Saturday, August 29, 2009

I am zeromeanszero

The blog's url identifies it as zeromeanszero, but the actual title on the first page is the wordier "Please, Step Aside Mr. Mayor, Please. You're an embarrassment to the entire city." Posts are attributed to Jane and John Smith. The url refers to Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien's much vaunted campaign promise on taxes and fees - although it seems that "zero" actually means the highest increases in the city's history.

The oldest post at the blog suggests the reason for it's existence:

Just when you thought at least one of the city's daily newspapers was holding firm and unwavering in its commitment to reporting facts as it pertains to Ottawa's Mayor along comes a story in Frank Magazine suggesting that Ottawa Citizen reporter Gary Dimmock has been told by his superiors that he is being pulled from any and all future stories involving Larry O'Brien. Aparently, so the story goes the Citizen was recently delivered a cease and desist - rather chilling isn't it? For those of you who are already up-to-date you'll know that Mr. Dimmock has just been nominated for the National Newspaper Award.

In the age of corporate media, it has become all too common for the political interests of owners to trump the public interest. Not that the corporate media were ever unbiased. The slanted coverage of the Saskatchewan doctors strike in 1962 makes Faux News coverage of US health reform seem positively balanced. (Indeed, the Sifton news monopoly in Saskatchewan - both major dailies, the largest private radio stations and all the private TV stations - was so biased in their coverage that even the Toronto media wrote tut-tutting editorials about it.)

But in 1962, outside of Saskatchewan at least, there still tended to be a variety of news sources. Media ownership concentration has served to narrow the range of media voices. In the US, we saw how anyone questioning the political, moral, legal or even military propriety of George W. Bush's Iraqi adventure was completely marginalized in the early days of the Cheney Doctrine. More recently, we have seen the same corporate media lend legitmacy to tinfoil hat conspiracy theories ranging from Barack Obama's birthplace to the way we Canadians are putting our grandparents on iceflows.

The blogosphere has provided an opportunity for citizen-journalists to challenge the corporate media monopoly, just as pamphleteers of an earlier aged challenged their own establishments. And like the pamphleteers, many bloggers choose to be anonymous or semi-anonymous.

Anonymity, of course, can be a problem. Some bloggers use anonymity as a permission to be scandalous, slanderous and dishonest. Others use anonymity to speak truths which would otherwise be costly.

Of late, there have been attempts to silence bloggers by threatening to "out" them, to strip them of their anonymity. Alberta's Tiny Perfect Blogger didn't just shut down the blog, but actually deleted all the content after a commenter threatened to reveal his (her?) identity. The Jurist blogged an TPB's choice to cease blogging, while also explaing his own choice, initially, to blog anonymously and more recently semi-anonymously.

Now, following a successful case in the US, political interests in Ottawa are attempting to use the courts to force Google to strip away the anonymity of Jane and John Smith. Clearly the goal is to silence a potent and widely read critic of the current mayoral administration in Ottawa.

I concede that there may well be particular cases where the public interest is served by stripping a particular blogger of anonymity. If a blogger declared an intention to assassinate a public figure, for example, or to engage in a terrorist act.

But being mean to public figures isn't a criminal act. At least not yet.

So, following on a few other examples (such as here and here) I want to declare to you all that

I am Zero Means Zero!

And just in case anyone doesn't see the point:


Saskboy said...

Semi-anonymous on the Internet is like half pregnant.

Realtor in Toronto said...

I dont want to say, it is not important to have various sources of the information, which means we get many times useful information from the blogs and bloggers, but still, you have to filter those information very carefully especially because of that anonymity of the bloggers. We should respect the person decide to write her or his blog in anonymity, but we should be careful to take all information as a true, as we do not know who is actually behind the articles and the stories.