Last night I got an email from a print media publisher who mistakenly thought me to be the publisher of a website that prints unflattering photos and news stories about St. Albans and its elected leaders. This was the first I had heard of the site so I Googled it and found that this anonymously published site prominently features a quote from one of my blog posts and links to my blog in at least two ways. I was never asked for permission to quote from my blog or to link to it nor would I have ever granted permission for any unaccountable, anonymous publisher to link to or quote from my blog.
Let me be clear: I, Joseph Higginbotham, have no connection whatsoever to any pseudonymously or anonymously published site, have not granted permission to quote from my blog and do not know the identity of the person or persons responsible for the aforementioned site that portrays St. Albans as a meth-making "badlands".
This is not to say that I disagree with everything the anonymous site says. The difference is that when I have something unflattering to say about St. Albans or its titular leaders I say it under my own name where I can be held accountable for what I say. Three of my July 2009 posts dealt with bad leadership and one of them seems to have provided some inspiration for the anonymous site.
The difference between me and the anonymous website publisher is that when I have something unflattering to say about St. Albans or its titular leaders I am accountable for what I say.
I hope the anonymous web publisher doesn't fancy himself (or herself) some kind of modern day Thomas Paine or his website a kind of 21st Century Common Sense just because Paine's tract was first published anonymously. Paine was committing treason against England and might very well have been arrested and killed for what he wrote. I doubt that Mayor Callaway would order the St. Albans police to shoot the anonymous website publisher on sight if he were to disclose his identity.
I, for one, would have greater respect for him (or her) if he/she boldly published his name.
Nor do I disagree with the anonymous website's determination to provide an online forum where St. Albans residents can interact with one another and become better engaged with their elected leaders and their neighbors. In fact, I've met with Mayor Callaway and with members of Council and asked them why the mayor's office has not provided this leadership and this online forum.
But I strongly disapprove of any online forum that allows anonymous posts.
If you want to tell the police about the meth lab next door, you can already do so anonymously but if you wish to get St. Albans talking about its crime problems and its rising median age and its declining population and its lack of citizen engagement, you need to do that publicly. That's why my LinkedSt.Albans group is on Linkedin, a site that is all about accountability and real IDs.
In fact, let me put in a plug for the only St. Albans discussion forum with which I am affiliated, LinkedSt.ALbans. I started LinkedSt.Albans in hope that it would kickstart some citizen engagement in a town where 4 votes will get you a seat on city council because nobody else bothers to run.
If you would like to join LinkedSt.Albans just go to :: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=2053370.
Higginbotham At Large does not publish reader comments but if you identify yourself I'll read your email and even reply if necessary. Send all comments, questions or hate me to me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.