I've lately been charged with the mortal sin of committing censorship for deleting comments on this blog.
I'd feel much worse about this if I knew who I was censoring. In fact, if the phantoms who lurk on the web to spew cheap shots had the courage of their convictions to identify themselves, this wouldn't even be an issue. I would happily undelete their comments. But they won't. They'd rather hide behind the wall that encourages cowardice.
Of course, I'll be accused of hypocrisy and inhibiting public debate. The Herald will be accused of stifling the free flow of opinion.
In truth, The Herald has been much too lenient about the spew it allows to foul the comment section of its Web site. For the most part, we don't remove comments unless they contain excessively foul language or are dangerously racist. Every random coward can say any random thing in the comments section of the Web without fear that they'll be identified as the source of the spew. And so they do.
I've never understood why newspapers allowed this degeneration of public discourse, other than in their desperation to crank up their Web hits.
But if deleting anonymous twaddle is censorship, newspapers have been doing it for years. In the newspaper, we don't allow random cranks to share their opinions in letters to the editor and commentaries without attaching their names. We don't allow people to share obvious misinformation, to get away with venal below-the-belt cheap shots.
I will continue to allow random cranks to spew anonymously on this site -- and I will grant much leeway to those who identify themselves. But I won't allow gutless creeps the opportunity to drag my family into the deal.