Brian Edwards Media

The Anonymity Pandemic

For around 45 years I’ve been broadcasting and writing in New Zealand. My occasionally forcefully expressed liberal/left opinions have over that time attracted both agreement and disagreement, approval and condemnation, sometimes deserved, sometimes not.

Rob Muldoon used to refer to himself as ‘a counterpuncher’, adding that he always hit his opponent back harder than his opponent had hit him. I like both the term and the approach and readers of this blog will know that my responses to critical comments can range from reasonable disagreement to dismissive rejection to outright cruelty. I generally regret the outright cruelty and have been known to apologise for it when taken to task.

But, whatever my faults, I have at least always put my name to my opinions. In those 45 years I have never said or written anything anonymously or hidden behind an alias or nom de plume.

There are of course occasions in which anonymity is prudent and justifiable. But the commonest reason for not putting one’s name to one’s opinions is not having the courage of one’s convictions – cowardice. And nowhere is this more evident than in comments on blog posts where opinions are rarely expressed under the writer’s own name.   

Such anonymity is still generally unacceptable in letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines. When a correspondent’s name is ‘withheld by request’ it is normally because publication of the name could cause distress or harm to the writer, their associates or family.

Talk-back radio opened the floodgates of anonymous comment. Vetting of callers is nigh on impossible and token at best. The ‘seven second delay’,  intended to prevent the broadcast of obscene language or defamatory statements, is beyond useless. The boundaries of what is acceptable on radio talkback range from the anodyne to the intemperate to the inflammatory to the vile, the most rabid being temptingly good for ratings.  And none of these callers, whom we and the programme hosts know only by what may or may not be their real first names, are or can be held accountable for what they say.

Could anything be worse? Well, radio does not have the permanence of print. And the print equivalent of talkback is the blog and the readers’ comments which follow it. In theory the blogger can ‘moderate’ those comments and decline to publish anything untrue, offensive, gross or defamatory. But with the more successful blogs attracting many hundreds of comments every day, it’s unlikely that much careful reading, let alone judgement of their contents is involved. On the contrary, the writers of these blogs appear to regard the unrestricted freedom of their anonymous correspondents to say what they want, in whatever way they want, as a healthy expression of democracy. But it is, in my submission, a democracy of the gutless whose commonest weapon is abuse hurled from behind the ramparts of their anonymity.

Could anything be worse? Well yes. More contemptible by far than the anonymous correspondent is the anonymous blogger, particularly in a democracy like New Zealand where freedom of speech is limited only by the laws of defamation.  Such lack of spine contrasts starkly with the courage of those anonymous bloggers and pamphleteers who are the advocates of freedom and democracy in totalitarian societies.

Can I put my money where my mouth is? Well, perhaps not entirely.

If you want to have a comment published on this site, you have to supply an email address. As host of the blog, this gives me at least some idea of who you are. I can, for example, write directly to you. In that sense, no-one who offers a comment on this site is entirely anonymous.

But most correspondents write under an alias or nom de plume. Though the more regular become familiar and in a sense ‘recognisable’, the fact remains that you, the reader of this blog, have no idea who they are.

A few brave souls write under their real names. Those who don’t will no doubt object to being accused of not having the courage of their convictions, let alone of cowardice. They will think the accusation unfair, arguing perhaps that they merely wish to protect their privacy and are entitled to do so.

They can rest easy. I don’t intend to change the rules. But I would be interested to know how each person who comments on this site without stating unambiguously who they are, justifies that position. Feel free.

, , , ,

112 Comments:

  1. Thank you. Now can you get the Odt to change their online blog policy???

  2. because newspapers editors are control freaks perhaps? I’ve been producing talkback for 23 years – I have a dump button for callers who make accusations of a dubious nature. We’ve never been sued for a comment made by a caller. I doubt ZB has either. I know you despise talkback Brian – but it’s a legitimate forum for people’s opinion, and no, not every talkback caller is a moron.

    BE: I’m delighted you’re so fast on the dump button, Jeremy, and in my brief association with Radio Live, I always felt confident when you were on the phones. But the lack of defamation actions probably reflects the realism of the offended parties as to their chances of getting any cash from the anonymous caller. Defamation actions are notorioulsy expensive and their outcomes highly uncertain.

    And you’re wrong, I don’t despise talkback. I ran a highly successful talkback show on Wellington’s Radio Windy for two years in the 70s, with a children’s talkback programme on Sundays. When I first came to Auckland I had a miserable 6 months as a talkback host on Radio Pacific. I’m inclined to think that the host sets the tone of the show.

    My point really isn’t that talkback is crap, but that its callers are almost 100% anonymous. This encourages the sorts of behaviours I’ve outlined in the post.

    I note too that you are one of that brave band who comment under their real name. Good enough for you, why not good enough for the rest?

  3. Some people can happily express any opinions they want in the knowledge that a future / present employer can’t use Google to find out their opinions and attitudes.

    Others of us aren’t so lucky.

    Logically, voting shouldn’t be anonymous either. Maybe people should vote in public and a register be made available to search?

    BE: I think the voting analogy is false. All sorts of abuse could and probably would arise if how we voted were a matter of public record.

  4. I agree with most of the general arguments that non-anonymous, non-pseudonymous discourse tends to be better, but some folks have good reasons to remain behind the curtain. Getting paid for your opinions, or working/living in circumstances that allow the expression of such opinions without fear of reprisals — political, economic, personal or otherwise — is a nice gig if you can get it. Not everyone can: http://ideologicallyimpure.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/pseudonymity/

    L

    (@LewStoddart on twitter, where I am fortunate enough to mostly emulate the Honey Badger.)

  5. I write under my real name here and on other blogs because I don’t personally like anonymity and think it’s used rather too freely on the net.

    I noticed that in not having a nom de plume to shelter behind pushes me to maintain as much kindness as I can muster and if not, be prepared to take on robust feedback. All good character building stuff.

    It does limit what I can say at times due to my work where I have a little public visibility. But I don’t think I have lost anything int the process.

  6. Little surprise that I am pretty much on your side on this one, Brian. I recall many years ago when the Christchurch Press moved to insist on real names for most letters to the editor. The quality immediately improved immensely.

    However, there are those who use pseudonyms on blogs who also contribute usefully. Certainly there are some topics on which I cannot comment, sometimes because I would surely identify someone else and intrude on their privacy if I did.

    On a personal level I don’t really have a problem with the obnoxious anonymous commenters. It is not hard to put them in their appropriately ridiculed place.

  7. freedom of speech is limited only by the laws of defamation

    No, I have to disagree most strenuously with that. Legally that is the case, but outside the frame of written law, all sorts of means to suppress free speech are used that aren’t as obvious as official censorship and knocks at the door at 2AM. For example, employers will often look at employees facebook pages, or use their online activity in employment reviews, and much of the workforce are on limited contracts, fearful of putting a foot wrong in case their contract is simply not renewed. It’s unethical, it “shouldn’t” happen, but it does, routinely and a lot of bloggers know that.

    The forces brought to bear by corporations and lobbyists on individuals who speak out can be quite considerable indeed.

    This may not be the Soviet Union, but to suggest that any society that is not obviously totalitarian is therefore completely free is rather simplistic and idealistic in my view.

    Well, radio does not have the permanence of print.

    I have to disagree with that too, and my disagreement is a corollary of my first point. The Internet won’t be around forever, and paper, well looked-after can be preserved for a long time, but nonetheless an mp3 or other file can circulate practically endlessly and be brought – embarrassingly – to the surface at just the wrong time.

    Taking a broader sociological scope, a lot of younger people (well, younger than me – and some older too) cultivate multiple personas in different media and don’t see it quite the strict terms you state here. Of course many actors and writers have done so. Also to many people, blogging is indeed not journalism, but a kind of performance, right alongside their participation in World of Warcraft.

    BE: Can’t really follow this. You have to be an idiot to write stuff under your own name on Facebook or Twitter that is going to give your employer grounds to sack you or discriminate against you. And I’m really not sure how you can disagree that radio does not have the permanence of print. As for the Internet, it’s definitely here to stay. More importantly, your examples are about people acting outside the law. But the law also provides their victims with potential remedies, under the Employment Relations Act for example. And, by the way, where did I say in my post that “any society that is not obviously totalitarian is therefore completely free”? Answer: nowhere. Finally, is it really your position that fear of discrimination or losing their jobs is the reason why thousands of people prefer to comment anonymously on blogs? That strikes me as absurd. But I congratulate you on writing under your own name.

  8. ps – aren’t The Herald Editorials anon?

    BE. A good point. In theory the editorial expresses the view of the newspaper rather than of any individual person. Most people seem to accept that. The Listener’s editorials once had the writer’s byline. That no longer happens. In recent years the magazine has gone through left wing and right wing periods. I’ve always thought it would be handy to know just who was writing their editorials.

  9. I started on blogs using a pseudonym or first name only but decided to front up about who I was. It has attracted more personal abuse (and a lot of it at times) than those with pseudonyms get, because it gives attackers more specific ammunition, and for some greater it gives greater cause or excuse to abuse.

    But I don’t regret making my identity, connections and motives clear. There’s some quiet pride in having the guts to do it on some fairly knarly and at times vicious forums.

    I understand some reasoning behind using pseudonyms I respect the opinions – and the person as I’ve got to know some – of many of those not using their own name.

    There are some cowards who hide their identities to add their attempts at bullying and discrediting, but they are a minority.

    And there is a small number who are worse, those dishonest users of pseudonyms. Those (individuals and blogs) who jointly use an apparent pseudonym as a cover for dirty or devious methods. And those who use multiple pseudonyms to have an acceptable indentity plus a dirty work identity.

