Sunday, July 27, 2014
The Anonymous Poster: Or is it Anony-mouse
Back when Moneylaw appeared to be an up and coming blog, I think it was Jim Chen who used to respond to anonymous comments with the salutation Dear Anony-mouse. I thought about that when two of the commentators on my last post remained anonymous although not saying anything controversial and saying what was said in a completely civil way. This made me wonder about the reasons for anonymous comments.
One reader informed me that a person is in the private sector who says things that could result in formal or informal sanctions in his or her job may well prefer to remain anonymous. That one maskes sense to me as long as the comment is substantive. When they get nasty, I'd say the commentators just want to snipe and the private sector excuse is inapplicable.
I suppose untenured people might also have good reasons to remain anonymous. Law profs can be very petty and taking someone on who may be reviewing your work or voting on your promotion, even in civil fashion, is probably not a good idea. I wish it were not so but we are talking about law profs.
Add to the list of those who can justify anonymity disgruntled students. They bought into law school advertising and many are without jobs but do have debt. Putting their names on anything that could come back in haunt them in a job search would be foolish. Plus they may have more standing that any group to get a little upset.
But let's get to the nub of things. I am willing to bet that a fair percentage of anonymous comments are from tenured law professors. Sure, I cannot prove it but, if you can prove otherwise, I am all ears and I will pay your way to Disney World if you do prove it. So what is up with this? Are they afraid they may not be invited to the next conference or asked to contribute to yet another symposium consisting of someone and his or her pals? What are we to make of people who want to send a strong message and then hide behind a rock after sending it? Are they afraid the person they complain about will not want to be friends if their their identity is revealed? Do they actually think people attribute as much weight to views that can only be expressed if no one knows who is expressing them? If the author has so little conviction, why should the listener pay attention? Or is this just wide spread paranoia. The biggest problem is that they are free riders on the understandable need of others to remain anonymous so the reader does not know how to separate those with legitimate concerns from the hyper-cautious prissy law profs.
Don't get me wrong. I realize, perhaps more than most, that there are sanctions for being outspoken but isn't it better to deal with them than to creep around with a mask on when you feel strongly about about something? I'd feel sneaky.
My hunch is that it is closely related to law professors' obsession with deniability and cost/benefit analysis.
But really, I am quite curious about the explanation and am open to comments that would help me understand. Anonymity is fine -- I don't have enough readers to be picky.