San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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February 2nd, 2010
Editorial: Attention anonymous posters

By the San Marcos Local News editorial board

Two years into this publication, we’ve made — and are making — key changes to better serve the reading public and, frankly, ourselves. Two of them are obvious.

First, effective Jan. 1, we changed our name to San Marcos Local News, which has the virtue of matching our name to what we do. Additionally, and not at all insignificantly, it’s a much easier name for people to remember than our old name, a cute smash-up of two words into one with odd characteristics that we no longer have to explain or describe, so we won’t. All we have to tell you now is that will get you here.

We’re also changing the look and feel of the site to make it look less like a newsletter and give us more color. We still have tweaking to do, but those who remember the old way will note that our pages are more attractive. Take note, also, that we now have a poll on the cover, just to gain a sense of how people weigh in on the issues. Anyone who comes to the site can vote without signing in, so it’s not at all scientific. But it could be fun.

Less obviously, and effective immediately, we are making important changes to our comments policy.

At times, the comments on this site have created elevated and interesting discussion about local issues. All too often, though, the comments have degenerated into fatuous insults. It should come as no surprise that the worst offenders are those who comment under fake names and hurl pot shots at people who comment by their real names.

As much as we love the area, it’s sad to know that some people around here don’t curl up and wretch over the very idea that they would hide behind aliases so they can denigrate others without giving any account of themselves. They simply can’t step up and take responsibility for what they are willing to say to the public about other human beings. Then children come on here and read terrible remarks about their mothers, who, then, have no recourse to face their accusers, or even know who they are. When a poster comes on here without a real name and thinks it’s fine to list details about a disputant who gives a real name, we’re not dealing with a poster who is inherently fair. We’re dealing with people who do not walk or talk democracy, and who should not be allowed to thrive in an environment such as this.

We wish to promote democracy by informing citizens about public policy questions. But democracy, being government by the people, also requires at least a modicum of decency in order to bear graciously our differences. At the very least, then, we defeat our own purpose by allowing indecent posts, such as the un-named’s derogation of the named. The degradation of public discourse in the last thirty years can be boiled down to one motive — a lack of respect for the legitimacy of the opposition. Posters who lack respect for the opposition’s legitimacy take the discourse to a new low when they demonstrate, further, a lack of self-respect by posting under fake names to hide their lack of respect for others.

We won’t share, in much more detail, our opinion about posters who violate all principles of fair dealing by taking such a low road. We’ll do something better. People can still comment under names other than their own. But they will not be allowed to make any kind of derogatory remark about anyone, except, perhaps, other posters who use fake names.

If you have something to say and lack the courage to say it and sign your name to it, you can still post here. You can talk about public policy, you can talk about ideas, and you can even talk about people, if you can do it politely and respectfully. But we won’t allow anonymous posters to say a bad word about anyone. Not even about public officials. Honest differences of opinion with public officials are more than legitimate, but personal insults are not.

We don’t want to discourage the many people who make constructive remarks under aliases, and we hope they will continue to make their contributions. But the price to be paid for not identifying one’s self will be a lack of latitude about what she will be allowed to say on this site. We believe much of our audience understands why it’s wrong to cast aspersions on named persons from the cocoon of a fake name, and they understand our position.

Before the anonymous complain that we are under-cutting their right to free speech, they must understand that they are under-cutting their own right to free speech. Free speech means you can freely say what you like openly without persecution. If you’re still afraid to expose your mind freely, even under the tolerant conditions of today’s America, and if it bothers you that you will not be granted pot shots at real people, all we can say is … not good.

We understand that there have been some notorious exchanges on here between people who use their real names. We don’t generally find these exchanges uplifting. Honestly, we wish these people would cool it. But as long as they use their real names, they can hurl mud at each other so long as it pleases them — or until we have reason to step in.

Additionally, we re-iterate, we do not allow offsite links in comments, nor any kind of vulgarity or profanity. We will refuse the right to not publish posts for whatever reasons we deem good and sufficient. If your objectionable comment winds up on the site, you can expect it to come down.

We expect that the change in our comments policy will stimulate better, more serious discussion and that substantial adults who share their views using their real names can post here without fear of retaliation from the lower orders of human beings who lack the substance to say who they are. There will remain, on the Internet, sites on which anyone can hide under an assumed name and lob grenades at their emotional and intellectual superiors who give their real names. But not here.

We advise commenters to leave real email addresses where they can be reached when they leave comments. If we discover that you have left a phony email address, we reserve the right to delete your comments. If we aren’t satisfied that the name you’ve given is your real name and you decide to pop someone, we reserve the right to delete your comments. By “real name,” we mean first and last name. If your name is “Joe Smith,” then “Joe” isn’t going to cut it.

The primary election season is here and we expect a vigorous discussion about the relative merits and demerits of the candidates and the positions they support. What we do not expect, and what we will not have, is political hacks hiding like children behind couches as they attempt to discredit real people without making themselves accountable. That’s not democracy and, we could say, persons of that sort aren’t fit for democracy.

Democracy involves the free exchange of ideas among citizens who are charged with the opportunity and responsibility of self-government. Towards that end, we wish to renew our call to all public officials, candidates and anyone else with an interesting view to submit pieces for our opinions section. We will not cut any pieces, though we will edit for our publication’s style. We require only that you resist political attacks against your opponents.

San Marcos and Hays County are in the midst of interesting, definitive times. We need to talk about who we are, what we are and where we’re going. We need to do it like adults. That means we need to make comments about which we are serious enough to sign our names. If you can’t sign your name to an opinion, that tells us you don’t want anyone to know you hold that opinion. If you don’t want us to know you hold an opinion, if your opinion isn’t that important to you, then it’s not that important to us, either.

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116 thoughts on “Editorial: Attention anonymous posters

  1. I am such a fan of good policy! And I am hopeful that the discussions here will improve – or at best, return to what they once were. Thank you.

  2. There are some people who need anonymity because of fear of backlash where they work. The policy and intent described here appears to still allow them to engage in dialog, keeping their anonymity intact, and that is good. And, I do hope more people can respect the fact that other folks might think differently about certain issues. But, we must remember, we live together in this wonderful community, and most people I know around here are mighty good folks, even if they disagree with me on certain issues! I appreciate the forum San Marcos Local News provides to us. And I am looking forward to this next stage in the journey.

