Dan Chmielewski of The Liberal OC aired what sounded like a very personal grudge against anonymous bloggers and commenters at the NUFF Forum featuring five well known political bloggers. He said that those who didn’t sign their name “lacked testicular fortitude.”
The Constitution guarantees free speech, and those who wish to do so anonymously aren’t exempt from this. To say they lack testicular fortitude is jumping to conclusions. Art Pedroza pointed out that Benjamin Franklin had -at various points prior to the American Revolution, written several opinions anonymously. Did this make his points less valuable? No, it didn’t.
Now, does it irritate Dan Chmielewski that he doesn’t know the identity of many of FFFF’s bloggers and commenters? Yes, it probably does. However, deciding that someone’s opinion is invalid or that they personally lack “testicular fortitude” because they haven’t attached their name signals his unwillingness to separate annoying from invalid.
When it was pointed out that many people didn’t want to suffer the possibility of retribution, this was similarly dismissed by Dan. “We don’t live in that kind of society anymore,” he proclaimed, ignoring his own brand of self righteous vitriol.
Again, Dan was incorrect. The vitriol you see on the boards is often played out in real life. Last November, Sean C. gave a 2-star review for Ocean Books in San Fransisco. The owner contacted him via the Yelp messaging system and attacked him, culminating in her threat: “Goodbye pussy boy and I will be contacting your employers.”
After having the debacle exposed on the Yelp bulletin boards, the owner of the bookstore figured out his last name, tracked him down using the internet, went to his house and attacked him. She was booked on charges of assault and battery.
The autumn of 2009 also brought forth another incident, now very well known involving Army Sgt. C.J. Grisham, of the popular military blog A Soldier’s Perspective. Grisham, using his own name and on his own private blog, wrote about his experience at a PTA meeting. Despite his requests, Robert’s Rules of Order were ignored by the principal and the PTA president so that a very costly measure demanding school uniforms was railroaded through. His exposure of the events of the evening, along with a video resulted in the Principal of the school contacting the U.S. Army. Here’s where it gets really ugly. C.J. wrote poignantly of his struggle with PTSD on his blog. After culling through his hundreds of posts, she then used this knowledge to paint a very different picture of his demeanor that evening during one of her many calls to his commanding officers. The whole thing unravels as the principal decides to further her reach and begin a series of humiliating dressing downs of his children, students at her school.
The upshot is that the Army decided to kowtow to the Principal, wishing to curtail the controversy. However, C.J. was made to feel that it would be best to shut down his blog. This soldier, who has been decorated with a Bronze Star with a “V” device also had a divot place in his otherwise pristine record. The Grishams have had huge support from the military community, and are now suing the school district. A Soldier’s Perspective blog was bought by a coalition.
Those are but two examples of not only personal attacks and harassment, but one that involved someone contacting the blogger’s place of employment. Dan of The Liberal OC was dead wrong in his assessment. As blogging, and microblogging replaces traditional journalism, the boundaries are constantly being tested. One look through the Media Bloggers Association website will show you the treacherous and now litigious waters are where bloggers swim.