Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Anonymity

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, October 26, 2006

I respectfully disagree with Hayduke.

I have never said that I didn’t like Mary Smith.  I never implied it either.  I have expressed frustration with her, but even then I invited her to coffee.

I never threatened to expose any one via an IP address.  That was a delusion brought up by someone else, and as you know it is impossible to do based on an ip address alone.  I am not a vicious person.

I didn’t try to figure out who Mary was.  People came to me and said “I think I know who Mary Smith is.”  Knowing the name of the person shed a whole new light on the content of her comments.  Was  I convinced who Mary was?  No.

Did I bait Mary.  Yes.  Did she bite yes.  Was it fair.  Yes.  If I could expose the people who are spreading rumors and innuendo about Gansler and O’Malley I would gladly do that as well.  I think O’Malley and Gansler would agree with me on that point.

Believe me I tried very hard to find out who was behind the anonymous Gansler web site.  I am just not smart enough or knowledgable enough to crack that code.

Why expose Mary?  If one is going to spread vicious conjecture then I think they should do it publicly and not hide behind anonymity.  A person hiding behind anonymity so they can make defamatory comments stifles debate and is not a first amendment issue.  Exposing such people does not stifle debate – it encourages honest debate.

We are not talking about organized crime here.  We are talking about the personal integrity of an individual being trashed without substance or proof.

The First Amendment doesn’t allow Americans to shout “fire” in a crowded theater unless the theater really is on fire.

The accused deserves to face their accuser. a la www.therealchris.com where Ken Ulman tried to hide behind his party and only confirmed it when confronted by a reporter.

Interestingly enough a student blogger Yale Law School discussed this on his blog this past December.

I agree with the bloggers conclusion, I paraphrase a bit.  “It is nearly impossible to debate with an anonymous commenter.  Only when knowing your debater is it possible to discuss the merits of somone’s claim.   Civil discourse, common courtesy, and basic integrity demand no less.”

Call me old fashioned.

Respectfully.

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24 Responses to “Anonymity”

  1. S. Davis said

    I think it was wrong that you identified one of your anonymous contributors. Mary, whoever she is, has the right to be anonymous on your site. If you identify one, you should identify all. It lessens your credibility. I think it might even be unethical. Why don’t you do that for everyone – like all the nasty contributors – Bubba comes to mind? I’m disappointed in you. I think you should think about it. I bet you’ll respond with some veiled threat about using school resources. Just a guess.

  2. Numbersgirl said

    I agree that it was wrong. Don’t you have the option of blocking anonymous posts? Maybe that would be the better approach. This coming from someone who finds her endless supply of belligerent posts exhausting.

  3. Hayduke said

    David,

    I also completely agree with your thoughts (and those of the Yalies) on anonymity as they relate to discourse. But the vast majority of commenters on your blog are also anonymous, yet little concern is shown when they hide behind an assumed nickname. Though I don’t feel the need to defend my decision to remain anonymous for several months, I will say that I was very cautious to not abuse it. In fact on many occasions I consulted with my friends and family before posting something because I worried that it was too inflammatory or unfair, as these are easy traps for Anons to fall into.

    You say:

    If one is going to spread vicious conjecture then I think they should do it publicly and not hide behind anonymity. A person hiding behind anonymity so they can make defamatory comments stifles debate and is not a first amendment issue.

    Then why do you not call out your commenters who say such things about Ken Ulman or Courtney Watson or O’Malley or whichever Democrat happens to be in the crosshairs at the moment? Certainly, one can point to any number of comments about Democrats that are objectively the same as Mary’s (“Queen Tax”; Ulman’s youthful indescretions; Ulman getting his jobs solely because of family connections, etc.), but they appear subjectively different because of your political sensistivities.

    And I never said you threatened to out anyone, you did. You outed Mary, and now the threat of something similar looms over all commenters. I also know that it’s hard to identify someone solely on their IP address, but it only takes a few bits more of information to make a connection. Honestly, I’m surprised you haven’t been able to ID others (I’m thinking of a few folks in particular) who view your blog.

    And this has nothing to do with websites put up by campaigns. Mary is a private citizen and choose anonymity for a reason — there are many valid, justifiable reasons why one would remain anonymous, by the way. Even if you knew who she was, it’s a matter of respect to keep that information private unless she gives you the OK.

    I don’t mean to imply that it’s our repsonsiblity to ensure our commenters have good manners. We live in a civilized society and I would expect as much from my neighbors. That said, we are responsible for the tones of our blogs, which get reflected in the comments section. In some respects, Mary’s statements are a reflection of the tone of your blog. The stronger one side pulls, the stronger the other side will pull back.

    I posted this same comment on my blog in response to yours.

  4. Hayduke said

    Whoops, in the amount of time it took me to write this, two other folks commented. Sorry if I just reiterated others’ points. That’ll teach me to think before I type…

  5. hocomd said

    S. Davis – I hoped you had a sense of humor about the school resources. Nothing came of that did it? I would seriously feel very bad about that.

    Numbers,

    That is a good idea. However, what is to prevent Mary Jones from coming on and defaming someone else? WordPress doesn’t verify names or email addresses and neither do I.

    Points are well taken. If I knew who Bubba was I would expose him if he was being defamatory. He isn’t defamatory he is just insulting.

    Numbers, you stir it up on this site. The difference is that you are not defamatory or insulting.

    Relative to Mary Smith someone pointed out that the wording and phrasing in a letter to the editor matched some of the dialogue Mary posted here. They put two and two together. I posed the question. BTW: Do either of you know who Mary Smith really is? Do you know who Mona is?

