Commentary: The Exodus Is Ironic, to Say the Least

There are those who will believe that the decision to eliminate anonymous postings is politically driven – that is untrue.  I have always taken pride in the fact that all voices come to the Vanguard to express themselves.

However, twice in the last three months or so the treatment of people who have submitted articles to the Vanguard caused me to severely re-think my longstanding support for anonymous posters.  In both cases anonymous posters tore apart the authors, hiding behind the veil of anonymity.  The treatment was so harsh that both authors requested their article be pulled, and it took some doing to get them not to.

I bring that up because, for many of the anonymous posters, their stated reason for remaining anonymous was that they are a conservative in a liberal town.  As “Sam” put it, “Davis is a small town and my personal views do not align with about 90% of the population.”  Sam, in fact, I am sorry to see go – he was always respectful and made good arguments.

But still there is irony here.

Here another would compare the position of conservatives in Davis to “a transgender black atheist with a Hillary bumper sticker on his Prius would feel in a 99% white Mississippi Bible Belt town where 90% of the people voted for Trump.”

Said by a poster who frequently used personal information that named posters and would volunteer to bludgeon them behind the cloak of anonymity.

Vanguard Board member Tia Will, one of the dissenters on the issue of eliminating anonymity, I think put this issue very bluntly.

She wrote, “To those who are leaving because of any kind of ‘fear’ whether that is of economic harm, or social harm either to yourself or your family members, I am sad to see you go. I am concerned about the loss of distinct minority opinion voices. I would  ask those of you who are leaving to take a moment to reflect on the fears that are driving you away from commenting, and ask yourself whether these may not be the same kinds of fears that many of us are now feeling if we have Mexican or Muslim family members, or if we have a tenuous hold on access to health care.”

She added, “Please bear in mind that direct threats have been made, and many of us cannot do something as simple as not commenting on a small city blog. So when you go to criticize someone else’s fears as ‘unrealistic’ or ‘hysterical,’ please think about why you are no longer commenting.”

To me that is ironic to the point of near rank hypocrisy.  You see, the very people fleeing from the Vanguard because of fear that they will be retaliated against for being a conservative in liberal Davis are the very people, almost to a person, who have belittled the fears of Muslims and immigrants as hysteria.

For months the fears of people of color have been dismissed and derided.  For years, I have pointed out that people of color, often children in schools, have enjoyed a different experience in Davis than others, and this notion has been summarily dismissed.

But here we are, faced with the prospect of exposing their viewpoint in their own community, and they go running for the hills.

This was a difficult decision.  Even after I knew something had to change, it took several months of discussions.  Weighing against this decision was the belief that there needed to be a space where people could express their opinion without fear of retaliation.  Also weighing against the decision was the knowledge that many people posting under their own name could be just as uncivil.

But there was also a fundamental fairness issue, an information asymmetry that weighed in favor of ending anonymous posters.  I got tired of reading attacks on individuals using personal information, with the veil of anonymity to protect the posters.

They fear retaliation in this town, but do not hesitate to go after people from their safe vantage point.

In the end, the decision became very clear.  Something had to change.  More and more people told me that they stopped participating, stopped reading the comment section, stopped reading the Vanguard altogether because of the hostile environment.

People who would have ordinarily wanted to participate chose not to, because they didn’t want to subject themselves to a small group of anonymous posters.

So now we’ll see if these people will come back and participate.  I hope some of the anonymous posters who have left will change their minds and choose to participate under their own names.  That we will see.

Today is a new day and a new start.

—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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  1. Marina Kalugin

    real life is nothing if not ironic and fascinating

    as one who has at times been a conservative and other times a democrat and most affiliate with libertarian, green and other don’t have a chance parties and at the end always vote for the one of the last two standing who I believe will do the best job for the people.. BO the first time around only and the president elect this time….

    often times those who I campaign for early on do not have enough funds to overturn the election fraud machines…and for that reason do not make it and though I am a fiscally responsible conservative..  I am more and more liberal on social justice issues

    and yet, I am trying to stay off because I was really wasting too much time…..but the fact that any of the daily posters who monopolized most threads while hiding their identities are going to leave because they are afraid… is quite ridiculous.

    as I tell other men who can dish it out but not take it… be a man……

    or take a long hard look in the mirror and consider that perhaps their actions or words are truly so unconscionable that they cannot openly own up to what they say or do?

    there were and still are societies of that nature.. the KKK comes to mind..

    shouldn’t the grownups in this town stop hiding and be grownups?

  2. Roberta Millstein

    I remember awhile back I urged anonymous posters to self police. But they did not, and now they complain about the inevitable consequences. What did they expect?

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s a good point. This wasn’t a secret. We posted the issue on the Vanguard this fall, I talked to people around town, but no one wanted to change the culture here. It got to the point where a lot of people, including my own board members, didn’t want to post here.

