A few weeks ago, George Smith wrote a fine column about the influence of technology on public discourse. I’d like to add some thoughts.

For more than two centuries, pages such as this one have provided one of the few opportunities citizens have to exercise their right to speak in a public forum. You require letter writers to take responsibility for their words by signing their names.

Therefore, I can’t understand why you allow those responding electronically to do so anonymously. Many responders have something significant to say or another perspective, but too often scrolling down the virtual column to look at comments is like descending into a virtual sewer.

The electronic forum is the daily hangout for a society of impulsive and compulsive sorts hiding behind pseudonyms and seeking the orgasmic thrill of participating anonymously in public abuse. Anonymity emboldens and enables them to demean and trivialize freedom of speech.

The abysmally low level and quality of public discourse in our country might be enhanced by requiring electronic responders to own their words, whether brilliant or vile. They might think twice about what they say.

Reserving respect and civility only for those of one’s own ilk does not bode well for the future of our democracy and beloved republic.


We are not simply politically polarized. Old hatreds are metastasizing. We are sick to our thin blood for want of respect, civility, kindness, decency and rational discourse.

I am close to my three score and 10, and I shudder when I try to imagine the America of my dear grandsons.

Steve Cowperthwaite

Mount Vernon

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