    I think honesty is the key – it’s obviously easier to be seen as up front if using your own name. Many with pseudonyms do use them honorably, but those abusing them in deceit and deviousness mean you have to be much more cautious giving any credibility to a pseudonym.

  10. Alan: “However, there are those who use pseudonyms on blogs who also contribute usefully.”

    I agree, there are a lot of very good blog contributions from people using pseudonyms. For example there can be very informative law discussions on Kiwiblog.

    And overall opinions from blogs shouldn’t be simply discounted as unimportant because many are made anonymously. If you learn to read blogs and build an understanding of the many reasonable people who are anonymous you can get very good feedback and a very good idea of general feelings.

    David Shearer said yesterday “Ah yes, but at the end of the day, the bloggers are not the voters. In fact they’re a long, long way away from the voters, to be perfectly frank.”

    To be perfectly frank, that’s ignorance or denial. 95%+ of blog commenters are genuine votes, most of which are far more politically aware and astute than the average voters.

  11. I personally use multiple anonymous handles (different ones on different forums – I don’t use this one when I am, say, wtalking about some technical aspect of my hobby on a dedicated hobby forum and I have another one for music/entetainment sites) because the internet isn’t like the old media. Whatever you write is there, forever visible. No need to wade through musty back issues of obscure publications on micro film, no need to research or try and recall half-remembered quotes from long ago. Your electronic life is visible in a tweaked google search to anyone, anywhere, in an instant. Running for political office? Wore a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party twelve years ago and had Norrie Montgomery photograph you? Then you are in trouble. make a stupid post about doing lots of pills in Ibizia back in 2002 and you’ve just criticized Paula Bennett cutting your benefit? How long until Cameron Slater plasters that all over the internet and David Farrar launders into the “respectable” old media? Unless of course you used a different internet handle back then. Cyber_Geeek99 wearing a Nazi uniform at a fancy dress party isn’t going to show up in the search engine when some tawdry hack from the SST Googles your real name; Party_Fantastic_2003 enthusing on the effects of MDMA isn’t going to show up when a prick like Slater searches for a name. And of course, a handle won’t show up when a recruitment agent/HR manager Googles your name to check your political suitability.

    You can no longer “hide” and protect your privacy in the sense of not being noticed in the information age. Database sharing, Google, the internet never allows you to forget a stupid comment or act performed under your real name.

    Hiding in the information noise, reinventing your online identity regularly, is how the prudent man protects his privacy in the electronic age.

    BE: Very interesting and thoughtful comment, Sanctuary, albeit anonymous.

  12. No name. No fame.

  13. I don’t see what the big deal is. Some of the best comments come from anonymous contributers. The quality of comments is what matters, not the name of the writer.

    Banksy is famous for a lot of things. Does the quality of his work suffer because of his anonymity? I wouldn’t have thought so.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksy

  14. Sanctuary: “…the internet isn’t like the old media. Whatever you write is there, forever visible.”

    I’m aware of that and write online knowing that it can be searched and remembered, and I stand by what I say – but I don’t act any different to speaking in public where what I say can be remembered, reported and sometimes searched.

    My online persona is the genuine me, warts an all, and I’d prefer it that way. I don’t use a mask in any other part of my life.

    In one way it’s much easier, you can say what you think without worrying about revealing something that might identify you.

  15. You are melding many different issues into one proposed solution to rule them all.

    As you point out – there are many instances where anonymity is prudent and justifiable.

    Your desire to rule them all will eliminate all freedom of expression in these instances.

    BE: Can you see a degree of illogicality in your comment? I want to “rule them all” but “point out that there are many instances where anonymity is prudent and justifiable.”

  16. At the NetHui in Dunedin on Saturday there was a session on net anonymity, with arguments for and against, much as there is here.

    One interesting point that hopefully will never apply in New Zealand – what if a totalitarian government took power that decided to take action against anyone deemed a political dissident? It happens now overseas, not just through online history but also things like phone records.

  17. @jeremy parkinson, the Herald’s anonymous editorials are no advertisement for quality. They are all too frequently utter nonsense obviously written by people who have no knowledge of their subject.

  18. I made a similar argument earlier in November;

    “There are good reasons why I blog under my own name here. Partly because it will temper me when I want to say outrageously stupid things, but also because I believe in owning what I say, saying what I mean, and either defending it, or admitting I was wrong (and it does happen every so often)”.
    (http://www.recessmonkey.org.nz/2012/11/02/snashsmog/)

    However, the reason I made that comment was because an anonymous blogger was personally attacking another person in the public eye.

    I can understand why some people blog under a pseudonym, the problem is, it all too soon tends to become personal and vindictive (because sub-consciously they realise that there is no redress for their victims).

    Banksy never gets personal so your analogy is somewhat flawed.

  19. I’ve never used my real name online and except when its work related – as my online persona doesn’t differ much from my real world one, except in the real world I virtually never admit to playing computer games – its a internet thing and a habit I won’t be changing because someone chooses to drag up this old argument of hiding behind ones name, if I used my real one it’d make no difference, for in the grand scheme I am no one of consequence

    My online name is an extension of me, its who I game as, who I comment as, who I blog as, facebook as, tweet as…. it is me… just not with my proper given name

    if you don’t get that, you don’t get the internet

  20. I’ve always seen the fact that I am able to associate my name to my writings on the internet as a privilege, not as a sign of courage. Nothing you have written today has made me change my mind on that.

  21. Hear, hear Alan Wilkinson – and I would also say the same about some of the Herald’s feature writers as well.

  22. If a person writes under a pseudonym, what does it matter, so long the argument is presented in a clear, factual and non-abusive manner. Some individuals do reply with unnecessary venom simply because they fail to see the other person’s point of view. If a person cannot state his case in a evidential way, relying on belittling and abuse, then that person has lost the argument and respect of fellow readers.

    BE: “If a person writes under a pseudonym, what does it matter, so long the argument is presented in a clear, factual and non-abusive manner.” Because those two elements are less likely to go together.

  23. @BE (again)

    You praise anonymous bloggers and commenters in totalitarian societies. At the same time you are calling for an end to online anonymity. How can these two positions possibly be consistent?

    You claim that freedom of speech in NZ is limited only by the law of defamation. Many commentators have pointed out that satire is not protected and have expressed concern at the potential power of corporations to shield themselves from satire.

    There have been many times in NZ history where freedom of speech has been limited by additional laws to suit the government of the day.

    BE: Cripes! I would have though it obvious that I was not proposing that regime critics in totalitarian societies should risk their freedom or lives by putting their names on their publications. As for cartoonists, they have considerably more freedom to ridicule than those expressing their views in print. However, if the cartoonist suggests that X is a paedophile and this isn’t true, he can be sued just as readily as anyone else. As he should be.

  24. The NZ Herald publishes many letters with factual errors or opinions based on factual errors or faulty reasoning. Not allowing anonymous letters, discourages the risk averse sane people from writing letters which may upset rich and powerful employers. This has lead to a publication bias towards letters from ill-informed right-wing reactionaries.

    You say that New Zealand has free speech (with the exception of defamation), and that most people should have no fear of expressing their opinions openly. This is very naïve. You seem to be forgetting the so called terror raids of 2007, which involved the illegal surveillance and persecution of various leftists (and eventually some convictions based on a law which was about proof of innocence (as opposed to proof of guilt)). Also, due to financial insecurity and the imbalance of power, employers (or potential employers) have the power to discriminate against workers for their beliefs (they aren’t allowed to do this, but there isn’t much preventing them from getting away with it). There cannot be true free speech without social justice.

    Your comparison between talkback and newspapers is flawed. The two mediums are different, and tend to attract different types of people. For starters, those who write letters to newspapers need to be able to read and write. I doubt allowing anonymous letters would result in the letters to the herald dropping to 1ZB levels of quality. It would probably improve the quality, and provide a set of opinions which better reflect the views of the people.

    BE: ” Not allowing anonymous letters, discourages the risk averse sane people from writing letters which may upset rich and powerful employers. This has lead to a publication bias towards letters from ill-informed right-wing reactionaries.” Good grief! Are we living in different countries? I’ve been saying what I thought for 45 years, much of it highly critical of the establishment, and I’m still waiting to be sacked or carted off to prison. And what on earth have the terror raids of 2007 got to do with whether it would be preferable if talkback calls and comments on blogs weren’t anonymous? Forthrightness in a society like New Zealand is actually a protection against abuse of freedom.

  25. I can say pretty much what I like using my own name because (i) I have a terminal illness and will be retiring soon, and (ii) my retirement income will not depend on the New Zealand government. However, apart from a few offhand and sometimes clumsy attempts at humour, I’m fairly careful as far as remaining respectful and sticking close to facts go. If I were at the beginning of my career, I might be more careful and might even use a pseudonym. I’m not sure. I suppose to the extent that I do judge commentators, I’ll judge them on their commentary, not on the name they choose to stick to it.

  26. 26

    Is the name that I entered above my real name? Does it matter? Surely what should matter is the interaction that occurs between people.

    This isn’t a dinner party, it’s a very, very public place in a very, very small country. Not everyone has the same privilege that you might have and I think you may have overlooked this(?). This is not always a safe space. And even if someone is using a pseudonym it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have as much value as a real name. Nobody wants to spend years building up relationships only to throw it away by a deliberate display of obnoxious behaviour.

    There are trolls on the internet, just like there are people with personality disorders in real life. I think it’s better to deal with things on a case-by-case basis rather than making broad stroke statements and labeling people as brave or cowardly.

