A Thought on Anonymity

From the Editorial Collective of the “Fully Present”

Greetings comrades,

Well! It’s been quite an eventful couple of weeks, hasn’t it? Since our first issue on Homecoming Weekend, our little publication has received a number of responses.  We want to thank everyone–the students, faculty, staff members, gargoyles, and men with beards and hats–who provided us with positive feedback. We salute you.

Additionally, we have received some compelling, heated feedback, many of which warrants serious consideration and ample pondering time.  Perhaps some of the most pertinent questions we have received include those surrounding the issue of our namelessness, of accountability, and of our supposed “cowardly-ness.”  We’re trying not to shed tears of sadness and despair for that last claim.  But let’s move on and relish in the exploration of these new concepts together to see what comes of it!  A number of the submissions this week, however, actually chose to explore the topic of anonymity.  We thank you for your support and welcome the conversation!

A lot of the objections are stemming from that fact that we’ve remained “anonymous”.  Let’s be clear though: our goal is not to cloak ourselves in anonymity—we’re refusing to be named.

The contentious point is the name, so what’s in a name, really?  There’s a whole body of outrageously dense and convoluted scholarly work about the danger of naming but let’s take a silly concept like the “gargoyle” to explain.  The rigidly morbid chunk of stone that growls silently from its perch in old cathedrals.  Yes, this is the gargoyle.  But what if that gargoyle wanted to smile?  Or what if he preferred to be made of Q-tips rather than stone?  What if he (or she or z) wanted to be different and share an alternative expression of his gargoyle-iness than that of his stony fellows?  Well, he just can’t do that.  He would cease to be a gargoyle, since in the definition, gargoyles are unsmiling, stone beasts with no room for individuality or creativity.  A gargoyle is a gargoyle is a gargoyle.

Well, you say, gargoyles are most certainly not human beings (since their definition most clearly states that gargoyles cannot be human beings, unless all human beings are now perpetually unhappy and made of stone).  So how does this relate to the editors of this publication, who refuse to be named?

Refusing to be named, we argue, can free us from the restrictive limitations of being a traditional gargoyle.  We’re rejecting the name of the gargoyle and the preconceived assumptions that come with it, just like we’re rejecting the assumption that anonymity goes hand-in-hand with cowardice and irresponsibility.  We want to be nameless, shifting, mysterious, as a tactic.  In fact, we feel that anonymity can be a powerful tool for those without easily accessible and comfortable places to share their voices.  We see our choice of remaining anonymous as a way to shift credibility, accountability, and responsibility away from individually named people towards a less threatening and empowered collectivity.  This responsibility can either be held individually or collectively–but we feel that both are valid.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?  Not having a particular person or group of people to directly address with complaints and frustrations, with claims of cowardice and irresponsibility, with direct and open confrontation about disagreement.  True, anonymity can be wielded for destructive purposes.  We hope to combat this with our sincere aim for integrity and transparency—without our names attached to it.

It’s hard, sure.  It’s potentially dangerous and messy.  But think about it.  How much easier would it be to shut out contentious voices if those who disagreed knew who we were? For one, let’s face it, the politics of silencing and dismissal accompanied by white supremacy, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and agism (subtle or not) pervade Earlham just as they do anywhere else. We seek effective avenues to confront these silencing dynamics. On a more general level we ask, how much easier would it be to write off certain individuals’ thoughts simply because of their associations, assumptions, preconceived biases?  How focused have we become on the name rather than the ideas themselves?  How has the balance of power shifted just by our sudden existence?  Who’s uncomfortable now?

You can disagree—it’s controversial!–but we have chosen anonymity as a tactic to challenge our college’s power dynamics and share news topics that haven’t been represented thus far.  We ask you to strive to embrace our collectivity and our namelessness for the sake of conversation.  This, for us, is being “fully present.”

Just in case you’re still worried about credibility….Here’s how we work!

A group of 15-20 students from a range of class years and majors meet once or twice a week to discuss “Fully Present.”  We have several students managing our social media connections and email account, others who print and distribute, and others who edit submitted articles.  We edit mostly to screen for grammatical errors, and all editorial decisions are made collectively.  Articles that incite messages of hate or take approaches that we feel shut out discussion receive feedback from us so that we can work together to make the article more approachable.  Despite our anonymity, we strive for a transparent editorial process and welcome any questions regarding those decisions!

 

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This entry was posted in Issue 2: November 1, 2013. Bookmark the permalink.

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