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This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Cowards on the Internet


First, some background on a recent court battle that should be of great interest to bloggers.





?





began writing a blog
in August 2008 about...





That's model Liskula Cohen.






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wrote a blog called, "Skanks in NYC." The sole purpose of the anonymous blog was to trash Cohen with unflattering pictures and a litany of name-calling, including, "a psychotic, lying, whoring . . . skank."

Cohen sued





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and Google, the host of the anonymously written blog. Cohen sought to learn the identity of the individual sliming her. 


A Manhattan judge ruled in Cohen's favor, and the trash-talking blogger was unmasked as.....


 Google revealed identity of blogger Rosemary Port, who now plans to sue Web site.


29-year old Michelle Port.

Port claimed she went after Cohen because Cohen said nasty things about Port to her boyfriend.

There's more to the story that you can read here.

A larger issue is at play: the danger of anonymity on the Internet.

Not everyone who writes or comments anonymously on blogs or chat sites is irresponsible. However, given the opportunity to hide behind a fake name, a writer feels the incentive to engage in outrageous, negative, hostile, even false or libelous commentary. As columnist Dennis Prager once wrote:

“It is the very rare individual who sends a hate-filled, obscenity-laced e-mail that includes his name. As the recipient of such e-mails, I know firsthand how rarely people identify themselves when sending hate-filled mail. It is so rare, in fact, that I usually respond to hate mail that includes the writer's name just to commend him for attaching his name to something so embarrassing.

The Internet practice of giving everyone the ability to express himself anonymously for millions to read has debased public discourse. Cursing, ad hominem attacks and/or the utter absence of logic characterize a large percentage of many websites' ‘comments’ sections. And because people tend to do what society says it is OK to do, many people, especially younger people, are coming to view such primitive forms of self-expression as acceptable.

Some might argue that anonymity enables people to more freely express their thoughts. But this is not true. Anonymity only enables people to more freely express their feelings. Anonymity values feelings over thought, and immediate expression over thoughtful reflection.”


I call these people cowards. Ironically, liberal columnist Maureen Dowd used the same term in writing about the Cohen/Port case.

Reckless blogging is like a cancer, permeating the Internet. Sometimes, in the never-ending quest to make waves, the blogger can go too far.

One local writer cavalierly told me last year that he can write anything he wants to because he’s a blogger. When I raised the issues of credibility and reputation, I was told again that it didn’t matter because he’s a blogger, not a journalist. Still another local blogger’s body of work is marked, or should I say, marred by entries based on assumptions, rumors, unfounded accusations, and wild conspiracy theories. Not only that, his grammar and spelling would make his high school English teacher jump off the Hoan Bridge.

On these very blog pages, individuals have written using false names and stories, pretending to be people they’re not. Some in our community are well aware of the despicable specifics.

There are local bloggers who, like Michelle Port, have no intention of providing important information or discourse. Their sole purpose is to smear. Knowing they couldn’t face their targets or engage them in meaningful debate, fearing the very thought, they cowardly hide behind phony names or titles.

In a perfect world, everyone who writes a blog would have to divulge his/her identity and affiliation. Ditto for people who “comment.” Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen, and the irresponsibility will continue.


RELATED READING:


Is lying on the Internet now a crime?


Internet anonymity is as bad as Internet porn


Anonymity kills

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