Vanguard Commentary: Time to Change the Tone (But Not the Content) of Discussion

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Two weeks ago, the Vanguard put out a call for guest writers for periodic columns. We have gotten a good response for the most part to our call. The idea was to get a wider spectrum of subject matter and views expressed.

Around the same time, Dan Carson, serving as the Vanguard’s public editor, was critical of the Vanguard, suggesting, “I think The Vanguard should emphasize what it does best – reporting in-depth on news stories that on the natural stimulate important community conversations – and place less emphasis on commentaries that constitute pure punditry.”

This spawned some reader feedback and criticism of the Vanguard – which we have of course read, absorbed and responded to. We are working hard to incorporate some of the changes that were suggested, as well as implementing our goal of including more voices from the community on a variety of subjects that we are not able to cover as thoroughly as some others.

However, we have received a little pushback in some quarters. Some potential authors are interested in writing, but not that interested in subjecting themselves to personal attacks, particularly from anonymous commenters to whom they cannot fight back and defend themselves.

As I have stated many times, I firmly believe in the right to express oneself without fear of retaliation and consequence. For that reason, we have always allowed people to post comments without revealing their identity. But that right should go both ways.

For instance, I have noted at various times that some anonymous posters use personal information about a named commenter to attack them from behind the veil of anonymity. To me that is abusing one’s privilege of being able to use their anonymity as a cloak, to unleash a guerrilla offensive against named commenters.

Worst yet, we have the situation where an article is solicited because it has a different perspective from one that has been presented on the Vanguard, and the immediate response is a post from an anonymous poster questioning motives.

For example, yesterday we had an article from James Zanetto, a Davis architect and planner, and Stephen Wheeler, a professor of ecology at UC Davis, who submitted a guest piece on sustainability features for the new innovation centers.

We have discussed innovation centers a lot on the Vanguard, but it’s probably safe to say that sustainability is going to be a huge factor in getting voters to approve the project. Now you may or may not agree with that, and you may or may not agree with the authors.

We want lively debate and discussion. We want people to raise any objections and argue against the author’s thesis.

What we do not want is a post that quotes some from the article and then questions the motivations of the author. One poster wrote that “under the circumstances, this article seems pretty self-serving.”

That is not helpful. It doesn’t add to the discussion. And it will act to ensure that guest writers will not come forward in the future. Fortunately, the comment was removed by our moderator – I want to drive home the point, this is not the acceptable way to exchange comments and we are not going to tolerate it.

I saw later, yesterday evening, another poster suggesting in a snarky manner, “A better title for this article would be…” And then the poster proceeded to turn it into a negative attack.

I am not one to want to see us have to moderate, edit, or censor posts, but the tone here is not helpful for advancing the conversation, or getting additional voices to come on here and either post an article or a comment, and we need to change that.

We can disagree without being snarky, mean, nasty, or twisting people’s words, etc. We can have a good-spirited debate. I’m not interested in a site where everyone agrees with me or the author of a given piece. That is boring.

What I am interested in is a good exchange of viewpoints on the issues of the day. And I think we can do better without losing the many great strengths of this site.

We are still looking for guest writers. We want people who can talk about school issues, mental health, the homeless, land use, health services, transportation, food justice, the environment, zero waste. You don’t have to agree with the Vanguard on these issues – in fact, it is better to get a diversity of different viewpoints and different perspectives. And you don’t have to be bound by just these topics – we just wanted to have a few examples.

Anyone interested in writing a column or who has more questions, please email here.

Thanks for reading and please think about what you post and the tone of that post.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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64 Comments

  1. Anon

    We want lively debate and discussion. We want people to raise any objections and argue against the author’s thesis.
    What we do not want is a post that quotes some from the article and then questions the motivations of the author.

    Agreed.  Attack the thesis, not the author.  Personal attacks are below the belt, whether against the author or another commenter.

