A friend of mine was recently lamenting the fact that a member of his family, an elected official, is often attacked on Internet message boards.
He's not bothered by criticism per say but that the fact that most of it comes via anonymous "comments" on political and newsie websites.
In the old days a dissenter had a few choices. Either show up at a meeting or hearing, call or write letters. And if your letter made it into the local rag, it was signed. By you. Name and city.
I'm not a fan of message boards, which are kind of like shouting out the window at passing cars.
But they're here to stay, along with our increasingly "anonymous" society.
Ironically, we become more anonymous by embracing Facebook and Twitter, "sharing" technologies that allow us to secretly view each others lives.
Does anonymity have limits?
The other day I came across this item in the Chicago Tribune in a story about President Obama's jobs plan.
"In his remarks, the president will make clear he's not going to support any plan that asks something of some Americans and nothing of others." This was according to a White House aide, speaking on condition of anonymity in a conference call with reporters.
Something is amiss here, beyond my "well duh" reaction to Deep Throat's earth shattering revelation.
A conference call?
First I've heard of that one. When I hear "anonymous source" I think of trench coats, chapeaus and parking garages, not a conference line and bank of microphones. I suppose the source used one of those voice altering machines you see on shows like 60 Minutes, or maybe as an extra precaution sat behind one of those kiddie "puppet stages" with the shade drawn.
And how did this source get the word out for the conference call? Maybe via email: "Please join me as I leak very special information about the Obama jobs plan." Or perhaps, borrowing from Gordon Gekko, "Blue Horseshoe loves Obama's jobs plan."
The conference call had to be set up en masse, no phone calls, because any reporter worth a darn would beg for an exclusive.
This is cheating, plain and simple. The annonymous source meets message boards.
If you are going to hurl tomatoes, or leak information, follow the rules.
The Unknown Blogger