20 Aug 2014
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Identity Crisis

There's honor to putting a name to one's comments.

Identity Crisis

It is Patch corporate policy that comments are allowed to be submitted with a pseudonym.  Although I did not craft the policy nor do I speak for the editorial staff of the organization, it is my understanding that they believe this policy allows members of the community to speak honestly and freely without fear of personal attacks in return.

I have written this column for an entire year and have received criticism both anonymous and from very pointedly named sources in the comments, in private emails, and phone calls to my home.

I have also been treated to Patch-related commentary while shopping at , and .  

While I do not enjoy being chastised while I try to purchase soccer shoes for my child, my concern about the way in which comments are submitted has nothing to do with the tone of the comments.

Patch is a publication.  As such, the word "public" is crucial to its purpose.  While anonymity is great for love letters of a certain sort, it is highly problematic as a discursive stance. 

Commentary from an unknown critic might encourage honesty but it also divorces the comments from the responsibility the writer has for the words, ideas, and positions stated therein.

It is easy to sit in a room and write with authority when cloaked in the assurance of protection from attribution.  It may be cowardly and childish to lob verbal grenades from behind a stone wall, but the publication permits this behavior and the abuse of the privilege is a forseeable problem.

What I most fear is that the policy of allowing pseudonymous comments stems from a practical problem.  Even if Patch were to require a name to go with each comment, there is no way to compel the writer to use his or her actual name.  Email addresses are as disposable as paper airplanes and almost as easy to create.

So, commentators, I suppose the choice is your own.  You reserve the right to remain nameless and untethered to responsibility for your words and readers reserve the right to dismiss you because of it.

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