    Having said that, I would make some other observations, in regard to commenters.  Some (one in particular) of the Vanguard editorial board are commenting way too much, which is driving readers I have personally talked to away.  Also, when almost every critique on local issues is reduced to liberal versus conservative viewpoints, it grows tiresome, to the point I stop reading.  It would be helpful for commenters to keep some of this in mind.  In my view, most local issues have nothing to do with national politics, and we hear enough from certain editorial board members of the Vanguard ad nauseum.  I realize if editorial board members comment often, it adds to the comment count, but it doesn’t necessarily add to the discussion.  Wading through 100 comments, half of which are regularly from the same Vanguard editorial board member can be tiresome.  JMO

    1. South of Davis

      Anon wrote:

      > When almost every critique on local issues is reduced to liberal versus

      > conservative viewpoints, it grows tiresome, to the point I stop reading.

      I agree and it seems like most topics get to a debate between the Fox News (right) and CNBC (left)  “talking points”.

      It is also sad when some people (including the one in particular I’m pretty sure Anon is talking about) likes to “bait people” on the “other side” with outrageous statements…

    2. Alan Miller

      “Some (one in particular) of the Vanguard editorial board are commenting way too much, which is driving readers I have personally talked to away.”

      Yes, those easily annoyed and without the ability to skip over posts.  This is a severe disability that we must address with a new state law.

      1. Barack Palin

        I agree Alan, one doesn’t have to read another’s posts if they’re annoyed.  I have one commenter that claims to not read my posts, which is fine with me, but that’s not good enough for him/her.  He/she has also posted that nobody else should read my posts.  The editorial commenter that’s being referred to as posting too much is pretty obvious, I for one enjoy her posts.  I seldom agree with her and will sometimes skip over her posts but still I welcome her viewpoints and hope she continues to contribute.

        1. Matt Williams

          Well said BP.  I concur with your thoughts.  I’ve been known to skip over a few of Tia’s comments, and I’m sure she skips over a few of mine as well.  You, on the other hand, garner my full attention.  Good comedy is hard to come by these days.

  2. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > Some potential authors are interested in writing, but not that

    > interested in subjecting themselves to personal attacks, particularly

    > from anonymous commenters to whom they cannot fight back

    > and defend themselves.

    Why do you need to know the name of someone to “defend yourself”?  Is there a difference from responding to a valid question from “West Davis Guy” or “Tony West”?

    I don’t recall anyone on the Vanguard mentioning any “personal” information that was not FIRST shared by the posters on this “public” site (and we have had some REAL personal stuff posted) THEMSELVES.

    Newt Gingrich is on his third wife so I think it is fair game to mention that when he tells us we need more “family values” and/or starts bashing people that get divorced to give him a chance to clarify what he means.

    Al Gore has (more than) three homes and I think it is fair game to mention this and see why he thinks it is OK for him to use tons of energy while telling the rest of us to “go green”.

    1. Anon

      I think the point being made is that personal attacks on the author are not legitimate critiques for this blog.  An example:  Some commenter took another commenter to task for expressing a particular viewpoint, noting that the person advocating their position did not live the lifestyle they were advocating for, giving specifics as to how many homes and cars this person owned.  IMO that is way too personal an attack.  A more appropriate way to make the point would be to ask the person advocating the position if they own more than one home or one car, or ask if they would be willing to live the lifestyle they are advocating for, or if they live that lifestyle and if not why not, rather than to go after the individual with specific details of their personal life.  I know it is a fine line, but one that I think I understand and sympathize with.

      1. South of Davis

        Anon wrote:

        > Some commenter took another commenter to task for expressing a particular

        > viewpoint, noting that the person advocating their position did not live the

        > lifestyle they were advocating for, giving specifics as to how many homes and

        > cars this person owned.  IMO that is way too personal an attack. 

        Like others on this site I have posted that I own more than one home and more than one car so when I bring up the fact that someone owns more than one home and more than one car it is not an “attack”.  I don’t have any problem with people owning multiple homes or multiple cars, but I am truly interested in hearing why someone that owns multiple homes in Davis thinks that we should vote to stop the construction of new homes in town or why someone that lives in a household with multiple cars does not think that new apartments in town should have parking for the residents cars.

