Reblog: Ten Reasons For The Anonymity Of Catholic Bloggers

In the last days, objections have been made to the fact that many of those who write about Catholic matters do so anonymously. As always, there is no scarcity of people who indulge in easy accusations of what they don’t like, and can’t control. Let us examine what this is all about and the many valid reasons for anonymity on the internet.

1) Anonymity is freedom. Unless one lives on Planet Pollyanna, there is no denying (not even by its detractors) that the protection afforded by anonymity allows information to be exchanged and discussed that otherwise would have never reached a wider public. This makes our societies (and more specifically the religious discussion) more free. This is important, as freedom of expression is an extremely important pillar of every democratic society.

2) Anonymity encourages criticisms of what doesn’t work within the Church. As Catholics, we have the duty to react to scandals and abuses we see around us, but we don’t have the duty to seek martyrdom (I mean here in a broader sense, as persecution or discrimination because of our convictions) if we don’t have to. Anonymity on the internet makes therefore not only democratic societies more free, but provides a better system of control for the abuses within the Church. If a Bishop tells you that he feels scrutinised by the anonymous internet bloggers, it’s because he is. This is good for Catholicism, and potentially vital for the salvation of the relevant Bishop’s soul.

3) The accusations of it being “coward” to hide behind anonymity are the most cowardly acts themselves. Repressive political systems are those who try to repress anonymity the hardest. The people asking bloggers to reveal their identity are not much different than, say, Saddam Hussein calling his opponents cowards because they stay hidden. There’s a reason why people hide behind anonymity and only stupid people, or people in utter bad faith, pretend not to understand them.

4) If you look attentively, you noticed that anonymity is one of the most powerful engines of progress. Whistleblowing sites could never exist without the protection afforded by anonymity, and they are a most powerful engine of correct behaviour and have now possibly become the most implacable weapon against criminal behaviour within corporations and public bodies. Why anonymity would be acceptable for them but unacceptable for misbehaviour within the Church (which, notabene, can include child abuse and the like) is beyond me.

5) The accusation of it being very easy to slander people from behind anonymity does not really stand scrutiny. It being very easy to slander from behind a wall of anonymity, the relevant information is heavily discounted. People have always written anonymously on walls, but this has never made what they wrote believed just because it was written. On the contrary, an accusation made from an anonymous person will need to be substantiated to even begin to carry any real credibility. This is exactly what happens on the Internet. Criticism of clergy is accompanied with facts and evidence, or it is easily discarded. This is another of the beauties of the Internet. If, say, a Bishop gives scandal by participating to the “ordination” of a “bishopess” or some Protestant ecclesial community, the information will be there with the facts: day, people present, photos, videos, the whole enchilada. It is obvious to the meanest intelligence what counts here is the fact, the provenance being fully irrelevant in the economy of the scandal.

6) It is undeniable, though, that insisted, repeated slander may – even if unsubstantiated – have some effect in the long-term on the person affected. Voltaire used to say something on the lines of “keep on slandering: something will stick”. There you are, you will say, but the best protection against such slander is, once again, anonymity! Every non addetto ai lavori (as journalist, or priest) who willingly renounces to his own anonymity when he writes on the internet is allowing his ego to play him the most dangerous of tricks. Be assured that there will be a price to pay, as recently seen in the case of a “commenterer” known to many of us.

7) It has always been known to people with some salt in their brains – a minority, I sometimes think – that a wise man picks up his own fights. It is utterly illogical (nay: it is outright stupid) to think that what we write will not have an impact on our future – allowing for countless forms of covert discrimination, never to be proved and impossible to trace or fight against – for decades to come. It is the very freedom of our societies which makes this unavoidable.

This may not be a problem for a journalist (who makes of it his profession, and for whom his own name is a brand and professional tool), but can be a huge problem for everyone else. A wise man will prudently decide himself if and when and under which conditions to face a conflict because of his religious convictions, but a moron will gladly expose himself to every kind of retaliation of which he might even never become aware (lost work opportunities, or business opportunities, or both).

8 ) Even anti-discrimination legislation wisely chooses the same way as Internet bloggers. Information about health, age, religion cannot be asked by a potential employer. There is a reason why, and it is that such information opens huge doors to discrimination. How stupid would it be to legislate against such form of discrimination, whilst demanding that bloggers voluntarily expose themselves to it, irrevocably, for all time to come. Make no mistake, religion is – and always will be – the biggest cause of hatred and conflict. It’s just the way it is and he who doesn’t see it is in serious need of waking up.

