Monday, February 26, 2024

Own Your Words

By Stephen Vance, Editor

A couple of years ago there was a nasty anonymous blog making waves in Meaford. Much like the current blog that has surfaced during this election campaign, that blog had plenty of unkind, unsubstantiated things to say about members of Meaford council and of municipal staff.


The Sun Times ran a big story about it. They had contacted me because I had a blog that wasn’t anonymous, and they wanted to come to my home, interview me, and take a photo for their story.


What I said then with regard to anonymous blogging is exactly what I would say to whoever is behind this current blog that has been attacking Mayor Richardson and our municipal staff:


I strongly believe that in our country we can and should be able to say or write whatever we want. That is a right that we all have, and any of us who want to exercise that right should do so. But along with that right comes a responsibility- you have to own your words.


If for whatever reason you aren’t willing to put your name and your reputation behind what you are saying publicly, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it. Even if what you are saying is true, even if it is important that it be said, if you hide behind a wall of anonymity, then your words cannot be taken seriously.


There is nothing wrong with writing things that annoy people. Sometimes it has to be done.


I knew last month that in spite of all of the nice things I have written about municipal staff and our current CAO over the last year, that I was going to annoy them with a column I wrote about the availability of staff when a candidate was attempting to file their nomination papers.


I knew that all of the glowing things I had written about municipal staff would quickly be forgotten with that one column, but it needed to be said. If I was afraid of hurting their feelings, or of somehow damaging my reputation, I could have simply not published the column- or I could have published it anonymously.


But sometimes you need to stand up for what you think is right, even if it may have negative consequences. Because my name is attached to everything I write, if someone feels strongly about a position I have taken, or they think that I am wrong, they can take me to task, they know how to get in touch to express their displeasure.


It has happened. I have received phone calls or email from people who strongly disagree with what I have written. I even recently had a council candidate track me down to tell me that they didn’t agree with something that I had written about them after a candidate meeting. They thought that what I had written was unfair. He and I had a discussion during which I explained why I felt as I did, and why I wrote what I did. At the end of our discussion we shook hands.


That’s a fair process, and I am willing to stand behind anything I write. There are plenty of things I have been tempted to write over the years that I elected not to simply because it wasn’t an issue or a cause that I was willing to spend the time or energy defending.


When your name is attached to your words, it causes you to think twice every now and then before making your thoughts public.


To toss anonymous criticisms and accusations out there is nothing but cowardly.


I have a very strong suspicion of who is behind this current anonymous blog. I have very good reasons for my suspicions. And if it is who I think it is, I can only say this to the anonymous blogger- I am very disappointed, you are doing your community more harm than good.


You clearly have some strong views, and you have a wonderful opportunity to fight the good fight for what you believe, but you have caused your arguments to lose all credibility by throwing all of those allegations out into the public realm anonymously.


Some of what is written on that blog site is true. Some of it is not. Some of it is interesting, and could benefit from some public discussion to explore the accuracy of the information- but that can’t happen because the source of the information can’t be contacted in order to initiate such debate.


If this blogger thinks that they are in some way helping mayoral candidate Jim McPherson in his bid for the mayor’s chair, they likely aren’t. McPherson himself would likely tell you that this type of shenanigan can do more harm than good for his campaign.


If this blogger feels so strongly, and is convinced that everything they are saying is true, then they should come out from behind that wall of anonymity, identify themselves, and be prepared to back up and debate the issues they are raising.


What this anonymous blogger is doing is way too easy. It takes a lot more intestinal fortitude to publicly state controversial views.


My request to this blogger: Own your words, or shut the hell up.



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