We occasionally field some gripes here at The Tattler about anonymous commenting. Oftentimes by people posting their complaints about anonymity in our comments section anonymously. The late and apparently forgotten "Lady Elizabeth Wistar" comes to mind. A rather bizarre campaign-time attempt at opposition silencing that didn't quite work out as some folks had hoped.
And I have taken some heat over the last 4 or so years on this issue. Which is great as far as I am concerned because it has helped bring more attention to this site. Something that resulted in many becoming aware that they could post anonymously here, which apparently is quite popular in Sierra Madre. If you question that, just compare the amount of comments we receive here to those over on the Sierra Madre Patch. A site where they require you to surrender your personal information before they will allow you to express your opinions.
So whatever the rationale, this is pretty much a wasted effort as far as I am concerned. I enthusiastically support the right of anyone to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. Anonymously, pseudoanonymously, with umlauts and flourishes, or even wearing a funny hat if that is your desire. Who am I to tell you what you can and cannot do or say? Keep it clean, leave out the personal threats, and I'm cool with it. And I am hardly alone on this one. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is pretty much down with the concept, as is the United States Supreme Court.
But there are those who do disagree, and in the State of New York there is a group of legislators that would like to make it legally mandatory for the likes of me to check your ID before allowing you to post. This from Wired.com (click here):
New York legislation would ban anonymous online speech - Did you hear the one about New York state lawmakers who forgot about the First Amendment in the name of combating cyberbullying and "baseless political attacks?"
Proposed legislation in both chambers would require New York-based websites, such as blogs and newspapers, to "remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post."
No votes on the measures have been taken. But unless the First Amendment is repealed, they stand no chance of surviving any constitutional scrutiny even if they were approved.
Had the internet been around in the late 1700s, perhaps the anonymously written Federalist Papers would have had to be taken down unless Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay revealed themselves.
"This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology. He added that the legislation provides a "heckler's veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn't like what an anonymous poster said."
The Daily Caller also has an article about this situation up on their website. They took their inquiries all the way out here to UCLA (click here).
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh told The Daily Caller that the bill is "clearly unconstitutional."
"The Supreme Court has held for 50 years that anonymous speech is protected," explained Volokh, pointing to the 1960 case Talley v. California. "This kind of breach of anonymity on demand is just not constitutional."
"I would love to hear from these legislators ... Presumably at least one of them should be able to speak to the constitutional objections to the statute," Volokh added.
A little something to contemplate this Memorial Day weekend. The enemies of the freedoms so many fought and died to protect are not always external ones.