Pajamas Media has two items of note today – one being a video by the founder of the site on how being in the same room as Iran’s President Ahmadinejad moved him from agnostic to believer. At nine minutes it is a little long, but it turns upside down a point atheists often use in disproving a higher power: to wit, if God truly is good and loving, why is evil in the world? Roger L. Simon has an experience with Mr. There Are No Homosexuals in Iran/There Was No Holocaust that makes him (Simon, not Ahmadinejad) “sense” pure evil. That experience leads to him sensing something else: If there is pure evil, there must be the opposite as well, e.g. Pure Good. Hmmm.
The other item was a post by Ron Rosenbaum about anonymous commenters. Anyone who works in media nowadays knows the bane of banality offered via folks unwilling to pen their name to story or blog comments. Currently, two people near and dear to my heart are struggling under great odds to take what was once an online news site and turn it into an all-opinion blog site with some news aggregation. They have a tiny budget, a smaller staff, and a corporate owner who, IMHO, appears to wish them ill. And while the commenters on their posts at TucsonCitizen.com mostly gave these journalists-cum-bloggers a pass on Monday, they’ve got their fangs out today with snotty, snarky comments. And they do it, methinks, because they don’t have to sign their names.
Like Rosenbaum, I believe allowing unsigned comments has led to a swill of snipe in “new media” that grows, much like algae bloom, exponentially under the protection of darkness. Words, as anyone who uses them to make a living knows, have power. That’s why journalists attempt to use them with care. It’s why a feature writer will walk around the office building for 20 minutes trying to decide if “gawky” or “clumsy” is the correct word for a particular sentence or (speaking as a former columnist) why most opinion writers labor long and hard before deciding if snark is necessary to make a point.
We think about our words because we have our names attached to them. If you’re not willing to sign your name to your words, you’re nothing short of a liver-belly chicken. (Not sure if liver-belly chickens actually exist, but you get my point.) So, like Rosenbaum, I offer a challenge: If your arguments are so fantastic and your aim so true, then fess up, and add your John Hancock to your posts on any story or blog anywhere, all the time. Otherwise, do the English language and civil culture a favor and just shut up.