    BE: “Is the name that I entered above my real name? Does it matter? Surely what should matter is the interaction that occurs between people.” The problem with this line of thinking, which is turning up in a lot of these comments, is that it is based on the notion that there is no connection between the worth, quality, honesty reliability or tone of a call, letter or comment whether that comment comes from a named or anonymous contributor. My position is that there often is and that anonymity permits or encourages people to be less considered, less reasonable, less restrained and more aggressive, more intolerant and more abusive than when they put their names to what they have written or said.

  27. Brian, thank you for a detailled reply. I would like to address a few points.

    BE: Can’t really follow this. You have to be an idiot to write stuff under your own name on Facebook or Twitter that is going to give your employer grounds to sack you or discriminate against you… But the law also provides their victims with potential remedies, under the Employment Relations Act for example

    You’re assuming that all employers are reasonable (and that there is a minimum bar of intelligence and sobriety that determines one’s rights).

    You do of course know the joke about youthful indiscretion with a farm animal.

    In any case, I’ve had a different experience. Redress through proper legal means can be very arduous and expensive and people can be intimidated easily. In similar cases, I knew someone who was a debt collector who used to… ah, “streamline” the legalities of their work. They knew that sometimes people would know their rights and use them, but nine times out of ten they wouldn’t.

    In a dispute with an employer, I won because I knew my rights and kept notes, but they did everything they could in an attempt to intimidate me and make me think that it might not be worth it. Eventually we settled out of court (to my advantage). It was an incredibly arduous process and left me very ill for an extended period. Again, I think that you’re being idealistic.

    And I’m really not sure how you can disagree that radio does not have the permanence of print.

    I mean that things said on radio can hang around much longer than you might think. Whether we’re talking about a working lifetime for an audio file versus millennia for paper or papyrus is not really relevant.

    And, by the way, where did I say in my post that “any society that is not obviously totalitarian is therefore completely free”?

    You did not, but your argument was constructed to suggest that, inadvertently perhaps by setting up a binary opposition of your view of NZ with a totalitarian society. To say outright that freedom of speech is limited only by the laws of defamation is technically true, but in practice it is definitely not completely free at all. There can be non-disclosure agreements, calculatedly vague clauses about not bringing an employer into disrepute, and as I have mentioned, a vast range of bullying tactics.

    Finally, is it really your position that fear of discrimination or losing their jobs is the reason why thousands of people prefer to comment anonymously on blogs? That strikes me as absurd.

    It is a reason. I mentioned others. Believe it or not, a lot of people are fearful of losing their jobs or suffering discrimination for what they say. That may strike you as as absurd, because you have not been in such a position, but I’m afraid that that is actually the case for a lot of people.

  28. 28

    those slighted or defamed by anonymous talkback callers can always take proceedings against the broadcaster. Again, that’s never happened in my experience.

    BE: Now Jeremy, are you really telling me that there have never been any complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about things said by callers to Radio Live or other talkback stations? That really is astonishing.

  29. 29

    But Brian, this ISN’T my real name, I just made it up now. Just because it looks like the real deal doesn’t mean that it is. Unless you’ve actually met and know the person in real life there is no way of knowing whether the person you are engaging with is the genuine article or not, and yet you’ve been quick to label them as brave. Which is why your response should be based on the substance of the communication and not what the communication is labelled with.

    I used to post under a name that identified me as female and then had to wade through the misogynistic slurs and comments that followed. Not only are you male but your public profile, which I’m sure opens you up to unfortunate trolling, also affords you a level of protection that us plebs don’t necessarily have. You can wield words as weapons, not everyone has that same skill-set.

    My name gives people access to find out where my workplace is and where I live, and I don’t want that information sitting there where it could be picked up and used by any internet stranger that strolls along. You might call it cowardice that some people want a divide between their public and private personas, but sometimes it’s just being sensible.

    BE: This is just game-playing now Trevor or whoever you are and I really can’t be bothered. In general there’s a reasonably clear distinction between an alias and a real name. By your own admission you use what looks like a real name when in fact it’s an alias, a sort of double deception. I am duly warned. I assume you’ve checked that there is no real Trevor Kingswood on the Net who might not appreciate his name being attached to your opinions.

  30. BE: “I’ve been saying what I thought for 45 years, much of it highly critical of the establishment, and I’m still waiting to be sacked or carted off to prison.”

    Many of those years you were protected knowingly or not by a strong public service culture developed over many years and a union providing the muscle to back it up, and a whole different attitude towards the demands of advertisers.

    BE: That’s news to me. For the vast majority of my working life I have been a private contractor, with no protection from a union or any other body.

  31. TK: “I used to post under a name that identified me as female and then had to wade through the misogynistic slurs and comments that followed. ”

    I know that some females use neutral or male names and don’t reveal they are female to avoid attracting gender relatd abuse. Sad, but a fact of online life.

  32. Oh, hold on running, running. Centre, shuffle, shuffle. Hand up, here I am:

    Mark Hubbard

    I used to post under handle called Tribeless years ago, but it’s so much more liberating going with your name. And if you believe what you preach, so you should. (Don’t make it here a lot, we have little in common philosophically or politically, but 100% pure agreement with this post).

  33. It really is a case of a clash of two cultures. Net vs local news.

    The net has always valued pseudonyms and handles. In fact it is encapsulated in some of the RFC’s for instance http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1855.txt

    The reasons are pretty obvious to anyone who has seen people trying to assume someone else’s ‘identity’ as has happened many times around the net over the decades. Or had Whaleoil attempting to attack an employer as he did to me back in 2008. Not to mention making it quite clear that he’d happily run a campaign to try to destroy the employment prospects of anyone he dislikes, violate court judgements, or do whatever he likes. And he is merely local. Now multiply that by millions worldwide who want to denigrate, fleece, swindle, and whatever else comes to mind.

    Who can be bothered with that kind of craziness when you just want to argue about politics. There are too many nutters and too little possible law when the networks spread internationally and the law is not.

    To me what you are describing is the viewpoint of the parochial news media in a single country with a unified legal system. It doesn’t work as a viable strategy on the net where someone could fire up a web server in Estonia targeted at a NZ audience. When you can show a international legal regime to cover it then perhaps it might be time to rethink. But at best we are decades away from that and in all likelihood it will be too damn slow anyway.

    People on the net long ago realised that the best protection from whatever comes up in future decades was to use handles to disconnect their net presence from real life. They also minimize their real life footprints on the net to make it harder for identity hijackers.

    And it isn’t that hard to moderate large numbers of comments in online forums if required. Just have some fast readers as moderators, a basic standard, and a very harsh system of justice.

    At The Standard, we’re regularly striking towards 600 comments per day, often quite long comments. Online forums mostly prosper with actual people visiting them and commenting if they are moderated for content. Our basic standard at The Standard is the actual defamation laws in NZ (and there are a awful lot of people with their own strange ideas on what they should be), and we’re rather harsh on enforcing it.

    But it is a bit tiresome scanning comments in the little spare time that the moderators have. But it gets done. The trick is not to waste our time on people who won’t follow our rules, but boot them from the site if they prove to be incapable of learning. They can always find someone else to bother (or even start up their own site) and we get more time to deal with those don’t waste our time. Similarly we actively discourage people from leaving defamatory comments because if they leave one, then they’re likely to never be able to leave a comment again.

    That is why in 5 years we have had a few exploratory legal threats from people upset with what has been said and no actual legal action.

    Strong moderation works. Trying to remove “anonymity” will merely escalate the problem because it just so easy to bypass. Anyone want a few hundred one time use e-mail addresses?

  34. ‘Ross’

    “I don’t see what the big deal is. Some of the best comments come from anonymous contributers. The quality of comments is what matters, not the name of the writer”.

    I am in agreement. I don’t know why it is, but those commentators who use their real names, the postings are more likely to be dull; the sort of people who make it hard for you to extricate yourself away from, at functions etc. I don’t know why it is, but it’s true.
    Also, those who go by their first-names, only — can they be considered “Anonymous”?

    BE: How tiresome for you to have to deal with dull comments!

  35. Also, those who go by their first-names, only — can they be considered “Anonymous”?

    Or who use their first login from 1978?
    lprent == Lynn Prentice

    Incidentally I do rather find this particular debate rather tiresome. It regularly arises every few years for all of the decades I’ve been on the net and its precursors.

    The trick to it’s non-solution is to look at how you can enforce getting someone to give a real name (and the question of how this is different from a false name). It always eventually comes back to having an internationally accepted universal ID. Can’t see that happening any time soon.

    BE: I really must apologise for introducing such a tiresome debate, Lynn. Sadly, many important issues are quite “tiresome”. Indeed much of what is discussed in pariament is pretty “tiresome”. So much of public debate is a drag. But maybe we need more enlightened criteria for discussing issues than whether people find them “tiresome”.

  36. I have been know as frank_db all my internet life, and still no one knows who I am.
    Oh dear, back in my hobbit hole.

    p.s. Brian, eye fillet $20kg westmere

  37. BE: “I’ve been saying what I thought for 45 years, much of it highly critical of the establishment, and I’m still waiting to be sacked or carted off to prison.”

    Many of those years you were protected knowingly or not by a strong public service culture developed over many years and a union providing the muscle to back it up, and a whole different attitude towards the demands of advertisers.

    BE: That’s news to me. For the vast majority of my working life I have been a private contractor, with no protection from a union or any other body.

    Knowingly or not – you were the beneficiary of a strong public service culture and for much of that time working in an environment and industry with majority union membership even if you did not directly contribute.