9) Stupid commenters were never considered less stupid because they are not anonymous. Intelligent commenters were never considered less intelligent because they are. I – and everyone else – will pick my sites and blogs according to the validity of their content, not according to the degree of anonymity of their writers. Just to make an example, “Splintered Sunrise” is an excellent blog. Is anyone concerned that it is anonymous? Not I.

10) We have recently had another example of how beautiful anonymity is. I do not know whether priests are allowed to blog anonymously (albeit, by definition if they really wanted they’d be able to do it anyway), but had Fr. Mildew written an anonymous blog, he’d have been much more relaxed against the bullying of Mgr. Basil Loftus. His blog is now closed. QED.

This is of course not meant to be a justification of my being strictly anonymous, for which there is no need. Rather a caveat to all those who still haven’t understood the potentially devastating influence of a sustained, prolonged Internet presence with their own names, particularly when the subject matter is not neutral (like photography, dogs, or gardening) but serious, highly emotional issues like politics and, most importantly, religion.

Wake up to the reality of the Internet. The immense freedom it harbours also hides dangers for your own professional future; dangers the more devastating because subtle and able to damage you whilst keeping you fully unaware of what is happening. And if you think that this problem only concerns people with extreme views or roaming the internet with illegal purposes ask everyone who works for reference checking firms, and think again.

Mundabor

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Posted on February 18, 2017, in Catholicism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. I dont doubt for a moment the validity of anonymous comments but what is stupid is the many times you have one anonymous comment, commented upon by another anonymous comment…Pretty soon no body knows which anonymous comment came from which anonymous source. Surely for the sake of some clarity these people should be made to use what grey matter they have to think up a nomdeplume all their own. That cant be too hard.
    I hope you get my drift. Signed…Anonymous.

    • I consider “anonymous” every comment by which the commenter does not state his real life name. The nom de plume is useful for many reasons, but does not make someone less anonymous.
      Thankfully, WordPress does not allow people to post as “anonymous”. Therefore, I think you refer to what happens on “disq us” or “Blogger”… I agree with you, that system is plain dumb.
      m

  2. Is this in response to the article from SSPX District of USA? I went on quite a furious rant about this and someone said, “Idiot mouth, it’s satire.” Usually I recognize satire, I guess I wasn’t expecting it from this quarter.

    • You are an attentive reader.. 😉

      No, it was not satire. I think someone pissed seriously out of the WC.

      M

    • Think about the position of the SSPX: they are pretty well obliged to keep their counsel and disagree with any anonymous commentary, as they are the ones who’ve been accused of any and all of it for many years. Their more interesting lines said ‘it would have been funny’…under other conditions. So they saw the humor in the posters and the fake ‘L’Oservatore Romano’ but for the record said it wasn’t funny because of the office of the pope. And it isn’t really funny when you realize a pope may actually deserve it!

    • I did not find it funny.
      They accused – not in jest – the author of the posters, “Fra Cristoforo” on the Italian blog, Don Pace on Rorate Caeli and others of cowardice. Which is a very easy thing to do when you work for an order that is beyond the reach of the paws of the V II Bishops.
      M

  3. The prophets never went anonymous.

    • Hey, sherlock, you write this comment as zziizzoouu.

      By the way, I do not know any blogger who claims he is a prophet. But I have read many commenters who are just plain stupid.

      M

    • Mundabor, I don’t want to get into arguments with you because I’m on your side. I didn’t intend that comment about prophets being anonymous as some attack; I should have posed it as a question. On that note, I hope your blog continues to do well.

      Pax Christi.

    • You made a very stupid comment, and your comment got the answer it deserved.
      I noticed (and publish) your new one.

      Pax Christi to you, too.

  4. ilovevictoriasbows

    Excellent article, Wayne.

  5. The Mundabor I know is a real man, Italian by birth, who fell away from the Faith, or was living a zombified version of it and by the grace of God rediscovered his patrimony. This is much like many of us who came of age in the two decades post Vatican II. One day we realized what was truly forsaken and returned with joy and firm purpose of amendment to reform our lives and bask in the beauty of Holy Mother Church and the embrace of our Lord.

