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May-04-2007 22:30printcomments

Op Ed:
Internet Dialog Shapes Perceptions
Forcing Truth in Authorship
Across All Media Lines

Surely we will not easily surrender that deeply-treasured American right to free expression simply because someone wishes to hide purpose and open intent by self-declared “anonymity”.

pen and paper
Art courtesy: Journalism Education Association

(BEND) - The printed-page became the powerful purveyor of potent new understandings, motivating much of modern civilization, some centuries ago.

Gutenberg's development of moveable type for the printing press in 1450 allowed for the widespread dissemination of "mass media" --irrevocably shaping life ever since in every aspect.

“The Internet” and its inescapable ongoing forceful confrontations --via its wide-open channels-- now forces the realities of the world to the forefront of ever-more-public consideration and concern.

The onetime daily newspaper “Editorial” as THE main shaping expression for an informed public opinion --available mostly to those owning “the press”-- has all too rapidly become “the Op Ed”: from many sources, voicing a wide variety of opinion, often basically “feelingly”-stated.

Now, increasingly we find “the Blog”, written almost entirely from personal feeling and mostly for personal expression --and too often also all too UN-informed.

At least in the long-prevalent daily-newspaper “Letters” columns, your friendly neighbor had to sign that statement; so you knew from whence came the “contribution” --and, often, why it was so written.

For many newspapers, the Letters column was their main channel for sharing (and developing) public opinion on all kinds and levels of demanded public-issue dialog --leading directly to democratic decision via vote-- OR election of publicly chosen representatives to governing bodies and groups making informed choices.

That essential identification of source-by-known name supported and strengthened what our Founding Fathers intended as reflection of the responsibility irrevocable for any “right” --including that of “free speech”.

Far too many comments, messages and statements shared via the Internet currently are driven by personal bias or political-persuasion --too often perverted for private purposes. They capture the careless while seducing the more-careful by their contrived and conscienceless content.

To allow the many anonymous statements to continue without conscientious identification of source --and therefore also of intent-- is to defy and deny the clear intent of our Founding Fathers.

Their wise choice of the FIRST Amendment clearly shows the continuing high value they placed on free expression; and also on knowing from whence it cometh; by confirming the source --with all its very meaningful attributes right out in the open for all to see and understand.

Today the most insidious and threatening Internet development is the very-popular “Anonymous”-status, attempting to avoid traditional democratic responsibility entirely. Or its contrived, multi-faced cannily cover-named attributions, often clearly intended to conceal malign and sometimes intentionally malignant perversions of the instructively useful democratic-discussion process of dialog.

“Anon” and all that gang intend this destruction to kill off or otherwise control the very solid impacts of truly democratic dialog. They wish to enjoy easy, rapid access to homes-and-minds without responsibility for what may be highly dangerous and costly consequences for our democracy. Usually for political reasons --but sometimes driven by simple malignancies or UN/simple psychological situations-- those hiding pretension and such personal-psychological proclivities prefer the protecting shade of easily-acquired false-name/status.

Mostly this appears to be simply to avoid major responsibilities of mature discussion usually imposed for any print-channel --for reasons learned “the hard way” over those centuries since print first appeared.

But there can also be --and, undoubtedly, there now IS-- strong reason to realize the great possibilities for such irresponsible action --often verging on open attack-- on many highly desirable and highly-regarded democratic principles such as responsibility for all statements made publicly in the press or any other channels.

“Anon”-and gang’s strong preference is for very striking statement --both in the sense of forceful impact and in the sense of damage-done if-possible-- while avoiding any very-clear view of from-whence and-why the impact is thus imparted.

Distortion and perversion of democratic dialog to impact broad and sensitive reader-groups --without real responsibilities for statements and real consequences for public damage created-- is the outmoded belief in completely free expression via public statement over Internet channels. New-technology for publication does not erase and destroy that open-channel responsibility, in any way reducing the irrevocable rightness of the reasoning from the Founders establishing this very famous right to free expression.