    BE: Nonsense. The public service resented contractors like myself, Ian Fraser and others. That was made clear by the accounts department at Avalon who made a practice of never having our cheques ready when we came to collect them once a month.

  38. “Banksy never gets personal so your analogy is somewhat flawed.”

    I didn’t mention that anyone was getting personal. I was mentioning the quality of Banksy’s work. Why doesn’t he reveal his true identity? Surely, that is for him to decide, not me or anyone else.

    “anonymity permits or encourages people to be less considered, less reasonable, less restrained and more aggressive, more intolerant and more abusive than when they put their names to what they have written or said.”

    If you don’t like the sound of ads on tv, you can mute them. Nevertheless, there are still people who complain about the sound of ads! I don’t think these people have heard of remote controls.

    If you don’t like the idea of anonymity, you are free to do something about it. Complaining about it doesn’t seem terribly constructive.

    BE:”If you don’t like the idea of anonymity, you are free to do something about it. Complaining about it doesn’t seem terribly constructive.” Does that sentence really mean anything, Ross? I thought I’d written a quite considered piece on the issue of anonymity, which I would have thought was reasonably ‘constructive’. What other approach would you suggest? Perhaps I should stop takng the time to read and respond to comments on this site, a rare practice on blogs. Just at the moment it doesn’t seem to be worth the bloody trouble.

  39. In view of the challenge I shall tear off my whiskers and henceforth reveal my identity. Fortunately there are plenty of Ben Thomases in NZ so the chances of a poison pen letter or an assassin’s bullet hitting the mark are slight.

    Perhaps it is time for all blogs to require the writer to identify him or herself.

  40. “One interesting point that hopefully will never apply in New Zealand – what if a totalitarian government took power that decided to take action against anyone deemed a political dissident?”

    Pete G, it’s already happened – this government released the identities of two people who opposed it.

  41. Sounds great Lynn, except you’re leaving out some basic facts. The second paragraph of your Rules states:
    “What we’re not prepared to accept are pointless personal attacks, or tone or language that has the effect of excluding others. We are intolerant of people starting or continuing flamewars where there is little discussion or debate. This includes making assertions that you are unable to substantiate with some proof (and that doesn’t mean endless links to unsubstantial authorities) or even argue when requested to do so).”

    The Standard moderation allows all of those things, frequently and repeatedly.

    The use of pseudonyms is not the problem, it’s the misuse of them, and that’s something you allow and actively support at The Standard. And worse, you allow some pseudonyms virtually a free license to harrass and abuse others at will, yet hover a ban over others to coerce your so called behaviour modification.

    If you actually insisted on a standard of behaviour that your rules stipulate and you claim to enforce then The Standard may become much better respected and all these discussions on pseudonyms and anonymity would probably never come up.

  42. I’ve always blogged or commented under my Real Life name and most recently an obvious pseudonym that is virtually the same as my name. I too find it liberating, in an, “I’m too old to get my bottom spanked”, kind of way.
    That inherent fear of parental disapproval and fear of social ostracism inhibits many from using their name.
    If someone has a consistently used pseudonym; that is their online identity that is a valid view. Who’s to say it is less real or even linked with their Real Life self.
    Anonymous online abuse which is sometimes hard to differentiate from strong opinion in the day to day discourse is cowardly. If you want to call someone nasty names, ’tis more noble to use your Real Life handle.

  43. Proof that it’s not the anonymity at The Standard that’s the problem, it’s the attitude. This comments has just been posted there, in response to someone saying “the comments section is the wild west”:

    “Around here they usually are. I’m usually the one doing it….

    “But that is partially my role. I drive off the complete idiots. I usually emulate the person I’m attacking, except far far more viscous, nasty , obnoxious, persistent or whatever….”

    It’s what is accepted and promoted on a blog that determines the levels of abuse.

    BTW, that was the chief blog ‘moderator’ lprent commenting, setting the standard. Don’t blame the pseudonyms.

  44. In the old days with only signed letters to the editor a lot of people used to ask me to write things for them. I never did and always tried to get them to write their own letters but they never did. Now they can be anonymous I don’t get those requests any more. My guess is most people are too timid to say anything controversial in public.

  45. Hi Brian,

    Would you recommend people post using their real name if they are being stalked by an abusive ex? How about someone who has previously had their identity stolen? A celebrity who wishes to comment without their status hijacking the debate? Someone who’s commenting on something like sexual orientation that is considered evil by their family or church? Someone who wishes to expose wrongdoing in their workplace? Or would you suggest that all of these people should just shut up and not be allowed to be part of any online conversation?

    You are a successful straight white male. You are playing Life on the easiest setting. Others are not so fortunate. There are plenty of very good reasons for anonymity.

    BE: You know, what really pisses me off about this sort of comment is that you clearly haven’t taken the time to carefully read the post. All the situations which you suggest are covered by my proviso that anonmyity is acceptable where publication of the person’s name could cause distress or harm to them, their associates or family.

  46. Ah PG. Another unsatisfied person permanently banned from The Standard.

    There is a reason for moderators to be nasty and the policy never said anything about their behaviour – did it? In fact if you read the policy closely it really implies that moderators are nasty people you should not annoy.

    But I guess that you didn’t actually understand that basic principle where it said that was our blog and trying to tell us what to do on it is not appreciated or wanted. You trying to do that covertly after being banned for doing it overtly was what you got permanently banned for. You have been whining about it ever since.

    But hey. Count your blessings. Your humiliation was done by a non-anonymous moderator. Tell me – did it make any different? And don’t think that your continuous carping on that subject did not add pleasure to banning you.

  47. lprent, I don’t know what you think I’m unsatisfied about. And where did you get the idea that I whine? I point things out, that’s quite different.

    You banned me because you wanted to, you were waiting for an excuse, and that one was quite a wimpy one. After I’d said something promoting David Shearer. Bad behaviour that, eh.

    Funny you think you have humiliated me. I know that is your aim, you talk about it enough, but I don’t feel that at all. It’s really quite amusing that you think your wielding of power is so devastating. I’m still ticking away beyond your Standard very well.

    It’s interesting that you demand stringent standards of behaviour and will deal with transgressions harshly but proudly state your own behaviour is nasty. Do as I say, not as I do sort of thing.

    Your hypocrisy is really quite amusing alongside your desperation to be seen as a serious political force (yeah, you deny that but it’s kinda obvious).

    Isn’t it interesting that a co-operative blog with a socialist slant is so authoritarian. Humiliate the comrades who won’t subject themselves to behaviour modification.

  48. Bullshit Edwards!

    The arguments/opinions matter, not the personalities.

    Names only matter to those who wish to draw attention to themselves.

    Any argument or opinion stands on its own logic, not who said it.

    Names matter to celebs or wannabe celebs.

    Genuine debate matters, not reputation.

    BE: “Bullshit, Edwards!” Well, I think your anonymous comment demonstrates my point very well, since it is characterised by rudeness and abuse and contains no argument of any sort. I think we can do without you, peterpaysan.

  49. I’m totally in support of the most-excellent doctor, on this topic. Have the cojones to use your real name or get off the bus.

  50. Public voting might lead to abuse? Bloody right! In fact until 1883 voting was a public act and any member of the public could read your vote in a ledger which recorded who you voted for. Abuse was rife, especially by employers who regularly sacked their workers who didn’t vote the same way they did. In one notorious case on a Canterbury sheep station the polling station was in the owner’s drawing room and the employer sat and listened to his employees stating their voting preferences. It was for this reason that the secret ballot was introduced

  51. Oh PG. I think you protest too much (and are incredibly easy to stir). But believe what you want about why you got the boot – no skin off my nose now that you’re off our site. And it is easy enough to pull up the comments in question.

    But I really have to say – do you ever look at yourself? You are so willing to ascribe your own aspirations to others.

    Have you seen any of us say we want to be a political force? Are our authors standing as candidates, becoming talking heads (sorry BE), or even sounding interested in being part of the reef fish?

    Well ok, Ben did stand for North Shore as the sacrificial Labour candidate. I did attend conference as media and I’ll be reluctantly attending the other ones as a ground-breaking exercise (if they don’t interfere with work too much).

    But really – your poorly attended sites have names like – YourDunedin and YourNZ. Nothing politically pretentious there eh? Nothing that explains the sole author representing, the lack of comments apart from mine and RL’s.

    Perhaps that is because of your obsessions. Like the near daily post or two about how awful The Standard, it’s commentators, and that lprent are. Nah.. can’t see any whining there eh!

    BTW: We tried being nice and open in 2007. Then we had a rushing tide of trolls from whaleoil and kiwiblog making the comment section unreadable. So then the others let me off the leash to try it my way. That way is far more lazy than an authoritarian. The moderators just pick the minimal effort path to get the desired results.

    Nasty for those guests who don’t heed the warnings to follow our rules on our site. No problem for those who can change their approach. And yes I do try to warn people that there is an ogre under the blog. It seems only fair to give trolls a minimal chance..

    But it is what has to be done when you have 300-600 comments per days to check for defamation and bad behaviour.

  52. Not sure, I agree, even though this is my real name.

    Part of feeling free to speak your mind is that we know that most of what we say will be forgotten forever, and even if it isn’t, only a few will remember it. That’s just to say that in most cases your words can’t and won’t be used against you. I call this “natural privacy”, and the Internet is obviously destroying it by making our comments virtually eternal and easily discoverable.

    Sure, being a blogger is sort of like being an op ed writer, but commenting on one or posting to a forum is more like pub talk or everyday conversation. Who would want to have a bull session at the pub if the whole thing was recorded and accessible to the entire world?

