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Angry Anonymous Commenters Force Limits on Community Bulletin Board

commentsI'll be the first one to admit that moderating the anonymous comments on Scarsdale10583.com has been a challenge. It's difficult to make clean and fast rules about what is permissible or appropriate vs. what statements cross the line and are damaging, insulting or worse. Over and over again I have asked readers to use their real names, but to no avail. I asked people to limit their comments to words they would feel comfortable using in person, but that fell on deaf ears as well. As I always include my name with my opinions, I have been puzzled about why others were not willing to do the same.

The most amusing are the commenters who use anonymous names, like "Double Standard," and then name me in their comments and throw in a few insults to boot:

Here's just one of hundreds that I received in the past few months:

AmCurious ( IP: 70.214.115.3 ) — 2018-01-08 08:18
I am curious, too. How much time and money you wasted with your loud cries about wanting a new Greenacres School? And your attacks of Mayra are laughable. You cannot hold a candle next to her. You are a selfish and self-centered, hypocritical hack. She stood up to the incompetence and cronyism at Village Hall. What have you achieved ever? Did you even ever have a career. Profitting (sp) off other people's woes does not count.

Or the person who calls themselves, "Beating up Bob Berg" and then writes, "Ah yes, you are back (to) your favorite past time of beating up Bob Berg. You are SUCH a coward. Make this person state his/her name. Or did you write it?"

You get the idea – the same people who refrain from using their names, feel very comfortable throwing every name in the book at me.

And it's not just me they go after – these same posters are comfortable hurling insults at the mayor, the Village trustees, a judge, the Village attorney candidates for office and some of our most committed village volunteers.

Here's one of many that were sent after a judge issued a decision on the Article 78 contesting the revaluation:

# A Real Lawyer ( IP: 100.2.238.64 ) — 2018-01-05 23:04
Ah, the great New York State Court System -- where patronage and mediocrity, if not outright incompetence, cronyism, and ineptitude reign supreme.

Or this anonymous comment to the chair of the School Board Nominating Committee:

Dear Ms. Guggenheimer, Please make sure that your group vets candidates well. Please do not let the SBNC become the badly run, cesspool filled with backstabbers that the CNC has become. The CNC is filled with quite a number of Forum members who were just appointed in the summer. They have contributed nothing to the Forum nor to the CNC. All they want to do is get their unqualified candidates in. Sad.

Believe me, if you've done anything that mattered in Scarsdale, you're fair game. I will not reprint more of these comments here, for the same reasons I didn't post them when they came in.

Over the years I've developed a thick skin. I sometimes even laugh at their characterizations of me – especially when they call me lazy, heartless, a bored housewife and a hack. The site is putrid, garbage and a cesspool. Here a just a few recent comments:

"Unfortunately, Joanne is the nastiest person in Scarsdale. Thanks to her, people outside of Scarsdale hear about all the problems here."

"How sad that this middle aged mediocre woman has nothing better to do than write crappy articles."

But these past few months have been rougher than usual. I found that in addition to the anonymous posters on my site, a few angry residents started insulting me on other websites and making false claims about me. What to do? I waited and hoped that their words would move down the page and out of view.

It didn't let up. Faced with an onslaught of comments from anonymous posters with accusations against me and everyone in town, it became too difficult to moderate their publication. Though anonymous posters complain about "internet trolls" they themselves appeared to be the internet trolls.

So last week I asked again for people to use their names and street addresses, and have not published any more anonymous comments, no matter how innocuous. Since then, the number of comments has dropped to almost nil. A few people, who know that their comments will not be published, continue to send in nasty missives, but I guess they are intended for my eyes only.

About the new policy, one reader complained, "For professional reasons I will never include my name and address regardless of the topic or my comment. Not allowing me and people like me to have a voice is unfortunate."

Unfortunate it is, but for now there will be no more anonymous comments on Scarsdale10583.com. It appears that a few very angry offenders have forced this decision on the community. For me, it simply means less work. I no longer have to sift through comments and decide what is permissible. Without a verifiable name, I simply won't post the comment. The haters have made their bed and now I can lie down in mine. Hey, maybe I will get to be the bored, lazy housewife they call me, after all.

Have a comment ... please use your real name. Or better yet, send us a letter to the editor at scarsdalecomments@gmail.com.

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

Comments   

#3 Thomas Paine, North Street, New Rochelle 2018-02-23 13:28
To quote the PBS website on Ben Franklin: "During the eighteenth century, it was common for writers and journalists to use pseudonyms, or false names, when they created newspaper articles and letters to the editor. Franklin used this convention extensively throughout his life, sometimes to express an idea that might have been considered slanderous or even illegal by the authorities; other times to present two sides of an issue, much like the point-counterpo int style of journalism used today."

The Federalist (later known as The Federalist Papers) is a collection of 85 articles and essays written under the pseudonym "Publius" by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution.

Politics, be it local, national or international, can be heated and emotional. But anonymous and pseudonymous comment is the essence of free speech, and free debate, and one of the historical earmarks of what makes America great.

If you want to create a blog targeted to the Scarsdale community to raise and encourage discussion of important issues, then have a blog. Obscenity should be the line in the sand, one you have the right to draw. But refusing to print comments based on point of view, or strength of emotion, should be out of bounds, or else call it what it is, censorship by a censor.

The most memorable debates on your blog over the years have included strings of anonymous and pseudonymous comments, and more comments on the comments. It is the best possible way to let Scarsdale air how it really feels. Letting readers "grade" them plus or minus is a good development, it tells us even more about what resonates with the community.

No one is forcing you to place any limits on your posts Joanne, it is your choice, based on criteria you describe in your article that, with all respect, provide weak support, at best. Let the ideas and the discussion flow in whatever way promotes that most. That choice is also yours.

And by the way, I don't really live on North Street in New Rochelle, although I used to. But I do challenge you to publish this comment, even though I haven't given you my current address. My comment is filled with Common Sense.
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#2 Please 2018-02-20 07:23
There is no Carol Williams in Scarsdale.
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#1 carol williams 2018-02-20 06:24
good article!
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