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July 02, 2010 03:03 AM UTC

A suggested change to the rules on Pols

  • by: catpuzzle

(This seems to have attracted a lot of attention as a dairy, so let’s move it up to front page. – promoted by Voyageur)

Since I just got in trouble for saying something that I think a lot of people feel, I want to post a diary to have a forthright discussion of the issue.

Pols position on anonymity generally makes sense. I for one probably couldn’t have started posting on here without it. In fact, concerns over it had me holding off on actually participating for awhile, though I’ve read the site pretty regularly since the 2008 election. I think that as a general rule, this allows for a number of folks who wouldn’t otherwise get involved to voice their insights and share their thoughts.

There is however one group of people that I think should be exempt from this protection, and that is elected officials. I think it should be a fully permissible act to “out” an elected official on here. The fact is that by holding office they live by a different set of standards than the rest of us, and a different set of standards. That’s especially applicable when it comes to slandering other elected officials, whether they be of the same or opposing ideology, party, or faction.

The standards for accountability are and should be higher, and those standards should be maintained on here. When campaigns or candidates post something, they have accounts that they post it from. We should expect the same transparency from those currently in office. It is simply unacceptable for an elected official representing the public to take potshots anonymously at a candidate or other elected official. I believe outing anyone who engages in this behavior should be perfectly acceptable, but I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts.

Poll below.

Should this change be made or not?

View Results

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95 thoughts on “A suggested change to the rules on Pols

    1. seems to be in affect. I haven’t been on this site for very long and have seen insult and slander thrown around on nearly every single diary. Accusations with no basis in fact are tossed around not towards or in defense of a candidate but towards the users themselves.

      So far it seems the “outing rule” is the only one I’ve seen enforced and that only recently on the diary catpuzzle was alluding to.

        1. ..that one cannot slander an anonymous or fictitious person?  Or, are you drawing on some distinction between slander and libel?  As a reckless user, I need to know these things.

          1. So, like, calling Strykerk2 and idiot doesn’t qualify as slander.  It might not be a nice thing to say, but it isn’t slander.  

            Now if we said that SK2 bites off the heads of rats and sucks out their brains in some ritualistic, witch doctor ceremony to grand AR the powers to win the primary, that would probably be slander.

            Just kidding, SK2.  😉

            1. I mean rat brains are tasty.

              Also, I think you can’t slander (or libel — which is actually the correct term for written if I remember correctly) an elected official anyway.  Something about being in the public arena makes them outside the protection.  If there is an actual lawyer on here I would love some more detail, but that’s what I remember.

              1. The standard is for a public figure, and it works differently depending how much of a public figure you are. It’s basically impossible to libel Barack Obama, but it wouldn’t be hard at all to commit actionable libel against, say, an Englewood city council member.  

              2. in general, btw, slander is spoken defamation, libel written defamation.  the question of whether broadcast defamation is slander or libel varies a bit by state but the key is that an amplifying agent — the radio or tv station — has carried the defamation far beyond the range of the human voice, so it shares in the damages and liability.

                  Under N.Y.Times v. Sullivan, it is much harder to slander or libel a public official than before — you have to prove “actual malice” and/or “reckless disregard” of the truth.

                  That’s a tough standard but can be met.  The Saturday Evening Post published a story that Bear Bryant and Wally Butts had conspired to fix a football game.  They relied totally on a free lancer and made no attempt to check or verify the information.  They lost a huge judgment and that’s part of the reason they went out of business.

                  Finally, opinion is not libel.  Libel must be based on facts.   Stryker’s prediliction for eating rat brains is probably intended as satire and thus not libel.   If meant literally, well, it still doesn’t probably rise to libel.

                  If I say David Thi is a mean, no good, low-down, America hating son of a bitch in a green tie — he better be wearing a green tie, because that’s the only allegation of fact in that rant.

                  But if I said David stole girl scout cookies that might be actionable.   He doesn’t — he pays good money for them, so call off the barristers, David 😉


                1. I have always found libel/slander very confusing. You laid it all out and even referenced a court case. Bravo!

                  Seriously, very impressive and appreciated.

        2. -noun


          defamation; calumny: rumors full of slander.


          a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report: a slander against his good name.


          Law. defamation by oral utterance rather than by writing, pictures, etc.