      2. Frankly

        I am one that has done this, and I welcome the same from others.  If I take a stand on some topic that contradicts how I live my life, I think that is fair game.  In fact, I am always worried that I have blind spots and may be expressing an opinion that puts me at risk of being seen as a hypocrite.   For example, a Tea Party member (which I am not) that demands that we stop all government payments to individuals that is on disability payments and medicare.   And if a blogger has previously written the details of his/her life, why would repeating that information be considered an attack?

        I want to be called on that so I either explain the nuance of my position, or develop an epiphany for changing my life or my views.

        I think supporting a “do as I say and not as I do” viewpoint… especially those delivered strongly and in absolute terms… is a troubling trend… one that should be reserved for bosses only.

      3. Matt Williams

        I don’t see this as a black and white issue Anon.  Personal information about me has been central to comments in the past … most noticeably my residence outside the City Limits … and I felt each time that the commenter was legitimate in raising the place of residence point that they raised.  Being called a NIMBY as often as I was during the radio tower discussions, was indeed tedious, but it also insured that when I shared a point of view on the subject, that I had done my level best to “walk in the other people’s shoes.”

  3. Alan Miller

    “Some potential authors are interested in writing, but not that interested in subjecting themselves to personal attacks”

    What a bunch of cowardly panzies.

    1. Anon

      Why would someone subject themselves to being personally attacked if s/he doesn’t have to?  That is the point.  If the Vanguard wants guest writers, it cannot support personal attacks on guest writers.  And commenters, if they want variety, have to respect guest writers at least to the extent they do not attack the guest writer personally.  Attack the opinion expressed, not the messenger of that opinion.  There is a difference.

        1. Matt Williams

          Alan, both your comments above fall very neatly into the category of “attack the messenger, not the message.”

          It is very reasonable to argue that comments whose sole purpose is personal attack are equally cowardly, and if they aren’t associated with pansies, then surely with petunias.

          “Tank the Tank” is funny.  Having a t-shirt emblazoned with that logo is bold.  Banging your head against the podium in Council Chambers during public comment is humorous.  Personal attacks, simply for the sake of delivering a personal attack are none of the above.

        2. Alan Miller

          The anonymous have no public face and therefore have no feelings.

          But seriously folks . . .

          ” . . . says the anonymous commenter” is a personal “attack”?  Are you serious?  Even if I said that to a person with a name, which would be, um, nonsensical, it wouldn’t be an “attack”.

          Here is an example of a personal attack (directed at no one, but to show difference):

          “F— You, (actual name given), you F—ing Loser; You have an ugly family and everyone in Davis knows it.  Even your dog is ugly.  I hope you die.”.

          Now THAT, is a personal attack.

          It appears Vanguard policy (rightly) is somewhere in between.

          And for the record, “Tank the Tank” is NOT funny.

           

          1. Matt Williams

            And for the record, “Tank the Tank” is NOT funny.

            Again, I disagree 100%. It was over the top humorous.

  4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    “What a bunch of cowardly panzies.”

    I am sure you meant pansies, not panzies. They are, of course, very flamboyant little flowers.

    What I did not know–so I Googled it–was how or when the flower, the pansy, became a synonym for a homosexual or effeminate male in U.S. slang. Here is what one British source says:

    “Pansy seems to have been first applied to gay men in America over a hundred years ago*. Some gay men have always dressed in a distinctive and slightly camp feminised fashion – think about Quentin Crisp, or the stereotypical gay characters created by entertainers like Dick Emery. Perhaps the word “dandy” could apply to some of these men in a different period. But at the beginning of the 20th century dressing in this manner was called “pansying up”, no doubt comparing the bold colours of the clothes with those of the flower. I haven’t been able to find out if pansying up was a term created by the gay community or one given to it. It seems that effeminate younger men in particular who pansied up were called “pansified”, and from this came the name “pansy”. Since then, camp gay men have often been given the derogatory name of pansy.

    “In the 1930s during prohibition in America many illicit gay-owned bars and clubs sprang up in New York. They became popular with all sections of society who couldn’t get alcohol anywhere else. The entertainment provided for the clientele included many gay performers and drag artists. These underground bars became the centre of what was called the Pansy Craze.”

