Hiding behind pseudonyms evades responsibility

By Sarah Block

News Editor

On Tuesday, every student on campus received a newsletter from the staff of The Counterweight entitled “What the Buck.” While receiving mass mailings would not normally seem out of the ordinary, what makes this newsletter particularly unusual is the lack of legitimate by-lines. Every article is attributed to a writer under a pseudonym rather than their actual name.

Justifiably, there are some circumstances under which the use of a pseudonym is reasonable if not necessary. Mary Ann Evans, for example, published a number of novels under the name George Eliot in order to conceal the fact that she was a woman in a time when female writers were not taken seriously. Jane Austen published her first novel, “Sense and Sensibility,” under the name “A Lady” for the same reason. Even the Founding Fathers of this country used a pseudonym; they published their famed Federalist Papers, a collection of essays in support of the United States Constitution, under the name Publius. More recently, the man secretly providing information on the Watergate scandal to the Washington Post used the name Deep Throat.

Anonymity, too, has its place. Sometimes it is impossible to speak truthfully on a subject knowing that your connection to it may compromise your career or your family. When the use of one’s real name will limit his or her ability to communicate effectively or will jeopardize that person’s health, safety or career, the use of a pseudonym seems to be the best way to ensure a fair and harm-free expression of their beliefs.

This newsletter does not do any of these things. What is college for, if not to encourage scholarly debate on meaningful subjects? There is nothing so overtly controversial in “What the Buck” to merit the use of pseudonyms. Sure, the newsletter presents a point of view with which many people on campus will not agree. The mere presentation of a minority point of view, though, does not mean that it is necessary to shield yourself from connections to it. By being a part of The Counterweight, each writer is already associating themselves with the publication. No one on campus is attacking them for it. This type of anonymity is especially unnecessary on a college campus, where we are all here to listen, debate and learn from each other.

Words are no different than actions. Take responsibility for what you say. If you are going to express an opinion, do so with conviction. Maybe having one’s name publicly connected to an opinion will force people to think before they speak. In a time when the world is full of hatred and intolerance, the use of one’s name will force him or her to think carefully about their words and the impact they might have on those around them. And once you do so, don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, for the world desperately needs more people who are not afraid to speak their minds no matter how controversial their opinions might be.

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