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 sanmarcoslocalnews.com 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.Email | Print