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

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

Click here to send Ray Hanania and email.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
Ray Hanania