Bullying, The Federalist Papers And “06880”

Bullying is making news everywhere.

Schools hold workshops on it. Books are written about it. A television anchor — harassed for being overweight — speaks out against it.

To which alert “06880” reader Jennifer Johnson writes:

There are many forms of bullying. We should not tolerate any of it in our community.

I would like to urge you not to allow your blog to be a source of anonymous bullying in our community.

I fully support the opportunities for Westporters to share ideas and express opinions, as your blog does. Where I have trouble stomaching your blog is when “anonymous comments” are posted that have a direct or indirect tone of personal attack. This is a form of bullying.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Please take a lead in our community in showing that bullying, at any age and on any topic, is not tolerated.


I am — and continue to be — a fervent 1st Amendment supporter. Americans have the right to express opinions — anonymously, if they wish. It’s a tradition dating back to the Federalist Papers, now affirmed by law — and “06880” is a forum that allows them to do so.

Yet the Federalist Papers were strongly worded articles and essays, arguing forcefully for the adoption of the Constitution. They were not attacks on individuals, and opinions were backed up with facts.

I know, I know: Comments typed quickly on a 21st century blog are different from those written laboriously by quill and ink 225 years ago.

But if we use the Federalist Papers as a raison d’etre for allowing anonymous comments, we should also use them as a model for what to say, and how to say it.

No bullying, please, on “06880.”

This month, or any other.

60 responses to “Bullying, The Federalist Papers And “06880”

  1. Go! Jenny!!!

  2. John McCarthy

    Agreed, no anonymous comments. Use pseudonyms please, makes for much easier to follow comments.
    I will take the free for all on 06880 over the political censorship practiced by our 1st selectman on his daily picture book. (Oops, was that bullying? I better take a few classes in civility. Maybe Mr. Joseloff can point me to where he learned his version of civility.)

  3. That’s a great start and I appreciate the point. However, I was never so bullied on a blog as when my real name was used on this blog so… not sure using real names stops the bullying. What I do think is critical is for people who love this blog and have a love connection with Westport of some sort whether we live there anymore or not — to stop calling those who have differing views from their own “whiners” and “complaining,” “pathetic,” etc. Those are just below the belt and out of bounds as far as I’m concerned and flat out name calling. I’ve said my peace about that here before. Lively debate is great but using derogatory language about someone is not. Use real language so that we can understand your points and not your anger. When it escalates to calling someone a “whiner” or “pathetic,” I for one cease to hear your point– I just think you’re out of control or angry. If you want to be heard, try a little kindness first.

  4. I vote for John McCarthy for 1st selectman!

  5. Maggie Feczko

    Jenny, Well said! Dan, I get the idea of anonymous opinions but in the case of how it has worked on 06880, in my opinion it has lowered the level of debate to viscious name calling, innuendo and harmful hostility. A few anonymous posters are making a lot of noise and do not, I believe, reflect the thoughtful differences of opinion in Westport. I agree with Jenny that it feels like bullying and has no place in social discourse.

  6. I believe anyone who posts here or anywhere anonymously sets it up for their comments to be disregarded. I for one pay no attention to posts signed without a name. What is the expectation anyway of those who post anonymously on issues of importance. Now watch the anons jump on this comment as whining or soething of the sort.

  7. Anonymous Bully

    Once November rolls around, I’ll comment. For now, I am observing Bullying Prevention Month…

  8. Here’s a thought — one that could enrich the much-needed public conversation this blog inspires, and Dan’s bank account. It also has the blessing of the Supreme Court (see, Citizens United): If a commenter wants to remain anonymous, have him/her pay Dan for the right. If Dan agrees that person has a good reason to go nameless (or pays enough to buy anonymity), then he assigns that person an appropriate pseudonym under which to comment away. Free speech meets free enterprise! Our Federalist Founding Fathers would surely agree with that!

    • Ahh, I get it a “commenting fee.” What a ridiculous idea. Pro-tip, when making weak suggestions on discourse and free speech, you many not want to link to your professional page – especially considering your position as a “communications director.”

