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Why don’t most commenters here use their real names?

The vast majority of the tens of thousands of comments published here over the past five years have come from people using pseudonyms, which strikes me as cowardly.

It’s even wimpier than using a fake name in a call to a talk-radio show. On radio, you run the risk, however slim, that your voice will be recognized. But there are virtually no unintended hints to one’s identity in a comment submitted to a blog. There’s not even evidence of the state or town in which you live — at least not that other readers can see. (I’m able to trace Internet Protocol addresses, but I’ve done so only in a few isolated cases.)

As I once said to an especially snarky commenter, say of me what you will, but I put my name and even a picture of myself on my opinions. The commenters who hide behind aliases apparently lack the guts to do that.

I have a theory that anonymity leads some commenters, perhaps subconsciously, to express more hateful, ugly sentiments than would be the case if they attached their real names to their submissions.

But hey, don’t worry, cowards! We’re not going to change our policy here. You’ll still be free to peddle your venom without disclosing your identity. Meanwhile, I’ll remain brave enough to label my opinions with my name and a mug shot. (And I don’t even own a gun, which makes me even less of a scaredy-cat than some of our commenters.)

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12 Comments

  1. If anonymity leads commenters to express more hateful and ugly sentiments, can you imagine how snarky you would be if you were anonymous too?

  2. I don’t use my real name because I often speak in favor of marijuana. I’m not looking to make myself a target. I’m also the last person you will see get nasty on a message board. I like to be treated with respect. It makes it hard for doc(just an example) to get rude with me if i’m never rude to him.

  3. Craig Knauss

    Gee, doc, What would be unfair about that? Are you implying that if Pat would post anonymous responses some of the liars and hate-mongers would get the type of treatment that they truly deserve? Awwww, the poor babies!

    At another site I post semi-anonymous comments because I live in a community with an unfortunate number of Birchers, Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and other far rightwing riffraff (who also carry concealed weapons everywhere). (The proposed Arian Nation compound would be about 2-1/2 hours from here.) These kind of people would now consider Reagan to be a liberal and Gerald Ford would be a commie. What used to be called mainline Republicans are now called “RINOs” and the “real” Republicans are Tea Party extremists, like Joe Walsh and Michelle Bachmann.

  4. Where did I say it would be unfair? It would probably be even more hilarious than the current fare.

  5. Not much is private these days so a bit of anonymity is acceptable now and then.

  6. Craig Knauss

    OK, doc. Gotcha.

    Yeah, I think Pat using an alter-ego could be amusing. And he could pick some ridiculous anonym like “Ted Nugent”. That would be a scream.

  7. shawnnews

    Online is the only place I really discuss political views. I don’t like to be called at home about something I have said politically. I am not a compensated pundit, a compensated writer, a candidate for office or a movement leader who wants to discuss his views with everyone so that the issue gets raised. Truthfully, I enjoy talking politics only online although I do engage in different occasional conversations.
    At work I talk about work not politics. In my leisure time I am apolitical. Using a handle on electronic media or a stage name in broadcast is an old technique for privacy. Why is it columnists and bloggers at the Star have the idea that a handle is cowardly?
    I don’t have secretaries to take calls for me or people to screen visitors like some people in the media. Aldermen and writers and compensated for having their opinion published. If you want me or anyone else to use their name onscreen, you can pay them and give them a voicemail box to deal with callers.

  8. Pat,

    Did you know when someone write a letter to the paper you can find out insanely intimate personal details about them in a matter of seconds?

    Where they live, how much they pay in property taxes, where they work/go to school, etc. etc.

    Give some of the wack-jobs that have posted on this site, I 100% do not feel comfortable giving away any public information about myself.

    I think the fact that the paper forces people to give their full name/address and now requires a link to FB to post comments is unfair and borderline reckless to be honest. If that is cowardly so be it.

  9. AmazingScott

    More people know me by this name than my real name; in fact I’ve been Amazing Scott since before there was an internet. My real name is common and there is at least one other person with my name locally who gets in trouble from time to time, so it’s handy to avoid confusion.

  10. my real name is bob. I don’t have an issue with posting using it.

  11. Politics brings out the worst in people, it divides family and friendships (I speak from experience). Anonymity lowers that risk and lets us breathe a little easier and sleep better at night. Here is a good for instance…
    My wife works for our local school district. Two years ago there was a strike, as the teachers picketed in front of the administration’s office there were picketers across the street from them as well – in protest to their demonstration. One of the picketers was recognized by a group of teachers that happened to have his child at their school. Later at the end of the year, one of the teachers told the staff that they were going to refuse that child into their class for next year because of the parent’s protest against the striking teachers, the other teachers chimed in agreement. Knowing that this child had nothing to do with the protest in either say was unfair and prejudice.

  12. OK. It’s time for me to confess. Pat Cunningham is not my real name. It’s a pseudonym I chose at random.

    And that mug shot at the top of this blog is a stock photo. I’m actually much better looking than that. (Who isn’t?)

    Nor am I as old as I have pretended to be. I’m just 35, but wise beyond my years.

    Just thought you ought to know.

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