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Sunshine is the ultimate disinfectant

By Scott Tibbs, June 22, 2012

"Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen." - Deuteronomy 27:24

On June 10, I posted a comment in response to a guest column in the Herald-Times. Within hours I was viciously personally attacked by an anonymous poster who attempted to threaten and blackmail me into silence. (Fortunately, the comment was deleted, though I kept a screenshot.) I am no stranger to this kind of blackmail, as I have been subjected to it for ten years. Ironically, the very next day H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg had an editorial published in which he praised the "civil" tone of comments on a specific story.

Ironically, the comments in that story were not all that civil, as "hmmmm" pointed out. "DRM" opened up his thesaurus to find some insults to use, calling another poster a a "clueless smatchet" and followed it up by saying those who disagreed with him were sophomaniacs, quibblerdicks, smatchets, and klazomaniacs - all several days before Zaltsberg's editorial was published. Oops. You might want to read the whole thread next time, Bob.

But this leads to an obvious question: Would HeraldTimesOnline.com posters be so willing to toss insults, much less spew threats and attempts at blackmail, if they were forced to reveal their real names? Would the spouses of elected officials and candidates for elective office be willing to spew filth if they were held accountable by name in a public forum? Would members of the Monroe County Economic Development Commission or the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission be willing to personally attack people who make innocuous policy oriented comments if they had to reveal their real names when doing so?

What the Herald-Times is doing by allowing such people to post anonymously - especially when they post vicious personal attacks - is covering up the political activity of public officials and hiding the political affiliations of candidates and elected officials. That is simply unethical, and that alone should be reason enough to require that everyone who posts on HTO post under his/her/its real name or publicly tie every pseudonym to the poster's real name.

As I have pointed out many times in the past (see here, here, here, here, here and here) the H-T could easily clean up 99% of the filth in HTO comments by taking away the veil of secrecy surrounding HTO comments. If the Herald-Times is serious about having a civil comment section, they could easily achieve that goal. If they are not willing to implement the obvious solution, they should never publish another editorial whining about it.