No, You Are Not Publius.

Dan Hull is right.

Effective immediately, absent compelling reasons, this blog will join Dan’s blog, What About {Clients / Paris}, in not publishing any comments of anonymous commenters. All comments must be accompanied by commenters’ names (first and last) and real and verifiable email addresses.

I’ve fumed about anonymous commenters for years (I’ve been blogging for years?!?), but life is too short to fume about something I can fix. There’s a lot wrong with the way we’re using the internet to communicate, and I’m doing my part to clean up my little corner of it.

Too often today writers online replace precedent and logic with anonymity and sheer volume. Why? Because they can: if they shout that black is white or that ignorance is strength or that 2 + blue = house, it’s not going to touch them in the real world. There is no accountability.

This may decimate my comments; am I tossing out the wheat with the chaff?

If the anonymous commenters wrote like Thomas Jefferson or Sam Adams or James Madison, their comments would be sorely missed. Madison and his fellow Federalists wrote anonymously so that their arguments would stand on their own merits. The typical anonymous comment, by contrast, is unsupported opinion, with no merit independent of its writer’s identity. There is no wheat.

Maybe the commenters have life experiences that, if only we knew about them, would drive us to credit their opinions. But we don’t know, because we can’t know, because they choose not to permit us to know, and so we can presume the worst. Opinions unsupported by intellectual rigor are fine—everybody’s got at least one—but if you’re not willing to put your name on your opinions, I’m not interested in reading them or—more to the point—in helping you share them with the world.

If you think you have compelling reasons to comment anonymously (DA’s Office whistleblowers? Honest cops?), email me at MB@IVI3.com. Tell me who you are (I won’t reveal your identity) and explain why you think the world is better off reading your anonymous comments than not, and I’ll consider allowing it here.

15 Comments

  1. Mr. B., Thank You, Thank You, Thank You,

    We at PROJECT – Not Guilty, commend you for exterminating those pesky Anonymous lil bugerheads. For a while there, I thought how easy it would be for a Blog Owner to comunicate with readers as an Anon. just to see if he/she could get readers to engage in pissing matches.

    I have turned readers on to Defending People , A Harris County Lawyer & Grits for Breakfast warnning them in advance of the Anons. & their ability to bait you. And that you’ll have to remember their dumbasses by their timeclock tic toc 00:00. I will pass on the good news.
    FYI I’m happy to comment with my name but I fear that it has scared off one of your readers for he was made famous (not in the good way) in the Book, The Griffith Files – 1984 & Beyond.
    Again, Thank you.

    1. Jdog and SHG (for example) are not anonymous because those of us that regularly read the blogs where they post know who is positing, I would hope that Mark will figure out a way to take that into account.

      1. Exceptions will be considered for nicknames and for established web personalities whose true identities I know, like the lads at PopeHat.

        A foolish consistency etc.

  2. Mark:

    Do stay the course on this new direction. It hopefully will take as a default position–and yet still be accommodating to class bloggers, writers, thinkers and responsible non-wimp commenters who deserve anonymity. One’s real identity is almost always important for accountability and quality of discourse.

    The work to create intelligent exceptions is well worth the effort. The best argument for this is what happens every day at Above The Law. Go to ATL and see for yourself: the emergence of a new class of highly educated but nameless haters, innuendo-hurlers, wankers and drugstore cowboys.

    Dan

  3. Whoa there Mark!
    You say that you’re going to make exceptions for nicknames of folks whose true identities you know — What about your readers who do NOT know who these commenters really are? They are anonymous to us. In fact, it leaves one with the feeling that it’s one of those private-club type of blogs, and that you desire exclusivity rather than being understood by everyone. OH, PUHLEEZ! It’s as if you are saying ‘this blog is just for me and my buddies. Stay out.’ I know that’s not your intent.

    By the way — I would use “btw,” but I feel the same way about abbreviations as I do anonymous commenters. Newbies might not understand their meanings and I truly want to be inclusive. I think some want to make the newbies pay their dues — why should we make it easier for them, when we had to work at it? Isn’t there enough of that in how law associates are treated?

    By the way, I too published the complete Declaration of Independence as the July 4th post on my blog, Ethic Soup.com. Very few have read it. It’s probably the least-read post of all. I guess it’s old news and not very interesting to most. I feel certain that few people have actually read the whole document. Sad. As an American, it’s really one of those things you should do before you die.

    If you’re interested in the Burr Oak Cemetery mess, check out Ethic Soup and the following two articles:

    http://www.ethicsoup.com/2009/07/burr-oak-cemetary-mama-where-are-you-theyve-robbed-your-grave.html

    http://www.ethicsoup.com/2009/07/where-is-emmett-tills-coffin-where-are-the-babyland-graves-.html

    1. Slow down there.

      “Exceptions will be considered for nicknames and for established web personalities whose true identities I know, like the lads at PopeHat” does not mean that no other exceptions will be considered.

      Clearly, this policy is a work in progress. I’ll take every case on its own merits. People who have established web personalities with their own blogs, they have a sort of accountability because of the time they’ve invested in the credibility of their noms de blog.

      By the way, I don’t desire to be understood by everyone. The only way to accomplish that is to write for the slowest kid in the classroom; I know from personal experience that that won’t fly with the other kids.

  4. Before this post & it’s replies petter out, I thought I would remind you all of just how good of an idea it is to refuse to allow lil school girls to join in any future discussions with adults on this adult blog.

    Take a moment & go to the A Harris County Lawyer blog & or Grits for Breakfast blog. While both are good blogs, and I follow both, one can’t help but to notice the pissing matches going on between the Anonymous folks that seem to know each others names. If one doesn’t know the Anons. true name they are refered to simply as 05:32 or 10:01. Then come back to Defending People and finish reading if you wish.

    Welcome Back, What did I tell ya?
    When they are finished belittling each other or correcting other peoples spelling they simply go down in blog history as 05:32 and or 10:01 to the outsider that is. There is no way in hell you can honestly have an adult conversation with an Anon. especially if they ALL LOOK ALIKE. Get it? Mr. B. is doing us all a favor by finally seperating the boys from the men & girls from the women. Read his post before replying and you’ll feel better in the morn. A verifiable email address attached to the so-called nickname is not a frigin Anonymous.

  5. I had never gotten the impression that this blog suffered much from the anonymous commenting that plagues more mainstream sites. It’s a shame if that has changed.

    Why not just subject all comments to moderation and be done with it? Are the comments pages of this blog searchable on google/yahoo? Is there a way to disable that? That would probably help those of us who don’t want to be difficult but want to avoid creating a permanent web footprint of things we’ve said on sometimes touchy issues.

    1. Moderating comments is a pain in the ass. I’d rather moderate commenters, eliminating those who are unwilling to identify themselves before they become a problem.

      I’m inclined to prefer that commenters be committed enough to create a permanent web footprint of the things they say before commenting here.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *