Anonymous Criticism = Cowardice

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I thought I would take a post to clarify a value that is very important to me and to this blog.

No doubt, I raise some controversial issues in this blog. I ask tough questions. I offer some often harsh criticisms of religious practices. I know that not everybody is going to like the ideas I offer, but my goal isn’t to make people feel good; it’s to make people think.

If people are troubled by something I write, I hope they’ll think about it. I really hope they’ll respond. It disappoints and often concerns me to see no comments on certain posts. I might have over 200 hits on a given day, so I know people are looking, but when nobody replies, then there isn’t an opportunity to engage and learn at a deeper level.

When people do reply, there is a variety of responses. Some people offer praise, which makes me feel good that I am validating how other people are feeling. For example, in response to my post about prayer last week, I received an email from a breast cancer survivor who struggled a lot when people offered to pray for her. Hearing her story was really touching, and made me feel good about addressing such a tough topic. (I encourage you to read her own thoughts on prayer from her blog, “The A Word.”)

Some people ask some great questions, and I love when we can go back and forth discussing certain issues. This allows me to learn a lot about how I communicate and better ways to explain the ideas I’m putting forward.

Others offer just different perspectives and points of view. I by no means expect my perspective to be the final judgment on a matter. I’m just offering my point of view, though I try to only offer informed points of view. It’s enlightening to hear other perspectives, because I think those of us who have those exchanges can learn a lot from each other. For example, every time I see a comment from my buddy Will, I know I’m probably going to learn something or think about something differently. I love it.

Occasionally, I receive criticism. Sometimes it makes me laugh, because it confirms the very ideas I’m discussing regarding religious privilege. Sometimes it makes me think, because a point of view is presented that I hadn’t considered. Sometimes it’s just vicious attacking.

I’m okay with criticism, because I definitely expect I can learn from people who disagree. I might not always agree with the criticism and I might not change as a result of it, but I still learn from it. I’ll say it now, I welcome all critical perspectives on this blog

…except anonymous public criticism. I’m okay with anonymous praise, and I’m okay with anonymous questions and discussion. I’m also okay with someone who contacts me privately to express some concerns, because even if I don’t know the person’s identity, I can still engage in some (hopefully) meaningful dialogue. I have immense respect for confidentiality, but again, confidentiality reflects private sharing and issues of trust.

If, however, someone posts a criticizing public comment (or tweet, or whatever) anonymously, I have a problem with that. Disagreement and discussion is fine, but attacking someone publicly while hiding behind anonymity is downright cowardly. I wrote recently about my concerns for anonymous free speech in legal matters (here and here), but I have the same attitude for all public discussion.

If you really want me to take your criticism seriously, you have to be willing to somehow identify yourself. You have to provide contact information so I can respond and you have to be willing to stand by your claim. I always reply to comments and emails, but I won’t humor trash from people who are not willing to respond and engage regarding their criticism.

This post is a set-up for a full post that I will write later today or tomorrow in response to an anonymous tweet. (If you feel like being petty and pathetic, TwitAnonymous is the site for you!)

When I started this blog, one of the most important intentions I had was to be very open about things. I had read a lot of anonymously written garbage and I wanted to take a stand against it. Zack Ford is my real name and I make no attempts to hide who I am or limit people’s ability to respond to what I write, and I intend to keep it that way.

So, for those of you who read my blog with any frequency, I hope you’ll consider commenting more. I also hope that if you wish to attack me, you keep in mind what I have written in this post. If you are cowardly in your attacks, I will not heed your remarks with any seriousness. Stand up or shut up.

Sorry for those harsh words, but this is a fundamental issue I feel very seriously about. Even though my blog still has a limited audience and isn’t as well known as some others, I still take my contributions to the blogosphere quite seriously. All of the blogs that I read regularly and respect the most maintain this same sense of openness, whether it’s Andy Towle, Pam Spaulding, Jeremy Hooper, Joe Jervis, Hemant Mehta, or PZ Myers.

I welcome your feedback, and I hope you can respect me and the work I’m trying to do in the process. Thanks!

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There are 1 Comments to "Anonymous Criticism = Cowardice"

  • LOL – Zack, you’re a tad more eloquent (nice?) than I. Here’s my blurb to blog commentators:

    “Howdy! Please say what’s on your mind….BUT – I tend to NOT give a Rat’s Patootie about negative comments when they come from cowering fingers on anonymous keyboards. BE REAL – I AM. I can’t take you seriously if you’re afraid to put your name behind your comments.”

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