    I guess what I am saying is that people often use anonymity as a means of recapturing natural privacy in a medium that works against it. It’s not an optimal solution, but the alternative would prevent many normal forms of human conversation. The topics of this blog lend themselves to journalistic norms, but others do not. For example, what if this was a sex blog?

  53. Oh Lynn. I think you protest too much (and are incredibly easy to stir).

    “Perhaps that is because of your obsessions. Like the near daily post or two about how awful The Standard, it’s commentators, and that lprent are.”

    You don’t seem to understand the blogosphere outside your own domain very well. It’s normal to refer to people issues raised on other blogs and media sites. I do that (like many others), and yes, it includes both critical and complimentary references to comments at The Standard and other places (I’ve even complimented and agreed with you at times). There happens to have been many comment worth things at TS, especially over the past few weeks.

    Many other people blog like that too – like QOT at The Standard who has linked here having a grizzle about Brian’s post.

    And you sometimes moan about me at The Standard – knowing I can’t respond. As you ask me, do you ever look at yourself?

  54. In the parallel thread on this topic at The Standard Jenny made a common claim:

    “Edwards and others are upset by what people are saying on the blogs. not by who they are.”

    I can’t speak for Brian but I get the impression that most complaints are not about what is said, it is how things are said. There’s a valid question about people (usually hiding behind pseudonyms) who abuse and attack and harrass on blogs. As I’ve said before – it’s the misuse of pseudonyms that’s the real issue.

    Jenny goes on:

    “That is his right. The real message behind his plaint; Due to the democratising power of the internet, too many people are now having a say. The previous gatekeepers of political debate like himself can feel their power to shape public perceptions slipping away from them.”

    “As uncomfortable as it may be for media ‘personalities’ like Edwards,
    having to address the ideas raised in blogs like this one has become inescapable. If those ideas are being freely, democratically and intelligently raised and held by large amounts of people. They can no longer be ignored.”

    I don’t think the issue is about “those ideas are being freely, democratically and intelligently raised”.

    Brian addressed this in his post.

    BE: “On the contrary, the writers of these blogs appear to regard the unrestricted freedom of their anonymous correspondents to say what they want, in whatever way they want, as a healthy expression of democracy.”

    But…

    BE: “But it is, in my submission, a democracy of the gutless whose commonest weapon is abuse hurled from behind the ramparts of their anonymity.”

    Blogs provide a valuable freedom of expression (some more free than others). But all freedoms involve responsibilities. It’s lack of the latter that causes most concern.

    BE: Thanks for this, Pete. I don’t know who this Jenny in The Standard is, but her reasoning here is bizarre:

    “The real message behind his plaint; Due to the democratising power of the internet, too many people are now having a say. The previous gatekeepers of political debate like himself can feel their power to shape public perceptions slipping away from them.”

    “As uncomfortable as it may be for media ‘personalities’ like Edwards, having to address the ideas raised in blogs like this one has become inescapable. If those ideas are being freely, democratically and intelligently raised and held by large amounts of people. They can no longer be ignored.”

    So because of my fear of losing my power to shape public perceptions and my ‘discomfort’ at having to address the ideas raised in blogs, I have become a blogger myself. On my blog I put out ideas on all sorts of social and political topics and invite readers to comment on those topics. They can do so using pseudonyms to disguise their real identity. There is no censorship of what people write, other than for defamatory statements or unacceptable personal abuse. A large number of people read these posts and a large number comment. The words ‘freely, democratically and intelligently raised’ would seem to be an exact descripion of those comments. Moreover, I often reply to them, which is rare on other sites. So Jenny is talking rubbish, but more importantly, is indifferent to the truth.

  55. @peterlepayson, no, names matter so that we can recognize an idiot next time we meet him. They are the basis for building trust or distrust and acting accordingly.

  56. “…BE: “Bullshit, Edwards!” Well, I think your anonymous comment demonstrates my point very well…”

    I would like to come to peterlepaysan defence here.

    There is a famous piece of political invective from a political rally in the 1880′s in the USA that goes along the lines of “I ain’t gonna vote for you ‘cas I won’t never vote for an Irish son of a bitch…”

    And democracy in the west regularly featured riots until the 1950s (remember Colin Scrimgeour comment that he “could think of no better use for church property” than for church’s fence palings be used to smash shop windows?).

    The point I wish to make is political debate has for fifty years become increasingly anaemic; More and more of what was once considered acceptable rough and tumble of a robust democracy has been walled off – there are no more rude hecklers at public meetings, no more pelting of candidates with fruit, etc. This “polite-tisation” of public political debate is to my mind a particularly insidious form of middle class capture, an extension of the middle class faux pas of talking about God to the vicar at the church fete into the sphere of politics.

    The anonymity of the internet has removed the middle class straight jacket from political debate. The political debate of the last fifty-sixty years has been dominated by the values and social mores of the middle class that colonised the media that reported on it.

    “Bullshit, Edwards!” Well, Brian Edwards may not like the robustness of the profanity, but it is direct and not doubt honest. Commentary around matters of politics doesn’t come with a cast iron set of rules – not anymore, not now anyone can now again say what they think in the electronic equivalents of that anonymous 1880s United States heckler.

    The fact is, the polarisation and divisions in our society have always existed. For fifty years after WW2 the West papered them over, bathed in the prosperity of the long post war boom, bolstered by the capitalist classes fear of the USSR and the legitimisation of working class political participation earned by the full social mobilisation required to defeat the fascists. The anonymous internet poster did not invent our social and political divisions, or create new, lower standards. They’ve always existed, we just chose to censor them.

    JC: You’ve both been contributing to this site long enough to know that this breaches our standards of discourse. We tolerate a great deal more personal unpleasantness than we allow for outside contributors, but if our anonymous friend can’t find better ways to express himself on this site he is not welcome.

  57. The largest issue is employment and you will find that is why the majority choose anonymity.

    If you think it is a legitimate prerogative of any employer to pick and choose at hiring time based on political opinion and make similar choices during wage reviews or for training provision then you are providing employers with massive political influence.

    BE: I said in the blog that if someone commenting on a post had reason to fear that giving their real name could lead to them, their families or associates suffering distress or harm, then it was entirely resonable for them to use an alias. I’ve now repeated that half a dozen times in reply to comments citing examples of discrimination by employers, various authorities or the state. Has anything I’ve ever written led you to the view that I would ‘think it is a legitimate prerogative of any employer to pick and choose at hiring time based on political opinion and make similar choices during wage reviews or for training provision’?

  58. “The point I wish to make is political debate has for fifty years become increasingly anaemic… This “polite-tisation” of public political debate is to my mind a particularly insidious form of middle class capture…”

    The physical violence has abated, but the verbal violence is ok? Sanctuary, like many old school activists you are living in the past. Many people can’t be bothered with politics, can’t be bothered voting, because of poor political behaviour.

    At the InternetNZ NetHui in the weekend there was a discussion on internet behaviour and propsed legislation, and the point was raised about what respect could the net public have for behaviour rules imposed on it by the most visible bullies in the country.

    I’ve been discussing this with two MPs over the past few days (one Labour, one Green) with a view to looking at ways to improving parliamentary and political behaviour. Not surprisingly both are women, but a male MP has a member’s bill in the ballot that proposes a code of conduct (I’ve also been in contact with him).

    Surely in the 21st century our MPs and parties can conduct themselves responsibly and set a GOOD example.

    Contests of ideas and policies with robust debates are essential, but would be much more productive if the negativeness and destructiveness was minimised.

    And the same applies to blogs. Lynn banned me from The Standard for suggesting better behaviour would improve respect for his blog. But he’s old school male macho too.

  59. Surely a lot of this argument is about the contributor’s level of self esteem? Brian, you and other people who have contributed to this discussion obviously have good self esteem. Thus you have no problem revealing whom you are in all your glory. Other folk have not reached that stage in life and, for many various reasons, prefer to remain anonymous.
    I’m 66 and it’s only been in the last few years that I could safely say that I own everything I say and to hell with the consequences (for one thing – no employer to worry about!).
    Funnily enough I actually changed my name at around the time of discovering my self esteem, so I guess I’d better reveal that I am actually John M Howe, – for what it’s worth!

    BE: Interesting comment, River Howe. Thanks

  60. 60

    BE: Now Jeremy, are you really telling me that there have never been any complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about things said by callers to Radio Live or other talkback stations? That really is astonishing.

    I was talking specifically about defamation.

  61. 61

    although I can’t recall a complaint about a caller.

  62. re peterlepaysan, “Bullshit Edwards!”

    In defence of this poster, I don’t believe he meant it as name-conferring, which would meet the threshold of “personal” and “abuse”.
    Your rewrite as: “Bullshit, Edwards”, gives him the benefit of the doubt, and the remark becomes more like a pointed rebuff.

    JC: See my reply to Sanctuary.

  63. “More and more of what was once considered acceptable rough and tumble of a robust democracy has been walled off – there are no more rude hecklers at public meetings, no more pelting of candidates with fruit, etc.”

    I’m generally opposed to boorishness, but I do miss the fruit pelting.

  64. Having designed blogs for ten years now, I would say that there is now less “anonymity” in blog comments than ever before.

    When blog commenting started, the only real option was to require a commenter to fill in a form just like you have here. The other option was a slight adaption requiring someone to create an account which optionally verified their email address first. In either case, you still had an IP address which bloggers traced if there were problems. (Of course IP addresses aren’t foolproof.)

