I was not "SRPolitics." But thank you for revealing your true motives behind your rabid advocacy of a lack of transparency in your own politics-- your desire to lie with impunity. Cowardly.
I never said WhoIs's appalling character changed anything about the facts Jake. It just shows that someone clearly feels that the facts on their own aren't strong enough, so they must package their delivery to be more sensational.
"Free speech without responsibility is none other than moral chaos. Worse, it is a form of hell on earth. The right to express unpopular opinions and to criticize others ever so forcefully is one of the great gifts of democracy. So it is, however, only if this takes place against the backdrop of responsibility. Thus, there is a very straightforward sense in which I have more respect for the white KKK person who calls me “nigger” to my face than for the black who calls me “brother” to my face but who systematically and viciously sullies my character behind my back.
I may not like where I stand with a person. Just so, there is ever so much to be said for knowing where I stand with a person. Public criticisms of another that hide behind the cloak of anonymity constitute none than a perversion of the idea of free speech. Accordingly, it is a great victory for free speech that Judge Joan Madden ruled in favor of Liskula Cohen. Judge Madden ruled that Ms. Cohen is entitled to know the identity of the blogger of “Shanks in NYC”.
The judge correctly grasped that the issue was not whether the author of “Shanks in NYC” is entitled to her opinion. Indeed, the author of the blog most certainly is so entitled. The problem was simply that if one is going to criticize another routinely and publicly, then the person whom one is criticizing is entitled to know who one is. The fact that one’s remarks are merely personal views is entirely irrelevant. Why? Not simply because mere personal views can be mistaken and entirely uninformed. Rather, it is because merely personal views can be—and often are—taken quite seriously by others. Thus, mere personal views can have enormous influence.
Nothing, then, precludes mere personal rantings on a blog from having enormous influence. This simple truth is the basis for Judge Madden’s ruling in favor of Cohen. Her ruling is perfectly consistent with free speech if one bears in mind that free speech at its best is necessarily linked responsibility. And responsibility carries in its wake accountability.
At the very minimum, accountability requires that we have made a good faith effort to get the facts right. This does not mean that we cannot get things. We all make mistakes. We all misunderstand from time to time what we see or hear. In one of my classes, I regularly have music that accompanies my lectures. Having played a clip from a song by Barry White, I remarked later in lecture “So, is my voice not Barry White enough for you?” Alas, there was some static in the microphone and what many people heard is “So, is my voice not white enough for you?”
Fortunately, I was able to clear up that confusion. But that would not have been possible had a student not asked, why did you say “So, is my voice not white enough for you?” A misunderstanding was eliminated. Among other things, free speech should contribute to that end.
When the Founding Authors introduced the idea of freedom of speech, they never so much as even imagined a world in which people could routinely express their views anonymously in a public forum. Quite the contrary, the world as they saw it was one in which it took incredible ingenuity to express one’s views anonymously in a public forum. The absence of anonymity readily carries in its wake responsibility and accountability. This is why in times past people endeavored to base their most biased views in biology or the truths of religion. This was an endeavor to be, at once, both responsible and accountable.
Responsibility and accountability are the handmaidens of free speech.
This brings me to one of the most fundamental issues with which I shall be wrestling in my forthcoming book The Fragmented Self: Technology and the Loss of Humanity (Cambridge University Press).
In the past, the environment and the state of technological development imposed serious constraints upon what people could get away with doing. Accordingly, there were natural constraints of self-discipline.
A defining feature of the present, thanks to the extraordinary developments in technology is that the natural constraints of self-discipline are disappearing. In so many areas of life, self-discipline is an option in a way that it was not at all an option just a few years back. We can easily express our views anonymously. Judge Madden’s ruling has not precluded that at all. Although the owner of the blog “Shanks in NYC” apparently used a real email address based upon her actual name, the truth of the matter is that anyone can sign up for an email account using a made-up-name.
What is more, while the author of “Shanks in NYC” regularly maligned a specific individual, it is obviously possible to do much harm without ever mentioning a given name. Judge Madden’s ruling does not at all undermine general hostile and anonymous venting against groups. Her ruling does not preclude derisive and venomous venting against groups—venting that is anonymous all the same. Blacks against whites. Whites against Blacks. Non-Jews against Jews. Jews against non-Jews. Non-Arabs against Arabs. Arabs against non-Arabs. And so on.
If in the name of freedom of speech, we should lack the self-discipline to refrain from engaging in anonymous viciousness, then democracy as we know it shall cease to exist. Either the universal affirmation of our equality shall cease to exist or the freedom of speech that makes democracy such a mellifluous ideal of excellence shall cease to exist. In either case, our humanity shall be diminished."
UncleDoug, your "guess" is insulting and uncivil and it completely ignores the fact that I have been speaking against this kind of thing for decades, with no regard for party and to the irritation of many with whom I share views on the issues. I am impassioned about process values, but I can not honestly be described as "partisan" by any reasonable person.
BTW, since WhoIsStaceyLawson represents an act of Democrat-on-Democrat violence, the term partisan doesn't even make sense here. Maybe you mean ideological or doctrinaire.
UncleDoug, you missed the point completely. I don't believe there should be restrictions on anonymous speech, I am speaking to the perception it creates and the consequence for the quality of democracy. It is hypocritical and belies a commitment to the values of transparency and accountability.
Your comparison of WhoIsStaceyLawson to the Federalist Papers is absurd. The Papers were a sophisticated argument in defense of a new government, they weren't targeted personal attacks on an individual. The Federalist Papers authors published as "Publius" for solidarity purposes. Very different from the motive of the person in question here, whose objective is to divide. That is not the behavior of a civically virtuous person. Not to mention, also, that Publius was promoting enthusiasm for the new government, while WhoIs simply wants to degrade. The former was constructive, the latter is destructive.
And lastly, Publius wasn't truly anonymous.
Technically I said that the person is likely associated with a campaign (not that a campaign is behind it). Otherwise the anonymity makes no sense. A small but important difference.
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