    2. But “slander” cannot occur here on Pols, because legal slander is verbal communication. Proper term would be “libel” for written communication. Just a legal distinction for proper cause of action.  

  1. already post under their names here. I can think of several, including Steve Johnson, Morgan Carroll, Jared Polis, Mike May, Ali Hasan, to name a few.

    Bad idea. Poorly thought out.

    Short answer? No. If you don’t like the anonymity policy here, post somewhere else.

    1. How do you know that most elected officials or would-be elected officials post under their own names?  Seems like one purpose of fake names is to hide such facts.

      1. Some politicians or folks running for office post under their real names.

        Super handy tip for newcomers–look to the right of this diary for a BIG clue…

        1. I’ve looked to the right of this diary and see only reference to Westword and the YMCA. Oh, and Stella B’s contemporary boutique

    2. i don’t know how I feel about agreeing with MOTR on this – whose seeks to praise Ralphie by this quote –

      “The only way you could be worse is if you were Wade Norris.” Ralphie

      but since I reported you to the editors, let me make this statement, CP.

      Since you are new here, you should get a pass and I am glad you did not get banned.

      What Ray Springfield did at the end of the comments of this diary –

      – should clearly qualify as a ban offense for precisely calling out someone who is an elected official. (and i am still waiting to hear from the editors on this subject)

      There are many bloggers who started blogging during the height of the Bush administrations most heinous abuses of power – i.e. wiretapping citizens and monitoring emails.

      The sanctity of anonymity has allowed many people to blog with a level of protection necessary to keep themselves safe or employed or both. Since then, some bloggers have come forward to blog under their own names. However, the fact that someone wants to remain anonymous even now (as this administration is prosecuting more whistleblowers than during all of the Bush years –… should be a highly protected and sacred right.

      By the way catpuzzle, to put the onus back on you, you claimed to know the person you were wanting to out in the diary I mentioned upthread.

      How do you know that information?

      Who told you?

      Why do you want to out them?

      I think those questions would make excellent facts for a forthcoming diary.

      1. But I can’t do it without outing them. Kinda the problem, no?

        Also… that whistleblower argument is one of the more awesome red herrings I’ve ever heard. People of pols, prepare yourself for extraordinary rendition for your thoughts on the Treasurer’s race…

      2. It’s not like he said something slanderous, since we’re all on the subject. He just expressed an opinion and one that I share. Just be happy you get mentioned at all, dude.

      3. But this, Wade, was not one of them. We couldn’t even begin to guess the identity of the poster in question with what Ray wrote. Unless you already knew the identity of the person in question — and we did not — then Ray’s comments would really mean nothing to you.

        With that said, we did issue a warning in the post to not make any further attempts to hint at a poster’s true identity.

        1. Someone threatened to out me on this blog, including threats of humiliation and other such nonsense. I have no idea how the person thinks they know me, but I never did here pols step in either to reprimand the threatened outing or to call a cease and desist to the defamatory comments either.

          Is there a different standard if you’re a nobody like me than if you’re some muckety-muck?  

          1. Is there a different standard if you’re a nobody like me than if you’re some muckety-muck?  

              if we don’t know who you are?  

  2. That candidates and people posting as part of their job for a candidate or elected official should post under their real name. We went through this with triguardian and others.

    It’s also in their interests to do so. Because if they are outed, all of their “independent” posts are going to blow up in their face.

    1. Perhaps this would cut down on Romanoff supporters constantly accusing anyone challenging Romanoff of working for “Trevor” and the Bennet campaign.

      1. Anyone can be anyone else always.  If there is a policy encouraging outing, I suspect many interesting people, who know shit, won’t post.  Perhaps that’s the goal of some, but I wonder if the hosts share the goal, given that they have always posted under fake names.

        1. this site I’ve been accused countless times of being some sort of operative for the Bennet campaign just because I criticize Romanoff. I’ve also been told that I shouldn’t post any comments until I’ve been here long enough to earn some “cred”. I’ve been called a liar and a shill. All this from different users (I assume) for sharing my opinions on politics. I’ve done my best to try to avoid personal attacks.  I assumed that was what this site was for.

          I’m seriously reconsidering if this site is here to discuss and debate politics or just sling insults and accusations.  

          1. But how does a rule encouraging outing address them?  It would simply drive people away — the good, the bad, and the boring.

