Is DGreport “a vehicle of “mistruth”?


I read EJ’s comment made to her by an unidentified elected official that DGreport, her blogbaby, spread mistruths. One of my friends who frequents DGreport took me to task along a similar line. Anonymous posters can say any lie they want and not be held accountable. He was curious: why I would bother naming myself on DGreport when so many others do not?

I and others have used the term sock puppet for anonymous posters, and derided their anonymity as proof they were disingenuous; that they misspoke on purpose or to some agenda. Are they are too afraid to speak in public so they hide? District 58/99 elections were a good example of bad anonymous behavior. There have been inflammatory comments here as well on other tropics. A case could be made that there has been a misuse of the public trust.

Funny thing though, the anonymous posters, the bad ones, are having a hard time hiding as that blog goes on. Readers are getting wise to them. There is a growth curve involved, and this blog is growing and maturing.

Credibility is an issue with me. People know where to find me. They can email me, write me, call me; hell, they can show up at my door. Does that temper my comments? Nope. What it does temper is launching personal attacks on anonymous posters whose comment I take exception to. As a known named person, I have to ask myself: if I was talking face to face with this person, would I personally attack them? Nope.

But I have at DGreport.

When I started posting there, I took exception to some comments by posters, particularly Meat, and started to mix it up. I stopped, but never apologized. That was wrong: Meat, if you read this, I apologize for taking your remarks personally, and responding in kind. Two wrongs, both mine, didn’t make a right. I try and steer clear now, but the damage is done. We live with our mistakes, and sometimes we learn from them.

Slight tangent- If there are posters who are under 18, stay anonymous until you are legally adults, then decide if you want your name out here.

When a public official charges that ‘mistruths’ are spread, they may be right, they may be wrong, but they can always, always come into the discussion, named or anonymous, and present their case. Take the case of two anonymous posters crossing swords about the Liquor Commission and charges of ‘politics as usual’. DGDood made some claims, X01703, who claims to be a Liquor Commission member, refuted them. I looked into it, and posted up on it also. So did anonymous Ron Burgundy.

When it comes to the village, and all that concerns it, anonymity has a well-warranted good side. Highly sensitive topics like housing, the buses, local politics, development/redevelopment and other areas may be uncomfortable for us named persons to deal with, but the comfort to comment, to join the discussions may be possible and conductive only under sufficient confidentiality. If the goal is to have the best online discussions possible, to bring the largest number of people into the discussion, and to promote public discourse, anonymity increases the comment pool. What DGreport gains with anonymous posters is the wide range of opinions and perspectives that include not just regular posters, but first-time and very occasional visitors, coming into a discussion for the first time. They make it lively. Tell me my comments are as biting as Hellomoto. That would not be true, yet most of what he has claimed as fact is easily verifiable, and gets either vetted or outed accordingly.

Meat, stay Meat. Hellomoto, DGDood, DG_DA, Champ Kind, Ron Burgundy; stay anonymous, and keep contributing. If you step over the line you’ll take heat for that, and take a little heat for being anonymous too: so what. Facts have a tendency to shine light: the more the better. Opinions are important too, and anonymity makes those opinions easier to put out there, here, so they too can see the light of day and be scrutinized.

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11 Responses to “Is DGreport “a vehicle of “mistruth”?”

  1. EJ Says:

    Great job, Mark, as always.

    However, the fact that the blog allows anonymity is enough to keep our public officials and higher minded citizens well away from it, I’m told.

    Apparently, they don’t see the benefits of anonymity nor are they willing to stick around long enough to get a bead on the regular sock pockets that post there.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m guessing it isn’t more anonymity.

  2. CGrammich Says:

    EJ, I’m sure you’ve seen one pseudonymous poster on dgreport claim village officials are there. S/he even earlier implied some members of the housing affordability committee had posted to the thread on DGTalk. And I’m guessing there were some pseudonymous officials (or maybe just muckety-mucks?) posting during the last village election.

    It’s not going to change, but I’d like to see more “real” names at DGReport for three reasons.

    First, as MT notes, it would contribute to civility. I’ve had neighbors tell me they’ve seen my name on DGReport, and every time my first, unspoken, unbidden thought is, “Oh, God, I hope I didn’t say anything too stupid.”

    Second, to be honest, I sometimes find it a little creepy that I’m one of the few posters there that can be identified by a real name. (I have used a pseudonym on other posting boards, but I like to think DGReport and this board as well a place where I can be myself and not worry about the world at large.)

    Third, if any village officials or muckety-mucks are posting, I’d like to know what they’re saying by their real names. One of the pseudonymous posters has a tag claiming “WHAT you say means more than WHO you are.” Nice sentiment, but it ain’t always true. The name “Mark Thoman” has earned a helluva lot more weight on DG village matters than “CGrammich.” Similarly, there are, I’m sure, hundreds, and more likely thousands, in this town who are more knowledgeable about village matters than I, who should be recognized as such, and whom I’d like to recognize as such before saying anything too stupid. But if I as an average citizen sometimes find it creepy to be talking to so many pseudonyms or even sock puppets, I can understand why village officials, who probably deal with too many cranks already, would find it even creepier . . .