  3. It’s a privately owned website, and the owners have a right to do with it as they wish. However, years of being active on message boards across the world wide web have shown me that requiring a poster to use a full, real name when posting will achieve nothing more than to stifle discussion.

    I use a web handle here, as I do on all the other sites I visit, because it protects my privacy. I like to think that I’m not someone who will be affected by the new policy….philosophically, I’m opposed to it, though.

    Are there “trolls” on the ‘web? Certainly. However, a proper amount of forum moderation will serve sufficiently to eliminate their impact on a discussion. It works on discussion forums from CMT to CNN to the Ladies’ Home Journal.

    Some of you are OK with throwing your name around on the internet. I’m not, and no amount of policy changes will ever make that different….it’ll just make some go elsewhere for news and discussion.

  4. It sounds like a good policy to me. Dano, this is, from what I read, a “proper amount of forum moderation.”

    The entire moderation policy can be summed up in six words – no personal attacks from anonymous handles. I’ve been active on dozens of discussion boards, for a decade and a half. The successful ones have rules for posting and most of them are stricter than these.

  5. As a broad policy, I have no problem with this. Even if I do use a handle, a nickname I’ve had for over 3 decades so it’s not like a lot of people don’t know who I am. My email addy is correct, and I try not to libel anyone.

    However my Daddy taught me to say the Emperor has no clothes when it’s true.

    If a post libels someone, posted under a true name or a handle, it should be removed.

    But the problem could beocme the Editors picking some posts to delete based upon their own political agenda, economic well being or personal bias.

  6. From CNN (emphasis added):

    • You agree not to upload, post or otherwise transmit any User Content that violates or infringes in any way upon the rights of others, including any statements which may defame, harass, stalk or threaten others;
    • You agree not to upload, post or otherwise transmit any User Content that is offensive to the online community, including blatant expressions of bigotry, racism, abusiveness, vulgarity or profanity.
    • You agree not to upload, post or otherwise transmit any material that contains or advocates pornography, pedophilia, incest, bestiality, or that is otherwise obscene.
    • You agree not to upload, post or otherwise transmit any User Content that violates any law or engage in activity that would constitute a criminal offense or give rise to a civil liability;
    • You agree not to upload, post or otherwise transmit any User Content that advocates or provides instruction on illegal activity or discuss illegal activities with the intent to commit them;
    • You agree not to upload, post or otherwise transmit, without CNN’s express prior approval, User Content which contains advertising or any solicitation with respect to products or services;
    • You agree not to upload, post or otherwise transmit User Content that does not generally pertain to the designated topic or theme of any Interactive Area;
    • You agree not to impersonate any person or entity, including, but not limited to, any CNN employee, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with any person or entity;
    • You agree not to interfere with any other user’s right to privacy, including by harvesting or collecting personally-identifiable information about users or posting private information about a third party;

  7. Ladies Home Journal:

    You agree not to use the sites in any way to send or submit materials:

    a.that are false, inaccurate or misleading;

    b.that are fraudulent or involve the sale of counterfeit or stolen items;

    c.that infringe any third party’s copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret or other proprietary rights or rights of publicity or privacy;

    d.that violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation (including without limitation those governing export control, consumer protection, unfair competition, anti-discrimination or false advertising);

    e.that are defamatory, libelous, threatening or harassing;

    f.that are obscene or contain any kind of pornography;

    g.that contain any viruses, Trojan horses, worms, time bombs, cancelbots or other computer programming routines that are intended to damage, detrimentally interfere with, surreptitiously intercept or expropriate any system, data or personal information;

    h.that might create liability for us or might cause us to lose (in whole or in part) the services of our internet service providers or other suppliers;

    i.that interfere with the ability of others to enjoy our site;

    j.that impersonate any other person or entity, whether actual or fictitious, including impersonating an employee or consultant of Meredith Corporation; or

    k.that link to or include descriptions of goods or services that: (i) are prohibited under this Agreement; or (ii) you do not have a right to link to or include.

  8. Some gray areas. ” false, inaccurate or misleading” now that’s a hard one. False is kind of OK, if one can prove intent. The other two could eliminate a great deal of political speech. Why not include “mistaken: “misinterpreted” or some other vague words? Not saying that out right lies should be allowed, but “inaccurate” could be a hard standard to maintain.

    “.that interfere with the ability of others to enjoy our site” Does a post by someone considered a fool count? Someone you violently disagree with? A Democrat? A Republican? A Klan member (so long as it isn’t racist)?

    What about poking fun at someone else? Does the name Mark Twain ring a bell? That was a handle. Would Clemens be banned?

  9. I guess my problem with this policy is that it appears that the management here is singling out people who use “handles” as opposed to those who post under their real names.

    Notice that all of the policies that Ted reproduced here are “global” in that they do not set aside a special set of rules for those who are unwilling to post their given names on a message board.

    Would it have been any more difficult for the owners here to simply announce a policy imposing the same rules of ‘fair conduct’ for ***everyone***? Why should rude, insulting, or other poor behavior be dealt with any differently based solely on whose name is attached to the post? That makes absolutely no sense. The editorial even admits that people who post under their real names can be as rude as they want to one another….where is the sense in that?

    The mere act of singling out those who post under handles betrays a certain bias against such posters. The fact that the editor went so far to insult those of us who use handles is actually saddening to me. In fact, many of the generalizations made in the editorial above could be construed as “rude” or “insulting” and a violation of the very rule they are trying to implement. “Like children hiding behind couches”???? “persons of that nature aren’t fit for democracy”???? These are troubling comments from a media source.

    If the goal is to stimulate honest and fair discussion, I don’t think insulting about half of your users is a good way to start. I get it – management would like us to use our real names. That’s their preference, but from a business standpoint, the language posted in this editorial is inflammatory and poorly advised.

  10. Now that you’ve pointed out the “democracy” issue; last time I checked this great land had secret ballots. Mr. Peterson would you like to address that issue/seeming contradiction?

