Information terrorist

“Information terrorist” – what a funny concept. That you could terrorize someone with information. But who’s terrorized? Is it the common people reading the newspaper and learning what their government is doing in their name? They’re not terrorized – they’re perfectly satisfied with that situation. It’s the people trying to hide these secrets, who are trying to hide these crimes. The funny thing is every email database that I’ve ever been a part of stealing, from Pres. Assad to Stratfor security, every email database, every single one has had crimes in it. Not one time that I’ve broken into a corporation or a government, and found their emails and thought, “Oh my God, these people are perfectly innocent people, I made a mistake.”

Why Anonymous ‘might be the most powferful organization on earth’

Bambi358 is following you

I just did a little Twitter house cleaning, blocking about 60 followers who looked … suspect. My criteria for blocking is very scientific and includes –but is not limited to– the following:

  • Anyone who follows 500+
  • Anyone with a number in their name
  • Anyone trying to be anonymous
  • Overly cute names
  • Just about any business (unless I know you)
  • Anyone who uses the terms “SEO” or “social” in their profile bio
  • Glam shot photo icon

If I blocked you and you’d like for me to reconsider… you’re way too needy. But email me and we’ll talk.

[10 hours later] The Twitter spam is coming way too fast. I’ve blocked almost 100. Giving serious thought to protecting my account.

Newspaper endorsements

This is the story of a friend who works in municipal government– we’ll Newspaperssay he’s the city administrator– in a medium size city in… let’s say Vermont. The need for obfuscation will become clear.

The city administrator is unhappy with one of the editorial policies of the local newspaper publisher. (It’s a one paper town) In order to be published, letters to the editor must be signed. But comments on the newspaper website can be anonymous.

Recent comments on one story had gotten kind of personal (toward the administrator). When he complained to the publisher, pointing out the inconsistency of the print and online policy, the publisher explained it was a matter of cross-promoting the two, and readers online expected to be able to share their views anonymously.

I suggested my friend tell his side of the story on his blog. “I really can’t do that,” he explained. “I need the paper’s support in the upcoming annexation vote.”

I’ve never given much thought to the tradition of newspapers endorsing candidates and issues. And I struggle to understand how it’s a good idea. Once the paper takes a position, let’s say “Yes On Annexation,” how can the readers have any confidence in their reporting of the issue going forward?

It seems to me they can wield this kind of power for only as long as they are one of limited sources of news and information in that community.

And if their editorial support for a candidate or issue is pure, how can it be used to intimidate those who call them out in public, on a blog, for example. Seems like you’d have to keep your position secret until the last minute in order to keep folks in line.

If this is the way the game works, I don’t think the public is well served. It’s all about power. Power of those who govern. Power of the media who help them get elected. Where’s the power for the little guy?

I have no idea what will replace the dying newspaper business. But I bet it won’t have this kind of don’t-piss-us-off-or-you’ll-regret-it power. And we’ll see soon enough.

“Anonymity encourages irresponsibility”

“The blogs… the good news and bad news about blogs. First the bad news. The bad news is anybody can say anything about someone and they don’t even have to put their name on it. In fact, the anonymity encourages irresponsibility. And it is pretty frustrating, I’ll be honest with you, that’s why I just stopped reading this stuff a long time ago.

“The good is, when there are allegations made, in any variety of formats, there are people who know the facts, and step forward, and correct the facts. People who put their name on it and correct.” — Sen. James Webb on bloggers

“This blogging stuff”

Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson got all Rottweiler’y on the local press recently and among his complaints, anonymous bloggers:

“On top of that, we have this Internet thing that’s going on now, this blogging stuff. Used to be, if you wanted to say something, you had to put your name it … now, there’s this anonymous character assassination that’s encouraged, in order to sell newspapers or other media outlets.”

It’s been a while since I heard/saw “this Internet thing.” One of my favorite expressions. But His Honor and I do agree on the anonymous blogging issue. He has no way of knowing if the blogger who is ripping him a new one is his opponent. And we have know way of knowing if the blogger who supports his every action is his press secretary.

Popular Christian TV host comes out

From Out & About: “Local Nashvillian and host of The Remix, a popular Christian youth show, Azariah Southworth, announced today that he has come out.

“This has been a long time coming. I’m in a place where I’m at peace with my faith, friends, family and more importantly myself. I know this will end my career in Christian television, but I must now live my life openly and honestly with everyone. This is my reason for doing this,” Southworth says.

Southworth has been hosting and producing the popular Christian TV show, The Remix for a year and a half. It is in syndication and can be seen in more than 128 million homes worldwide. It averages more than 200,000 viewers weekly on one of three networks.”

As I read this I recalled my recent exchanges with anonymous (ok, pseudonymous) political bloggers who justified blogging from behind the curtain with concerns for their jobs.

Props to Mr. Southworth. That takes courage.

Pseudonymous (triple word score)

I’ve been corresponding with a few political bloggers who I chided for being anonymous. Because, they explained, their ideas are so controversial, so inflammatory, so powerful… they risk their jobs or worse if they sign their names. But –they insist- they aren’t anonymous. They are “pseudonymous.” I had to look it up in the dictionary:

pseudonymous – writing or written under a false name
anonymous – not identified by name, of unknown name

So, if I write something and don’t sign any name to it, that’s anonymous. And if I sign a false name, that’s pseudonymous. Yes?

