OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Summer of Shadbolt

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  • Keith Ng,

    It has to be a physical address.

    I stand corrected.

    And just to be a little pedantic about your electoral roll analogy, you're quite right that everyone is required to register to vote. But not everyone's details are publicly available .

    The principle of transparency only extends to identity, not to personal details such as addresses. Now, addresses are used to verify identity, but it doesn't need to be the case. Perhaps the solution is to allow registered third parties to use PO boxes or to unlist their address?

    Keith - I take it you believe anonymous political blogs such as The Standard should be banned. I mean how can you advocate that Andy Moore has to put his name and home address on his $5 personal website which advocates against Labour as essential transparency, yet not apply the same standard to blogs?

    Do you really think transparency should depend on whether or not a website uses blog technology or not?

    Great point, David. So on one end of the spectrum, you have paid political advertising, on the other, you have personal political communications via the internet, and the question is where you draw the line.

    I can confirm Graeme's claim that keepleftnz included people in the PM's office and other parts of the Beehive. People I've spoken to deny that The Standard has any parliamentary links, but the point stands: if a partisan blog can be a means of electioneering, and we don't want secret electioneering, then a partisan blog has to be transparent, too.

    For us to know that The Standard is not run out of the PM's office, we need to know.

    I appreciate that shedding annonymity is a price; it's not much effort per se, but it's a real price. But it's not a new price. In the not-so-distant past, if you wanted to campaign, you have to literally stand up in front of the public and declare yourself.

    So, folks at The Standard: Declare yourselves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    While I'm at it, I/S - are you here?

    Go on, declare yourself, too. Can't argue for transparency behind the veil of a pseudonym.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    But it's not a new price. In the not-so-distant past, if you wanted to campaign, you have to literally stand up in front of the public and declare yourself.

    I'm not sure the authors of the Federalist Papers would agree with you on that point.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2996 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    ... my primary medium of "political expression" has been my membership in the New Zealand National Party.

    Yes, but identities of the officers of the political parties are public, and they are accountable for the actions of the parties. Similarly, we don't need to know who hammered the nails on the billboard, we just need to know who's taking responsibility for it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    I'm not sure the authors of the Federalist Papers would agree with you on that point.

    Please explain. 8-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The Federalist Papers - which campaigned for the ratification of the US Constitution - were published anonymously.

    When you referred to the not-so-distant past, I presumed that at the very least you weren't referring to a time before the invention of the printing press :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2996 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    If any of the authors of The Standard are being paid to write it, then I'd say their publication of their views is "commercial" and the 'blog exemption wouldn't apply.

    And so it bloody shouldn't. *If* it were true, it would be the Labour party circumventing their spending cap by sponsoring unattributed propaganda. If any evidence of this emerged, I'd expect a prosecution.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4419 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Why were they published annonymously?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    And so it bloody shouldn't. *If* it were true, it would be the Labour party circumventing their spending cap by sponsoring unattributed propaganda. If any evidence of this emerged, I'd expect a prosecution.

    In keepleftnz's case, the writers were parliamentary staffers, but not acting in their capacity as parliamentary staffers. They certainly weren't directed by the powers that be to do it. And I think that it's unlikely that the Standard are being paid to do it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I don't ever post under my real name because of shit like this. Does Sam Morgan not believe in the idea of boundaries between work and home life? In the very unlikely event that I went for a job there, I'd create an anodyne MySpace page in my real name to fulfill the "engagement in the internet" criteria. With entries like "Too busy to write, just finished 96 hour shift down't pit and then bought my boss a meal to thank him for being such a wonderful person".

    It's entirely right that I can legally post anonymously. If any site considers my writing to be unacceptable, they can spike it. It's equally right that if I was ever silly enough to spend actual money on domain names and the like, both the Electoral Commission and the Internet authorities would want my details - so that if I'm a front for a party or whatever, that stands a chance of coming out.

    The anology is rego plates. Bikes don't need them, cars do and trucks need the name and address painted on the door.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4419 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Great point, David. So on one end of the spectrum, you have paid political advertising, on the other, you have personal political communications via the internet, and the question is where you draw the line.

    This about sums up the issue for me. I've not had the time to follow the discussions as closely as others but I can't help but think that the likes of Slater do their side enormous disservice by their utterly outlandish claims. Shadbolt and Moore are risking what little reputations they retain by their association with this mob.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2200 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    And I think that it's unlikely that the Standard are being paid to do it.

    I think it would be unbelievably stupid if that were the case - so unlikely, but you never know.

    You'd think that the parties would send out a memo on this, stating that nobody is to post on political topics on party/parliamentary time without being fully compliant in terms of declarations, etc. I'd even go further and suggest that any staffers make full disclosure even on projects in their own time.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4419 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I'm not entirely sure. I suspect Hamilton, Madison and Jay thought it better to allow their ideas to speak, rather than them.

    The battle of ideas - or something like that.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2996 posts Report Reply

  • samuel walker,

    Sam Morgan: "We ask prospective employees if they have a MySpace page. If they say no, that shows they're not engaged enough in the web for our business....."

    good grief, surely they want to actually hire SOME people with a degree of critical thinking capability. Having a Myspace page is hardly showing you are aware of how the intertube works....some would say it means the opposite.