    Blog commenting has changed dramatically in recent years:

    1. There’s less of it in general, as the conversation/reactions are spread over Twitter, Facebook and the like. It’s much harder (and more work) to maintain an “anonymous” account on Facebook and a little less so on Twitter than entering in a fake email/name when commenting on a blog.

    2. Commenting systems like Disqus/LiveFrye/Intense Debate/Facebook comments etc really changed the blog commenting game, encouraging visitors to use their social media credentials rather than having to fill in a comment form each time (these also allow blog authors to disable “anonymous” comments and only allow comments via accounts. These comment systems are becoming the norm, not the exception. Blog authors love it for the social media integration, blog commenters don’t have to fill in a form every single time they want to comment on a blog.

    3. Increased awareness of lack of anonymity – the perception that what people say online is regarded as less anonymous now than ever before. While people continue to say dumb things on Facebook and elsewhere, the continual stories about lack of privacy and anonymity have changed how people interact online.


    BE: Thanks Rachel.

  65. BE: “What other approach would you suggest? Perhaps I should stop takng the time to read and respond to comments on this site, a rare practice on blogs. Just at the moment it doesn’t seem to be worth the bloody trouble.”

    The approach you could take is the one suggested by Lynn. If you don’t like specific comments, remove them. If certain commenters offend you, warn them and then, if they persist, ban them. That doesn’t seem too onerous.

    As for Peterlepaysan, his comment is quite apt: “Any argument or opinion stands on its own logic, not who said it.” I made the same point earlier, a point which hasn’t been refuted or rebutted. Anonymous contributions add a lot to any debate that I’ve seen.

  66. @ JC, re your reply to ‘Sanctuary’.

    Excuse me, but what about Brian’s retort to ‘Gareth’?

    BE: “You know, what really pisses me off about this sort of comment is that you clearly haven’t taken the time to carefully read the post.”

    Is there much difference in tone to peterlepaysan’s post?

    Both are somewhat sanguine in their choice of language; both showing some virility in their engagement of the debate by elaborating.

    In peterlepaysan’s case, it is not a sackable offence. And, I’d be most surprised, if the other posters didn’t agree with me; including Rachel.

    JC: The difference is that one is an intemperate observation, one is personal abuse which we don’t allow. ‘Virility’ has nothing to do with either, and incidentally ‘sanguine’ means optimistic – I think the word you’re looking for is ‘sanguinary’.
    What you anonymous posters seem to forget is that this is our website, we administer it, we bear the costs, we take the legal risks – and that means we make the rules. That also means that you play by them or play elsewhere.


    BE: I haven’t sacked peterlepaysan.

  67. “Any argument or opinion stands on its own logic, not who said it.”

    That’s true in some situations, but far from true in others. Who says some things can make a huge difference.

    Take the recent Cunliffe eruption as an example. Brian posted here supporting Cunliffe over Shearer and it was clear where that was coming from. You could speculate about Brian being influenced but it would be astounding (and very damaging to his credibility) if he was acting as someone else’s mouthpiece (from either conspiracy theory). Like it or not, media credibility matters.

    Compare that to an anonymous post at The Standard that calls time on Shearer’s leadership and sparks a chain reaction of comments and posts that accumulate into a strong anti-Shearer sentiment. It could be:
    - one independent individual expressing their honest opinion
    - a blogger using a separate pseodonym to the one they are associated with
    - a blogger trying to improve site traffic
    - Cunliffe’s campaign manager
    - Robertson’s campaign manager
    - Shearer’s campaign manager
    - a National Party stirrer
    - a union stirrer
    - Patrick Gower
    - Whale Oil
    - Bomber B

    Do you really think who it was would make no difference to how you would judge it?

  68. I have no doubt that anonymous commenting encourages some of the excesses seen on blogs.

    Tribalism and ill-informed ranting seem unrelated to the politics or subject matter of the blog; just look at the Standard (left), Kiwiblog (right), or interest.co.nz (non-political) to see bad behaviour by anonymous netizens.

    Anonymity isn’t the way to reconcile necessary work-related discretion with the fact that you hold opinions. The world doesn’t suffer a lack of opinions, and if adding one more voice to the shouting crowd will cause problems, then the solution is to accept that 99% of the time silence truly is golden.

    Accountability matters. There are one or two New Zealand blogs where owner/moderators have built a community of followers who disagree, argue and discuss forcefully but politely. Those blogs suffer only a small proportion of anonymous commenters and I think there’s a direct link between real names and the polite discourse.

    Just as skilled interviewers and hosts make better broadcasts than rant-back radio, the more civilised blogs are also more interesting and compelling than anonymous online garbage.

  69. Angus, good comments. I think the essence of a good blog is one where issues can be debated hard but fairly and without personal abuse. The worst blogs are where there is a tribal ideology which censors or shouts down every criticism of that ideology.

  70. On the matter of Peter the Peasant’s observation I recall a few years ago a ruling in parliament that the word ‘bullshit’ was unparliamentary and not permitted, but the term scatological was allowed. It is not an exact synonym but implies the same meaning. I prefer to use the term scatological since most people when one uses it do not realise they are being insulted and have had a number of instances when I have referred to someone’s argument or work as scatological, where the person has smiled and thanked me as though I had just paid them a great compliment.

  71. Hi Brian,

    I did read the single paragraph where you said that all the rest of your argument doesn’t apply but I felt I needed to give some examples of why exactly your whole argument doesn’t work, and to suggest that these reasons should be taken more seriously. To say that X should be the case but only on Mondays seems like a useless argument to make, so I thought perhaps you were minimising the seriousness of that proviso.

    You say there are a few brave souls and then paint the rest as cowards with a very broad brush. I would suggest that apart from the trolls, who are usually pretty obviously so, the rest of the anonymous posters have reasons for doing so, and to paint them all as cowards unless they have disclosed to your their individual circumstances is not worthy of you.

  72. JCL: You praise anonymous bloggers and commenters in totalitarian societies. At the same time you are calling for an end to online anonymity. How can these two positions possibly be consistent?

    You claim that freedom of speech in NZ is limited only by the law of defamation. Many commentators have pointed out that satire is not protected and have expressed concern at the potential power of corporations to shield themselves from satire.

    There have been many times in NZ history where freedom of speech has been limited by additional laws to suit the government of the day.

    BE: Cripes! I would have though it obvious that I was not proposing that regime critics in totalitarian societies should risk their freedom or lives by putting their names on their publications. As for cartoonists, they have considerably more freedom to ridicule than those expressing their views in print. However, if the cartoonist suggests that X is a paedophile and this isn’t true, he can be sued just as readily as anyone else. As he should be.
    _________

    Yet you are proposing that critics of government policy to which their employer is opposed, critics of employment practices of their employer, critics of corporations, anonymous whistleblowers, anonymous reporters of protest action – that these and more should all be required to put their name on their internet publications.

  73. I’ve re-read the original blog post and also caught up with most of the new comments you made in-situ. It is really is better to quote the full post in a new post than use that method. Much easier for readers to see the development of the discussion and catch up where they left off.

    It is obvious to me (now after adding context from your comments) that you are not advocating that every blogger and internet based reporter in New Zealand should identify by their real names – just the cowardly and contemptible ones.

    The problem is – and what many commentators here including myself are responding to – is that your article is worded and phrased as an attack on the concept of anonymous internet publication itself.

  74. A remarkable return from Chris Trotter. Far too much to deal with here in a comment.

    Here’s a sample:
    “The tone of these attacks leaves little doubt that not only do these political journalists consider bloggers to be unwelcome and illegitimate contributors to the nation’s political discourse, but that nothing would make them happier than to see them tightly regulated and controlled. It’s an attitude that should send a shiver down every New Zealander’s spine. A genuine “Fourth Estate” would welcome the democratisation of the gathering and distributing of news which the Internet has made possible. That so many MSM journalists have greeted the competitive spur of the blogosphere with a mixture of self-serving patch-protection and outright authoritarianism is cause for considerable concern.”

    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2012/11/islands-in-mainstream.html

    Bugger Brian, what haven’t you been telling us?

  75. @Pete George

    Except Chris Trotter only likes ‘discourse’ that he agrees with. Sad to say, but Chris is a dinosaur ideologue that has elected not to be a thinker for the future. He is the Don Brash of the left. “I will only work with you if you agree with me”.

  76. There’s a good illustration of the use/abuse of pseudonyms in the above comments, as revealed on another blog:

    “Dovil says:

    The funny thing was is that I used a made up name for the primary purpose of commenting to his post (‘Trevor Whateveritwas’) to show that just because something looks like a real name doesn’t mean that it is, and the point was ignored or went over his head. He was instead outraged that I was possibly impersonating someone – how many Brian Edwards are out there in the world?

    I think this was just something out of his comfort zone. Every point made that argued that this was more nuanced than he was making out was either ignored, distorted or insults were flung. He was arguing from his own position and just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, put himself in the shoes of someone that wasn’t himself. At not one point did I see him stop to consider that someone might actually have a point. A bit worrying and a little bit sad.”

    The key factor is not whether a name looks real or not, it’s whether you can associate an ID with one real person or not.

    Putting oneself in the shoes of imaginary constructs illustrates how untrustyworthy IDs can be.

    Maybe Dovil could stop and consider a point – the use of multiple identities proves how it’s reasonable to regard all IDs that aren’t obviously connected to a real person with suspicion, and to question their credibility.

  77. Yes – there are a subset of people who comment anonymously because they are trolls who like to abuse others or adopt extreme positions (lets call them group A). There are also plenty of people who comment anonymously through a prudent consideration of internet privacy issues like employers searching their name on Google (group B).

