Anonymous just doesn't feel right

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

There's a new movie out titled, Anonymous, which argues that Shakespeare didn't really write the plays attributed to him. The movie makes the case that Edward de Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford was the real author.

As a royal, it would be beneath him to be recognized as the author of silly diversions like plays. There are a lot of authors who post on who don't use their real name when they post their writings. I don't think any of them are royalty.

Now lots of famous authors didn't use their real names when they wrote. Thomas Paine signed Common Sense "Written By An Englishman" to avoid being executed for treason. Joanne Rowling (J.K.Rowling), Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) and the great Jane Austen (A Lady) didn't use their real names because they figured no one would buy a book authored by a woman.

Pearl Grey was a guy who wrote westerns but figured Zane Grey would sell more books. Probably right. Two of my favorite authors, Eric Blair (George Orwell) and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) didn't use their real names.

But all of these people are real authors. For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone won't identify himself when posting a comment on a community website. Now it seems to make a difference whether the missive is placed in the print version of the paper or as a comment on The paper will verify you and your signature and "If we can't make that verification, we will not print what was sent." But there is no such verification process for posting. Anything goes. Seems odd.

I like writing. It's fun. I can be mean and sarcastic, but it just seems wrong to hide behind a fake name. My pride of authorship and desire to be a genuine or authentic person requires me to take ownership of my work. That ownership causes me to think a little about what my family, friends and community might think of me. Without that check, I might write something very wrong or hurtful. Signing your name to what you write seems elemental to me.

There may be some narrow category of reasons for protecting your identity when posting a response to a news story or opinion piece. You might be a whistleblower. You might be in witness protection. You might be an old guy who likes to pretend he's a young girl. You might be the rival of a restaurant or business who wants to trash the competition. You might be ashamed of your beliefs and opinions.

You might have thought that was one of those avatar games I read about where you pretend to be someone else. You might be afraid your neighbor or co-worker will punch your lights out. I'm sure there are other, even better reasons.

But from my perspective, I like dealing with real people with real identities. I won't talk to someone on the phone unless they identify themselves. I won't respond to a letter unless I know who wrote it. And I'm not going to respond to posters who won't reveal who they really are.

The children who came by the house on Halloween, dressed up like Batman and Cinderella, were cute. But Halloween is one night a year.

And they were children.

Reader Comments

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Sharon from Birmingham   

Posted: November 13th, 2011 10:35 AM

The visual effects of period London are simply gorgeous. We can call it anti-Shakespeare in love. The film is highly entertaining, the plot is intriguing and presents an interesting argument.

Seth Tip  

Posted: November 12th, 2011 1:20 PM

I agree with you Charlie, the visual effects were incredible. The film, overall, gave me a good laugh. The way Shakespeare was portrayed was brilliant! I'm English and I loved the film. I think they got to caught up in the beloved Shakespeare.

Charlie from London  

Posted: November 12th, 2011 12:54 PM

The scenes of London and the Globe theater in this film were amazing! The visual effects were just fantastic. When it comes to the film, it was very entertaining and it has gotten people talking about Shakespeare again, letting people think for themselves when it come to the authorship debate. I wish it was still playing in cinemas in London.

Hon Jubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: November 11th, 2011 9:08 AM

I think Mr. Hubbuch is brilliant. I agree with him 100 per cent.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2011 10:28 PM

john burtagh, I've watched some meetings on VOP 6. Generally about as many as you seem to go to, and you put in more time than the 3 minutes I am willing to watch a bunch of people talk like they have already talked before about what they are now talking about. The comments from residents never changes the boards decision. People who do want to comment have to provide their name and address. I haven't checked, but do all the board members give out their addresses? I would assume so.

john murtagh  

Posted: November 10th, 2011 10:12 PM

Really don't care if board members are reading posts or not. Attend meeting? It's like going to the dentist. I go occasionally, don't look forward to it, and always feel pain.

Mike Silverman from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2011 9:28 PM

To be taken seriously, you have to go to the meetings. Trustees aren't going to read this stuff. They are even less like to take seriously anonymous, pseudonominous and mean spirited comments. Stand for yourself if you care about government.

Mr. Magoo from Oak Park  

Posted: November 9th, 2011 12:14 PM

I wouldn't mine likening myself to Samuel Clemens, but don't have the wit. You mention you want identification on the phone, would you believe I'm Mr. Magoo, if I told you that? You say people who want to write on websites should identify themselves. Why? For your satisfaction? If so, how would you like, Mr. Magoo? It's a website, where anyone can be anyone. Don't take it as real. People can get fake I.D.'s. Maybe it would be better if we had finger printing with pictures for positive ID.

Edward Boswell from Long Beach  

Posted: November 9th, 2011 11:38 AM

This English Professor provides typical responses caused by his cognitive dissonance resulting from the distinct prospect that everything he's supposed about Will from Stratford is incorrect. He's telling us that Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Justices Stevens and Scalia, Paul Nitze, the director of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, Mark Rylance, and Sir Derek Jacobi are all idiots. If he knew the subject, he'd know there was a shipwreck in the Burmudas in the 1590's that was written about.


Posted: November 8th, 2011 11:33 PM

Wheres Les been? Can writers at the WJ see the email addresses provided by the commenters? Maybe you know who people are from those?

john murtagh  

Posted: November 8th, 2011 11:22 PM

I have never met or had a conversation with J, Silly, Veritas, Q, Bill Strong, Enuf is Enuf, Jim Coughlin, OP Res, Epic, John Hubbich, or Violet Aura. They don't know me either. In fact they don't know if I am the real John Murtagh or a name thief. I have a discussion with most of them every day. I don't know their face, sex, or personal preference but I do know their words. I appreciate their insight, value their judgments, and respect their opinions. As they say, "What's in a name?"


Posted: November 8th, 2011 10:44 PM

Brilliant! A childish tirade against what the writer views as childish behavior, disagreeing with his often offensive screeds. Why does the Wednesday Journal continue to give this guy a forum? If he's supposed to be opening up public discourse he doesn't seem to take any criticism well.

The Cat In The Hat.....On Aging  

Posted: November 8th, 2011 10:38 PM

I cannot see, I cannot pee, I cannot chew, I cannot screw, Oh my God, what can I do? My memory shrinks, My hearing stinks, No sense of smell, I look like Hell. My mood is bad - can you tell? My body's dropping, Have trouble pooping. The Golden Years have come at last, The Golden Years can kiss my ass.


Posted: November 8th, 2011 10:34 PM

"For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone won't identify himself when posting a comment on a community website. " Really? You don't see why someone who might be looking for a job might not want to be instantly googlable for his or her political or personal opinions? I am guessing it's been a while since you've been in the job market.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: November 8th, 2011 10:30 PM

This whole calling people "children" smacks of you being bothered a whole lot more than you more than you're letting on...I can't imagine using a venue like a column on a newspaper to talk down to people. However, it's not the first time for the WJ so I guess I'm not terribly surprised. I like you as a writer most of the time, but this complaining about the online just takes away from what you have to offer as a columnist in my opinion and soon I'll stop reading.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: November 8th, 2011 10:27 PM

Anonymity has been a part of interacting on the WWW since the advent of discussion boards - and probably before that. It's just part of it for good sometimes and for bad other times. People who do identify themselves have to have a thick skin or else they might allow themselves to be driven crazy by it.

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