    *The Online Etymology Dictionary says the first known use of pansy as a synonym for gay male was in 1929, a bit less than 100 years ago and not that early in the 20th century:

    “n. mid-15c., from Middle French pensée “a pansy,” literally “thought, remembrance,” from fem. past participle of penser “to think,” from 
    Latin pensare “consider,” frequentative of pendere “to weigh” (see pensive ). So called because it was regarded as a symbol of thought or remembrance. 

    Meaning “effeminate homosexual man” is first recorded 1929.”

    1. South of Davis

      Rich wrote:

      > when the flower, the pansy, became a synonym for a homosexual or effeminate male in U.S. slang

      I like it when Rich posts random grammar and local history stuff, but I’m pretty sure that when someone (in the last 30 years) calls someone else a pansy they are rarely think the other person is “gay”.

      I have never heard anyone use pansy as a synonym for homosexuals and none of the synonyms on the link below reference sexual preference:

      http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/pansy

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        SOD, if you go to the link you provide and press its Dictionary definition for pansy, you will see that one of its main definitions is a derogatory term for a homosexual. The same is true of most of those synonyms listed in the Thesaurus.

        My main interest, though, was learning how pansy, as opposed to say a violet or a carnation, came to mean gay or effeminate male.

        1. Alan Miller

          Well, rarely do I apologize, because rarely do I need to, in my humble opinion, but I truly would not have used the term had I known one definition is as ascribed by RR.  I had thought it meant something along the lines of “spineless”.  I know, for example, that “poofta” is such a term and would not have used that.  Apparently I knew all the definitions of “pansies” about as well as I knew how to spell the word.  I will not use the aforementioned word in the future, except in the unlikely scenario that said flower would come up in Vanguard discussions.

  5. Davis Progressive

    getting into the side discussion as to whether tia (who ironically hasn’t posted today) posts too much diverts from the bigger concern here that attacking the contributor is not a good way to go about doing things.

        1. Alan Miller

          ” . . . I have been attacked and slandered repeatedly by you . . . ”

          Ooooo . . . the “S” word rears it’s head with direction;

          Boxing announcer (amplified):  ” . . . in the right corner we have a real person with a real name, in the left corner we have an anonymous person . . . who will prevail in today’s match?”

        2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          DP has a history of ridiculing members of city staff by name. More than one of them has told me how blatantly false your claims are about them. I think you need to look in the mirror before you, while hiding your own person, make terrible comments about real people in our community.

        3. Frankly

          Read a great book by Edmund Morris on T Roosevelt where he ended up in court defending himself against slander claims.  After destroying the Republican party and failing to be elected again, TR was notorious for writing fiery and direct personal attack pieces. It seems that it was much more common for wealthy titans of industry and politics to go after each other in courts because of something written.  The case often was one to prove the accuracy or falsehood of what was written as a prerequisite to prevailing in any claim of damages.  Of course it was problematic wasting the courts time for the squabbles of elites to protect their honor and seek retribution for hurt feelings… but part of me would welcome some type of legal remediation for damage caused by false written claims in published articles or broadcast news.  I would exclude non-profit blogs from this as long as they include a disclaimer:

          “This blog does not comply with the journalism code of ethics.  Participants enter and participate at their own risk of being offended.  The owners of this blog make no claims or warranties that the content is evaluated for accuracy or truth.”

          Or something like this.

           

        4. Jim Frame

          Roosevelt where he ended up in court defending himself against slander claims.  After destroying the Republican party and failing to be elected again, TR was notorious for writing fiery and direct personal attack pieces

          For the record:  slander is spoken, libel is written or drawn (as in a cartoon).

        5. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          FWIW, in the actual case, it was Teddy Roosevelt who sued (a newspaper) for libel (not slander). Roosevelt had, at the time, been trying to win the Republican nomination for president, despite the fact that his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, was the incumbent president and Taft was seeking the re-nomination of his party. In order to ensure that TR, who was still beloved by most Americans and most Republican voters, conservatives in the GOP started a whispering campaign against him, claiming that he was insane and that he was a raging alcoholic.