  11. The problem was that the person in charge of writing the story knows who is posting. That is what was explained to me. When you present an article stating from staff reports, so to speak then it makes it difficult to trust the people in charge of San Marcos News not to use it as their personal agenda. I thought this idea of this online newspaper was great because it allowed the San Marcos citizen to speak freely on concerns for our community, including mention people who may be mothers and fathers who have time and time again blatently spewed hatered and curse words at others during open public meetings. then goes on to whine about it because she was hurt her daughter read it. Her daughter was there during those meetings, she knows. Please Chris I cannot believe you went through this much trouble to make a stink. The SM record has failed to mention at times what is really going on and only presented certain points of views because of political backlash, losing a job, or that businesses would no longer advertise with the record if they printed what information was given to them by let’s say, the Chamber of Commerce. I would hate to think that this online news site would ever commerce in such dealing but it looks as if it has already fallen into somewhat by having such a school teacher attitude. No foul language should ever be used and at times the topic has gotten so heated, such as the ” It’s just a dog!” Story that newstreamz pulled the comments section, which is how they chose to handle us. But yet that Story made National news. Seems like there are some hot topics. By the way could someone sum up this story for me because I generally got bored after the first few paragraphs. What do they expect and want us to do again? Break it down what are our rules?

  12. I am Anonymous

    I don’t see why simple rules of civil decorum and decency should not apply to all posters. I will drop the “lothlin” and live by the same standard as Dano, Winchester, B. Franklin, django, etc.

  13. Singling out those of us who prefer not to use our real names is blatantly prejudicial. I wear many hats in this community and would rather not have my ability to move anonymously online infringed upon. I generally only post regarding very controversial topics, many that involve public officials or candidates. Being able to say how I feel or what I know to be true about a person who is either in office or wishes to be is why I post.

    I use a pseudonym because of the vitriol hurled by some of your posters who indeed use their real names.

    The upshot of this policy will indeed be to stifle dissent. If that is your purpose, then I hope you enjoy the muffled silence.

  14. Yeap. Apply the standard rules of decorum to everyone whether they use their “real” name or not. Using your real name shouldn’t give you license to behave like an a**. Get a moderator or require people to sign up to post. For posters, if you can’t back up a statement, then you probably shouldn’t say it.

  15. “There will remain, on the Internet, sites on which anyone can hide under an assumed name and lob grenades at their emotional and intellectual superiors who give their real names. But not here.”- Tis quite a brazen assumption that anonymity is a sign of intellectual and emotional inferiority. Is it a sign of emotional superiority to be offended by what is said on a blog on the internet, really? Then they go on with numerous statements about what constitutes democracy and who’s fit to live in one.

    Sometimes it’s necessary to interject the devil’s advocate in these “discussions” and that’s a role best played by the anonymous.

  16. One advantage the e-newspaper has over print is the immediate feedback that a story can generate. It allows differing views to interact, different perspectives on the “facts” But it is also the genie in the bottle, once allowed to flourish, it isn’t going back into captivity.

    McG and I, Dano and I, often disagree; but most always I find their language and arguments fair and decent, certainly within the bounds of common courtesy. On the other hand, while Lila and I share the same opinion of C. O’Dell, I sometimes find her language regarding him over the top.

    It’s a private website, as such Mr. Peterson you can make your own rules. I would suggest what most newspapers use, a legit email adress, no slurs, common courtesy, etc and those rules apply to everyone, using a handle, their real name, a purported real name, whatever. It is so much easier to maintain one rule than to make some of us sit at the back of the bus.

  17. “It should come as no surprise that the worst offenders are those who comment under fake names and hurl pot shots at people who comment by their real names.”

    I just re-read the editorial and this sentence jumped out at me. It strikes me as patently untrue…..the nastiest things I have ever read on this site have all been from a handful of local politicos who proudly post under their true names. I have seen more bad behavior from three “real” people (who, according to this editorial, must be superior to me) than everyone else on here combined.

  18. This site is not CMT, CNN, or LHJ, or even AT&T. This is a vehicle to disseminate news and views of people in San Marcos and Hays County. We are not forced into adherence to the PC standards of Baahston and the ACLU. Any protest of deviation from an individual’s personal standards can be answered easily, — “Just don’t read it.” And more to the point, don’t waste our time anonymously trying to hammer out a world standard for internet journalism. And even more to the point, isn’t there something else we can talk about, like water, natural resources, roads, education, law enforcement? Can’t we just get along?

  19. Nah, not you Ted 🙂

    Under the new rules, I can’t say exactly who I am talking about, though 🙁

    I think everyone knows, though.

  20. This strikes me as a very fair compromise for those who are cautious about business or personal repercussions
    to state their views without the vitriol that is too often thrown under the cloak of anonymity. The editors are to be congratulated for the thought that went into this compromise, allowing free speech but not hate speech or concocted smear campaigns.

  21. Nobody says you cannot use a “handle”. What the editorial says is that you cannot take anonymous potshots at people if you use one. The anonymous “calling out” of Lila Knight a few weeks ago was a bone-chilling lynch mob hiding behind masks while Lila stood her ground with her own name. I was ashamed to be a member of the human race when I read their misinformed vitriol.
    Then there is the poster who called someone “trash” and “filth.” This not within the realms of reasonable public discourse and I can’t imagine anyone who thinks that it is.
    Opinions can be scrutinized and questioned and debated- and you can do that anonymously. If you feel the need to call someone “filth” then you owe your name to your accused- that’s just common decency.

  22. I’m cautiously optimistic about this policy. There are instances when someone needs to get news out there, but can’t risk their job, etc by using their name (think Deep Throat/Mark Felt in Watergate). But he didn’t go and post in a comments section (if he could have in the 70’s). He went to Bob Woodward, a news reporter. The question is, how strong are the principles of journalistic source anonymity at SMLN?

    Also, can I call y’all SMLN?

  23. Oh, and how do you make sure someone posting under a “real name” is A: Really that person, and B: if that is a real person, and not just a ‘fake’ real name.

  24. I welcome the new policy and hope it is expanded to demand a minimum decorum from all who participate. There are thousands of websites that allow anonymous identities, some well moderated and others not. I would welcome the dissolution of anonymous posts altogether on this one -something along the lines of what Winchester suggested would suffice.
    If one cannot put one’s name on his true words here, what proud lie, offline, is he protecting? Why would it make me want to listen to anything he has to say? If we are to be invested in this community how are we to have a public discourse if half the room shows up with hoods over their head?

