My friend, Michael Libbie, thinks its wrong to duck responsibility in publishing. I could not agree more. As I stated in my previous post:
If you are a modern day Lone Ranger or Zorro, you should not have the expectation that your anonymity gives you the right to say anything you wish about other people and organizations.
However, last night I came across a new political blog here in Metro Des Moines called intothevortex.net. I thought the blog posts were well-written and insightful. Not knowing the author I checked the About Section of the blog and found the following explanation:
We are a multitude speaking as one through a single pseudonym. We must because too often personalities interfere with the real issues and serious debate. We refer to The Federalist Papers in support of the value of anonymity. We care about our community, our schools, who leads us and how they spend our tax dollars. We believe in the future, good government and the Boston Red Sox.
While I hate the Red Sox (but ironically love the Celtics), it is true that the tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym "Publius," and "the Federal Farmer". The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment. The Electronic Frontier Foundation quotes the decision in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission which reads:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
That is a very strong argument in favor of anonymity, particularly on the Internet. But while I agree with the principles of our Founders, unfortunately anonymity is taken too far in many instances. For example, The Des Moines Register blogs are rife with people who will say anything when they are not required to accept responsibility for their words.
Does this mean I disagree with the right to maintain an anonymous blog? Well, one of the reasons I started blogging was because of the Anonymous Lawyer Blog later revealed to have been written by Jeremy Blachman. His blog helped me understand the power of blogs and the Internet for lawyers. An anonymous blog – done responsibly.
In the end, whether anonymous or not, let’s all remember to blog responsibly. Please.