          In reality, Roosevelt drank, but not excessively, and he was not crazy. But as long as it remained a whispering campaign, there was nothing TR could do to stop the talk. And then, a newspaper publisher in a small town in Michigan wrote what the right-wing Republicans had been saying behind closed doors–that Teddy was a drunkard. TR was ecstatic that it made print. He needed a way to defend himself. And so he sued the newspaper and won.

          The irony of the libel trial is that, though he filed suit during the electoral campaign of 1912, the case was not heard or decided until long after the election. By the time TR won his case, Woodrow Wilson was already in office. Taft (as the Republican) and Roosevelt (as the Progressive) split the vote against Wilson (the Democrat), giving Wilson an easy win.

          Wilson might have won heads up against either of his opponents. However, it would have been close. He was elected with just 41.8% of the popular vote. Keep in mind that, outside of the South, the U.S. was still a very Republican nation. The South was Democratic and very conservative. The rest of the country was increasingly liberal or progressive at that time. In terms of economic policy, there was not much difference between Wilson and TR. Taft was much more conservative, reflecting the views of the big corporations which funded him. In foreign policy, TR was the most hawkish and interventionist. In terms of social policy (which then dealt with race issues and women’s rights) TR was the most liberal and Wilson was the most conservative.

          (Note that Wilson was born and raised in the Deep South and was often oblivious to the needs or complaints of blacks. TR, by contrast, was unusually not at all racist for his time. Taft was closer to TR on race issues. Wilson belatedly changed his views on female suffrage. However, blacks suffered mightily under Wilson, losing all the legal and social progress they had made over the prior 20 years.)

  6. Frankly

    Please define “attacking”.  For example, I have never hit another poster.  Nor do I believe anyone posting any article has been hit for what they posted.  However, I have been threatened with physical violence from someone that did not like what I wrote.

    I am thinking that “word pansy” is a reasonable label.

    Just look at how far we have gone…

    https://www.facebook.com/youdontsaycampaign

    https://www.google.com/search?q=duke+university+i+don't+say&biw=1920&bih=1028&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=ZgfAVJHeH4GvogTk3YD4CA&ved=0CCMQsAQ&dpr=1

    About 20% of this makes sense, but the rest is just word pansyism.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        It is impossible for “a pointed comment to be aimed at an individual,” if the individual to whom the comment is directed is anonymous or pseudonymous. However, you and some others who use fake names seem to have no problem making pointed comments at real people under their real names.

        1. South of Davis

          Rich wrote:

          > However, you and some others who use fake names

          > seem to have no problem making pointed comments

          > at real people under their real names.

          As Alan reminded us all earlier in the day that “those easily annoyed have the ability to skip over posts” I want to remind people that “those easily annoyed by pointed comments using their real names do not need to post their real names” (or EVER post personal details about their life like their occupation, details about their home ownership, their marital status or anything about their kids)…

          1. Matt Williams

            Alan, you really seem to be hung up on the sinfulness of anonymous posting. I’ve scanned the Old Testament and don’t see anonymous postings listed as one of the deadly sins. Perhaps instead of making pejorative statements about an individuals, you might want to put forward your arguments regarding how and why non-anonymous comments are superior.

            Just a suggestion

        2. Alan Miller

          ” . . . you might want to put forward your arguments regarding how and why non-anonymous comments are superior.”

          Those with names are responsible for what they say, says a person with a name to a person with a name.

          1. Matt Williams

            Those with names are responsible for what they say, says a person with a name to a person with a name.

            I disagree 100%. I read plenty of irresponsible comments from people whose screen name is the same as their real name. The name of the poster has no bearing on the responsibility of the content of what they post.

        3. Davis Progressive

          some of the people with names are meaner and nastier than some of the people without names.  to me (as someone who could not post here if i had to give my name), anonymity is not the problem.