It simply reinforces and multiplies the existing necessity for close professional editorial awareness of that responsibility, unavoidably devolving upon those who supply the open channels.

The overriding, extremely important aspect of this irresponsible-name situation is forcing essential and fundamental consideration for new ways to control and redirect such anonymous evasion of statement-responsibilities, not only on the Internet but also across the entire spectrum of published media.

We will report, soon, on further exploration of ways in which obvious racial or ethnic reference, with unavoidable malign impact; and other not-so-obvious evasions of that essential responsibility are now being both protected and further-freed in this freedom-building Internet environment.

Meanwhile, when YOU see or feel --or otherwise detect-- any endangering comment or content in Internet dialog and discussion, use your American conscience to determine what action is demanded from you.

Then do your own Letter To The Editor seeking careful and highly professional supervision for such open-channel exposure sure to shape --and perhaps pervert-- the true intention of the FIRST Amendment.

It has been possible over many years --indeed, over more than two centuries --to protect and preserve that deeply-treasured American right to free expression.

Surely we will not easily surrender that right --and its truly unavoidable responsibilities-- simply because someone, for some reason, wishes to hide purpose and open intent by self-declared “anonymity”.

What would our Founders respond to any such cannily-contrived conflict-shaping for fully-open and democratic dialog?

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Hannigan II May 12, 2007 7:26 am (Pacific time)

As mentioned on a below post dealing with "Grouothink" and countries such as Cuba: they will call you every name under the sun to mislead you, but their primary aim is to stop the free flow of information by any means necessary. Ergo, being anonymous serves democratic principles by allowing ideas, viewpoints and info to flow into society unfettered by those who want to stifle it. Once again, reporters are the primary advocates and users of anonymous sources. As per Cuba commenting on Mike Moore's new propaganda flick "Sicko" : "The U.S. government's targeting of Moore 'confirms the imperial philosophy of censorship' by American officials, it added. Note: Moore did not get permission to do business in Cuba...a law that has been on the books since 1962 (JFK's Administration period).

Hannigan II May 10, 2007 8:28 am (Pacific time)

Game, set, match.

Hannigan II May 7, 2007 12:36 pm (Pacific time)

I find it interesting that I am debating an issue that has already been decided by society, based on what is already "accepted" practice and has been for a very long time. Namely that being "anonymous" is okay! Not only for privacy reasons, but also for protection from some form of retribution, and the latter is the big one folks. Might I suggest that if one is arguing for exposure on a public level when you express your opinion, then you are legitimizing the same rationale as are many other political entities, for example: China, Cuba, Venezuela, practically all Islam-controlled countries, former communist countries, etc. . Now my point, going back to Irving Janis's thesis in "Victims of Groupthink", is that when that type of scenario exists, it adversely impacts the free-flow of information, that is, if you go against the prevailing powers, you will be ignored, or something even worse may happen, as what has happened to "individual liberty" in the above-referenced political/ideological entities, ergo, you (they) have become a "VICTIM OF GROUPTHINK!! May I suggest that if the author does not want to opine that the media stop it's practice of defending their reporter's use of "anonymous sources" then ask that Seymour Hersh be forced to divulge his pentagon sources. And for all those anonymous Suggestion Boxes out there, well we want to know who you are, so sign those suggestions! In closing, refresh your memories, time-permitting, on the meaning of arrogance and obstinate.

