Monday, June 26, 2006

DCBA STATEMENT ON BLOGOSPHERE ANONYMITY

As has been noted previously, Dana Garrett of "Delaware Watch" has been making a habit of threatening to reveal the identities of anonymous bloggers with whom he disagrees. Although Dana has often made common cause with free speech, and spoken out about the importance of anonymous speech, he appears incapable of actually living up to his rhetoric. If this was about one man’s hypocrisy, we would content ourselves to ignore it. Unfortunately, Dana is rapidly establishing a precedent that if you do not agree with an anonymous speaker, a threat is the most effective way to win the debate. The calculated design of such conduct is to chill speech, and it risks poisoning the Delaware blogosphere should it become common practice. It is for this reason the DCBA believes that Dana’s actions must be confronted, disavowed and condemned by the Delaware blogosphere as a whole.

However deep the blogosphere’s political divisions, surely there’s common ground on this: cheap bullying to stifle speech cannot be accepted. If identities are fair game for some on the Delaware blogosphere, what will Dana and people like him do the next time they disagree with a poster, anonymous or otherwise? Home and work numbers put up on the Web with accompanying posts egging readers to call and harass? Maybe some digital pics of the target person leaving work or dining with their families with “Caption This Photo” written underneath?

Free speech is foundational, and this should be a matter of both common sense and common decency. The fact that it isn’t for some speaks volumes. In particular, it says that these individuals may pay lip service to free speech but are incapable of actually practicing it. It says that in principle, they have no respect for the speech of others. With this in mind, the DCBA condemns Dana Garrett’s threats against members of the Delaware blogosphere. In the marketplace of ideas, conduct such as his is completely unacceptable, and he should be ashamed. Whether he realizes it or not, individuals so insecure and angry that they issue threats simply cannot be taken seriously. By acting in this way, Dana continues to undercut and embarrass himself.

The DCBA respects the right of anonymous speech. We believe anonymity is necessary for a vibrant blogosphere. It is for this reason that we respectfully call on all Delaware bloggers, regardless of political affiliation, to both make a similar promise to respect anonymity and also to condemn those that do not respect this basic right. Moreover, we call on Dana himself to apologize, and to publicly state he will refrain from making such threats in the future.

Being bloggers, we understand that disagreements, often heated, are the price of doing business on the Web. Threatening identities, however, goes beyond the normal sharp-elbows all bloggers expect. Such conduct doesn’t further the debate. Rather, it’s the coward’s way of silencing the anonymous speaker, of chilling the very free speech we all, at least in theory, claim to love.

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