    I happen to be in group B. I try not to abuse people or troll, but why would I risk a potential employer forming a negative view of me because they happen to disagree strongly with my stance on gay marriage, or redistribution or whatever?

    To try and build an analogy that might be helpful to somebody like yourself with a background in talk back radio:

    Group A) There are a small minority of people in New Zealand (and any nation) on a benefit who are basically unemployable, they may have major behavioural issues, substance abuse issues or just a lack of education and no marketable skills. Some of them might even just be downright lazy or have no confidence or ambition. This group is easy to describe very negatively and to make assumptions about their character or motivations.

    Group B) There are also plenty of people who receive a benefit who are doing so because they got laid off, got sick, their company went bust, they left an abusive relationship or any number of other situations where we might feel a good degree of empathy for them.
    I don’t believe for a minute that unemployment almost doubled in the last few years because several percent of the adult working population just chose to stop trying, prefer to smoke pot or just forgot all their skills. So it’s not unreasonable to believe that this latter group are actually the majority of beneficiaries.

    The problem then is that when we use the term ‘beneficiaries’ and then go on to describe the first group in negative terms (certain politicians make their living doing this) it is pretty frustrating for the majority in the latter group. This is especially true when we start making policy (drug testing, work testing) based on a view of why people are on a benefit that is heavily shaped by our views of group A.

    Here are your last two paragraphs rewritten with the beneficiary analogy:

    “A few brave souls are willing to get out there and find a job. Those who don’t will no doubt object to being accused of not having the same skills, let alone motivation. They will think the accusation unfair, arguing perhaps that they would like to get a job but are unable to do so.

    They can rest easy. I don’t intend to take away their benefit. But I would be interested to know how each person who takes money from the taxpayer rather than working, justifies that position. Feel free.”

    Does that sound like something you would say about beneficiaries?

    So for the record – yes I do object to being labelled as cowardly because you choose to group people like me who value web privacy in the same category as trolls and other abusive blog patrons. Your reassurance that you don’t intend to ‘out’ me through your comments policy is not helpful. So how about dropping the simplistic overgeneralisation of other peoples motives – it comes across (to me at least) as condescending and morally superior.

    I hope that my argument stands in it’s own right and my credibility isn’t undermined by the choices I make about privacy on the web. If you disagree feel free to email to my full name on my work email address provided to you in confidence.

  78. The discussion continues across various blogs.

    It’s interesting to see the rise in interest from The Standard and Trotter and their conflicting ideas.

    - They helped promote a leadership debate through their blogging
    - They complained bitterly when MSM promoted a leadership challenge at the conference
    - They blast the MSM for their incompetent old ways
    - Relishing the new found attention the MSM gave them they suddenly think they have power
    - Part of that power is holding the MSM to account
    - They blast the MSM for daring to hold them to account
    - They vigorously defend their right to comment anonymously
    - They blast MSM identities
    - They feed off attention given to them by MSM identities

    And so it goes on. They are now talking this up into a major class struggle, the evil MSM versus the brave anonymous bloggers. The new battle (having so far lost their battle to kick Shearer out).

    More on time warped bloggers versus MSM:
    http://yournz.org/2012/11/30/time-warped-bloggers-versus-msm/

  79. Hi Brian,

    in principle I agree with you. In an ideal world, it would be nice to feel that we are all free to express our opinions under our real name, and not give a toss what anyone thought.

    But in the dark and shady world that we actually live in, where bad things happen to good people all the time, sometimes at the hands of respectable ministers of the crown, civil servants, CEOs and police officers (some of whom are nothing but crooks, thieves and mafioso), I think people do have a right to protect themselves and their families against the risk of retribution for having certain views.

    Depending on which sector you work in, it can be a terribly lonely place if you are the only Labour or Greens supporter in your office. That could have a real impact on your chances of promotion or a pay rise, or you could be accused of being a leftie trouble-causer.

    I get really angry when someone tries to ‘out’ me as supporting one party or another, I think it’s an intrusion of privacy as much as revealing someone’s STD status or salary details.

    Given the way that NZ has been steadily drifting towards the fascist right over the past few decades, and given that we have a very small population where everyone knows everyone through a friend, I have genuine concerns that lists of names of people who are deemed to be a ‘threat’ to the establishment could be circulated. I wouldn’t be at all surprsied if Facebook comments are monitored.
    I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to imagine a future in which people are more likely to get arrested by police and given a prison sentence for holding certain opinions, because the govt wants to shut them up.

    Opposition protest groups get defamed all the time, look what happened to the Coastal Coalition when Chris Finlayson accused them of being dinosaurs and quacks just because they opposed privatisation of our foreshore and didn’t want to see it divided up by iwi and then sold for commercial interests.

    Finally, some people work in the media and are required to be perceived as ‘neutral’ and ‘unbiased’ when it comes to politics. Of course this is completely impossible on a personal level – here’s looking at you John Armstrong, Fran Walsh, Jane Clifton and Tracy Watkins – even if other journalists like those at Radio NZ try their hardest to provide balance and use neutral language when writing about politics in a professional capacity.

    And of course, anyone who works for a government or council department needs to be quite circumspect about their beliefs unless they wish to be made redundant during the next round of budget cuts.

    NZ is not the safe little democratic oasis that we like to think of ourselves. Scary, unfair stuf happens to people, especially if you have no power or influence, no friends in high places, and no deep wallets to defend yourself legally as Kim Dotcom does.

  80. As a New Zealander using New Zealand English I have never heard “bullshit” used as a term of personal abuse.

    In NZ English “bullshit” is always used to describe an opinion/attitude or argument presented.

    In most New Zealand groupings “bullshit” is not usually regarded as “rude” (whatever that means to a media expert).

    Listen, mate, this is not oxbridge pomgolia. If you and/or JC think “bullshit” is “personal abuse” you should not be in in the “business” of media communication.

    BE: I’m perfectly happy for anyone offering a comment on this site to express strong disagreement with anything Judy or I have written in a post. Rudeness, insults and personal abuse are a different matter altogether.

    You began your previous comment ‘Bullshit Edwards!’ I haven’t been addressed as ‘Edwards’ since I was a kid at school, the surname used to remind me of my inferior states.

    As for ‘Bullshit Edwards!’, your exclamation mark used to indicate explosive force, I wouldn’t expect such dismissive rudeness from a colleague or friend. Why should I find it acceptable from someone who isn’t even willing to put his name to his contempt? Perhaps the irony of that escaped you.

    Nonetheless, I read what your defenders had to say and relented my earlier decision to ban you from the site. You respond by coming back with this:

    “Listen, mate, this is not oxbridge pomgolia. If you and/or JC think “bullshit” is “personal abuse” you should not be in in the “business” of media communication.”

    Have a good life.

  81. Unless you have a higher profile than most and need to use your real name to establish credibility for some reason, I can’t imagine anyone caring whether my real name is Raine or Lee. As has been pointed out above, abusive or dishonest people will just use multiple handles for their ‘dirty work’ anyway so perhaps it’s immaterial whether or not we use our real names?

    BE: I can’t find an argument here for not using your real name, other than that lots of ‘abusive, or dishonest people’ don’t use their real names either. You’re apparently happy to be part of that group.

  82. @Richard29: “why would I risk a potential employer forming a negative view of me because they happen to disagree strongly with my stance on gay marriage, or redistribution or whatever?”

    Why would you want to work for such an employer?

    @Peterlepaysan, FWIW I think you are under-sensitive and Brian is over-sensitive. Not a good mix.

    @Raine, when you express stupid opinions or are grossly offensive others may well wish you to use your real name and therefore wear the reputation you deserve and have earned.

  83. I usually read this blog without commenting. I like it because it’s apparent your moderation keeps out the idiots (and possibly some of the more reasonable contributors too) so there’s not a lot of stupid comments to wade through to get to the good stuff. I commented this time because I fall into your net by using Raine instead of my real name, Lee. The reasons I do are many and varied and I didn’t think I needed to state them as many fall into your ‘acceptable reasons’ category; but there are others. My only point was that I just can’t imagine why anyone would care what name I use and what difference it makes. If I didn’t make that point very well or if it’s irrelevant to the discussion, my apologies. I’m not a writer and I’m nervous posting here for the first time. I’m surprised though you made the leap to me being abusive or dishonest, lol. I’m not phased by it though; having plenty of net experience elsewhere (under the name Raine) I know not to take it personally.

    I actually think this thread and your blog makes a good argument for ‘moderation’ being a key element in keeping discussions reasonable especially considering there are anonymous posters here.

    BE: Maybe my response was undeserved, Raine. Please keep commenting. Cheers. Brian

  84. I rarely comment on blogs, but when I do, I use a nom de plume for one good reason: I want my comments or arguments to be debated on their merits. Too many commenters on the blogs I read think an argument can be refuted, or at least dismissed, by referring to its proponent’s age, sex, race, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status or sundry other considerations. I’m happy to have my statements corrected when I’m in error, or my arguments refuted by a demonstration of their invalidity; but shouting “You’re old/male/gay/a NZ First supporter etc etc” won’t do it.

  85. @Random, your real name may give idiots a chance to make a stupid response but I’ll bet that not using won’t make any difference to their lack of mental process. They’ll just make a different stupid response.

  86. You’ve put your finger on the flaw in my argument, AW. Sigh.

  87. Here’s the story behind my online handle.

    In the late 1990s, IBM’s big chess computer Deep Blue managed to beat Garry Kasparov at his own game. Not long after, my first foray into online gaming, Counter-Strike, was released.

    I had to come up with something simple but recognisable, and then I thought, if there can be a Deep Blue, why not a “Deep Red” as well?

