Anonymous Comment Reminder

 Posted on February 05, 2010 in Uncategorized

Dan Hull (What About Clients) writes (again-it's a recurring theme on his blog) about anonymous blogging and commenting:

This blog does not publish anonymous comments. Absent compelling reasons, nameless blogosphere participants, in our view, are rarely worth anyone's time, thought, or respect–even when they think and say brilliant things. Anonymous writers have already "discounted" themselves. They are second-class citizens. And they generally say third-rate things; they have no incentive to exceed below-average.

When the Founders declared, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," it was an act of intellectual honesty, a signal of the basis of the logical argument that followed. They were not claiming some inside knowledge of the working of the world; they were not asking their readers to believe them because of who they were. They explained their premises, described the conduct of the King, and explained how, because of those premises, that conduct justified revolution.

When Madison, Hamilton, and Jay wrote The Federalist Papers as Publius, they were not concealing their names to protect themselves; they were maintaining their anonymity so that their logic and rhetoric would stand or fall on its own, independent of the authority of the authors.

Anonymous writings will be credited if their premises are clear and their logic is rigid; the opinion of a known writer will be credited if the writer is credible. But an anonymous writer's opinion is of no value.

In America today, law schools take people's money to teach them to "think like lawyers" (and often fail). That people can graduate law school in America without knowing how to think like a lawyer-that is, with logical rigor-is a harsh indictment not only of the universities, but also of the primary and secondary education systems.

Here are we, beneficiaries of a means of mass communication unimaginable a hundred years ago, and at the same time heirs to a hundred-plus years of form over substance in American education. Anonymous commenters spew their unsupported opinions into cyberspace as though they have meaning; the only sort of argument they know the name of is ad hominem (though, having no training in rhetoric, they have no idea what it means, which is why they throw it around so much).

Those whose identities (native or constructed over years of blogging) are known have some skin in the game. If they say something ridiculously stupid, it's attached to them forever. So they are motivated to make sense.

Known commenters more often try, at least, to support their arguments. Why? Is it just that those who are willing to identify themselves, having some skin in the game, try harder, or is it that those who are comfortable with logic are more willing to identify themselves?

Regardless of whether the chicken or the egg came first, I'm with Hull. If you're not willing to sign your own name to your real words,

(1) Get over yourself. (2) Get some help. (3) Or simply get back to work. You're just not ready for the bigs.

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