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Yesterday the Lexington newspaper published this cartoon, taking a shot at Kentucky coach John Calipari’s NCAA history and a recent contretemps over continuing the Indiana basketball series.
Predictably, Kentucky fans, the dumbest fan base in the country, took the jab with good humor, realized that cartoons are, you know, cartoons, and moved on about their business. (By “business” I mean faking how many children they have to increase their welfare payments so they can buy more UK2K t-shirts.).
Wait, that didn’t happen.
Instead they reacted like religious zealot Muslims when a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad was published.
I mean, it’s not like Kentucky fans published the home address and phone number of the cartoon’s creator, a 28 year Pulitzer prize winning veteran, and encouraged vigilanteeism on one of the most popular public message boards in the country?
Oh, wait, that did happen?
Thank God Kentucky residents can’t vote to repeal the First Amendment.
“Here is Joel Pett’s address if any of you pissed off fans want to vent your frustrations. Maybe toilet paper his yard or egg his house. Here’s his home phone # as well.
Joel W Pett
— W Main St #101
Lexington, KY 40508
I’ve removed his address and phone number, but posts like this raise an interesting question that I’ve been wrestling with for some time — is anything at all gained from anonymous Internet commentary in America today?
I don’t think so.
To their credit several Kentucky fans recoiled from the posting of the cartoonist’s personal information by an anonymous message board poster. But the post has remained up for all to see.
How scary is this?
And in an age of Harvey Updyke’s would it really surprise anyone if a deranged Kentucky fan did something violent to Pett over his newspaper cartoon?
It wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Which gets me back to the bigger question, how does enabling anonymous message board postings like this further societal discourse? Especially in the United States when participating in the societal discourse under your own name has never been easier. With the advent of simple communication devices such as Facebook’s like button, it’s almost harder not to have a public opinion these days than it is to remain silent.
We’re drowning in public opinion that’s attached to names.
So why enable anonymous opinion?
I’m not advocating that the government get involved in anonymous Internet commentary — God forbid, that would be a disaster since the First Amendment is the single most valuable right we have — but I am asking modern media to reexamine their existing positions on anonymous commenting.
If I’m correct that anonymous commentary doesn’t further the conversation, why would multi-billion dollar companies continue to enable the practice?
That’s why OKTC was on the front lines of linking commenting to Facebook accounts. The theory was simple, say whatever you want, but put your own name behind the opinion. Increasingly that’s becoming more and more common — Gannett, for instance, has mostly done away with anonymous comments on its network of sites.
That’s the right move.
If you aren’t willing to attach your name to something, why should it be published alongside authors who are willing to attach their own names to their work or opinions?
I understand why anonymous commentary was necessary back in the days of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” when it was almost impossible to distribute your ideas to a large audience and punishment for “improper” opinions was rampant. And I understand why some individuals in oppressive countries, China and most of the Middle East, for instance, need anonymous commentary in an Internet age. But I don’t understand why any major business in America allows anonymous commentary today.
And I especially don’t understand why public message boards trading in anonymous comments exist without posters being revealed for some of their calumnies.
That’s why I applaud Phil Mickelson’s recent lawsuit to uncover the identity of a Yahoo Sports commenter who savaged he and his family with vicious public assaults.
All under the cloak of anonymity.
If Mickelson wins his lawsuit, which I hope he does, I think it would be eye opening for major media companies. Who, make no mistake about it, are enabling attacks by continuing to allow anonymous commentary.
I’d love to know what Rivals — owned by Yahoo — actually makes off of message boards.
Is it worth the hassle? Is it really that much money?
If so, much of it is blood money, direct profit off anonymous filth. Writing on bathroom walls brought to the public arena.
In the meantime, as you think about the question of whether anonymous commentary gains anything at all, Kentucky fans on Rupp Rafters, police your idiots.
The last thing the South needs is an assault linked to a sports cartoon.
Even Iran would ridicule us.