December 26th, 2005

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters

by Philip Baruth

My Jonas Galusha/Deep Throat post on blogger anonymity generated a good amount of mail, running about 50/50 between those who swear by anonymity, and those who swear at it.

VDB-addict NJ argues that anonymity does not escalate the rhetoric. Quite the contrary, in fact: he argues that just as often it’s the desire to promote one’s name that leads contributors to flame on. NJ continues:

“And the choice to be anonymous has many reasons. Not wanting there to be a paper trail of at-work blogging, concern for personal safety — particularly for women . . . concern over public airing of one’s political views if it might jeopordize one’s job . . .”

Well said, and sure, there are all sorts of exceptions to the rule that make all kinds of sense. But to me these exceptions don’t destroy the rule as I see it: in most situations, attaching your name to your views promotes responsible political behavior.

And there’s a long-standing procedure for granting anonymity to those who feel they need it: a newspaper or radio show or blog reports the views in question anonymously, but only after verifying the identity and the situation of the source in question.

Which is to say that what Jonas proposed — playing Deep Throat to my Bob Woodward — was ridiculous only because 1) he had no real information to share, and 2) no reason to share his non-information anonymously, other than to escape the penalties for slander.

But if anyone out there does have explosive information that will absolutely annihilate the known political wisdom — and you’re hard up against it, anonymity-wise — never fear: like a bridge over troubled waters, VDB will lay itself down.