            1. My previous point was that the outing rule is enforced with an iron fist while the “slander rule” isn’t. The amount of disrespect shown to each other and allowed to go unchecked amazes me.

              Maybe that makes me thin skinned or naive but I still believe there is a place for civility in American politics and political discussion.

            1. 12 hours to create a new account, given his admitted limited mastery of computer skills.  That’s why our membership has been growing so slowly.

                Wade Norris, btw, is one of Barron X’s sockpuppets.

          2. And some cast aspersions rather than discussing the issue at hand. Unfortunately that’s life and you’ll find it everywhere. My suggestion is ignore the ad-hominem attacks as no one pays them much mind.

          3. I was the new kid on the block last year even though I’d read Pols off and on for several years. I swore at one point all I needed to do was sign my name to get a knee jerk reaction.  All because I support Scott McInnis.  There are still a few jerks but there are also some damn interesting people that disagree with me.

            Back to the original thread.  I do think if an elected official wants to differ/attack their opponent on an issue they should have the courage to sign their own name. However, there are ways to get around that too – spouse/friend/co-conspirator through their computer address.  

            1. for someone whose initial posts were always some variation of Hickenlooper did the equivalent thing.  Your knee jerk Republican victim mindset prevents you from thanking us for helping you advance past your sophomoric blogging skills and start contributing entertaining posts but seeing you come up with less ridiculous defenses of the unmustached one is thanks enough for me.

          4. I’m seriously reconsidering if this site is here to discuss and debate politics or just sling insults and accusations.  

              We never allow personal insults, asshole!

          5. But that’s half the fun!  I’d never call anybody an idiot to their face in real life!  Well, on second thought scratch that. It could happen.

            1. and figure out who the serious posters are. I totally get that during a heated primary debate, things get said. I also sadly am starting to realize that as a newbie I have to prove myself. I’ve said before that there are some very very intelligent interesting posters on here and it has been extremely exciting to debate and/or learn with them. As a relative political novice (no campaign experience just a shitload of research) and an agoraphobic, sites like CoPols allow me to “meet” and talk with others about one of my interests.

              I’m also learning who to ignore.

              1. You don’t have to “prove” yourself, just say what you want to say and let the chips fall where they may. As long as you follow the rules you won’t get banned. Probably 90% of posters on here vehemently disagree with me but it doesn’t stop me from posting.

                1. Thanks for the encouragement. You’re absolutely right that I should just say what I feel I need to say.

                  I really do enjoy this site and appreciate everyone’s encouragement. I look forward to spirited discussions leading up to, and well past, this exciting primary.  

          6. between discussing politics and slinging mud.  From what I’ve seen they seem to go hand in hand.  If you think that free forums are meant to be places where “serious” people say “serious” things then maybe you are the one who needs an attitude adjustment.

            I am one of those juvenile people who enjoys the wicked repartee and mocking of opposing positions.  It is in the exchanges that you see the direct contrast in positions.  A lot of communication occurs on the edges of civility when people make blunt statements about each others beliefs.  People in comfort zones rarely examine their ideas that critically.

      2. anyone posting pro-Romanoff comments or diaries is immediately attacked as a sock puppet, a shill or worse.

        I don’t see the same, except possibly as in retaliation, for Bennet supporters.

    2. Should an elected official or candidate post only under their real name? Yes. That’s probably a reasonable expectation.


      That’s a different argument than saying that an elected official or candidates who use a pseudonym should be outed (their real names exposed) against their wishes.

      As we wrote in an earlier comment, it is nobody else’s choice but their own if they want their real name to be exposed. If you want to write under a pseudonym, that is completely up to you. We will not tolerate overt attempts to “out” a poster on Colorado Pols. Your anonymity is your choice.

  3. It’s parlor game. Most have probably played it at a fundraiser or two.

    The rule is the rule. It’s part of the parade.I think it should stay. If folks are so proud of their opinion that they have to hide to feel comfortable then so be it.

    I have a Hebrew name that most of you don’t

    know. It’s pretty easy to figure what my birth name was.

    I think it’s a ittle silly for people to have an out name for angelic policy statements, and a not out name for attacks.

    But so be it.

    There also seems to be a game of reconstructionist history that families play, and group dynamics play into.

