On Anonymity And The Exchange Of Ideas.

A couple of events happened this week to cause us to re-think or rather re-examine our belief in not only trying to remain anonymous here at Raised on Hoecakes, but whether to allow commenters to post without using their “real” name.

We got a letter from a reader who said they did not have the “bravery” to comment or use their own name. For a citizen to feel that way is troubling on so many levels we don’t know how to address it. Why should anyone fear or be worried about what they say? Why should their ideas and thoughts remain trapped behind what seems to be a shield against the tip of the government spear?

The fact that this fear exists in the city shows we have a long way to go on many fronts. We should encourage and support those who want to speak up no matter what.

Allowing a person to post here anonymously gives them a voice they may not have had or exercised otherwise. It is going to be very difficult to convince us that creating an atmosphere here at Raised on Hoecakes where people can speak anonymously is a bad thing.

We just aren’t buying it.

The other general complaint is that not “signing your name” is somehow a cowardly or “childish” thing to do. We have addressed this before many times and don’t want to beat a dead horse, but it hard to label the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution as “cowards” or “childish.”

In our book, that is “oh fer two” against anonymous speech in the political arena.

But something has been tickling our brain on anonymous speech as well. We never could put our finger on it. It seemed to always be out of our intellectual grasp.

Well, out of our grasp until the Budget Workshop meeting of Thursday, August 23, 2012. As Council members were going though the budget looking at the individual items, Councilwoman Denan came to money allocated for laptops for the City Council.

She wanted to eliminate the funds.

By itself, this was not a big deal. The Council members in attendance were cutting small amounts all over the place.

The problem we have with this is that on August 8, 2012, this line item was looked at directly and voted upon. After some citizen comments the Council voted to change allocation away from laptops for City Council members to what is called a “netbook” which would still serve the purpose and needs of the Council members.

(We can debate whether the expenditure is valid or needed all day long. Whether it is or not is not the point of this post.)

The point is on August 8, 2012, the City Council entertained a motion and voted on changing the line item to netbooks. Now, two weeks later, the Council is looking at the purchase again. The person who wanted to get rid of the expenditure was Councilwoman Denan who regularly complains about revisiting items upon which the Council had voted.

Her complaints may or may not be valid, but we were revisiting the issue at her behest. Believe it or not, the revisiting of the item is not the point of this post either.

On August 23, Councilwoman Denan said she thought the expenditure should be eliminated because the Council members could use their own laptops. Both Councilman Billman and Vice Mayor Rhodes nodded in agreement.

When this happened, the heavens opened up. A beam of light split the night sky. Angelic voices were heard in our brain.

Okay, that didn’t happen, but we did get rid of that tickle in our brain:

A reason why people are against anonymous speech is so they can dismiss the idea because of who the speaker is, rather than having to debate the merits of the idea itself.

It is a cheap, bogus, and somewhat dishonest way of not listening to the ideas of others.

You see, back on August 8, 2012, a friend stood before the City Council and mentioned how the laptops had hidden costs. That was the driving force behind the Council changing the line item from purchasing laptops at $650.00 per unit to a netbook at $300.00 per unit.

Following our friend, another citizen stood up and offered a different solution. We wrote about it in the days following the meeting in a post called “Of Budgets and Disconnects

A reader of the Raised on Hoecakes came up with a different idea. He said that as the Council had talked all night about “sharing the pain,” he thought the Council members should use or provide their own laptops.

Which brings us to the second part of our post title: “Disconnects.”

Immediately after making the suggestion for the Council to supply their own laptops and “share the pain,” the idea was savagely attacked by Councilwoman Denan who said she wasn’t getting paid for being a Council member and she resented the idea she needed to give anything to the city.

On August 8th, the idea of the city not providing laptops for Councilmembers was deemed “offensive” and Councilwoman Denan “resented” the idea. Then on August 23rd, she suggested the Council eliminated the line item.

What changed?


We believe Denan’s first reaction on August 8th to reject the idea was based not on the merits of the idea, but rather the citizen who made the suggestion.

We believe this is another reason to allow anonymous speech on the blog. We here at Raised on Hoecakes want to debate and discuss the issues – not who said them.

For us, that is oh-fer-three in arguments against anonymous speech.

What does this mean in a practical sense?

For us it means that if you want to post or comment using your own name, that is fine with us. Doing so is your choice. Frankly, it is not that we could run around knocking on doors and asking “did you post on Raised on Hoecakes? Got any ID?” So using a “real” name is something that just doesn’t matter to us. If you wish to use a moniker or pen name, as long as it is not “offensive” (and that is our call) there won’t be an issue.

We would rather discuss issues than people be afraid to post here. We would rather exchange ideas rather than call people cowards. We would rather have a dialogue rather than dismissing a person’s ideas because of who they are.

We want open discussion and debate as we believe that is the best way to help heal the city.

We hope you join us in the conversation.

A. Afterwit.

Comments are closed.