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Nov 26, 2012


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Editor Gauger: "[T]he right to speak does not include freedom from the consequences of our speech."

Tell that to Madison, Jay and Hamilton or the U.S. Supreme Court who decided in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission:

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.

Mad Dog


As a pseudo commenter, I'll take that as a compliment. Since we go back a ways, I can honestly say that's probably the nicest thing you have ever said about me!

Seriously, I see both sides of the issue. And, since you know me personally, I would expect you to slap me upside the head if necessary. When I post on your blog, I treat it as if I was sitting down with you and Luna for a bit of topical exchange. And though it might sound smaltzy, I don't think I have ever posted anything I would not have said in front of my Mother. That standard kinda keeps me in line, even though she has long left us.

Mad Dog

Peggy Hickle

As my good ol' boy Texas daddy always said, if you aren't willing to put your name to it, then keep your mouth shut.

If you're afraid of being ostracized because of your opinion, than I feel like you're not really very committed to your opinion so why would I want to hear it. I may not ever agree with a single thing that George Hartzmann or Billy Jones say on this blog -- and I frequently abhor their bullying tactics, but by golly, they aren't afraid of being ostracized because they express their opinion -- and I have a lot of respect for that.

And if you're saying something so dangerous or controversial that you risk getting fired -- or worse, then perhaps the comments section of the newspaper or a blog is not the most appropriate vehicle for sharing the information.

And while I agree with you, Ed, that, at least in your little neck of the woods, the bullies are just as likely to give their names as not, I don't think that's true on the N&R site. And the argument that "everyone" knows who most of these people are, doesn't hold water. While it is clear that "regulars" all know who everyone really is, those of us who just drop in periodically -- or are newbies -- don't. It is just somehow a wee bit more comforting to know the name of someone who feels entitled to personally attack you because you express an opinion.


"But the right to speak does not include freedom from the consequences of our speech."

That depends on what form those consequences take. The genesis of the desire for free speech was to wipe away the Crown's tyrannical practice of prosecuting speakers for seditious libel. Translated into today's society, that would be the freedom from consequences for speech about overbearing police, corrupt (or just unethical) local government officials, public-private partnerships, etc.

In other words, a lot of the stuff that the N&R's currently anonymous commenters rail against. If this new policy curbs that railing, an argument can be made that the spirit of the 1st Amendment is at risk, if not the legally defined parameters.

Worst person on the internet

So Roch, does this mean that we will continue to be able to count on you as a "fervent defender" of pseudonymous commenters even as you label them cowards for doing so?


Thanks Peggy.

It's my understanding that Billy Jones
is not allowed to post on this blog,
as I am now not allowed to post on Fec's.

Roch Smith Jr. has also censored Greensboro 101 as is his right.

Speech is not very free in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ed Cone

Billy made physical threats to another commenter. Not acceptible. Not a free speech issue in any case, as I ain't the government, but there are very few limits here; Billy found one.


One "anonymous" commenter's thoughts:

Personally, I comment on blog-style news sites (commercial or personal) using pseudonyms or other mechanisms that make my legal name a little difficult to divine for the readers/lurkers/mindless search engines.

However, I register on a site using a method that the site's owner/operator can easily discern my real name and find out more about me in real life, simply because I think that's good manners when using someone else's digital space to spout my views. They can then ban me if/when they see fit under whatever guidelines they use on their site.

The ability to use a pseudonym in the display name portion of a comment -- whether forced by the site to remain the same display name over time (read: no sock puppets) or not -- is what is key to me.


I understand the sentiment of "If it's your opinion than own it with your real name;" however, it is an ideal. The reality is that there are very good reasons to not provide that information on a site per designation's comment above about searchability. I don't need to make it easy for people like Hartzman to spend hours on end using my name to try and create some sort of alternate reality about me.

