Thursday, 2 September 2010


In commenting on a blog, I was struck by our inconsistent – bordering on hypocritical – treatment of anonymity. Now I have always had a straightforward view on anonymous allegations – that is what I have a bin-shaped filing cabinet for.

And I hear the screams.

“Anonymity protects the person making the allegation.”

“The right for journalists to protect their sources is a hard-won freedom.”

“We should always investigate allegations – it’s what the public expect.”

And so on. Well let me tell you that this is all nonsense. If we want to protect complainants, why do we do so only selectively? Are some complaints more important than others? Is anonymity only to be granted to a special, privileged category of alleger? That – to me – is how it appears. Yet on this basis people I know and respect have lost their jobs and others have had their careers wrecked.

Usually that is the sole point and purpose of the anonymous allegation

And please can we stop all this, ‘journalists are little tin gods’ nonsense. Journalists are not supermen on a great moral crusade to save the planet from whatever their newspaper tells them it needs saving from. Journalists mostly just do the job and often this job driven by tittle-tattle, gossip and unfounded allegation as these make by far the best stories and most exciting copy. Which means more circulation, more advertising and more profit. Hey ho!

And the public aren’t as dumb as you think – they understand the impact of anonymous backbiting (occasionally indulging in such a pastime themselves) and that most allegations are raised with the sole purpose of advancing the allegers (or his friends) interests. Those interests might be the search for political power, they might be money, business advantage or control. Or the interest might be good old fashioned vengeance. Almost never is the motive of the anonymous alleger to bring the light of truth to play into murky corners.

Anonymous allegations should be – wherever possible – avoided or dismissed. And never ever trusted.


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