    “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”  

    Paul Simon

  4. If an elected official wants to post here under his/her real name, more power to them. If posters wish to use their real names, good on them too.

    For the rest of us, we understand who is who and whether we need to, or should, pay attention to what they say.

    The beauty of this site is that people in the know can post without retribution from people who disagree or have political axes to grind.

    If you don’t like that, either move to a different site or take a deep breath, count to ten and get over it.

    Newbies are often accused of being shills because, well, they’re new. If they stick around and have thick enough skin, we recognize they aren’t shills. If they disappear the day after the election, well, our accusations were accurate.

    Nobody should be outing anybody here. If you do, the CoPols gumbas will find you and beat your cat.

  5. I have always posted here under my real name. My posts are usually fact-based comments on some rule or law (the odd wise crack aside). But it is my choice to do so.

    Of course, using my real name, I do refrain from commenting on items fairly often where as I may have said something if I were anonymous.

    Elected officials and candidates have a need to know what is actually on people’s minds, without hearing it through the filter most people place on themselves when talking directly to such a person.

    For example, on here, I would likely say something like “our state constitution has become a cespool and all we do is keep adding shit to it.” But if I were talking to candidates or legislators, I would likely say something more along the lines of “the longer we wait to reform our constitution, there more there will be to reform. Our best course of action would be to hold a constitutional convention to rewrite the thing so we can modify the amendment process as well and keep special interest groups from adding things that do not belong there.”

  6. I don’t post under my full name because I want to be able to engage in conversation without it coming up in a google search.  I know a few Bennet staffers that do so, and I think it’s their right — they have opinions like the rest of us; they have a right to express them without giving a full bio.

    But how would you know they are really elected officials anyway?  I mean if someone went on and said “Paul Q is really Governor Ritter” — what am I supposed to say? “no I’m not?” It would start to get silly.  For the record: I’m not Governor Ritter.  Just to be clear.

    1. Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!

      Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.

      Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!

      Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!

      Brian: Now, fuck off!


      Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?  

    2. It helps break the stress of a demanding job.  But don’t let anyone know, or I’ll get slapped for violating the anti-outing rule.

  7. EVERYONE who participates in some fashion at Colorado Pols has the right to keep their anonymity. Whether or not an elected official should post under his or her real name is a secondary argument — it is not our place, or anyone else’s place, to make that determination for them. If you want to be anonymous, then you can be anonymous.

  8. If politicians want to hide who they are then that is one opportunity for the media and opposition candidates to go after them.  If they cannot stand with their statements and writings too bad.

    I believe that what I post is public (even though I am on hiatus from politics at the moment – I do plan on returning sometime). Good, bad, intelligent or whatever I will live with what I post.  Politicians need to stand for something. If their own words cause them fear then they need to exit politics and do something less public.

    The reason I changed to posting under my name was due to DailyKOS.  A politician in New York did the ultimate sin of posting a diary using one name (not hers real name) then using various names responded.  She was banned.

    At that moment I decided that I would be open with my words.  It has also made me think more before I type or speak. That has made me a better person.

    1. You responded to the diary itself, rather than any comments.  The diary calls for an exception to the ban on outing for elected or would-be elected officials.  In other words, the diary encourages outing elected officials.  Do you disagree with that notion?  The text of your post suggests you might agree with it.  Or are you taking the view that elected officials should ID themselves, but outing is still inappropriate?  Or are saying that outing is appropriate for everyone in order to make everyone a better person?  Or are you saying….

  9. So it seems like generally speaking people disagree with me on this (though I’m proud to have gotten almost 40% support on proposing a fairly radical change!), and they have a lot of good reasons for doing so. The Life of Brian argument in particular is pretty tough to rebut… (I mean that seriously.)

    I’m sympathetic to many of the arguments against (besides the thats-the-rule argument…duh. That’s why I want to change it.), I just continue to be worried about some of the overly negative things being said, and the lack of accountability. My sense is that my proposal probably goes too far, but if anyone has any ideas that would accomplish similar ends (namely, accountability when people are attacking public figures), it’d be great to hear them.

    Thanks for everyone’s interest!

    1. There are hardly attacks that go unanswered on here. That’s the accountability, for the substance of the attacks, not the identity of the attackers. If the attack has merit, this is a great place to bounce it around and see if it sticks. If it doesn’t, it’ll be fact-checked and beaten down. Of course, some attacks keep showing up again and again under the “repeat it enough someone will believe it” theory, but that’s what you get on a public blog.