  3. CGrammich Says:

    Interesting observation somewhat related to this topic from another blog (where I also comment using my real name and was once even a guest blogger): http://organizationsandmarkets.com/2008/02/06/hayek-habermas-and-the-blogosphere/. A bit esoteric, perhaps, but, as I recall, Mr. Thoman, your reading tastes run that way;).

  4. Mark Thoman Says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I’m currently reading up on the latest batch of War College papers.

  5. EJ Says:

    Grammich,

    This topic has been very much on my mind lately — put there by various public officials who take great umbrage at the anonymous postings on my blog.
    I’ll ask you what I’ve asked them: What remedy do you suggest? Unlike most blogs, the DGreport draws readership almost exclusively from DG, a small town where some may have regrettably good reasons to keep their real identities under wraps. (Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone should hide under an alias.)
    What’s your solution?

  6. CGrammich Says:

    EJ, I’m not sure I have a remedy. As it is, you police it about as well as can be expected. Folks are either going to feel comfortable revealing themselves in the community or not. Apparently most are not.

    I agree in some cases anonymity is necessary, but I’m not sure I’ve really seen many (any?) so far at DGReport. More often I think it’s a shield from which to launch brickbats few (none?) would dare hurl in person. At the same time, I’m surprised by the details that some “anonymous” posters reveal about themselves, details that might make it easy for anybody so determined to identify them, while claiming the shield of anonymity for protection of their selves or families.

    Anyway, about the only remedy you could try–and I’m sure it’d be more work than it’s worth–is registration (including of pseudonyms for users so choosing) and behavior you’d monitor. But I’d first work on getting local advertisers and making it all worth your while.

  7. Mark Thoman Says:

    I think Chad has upped his game a bit and Meat, I beleive, can be relied upon to reduce his personal attack comments. I am willing to throw my .02 in when I see someone get OOL, but I am just as likely to get revved up on something and have others toss it back in my face.

    Elaine, I am still willing to help out as you see fit, but I think just the ‘mistruth’ post opened some eyes on both sides of the issue.

    A goal might be to get Sandack on DGR somehow, someway, in a manner that is controlled, so he feels a bit safer than just hanging his ass out there for every sock puppet to take a whack at.

    I see bigger things for Ron, and that can be a powerful fuel for him to push hard creating an excellent political resume. He’s off to a good start.

  8. CGrammich Says:

    Mark, in both the original post and the comment immediately above, I think you overestimate your ability to be obnoxious. Regardless, how would you “control” online engagement for public officials unless you require critics to use their real names?

    If you and I, using our real names, were to disagree on this or another forum, we would both risk something: our reputation, or what I like to think are our “good names.” That wouldn’t be true if one of us were to use a pseudonym. I might even compare this to what the War Colleges call an “asymmetric threat.” So I’m not sure why public officials would go out of their way to engage unknown, and unknowable, critics (although, yes, I have seen a commissioner recently posting there, and recall online postings from other candidates last spring).

    Even some of the pseudonymous commenters at DGR recognize this. Recall one telling another to take his complaints about massage parlors to a village council meeting. I’ve heard real names are required there. I’m guessing complaints might therefore be taken more seriously there as well.

  9. Mark Thoman Says:

    Asymmetrical is a apt analogy, alright…

    Public elected officials, though, I kinda don’t get. They are public figures, the rules are changed a bit for that whether they like it or acknowledge it; so one one hand I am thinking decorum, and other the other get in here and talk to some people and hear some other POV’s.

  10. CGrammich Says:

    But maybe they already do “get in here . . . and hear some other POVs.” As for “talk[ing] to some people” in here as well, I’m not sure the rules of human nature change that much for (very) local officeholders. I’m guessing their civic duties bring very few material rewards but too many other headaches from cranks.

  11. EJ Says:

    Sorry, I can’t jump on the bandwagon calling for an end to anonymity, if for no other reason than it’s just about impossible to verify apparently real names.

    There’s another reason: While putting your identity out there (as you do, as I do and as public officials do) certainly moderates the more extreme comments, it also exposes you to sometimes unwelcome scrutiny and even, possibly, to unfair reprisals.

    I can’t imagine a teacher, for example, who would even consider posting something “negative” about the school district under his/her real name. Or a parent who would risk being snubbed by friends for an unpopular, if worthy, opinion.

    These are just a couple of reasons why I think a local blog is a separate case where anonymity is concerned. And why I wonder if “anonymity” can be a code word for “control.”

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m absolutely thrilled when someone chooses to post under their own name. But I understand if they opt for anonymity. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some people choose both.


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