The Cowardice Of Anonymous Posting

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By John Hubbuch

How lame is someone who won't identify himself in an internet posting to a local newspaper? To be sure there is ample precedent for secrecy. Lewis Carroll was really Charles Dodgson. The great George Orwell was really Eric Blair. George Eliot and George Sand were women. Thomas Payne signed "Common Sense" as "written by an Englishman" lest he be executed as a traitor. Salman Rushdie probably shouldn't have identified himself.          

But the people who don't identify themselves in an internet posting are much closer to those who write on the walls of bathrooms ,or whisper the lie that Mary had sex with Johnny. I speculate as to why a poster wouldn't identify himself. The  most likely is that the author knows the post is so wrong or over the top that he or she is embarrassed to identify themselves. Or they are afraid that the offended party will punch them out. Oh, if only the duel had not be banned! Or the author can put out completely bogus facts, and no one can really call them out because they are just a virtual person---not flesh and blood, but a bunch of irresponsible, unaccountable electrons.                                                           

Maybe I'm missing something here, but it just seems like the right thing to take resposibility for your thoughts, beliefs and opinions when you share them with your community.          

On a related point, what does "Facebook Verified" mean? Is that like absolute truth? Is it painful? Does it cost money?  Sign me "Oak Park Luddite"

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Comment Policy

Paul Clark  

Posted: May 26th, 2011 8:23 AM

Between the school referendum and the Comcast building project, there has been a lot to comment on on the Journal's web page. But I skip over most comments posted under fake names, because although sometimes the comments have value, often anonymity is just an excuse to throw gas on a smoldering fire. If verified names were required for online posts, there might be fewer posts, but the value of the individual comments would increase.

The Real Marco  

Posted: May 26th, 2011 8:22 AM

As someone who has had his name hijacked on this site, I strongly agree there needs to be some registration to this site. You haven't even been able to curb this person after repeated complaints. It is very much a safety issue now.

Hon Jubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: May 26th, 2011 7:11 AM

I must admit that I do like it when people respond to my blog whether they use a fake name or no name at all even if they're mean and call me names. It's fine with me if you wear a disguise or even have a secret life. Go for it.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 26th, 2011 12:27 AM

When we're not smart enough to actually counter a point we lazily label it something.. In this case fear. Ultimately Disappointing. Try harder.

Anonymous from OP  

Posted: May 25th, 2011 7:56 PM

John, I'd rather be an anonymous coward with an intelligent thought to share with my neighbors than someone of your persuasion: a fully-disclosed fool for all to see that just can't keep his poorly informed opinions to himself.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 25th, 2011 5:34 PM

First of all, you should learn the difference between anonymous and pseudonymous and stop conflating the two concepts. Second, if you had ever received death threats or been the target of a cyberstalker, the answer to your (malformed) question would be obvious to you.

Violet Aura  

Posted: May 24th, 2011 8:53 PM

With the thought police around these days, it's crucial to be anonymous. I would love to be able to share who I am but there are too many people (ironically many of them of the "liberal" persuasion) who cannot handle opinions which they find widely different from their own. And it seems that people like to get punitive about it, also. So call me a coward. Won't change a thing..


Posted: May 24th, 2011 8:11 PM

I meant to say "type"...either way in 09 I lived in a town where people were afraid to openly support a candidate for mayor that wasn't with the incumbent. A candidate had to have his campaign office in another town. Our 1st meeting, he addressed the fears of getting our windows busted out and unwarranted tickets as revenge for participating. They happened in previous elections. And you think it was cowardly to not use my real name on the message boards? Yeah okay.


Posted: May 24th, 2011 8:03 PM

This is a pretty simple-minded assertion. The fact is that information is more easily gathered and people are more willing to offer it based on anonymity. You have no idea who is watching your comments, what time of effects they will have on your relationships or even your job. People have been harassed, targeted, attacked etc. because of their opinions expressed on the internet. There is a reason the police don't reveal callers and whistleblowers don't have to reveal themselves...retribution.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 21st, 2011 11:21 AM

I agree with Jim and Bridgett that some controls are needed.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: May 21st, 2011 9:18 AM

I also post comments at Huffington Post and several other public forums. It's fun and interesting. Most require that you register. Your screen name is secure and protected. Bridgett offers some good information about safety issues.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 21st, 2011 1:48 AM

I am not opposed to pseudonyms though I don't use one myself. The activities of a few disruptive bullies is going to ruin the site for all. Particularly despicable is people using other posters identities. I recently read that pseudonym bullies suffer from low self esteem and use the post to feel important. Absolutely, weird. How can you feel important if no one knows who your are?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2011 11:24 PM

I do have to say that signing in to every website possible using one's Facebook account, is not really the safest thing to do though--unless your Facebook account is sparse and has little to offer other than your name.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2011 11:22 PM

@The Ghost: That is known as cyberbullying and charges can be brought against that "anonymous" poster. All of our IP addresses are recorded, so we are not truly anonymous.

The Ghost  

Posted: May 20th, 2011 10:25 PM

Look at the flip side. Recently, two folks who post "Facebook Verified" comments on the WJ forum have been stalked by an "anonymous" person. Both had comments directed at them from this individual who pointed out that he knew their home addresses and had been observing their children. The creep regularly uses a variety of monikers and has resorted to stealing the identity of people who post comments. He intimidates, deceives and bullies. Would you risk being his next target?

Chris Koertge from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 20th, 2011 8:00 PM

John - I couldn't agree with you more strongly. I think the right answer is for to allow pseudonyms but to require a registered username / password login to post. It allows those who choose to be anonymous to be so, but it keeps certain... people (I'll keep it nice)... from posting nasty things under someone else's name. That's happened a lot recently. Without a login requirement, "Facebook Verified" is the closest I can come to ensuring that my identity is not hijacked.


Posted: May 20th, 2011 7:24 PM

Cathy, what do you mean by "The comment policy is pretty conservative for a liberal publication."?


Posted: May 20th, 2011 7:23 PM

I actually think that having a pseudonym helps in that people are more likely to state their unvarnished opinion. It doesn't work as well on, because posters can change their names willynilly, and yes, that means you don't have to take responsibility even as a pseud. I won't post my name because, while I don't mind my neighbors knowing my position, I don't want casual googlers to be able to.

Cathy Ryan  

Posted: May 20th, 2011 5:56 PM

I completely understand why people wish to remain anonymous. The hate and cruelty directed at Noel Kuriakos and Ms. Song for taking unpopular stances could keep many from wanting to share their names. We're an intolerant bunch in Oak Park if you don't fall in line. The comment policy is pretty conservative for a liberal publication.

Dave Coulter   

Posted: May 18th, 2011 4:43 PM

John, thanks for this post. It got me thinking about the writing and the comments here. I wouldn't post a comment here that I wouldn't write or say in public. But, perhaps by just signing my initials (as I'd usually do)weakens the writing and the effort here? Standing behind ones words should mean something. OP.COM gives us a venue for expression - and that should earn a measure respect.

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