by Erik Dolson
Years ago when I published a small town weekly newspaper, on occasion we covered controversial issues. There were differences of opinion, and sometimes bitterness. Letters to the editor were occasionally “difficult.”
We strove to publish every letter, though at times we had to give writers a second chance to moderate their language. On very rare occasions, we fulfilled our responsibility to the community and refused to spread bile. Importantly, when doing so we acted in our role as journalists and mindful of responsibilities conferred by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Of course, not everyone agreed with our interpretation.
But there was one rule that was not bent, let alone broken: Opinions had to be signed. Our philosophy was that if one wanted to speak up, one had to own their speech.
I personally believe that guideline would greatly benefit social media, and in fact, American politics.
I believe each post on Facebook and Twitter and every other platform should be linked to its author, which should be a verified individual. Every political contribution should be linked to its contributor. If the Supreme Court wants to grant “personhood” to corporations (a decision I disagree with, by the way) then that corporate “person” should be identified when entering into the political area with vast sums of money.
The free market, to the extent it exists, depends on transparency. The “marketplace of ideas,” in the words of Jefferson, is no different.
Eliminating anonymity in the American conversation would go a long way toward improving our dialogue.