The first time (I was a very young child), I read a newspaper and saw that ‘anonymous’ was a source, it took a minute before I realized that anonymous wasn’t a name like Milton Anonymous, it was a person who didn’t want to be identified by name, but wanted to have something to say. It made me uncomfortable. Over the years I came to understand why some people, like journalists and CIA agents needed to have anonymity, but I was still not comfortable about ‘anonymous’. In fact, in the days when I was a political hack, being anonymous was the way we leaked stories to the media about either our, or other candidates. Obviously, the information was always positive about the person for whom we were working and usually not so nice about the other guy.
You see it all the time in ‘reports’ from Washington. According to anonymous, so and so had a lengthy conversation about such and such and here is what happened as a consequence. Some journalists use quotes that are exclusively from anonymous or their sources are people who are dead. The result of course, is the same. There is no one who can actually confirm the truth.
Why do people want to be anonymous? Sometimes it is because they are afraid. For example, when anonymous exposes an injustice or reports that their supervisor was doing something illegal—they are usually afraid of retribution. Sure, there are laws that protect them, but in a bureaucracy there are ways to punish someone that appears to be both legal and simple. Sometimes the “whistleblower’ (heretofore referred to as anonymous), will actually get a promotion, but the job will be so terrible they will want to leave. Can they again insist the promotion was retribution—I doubt it. In this case it’s better to make up a name, wear a Groucho mask, and meet the reporter in some dark corner of an obscure bistro – maybe bistro is too public but you get the picture. Sometimes people need to maintain anonymity because of their work. We’ve all seen the movies of the hangman or the French head chopper-offer with the leather mask covering his face. Surely it wasn’t because he was kinky—or maybe it was, but kinky or not, he clearly didn’t want to be walking down the street and have someone point a finger a yell “There’s the head chopper-offer from yesterday’s guillotine events”.
There are also people, like spies, who depend on anonymity in order to be able to do their jobs. I know in my heart that James Bond could never have been able to do what they say he did in the movies, because if you were the enemy and knew what he looked like you would simply have shot him -- like in the Indiana Jones movie when the guy in the turban descends on Indiana with swords blazing and the audience thinks Indie will be cut to pieces but the our hero takes out a gun and shoots the villain. Well, maybe it’s not exactly like that, but it was an incredibly funny moment.
Is there a difference between being anonymous and having anonymity? I think there is in some cases but I also think that credibility diminishes when someone chooses not to be identified and the same is true for the person whose reports depend on an anonymous source. This is a personal opinion and it is based on the fact that I know people who have been anonymous sources and they simply did not tell the truth. This is obviously, not the case with every anonymous source but, when there is no danger, or no physical or professional jeopardy, it does lead to questions not asked when the source has a name.
Which brings us to the people who chose to remain anonymous when they comment on the blob. (Admittedly, it was a pretty circuitous way to get here). I love to discuss differences of opinions. And I know a comment does not have to lead to discussion because some people simply want to comment. But I made a policy decision that if someone says something ugly or unkind on the site without identifying themselves, I am simply going to delete it. If anonymous says something nice, I will leave it forever. And if someone named Seth, with fabulous insight, obvious good judgment, very handsome, and incredibly talented, has a comment, I will give him a big fat kiss when I can. We’re just sayin....