Hank Ruark May 7, 2007 11:48 am (Pacific time)

To all: Did H cite publication of his use-described from "groupthink" ? Without that all he tells you depends on your acceptance of his stated content. Re 1st-use by jrnlsts, "see with own" eyes bugeoning use of quotes and sources; without full usage of 1st, including for those he mentions, no daily can operate -it is in essence a business license. ONLY very few "anon"-source situations ever exist -often caused by hardnosed harmful police-action problems and similar situations demanding jrnlstic imposition for citizen justice. "See with own eyes" in daily press for numerous examples, currently in L.A. I experienced some myself in Chicago but escaped full-legal process involved via simple permission from source-used. Re civil-statement here, check his first-line harmful, hurting assumption --why start war with such stupid statement unless meaning to provoke ? Re civil discussion here, if sig-available or ID to Editor, we not wasting allathis space for allathose others...what do you fear that way, H ? Why not try it if you have nothing further to conceal ?? My Op Ed seeks only full natural responsibilities, as laid out in depth via Founder statements throughout Federalist Papers. You oppose their strong suggestions ? Re lawful penalties: Right on, and "assuming" statement as in yr first-line may qualify, as counsel already advises me. Won one such yrs ago, nice payment involved.

Hannigan II May 7, 2007 8:54 am (Pacific time)

To "Anonymous". Regarding Janis, my point was that there are certain dynamics that impact groups, especially in the decision-making process. Essentially when an individual does not conform to the prevailing "groupthink" they are more or less removed from that group, and not just physically. What happens in this scenario is that the positve attributes of group synergy is reduced to where usually only one individual actually makes the decision. The latter was a very simplistic explanation, but you can apply this negative aspect of groupthink to almost any situation. Years ago I applied it to the "O-Ring" malfunction to the Challenger tragedy back in the 80's. Suffice, back to the value of being anonymous. As many of you know, journalists, as well as law enforcement to name two, will tell you their anonymous sources will dry up if they would have to "out" them and then they will not be able to be as effective. Common sense people. The author may be just debating this topic with I assume a sense of humor to turn this debate into a knock-knock joke. I ask you Mr. Author, why do you not ask that the use of anonymous sources be discontinued by all multi-media outlets? Retribution happens people, so please, those of you who are lurking on this website, share your opinions on this topic. Let's all be civil, okay. This is getting to be a good conversation. Remember there are remedies/consequences already in place for people who act out with malice, both criminally and civilly (libel and slander), but our 1st Amendment is for all of us, not just those involved in the media.

Anonymous May 6, 2007 2:53 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Can't find IU-seminar notebook with Janis notes, but ck out WPedia by his name. You will find information clearly showing reference here has no bearing on single point re responsible speaker-writer. It is solely concerned with: "Directive leadership. Homogeneity of social background and ideology. Isolation of group from outside sources of analysis and information". Is H. describing a group to anonymously attack channels such as this one ? National sources warn that such attack is underway. If denied, will response be "anonymous" ?

Henry Clayt Ruark May 6, 2007 12:22 pm (Pacific time)

H-igan: No concern re the "secret ballot"; protected by both law and Constitution,thus only distraction here from main and only point: KNOW your speaker before you trust him. "Corporate money power" --as in "contributions"-- much more damaging to democratic dialog than "union revenge". Same money also buys attack on reason-here, as well as shaping local, state, national legislation. PDF available on request. You funded by corporate $$ ? ANY "Daily Edit" is always signed,which is my point here. IF any information sources cited, that adds credibility but sig denotes responsibility for statement, which is again my point here. Re Janis, sat in on some of his seminars (IU-Blmngtn Ed.D) You ever there ? Rest is confusion with canny subterfuge, to mask refusal to answer single point: Why "anon" unless ashamed to be known as responsible ? If proud of work, sign it ! Fear of attacks-cited very rare in reasonable, rational channels; never here yet In yr channels it may be retaliation for yr fulsome irrationalities, obfuscation, obviously purposeful. IF you really "know from experience" why not cite it openly for us to judge ? Mine on record, same channel as Op Ed. Show us yours. Enough is enough; if you ID to Editor, glad to continue.