  25. Darn so I can debate the issues and use a false nome de plume ala John Adams, Jefferson and many others ….. as long as I don’t slander some one. Well what a bright idea. The key point here is that we can still debate the issues and do so shielded by an alias. I really like the idea. However, who determines what is slander…….?

  26. Actually Hap calling someone trash of filth is not acceptable behavior, no matter if the poster is named or not named.

    If I read some of the posts correctly, welcome to the Group W bench, McG, Mr. Sergi, Mr. Spiel.

    Mr. Cuningham, the compromise still allows ahte speech, you just have to post using a “real” name.

  27. Jason, as has been pointed out by others the anonymous postings allow more :freedom: if you will. Like others posting here w’o benifit of a “real name” I move professionally between communities with differing views; some of those communities share my beliefs on things such as conservation, racial equality, freedom of expression, abortion, pick a hot button issue of your own and add it here, others do not, Unfortuantely San Marcos and Hays county are not at all time the home ofacceptance of differing view points. I use a nom de cyber to preserve my ability to make a living and move between communities hoping to broker compromise and encourage enlightenment. If you decide not to read my words, I am not offended; but you have limited yourself. As for the “hood” remark, it could be taken as a reference to Klan membership, which personally I find insulting, I will not speak for others, but hope they share my opinion.

    The simple standard is common courtesy and proper decorum. Please someone present a valid argument to allow Jane Smith or William Jones to call someone a ‘bleep’ but deny that form of expression to zigzag or whodat.

  28. @Steve Harvey:

    I didn’t actually know it would do that when I posted….it happened automatically.

    I just typed colon, hyphen, close parenthesis and this popped up 🙂 Switch the third item to open parenthesis for the 🙁

    My email does that too. Oh, the mysteries of cyberland……

  29. Here are the most insulting comments made against “people like me” in this editorial:

    “It should come as no surprise that the worst offenders are those who comment under fake names and hurl pot shots at people who comment by their real names.”

    As mentioned earlier, the “worst offenders” are three people who post using their given names. But you don’t seem to be at all concerned with them for some reason. They’re the ones who make this place tough to visit sometimes.

    “We’re dealing with people who do not walk or talk democracy, and who should not be allowed to thrive in an environment such as this.”

    So because someone doesn’t feel like sticking their real name out there, they’re not worthy of the benefit of the democratic system? Isn’t that a bit extreme?

    “If you have something to say and lack the courage to say it and sign your name to it, you can still post here.”

    There are plenty of reasons to not want your given name attached to posts on the internet. People have posted many of those in this thread. “Lack of courage” isn’t the motivating factor for many of us, yet you seem to act like there is no other solution. Why insult your readership so? Do you WANT your business to fail?

    “But as long as they use their real names, they can hurl mud at each other so long as it pleases them — or until we have reason to step in.”

    Wow. Why such a blatant double standard? Shouldn’t we *all* be subject to rules of common decency?

    “We expect that the change in our comments policy will stimulate better, more serious discussion and that substantial adults who share their views using their real names can post here without fear of retaliation from the lower orders of human beings who lack the substance to say who they are.”

    Implying that people who choose not to post their real names are not “substantial adults” (whatever that means)? The second part is the kicker….lower order of human beings who lack substance? Dude, isn’t that sort of comment exactly what you’re trying to *ban* here. Again, I am baffled at a business that chooses to insult its customer base thusly.

    “There will remain sites on which anyone can hide under an assumed name and lob grenades at their emotional and intellectual superiors who give their real names. But not here.”

    What about posting a real name qualifies someone as an “intellectial and emotional superior”? I would take up with Winchester or django over Lila Knight or Charles O’Dell anyday……

    “…..political hacks hiding like children behind couches as they attempt to discredit real people without making themselves accountable. That’s not democracy and, we could say, persons of that sort aren’t fit for democracy.”

    Again with the personal insults….this is getting old.

    “If you can’t sign your name to an opinion, that tells us you don’t want anyone to know you hold that opinion. If you don’t want us to know you hold an opinion, if your opinion isn’t that important to you, then it’s not that important to us, either.”

    I don’t post my opinions because I want attention to *myself*. I post because I want attention on *the issue at hand*. And quite frankly, I don’t care if my opinion is important to you, because I’m not posting it for you to read. Mama loves me and nothing else matters 🙂

    After reading this whole editorial and the managements’ apparent disdain for “people like me”, I think I will look elsewhere for local news and discussion. I guess they don’t want me around here.

  30. For those of you old enough to remember, and with the length of attachment to San Marcos as I, I offer Dunbar School. Imagine this forum available while that school was open. Do yo htink anyoen posting urging its clsoing would have been met with milk & cookies in the real world? Or would their business suffer, their children be insulted, their home vandalized?

    I know Mr. Sergi, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. McGlothlin, Mr. O’Dell; I must assume they are posting under their names. If it is in fact someone else, the forum management needs to reconsider its policies in toto. I do not know Lila, or Ted, I don’t know if those people in fact exist, maybe they do, maybe they don’t, maybe it’s them posting under their own names, perhaps not. But to suggest that those individuals some how have a right to hurl pot shots & sling mud just because they post under “real names” is frankly insane.

    Mr. Peterson, the days of separate but equal are gone for good. Perhaps you should get with the times.

    Good night and good luck.

  31. The policy seems discriminatory, short sighted, hypocritical, narrow minded and holding the potential for greater censorship under vague and subjective terms such as misrepresented, nonfactual, ect… . Having said that, as I understand it, this is not a public site, it is privately owned and therefore rules of moderation, no matter how much of an impediment to open speech they may be, can be imposed by those that hold ownership. Only you can choose whether you are offended by something someone says, it is not up to the person who says it, but your intellectual decision to be or not to be offended. The power of another’s words rests in your perception of those words. Personally, i think this policy will weaken the integrity of this e-paper and will dampen online discussion.