  88. I’m told you’re the one to ask whether our reasons for pseudonym use are good enough or not and I would like to know whether I’m a gutless coward who’s destroying the fabric of society and is worse than the commenters whose crimes range from mild insults to death threats. I previously used a pseudonym because the surname I was born with is extremely uncommon and because I’ve struggled with my gender identity and thus didn’t wish to use my explicitly feminine name. Is that okay? I had a guy call me at home once to argue with me about a letter to the editor I wrote when I was 16 or so, which was pretty creepy considering it also meant he had my address, if that helps.

    Even if this isn’t good enough, I wish to assure you that now I’ve legally changed my name to something I’m more comfortable with, and now my online name matches my birth certificate. In light of this I hope you can forgive me for my previous gutless cowardice.

    BE: You didn’t want your name published because you feared discrimination or perhaps cruel intolerance. I find those very good reasons and see nothing cowardly in your behavior at all. Thanks for writing.

  89. Like Giovanni, nothing stated here changes my mind that this “only cowards hide” attitude is just privileged bullshit from people with little or no idea what real fear is about.

    Real fear of just living your life. Fear that they can be attacked, beaten or murdered just for being who they are. Many of Edwards’ supporters simply prove my point.

    And often our online identity is just that, an identity. Used consistently it is who we are. My online persona is not my IRL persona, just as celebs have a public face and a private face.

    I’ll tell you what, Brian and others, once you start working towards creating a world where people feel safe being themselves, towards disestablishing the structures of privilege and oppression, then I might just listen to you. Until then, I’ll continue to support and defend the use of anonymous handles.

    @alan in response to Richard: the company might be worthy and you may want to work for them, but the person making the decision might be a problem.

  90. Well said, Brian. I’m afraid I’m a bit old-fashioned on this. If you are not prepared to put your name to your views, you are perfectly entitled to hold them, but if you choose to express them in a public forum, you are going to have to forgive me for ascribing them the same value as a piece of dogshit on a public footpath – something to be noticed but carefully avoided. You know that I have occasionally written directly to you to say something which, for one reason or another, I do not wish to express publicly but which I think you, as the instigator of a debate, might be interesting to you. But I would never expect anyone to publish one of my views expressed anonymously, because its anonymity would be an expression of contempt for the readership that I am addressing.
    A tangentially related matter: some people email me directly off the “email Peter” link at the bottom of anything of my authorship published online at nzherald.co.nz. Some are spittle-flecked, abusive or borderline psychotic and I ignore them. But often people will write to make an interesting point, perhaps contesting something I have said. I used to compose thoughtful replies only to have them bounce back because the email address supplied did not exist. That I have a lot of difficulty understanding. Why write something interesting and intelligent but say, in effect: “I have no interest in hearing what you might have to say about this”? What I do now is hit reply/send and if it doesn’t bounce back, I compose the thoughtful reply.
    best wishes

    BE: Thank you Peter for both thoughtful comments.

  91. Hello Brian,

    What I enjoyed most about Rob Muldoon was his complete haplessness at snooker! One Friday evening, a long long time ago, a certain future Prime Minister teamed up with yours truly in an attempt to beat the living daylights out of their opponents: one Dr Brian Edwards and his partner (I seem to recall the good Dr’s partner was Patrick Rippon) … whatever; the result was a sound thrashing of the future Prime Minister and his erstwhile friend. And the blame for the quasi political duo’s defeat can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of the future Prime Minister, who managed to camouflage each of his ‘shots’ with ‘shots’ of gin poured over each ball he tried to hit! The rest of the evening degenerated into Roman bathhouse dips in the pool at the home of the revered property tycoon in Lower Hutt (who shall remain nameless). But this nostalgic recall of mine is a simple attempt to place Rob’s personality in context. He was a fine ‘sportsman’ and took his defeats well … as long as he had a comforting glass to anesthetize the disappointment. But I remember he did not take too kindly to personal criticism. When I suggested to him it might be a good idea to place his glass on the table rather than on the snooker table cushion he told me: ‘it can fucking stay there!’

  92. I noticed a comment by “River Howe” on his lack of fear about announcing his true identity and I could relate to that. I recall reading James Fowler on “Stages of Life Development” and it seems once one reaches stage six one doesn’t give a damn. Too late anyhow! Well, I feel exactly like that … I am a unique human being on this planet … there is only one of me … still alive … and I want the whole world to know I am alive! Mistakes I have made in my life are a permanent feature of my biography but that doesn’t matter … I made them – nobody else. Why should I suppress my humanity because of a fear someone might unfrock me or castrate me or sue me or do something else to me … I don’t care … let them do it … won’t stop me writing or expressing myself. And right now I luxuriate, at the age of 66, in the most creative endeavour I have ever been involved in – I have completed a major novel

  93. @GoodGravey, if the person making the decision is the problem then s/he is highly likely to continue to be a problem.

    As for your demand that Brian make the world safe for you, shoulder your own responsibility. Those who speak over their own name and stand publicly for it are those who defend freedom and diversity. Those who cower behind anonymity stand for little.

  94. Peter Calder wrote: If you are not prepared to put your name to your views, you are perfectly entitled to hold them, but if you choose to express them in a public forum, you are going to have to forgive me for ascribing them the same value as a piece of dogshit on a public footpath – something to be noticed but carefully avoided.

    Sorry, but I fail to understand the logic of this charming comment. Are you saying that an argument can be dismissed simply because you don’t know its proponent’s name? Why would anyone who is interested in genuine debate take that line? What is the relevance of someone’s identity to the validity of their arguments?

  95. There can be a lot of value in anonymous comments. If you don’t know the identity – or motives or connection – of the commenter you have to be more wary and skeptical, that’s all. But many pseudonym users on blogs establish very good credibiluity over time.

    Casual viewers of blogs may not think much of a chorus of pseudonyms, but if you get to know blog communities you get to know who to take seriously – and there is a lot of serious comment worth reading.

  96. @Random, Pete, I agree with both of your comments. Of course there can be value in anonymous contributions and Peter Calder is quite wrong to generalize so dismissively.

    Nevertheless an individual standing behind his/her opinions in public carries more weight.

  97. A Labour Party MP this week is advocating restrictions on freedom of expression for Labour Party members. My guess some kind of 3rd world criticism of the leader is treason rule.

    Brian, I think you will now agree it is obvious that anonymous blogging and anonymous internet use is needed to protect freedom of expression even in great country of new zealand.

    http://thestandard.org.nz/just-how-wrong-can-you-get-it/

  98. Further to JCL’s comment, there are suggestions that operators (and possibly MPs) are misusing private data and using it to harrass party members who are being critical in social media.

    It goes as far as a warning not to trust anonymity at Red Alert (from an IT expert who is a Labour Party member).

    That has serious implications for anonymity and trust in the political blogosphere.

    http://yournz.org/2012/12/07/red-alert-compromising-anonymity/

  99. You are off-topic there PG. Any site operator who has a desire to discover facts about the identity of anonymous contributors can harvest IP addresses. In many cases this narrows the possibilities and in a few cases can be correlated to a real world identity from publicly available information.

    Very few sites have a privacy policy at all – yours does not.

    Even fewer operators have thought through these issues in depth. Lprent’s home @The Standard has a privacy policy but –

    http://thestandard.org.nz/policy/#privacy

    - it is clear from that text they also will inspect IP addresses when they deem it necessary – and this in a situation where a simple pattern match would suffice.

    Yes I think this is important – but it is a completely separate and very technical discussion. It is a side issue when compared to the desire of some to effectively identify every internet user and remove anonymity from the internet and therefore stifle freedom of expression. This is not what BE advocates as far as I can tell – but it appears he has not fully explored the implications or refined his thinking at this level and he probably does not intend to at this level.

  100. It’s not off-topic JCL, it’s a real life example of the potential dangers of being identifiable when blog posting.

    There are allegations that a political party’s blog login data is being used to help identify party members commenting on other blogs and those people are then being told to not be critical, to the extent that at least one and by the look of things multiple cease and desist notices have been issued.

    It appears that comment is being shut down under threat of legal action. Obviously if legal action was taken anonymity could be further compromised.

    Red Alert has no privacy policy, but I would expect a blog run by MPs would meet certain standards of privacy and responsible use of user data regardless.

  101. As far as I can tell, Brian is seeking only to make anonymous posters reconsider whether their anonymity is necessary or desirable.

    This is indeed different from the Left’s apparent need to expose and purge all non-PC thinkers and thought from the Party.

    In more civilized circles a publisher who offers anonymity to contributors will preserve and protect that anonymity unless criminal behaviour occurs.

  102. “This is indeed different from the Left’s apparent need to expose and purge all non-PC thinkers and thought from the Party.”

    Well Alan, watch out the ‘Right’ just eat their own.

  103. Kat, did your Mum tell you National voters eat their young? And threaten to change allegiance?

  104. A fellow back there had a good point about comments posters not wanting their celebrity, to which I would add notoriety, distracting from the debate. I have occasionally assumed a pseudonymous archetype to make a point eg responding as a citizen of 1912 to ’100 Years Ago’ column. Sometimes these get through as a kind of comic fiction. But Im starting to wonder whether such flights of fancy are polite on another’s web site. And does non linear impressionism even work on the ‘Net?

  105. it is because all but a few a tiny tiny few talk back radio hosts are rabid right wing attack dogs even kerre woodham became a turncoat .zb is completly biased toward national and should br called blue zed b not news talk zb .

  106. @deep red. So, were you stationed at IBMachinations on The Terrace, now RNZ House?