      1. Matt Williams

        I’m not currently a Vanguard board member, but have been a very active one in the past, and I had definitely gotten to the point where I really didn’t want to post here.  I don’t place the primary blame for that on anonymous posters, but it definitely was a factor.

        1. Tia Will

          Hi Matt,

          Would you mind sharing the other factors that made you feel like not posting ?

          And perhaps more importantly, feeling that way, what has caused you to continue ?

      2. darelldd

        In the past I was an active participant. I haven’t been around lately. And like Matt, I don’t place the *primary* blame on anonymous posters. But the annoyance and abuse from some anonymous posters is what sealed the deal for me. Especially from those who fear using their real names while anonymously contending that fears expressed by others makes them “snowflakes.”

        This came into focus for me when I realized that when writing under their real name in other media, the conversation points were the same, but the presentation was respectful and phrased in a more constructive manner. I was tired of the double standard. There is no reason to fear difference of opinion of it doesn’t put anybody else in danger, and it is presented respectfully. Several of the anonymous posters were pretty sure that their right to make abusive posts needed protection. And I don’t mean to cast that net across all previously anonymous posters… but… well, I think I’ve made my point.

        Before Tia asks… *content* is among my other reasons. I’m a guy who doesn’t delve too deeply into the criminal justice system. And of late, the topics that interest me have become few and far between.

    2. Howard P

      Well, you have an example, on this thread, of some who use full names who don’t seem to “self-police” as well… and I’m not complaining about the new policy… I support it… yet, I felt I needed to choose one of the options presented…  do you believe I am not “self-policing” in saying that?

      Those who don’t want to “work and play well with others” have no reason/justification to complain. Was that your point? If so, I agree…

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Agreed, there are some people who use real names from whom I would welcome some self-policing as well.  But as David explains in the OP, there are reasons that (some of) the anonymous posters became particularly problematic.

        “Those who don’t want to ‘work and play well with others’ have no reason/justification to complain” –  yes, that was my point.

  3. Dave Hart

    Tia Will’s comments quoted by David above are right on target regarding the change of policy on anonymity:

    “To those who are leaving because of any kind of ‘fear’ whether that is of economic harm, or social harm either to yourself or your family members, I am sad to see you go. I am concerned about the loss of distinct minority opinion voices. I would  ask those of you who are leaving to take a moment to reflect on the fears that are driving you away from commenting, and ask yourself whether these may not be the same kinds of fears that many of us are now feeling if we have Mexican or Muslim family members, or if we have a tenuous hold on access to health care.”

    There have been comments made in the past alluding to a culture of victim-hood on the left and it is ironically the same thing now being expressed by some from a “non-left” perspective.

    The amount of courage that it takes to speak about an issue openly and publicly under one’s own name is directly proportional to how controversial it is.  I ask all of those of you who are afraid, regardless with which type of victim-hood you identify, to consider it your basic duty and responsibility to engage in community debate.

    If you’re afraid your comments are going to be too inflammatory, consider that it may be nature’s way of challenging you to restate your position, choose different words or take a different tack in order to advance the conversation in a productive way.

  4. Marina Kalugin

    so true DH…  courage and willingness to expose issues which are unpopular but important and not be afraid to face the consequences… the same time often it is not the message itself but how it is stated that creates the most upset

    and sometimes no matter how politely one presents the opposing views those on the other side will bash just because it messes with their fixed opinions or sensibilities


  5. Claire Benoit

    I don’t believe the DV will truly lose its commentators. I think they will just exercise better tact under their non anonymous profiles… And also some fake profiles created with ulterior motives will disappear. As a victim of the shortcomings of the Yolo county justice system, I truly appreciate all you do.

  6. Marina Kalugin

    hola amiga..  glad to cya here where our destinies brought us together just a few short months ago… all things happen for a reason and though it may seem so difficult when the shtf.. we never would have met or not now….. I know I am so much happier where I am and I am also happy for you..   doesn’t mean that we won’t do our parts to help fix the system.. but it less stress elsewhere..  enjoy the holidays and hugs to you and the whole family.. and it also nice to see some of the folks with their facebook names and avatars..  I chose to not link up but this is my real name and also my FB name..

    Believe it or not, I am much more private on some things on the DV and share more on FB and I have had FB friends who the scammers found through my friends links… I usually post as friends of friends so that my real friends who can no longer chance being my FB friends can still see what the happs are  🙂

    always watching out for my friends.. and many others also

  7. Claire Benoit

    Thank you Marina, I am glad we met and appreciate the opportunity to be your friend. I understand what you mean about privacy. It’s good not to worry about people who think to judge more often than to understand. Happy Holidays to you too. I love your spirit.

  8. Michael M Adams

    I for one will try the Vanguard again. In the past I felt that wading through the vitriol to find comments that actually spoke to the issue was just too time consuming. I certainly welcome alternative perspectives presented in a civil, thoughtful manner.

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