  32. Mr. Winchester, in America, you have the right to face your accuser. You’re right, of course, that potshots are never civil or decent behavior. Anonymity seems to encourage that sort of childish indecency.
    Dano, I don’t mean to offend your ego but I don’t think this policy is particularly addressed at you. This is a public forum for debate and nobody wants to stop that. But the hateful name-calling has no place in it, and especially the anonymous “kangaroo court” posts where vicious personal attacks are acceptable while the attackers remain hooded and protected.
    I enjoy reading all of your posts ( yes, Dano, this IS addressing you and many many others) and will be sorry if you don’t understand the wisdom of the editor’s decision. I was on the fence on this policy until I started to read the arguments against it. I don’t understand what anyone has a problem with.
    The people who post here are your neighbors and people with whom you share the honor and responsibilities of citizenry in a great little city in a wonderful big state. I think this policy aims to respect them and you.
    Nobody wants to inhibit the fun of a debate. But, how many times have you gone to other sites and been sickened by what people say to each other under the cover of a “handle?”
    Post your opinion, rail against another’s, but if you start calling them nasty names, don’t be a chicken– stand up and show yourself.
    Frankly, I’m surprised at how much controversy it stirs up to just ask people to be decent to each other in the course of conversation. I will genuinely and puzzled-ly miss the input of those unwilling to accept this.
    I think I need some ice cream now.

  33. Thanks for the “official” reply, Hap. I agree with about 3/4 of what you say. It’s certainly true that the ability to make statements that you don’t have to be accountable for tends to breed bad behavior. But that’s no excuse for the comments made on this editorial. Read the editorial by Peterson from the perspective of a customer. It starts out talking about the behavior of internet “trolls”. These are bad to have around and I don’t think anyone disputes the validity of that statement.

    But then, Bill appears to lose his focus and goes on a diatribe about “people who post under assumed names”….which is (by your definition) me. It was either meant to be tremendously insulting to those of us who prefer to maintain some level of privacy, or it was simply an extremely poorly written piece. Either way, it should have been better thought out before it was posted.

    I work in the service industry, and I can’t imagine referring to my customers in a manner such as Bill Peterson referred to many of us in his editorial. I would prefer to keep my doors open.

    Finally, no one is suggesting that it’s bad policy to require people to be civil to one another in the course of their debates here. What is at question is why someone who chooses to post under their “real name” would be allowed to play by a different set of rules. I have personally been sickened by posts from “real” people just as often here as I have by those using assumed names.

    Now, if you have any ice cream left……..

  34. “Frankly, I’m surprised at how much controversy it stirs up to just ask people to be decent to each other in the course of conversation.”

    My thoughts, exactly.

  35. Many valid reasons for somebody to use a pseudonym. And plenty of those folks we have come to know (based on their postings over time) as sound thinkers making real contribution to the dialog. I guess I read the editorial policy too quickly the first time, as I would agree with the theme that we expect the same proper online behavior from all people who post, regardless of whether they are using a pseudonym or their real name. One thing that I’d love to see is the ability to click on the poster’s name and see their most recent posts. That can quickly inform or remind somebody as to the track record of how that person approaches dialog in this public forum. And, yes, I really am Steve Harvey in San Marcos, Texas!

  36. It’s not a just a request that people be at least professional respectful of each other. It is setting up a double standard for those of us who choose not to give our full names or use a handle. If it were just enforcing a standard of decency in the conversations here to everyone, then there would be no controversy. Many of us have valid reasons for not using our full or real names. You can re-read the thread if you want a list. If people are at least professional, then anonymity can improve the honesty of the debate. What I have seen happen on this board is a general move away from civil heated discussion to shouting matches. Anonymous posters are not the issue. Lack of regard for other points of view is. I have seen this happen on many boards where the owners don’t do an adequate job of moderation from the get go. A few of us have suggested other solutions, yet the owners are singularly focused on anonymity.

    If the owners of this site continue along this path, then I think we can consider the shark jumped as far as the usefulness of this site. In many ways I already do.

  37. Mr. Mansfield, while the courtesy is appreciated, please it’s just Winchester. 1. Mr. Winchester would be my Father and 2. yo assume I am male, may be, may be not. To respond, the right to face ones accuser is a criminal law issue, I don’t think we have sunk to that level, yet.

    I don;t believe anyone has posted that rude, nasty, uncalled for remarks were OK; except for Mr. Peterson. That is the only issue the standard needs to address. The standard would require a Moderator, of sorts; but would limit the deletion authority to anonymous posters. That is the controversy.

  38. Mr Sergi, please correct me if I am wrong. Assume Full Name posts something about X that X considers libelous. X sues, and names Full Name and Site as Defendants. Since Site has removed posts base upon this policy would that not increas the possability of a verdict against Site. Especially if Full Name turns out to not be a real person.

  39. Perhaps becasue the “policy” doesn’t solve the problem of rude crude and socially unacceptable posts, because Mr. Cunningham you may still call someone a no good low life drunken unfaithfull drug addicted child molesting SOB and dano, django, etc etc may not. Rather reminds me of back of the bus poll tax times, and I know you’re old enough to remember. And I would add McQ has joined the loyal opposition.

    And I thought you would bite on the Leonard remark.

  40. Welcome Mr. B. A failed attempt at injecting some humor into what has become a teaching pigs to sing situation. Along with the Joe Lansdale reference.

    Just think about this for a moment, Beyonce won an armfull of Grammys, Neil Young just won his first. Something ain’t right with the world.

  41. It seems that people are taking this a lot more personal that needed. Just like TV and music, if you don;t lke it, turn it off.

  42. I dunno….if “Bill Cunningham” was born “William Cunningham”, I think that means that he’s posting under an alias and not his real name….TO THE BENCH WITH BILL!!!!

    For that matter, is “Bill” Peterson his REAL name????

  43. For me – this says it all…
    “Before the anonymous complain that we are under-cutting their right to free speech, they must understand that they are under-cutting their own right to free speech. Free speech means you can freely say what you like openly without persecution. If you’re still afraid to expose your mind freely, even under the tolerant conditions of today’s America, and if it bothers you that you will not be granted pot shots at real people, all we can say is … not good.”

