Anonymity doesn’t have to mean deceit

My column in Wednesday’s Star-Advertiser, “Politicians need to get over the plantation-era bigotry,” set off a spirited discussion of race and politics, with nearly 150 comments posted on the newspaper website.

I was skimming through them and came across this comment by somebody going by the alias of publius808, a localization of the  name associated with the Federalist Papers :

A white rich guy, from a line of white rich guys telling us brown people that we need to be color blind. Are you serious? Count the number of CEO’s in Hawaii and people who control wealth or any socioeconomic indicator and you’ll quickly see that Hawaii is rife with institutionalized racism. White people historically used and abused brown people in Hawaii for their own economic gain. When a brown guy says he can feel other brown people’s pain, he means it, right down to his grandparents and parents before him who either slaved in a plantation or were overthrown by white folk.

If this is the same publius808 who has posted on my blog — and the substance and tone suggest it may be — it’s somebody who has posted from the same IP address as a city hall employee I know can’t be counted among “us brown people” unless he’s been spending a lot of time at the beach.

Folks who post here anonymously defend the use of aliases as a valuable element of public policy debate, and I’ve respected that and appreciated the worthwhile  contributions many of you have made.

A commenter who’s been associated with the publius name once posted this:

Anonymous commentary is a time-honored American tradition. The Federalist Papers, one of America’s most important political manifestos was written under the assumed name of Publius. The reasons to adopt a pseudonym remain basically the same. Make the words important not the person who is writing them.

I understand the sentiment, but become concerned if anonymity is used to deceive and misrepresent — especially in fanning the flames of racial mistrust to advance a political agenda.

I welcome comments on the general issue, but would discourage turning it into a flame war attacking specific individuals.

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18 Comments on “Anonymity doesn’t have to mean deceit”

  1. charles Says:

    Tricky stuff. My hunch is that a reading of any number of famous (and anonymous) treatises, manifestos, declarations, etc., would reveal a degree of embellishment, exaggeration, and emphasis that some would say mislead people.

    Such is the nature of polemics.

    Outright lies and blatant falsehoods are one thing. Dramatic license is quite another.

  2. Publius Says:

    I think you’re dealing with more than one “Publius.”

  3. David Shapiro Says:

    Publius, I truly hope you’re right.

  4. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Is this any different from the angry, hostile, often barely literate diatribes in the Comments Section that follow many stories? Just because the writing indicates a high level of educational achievement does not make it any more acceptable in a civil debate.

    I often wonder what drives most of the people who spew out their vitriol about people whom they have never met nor have ever heard of before.

    Obviously, that’s not the case here, but still the motivation which drives this individual whom you quote goes way beyond having a financial interest in making sure that Mufi wins the election.

    The individual’s wwritings go way, way beyond political affiliations. Yesterday, I attended a meeting of political progressives and walked away really shaken – not because of their beliefs or their positions but because of their elitist attitudes and unwillingness to adopt a different approach towards achieving their goals.

    Afterwards, I commented to SigOth that it was highly unlikely that I would return to the group although I would continue to support their causes. When asked why, I said that I don’t want to work with anyone that I wouldn’t sit down to talk to over a cup of coffee.

    That’s going to be my character test from here on out.

  5. hipoli Says:

    Can publius808 (and then if youre right, by extension, Mufi, Inc.) be done living in the plantation past? Today, right now, the major businesses in Hawaii, none more major in this State than Kamehameha Schools, are NOT run by Haoles. In fact, if you all would bring yourself up to modern day, you’ll see that your strategy of ‘poor brown boy’ vs. ‘rich white haole’ is so stupid, so ignorant, so arrogant, so unintelligent, and so incredibly offensive and damaging to the majority of people, not just haoles, in this state who are just plain normal people trying to make their way in this world. I think the majority of people here in our wonderful melting pot of a State are finding themselves feeling like ‘eh, who you ‘tink you are! no pick on all da haoles! nowadays ‘dey stay more just like us den not’. I do think thats the sentiment, the backlash Mufi, Inc are now experiencing from that lame, low-blow mailer.

