Resisting anonymity

/ 6 September 2018

This morning the news I woke up to was that someone in the Trump White House has written an anonymous op-ed piece which the NYTimes has now published. There is all sorts of outrage from the Right about this, but I want to note that I — from the Left — am concerned also.

I think the piece tries to reassure people that there are “adults” in the White House who are curbing the President’s worst impulses. But I am not interested in being reassured, and I think this piece really only helps those who are on the edge of leaving the Trump coalition. Please note, as the writer her/himself says: “To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.”

Frankly, if what the letter writer says is true, s/he would be much more effective saying it out loud and being fired. But of course, such an action would more likely lead to the administration losing some of its ability to succeed with its policies. So again, note that this is a piece aimed at reassuring the edges of President Trump’s base.

I am generally not a big fan of anonymity, except in some specific instances. I use Stephen Brookfield’s critical incident questionnaire in most of my classes, which is a process that is “anonymous and public.” I use it because I’m very conscious of the power I hold as a professor in a degree-granting course. I use it because I want to create multiple channels of communication for my students. But everything that is written on that CIQ is shared at the next class session, in pure transcript form. And we do it over and over through time, which helps students to trust the process.

An anonymous Op-Ed in the NYTimes is definitely public, but there is no ongoing relationship being tended. There is only the sense that the piece has to be anonymous for fear the person will be fired. Well I think that person should stand up and risk being fired.