Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Monday, April 02, 2007
  Indisputable Effects
The Transcript's editorial today touches on the subject of anonymity in the news. It is interesting that Glenn chose the angle of anonymous reader comments, which must be very frustrating for him when someone has something worthwhile to add to a discussion, but refuses to go on the record.

One of the things I've noticed in the past four years is that there are a lot of people in the area that are afraid to speak their minds publicly. I am sure that much of the hesitancy is out of sheer New England politeness - "If you can't say anything nice...."

But there are obviously some who are afraid of the potential repercussions should they speak out against certain ideas or entities. Whether these fears are real or imagined is probably only discernible on a case by case basis. However, I assume that most of the readers of this blog have heard stories or rumors about a phone call to someone's boss or inspectors showing up at oddly coincidental moments.

Are these stories true? Maybe. Maybe not. But their effect is indisputable. People are afraid of the wrath of everything from the large employers in the area to city hall.

And that is no way to live.
 
Comments:
You do hit on a very important point in all this - the power of the myth is more damaging than the truth ever could be. Stories are a way of corralling behavior. Back when I reported news, way back when, I was constantly being told stories by teachers and parents in regard to the schools, really horrible stories. None of them wanted to go on record because they were afraid for their jobs or their children.

Eventually I had my own problems with the school system and was ready to go on record. No one else would go on record to back me up and only one news receptacle - WAMC - bothered to report on my story.

Were there any repurcussions for me going on record, in public? One, very tiny, insignificant, pathetic one that was such that we all laughed about it in the newsroom. I won't say what it was, but I will hint that it was the action of a major person and it revealed that person to be more bark than bite, very dependent on the myth.

What the whistle blowers and whiners never seem to realize is that there is power in numbers and transparency. Anonymous sources are obviously important as a necessary evil, but, frankly, if you can't lay everything on the line in order to fight for what you think is right, then you don't really think it is worth winning, for whatever reason.
 
John two interesting points from your post. A)That while you are chastising those that wish to remain anonymous, you yourself exhibit a form of this anonymousness with "I won't say what it was, but I will hint that it was the action of a major person and it revealed that person to be more bark than bite, very dependent on the myth." And the second is I think you are correct that people just don't think it important enough to go on record.

I would like to add to this the effect computers and the internet that I believe play a major role in people wishing to remain anonymous. Long ago when something was printed in the paper, if one didn't clip it and save it, it was a laborous task to go back and find something of interest. Now everything, and I mean everything - things some people don't even consider, is recorded forever in a server somewhere. Sure there are privacy statements, but we all know what a joke those are. I think people are just alot more cautious now and the those who seek the information will have to meet those with the information half way.
 
Just to clarify, it's not so much that I wish the person to remain anonymous, it's just that a comment board on an Internet blog is not an appropriate place for me to name names. I'm not shy about being more open on the subject in private at all, but I do think there are appropriate venues for "naming names" and I just don't think this is it.

But what you point out about permanance is true, though I think it could possibly be a strength as much as a detriment - the information revealed is also always accessible in that system.
 
What would make one location more appropriate than another? And I totally agree with permanance of data - I love technology and use the web, as well as create content for it, everyday.
 
"there are a lot of people in the area that are afraid to speak their minds publicly. I am sure that much of the hesitancy is out of sheer New England politeness... But there are obviously some who are afraid of the potential repercussions should they speak out against certain ideas or entities."

The culture and the fear of repercussions are ancient and inextricable. It is normal in smaller and more rural areas that people will do more than urbanites to avoid giving offense. If you grew up here, and plan to stay, you know that the people around you will continue to know who you are, and will often see or interact with you and your relatives.

Think about what it means that there are only 40,000 people in all of the Northern Berkshires (every town north of Pittsfield). Even if you're 40 years old, you will likely see someone you knew from high school on any given day. And there won't be "six degrees of separation" from any of your rivals or ex-girlfirends, etc., probably two or three if you're lucky.
 
i'd comment here but i'm opening up a pizza joint and am afraid of reprisal....
 
David - You are exactly right, but don't confuse personal discretion with fear. There is fear - real and imagined.

CJT is opening a restaurant that will probably go off pretty well given his knowledge as a contractor. I know a another place that is having a helluva time with certain issues, but because of discretion I am willing to keep my yap shut because the owner(s) have asked me to. However, the only reason the owner(s) asked me to bite my tongue is that they are afraid of .......

To allude to John's post above, when I wrote on school issues in The Transcript, the teachers were petrified to go on the record. Considering that they have a certain amount of union protection, you might think that they would find that unneccesary. I know who/what they were afraid of and I can't say that their fear was unwarranted.
 
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