Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Her veil is for modesty, purity and honor. She does not hide. The veil symbolizes her fidelity, and while she is hidden, her character is not unknown. She is a vestal virgin, and her veil is her mark. This sculpture is a breathtaking example of the work of Raffaele Monti (1818-1881); it almost looks like he created this from the inside out. The veil not only keeps her identity cloaked, but it also keeps her focus within. The one under the veil cannot see as clearly as one who is unveiled, this allows her to think of and focus only on the service she performs. The sculpture is featured in Joe Wright’s rendition of Pride and Prejudice, in a powerful scene where Elizabeth identifies with the statue and realizes her own distorted vision towards Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth sees, perhaps for the first time, that her opinion of Mr. Darcy was influenced by the veil of her own pride and prejudice toward him.

Veils aren’t exactly common as apparel in our society, though the internet provides another sort of veil to us. Opinions can be freely rendered in the world of the web without the necessity of owning up to them. While this makes sense in certain circumstances (paying a compliment without looking like a sycophant), it may not always. The benefit of anonymity is the freedom of expression it affords. While society espouses the notion of free exchange of ideas, we all know that there is such a thing as political capital, and an offensive idea can burn through a lot of that rather quickly. The detriment of anonymity, however, is the speed with which thoughtful exchanges can devolve into sarcastic and generally less productive discussions. The freedom of anonymity can have the unfortunate side-effect of blinding the author.

The first week of law school, a professor received an anonymous email from a class member. She stood in front of us and said, quite simply: “In the legal profession, we sign our names to things. Court filings, memos and other correspondence bear our names. Signing our names ensures we take extra care with our words; we bear the responsibility for those words.” I do not necessarily advocate full disclosure of identity in the blogosphere. What I do think important to consider is what the freedom afforded by anonymity causes. As with any freedom, there is the potential to yield both good and bad fruit.


Anonymous said...

I will not take the great presumptuous leap to suppose that this post is an invitation for folks who may post something here under the name "Anonymous" to search their souls.

Instead I note that it relates to such folks, and that I am one such. In fact, I am only "Anonymous" because that is the word next to the radio button that requires no other action on my part. If my name were next to that radio button, then you would know me. But the virtue of anonymity needs some defending here.

I do agree that lawyers sign things. But lawyers (and anyone else) also can be googled by propsective employers, with the stultifying effect that much commentary by those not yet flush, but free with their identity, will, for reasons of prudence, be anodyne and colorless.

In any case, I do not think professor meant that we should meet with therapists on street corners because we are lawyers (I am not yet a lawyer but my current student loan debt- just updated last week- now reflects the total cost to make me one).

There is and should remain a distinction between opinion expressed for consideration and those things we are professionally liable for. As someone who is somehow and despite his best efforts aware of Brittney Spears' child custody arrangement, I feel anonymity is undervalued.

Additionally, because anyone can find a picture of anyone else, or simply make up a name, internet blogs are perhaps legion with writers who are not who they claim to be. At least when a writer identifies himself as "Anonymous" you know that you don't know what you are dealing with.

And in any case, ideas should stand or fall independent of the identity of the person who advances them. Anonymity can achieve honestly what can be demonstrated by cruel trick: I find that if you give a conservative an article by say, Richard Cohen, and that conservative thinks it is written by say, Charles Krauthammer, the ideas contained therein get a much different hearing. It also works if you substitute Maureen Dowd for Cohen in the above example, but only on children.


Kelly J. Bozanic said...

Bravo, again, Dave, we had a hunch, or should I say, Hutch? Your points are all valid, and as I try not to push my opinions, so much as consider them collectively, I appreciate your thoughtfulness in responding openly. I do still contend, however, that anonymity *may* cloud the lens of the one so hidden.