    • John McCarthy

      How about a Poll Tax? I think that idea is gaining popularity again.

  9. If there are is no more free discourse on 06880, I am going to be spending a lot of time on that other site. I so enjoy all of the sunset pictures of the beach!

    • Free discourse will continue — don’t worry! The purpose of this post is to give voice to someone — who speaks for many readers — in wishing for fewer personal attacks in the “06880” comments. She has as much right to be heard as anyone!

  10. I think the constant clamor about the supposed horrible behavior of some who comment on this site is way (way) overblown. A couple of quick, anonymous thoughts:

    – In 2012, there can be significant professional consequences to speaking your mind about politics. Anyone who doubts that has not been paying attention the last few years. And, in a small town, where many of us have lived for years there can be personal ramifications as well.

    – As someone who has run for elected office, Ms. Johnson should be prepared to the take the heat. Is it bullying if I suggest Ms. Johnson ran and incoherent campaign for the P&Z? I certainly hope note.

    It is understandable that certain elected officials and their pals are feeling a little bit butt hurt this week after the BS boondoggle hit a reset snag. And, it is not surprising that they are “working the refs” by reaching out to Dan and crying bully. What would be very disappointing would be if 06880 changed it’s liberal commenting policy to assuage the feelings of public figures with bad ideas.

  11. Hope and Change became Divide and Conquer

    You’re boy Obama bullies all the time! It’s part of his Saul Alinsky training, same with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the gang at MSNBC.
    Why don’t you call them out for their completely unacceptable behavior if you truly champion the cause?! Change starts at the top.

  12. Estelle T. Margolis

    Dan, these are very important Constitional rights that you are talking about. I know Manny Margolis would, and has, defended free, uncensored speech many times. Including the right for the Klu Klux Klan to speak and march here in CT. There is a line that he would agree should not be crossed. It is the old “yelling fire in the theater” argument. You must not potentially cause physical harm that might occur in a panic to get out of the theater.

    BUT, what about emotional harm? I think that is the reason that bullying is now being taken so seriously. As it should.

    Do you, as the “editor” of your blog, have the option to determine when an anonymous comment is a “bullying remark” and therefore emotionally harmful to the object of that remark? Some publications refuse to print “anonymous” comments and Letters to the Editor.

    You are protecting and printing all your anonymous replies. It may be the only way we can fully respect the freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    • Nick Thiemann

      Estelle, You are right. Manny would protect the emotional bully. The issue here is whether bullies have any rights? Dan can censor anyone he wants on his blog who he determines to be a bully. If we don’t like Dan’s approach, start our own blog. We can argue with him and he may change his mind, but it’s his blog. The law should stay out of this stuff. It’s much too fluid and subjective. One person’s bully is another’s forceful speaker.

      One of the principles I learned in law school long ago was that the law has a thicker skin than much of society. Over the years it has become thinner. .

      • For the record, I have “censored” (removed) maybe 5 comments since I started “06880” in March of 2009. They were over-the-top offensive — for example, blaming a teenager for his own death. For the record, there have been 24,840 comments posted so far. That’s not much censorship, I’d say.

      • Bullied Anon

        What about anonymous posters who are the ones bullied? What, then? Is there no justice?

        Think of the anonymous children…Please!

  13. When does criticism become “bullying”? When is the lament about “bullies” really just an effort to stifle free speech? When is bullying really just vigorous opposition ? The term “bully” has become too politically charged and ambiguous to be useful.

    • Hope and Change became Divide and Conquer

      It becomes ‘bullying’ when the begins to lose.
      “Romney was bulling Big Bird”, but went the left called Jim Lehrer “too old and white” that wasn’t bulling because it was done to protect their boy.
      The same with who is a “racist”, you are one if you’re not on the left side, but if you are then you can spout all kinds of racist none sense and NOT be a racist.
      See how that works?!

      • Can you tell me how to get to...

        And doesn’t Big Bird make enough on the free market? Why does he need government subsidies?

    • “The term ‘bully’ has become too politically charged and ambiguous to be useful.” Excellent point.