Is this a distinction without a difference? Or, if I sign my letters “The Shadow,” readers won’t know who I am but they’ll know the letter was written by someone who calls himself “The Shadow.” And if I don’t sign the letter at all, the reader will have no way of knowing subsequent letters were written by the same person. Is that it?

I went to two of the smartest people I know for clarification. First, Bob Priddy, a long-time broadcast journalist and author:

“One hides behind a fake name. The other hides behind no name. Steve is a name. Anonymous is a word.

It’s the difference between hiding behind a red curtain or hiding behind a blue curtain. I suppose those who use pen names do so because they don’t want to be anonymous. It’s much more rewarding to hear people discussing who Howard Beale is than it is to hear people discussing who anonymous is because anonymous can be anybody and Howard Beale is somebody. Nobody discusses anonymous. Everybody discusses Howard Beale and therefore the sniper feels some kind of importance. Both are gutless but one is gutless with an ego.

My friend Kay Henderson (also a journalist) wrote this:

“I have never heard or seen the word “pseudonymous” before. Interesting. My first thought was of George Eliot who wrote under the male pseudonym because writing, at the time, was a “male profession.” My second thought was “Primary Colors” was written by “Anonymous” as you’ll recall.

I may be behind the times here, though. Is “Alice Cooper” or “Marilyn Manson” a pseudonym? How about “Madonna” or “Cher” or “Diddy” or “Snoop Dog” or any number of professional athletes who adopt a stage name? Our culture has grown so used to people who adopt another name/character/stage name in public that perhaps it’s not that much of a stretch to expect it to happen on-line.

Is political “speech” subject to different standards than are considered the norm for the rest of the culture?  I will agree with my colleague that the cloak of a pseudonym is too often used by bloggers. But who will be the blogger police? Perhaps it will take something akin to pulling back the curtain and having Dorothy expose The Wizard to change the on-line culture. Perhaps more sites will forbid “anonymous” posting  in the comments sections. I find the requirement of a name, however, laughable in most instances if you read the “names” which are used.

I suspect we got such passionate response to this because the phantom bloggers would like to be out. No doubt all of their friends know of their secret identities (“That ‘Howard Beale’ guy? That’s me. Seriously.”). Questioning their ethics or courage stings. I’ll try to stop.

“I’m mad as hell and… anonymous!”

One of our reporters stepped on blogger toes earlier this week. Steve Walsh is a reporter for The Missourinet, a radio network headquartered in Jefferson City. He took over the network blog a few weeks back and has been doing a good job with it. The post in question attempted to make some “distinctions” between MSM bloggers and “political” bloggers.

“…while the MSM bloggers represent their media outlets and, therefore, must be truthful and accurate … the vast majority of the political bloggers are unaccountable … and sometimes fall short of telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Ouch. That’s a commonly held view by a lot of reporters. And a lot of folks –bloggers and the public alike– would question the “must be truthful and accurate” part but that’s not what this post is about.

One of the blogs Steve “called out” is Fired Up Missouri. The blog represents the Democratic view of things and the blogger goes by the pseudonym “Howard Beale.” Howard Beale was the fictional news anchor in the film Network.

“Howard Beale” fired back and called Steve to task for a story he did some months ago. Your normal blogosphere kerfuffle.

Steve responded and made what I consider the check-mate move. He pointed out one key difference between MSM blogs like his and Fired Up Missouri. Steve signs his posts and the blogger at Fired Up Missouri does not.

This point trumps all others in my opinion. And adds heavy irony to the choice of the pseudonym “Howard Beale.”

“I want you to get up out of your chairs… go over to your computers… and post an angry rant to your blog… anonymously.” See? Doesn’t work.

But as luck –and some good detective work– I have discovered the identity of “Howard Beale” and will reveal it here at 5:00 p.m. this Friday. I think you’ll be shocked.

Disclosure: The company I work for, Learfield, is the parent company of The Missourinet, the company Steve Walsh works for. I should also point out that I have come out here as supporting Barack Obama. I don’t think of myself as a Democrat because if he wasn’t running I wouldn’t be voting for the Democratic candidate. But if I have a leaning, it’s more toward the views expressed on Fired Up Missouri.

I’ve got a problem with anonymous

Masked2I made a mistake yesterday. I posted the email address of someone who had commented –anonymously– on an earlier post. When commenting on a Typepad blog, you’re prompted for an email address with a note that it will not be published. Since I rarely comment on my own blog, I failed to notice that assurance. So I deleted the comment and the email address.

But that’s the last time. If you’re not willing to back your opinions up with your name, shut the fuck up.

Is there ever a time and place for anonymity? Probably. Reporting child abuse. A break-in at the Watergate. Maybe a few others. But if we don’t know who you are, why should we believe anything you write or say?

In this recent incident, a man was protesting what he thought was unfair treatment by Missouri Farm Bureau. The commenter was basically saying the guy was wrong. But how do we know it wasn’t someone from Farm Bureau commenting anonymously? We don’t.

I’m a little better with “Name withheld by request.” If I know who you are and –for reasons I consider appropriate– I can make the call to withhold your name.

Step up, or step off.