    We know our Mundabor lives in London, is well traveled, has a cat, loves tea and beautiful cars, and is far more literate in English than your average Brit. He attends the TLM and appreciates beautiful music and has a generous heart. He cares deeply for souls.

    We may not know him by Carlo Manzoni or Frederico Brunetti but he has far more passion than most and the Faith and sensus Catholicus leaps off the virtual pages of his blog. He feeds us real food! Far more than the fake food of non-anonymous flesh and blood Jorge Bergoglio.

  6. I agree somewhat. … My nomdeplume ‘geoffkiernan’ does indeed identify me but that is a decision I make and I am OK with it. Although my personal opinion is that I feel everyone should identify themselves I would not insist on it because I know the genuine among us have legitimate reasons for remaining ‘anonymous’ My gripe is that if 20 odd people use the nomdeplume of ‘Anonymous’ then it is not possible for others to make followup comments or counter arguments.
    What I am trying to say is that the following nomdeplume’, (words taken at random from the margin opposite) ‘Alms’ and ‘Humanae’ and ‘Rerum’ and ‘Pascendi’ are all equally anonymous but ( and this is my point) they are different….. I repeat, do you get my drift? I thought I made myself clear the first time… Thanks for your work by the way.

    Having said all that I suddenly realize that the solution is probably out of your hands anyway, if I understand the working of this machine (my computer) correctly.
    I have spent far too much time on this already….

    • In my eyes WordPress does it right: by forcing one to pick a handle, it allows people to know what the person behind the handle is saying. The “Anonymous” anonymous posters only add confusion.

  7. PS..This is contagious… I tried to be concise but failed. Lets hope I have at least made my point.

  8. Look at the deacon in UK who was silenced a couple of years ago. If he’d been anonymous it couldn’t have happened. I think in normal times, in normal discourse, anonymity is probably not needed. In times of war, it is imperative, else all of the people who are ‘on to the system’ and warning others will be silenced one way or another. (And no way pleasant…) It seems pretty straightforward.

  9. Let me make one more point …. even though I feel all should identify themselves when making comments, In other word we should have the courage to ‘own’ what we say, there are many, many times the vacuity of what I have said makes me wish I had remained anonymous. Sadly our more stupid comments remain with us forever just as readily as our ‘pearlers’. And I ask, Is that fair? ( insert here a one of those silly smiling faces)

    • You still haven’t made your point, though.
      Why is the world owned that you tell it who you are? More to the point, why should the world care a straw?
      Is the argument good?
      This is what count.
      M

  10. Mate, I think perhaps we have our wires crossed here somewhere.

    “Why is the world owned that we tell it who you are?”….

    I meant, or rather I did say, That when we assigned our name to a comment we tend to ‘own’ ( take responsibility for ) that comment more so than we do when we simply assign a nomdeplume. That would/should make us a little cautious in what we say. I repeát it ‘should’ but going by some of the ‘howlers’ I’ve made it doesn’t always work…. God bless you and your work

    • But that is actually not true.

      The brand “Mundabor” is – whilst perfectly insignificant in the great scheme of things – far, far more established than my own private name. Having said that, it is perfectly irrelevant whether what appears on a blog is signed “Joe Bloggs” or “Pincopallo” or “Mundabor”: what counts is the message.

      I stumble upon blogs perfectly unknown to me, written by perfectly anonymous people, who write beautiful things. Never have I cared how the writer is called, and never will.

      As to your last part, I must say here that I belong to those who think twice before they open their mouth, or type on a blog. Every statement you read here, and every statement you hear from me in real life may be harsh, but it is fully willed. This might be why I take seriously what others write irrespective of their identity being known.

      We don’t know Homer’s real name/names.

      But boy, he (they) was (were) good!

      M

  11. PS: I dont know how/where that ping back came from but I like it.
    I bet zziizzoouu is happy about his anonimity

  12. In the past, you could write to a newspaper, a magazine or other places with your real name, someone had to specifically read that paper and pay attention to your name, but no one could google your name to automatically find all you had written! It’s a tremendous difference, but some people seem to think the Internet era makes no difference.

    • They just don’t realise every employer, and I mean every one unless they are supposed to work at McDonald’s, will look at their internet footprint and discriminate them in thousand ways they will never even imagine.

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