Hannigan II May 6, 2007 10:06 am (Pacific time)

Marco and "another anonymous" make excellent points, right on! Why do you think the Founding Father's made sure we voter's have the "SECRET BALLOT!" For safety reasons! There are plenty of cases around the world where serious retribution happens to those who don't vote according to the powers that be (or make public statements that those powers don't like!). Even here in the states you have unions that can make life pretty miserable if they find out you didn't vote the "right" way. The author of the above article recounts his experience of never having been abused from stating his opinion...people, this is his job! Newspapers and their reporters always quote unnamed sources and frequently are jailed for not exposing those sources, and they often are treated as hero's for doing that. So now the above article author will probably provide some rationalization why this is different from what we're discussing, that should be interesting. People, to refresh your memories, go look up the meaning(psychol interp.) of "rationalize." Bottom line: The more people that involve themselves with the free flow of idea's the better for society. I would suggest a reading of Irving Janis' study of the dynamic "Groupthink", for what the author here wants is conformity as per his values and whatever. The analogy: no secret ballot! Ergo, some great idea's and viewpoints will not get out there for reasons that are now quite obvious to clear thinker's.

Hannigan II May 6, 2007 9:41 am (Pacific time)

What is the problem if one simply states an opinion? Nothing! If someone states some type of data, quote or anything that should be sourced, then let that individual state that source. If not, then what we end up having is an opinion. Great! The more the better, and if they want to remain anonymous, so what! That is what good communication is all about in this type of venue, sharing idea's and viewpoints. Once again if you are offering a statement represented as factual, then source it. Have you people noticed that in the editorial section of most papers you will see that publication's viewpoint, but rarely will you see it sourced via author, only some statement that it is the editorial boards viewpoint. Well, that's crap people! This writer knows from experience, as do many of my close friends.

Hank Ruark May 6, 2007 9:38 am (Pacific time)

Marco: UNtrue; seeking only real responsibilities demanded by freedom to speak. Any simple conversation proves my entire point as developed here. Without "know-the-speaker", how know who selling what to whom, via "contribution" or other hidden compensation ?? Good examples abound in politics, commerce, business; one known as Enron, tied to PGE here for power-market perversions. Re Rather, that's rumor. His "errors" known to colleagues, would have surfaced anyhow, as happened for several others including TIMES writer. IF you ID-self to editor, will send PDF of press items similar to Rather debacle, on hand after report-published.

Marco May 6, 2007 7:08 am (Pacific time)

The author is trying to silence anons. Where would the press be without anonomous sources? he author speaks of trust, but it took an anon to 'out' Dan Rather's phony documents.

Henry Clay Ruark May 5, 2007 7:23 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Unsigned content dangerous to anyone responsible for channel in which it appears since many cumbersome and difficult-to-interpret laws DO apply...ask yr own lawyer. That's why channel owners need to be tough, careful, and completely knowledgeable to avoid final-resolution landing right in lap if any insulted person proves damages. Blog-suits now way of life for some levels of lawyers, aimed at channel-proprietors if anon-protected content is proven as damaging to other party, named or ID'd by the content or even by assumption in some cases. That's why it's unfair also to S-N proprietors to insist on "anon" for dangerous statement such as: "deranged individuals have existed, and have tried to suppress your individual rights to pursue your life on your terms!"

Henry Clay Ruark May 5, 2007 7:11 pm (Pacific time)

anon-anon: Been signing my stuff for 50 yrs. with no threat, no suits, no violence, no problem; published in every form from news thru mags to tv, 'Net. Cited and sourced widely on some areas of speciality,too. Never seen public-press story re revenge you report in 30 yrs. reading news wires; can you cite one with date and source ? For anything but 'Net-blog, no-sig means no credence. Any no-sig channel is purely disregarded by other media, editors, writers, students all seeking source-information, et al, et al, et al --that's pure fact ! IF source-unknown then content universally seen as unreliable, useless. IF you wish only to express self uselessly, sign "anon". If you wish reasonable and rational people to read and think about yr content, make yrself known and checkable... If you wish credibility, yr readers demand to know who you are; how else characterize yr stuff ?

another anonymous May 5, 2007 5:36 pm (Pacific time)

