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 OakPark.com 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 OakPark.com. 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 OakPark.com 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.