And the Gormangate news continues. LISNews put up a summary of the blog coverage, and Library Journal published a reaction piece on the coverage of the story by bloggers, which Karen Schnieder proceeded to take apart with near surgical precision. I don’t really have much to add to her pitch perfect analysis, with the exception of this quote from LJ:
Gorman, whose views do not represent the official positions of either ALA or California State University Fresno (where he directs the library), has received more than 100 messagesâ€”more than half of them sent pseudonymously.
Karen does a great job analyzing the first part of this, but I’m a bit interested in the last bit. Why take the time to point out that some of the messages were sent anonymously? The only reason to do so that I can imagine is an attempt to lessen their impact. If the people can’t even put their name on a letter, why should we take them seriously, right? I can’t see any other reason for LJ to point this out, and that’s what bothers me most.
In this country (the US, for those keeping track) we have a longstanding tradition, upheld by the highest court in the land, of anonymous criticism. The courts have long held that for speech to be truly free, one aspect of that is the freedom to be anonymous in your speech. In the central case for this right, McIntyre v. Ohio Election Commission, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:
Under our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.
In an even earlier case, Talley v California, Justice Hugo Black, noted:
Even the Federalist Papers, written in favor of the adoption of our Constitution, were published under fictitious names. It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.
In addition to the various poor journalistic practices pointed out by Karen, to be dismissive of anonymous criticism is to be ignorant of the history of speech in this country. I would expect better of Library Journal.