No free riders: Why responsibility and accountability matter when it comes to freedom of speech.

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Why am I doing this?

It’s a fair question, and I’ll try my best to answer it.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, NAC published two strong opposing viewpoints pertaining to the Freedom of Speech blog, to its pseudonymous creator, and to her disingenuous patron.

Just leave the bag where it is, prof … and no one gets hurt.

Another cowardly FOS posting … but who’s counting, Auntie?

It may seem to some that by doing so, I am somehow “stooping” to the same level as those who are being subjected to scrutiny, or at the very least, making a mountain out of a dunghill.

I disagree with this assessment. Those who consistently have chosen the low road are demeaning the very nature of responsible free speech, and consequently it is they who are in need of the cleansing light of transparence. If for no other reason than an interest in simple fairness, NAC aims to provide the sunlight, because if we don’t, who will?

As for the argument that the scale of the offense does not merit the tone of the response, such a rejoinder ignores the most famous expression of preemptive rhetoric, Deputy Fife’s advice: “Nip it. Nip it in the bud.”

It is pure hypocrisy of the basest order when one waving the banner of free speech insists on doing so pseudonymously. In spite of the best recurring efforts of agenda-laden apologists to defend this reprehensible practice of anonymous sliming, it remains disreputable, cowardly and inappropriate in a genuinely civil society.

For those among us who comprehend and believe in concepts like free speech, accountability and justice, there is every bit as much of an obligation to expose the less principled vendors of spiteful enmity as there is to locate the bacteria that cause disease. Legitimate discourse is one thing, and a persistent pattern of politically motivated character assassination quite another. To expose the disseminators of anonymous propaganda is to subject them to scrutiny by those of us hereabouts who have retained a basic sense of human decency.

And, accordingly, I remain confident that most people in this city possess such an ethical sensibility. Most people still understand the difference between a whistle-blower and a disgruntled failure, between free speech and unchecked malevolence, and between rosy cheeks and a devil’s horns.

It is not my intent to deny or suppress freedom of speech. Rather, it is to elucidate the principles of responsibility and accountability without which free speech is degraded into nonsense. I call upon the originator of the blog to dispense with her “professor of political science” disguise, and to stand openly alongside her words. And, I call for her patron to dispense with the rampant disingenuousness that has characterized her periodic denials of involvement in the blogosphere.

Barring these unlikely events, perhaps all of those participating in the Freedom of Speech charade would like to explain to us the exact dimension of the practical lessons offered to future generations in New Albany by anonymity, viciousness and deception, and how these practical lessons can be viewed as healthy … without the use of hallucinogenic substances.

Go on. We’re waiting.

But not holding our collective breaths, and speaking personally, I’m finished with the topic, at least for now.

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