Monday, September 29, 2014

The Fairness of Anonymity

Daily Hampshire Gazette version of Boston Globe story

I'm sorry but I find it odd the venerable Boston Globe went with this story (in a BIG way I might add) using anonymous sources -- the parents who endured that which no parent should endure.

Yes, I'm well aware of my exceedingly high percentage of commenters who wish to remain anonymous.  I struggle almost daily with publishing some of the nasty unfair criticism they hurl at people both in the public eye and sometimes not so much in the public eye.

In America one of our fundamental legal rights is to be able to face our accuser.  The Globe allowed grieving parents to criticize the UMass Police Chief and Assistant Chief while remaining cloaked in anonymity.

Sorry but you can't have it both ways.  Let's protect the parents' privacy so as not to further hurt their already battered feelings, but simultaneously allow them to hurt others' feelings by suggesting they screwed up, causing a young man's death. Cops are human beings too.

The reason I published the young man's death certificate four months ago using the killer quote "acute heroin intoxication" is because I thought people should be aware that heroin is deadly serious business, even in our bucolic little town.

And why shouldn't police protect their sources the same way journalists do?

If I take a photo in town center of a low-level town employee inappropriately parking in a handicapped zone and they offer me details of high-level corruption in exchange for not publishing it, what the hell do you think I'm gonna do? 

The "age of majority" in Massachusetts is 18, so police were under no legal obligation to contact the parents.  And it's a bit of a leap to strongly suggest that parental intervention with a 20-year-old is guaranteed to make a life or death difference. 

Last week a UMass student killed himself in an off-campus location.  The District Attorney does not comment on private deaths in private homes, neither apparently does UMass (except they did issue a statement on the day the drug informant was found dead in his off campus apartment).

Fair enough.

But what if the Phoebe Prince case was covered up in such a typical manner?  Massachusetts would not now have stronger anti-bullying laws.

And what if none of the 100 grieving relatives of those who died in the horrific Station Nightclub fire wanted it mentioned that their loved one died in a bar?  We would not now have stronger legislation to protect the public from such a fire ever reoccurring. 

And where would gay rights and AIDS research be today if Rock Hudson had not come out in 1985 to acknowledge he had the dreaded disease?

The greater good often comes at the expense of the very few.  Or the one.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you don't like the anonymous posters on your blog, why don't you turn off the option to post anonymously It's a simple switch in Blogger to change this.

Obviously, you know that without the anonymous posters, your blog would be dead.

You should be thanking the Anonymous posters to your blog, not bashing them.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah ... thanks, CAN.

citizen sane said...

The parents also miss an excellent opportunity to educate other families about the hidden dangers of drug abuse.

They had no idea that their son was a heroin addict with a long history of drug use and abuse. They only found out after he was dead. How many other families have been or will be in this situation?

They could use his tragic death to enlighten other families. Instead they hide what really happened. They hosted a golf tournament in his name to fund a kinesiology scholarship. There was no mention of how he died.

Wouldn't it be better if they came out publicly about the cause of death and held a fundraiser or event to raise awareness of the hidden aspect of drug addiction?

Anonymous said...

Journalists are private citizens working for themselves or other companies.

The police are servants of the people, our employees, there to do our bidding according to the law and be held to it.

To compare these two groups is odd. If we eliminated both groups, journalists would be reinvented in 30 seconds, the police within 30 days.

Police also have a lot of power and are rarely kept honest the way the average citizen is during a routine traffic stop.

Police also have a monopoly on American force. Journalists have no rights to use force beyond any other citizen.

There is no reason to compare or contrast these two groups, esp if you are trying to make a point.

Aside, the major reason we have such bad drug policy, and so many crimes and deaths, has been to create jobs for the police. I guess that is worth reporting on every day, but rarely is. These kids are dying by design, the design of making jobs for cops, who cannot solve the drug problems we have by beating people and locking them up (any more than Larry can solve them by making fun of those that get in trouble because of drugs or bad Mass parenting).

Bottom line, drug problems at this point are by the design of public policy, or we would all be having casual beers and joints and moving on with life. Society resisted and we got, LSD and coke, society resisted and we got heroine and bath salts, society resisted and we get as many designer drugs and repeats of past drug cycles as the cops push for.

Anonymous said...

Another new story which clearly tells us that our problem is that no one teaches kids how to use drugs right. We are all to busy pretending that the drugs themselves will teach the kids.

Think of all the useless stuff taught at UMass and no official classes on how to do drugs.

Sounds odd, but if we cared about kids and safety vs. denial and cops jobs, we would certainly do things differently. We would care less about the articles in the papers for sure.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, it is the Assessment Care Team (of which the UMPD is part) that needs to be dragged out into the bright light of day.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant and ACT needs to be dragged out from the dark crevice of secrecy in which it hides.

There is no way it wasn't involved in this.... No Way...

jaf bm said...

I agree with 7:47. Turn off the anonymous commenting feature.

Anonymous said...

It's astonishing to me that a non-profit educational institution chose to turn a student into an informant instead of working with him and his family on his illegal behavior and his extremely likely drug addiction. (Are there low level drug dealers who don't use?) I think it will astonish many others that UMass showed so little interest and concern with this student. Put it in front of jury next.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue of civil asset forfeiture, which occurred in this case, deserves some scrutiny. The young man was not arrested and so of course was not proven guilty of anything, yet the cops seized $700.00 in cash from him simply because they suspected the money was tied to illegal activity.

Nina Koch said...

Actually, jaf, I think that 7:47 was extolling the virtues of anonymous commenting. It makes the blog more exciting for him or her.

I think there are very few people on here who have a genuine need to remain anonymous. I think some people are ashamed to admit that they read Larry's blog, while other people just like an outlet where they can say mean things with impunity.

I'm of the opinion that if you can't put your name on something, don't say it.

Anonymous said...

One thing no one has thought of is that maybe the one who comments on certian things anonymously is afraid of loosing their job just because they spoke up or agreed with something someone said and or wrote.
What about those cases. What about it not only being a danger to one loosing a job because they spoke their mind, but what if they needed to speak up to help and if they would found out they could be killed. Their are many reasons that people post anonymous, but no one is thinking of those.
I really think the parents should have come forward to help let people know that this is out their and happening and they want others to know so that maybe no one else will die or get hurt.

Dr. Ed said...

" I think it will astonish many others that UMass showed so little interest and concern with this student"

Reality check: UMass considers students to be an inexhaustible fungible resource.

They don't care about ANY of them...

The only thing UMass cares about is the fact this made the front page of the Sunday Globe and parents & legislators saw it.

Anonymous said...

@Nina Koch ... I am Anonymous 7:47 AM. I was not extolling the virtues of anonymous commenting. I was telling Larry to either turn off Anonymous commenting or stop complaining about and insulting the Anonymous commenters who he invites in.

Nina Koch said...

okay I stand corrected, whoever you are.