Here’s a link to a column I wrote recently:
And here’s a commentary subsequently posted online:
Can you spot the difference?
I’ll give you a couple of clues.
■ The writer of the first piece is identified. In fact his name is in the phone book if anyone wants to ring and abuse him (no one ever does). There is no clue to the identity of the second writer. This is par for the course. He (and I’m guessing it’s a he) makes a show of being bold because he’s anonymous. In fact he’s spineless – an invertebrate.
■ The writer of the first piece puts forward arguments which, although some people are bound to disagree with them, avoid personal abuse and are expressed in generally moderate terms. He attempts to introduce balance by conceding there might be some merit in what the other side is saying. His main point is that we need to be careful about reform of the drug laws – hardly an extreme position – and he cites two authorities, a former coroner and an academic, in support of that view. The writer of the second piece – the anonymous guy – is splenetic and abusive. He resorts to puerile insults, which suggests that he has anger management issues. He tries to discredit the writer of the first piece by portraying him as a booze-sodden apologist for the liquor industry, all of which is provably wrong and therefore plainly defamatory. No newspaper would publish his bile for exactly that reason; but this is the internet, where anonymous, hate-filled cowards can rant with impunity. They exploit the right of free speech but are too gutless to accept the corollary, which is that if an opinion is worth expressing – particularly when you’re attacking someone’s reputation – then you should be prepared to put your name to it.
There’s a widely held view that these scuttling cockroaches should be ignored – that by acknowledging them, you only give them oxygen. But the flip side of that argument is that you embolden them by letting them get away with it. They need to be exposed and held up to the contempt they so richly deserve.