or anonymously. Please be temperate.