Tuesday, October 7, 2008

a joint statement against anonymous attack blogs

By Adam Pagnucco, Eric Luedtke and Dan Reed

Recently, an anonymous blog appeared targeting Montgomery County Council Member Mike Knapp. The sole purpose of this blog was to attack Mr. Knapp's character in an effort to discourage him from running for County Executive. We will not do the author a favor by linking to his work. The issue for us is not Mr. Knapp or his fitness for office. Rather, the creation of this blog, which is neither the first nor the last of its kind, calls a question of vital importance to Maryland's blogosphere. And this is our response.

All of us blog under our own names. We do it because we believe what we say. We do it because we are willing to stand behind our words. And we do it because we do not fear accountability from our readers. In fact, transparency and accountability are good for the blogosphere. They are the primary tools by which our still young, and occasionally unruly, medium can be improved.

Unfortunately, our medium is subject to abuse by those who attempt to destroy the reputation of others while hiding behind a veil of anonymity. By spreading incorrect and possibly libelous information, anonymous attack bloggers do a disservice to legitimate bloggers and to the community as a whole.

While we may disagree on some matters, we agree on the fact that these anonymous attackers discredit the blogosphere and political activism as a whole. For the good of our craft, our readers and the public discourse, we the undersigned stand against them and condemn their work. Specifically, the creator of the anonymous blog attacking Mike Knapp should either have the courage to identify himself or herself or have the decency to delete the blog.

Dan Reed is the author of Just Up the Pike. Eric Luedtke is a contributor to Free State Politics. Adam Pagnucco is a contributor to Maryland Politics Watch. As measured by Sitemeter, Just Up the Pike, Free State Politics and Maryland Politics Watch are three of the five most-read blogs in the state of Maryland.

1 comment:

Thomas Hardman said...

Please add my own signature to this list.

Astute observers will recall that I have been known to rail against "anonymous cowards".

There's no question that in the past I have done my share of pseudonymous writing to the internet. At the time, I wasn't making it particularly hard for anyone "in the know" to discover my identity. Then again, aside from my condemnation of the practices of the Marion Barry administration and the consequent results enabled by longstanding Federal inattention to the Nation's Capital, I wasn't engaging in a lot of character assassination. The facts were defamatory enough.

However, there's a difference between pointing out the facts while keeping a low-profile until enough other people were looking to give the phenomenon a life of its own, and hiding behind anonymity while slathering on the fertilizer.

To summarize, it's one thing to be a clandestine whistle-blower, and it's another thing to use the medium to be a Stealth Slanderer.

Stealth Slander -- and the written version known as "Anonymous Libel Blogging" -- is unfortunately a mainstay of Montgomery County's "popular culture".

Expecting most MoCo denizens to abstain from such a delicious and untraceable harassment is like expecting a kleptomaniac with a sweet-tooth to keep their hands out of the cookie jar in an unmanned candy store.

However, most of us political bloggers are more than willing to put our names on what we write, because we're not sniveling sociopaths trying to incite riots or the electoral equivalent thereof.

No, if we have complaints, we will stand and accuse as is the proper American tradition. Whom we accuse have the unquestioned right to confront their accusers and to do so in an open and honest venue. Whom we accuse -- or congratulate, or merely note -- will know who's talking about them when we speak or write. That's honest, and that's honorable.

There is only dishonor in Stealth Slander and Anonymous Libel Blogging.

Indeed, I think it's time we all took a stand against Stealth Slander in public life as well as taking a stand against Anonymous Libel Blogging.

Sure, we'd be kicking a cultural mainstay of MoCo to the curb, but in the same way people do "interventions" much to the dismay of addicts, in the end everything turns out for the best.

So, who wants to go on an Anonymous Libel Blogger hunt?