Discourse / Letters / February 25, 2010

Letter to the Editor: The pitfalls of anonymity

It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “One who breaks an unjust law must do so OPENLY, LOVINGLY … and with willingness to ACCEPT THE PENALTY.” – Letter From a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.

It was Gandhi who said, “A man who was completely innocent, OFFERED HIMSELF as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”

I choose these two figures because people are aware of their work. I have never been and never will be for censorship of any kind. On that same vein, I am not for cowardice either. In a world that “values” transparency, why is everyone patting the backs of individuals who are not allowing for dialogue to take place? Their anger was well founded; people should be talking about sexual assault, the definition and lack of protest from the student body. The key word is talking. If those six individuals really wanted to get the student body moving, then why not do so openly?

Yes, there is a kind of romantic valor in having the anonymous writing on the wall bringing down the establishment or opening the eyes of the unwilling. But at the same time, when using anonymity, lecture is substituted for dialogue. Not just any lecture, but a lecture without risk. In that sense the authors have undermined their own argument. People can label them as over-reaching-angry-non-armpit-shaving-Eco-Fem-Nazis who are looking for a fight, a group too cowardly to face the backlash of their own anger. Which I’m sure they aren’t. However, with the use of anonymity, the authors create that image. Some of the things on the posters were, let’s face it, blanket-accusations on Greek groups which would have (and probably did) create antagonism. If the authors of the posters were part of the Greek world and didn’t want to be ostracized from it then we have an issue of hypocrisy. You can’t anonymously say something, and then go along as if it never happened; we already chastise politicians for doing so.

Student Senate is undoubtedly going to have to deal with this issue. But frankly, this goes beyond them and some arbitrary rules on proper poster etiquette. If it were up to me, I would have left the accusatory posters up if a name had been on it. Those posters represented a view that I am bound to protect as free speech, but with no name, the posters are not free speech of an individual willing to defend their case. Without the names, it seems to be a movement of “I want to say this but not get in trouble for it.” If people are unwilling to back up their statements then why should I believe they are sincere in their remarks? I doubt this was a ploy to spark controversy, but at the same time I doubt the true commitment of the people who put up the posters. It seems like the posters are just a one-time thing, a spurt of outrage to be slowly but surely cast of into the darkness of unremembered past. This isn’t the beginning of something but a reaction that will die away. Put a name, get a dialogue, start a protest or lobby Student Senate to get them talking faster. It’s Knox, for goodness sake—what’s the worst that could happen? A few people get upset with you? Big deal, I’m sure the Civil Rights protestors would have preferred having people just upset at them rather than have tear gas thrown on them.

In other words: it’s time to put up or shut up. You’re either willing to face the consequences of your actions and mean what you say, or you’re just looking for a cop-out to a one-time bit of rage.

Rana Tahir

Class of 2013

Rana Tahir
Rana Tahir is a political columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering international issues. She will graduate in June 2013 with degrees in political science and creative writing, after which she will attend the University of Denver's publishing institute.

Bookmark and Share

Previous Post
Letter to the Editor: On the Greek moratorium and solidarity
Next Post
Letter to the Editor: Response to letter from Eric Ratzel ’08, Feb. 18, 2010


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.