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Friday, January 17, 2014

The mask of anonymity

A subject I have been pondering as of late is what to do about anonymous comments on this blog.  It has been brought to my attention by certain readers that too many readers of this blog hide under the mask of anonymity, and therefore I should eliminate this as an option.

Allow me here to list the advantage and disadvantage to using the mask of anonymity.  I think the most prevalent reason for using an anonymous name is the Hippa law which prevents medical caregivers from sharing information about patients.  Many hospitals take this law almost too seriously, and therefore threaten to fire any employees suspected of violating this law.

Another prevalent reason for using an anonymous name is that the U.S. Constitution protects your natural right to criticize the government, but does not protect your natural right to criticize you employer.  In order to encourage discussion on this blog, the privilege of using the mask of anonymity is essential.

There are also disadvantages to allowing anonymity on this blog.  Among these is the fact that, when no one knows your true identity, you are more likely to say things you would never say to a person's face.

Along this line of thinking, I find that there are occasional comments that, in the absence of facts to defend their arguments, people personally attack those of whom they disagree with.  These ignorant debaters use language to malign the recipient's image, as opposed to their argument.  Examples here include comments such as the following:
  • "You are an idiot for your thoughts
  • "You are a Nazi"
  •  "You are a liar for your beliefs" 
Such comments are inappropriate and antithetical to any discussion in the arena of ideas.  In my book, people who use them automatically lose the argument, and duly prove their own ignorance, more so than further their argument, or disprove the argument of the other person.

Of course another disadvantage is the opportunity for spam.  While Blogger, like Yahoo and Hotmail, have some great anti spamming programs, some spammers have learned that by using an anonymous or fake name they re able to get past any spamming screens. So one of the greatest challenges of any blogger is protect his readers from exasperating spam.

So, where do we go from here?  Upon review of these advantages and disadvantages, I find that there is no choice but to continue to allow anonymous comments.  This was a difficult decision, although, I believe, an important one. The following weighted in my decision:
  1. Pseudonyms have been used on this blog to protect the identity of authors so that they do not lose their day jobs.
  2. Anonymity is often necessary to protect the identity of readers who otherwise are afraid to share opinions about their employers and patients that would benefit the discussion at hand.
  3. Although it can be an arduous task, comments suspected to be spam can be removed by the administrators.   
  4. Most anonymous comments are respectful to the author and relevant to the discussion at hand.  Very few inappropriate comments are posted on this blog.
So, while I personally would like to abandon anonymity on this medical blog, I find that it will continue to be necessary.

Surely it's unfortunate, but there is an inclination to be politically correct in the healthcare business; too many of us are afraid to speak the truth in lieu of fear that we may lose our jobs.  Truly, political correctness, while pleasing to the ear, will nary advance any discussion in the arena of ideas.

Since this blog encourages an open discussion about the healthcare profession in general, and particularly regarding the respiratory therapy profession, I have decided to continue to allow the anonymous comment.  Trust me, this was a very difficult decision, but I think it was the correct one.


migrainer said...

I appreciate the ability to use a pseudonym, since I don't want to 'out' myself to possible co-workers, however, I always give myself a nom du plum, and I stick with it, so that you all can see that all the posts as migrainer are by me. Maybe dropping the anonymous option, but keeping the ability to use a pen name would keep both halves happy.

john bottrell said...