Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Anonymous Comments Can Be A Problem

Yesterday, I received two comments from Anonymous.

One is below Monday’s posting in which I said Tiger Woods is an angel compared to Pope Benedict. The author, I’m sure, is a Catholic who skirts the issue of wrong-doing in her (could be a he) faith, points fingers at Southern Baptists, and continues to refuse to admit there are problems through the hierarchy of the Catholic faith. She even says I have a bias against Catholics, far from the truth, though I do occasionally compare Catholics to Tar Heel fans. Both types think they are high and mighty and above everyone else when it comes to religion, education and college athletics. I have no problem with them feeling that way. To each their own; just keep your nose down. I have a good idea who Anonymous is, but there is no name with the comment.

The other Anonymous left a comment below my Thursday, April 8 post when I offered a link to a video in which I posed as a television news reporter, used an exaggerated Southern accent (more of a “hick” inflection) and reported on a story from the White House. The video was shot at the Newseum in Washington DC. It was the second of two Anonymous comments made in relation of that story. Yesterday, Anonymous saw the humor in my effort. Thank you very much, and, yes, I did what I did on purpose, poking fun at television reporting and me.

There have been other comments left on this site—Actions and Reactions II—and on my previous blog parking place, Actions and Reactions at jimpomeranz.easyjournal.com. Because I moderate comments and determine what gets published and what does not, I do not mind so much Anonymous commenting on what I have to say. (In the case of the two Anonymous comments yesterday, my guess each is from the same person.)

Posting comments anonymously or under a pseudonym or screen name has been allowed by blogs and mainstream media websites for years. Many newspapers and television news outlets have encouraged comments on stories, and readers have registered with these sites but are using odd names in an attempt to hide their real identification, though the newspaper and the electronic media know who everyone is. At least they have the resources to know. When registering, usually you have to give your full name and other information including an email address. The website can look at that information anytime it wishes. Anonymous postings far out-weigh comments left with real names.

I am registered with several sites including The News & Observer, using a screen name nowhere close to my real name, and WRAL.COM, using my real name. Reason: When I got started with The News & Observer, I wanted to say things about certain people but, at the same time, protect people around me from retribution. I firmly believe that what I have to say would be used against others. So, I stay behind that screen name. At the WRAL site, my comments are more tempered.

But, on websites around the world, some comments are nasty, very nasty. Not X-rated nasty. The comments are many times about others posting comments. It’s become a way to insult others who use the space to actually say something intelligent. The nasty comments are usually not intelligent. Go to The N&O site, http://www.newsobserver.com, and read, for instance, the most recent article about former State Senator Tony Rand. The comments may start about the article and the issue but eventually turn ugly, to comments about those leaving comments.

The idea of anonymous comments and those left under different screen names is being reviewed by many websites, especially mainstream media. There was an article in Sunday’s The New York Times about this subject: News Sites Rethink Anonymous Online Comments. It’s an interesting read, especially for those who post comments—anonymously or not—on websites. To date, there have been 369 comments left under that story. Many anonymous. Many not. But, it appears to be an interesting debate, an educated debate, not an insulting commentary.

The idea of anonymous comments on websites is an interesting situation, one that will continue to evolve, but my gut is that elimination of anonymous comments will reduce much on-line readership, especially from those who spend time reading and commenting. Without the ability of instantly comments, some readers will go away. But maybe that’s good. Maybe that will improve the quality of the on-line reader, if that matters.

As far as comments left here, I read each one, but I do not post each. Do not be concerned about censorship on important issues. For each of the postings about the situation at NC State University with temporary chancellor James Woodward and Vice Chancellor for Advancement Nevin Kessler, I received no comments, signed or anonymous, in support of those two scoundrels. If I had, if I do, I will gladly publish them.

Anonymous or not. Your commments are encouraged.


  1. Jim. Julie Bishop here. The only way I could leave a comment without signing up for other services was to do it under anonymous.I attempted the open ID option with my AIM account but it didn't work. I didn't want to risk losing what I had already written. I've commented several other times and lost what I wrote. I am very proud to say I am a Catholic and I support Pope Benedict. I believe the church has made many mistakes handling these cases for sure. You have to understand the complexities of the hierarchy. Calling Tiger Woods an angel compared to Pope Benedict...was way over the top and insensitive.

  2. Jim, Julie Bishop here again. I only left one comment unless it was the same comment twice reflecting the problems I was having with posting. I suspect the other commenter selected anonymous too because of the confusing interface. Perhaps it's a MAC issue. I cant imagine anyone who reads your posts would choose anonymous to hide their thoughts....what from?

  3. I fully support your premise when comparing Benedict to Tiger Woods. The Catholic Church has been circling the wagons for decades in an effort protect their image. That those in their employ have been molesting children should have prompted their higher-ups to call the police; nothing less. I say the Church, and Benedict specifically, deserve all the criticism that's coming their way. They've richly earned it.


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