          1. Matt Williams

            Agreed DP. My very first posts on the Vanguard back in 2006 were calling out a person who was rudely, obnoxiously, maliciously and repeatedly posting nasty comments about a Davis resident. Definitely a soapy mouthwash moment.

        4. Frankly

          anonymity is not the problem

          I agree with this.

          I was just as abrasive posting with my real name as with my new VG name.  I think Matt Williams will confirm that.

          I think that this name argument misses something.  In blogging the avatar and name used, regardless if the real name or a pseudonym – becomes the blogging persona.   SOD, meet Alan Miller.   DP, meet TBD.

          A poster’s personality and views shine through their words.

          The first time I met Medwoman in person (a very nice and friendly person BTW) I already knew her pretty well from our back and forth on the blog.  And after she became Tia Will, her personality did not change.

          The point here is I suggest we just embrace the personality and stop worrying about the name used.

          1. Matt Williams

            I agree Frankly, like you I have had reason (because of legal obligations as an expert witness) to refrain from posting under my real name. As a result, for the limited time duration of the expert witness gig I used a pseudonym. That did not change my posting style one iota. The fact that I did that drove Barack Palin to distraction, which is rather strange since his screen name has evolved from rusty49 to Growth Izzue to Barack Palin, but for anyone who cared to do any simple deduction it was clear what real person went with the pseudonym. That experience, where legal concerns determined what was possible and what was not, gave me an appreciation of the practical realities that Davis Progressive and Mr. Toad and others (including yourself) face.

      2. South of Davis

        DP wrote:

        > I would say that an attack is a pointed comment aimed

        > less at the argument and more at the individual.

        I’ve noticed that when some people “don’t like” (or just don’t want to answer) a question they will often call the question an “attack”…

        1. Frankly

          I guess this was my point.   Are we all really capable of discerning what an attack is… or is it just a feeling that we don’t like it when our views are aggressively challenged?

          What if I write “I think that is a stupid idea.”?

          Or how about, “I think you are being hypocritical, and here is why…”?

          Or how about one of my favorite: “Liberals tend to do this and not that…”?

          Let’s even take this to a more macro discussion and relate it to the Charlie Hebdo incident.  Do we have a right to not be offended by something someone else writes?  Where do we draw the line?

          From my perspective I think we draw the line far to the side that says we can write almost anything we want because others can write retorts to it, and nobody is forced to read anything they do not want to read.

          And because going to the other side is a slippery slope that risks destroying one of the absolutely essential ingredients of a free and working democracy.

          But there certainly should be a right for the owner of a private company that runs a blog to set rules for acceptable posting… and again, if we don’t like it we don’t have to read or participate on the blog.

          1. Matt Williams

            What if I write “I think that is a stupid idea.”?

            A better alternative would be (A) “I think the following idea better than the one you have put forward.” or (B) “That is a thought provoking idea; however, moving it from concept to implemented reality would appear to be problematic/impossible. How do you propose to move from conceptual idea to daily use?” The only “ownership” that your choice of wording produces is of the personal insult itself. With (A) you are taking ownership of putting forward an idea you believe makes a superior contribution to the public welfare. With (B) your focus is on the ownership of translating the idea into a tangible contribution to the public welfare.

        2. Alan Miller

          “Are we all really capable of discerning what an attack is… or is it just a feeling that we don’t like it when our views are aggressively challenged?”

          Frank Lee:  You, obviously, don’t seem to mind too much!

        3. Frankly

          I tend to attract attacks…

          Actually, I like debate and conflict.  I feel icky when we all agree… a sense that we are blind and heading toward a trip-up over the curb… or worse.  Sometimes I push an extreme argument that I am actually still on the fence about just to inspire debate.   I hate it when people take it personal.  But I also hate REAL personal attacks.

  7. TrueBlueDevil

    Yes, what is an attack, and what is a valid point?

    We’ve had a poster here repeatedly say that they are quite overpaid, but then wants the government to pay for certain costs their family could have absorbed. (I’ve tried to disguise the person as much as possible.) I thought the contradiction was extremely telling, but decided not to quiz the contradiction because what was revealed was very personal.