    I can just picture all the TradeMe employees showing up to work, riding in on their segways, ipods plugged in, all listening to James Blunt, followed by Jose Gonzales. MochaFrappaFluffy on the way in, All made of Ticky Tacky, All smiling all the same.

    Since Nov 2006 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Yes, but identities of the officers of the political parties are public, and they are accountable for the actions of the parties..

    But if you're seriously arguing that we need the EFB to eliminate 'covert influence' over public policy, who knows who is really pulling the policy levers inside political parties? Doesn't the public have a right to know that too, or determine for ourselves whether National ireally is run by rich pricks from Remmers and Labour dominated by the Gay Lynn dykeocracy?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11864 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Now, thanks to the Hollow Men, National has to issue a disclaimer every time somebody emails them about their huge 3rd party campaign.

    The battle of ideas - or something like that.

    Something I read recently in a book was to do with the rhetoric (old school sense) of politics. Mainly about the emphasis on emotion rather than argument currently - and a good part of that hinges on who you are or who you portray yourself to be.

    Writing that it suddenly struck me (heaven knows where I was going with it before) that if you forced everyone to be anonymous you might improve the quality of the discourse. No?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I don't ever post under my real name because of shit like this.

    The message of that article is a bit sad. It's sort of saying that you can go out and live your own life and do stuff... just so long as you don't chronicle it online.

    Because God knows what a prospective employee would think if they saw a photo of you - gasp! - drinking a beer or - double gasp! - snogging your sweetie.

    Sam Morgan: "We ask prospective employees if they have a MySpace page.

    Maybe this is actually a trick. If anyone reads this article and then goes out and sets up a MySpace account to help with their Trade Me job prospects, they'll get a shock when at the interview they'll actually be asked if they have a Bebo account.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1851 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    I have a friend who works for a recruitment company. She said they don't actually check Bebo or MySpace pages, cos it's easier just to verify the references provided.

    ... and yet her company was still quoted once in the paper as saying they do check those pages!! (Hence her comment to me!)

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    Can you imagine the privacy issues? :

    A very nice CV Ms Gallagher, but I see on AdultFriendFinder you like watersports and married couples ....

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    Writing that it suddenly struck me (heaven knows where I was going with it before) that if you forced everyone to be anonymous you might improve the quality of the discourse. No?

    Public discourse, especially through pamphleteering in the 17th and 18th Centuries and through newspapers as the became more institutionally established in the 19th and early-20th was usually anonymous, or at least pseudonymous. This probably started out because pamphleteering during the English Revolution was illegal and dangerous (Harrington's Oceana is published in several different font-types because it was literally carried from one publishing house in London to another whilst being chased around by soldiers), but continued because, at a guess, attaching a name to an opinion could lend a false (not to say fallacious) sense of authority to said opinion.

    I was reminded of this during the pledge-card debacle, when 'Rex' was posting on this website, and drew a great deal of criticism for his anonymity. It was the worst kind of argument available, because the author was putting forward propositions that were or weren't true, and did or did not lead to a logical and valid conclusion. Who he was has nothing to do with it. I think our forebears accepted this in a way that we don't.

    And Craig, in terms of newspapers not publishing unverifiable letters, in fact they did well into the 20th Century in New Zealand. Many columnists retained that privilege for a long time too.

    I'm not really sure why it changed, though. I suspect universal education and the consequent broader literacy and democratic participation began to widen the sphere sufficiently that the costs of anonymity began to outweigh the benefits, or perhaps, as modern campaigning machines became more sophisticated, people wanted to know the bare minimum of who was contributing to these discussions. But the point is that anonymity on blogs is not new but old. And if it was used simply to engage in civil debate (and talk about cats), that would be fine, but unfortunately it is so often a mask for ad hominem attacks that it appears a cowardly gesture, rather than participating in a long-standing tradition.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Errr, from what I remember of 18th century pamphlets, that long-standing tradition certainly includes abundant and vituperative ad hominem abuse.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    Well, naturally. But they did it with style . . .

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Well, naturally. But they did it with style . . .

    I had occasion to think about Issac Bickerstaff earlier in the week.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    What kind of self-respecting web geek has a MySpace page these days? I thought it was all bands, women of dubious virtue and people wanting to get it on with one or the other...

    Geeks are all about building open social networks with microformats these days, surely?

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • nanoplanet,

    newspapers not publishing unverifiable letters

    absolute nonsense. the Herald and Listener publish letters from unverifiable sources on a daily basis. do you really think they have the staffing resources to check letters' provenance, or the inclination to do so when they provide pro-editorial copy?

    insisting on identity disclosure for bloggers is a great idea though.
    it'd:

    1. increase the contributions from those deluded enough to think their comments might further the legendary RL status they already occupy in thier own minds

    2. increase the contributions from those with sufficiently powerful support to provide protection when providing contentious information while simultaneously silencing the vulnerable who might also have information that could challenge those in power

    3. remove the provision of contentious information by people on the inside of issues who want or need to comment but could nolonger do so because of the repercussions. so no more whistle-blowing or access to priviledged information, just the harmless moonbarkings of people on the outside of issues who have to guess - and who prefer to just maintain their uninformed prejudice. everything stays the same, no power structures threatened by the freeing of information the net can provide. brilliant.

    Here • Since Apr 2007 • 15 posts Report Reply

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