Some say that Americans' freedom to spew off-color remarks anonymously is under siege after a St. Louis newspaper editor alerted a school principal that someone using the school's server had posted a vulgar remark on the paper's website (in response to the question "What's the craziest thing you've ever eaten?"). The culprit — a teacher — quit when confronted, prompting angry readers to bombard the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with comments demanding that the editor, Kurt Greenbaum, be fired for abusing his power. Greenbaum says the paper has the right to stamp out obscenity. Did Greenbaum cross a line?
Greenbaum abused his authority: Kurt Greenbaum's tattling was "over-the-top," says Mathew Ingram in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Newspapers routinely deal with comments "much worse" than this one. The tactful — and standard — way to react is to "contact [the commenters] directly and ask them to stop."
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
The teacher went too far, not Greenbaum: This nasty comment was posted from a school, says Jeanne Sager in Strollerderby. Greenbaum alerted the principal because he was worried it came from a student. The teacher should have known he was violating both school policy and the website's terms of service.
Watch out— no one is truly 'anonymous' anymore: This is part of broader backlash against anonymous commenters and Internet trolls, says Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb. The newspaper says it permits anonymous comments, but obviously "true anonymity" is a goner. So remember — "what you type may come back and haunt you one day."
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.