  6. hocomd said

    Hayduke, if I could I would. Especially the one about Ken’s youthful indescretions. I am not trying to be subjective. I made a guess and I ended up being right. I didn’t give her full name. Of the 300 people that read this blog everyday I am sure only a handful know who Mary Smith really is.

    Would I do it again? As S. Davis suggested. I am thinking about it.

  7. Bubba said

    “like all the nasty contributors – Bubba comes to mind?”

    I’M Honored, sorry if the truth about high and unreasonable taxes hurts!

    It makes me laugh that two people post anonymously that our host should restrict anonymous posts? Interesting – Very Interesting

  8. hocomd said

    Why was their delight and no condemnaation when another commentor said Ralph was “Warren Miller”.

    “…see that Ralph is our very own Warren Miller (”I see someone is upset about losing the primary to me…”) AHHH, that makes total sense now.”

    I said “Mona er Mary”. The emails I am am getting are asking “Mona who?”. A lot of people came out with their knives to stab Ralph until Warren Miller denied that he was Ralph? That would include dear Mary.

    mary smith Says:
    October 19th, 2006 at 1:35 pm e
    Whoa. Warren Miller said that? It’s worse than I thought…

  9. hocomd said

    Bubba,
    I understand the tax part. I think I undersand the last sentence. People can post here anonymously – I don’t care. Just don’t be defamatory.

  10. Freemarket said

    Didn’t Ralph out himself (falsely) by telling Melissa that she lost the primary to him? Mary didn’t do anything to out herself.

  11. hocomd said

    I didn’t catch that. Let me look.

  12. hocomd said

    Freemarket, found it. I don’t think it is clear. Even Jen accused him of simple bad grammer.

  13. Freemarket said

    Yes, it was definitely ambiguous. I suppose it could have meant Gail Bates, too. But I think Ralph brought his outing upon himself, even if it was just bad grammar that misled everyone.

    I also think Mary Smith was responding to something I said about Warren Miller fighting the homosexual agenda from taking over the laws and social order of Maryland when she made the comment about “..its worse that I thought.” That comment had noting to do with Ralph being outted.

  14. Jim Adams said

    Bubba, this is not an anonymous posting.

    I extend to both MBT, and Freemarket, my apology. I have respect for both of you, MBT our friendship, Freemarket the quality of your postings.

    David, would I do it again, you bet, and for the same right reasons.

  15. Numbersgirl said

    Hocomd- while I can’t say with 100% certainty who “Mona” is, I have a pretty good guess.

  16. Fran said

    I love you all…

  17. Tom Berkhouse said

    Hayduke,

    This blog host has NEVER done anything to instill a defamatory tone in the postings, or in the responses by the commentors. Mary Smith WAS being defamatory. She did that on her own. She has become more rude and nasty in her comments in the last few weeks, to the point where she crossed the line. I think the blog host was 100% correct in outing her. If she believes in what she’s saying then she can say it publicly. The web host has also indicated that as long as commentors are NOT being defamatory, then their anonymity will not be messed with. A darn good policy as far as I’m concerned.

  18. Hayduke said

    Tom,

    I don’t really see the point in arguing about this. One man’s defamation is another man’s political point scoring.

    That said, even Keelan has admitted that he doesn’t have a perfect record, and while he retracted or deleted the most egregious examples, to say he has “NEVER” crossed the line is to lie.

    And this line between civilized discourse, which involves honest critiques of records and characters, and, well, uncivilized discourse, which involves defamation, insults, and, usually, too much emotion, is a thin one. We all draw it in different places, depending on how thick our skins are and which way we lean politically (at least as it relates to the political opinions of the one we’re accusing of defamation).

    As mentioned above, several other commenters could have fallen into Mary’s category, but they were on the “right” side of the debate and, therefore, left alone or, worse, agreed with.

  19. Hayduke said

    A recent comment from Evan’s blog:

    Ken Ulman has no character. He is a child of privilege who has been spoon-fed every career opportunity he has received.

    Is this not defamation? I could probably find an almost identical comment on this blog, too, if I actually looked. But I don’t want to, because I don’t need to.

    In the comments section where the above came from, David goes after a commenter who asks snarky questions about Evan’s political leanings. David calls this commenter a jerk. Yet, the one who actually inappropriately defames someone’s character — indeed, going to far as to say he has “no character” gets no scolding.

    All I’m saying is the consistency others want so desperately to see just isn’t there. I don’t have it either, by the way. But the difference is, I don’t claim to have it.

  20. Hayduke said

    Whoops, add a couple dashes to make it:

    David calls this commenter a jerk. Yet, the one who actually inappropriately defames someone’s character — indeed, going to far as to say he has “no character” — gets no scolding.

  21. hocomd said

    Coming to the defense of Evan (an Ulman supporter) wasn’t enough? I am sorry my perceptions are not as keen as your perceptions. 

    Did I overlook the comment you pointed out?  Yes.  Why?  Because I think it is true.  Nothing wrong with the fact that it is true.  His father has influence.  He is using it to help his son.  So what?  What is insulting about that.  History is full of similiar stories.  Fathers help their sons.  That is what they are supposed to do.

  22. hocomd said

    BTW: The dry cleaner lost my mask, cape and tights. Therefore, I am left without my defamations sensors. I will not be able to detect ever single defamation or perceived defamation that might occur.

  23. Hayduke said

    So, you think Ulman has “no character”? Or am I misreading the commenter you agree with by thinking he was using “character” in the sense of “having integrity, honor and moral strength” and “a man of character”?

  24. hocomd said

    I think Ken has a lot of character. I didn’t read it as closely as you as it isn’t my blog.

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