    And in defense of Neil’s haole-ness (which, hello, his campaign should be saying very loudly – rather than this coming from this lonely little blog-commenter) – I happen to think they should be saying:

    ‘I might be haole, by blood. But I have lived, loved, committed, and given my entire adult life to this State. I live, breath, and act Hawaii. I am local-haole. My wife is local-haole. My children are local-haole. I dare you to say otherwise. While you were still in grade school, Mufi, I have been working here, at every single possibly level of government, to try my best to help everyone, not just certain people of certain races who might ‘look like me’. That is Aloha for All.” (Neil’s people: you can thank me later…).

    If Mufi, Inc want to keep up this disgusting level of racial politicking, my hunch is they are going to hand this race over to Neil. What the hell are you all drinking over there?! Stop sipping on whatever kool-aide you all have in those water coolers and get your sh$t straight. This is, 100%, your race to lose. And if, with the money you all have at your disposal, you lose this, that will be the 100% end of Mufi, Inc.

  6. Publius Says:

    Ok, I KNOW you’re dealing with more than one Publius. I wrote the second quote, not the first.

    I still subscribe to those sentiments, and would like add one more reason to endorse anonymity…to keep from getting hung!

  7. OahuSophist Says:

    I don’t post comments often, but when I do I appreciate the anonymity. To be able to do what I do in the real world, it helps to be able to comment freely with my opinion without having to worry about having my opinions being used against me.

    Now, having said that, I also agree that anonymity is also used, unfortunately, to pick fights and make nasty, potentially inaccurate, and petty statements. I agree with Dave and urge regular and new commenters to use restraint. There’s no denying that this forum is useful in the larger public debate, but it usefulness becomes questionable when commenters are mean and intentionally inflammatory.

    Thanks for the post, Dave.

  8. Publius Says:

    More on point…ask yourself who is actually “fanning the flames of racial mistrust?” Are you absolutely sure you have it right? Is it the candidate who lists his wife’s name, just as it has always appeared, or his opponent who exploitively attacks it now as a blatant racial appeal.

    The false accusation of racial politics IS racial politics.

    Ed Case apparently see’s racial bias in Hannemann’s message, but not his own when he puts his AJA wife on TV. Why this year? Why Now? And, who benefits from such a convenient analysis?

    This happened during the Bainum vs Hannemann campaign. When Hannemann’s slogan, “Our Home, Our Mayor” was attacked as racial. Was it really? Or, was it an attempt to polarize caucasians against a phantom racial bias?

    Deja vu all over again.

  9. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Every candidate with a family provides pictures & information about a spouse & kids in his campaign literature & advertising. Are only those who marry within their own ethnic/racial group allowed to show pictures?

    I first met Nanci (sp?) Caraway when she entered UH as a graduate student in 1976 (I think). If I recall correctly, she had been a flight attendant for one of the national carriers but decided to switch careers & study for a doctorate in Political Science.

    Back to the topic: How do we differentiate between criticizing someone’w record as an elected official and targeting his racial/ethnic makeup or his choice of a spouse. We cannot stop someone from speaking, but we can challenge his actions.

    As for me, what Mufi achieved with his mailing is that I decided to move from the NOTA column to voting for Neil. NOTA does send a message, but voting for a another candidate speaks even louder about Da Odda Guy’s behavior.

  10. Kolea Says:

    I want to half-agree with Publius. I don’t see the big deal behind the listing of the wives names. Yeah, I think some politicians chose to marry a “trophy wife” to help their political career. Frankly, a LOT of men do that. In local politics, the wife’s ethnicity CAN be a helpful factor. Didn’t Nikki Heat just testify to that?

    But I am not prepared to say Mufi is overplaying his wife’s ethnicity. Or Nancie Caraway’s blondeness.

    Publius wrote:

    “The false accusation of racial politics IS racial politics.”

    And I agree. Just as some politicians can make opportunistic appeals to localist sentiments, so too can other politicians benefit by appealing to the view of some haoles that they are the victims of racial prejudice. Neither argument has much appeal to me.

    But I don’t need to be a UH professor of deconstructionist theory to suss out the subtext in much of the Mufi campaign’s argument against Neil. Keith Rollman has been pretty blatant. They want voters to think of Neil as a loud-mouth haole radical pot-smoking hippie. We know that. It is obvious. So almost everything Mufi does or says from now on will be judged against their effort to construct that image.

