Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Damn you anonymous bloggers! | ST forum weirdoes

I swear, some people just seem to camp out at the ST forum. I want to be ST forum editor one day, I'm quite sure the letters that never make it are the good shit. You know, the real crazies as opposed to the functional crazies.

The good doctor whose letter got published today is an ST forum regular.

Stand up for S'pore by speaking out from heart
I REFER to the recent debate on anonymous bloggers and would like to express my opinion not just about blogging but also about providing feedback.
Netizens who post anonymously (even with pseudonyms) do so for various reasons:

1. Some have to:

Their employers (eg civil service or illiberal bosses) do not allow employees to post matters which may be interpreted as being anti-establishment.

In any case, it would be unprofessional for any of us to ventilate publicly confidential matters relating to our firms or professions.

2. Some want to:

Some feel (erroneously) that anonymity allows them the liberty to publish just about anything without having to back up their assertions with facts or proof.

Most of us who read these would be foolhardy to take them more seriously than coffee-shop gossip.

3. Perceived fear (whether real or not):

Unfortunately there are some who fear that any opinion - even if credible and valid, so long as it goes against political correctness, is not welcome by the authorities and will be responded to with a sledgehammer.

Their perception that we are a sort of 'quasi-police state' somehow seems more than paranoia to them. Hence, everything is a conspiracy to 'fix' them. Sometimes these perceived fears are understandable.

Although I sympathise with the first group (those who have to be anonymous), I feel that with globalisation, the authorities will have no choice but to loosen the grip on an overly paternalistic 'nanny-state'.

The question is not if but when.

I have also observed that when the newspapers' forum pages discontinued the practice of allowing pseudonyms many years ago, the quality of letters increased noticeably.

No writer wants to look like a fool by making unsubstantiated allegations.

My hope is that more people will stand up to be counted with sincere but candid opinions, irrespective of where one stands on our nation's issues.

If we do not speak out from the heart, the establishment may end up hearing only what it wants to hear because of 'selective retention' and this will not be good for all of us.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan
- ST Forum, June 28, 2006

I don't have a problem with the bulk of the letter, actually, because it's all been said before. I'm mainly highlighting this letter because of this part:

Some feel (erroneously) that anonymity allows them the liberty to publish just about anything without having to back up their assertions with facts or proof.

Why is there the implicit assumption there that bloggers are anonymous? Many bloggers don't post their names, it's true. But many don't exactly hide who they are either - do a little homework, and it's there for you to find. The only blogger that I know who's managed to actually maintain anonymity is Rockson. Who started this whole bloggers are anonymous myth anyway?

However, I'm curious about the overall stand that anonymous bloggers with to remain anonymous for reasons that are generally nefarious, unprofessional, or merely unwholesome. Or for reasons that make them untrustworthy news sources. In short, the good doctor believes that anonymity is bad - because if you want to hide, you must be doing something wrong. The good and righteous have nothing to fear.

Dear Dr Huang: I am a (mostly) anonymous blogger. But I'm choosing to remain anonymous because I like my privacy. I'm choosing to remain anonymous for now because I don't want my offline professional life to be confused with this blog. I'm choosing to remain a relative unknown because my offline persona has nothing to do with the topics I'm writing about. If it did, I'd mention it.

But mostly, I'm anonymous because I think Mezzo is so much cooler than my real name.

Lastly, many blogs are essentially people talking to each other, holding online discussions. Yes, I suppose that makes it rather like the kopitiam talk that you disparage. However, the good doctor may or may not be surprised to learn that academics refer to conferences held by venerable (?) institutes such as IPS or IDSS as coffee sessions too. They know that discussions are discussions, and you shouldn't judge the value of the opinions exchanged based on the location.

It's about people talking. It doesn't matter if it's over kopi, or held in a posh hotel conference room. It's about people trading and sharing ideas and sorting things out, and that's always worth listening too.


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