    If you want the right to free speech – truly free speech – then gut up to the table. And if you are fearful for what people might think – or say – about you. Then practice moderation. It’s just that simple. You either have the courage of your convictions to say whatever outrageous thing you have on your mind or, you don’t. For whatever reason. Stop whining.

    There really isn’t a better news site in our area for discussing issues that affect us. And I think each and every one of you knows that. That’s why you come to this one. Over and over again. The comments section is the best. And it will probably continue to be – even with this new policy. You’ll adapt… And in the end, it will be for the best. Because without the mud being slung at people with real names from anonymous people – there will be much less of a need to sling it from the other direction. Maybe we can get back to really discussing the issues. Has anyone considered that this might be a really positive outcome of this policy? Less personality – more content.

    But then – maybe that’s the problem some people are having with the new policy.

    Sidebar: Anyone know how to get rid of skunks living under your house?

  44. as a gov’t employee I must stay anonymous, but I like the new rules…..I think the problem stems from the fact that it starts with one pot shot and then snowballs into 100. I admit I’ve thrown some mud in the past but agree that the new rules will make this a site better.

  45. Do you honestly believe that if anonymous posters are no longer allowed to be “rude” to you that there would be no rudeness here? The ugliest fights I have ever seen on here are between you and O’Dell. Does it make it OK that we *know* your real names when you’re acting that way toward one another?

    On another point, the whole argument about “free speech” is improperly used in the context of any discussion of what is and is not allowed on this site. The First Amendment guarantees us that our government will not impose limits (with certain exceptions, as interpreted by our courts) on our ability to practice free speech. It doesn’t say anything about what private enterprises are or are not able to allow on their own dime. This is their site, and they can set the rules. The argument isn’t one about free speech. It’s about a policy that was poorly conceived and even more poorly presented by management in an editorial that I personally find to be condescending and insulting.

    Hap said this isn’t about me. I *know* this policy isn’t aimed at me. I generally pride myself on sticking to the issues and leaving personal attacks out of it. If someone behaves poorly, I will tell them they are behaving poorly, but I’m not likely to call them names over it. I think my comments on this thread bear that out.

    Management seems to have decided to throw out the baby with the bath water with this policy. Rather than setting standards of decency for the whole population to abide by, they decided to declare war on anyone who chooses not to disclose their “real” identity here by sticking them with a vague set of behavioral standards – a standard that they have openly declared won’t be applied to other posters.

    The irony of it is that many of the comments in the editorial itself don’t meet the standard that they seem to be trying to establish. Of course, since the editor used his real name, I guess that makes it OK. Either that or it’s just a case of “do as I say not as I do.”

  46. Oh, and since skunks are nocturnal, setting up bright lights under your house should flush them and keep them out. If that isn’t logistically possible, some farm and ranch supply stores actually sell skunk repellent.

    Hope that helps.

  47. I guess I don’t understand how using your ‘real name’ should matter at all. If you know the ‘true” identity of someone because you see their name listed before you–and they challange your viewpoint–how in the world does that change your response? Are you going to look them up and pay them a home visit because you are angered at their comment? Several comments have said something to the affect of backing up what you say with your name…who cares? if you are debating issues and someone takes a shot at you and it is irrelvant–don’t respond. Since when is a debate about tough issues ever going to be without hurt feelings, and sometimes hateful rhetoric. Not saying that is good, it’s just reality. I agree people should be kind and civil in any debate–but we all know that this is not the way of the world. If you cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen. I think the policy should be fair across the board and should not single out the people that wish to remain anonymous or use a handle. That is just rediculous. I will use my name and defend those that wish to remain anonymous. I could care less if someone redicules what I say–I think that is the whole point. Quit being so thin skinned. I am not defending those that obviously comment spewing hatred or being very derogatory–no need for that. There will always be those posters–I think those people are the minority–but gtet over it seriously. I think it’s funny how people can call people whiners and yet they sound the same way.

  48. OK, It wasn’t a clickable link when I posted it. WordPress “modified” it for me (and YOU). If an apology is in order, then here it is.

  49. I found:
    post #1 ironic.
    post #12 some interesting remarks
    posts #28 & 30 what is wrong w/the policy
    post #34 hit the target about what was wrong w/the editorial

  50. I’ve tried the skunk repellent before. It really doesn’t work very well and it’s actually fox urine. You don’t even want to know how they get it either. Once I learned, I couldn’t go back to that. The human kind works pretty well – but not when its raining…

  51. I had never used the skunk repellent personally, but it sounds kinda like the “deer repellent” that you buy that just smell like cat pee. I’m not a fan of that stuff either.

  52. Eric raises an interesting point when he writes “Are you going to look them up and pay them a home visit because you are angered at their comment?”
    I would think that allowing mud-slinging by people using their real names has at least the potential for sowing more discord in the wider real-life community than anonymous postings. I await the unintended consequences of this policy with interest.

  53. Mr. Eric Franklin, I’ve had my home and vehicles vandalized because of letters to the editor, I have been confronted in public and had both my business and my personal well beign threatened because of my political decesions, so yes there’s a reason for a handle. I hate to burst the bubble that this nation/county are a wonderfull tolerant place, there is still a lot of work to be done. I would contend that my own experience disproves Mr. Peterson premis that Ms. Knight use to rationalize this policy. Then there is that pesky identity theft thing we all read about.

    That we are discussing a policy that creates two classes of individuals on Rosa Parks birthday is ironic to the point of absurdity.

    Ms. Knight, Dano is correct the little buggers are nocturnal, please don’t mess with them during the day, it won’t bwe pleasant. Try to figure out how they are gaining entrance, perhaps place some bait to encourage their exit, and seal the entrance.On a scientific note, do you know what species of skunk?

  54. Noooo – I don’t know what type of species. And I’m not sticking my head under there to find out. But if you can tell by scent alone, I might be able to figure it out. I found the hole. Thinking of sealing it in the middle of the night when they are out. Just hope they all go out at once. I think I have a den of them (it’s mating season – I could give you more details on that if you want…). Please – no nasty comments on why I am attracting these little critters. Be nice…

    Back to the topic. I think it is imperative that all of us try harder not to sling mud and nasty, personal comments at one another. I’m willing to try. Particularly if it raises the level of the discussion a few notches. I realize that we all are passionate about our views, which is why we are here in the first place. But I look forward to a reason to practice more discipline.