  10. I am fine with the rules as they are. (And it probably adds to the enjoyment occassionally when I read something that makes me wonder who that person really is.) I didn’t choose my name as anonymity shield but rather as simply a screenname. Anyone who cared to could probably figure out who I was in a matter of minutes.

    Still, I think an elected official posts anonymously at their own peril. Especially if their posts are vitriolic. It only takes one person to say, “Screw the rules, I’ll take the punishment before I let that SOB get away with saying thus and such.” Then the person gets outed and whatever they have written with less caution because of their expectation of anonymity comes back at them. Even the stuff that might have been recognized by most of us as rough banter among familiars (as it were) but to the outsider looks mean spirited and coarse.

    There are places where I think that anonymity destroys or gets in the way of building community. For the type of community that is being built here, I would say anonymity works just fine. But anonymity is a two-way street. In my primary face to face community, people who choose to make responsible critiques behind their real name are taken a lot more seriously than those who choose to throw darts from behind a shield. And those are the poles. There are also people who make responsible critiques from behind shields. In the non-blogosphere world, the more visible you are and the more willing you are to be part of a solution, the more seriously you will be listened to.

    But the blogosphere world is a little different. There are probably some similar dynamics – like there is probably a spectrum of responses from “take seriously” to “ignore” similar to other community dynamics. But here there is a little more of the masquerade party atmosphere. People are little freer than they might otherwise be but don’t expect to be dismissed out of hand just because they are playing by the rules of the party.

    And those with more at stake at being “outed” can use their judgement to decide whether making a critical remark behind the veil of anonymity serves them best or not.

    1. I’m a bit late to the party on this, so you and a couple of others have covered almost all the pros and cons that I was mulling.

      I particularly agree with you about anonymity being an enemy of community building in the long run. It does work okay for a while; it’s working here on Pols for now because the fun aspect, and the thrill of feeling like one is now and then seeing “insider stuff”, means most of the regulars have the same stake in making sure the rules are followed.

      But the downside comes when individuals figure out how to game whatever an online group’s protocols are, and I think we may be seeing that already. We mock and joke about sockpuppets, but I think if I were someone who cared strongly about politics, yet had something to lose by airing strong views under my real name, I would be SERIOUSLY tempted to create myself an anonymous persona. Then I could rant and rave and say awful things about my opponent, my staff, my fellow party members, ANYONE…and feel safe in doing so because Pols’ rules had me covered.

      On the other hand…and I almost hesitate to post this idea, but what the hey.  Chances are that if someone who shouldn’t WAS blowing off steam as a sockpuppet, they would not be satisfied with merely getting away with it, or not for long.  They would surely give away the game to one or more of their confidants. Once they do that, they have to make sure the relationship never sours. Because…it’s pretty easy to set up a Pols account, isn’t it?

      So maybe in a way the anonymity thing IS self-correcting. But things could get rocky while things sort themselves out.  

  11. And while I understand your motivation to change it, one elected official acting weasely is not enough to change it.

    Instead, a poster who cared about that person’s next election, could out them then and take their banning.

  12. I voted for the rule, because I believe elected officials and candidates should be held accountable for the things they say (e.g. Steve Harvey – so many good sig lines). But I don’t really care one way or the other, and I suppose it does help us get inside info.

  13. Your name is catpuzzle?  I’m not sure how to take that, cat.  It is okay if I call you cat, right?

    So, I assume you will remove the mask from your face, cat.  None of us can wait to see who you really are.  I know I can’t.

    As for me, Hito, I will remove my mask, too…  

    I am Thor!  All who know me will bow before my mighty hammer and kiss my golden locks!  You will kneel at the alter of my magnanimous generosity — my giving to the common man, understanding of your plight, Colorado.  Because of this magnificence, you will forget what I do and know only what I tell you. YES, I AM THOR!

    Oops, I forgot.  I’m just Michael Bennet, appointed U.S. Senator. Rats.

    (Hey, has anyone seen my lips around here?)

  14. Federal officials?




    School board?

    Water district?

    Fire District?

    Homeowners Association?

    Union officials?


    Liquor Commission?  

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