Back in the early days of the Republic, newspapers were filled with scathing columns and editorials written by anonymous essayists.
“Common Sense,” “Publius” and “Silence Dogood” are just a few of the pen names we have been able to identify.
In many cases, everyone knew exactly who the writers were, and while they often resorted to ad hominem attacks, almost all of them were built around a core argument that made factual and logical sense.
Now skip to this century and the Internet.
Every news and information site out there has a blog.
And that’s great.
But look at how fast the comments degenerate into illogical, fact-free, anonymous name calling.
And there’s the key: The comments are almost all anonymous, so we don’t really know who is talking, and are they really qualified to be making the comments that appear for all the world to see.
But last week Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington said the site plans to end anonymous comments.
Huffington said she has decided there are too many “trolls” using the site who hide behind anonymity in order to make violent or offensive comments, and she believes people should “stand up for what they say.”
I’m not sure how the site will check to see who is really submitting comments, but this sounds like a good idea.
I’m not so much concerned that people stand up for what they say, but I want the ability to check if the writer knows what he or she is talking about.
Sure, I can check the facts myself, but before I enter into a discussion about politics, science or the economy, I want to make sure the discussion is going to stay on a somewhat elevated plain, and not degenerate into simple name calling and deception.