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Vitriol, Thy Fake Name Is...

What is the impact of anonymous screen names?

How different today’s news business has become. In the days of print newspapers, public comment via letters to the editor or editorials would not be considered for publication unless the author submitted his name, full address and phone number. If your letter or article was chosen to be printed, someone from the newspaper called to verify your personal information.

For online news sites, comments can be made by real people or by people hiding behind anonymous screen names. Except for persons afraid of retribution in the work place, I cannot understand why someone feels compelled to write comments under an assumed identity.

About a week ago, the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins in an ice hockey playoff. Following the game, racially offensive anonymous comments were made on Twitter by persons hiding behind a screen names. The remarks were directed at the only black hockey player on the Capitals hockey team, Joel Ward, who scored the game-winning goal. To its credit, Twitter unmasked the persons who made the comments.

Recently, I wrote a blog for the Towson Patch about why I had changed my mind and now think the school board in Baltimore County should be elected not appointed. Almost immediately a blog comment appeared from “Ron Burgundy.” FYI-“Ron Burgundy” was Will Ferrell's character in the film "Anchorman."

That “Ron Burgundy” comment clearly intended to attack/demean me personally as opposed to attacking what I wrote.  

A day passed and some more comments followed my blog piece.

I was away from my computer for about a day. I got an email on Saturday from the Towson Patch alerting me to several other comments on my School Board blog. One was from “Ron Burgundy.” It was the comment following the “Ron Burgundy” comment that let me figure out who “Ron Burgundy” really is.

In my opinion (and that of lots of other people who I have talked to), “Ron Burgundy” is a high ranking Baltimore County government employee/appointee who used to be a Baltimore County Public School employee.

I am hopeful that online news sites will evolve to a level where anonymous screen names are phased out and written words will only be published if the author’s verified name precedes the comment.  Until then I guess I will keep a “stiff upper lip.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pat Crum May 01, 2012 at 11:54 AM
After reading Ron Burgundy's comments on various issues I too wondered if he was a Baltimore County government employee. I think Meg has proven that, indeed, he is. If you post a comment be adult enough to stand up and take the punches or credit.
M. Sullivan May 01, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Sorry Meg, but there are too many nuts in the world. Even the most innocuous comment can lead to serious retribution from someone in an unstable state of mind. Those who are incapable of an intelligent argument will sometimes resort to physical violence to make their point. In today's crazy world, it only makes sense to remain anonymous.
noname May 01, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Ron Burgundy = Don Moehler. Bet on it.
charles richardson May 01, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I took the opportunity to re-read your blog and the comments that followed. I'm certain that those comments stung and you certainly have every right to defend yourself as you have done in this blog. My own take looking at the situation the criticism was: 1. When you were on the school board you never publicly favored an elected board. True or False only you and past public quotes can shed light on that. It appears you have changed your opinion and that is your right. 2. That while on the Board certain unfortunate situations occurred. Namely a $7,000,000 mistake was uncovered at Milford Mill High School and the "innovative"grading and assessment program championed by a direct hire of the Superintendent,who stood to profit if successful, was uncovered as well. True or False but searching the internet it does appear you were on the Board at that time. I don't think anyone can make the claim that you were the responsible person, that would be silly and totally inaccurate. But, those facts are what they seem to be. Additionally,looking back, you have made some accusations of your own about high ranking school employees, fair or unfair you made the public statements. You put yourself out there and then it was "open season" for others to voice their opinions. I applaud you for being on the front line. As you are well aware, the front line citizens, like all politicians, who are out there on a daily basis, are subject to criticism as well. It's the draw to "The Patch".
charles richardson May 01, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I find it interesting that a comment left on a blog where the theme is "screen names" is left by a person with a screen name of "noname". I'm not sure what category that falls under other than the title, "I fully support Meg O'Hare but I'm using a screen as well", in a word, wow.
Buck Harmon May 01, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I disagree with you M. Sullivan...if you can't write things that you are willing to put your real name on....you should keep your hunt & peckers off the keyboard....
M. Sullivan May 01, 2012 at 09:15 PM
That's a bold statement "Buck". But, how do we know that's your real name? You could actually be Becky Harrington for all we know.
Meg O'Hare May 02, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I am always aware that I am putting myself on the front line. Any Board of Education decisions are majority decisions with 7 being required to pass anything. Is this a perfect world-no? Are mistakes made by the Board of Education-absoultely. What I dislike are not the comments, but the nastiness with which they are put out there. I do feel an obligation to the next generation. I will continue to work for effective, accountable education as well working for the best quality of life for my community. If some of us ordinary people do not come forth, all the decisions will be made by politicians. In Baltimore County executive government leadership, that means the "good ole boys" who have been on the throne since the 1970's. One glimmer of hope for me has been the fresh voices of the Baltimore County Council. Some of them are trying not to "go along to get along." Time will tell if their efforts to think independently will be sustained. I certainly hope so.
charles richardson May 02, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Please review some of your past comments and put them to the "nastiness" test. Because they disagree with your philosophy doesn't mean their intentions aren't well meaning. I think any person,unaffiliated, would classify some of your comments nasty. But to your blog, what are your thoughts about JDStuts,Johnny Towson ,Bart and Buck Harmon are they real or fictional? I didn't see them mentioned in your blog. Let's agree to see both sides of the coin. And....remember a presidential front runner said he voted at times to "go along", it's the way government works in order to get anything done. That person, Rick Santorum.
charles richardson May 02, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Meg,I left you a message on the blog concerning the investment loss. I really hope you view and comment.
Buck Harmon May 02, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Marc Shapiro.. Reisterstown Patch would be happy to affirm that i use my real name. What would be the point of hiding behind a fake name..?

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