Newspapers should not assume that all commenters have Facebook accounts. I don't have one.
I sign comments with my real name, but if City Newspaper set up their online comments like the D&C, I would stop submitting comments. Therefore, I withdraw my earlier position to eliminate the anonymous comments.
Also, I'm now realizing that there are many different legitimate reasons for wanting anonymity. My only hope is that the increasing numbers that go anonymous unnecessarily, can be encouraged to change.
I speak as a person who was a target of a terribly mean-spirited diatribe of completely unfounded and hateful commentary on TOPIX some years ago. At the time, I was an organizing leader opposing a big-box development proposed within an area zoned exclusively for residential development and farming. Our community was divided in a very public debate. Many of the comments were horribly offensive and it is difficult to understand how any person can stoop to such a lowly level, even when protected by the cloak of anonymity. Although consideration of the sources made it easy to disregard such behavior, I do not feel that such commentary fostered anything constructive. To the contrary, it served to detract from a worthwhile debate as emotions heightened over irrelevant drivel.
Yet, as Mary Anna points out in "Our anonymous comments," there are many instances when individuals can and will contribute constructive opinion when they do not feel that their employment, friendships or other important standings may be threatened or even harmed because their identity is protected.
Thus, I prefer that an avenue for anonymous comment be kept alive, so long an investment in prepublication editorial review is possible. A 'managed' forum will foster spontaneous participation and will permit the airing of many opinions but also provides a mechanism to snuff out personal attacks and other worthless rude, crude or just plain inappropriate content that may detract from productive discussion.
Thank you for seeking input on this timely topic.
A large part of why I visit this site and read City Newspaper articles is to read the comments. I used to visit 13wham quite often, but once they removed the ability to comment, I stopped. The quality of discourse on the D & C website took a huge dive once they required facebook login. I believe that allowing anonymous comments lets readers share information and insight that they would not feel safe/comfortable sharing if they had to disclose their identifty. There is value in this information, and it's up to me as reader to sift through and make that determination. I frequent this site, I would visit much less frequently (if at all) if the ability to comment anonymously were taken away. Frankly, I'm more concerned about sweeping generalizations and name calling that some of your courageous (named!) readers employ...
I ignore comments by anonymous because they are the worda of cowards who have more to hide than they have comments to express.
Let anonymous continue to post comments. I will continue to ignore them.
This is an interesting and important discussion. As I write this, I am sorting out my support for or against anonymity in posting comments. By the time I reach the end of this post, I'll have to decide if/how I'll sign my contribution to the discussion.
I will start by agreeing with Proudly Anonymous when s/he said: "An idea or argument should stand or fall on its merits, not on the biography or personality or popularity of the speaker." Knowing who said something may add context to the statement, but the "who" should not supersede the "what" in our decision on whether to accept or reject the point being made.
Along that line, I think we need to be careful in attributing a rationale to someone's decision on associating his/her name with an opinion. Fear and courage, risk and benefit are very personal conditions. While I try to empathize, it's impossible for me to know the personal circumstances that lead to the decision on signing a post. From that perspective, I won't judge the content on the basis of the person's choice on disclosing her/his identity.
I am personally disturbed by the increase in vitriolic commentary, but I don't see an absolute correlation between tone and anonymity. I've seen logical and respectful comments made by unnamed contributors (some examples are in this thread) and I have seen people willing to add their names to hateful and hurtful statements.
After all that, it seems I'm more inclined to judge a person based on their statements than I am to judge a statement based on who said it.
BDG, I don't disapprove of private people, but you are not really being private. You are commenting in a public arena. If you want to be private, stay private. I suspect that what some anonymous commenters want in fact is to take no responsibility for their comments.
And there are other options for you. You can start an anonymous blog. You can go to craigslist or some other similar site. You can express your opinions in your private circle of friends. Or send your comments to whatever politicians you think should hear them. But don't pretend that you are being private when all who read City News online can see your comments. That is public.
(Democracy has several corners upon which stones must be laid.)
Actually, a cornerstone of democracy is the secret ballot — i.e., it is universally held that democracy depends upon the power of individuals NOT to have to declare themselves publicly.
In any event, conflating a web site's comments policy with NSA snooping and PAC donor disclosure seems a bit of a stretch, to put it mildly.
You're free to disapprove of private people, and to urge them to be more like you. The question, however, is whether their views must be excluded.
There are two main reasons why I dislike this anonymity:
Political: The growing anonymity and secrecy in American culture is dangerous for democracy, whether it is City’s online comments or large anonymous PACS funded by contributions from anonymous uber-wealthy conservatives or secret surveillance of American’s online habits. The overall impact of this secrecy is to increase a culture of fear, and of the need to remain anonymous. Our democracy is dependent on the power of individuals to stand openly before other individuals to say, “This is what I believe. What do you believe?” But now we see this anonymity creeping into the realm of government via Patty Malgieri’s alleged involvement in some creepy mailings. Is it wrong for her, but not wrong for us? What kind of America and government do we want?
