Poor Matt Nisbet takes his lumps around these parts because his academic field is spin, sorry framing. This is the process within professional communication whereby the strictest and most precise depiction of the current state of knowledge about objective reality is...undervalued. Undervalued relative to driving home whatever broader themes and ideas the communicator happens to favor. Undervalued relative to rounding up votes on "your side", regardless of why such voters may favor your position.
This annoys some scientists. The process of doing this in the news media or political setting annoys scientists to no end. Telling them that they need to start doing it themselves absolutely infuriates them.
Well, Nisbet has another version of his communication expert doucherocketry up today and it made me realize something. In this post, Nisbet declares war on that online discussion standby, the pseudonymous/anonymous commenter.
Over the next year, I have plans to invest in various content features at Framing Science, and one of the improvements I am looking forward to is an end to anonymous commenting.
Of course, who gives a crap? Bloggers can do whatever they like with their comment policies. His blogging does not seem to have much interest in discussion through the comments anyway. He's been accused in the past of wielding a heavy hand of moderation against comments he simply disagrees with. He's welcome to it.
But I get twigged, as always, by authoritative statements of fact that have no evidentiary backing. Like this one:
Much of the incivility online can be attributed to anonymity. And with a rare few exceptions, if you can't participate in a dialogue about issues without using your full name and true identity, then what you have to say is probably not that valuable.
This is nonsense, Matt. There are many commenters and bloggers who, whether out of personal preference or due to safety concerns, write anonymously or under pseuds. As with anyone else I may agree with them or disagree with what they write, but it would be pretty stupid for me to say that their view does not count because (for reasons that are frankly none of my business) they do not write under their own name.
And anonymity does not = incivility. There are plenty of bloggers who use their real names that, depending on your view and the "groundrules" of conversation in different places, might be considered incivil. If your real concern is incivility then it is something that involves all bloggers, not just the ones who write under pseudonyms. Indeed, you say that "Much of the incivility online can be attributed to anonymity" yet you provide no actual evidence to back up this claim.
To me this looks like one big case of confirmation bias.
But here is what I realized:
Just remember Laelaps, he is not in the business of understanding what is true about objective reality. He's in the business of manufacturing statements about reality out of whole cloth and then working as hard as possible with expert "communication techniques" to get people to believe it. Whether it happens to be true or not.
And that's the rub, isn't it? This is what drives scientists bonkers about the political process and the current state of the news media. Absolutely, sputteringly, gibberingly inchoate. This notion that there is no such thing as objective truth or reality. That all that matters is what you can convince a bare majority of your audience (or voters) to believe. This is bad enough in the political process but it is absolutely offensive to civil society when this is the legal process.
I think this broader theme, that of attempting to make things true by repetition and spin, is what makes it worth responding to these unsupported statements wherever they may be found. Sure, Nisbet is considered to be a blithering idiot among the framing warz crowd. But he does have real world cred and wanders about spouting his theories, trying to make them true by doing so from as broad a platform as possible.
This is not much different from the blithering about anonymous/pseudonymous online commentary you see from the direction of the higher-ups in the Nature Publishing Group. They have no data. They refuse to incorporate the results of blogs which set a civil tone with anonymous commenting enabled or from pseudonymous blog writers in their thinking and instead focus on uncontrolled, unmoderated political-ranting style blogs. Confirmation bias indeed, Laelaps. They live in some weird bubbles wherein their peers won't tell them they are being an asshole when they obviously are. This may be politer but it sure as heck isn't "better". It is demonstrable fact that when politeness is prioritized over acquainting someone with objective reality seriously bad stuff can happen.
Such blithering should be challenged.