  55. @Lila
    When you bait them out use honey. Skunks love honey.
    Obviously, that’s why they chose your house, because you’re such a sweet person.

    See how well the non-aliased get along? -the new policy is working already.

  56. Thanks for the tip Jason! I’m going to use it… And thanks for the kind words. I really need them right now – I’ve lost my ability to smell…

  57. re: the significance of real names – if I post a comment, saying that I have firsthand knowledge of someone’s character or behavior, they can see my name and easily refute that claim, or put it into context, or whatever. Without my name, they have no real way to defend themselves.

  58. For example, if Bob is running for office and I post, anonymously, that i have seen Bob come unglued and become verbally abusive, all he can do is make a broad (generally unconvincing) denial.

    If he sees my name, he may be able to say that he has never even met me. He may be able to recall the situation that I am talking about, but may have a different side to that story. He may be able to say that I am the one who was verbally abusive and that I am just a disgruntled former employee, with a bone to pick. The difference, for Bob, can be significant.

  59. Last time I spoke with Bob he was a Dell costomer service rep in Pakistan.

    The easy, simple efficient rule is, no abusive posts, period. As Dalton put it “be nice”

    Ted, if you don’t mind do me a huge favor, please read e.e.cummings poem, i sing of olaf.

  60. Well, I guess that I have been censored. One computer says “awaiting moderation” and the other does not show the post which was to have been # 55.

    There were no references to ANY individual, but the reference to a URL in the Denver Post was interpreted as a link (w w w.whatever——-) and WordPress (this blog platform) made the inference that it was to be a link, and posted it as such.

    Alas, the thrill is gone (seemingly).

    Yet more rules to live by.

  61. Winchester, I already get enough homework at school, thanks. If you would like to make your point here, I am happy to read it. Otherwise, I will just concede that you are far more enlightened than I.

  62. Also, the post in my example was not abusive. It was simply very difficult to defend oneself against, when it comes from an anonymous source. So, I do not understand the relevance of your rebuttal.

  63. I’ll make it easy on you then Ted, change abusive to slanderous. Or if your prefer churlish. May be smartass. How about “derogatory” to quote Mr. Peterson.

  64. Dano, I really thought you had picked the Op Ed to pieces, and I may have missed it, but did this catch your eye.

    We won’t share, in much more detail, our opinion about posters who violate all principles of fair dealing by taking such a low road. We’ll do something better. People can still comment under names other than their own. But they will not be allowed to make any kind of derogatory remark about anyone, except, perhaps, other posters who use fake names.

    So I guess I can insult/abuse/deride/cast aspersionson/make fun of you or django or any other anonymous poster .

  65. I’m just not in the mood to trust an anonymous source who claims that I will come out “improved” on the other end, nor am I remotely confident that I will interpret a poem in the same way you do, much less figure out how you associate that poem to this editorial, or my comments, or someone else’s comments.

    I guess I feel like you would just make your point here, if it was really important to you. Then, I would happily and respectfully read it. Otherwise, as I said, I have enough reading on my plate already.

  66. Pretty hard to interpret that particlular poem but one way. And exposure to literature is almost certain to improve an individual.

    Just put it on your reading list for later, somethime when your plate isn’t so full.I think you will like it.

  67. I find the narcissism of the belief that using one’s own name gives one some sort of moral superiority terribly amusing. Any room left on that bench?

  68. I’ll put it on the list.

    I hope you won’t find it rude that I intend to have completely wiped my memory of this entire editorial and thread by then.

  69. If I gave you $5 for every time I claimed any “moral superiority,” you wouldn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.

  70. So, Am I real or am I fake? Am I who I say I am? How do you know? Did you request that I submit a bill or something with my name as shown on this site in order to prove that I am who I say I am? What is to stop the privacy seeking folks to just make up a real sounding name? How will you check to see if it is indeed real? I think tomorrow I will become Joe Gonzales. Would I still be considered anonymous or real??

    I am the head moderator of the world’s largest Internet forum in a particular interest area (over 9k members), and I can tell you that your policy will not work. You have to have an across the board policy for ALL participants, not just a certain group. I think you would be much better off make a zero tolerance policy for rude posts and leave it at that. As is, you have opened up a big can or worms that you can not effectively enforce.

  71. Observer, tomorrow I will not be who I say I am so I will not know if I should sit on the bench of those who say they are not who they say they are or stay with the folks that say they are who they say they are! Am I who I am or someone who says they are who they say they are?? 🙂

  72. And I know that you know that I know that that’s why you should sit on the bench. We’re a knowledgeable group. But you knew that.

  73. Let’s give the new policy a real life test. I am posting this, as usual, under my own name. Being a real connoisseur of local political gossip, I have picked up this rumor floating around the county. The County Judge has a dog named django. Fact or fiction? Who cares. It is a great rumor with a lot of significance.

    Under the new rule, newstream can not censor that post. If I had posted this rumor under an assumed name, would the newstreamz have deleted my post?

    Inquiring minds want a ruling from Bill Peterson.

    Isn’t that more interesting than Lila’s skunks?

  74. Yea, I know the second post doesn’t make any sense. It was a mistake. Bill you may delete the second post because it adds nothing to the discussion.

  75. Let’s put that theory to the test, Charles. As usual, I am posting under my handle.

    “Being a real connoisseur of local political gossip, I have picked up this rumor floating around the county. The County Judge has a dog named django. Fact or fiction? Who cares. It is a great rumor with a lot of significance.”

    Under the new rule, management can choose to delete my post and leave Charles’. which would show the disparity between the standards for you and I.

    Or they can leave it alone – after all, django is also a handle and apparently “we the unnamed” will be allowed to wreak havoc on one another.

    Hey Charles, can we do this with someone that posts under their real name too? To me, that would be the real acid test…..

  76. Not that I want to contribute to the perpetuation of this discussion, but I believe “The County Judge” is a real person and therefore the comments would not fall under anonymous people talking about anonymous people.

  77. I find it interesting that there are so many comments focusing on the ability to post comments, rather than discussing more relevant issues in our city and county.