I won't comment on N&R's site any more but I have frequently over the years because while I enjoy the conversation (and ignore the buffoon posters), it won't be worth it to me under the new policy. I think they are shooting themselves in the foot on this. Some other papers I read (for my yahb), have gone to Facebook verification and the commenting has virtually disappeared as has my visitations to those sites. The comments are part of the story and I fully expect that the N&R will see a loss in "hits" to their page when they look back at the numbers following implementation of this policy. Another paper I read, uses Disqus which allows real name registration but use of a pseudonym...seems more reasonable to me to go that way.


Ding ding ding.


"Billy made physical threats to another commenter."

If so, agreed.


If I were the decider,
I would go with the facebook log on,
which would/could drive more local traffic via their page.

I believe by letting commentors sign on with facebook
and they have to agree to xyz,
the News and Record could access some interesting data on their audience,
with which they could better target advertising.

Is the redo coming from above, or is it being designed etc...
from the local management?


If you knew for sure what would get you fired, you wouldn't say it in public with your name attached.
But it's like the FCC. They won't tell you what you can't say until you've already done it.

Joe Killian

"I'm going to single-handedly fix the Internet!"


Peggy Hickle

Awesome, Joe!


How do you know someone is using their real name without jumping through the same hoops you would to identify someone who posts under the name "ImABigFatPhony"?

I have no way of knowing if the people who post online under names that look real are, in fact, using their real names than if they posted under obvious pseudonyms.


Screw'em. It's just the latest in a long line of cowardly decisions designed to decrease their relevance.

Bill Yaner

As a bonafied real name commenter here and everywhere else, I feel strongly qualified to be as obnoxious as any pseudonym commenter any old day.

It's a gift.

Jim Buie

Back in the day, before the Internet, when I was an assistant editor of a daily newspaper editorial page, the policy at most newspapers was to only occasionally allow letters to be published anonymously with the editor's imprimatur, "name withheld by request." Editors were skeptical, usually with good reason, of those who wished to make overwrought generalizations, acerbic comments, undocumented assertions, personal attacks or allegations without attaching their names. Today, thanks to the Internet, there's a heck of a lot more freedom in that regard, and more opportunity to make a fool of oneself on Facebook.

I (virtually) shudder at a cousin, a truck driver who constantly posts on FB about secession, Muslim-Obama-is-the-enemy, nobody's-gonna-take-away-my-guns, the 2012 election was stolen, his photos of M.I.L.F and other soft porn, along with his devotion to Jesus Christ, etc, etc. Back in the day, his ideas would not have been generally known or he would have been met (in person) by raised eyebrows and fishy stares, or maybe a compassionate relative who could listen to all that bile and hear or figure out what was really bothering him. Apparently in today's world, he's unaware of how he's coming across, and increasingly isolated, or just driving down lonely highways eager to get a reaction from his "friends."

I suspect that anonymous or "pseudo commenters" -- especially those eager to declare their prejudices -- have contributed significantly to the decline in civility, and have turned some online hangouts into virtual sewers or echo chambers.

Of course too much civility can be kind of dull. More people are probably drawn into insult-matches and flame-wars as long as they remain occasional.

For the most part, Ed's blog seems to be a place where respectful dialogue and community-building takes place, which is more than I can say for some other blogs and "places" online.


Jim, while I prefer civil discourse over flame wars, there is something to be said for exposing some of the darker aspects of our nature. Some prejudices run deep, and many people who harbor some (maybe small) degree of those prejudices take steps to avoid having to deal with them. Civility is one of those steps.

But when we are exposed to somebody who is immersed in that faulty belief, it often forces us to take a look at our own beliefs, and maybe tweak them a little. Some may tweak them in the wrong direction, but it's usually the other way, since those prejudices are not based on reasonable data.

Worst Person on the Internet

Well schtated


"For the most part, Ed's blog seems to be a place where respectful dialogue and community-building takes place, which is more than I can say for some other blogs and 'places' online."

As if.......on several different levels.

WAY too funny for further comment.


I would say they focused on the wrong thing.

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