Personal: Look, I approach this as an openly gay man, who in the very distant past decided to connect my name and my face to the most personal aspects of my soul and being, despite whatever hatred awaited me. And I have discovered, as have so many of my friends, that this disclosure is a life-affirming and spiritually positive decision with unanticipated rewards and recognitions. And that courageous collective action of so many in my community is transforming our society for the better. So why would I want to be anonymous now, when disclosure has done so much good for me and for my community?
Anonymous posters: I suggest you look inside and break out of your own closets, constructed of whatever fears you have assembled there and participate fully in our open American society that is so critical for us to protect.
City Newspaper is encouraging people to betray their friends and employers. This type of venting may make someone feel better, but it's not right.
There are lots of people out there pretending that they are NOT somebody. How do I have meaningful conversations with them?
Give me anonymity or give me death! The Democrat & Chronicle did away with anonymous comments and only allows them from those with Facebook accounts. The result was pretty much the end of all comments. Bob Lonsberry allows anonymous comments and has no problems.
Many people can’t use their own names because of possible repercussions with friends, family and at their workplace. Editors will need to monitor comments but it’s a small price to pay for stimulating and meaningful discussion.
My only suggestion would be to have some simple rules for pseudonyms: Don’t use real names of politicians, celebrities and the like. It detracts from the comments by implying the named person would support a position, or it attempts to damage someone’s good name.
It is time to end anonymous comments. It IS important where the comments come from. Ray Levato puts his name at the end. So does Mary Anna Towler and everyone else at City Newspaper.
If it is worth saying it IS worth signing.
Remember the article about the "anonymous" package sent to the D&C about Van White's problems. What irrelevant nonsense it all turned out to be.
City Newspaper should be taking the moral high ground here.
I personally would prefer not to create yet another account, as I already have 10 million...
This is crazy! We approved the beginning of this madness last November? People want some casinos in NYS; but why more? If the Senecas can keep some people from going out of the state to gamble, I guess it's ok; but let's not get carried away.
Of course, there would be an initial economic boost as borrowed money is spent. Longer term, more jobs would be lost than created. A casino is too much of a drain on the local economy. It is a fantasy to think otherwise.
"Sometime in the next decade, New York will be awash in casinos. I wonder if the politicians and business leaders who wanted them will be sorry."
This is what you get with government who enacts legislation with no thought of the long term consequences. People seem to buy the instant gratification scheme. But it is just that...a scheme. A political scheme.
To the person stating addiction is not a disease because of lack of organ involvement?! I gather you also feel mental illness is not an illness? Why therefore is there such a high genetic disposition for alcoholics? Why is it from day 1, when an alcoholic takes that drink, it initiates a craving for another, & another, whereas a non alcoholic can drink a half of a drink and leave it? You might want to read the AA Big Book.
It seems to me that the complainants in the original Arizona case were not deprived of anything. They should have simply used the free market to obtain another photographer. Hurt feelings do not trump the freedoms afforded everyone in the exercise of their conscience or religion. Would the writer force
conscientious objectors to carry a weapon or a pro-life doctor or nurse perform an abortion? The first amendment of our Constitution protects all of us, thank God, or Allah , or Vishnu or L Ron Hubbard, or Voltaire or every other Upper West Side humanist!
The authoress states that "the Constitution doesn't give us the right to impose our religious beliefs on other people." This isn't exactly false, inasmuch the Constitution doesn't really have anything to do with relations between private individuals, one way or the other.
However, it is more accurate to say that the Constitution explicitly forbids a transient political majority from imposing its values and beliefs on the rest of us. Yet that is PRECISELY what Obama and Sibelius seek to do. And it is precisely what happens when the state willfully and knowingly violates the conscience rights of a small business owner.
On balance, this column presents a strong argument for strictly limiting the power and reach of government. Let us hope it portends a welcome change in editorial direction!
Why should the government have the power to fine or throw in jail:
• A vegetarian graphic artist who refuses to produce posters for a butcher shop?
• A banquet hall proprietor who won't book a Boy Scout function because he dislikes Scout policies?
• A hotel manager who refuses to host a conference of climate change deniers?
• A pizzeria owner who won't deliver to a union-busting law firm?
• A photographer who turns away fur-wearing clients?
• An accountant who won't service a business that exploits people with gambling addictions?
• A contractor who turns down a remodeling job for a tobacco shop?
• A caterer who won't take part in a function if alcohol is present?
• A mechanic who refuses to help out operators of fracking equipment?
• A commercial landlord who refuses to lease to a business that sells tobacco products?
• A bodega owner who refuses to provide customers with a certain periodical because it contains superstitious material like horoscopes? (Oops!)
"The objects of the discrimination are lesser beings, not worthy of service – or protection."
Like the bakery in NM that was forced to sell a wedding cake to a gay wedding against the owners's religious beliefs, or be forced out of business? I wonder why they aren't worthy of protection.
Despite its successes, the Rochester region still has its share of environmental problems.
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