I am definitely thinking the same way as Hannigan! Wow! People are especially more willing to share their perspective when they have the ability to feel that they are NOT going to be squashed into the ground, or treated like garbage because they have an opinion that differs from someone elses. People have to be careful on the internet, because if you do have a differing opinion, it is quite possible someone will track you down and do some kind of harm to you. That is most likely why most people are not willing to put their opinion in a newspaper. If their opinion goes against popular thinking, then they can become a target for harrassment or worse. People deserve and should have the right to post their thoughts, especially on a blog, since it IS for personal opinion or whatever you want to post. The author here seems to feel, in my opinion, that no one should have the right to say as they feel without the thought police tracking who they are and what they have said! So I end by signing in the way that I want to sign! Au Voir!

Henry Clay Ruark May 5, 2007 5:05 pm (Pacific time)

"Anon"-Anon: Here's quote you may enjoy re yrs re Rosenburg: "Every personal and professional relationship, every financial transaction, and every democratic institution thrives on trust." --Anita Allen:"The New Ethics"

Henry Clay Ruark May 5, 2007 4:53 pm (Pacific time)

H-iggan: IF you ID-self to editor and seek direct contact, be glad to share with you numerous items of documentation re this question of responsibility for content-stated, from Founders, famous-others, researchers, et al, et al, et al. Question is NOT distortion, perversion perpetrated by other editors, from which all of us have suffered, but very simple sense of knowing source in order to understand content with which one must contend. Conversation works only on that often-unconscious level for understanding; reading the same way since cannot make full sense without some knowledge of writer, even if barest-whiff via choice of remaining "anonymous:lacking marked individuality". IF "individuality" gone, what's left ? Why should we pay attention to nonentity ? SO Mr. Nonentity makes big statement from behind mask: How do we know, these days, what "contribution" he got to make it ? IF Mr. Nonentity such solid hot-shot source, why not cite record...i.e. ID-self for all to "see with own eyes" ? IF Mr. Nonentity hath no record on which reader can make sensible judgment, thus protecting reader's own vulnerabilities, then what he offers is only "feeling", not tested, documented, detailed-source statement. Youpaysyournickel here and takes your choice...

Anonymous May 5, 2007 1:57 pm (Pacific time)

I see a Rosenburg correlation to Hannigan. Not that I have a problem with alias'... but isn't that ironic? Appropriately signed, Anonymous

Hannigan II May 5, 2007 12:06 pm (Pacific time)

Ha! Ha! My post (May 5 @ 9:57 am, please read to familiarize with my thesis) sure brought the "intimitator's" out of the woodwork, and one who goes by: "Anon-"Y"-Mous", go figure. There are a lot of hater's out there people, and if you offer alternative viewpoints to theirs, they want to know exactly who you are! How many of you have written a letter or even a commentary piece to your local paper, and then see it edited in such a way that it totally alters it's meaning? Sure, there are many reasons to edit, mainly for space, but sometimes for other reason's, for example, the editor's don't like your viewpoint and it may weaken their alternative ideology. In this internet environment (hard to believe the Founding Fathers could have predicted this environment) more people can jump in and share their viewpoints, and this can truely enlarge the pool of ideas out there that may actually stimulate more problem-solving communications, or at the very least, allow people to speak who otherwise may remain silent. I stand by my thesis, that anything that can get more people involved in sharing their idea's and viewpoints, the healthier and more enduring our 1st Amendment becomes. Why only give the power to those who own the "ink" or some other communication source?! The 1st Amendment is for "WE THE PEOPLE" not for the controller of dialog, because "I know what's best for you." Pshaw to that concept! Thanks for giving such immediate evidence to support my thesis author. Also please notice how comments will be made to alter what I have commented on...Change the subject when you cannot debate the subject!

"Anon-"Y"-Mous May 5, 2007 11:29 am (Pacific time)

Hannigan gotta be out of his mind to write such stupid, irresponsible, selfish and "crazy" stuff...!!even masked. Why's he so afraid for all to dig his dirty-stuff without way to hand-it-back ? Takes special personality distortion to propose one-way shot with no recourse except at masked-figure hiding in shadows. Does he get behind door when confronting family members ? What's he do when boss asks questions at work ? Under desk is no place to go since face known-anyhow. IF nasty-done, nasty will also reply, even to masked-one seeking to evade retaliation.

Hank Ruark May 5, 2007 11:09 am (Pacific time)

To all: Hannigan here equates open responsibility for ANY, ALL statements as "derangement" and sees possibility of harm by "intimidation". The "intimidation" is very obviously via response on 'Net since nothing else is even remotely possible. That suggests strange value on ordinary speech-situation: Does he don mask to talk to kids, wife, others ? If NOT he fails to follow own rule, but demands special masked-man role when he has something-else to hang on a public channel... WHY would that be ? WHAT does he want to inflict with no responsibility for it ? What possible "intimidation" comes from knowing-source ? NO WAY doth that operate except to protect the malign and provide easy-escape from "bad"-stuff, UN-stated since carries obvious human-feeling penalties, AND vulnerability to rapid-response via 'Net. Can errant child escape good parent-guidance via mask ? Can errant legislator get away with "contribution"/paid action on bill, by mask ? Can police-brutalizer stay "anon" after hard-clubbing immigration-protestor ? ANY face/face interaction gives same result when tested, so why not open-Internet ? Electronic-mask at least as dangerous as any others cited. "Speech" has responsibility in any form, any channel, any time, anywheres...try cursing next big-guy you cometh up with, for proof of payment. Re Founders, documentation from Federalist Papers ready via PDF, on request--standard writer's practice, demanded by irresponsible open-channel retorts without reasoning.

Henry Clay Ruark May 5, 2007 10:32 am (Pacific time)

To all: Basic communication among humans depends for its strength in evaluating source from which it coment, via all clues possible from voice-tone to body posture. To deny source-evaluation is to defeat what nature built-in ever since speech arrived. This is usual distortion of open-channel displayed by those who, for own reasons, prefer to hide behind "anon" to avoid responsibilities. Deep, determined research, documentation and practical experience all speak for "on the record". Should Legislature operate with anonymity for every word used to build governance ? Does it make difference if "rule" is stated by Capone or Eisenhower ? IF Founders so-stated, where is citation ? THAT fact alone should prove up points here; there is none and will be none later, either.

Hannigan II May 5, 2007 9:57 am (Pacific time)

Since Adam ate the apple and let evil into the world, deranged individuals have existed, and have tried to suppress your individual rights to pursue your life on "your terms!" Let people speak regardless of the format thay take. What are some people afraid of? This is what the Founding Father's were desiring, not some format where intimidation can be used as the author of the above article suggests! These are words and idea's, those who fear alternative viewpoints try to suppess them, using direct action like a Stalin, or some other deceptive way. Re-read the above article people and take time to critque what the writer is really saying. Is he afraid that people who want to be anonymous can so easily challenge his thesis? I say yes! Allowing people to say things that they may hold back on because of say fear or embarrassment, allows these types on websites to actually develop a more open and stimulating place to share viewpoints. Now that is the 1st Amendment in action!

Henry Clay Ruark May 5, 2007 8:25 am (Pacific time)

To all: Forgot to include URL for "see also" reference; here it is: ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER? Register your account using your mailing label in order to browse and search through every issue of Harper's ever published. READY TO SUBSCRIBE? Subscribe with a credit card and access all of Harper's (over 250,000 scanned pages—including the current issue) right away.

Henry Clay Ruark May 5, 2007 7:58 am (Pacific time)

For those seeking very solid background for this personal- professional view, "see also": "IGNOBLE LIARS" re Leo Strauss and the philosophy of mass deception, in HARPERS 6/04, by Earl Shorrs including "obscurantism" as work-method. You will be amazed by full extent of effort to infect and then corrupt our democratic form of governance. Norquist, Brentano et al did not erupt wholly by themselves but had strong political,psy- chological,$$$-backed support.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.