    It would be nice to see this level of interest regarding things that actually affect citizens rather than nitpicking over rules on a privately owned website.

  78. Change it to “a County Judge”. Could be Powers, or Warner. Not anonymous, but not specific

    I love the scientific method.

  79. I am curious about car wrecks, too. That doesn’t mean I like to cause them, just to see what happens.

  80. I agree with Kenny. Time to move on. Unless you’re just trying to reach 100 posts on this particular topic. We’re almost there!

  81. I don’t know about the rest of the Group W Bench folks, but I’m still waiting for some sort of logical reason that some people are required to behave like grownups and some are not. Failing that, I can only assume that this policy furthers some hidden agenda, making this site no longer credible as a source for local news. I think it’s a valid & relevant question and a response along the lines of “move along, nothing to see here” does little to regain my respect.

  82. To be fair, Kenny, not all the comments are about the ability to post comments. We’ve also been discussing skunks, avant-garde poetry & metaphorical seating arrangements. And I, for one, have found it all quite fascinating. It’s a good feeling to know that I am prepared to deal with a skunk under my house, should such a misfortune ever befall me. Best of luck to you, Lila.

  83. Winchester (post 61): I was actually agreeing with you in my post. I was asking those that defend the non-use of handles (editor, etc)–why do you need to know who it is anyway? “to pay a home visit to someone after you disagree?” (I sarcasticly stated)…in other words, for whatever reason you wish to use one, that should be good enough–safety, work, etc. It should not make one’s answer any different if you choose to respond–and like many have pointed out throughout–there is no way to know if I am really Eric Franklin–because tomorrow I could be John Doe (as explained by scott davis in post 82). Although I must concede that Ted makes some nice points in post #66. All in all–I think it should be a fair policy across the board…there is something about the concept of fairness that makes me feel like democracy is indded intact. Have we reached 100 yet?

  84. BTW, all this talk about skunks and guess what…..My darn dog got into a skunk tonight and the entire outside smells terrible! Almost as bad as this new policy! 🙁

  85. Bummer about the dog – But I have a recipe for that. Mix 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap (like what you use for dishes). Lather up your dog with this. It’s important to do the rubbing. Then make sure you rinse him well. And keep it out of his eyes. This mixture causes oxygen molecules to bind to thiols, which are apparently what makes skunks stink – and this neutralizes the odor. It works soooo much better than tomato juice and it was developed by a veterinarian. You may need to make several batches of the stuff, depending on the size of the dog. Works on people too.

    Do NOT use this on clothing. The hydrogen peroxide will take the dyes out of cloth.

  86. Skunks? Yeah they come out in the February campaign season as well. Looking for a little flirtatious fun in the Hays country side. It’s hard to get that stink off you when they spray all over. (Oh, sorry, you’re not talking about POLITICAL skunks….)

    As someone who has always published in this forum using my real name, I see no issues. Thank you, I think this will help the forums, but I can respect the anonyminity needed by some due to political / government backlash.

    BTW, Come on out to the Congressional District 25 candidate debate forum at the Embassy Suites on McCarty lane from 5-7 today (February 6th)! Get your chance to ask some real tough questions of the candidates IN PERSON!

  87. Lila, I had used that skunk recipe years ago but had not looking for it yet this evening. You saved me some searching and it worked great! Dog is now nice and clean, at least until he rolls in some smelly stuff somewhere. He is a Blue Heeler and you know how they like their “perfume”! Thanks for saving me some searching!

  88. I actually love it when somebody confuses me for people who write better than I do and understand the issues and the players better than I do.

  89. 3% Hydrogen Peroxide will not bleach your clothing. It is, in fact, a specific remedy for removing blood from cloth.

  90. If you have skunks under your house or squirrels in your attic you can use mothballs to run them out. They can’t stand the smell. Only trouble is, neither can you so you’ll want to be able to retrieve the mothballs. Put the mothballs in a mesh fabric like nylon hose and tie them to a string so you can retrieve them. Seal the holes once you’re sure the critters are gone.

  91. Glad to help Scott – do you have any advice with regard to my sinuses? They have gone totally haywire since this mating season crap started. Not like allergies. Just swollen and hurt. And if I was savvy enough, I could do that pathetic little sad face icon….

  92. Cannot believe this thread reached 100+ On a broader note, I’d like to vent. The more people I meet, the more people I speak with, the more news I watch, the more articles I read, the more politicians I hear, the more laws passed, the more rules imposed, the more money spent, the more jobs lost, the more manufacturing/industry shipped out… let me know that I am 100% sure that this country is imploding from within and might just be in the midst of its last breathes. I’d say all we can do is hope, but even that just seems naive. Maybe its Hope and not patriotism as Samuel said or Prayer as Lisa said, that is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

  93. Lila, You may not like this option on the skunks but…my brother-in-law had had some under his house just like you do. He put out a trap and caught them. The problem then is how to re-locate of dispose of them without getting sprayed. He took a large trash can and put it over the trap and then ran a vacuume hose from the exhaust of his truck and put it under the trash can. Yes, he killed the skunks but it was a very humane method (they just went to sleep) and the skunks did not release any of their spray. I am sure the animal rights people will jump all over this message but sometime you just have to do what you have to do.

  94. Dear django

    Never forget the great carton by Peter Steiner:

    “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”

  95. Skunk Update: I hate to say this (particularly since it rained last night), but I’ve been skunk free for the last couple of nights. I’ve been collecting my urine (and that of anyone who visits) and pouring it into their hole as well as around the perimeter of the house. Rain may have washed it away – sooo they may be back. I’ll try blocking the hole today. If they are still there – I’ll know it pretty quickly. All hell will break out tonight… But its smelling pretty normal right now.

    Didn’t mean to gross anyone out.

    Thanks for the tip Scott. I don’t have a problem killing them. I pulled out 8 skunks a couple of years ago with the help of a critter man who covered the trap with a tarp and relocated them to a ranch. But its expensive. A friend shot the last one.

    Thanks for all the tips guys… Appreciate the help.

  96. Not sure if it’s one big one, or if it breaks into two small ones. When I see them, I generally head in the other direction.

    I would make a lousy eye-witness.

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