    The alternative framing of Mufi is pretty simple. He is the frontman for development and corporate interests who has never held a significant job or position EXCEPT that he has been given it by major powerbrokers. He is the darling of the remnants of “the Machine,” he see him as the only possible future replacement for Senator Inouye as the overlord of patronage and dealmaking.

    Oh, and he is a bully.

  11. Michael Says:

    “I understand the sentiment, but become concerned if anonymity is used to deceive and misrepresent — especially in fanning the flames of racial mistrust to advance a political agenda.

    I welcome comments on the general issue, but would discourage turning it into a flame war attacking specific individuals.”

    Just words or is there meaning to what is written?
    For some but not all?

  12. Nahoaloha Says:

    In a context where candidates are simply sharing their personal background, there’s nothing wrong with a little showcasing of the spouse and family. That communicates the sentiment, “This is the person closest to me in the world.” Often that can be a politically calculating tactic, along racial lines, but it’s also human. But it certainly doesn’t belong in a side-by-side comparison. By contrast, to my way of thinking, Hannemann’s brochure came a little too close to saying, “This is my woman; that’s his.” Maybe I’m overthinking things, but it struck me as a creepy kind of possessiveness. Good thing neither candidate has kids, otherwise children might have been dragged into this mine-is-better-than-his treatment, too.

  13. Michael Says:

    I can tell by what is said in ones post that they are not born or raised in Hawaii.

    Plantation bigotry has always been in Hawaii. Missionaries came and started to shove their religion down the throats of Native Hawaiians. Many Native Hawaiians died from disease brought by the Missionaries. I did not see any problems when Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese and other Asians worked together.

    Hawaii people that were born and raised here accepted things and bigotry started by those shoving their ideals down others throats as is done in some blog commenting. Payback was called “Kill Haole Day”. Locals would not care and had a laid back attitude. “Ainokea” but issues forced upon them and the lose of their Queen, angered many.

    I have traveled too and see that many countries Hate America. I had no problem because I am not white.
    Wonder why?

  14. Nikki Heat Says:

    @Kolea: “In local politics, the wife’s ethnicity CAN be a helpful factor. Didn’t Nikki Heat just testify to that?”

    Just an observation that some pols certainly seem to think Filipino voters (the few, the proud) may be swayed by spouse association. On that note, you would think Duke would be the Filipino favorite since he has a real part-Filipino bride. But that runs against the other big rule that applies to ALL local voters: we’re frontrunner fans. It looks like a Democratic year so we’re going with the tall guy or the short guy.

  15. shaftalley Says:

    petty politics.it happens every election cycle.whoever wins the governor race here will have their hands full.the state of hawaii is not allowed to print money which is prbably a good thing.the good news is that there may be some extra cash laying around the various state agencies.something called a State Special Funds may hold 1.4 BILLION dollars in these funds.talk about saving for a rainy day!!i hope the new governor and the state legislators use this money wisely.ideally,give it back to the hawaii taxpayers.

  16. WooWoo Says:

    Wow, I just watched Sen. Inouye on KITV drop kick Hanneman for the ad. He was pretty clear that he was not happy about the wife comparison.

    The Hanneman campaign had no response due to being knocked out cold on the mat.

  17. james Says:

    like Wassupdoc, i’m going to vote for Neil, b/c i went to UH, loved it, and am sick of Mufi’s i’m better than you shtick. My wife and most of my friends went there. And i’m going to ask all my fellow UH alumni to do the same, which I bet most will. I want a Gov that embraces our university and will support it; not one who looks down at it. Funny yeah?, and he though he was the local candidate! LOL!

  18. Michael Says:

    Many Hawaii people don’t grumble on issues unless it concerns them. I don’t push unless I am pushed first.
    Many don’t vote and it would be partly their fault if a candidate is not voted in but the opposition. Majority who vote are not those born and raised here.
    Many locals just let it be. It was in the past.
    As I speak for myself, I vote because I have been pushed and my vote is my voice. Doesn’t matter on nationality majority or who has who for a wife.
    Unless an issue is brought up I don’t really care.
    I never voted till recently till people made issues of what is not that big of a deal. Aikea but Ainokea?

    I have always stated I comment opinions and yet questioned for facts.


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