    • Anonymous, Rated G

      Very true Emma.

  14. I have said this before and I think it is worth mentioning again: if Dan decides to eliminate anonymity in posting on this blog, he is perfectly within his rights to do this and such a restriction would have nothing to do with the First Amendment or the Constitutional rights of those who wish to post comments here. The First Amendment has to do with the government making laws that impose some kind of restrictions on free speech.

    I think both the quality and civility of posts overall on this blog would improve if Dan required people to identify themselves, but it obviously is his prerogative to continue allowing anonymous posts.

  15. Mystery Commenter

    1. This town is TOO small and TOO hypercritical — if one were to express their personal views (political, religious, etc.) on this blog there may be serious ramifications. Whether that be the child, the neighbor, the boss, whoever. This is the most abusive form of bullying and everyone seems to look the other way

    2. I have every right to remain “Anonymous,” just as Dan has every right to control his blog how he sees fit.

    3. The easy way out is for someone to to say: GO START YOUR OWN BLOG IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT! Well, what about the other side of it? If YOU don’t like that we can post her anonymously, either ignore our comments OR go start your own freaking blog!!!

  16. Putting a name on a post does not change its substance. It will not make it more coherent or relevant.

    • Anonymous, Rated PG-13

      I agree completely with ‘Anonymous’. But if some people are more sensitive to perceived tones and harder language then maybe rating one’s own comments on the blog, like the movies do, i.e., Rated G, PG-13, etc., might be helpful.

  17. Bored to Death with all these anonymous posts


  18. Anonymous by Choice

    Yes, Emma, good points. I find indifference and passivity just as offensive as a direct verbal attack. At the same time, censorship is needed, if only to save ourselves from ourselves. Regardless of what we may think, we do need a moral compass and an ability to recognize the extremes of right and wrong. The gray areas will always be triccky, though.
    Yeah, I choose to be anonymous.

  19. Amen to that, Dan. It’s too easy for “anonymous” people to type rude responses on a computer than say them to someone’s face.

  20. The problem with Anon posting (beyond that it allows a veil for incivility) is that people may have a conflict of interest on a public matter and are using anonymity to advance their own personal interest. (If, for example, a Property Developer anonymously advocates for changes that put money in his pocket.)

    “Hope and Change’s” comments crack me up. As the Chick-Fil-A brouhaha showed, some people will avoid the business and some people will patronize the business. If I don’t want to support a business that doesn’t represent broader values which I hold, that should be my right as a consumer. If I do want to support a business that represents broader values, that should be my right. You seem to want to have it both ways – speak your mind but don’t be accountable for the consequences of your speech.

    • If a property developer posts comment advocating a position to benefit him/herself they are also – if they are going to be successful – articulating how their position – more than any alternative position – benefits the community as a whole; so, again, why would it matter what their name is? All that should matter are the merits of the proposal.

      It’s interesting to see – when you take away labels/names – who supports an initiative that they otherwise would not.

  21. Above post by Chris Grimm – inadvertent anon post!

  22. For all the folks who think posting their name adds import to their comments, I can pretty much assure them that the Westport political wags think most of the named comments on this sight come from harmless blowhards who are easy to ignore.

  23. Not to belabor the point, some people work for companies. Many companies prefer their employees to not do or say anything that might be controversial lest it somehow rebound to the detriment of said company. As a consequence, some opinions from perfectly normal people with valid points of view (which may or may not happen to agree with mine) would not be contributed to a civil debate unless allowed to be posted anonymously.

    I applaud Dan for allowing anonymous or pseudonymous (is that a word?) comments to be posted.

    I agree, however, that people should be civil though I would note that disagreeing with someone or expressing a different point of view or suggesting that someone else is mistaken is not necessarily “bullying” or not being civil.

    • I agree with Jerry, and others with similar comments. There’s nothing wrong with anonymous comments. We all have different opinions, and we all have the right to be critical if we disagree (‘political heat’ if you want to call it that). Dan’s blog is a good venue for this… for sharing opinions and ideas. Keep them coming. Just keep them civil.

  24. Joe Biden is a Bully!