    In general, the vast majority of the time I find the posters here respectful and polite, which is a breath of fresh air on the Internet today.

  8. ryankelly

    DP, I think I’ve gotten you mixed up with DavisVoter and DavisAnon.  So hard to keep the different identities straight, especially when they all start with Davis____. Sorry.

  9. Alan Miller

    I’ve yanked chains several times today.  Now I’ll tell you (those with the patience to read over 50 posts) how I REALLY feel.

    The following vibe is given by the Vanguard for a proposed policy change:

    I have noted at various times that some anonymous posters use personal information about a named commenter to attack them from behind the veil of anonymity. To me that is abusing one’s privilege of being able to use their anonymity as a cloak, to unleash a guerrilla offensive against named commenters.  Worst yet, we have the situation where an article is solicited because it has a different perspective from one that has been presented on the Vanguard, and the immediate response is a post from an anonymous poster questioning motives.

    My issue with anonymous posting has never been that anonymous, as such, should be banned.  I agree with some of DG’s reasoning on having anonymous posters.

    My concern began several months ago when an anonymous poster (I honestly don’t remember who it was) cited some city employees, by their names, criticized them and then prescribed motivations to their actions.  I believe a person would be less likely to do this if they had to face their accusees, and much less likely to do so unless they were more certain of their accusations.

    Some may find even a named commenter doing this to be objectionable, and in some cases it may be.  However, there may be cases where the accusation is true — if so would we want something that is true squelched?  However, a named being would be responsible for their comments, and their reputation diminish if they made such an accusation and it was either unprovable or proved to be false.

    An anonymous poster could make any accusation whatsoever, harm another’s reputation, and have no responsibility for their action.  Perhaps they simply don’t like someone; they could tarnish them with accusations and disappear with no repercussions whatsoever.

    This is a strong step for the Vanguard.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      My concern began several months ago when an anonymous poster (I honestly don’t remember who it was) cited some city employees, by their names, criticized them and then prescribed motivations to their actions. 

      The poster who did that was “Davis Progressive.” He has done that several times. I have been contacted by city staffers after he has made these character assaults and told directly that what he has alleged about them as individuals was false. But, of course, since he posts anonymously, he pays no price for his calumny, while those he attacks by name do suffer hurt and damage to their reputations in our community.

        1. Alan Miller

          “you or they can contact me or David”

          DS,

          True in theory.  Except:

          • I’m not going to, it’s not my battle.

          • I’m not going to, the accuser MIGHT be right.

          • They aren’t going to, very few people have the authority to speak publicly about issues involving their jobs.

          • They aren’t going to, as the above goes double for public employees.

          • They aren’t going to, as protest often appears as guilt.

          • They aren’t going to, as getting into a mud-slinging fight with an anonymous person will only result in mud being seen on the visible person.

          In summary:  more better that anonymous persons not take personal shots.

          1. David Greenwald

            I agree it is better that anonymous people not take shots. It is also better that people posting under their own name don’t take them either. And in either case, there are times when they will take shots, and the Vanguard needs to be able to have moderation policies to deal with that.

  10. tribeUSA

    David–good article, I think you are striking a good balance.

    As an anonymous poster myself, I agree that anonymous posters should refrain from personal attacks on other posters or on local Davis people (though we can retain open season on Woodlandites, as per Bob Dunning). As suggested by others above, I’m here defining a personal attack as a serious attempt to smear character or reputation (and of course threats); as distinguished from the ideas or thoughts that are posted, which are fair game. Can we agree this is a good rule of etiquette for anonymous posters? (perhaps those posting with their real names may want to retain a right to get personal and tear into each other; or not?)

  11. Napoleon Pig IV

    Obviously a privately run online newspaper can set whatever rules it wishes when it chooses to enable public comment. DG’s approach is reasonable.

    In a barnyard where sheep are clueless and pigs are corrupt, anonymity is a useful. In a barnyard where all animals are equal and truth is valued above power and wealth, no animal need fear speaking the truth in his or her  own name. Does such a barnyard exits?

    As for the real world barnyard, all animals need to lighten up. Oink!

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