The Problem With Online Anonymity

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The Problem With Online Anonymity
By Ray Hanania
Southwest News-Herald Friday Oct. 12, 2012

The Patch is a collection of online writers based in different suburban communities. Some of them are professional writers, some are not.

Last week, I wrote an opinion column on Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann. The nice thing about a newspaper column is that you know who is writing it. Knowing who writes and what they write help readers form opinions.

Some people like me, and some don’t. But at least they know it’s me.

On Monday, I received a snippy email from a manager at the Oak Lawn Patch, Lorraine Swanson, asking if I was “QC?”

“Are you the QC who comments on Oak Lawn Patch? I would appreciate a response,” Swanson wrote. Apparently some anonymous persona named “QC” was writing a lot that was provoking others into a hateful exchange.

I replied, “Not sure what you are talking about or referring to but if I post online it always has my name … I haven’t been to the Oak Lawn patch in a long, long time … what’s the topic? And what are they saying? If someone is claiming to be me, it’s not. Thanks for checking anyway.”

Curious, I went to the Oak Lawn Patch. Someone posted my column on Heilmann and that provoked the anger. (Thanks, whoever did it.)

That’s when the vicious libel began against the poster, “QC,” and me.

I didn’t waste much time reading many of the online posts, but clearly I was the focus of the debate. On the Patch’s front page, Swanson announced she was banning “QC” from posting, probably resulting in her email to me.

But why stop with “QC?” What of the other people on the Patch who libel by writing obnoxious posts anonymously? They continue writing their personal attacks against everyone, including me.

Online Web sites love hate because hate online sells; hate that reflects the political slants of the Web sites are favored even more.

I’ve had some bigger, tougher people slam me in public and to my face. Rich Daley. Jane Byrne. Jay McMullen. Harold Washington. Sean Hannity. Jackie Mason. Bus Yourell. So it doesn’t bother me.

These days, I work as a media and political consultant. When I write about someone I work for, you know it. The first thing I tell clients: “Don’t waste your time reading or responding to anonymous garbage posted on Internet Web sites and blogs. It’s only read by a small group of small minded people. Most intelligent people don’t waste their time.”

Online hate from anonymous posters is a sad reflection of how the Internet selectively allows people to post anything they want, attacking people the online site doesn’t like. If they like someone, the hate comes off.

Most responsible online news sites require you to post using your Facebook account, which I think the Patch should start doing. But if they require people to crawl out from under their rocks, no one would write and would be left to read? Haters are always cowardly and anonymous. Sites that allow anonymous postings are irresponsible.

Critics can say what they want about me, I don’t mind. In my opinion — that’s the key phrase here, “my opinion,” Dave Heilmann is a phenomenal mayor in a little town being torn apart by a bunch of political losers and an online chat board with partisan boundaries. You can quote me!

Maybe some people in Oak Lawn like living in that muck, but I think the majority prefer serious discussion, and they don’t waste their time.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. Reach him athttp://www.TheMediaOasis.com.)  — City & Suburban News-Herald

This post has already been read 107 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com