Don Rogers: Vail Valley neighbor, wail away if you like
Vail, CO, Colorado
I know. Something is very wrong with me.
I don’t merely have a thick skin when criticized. I relish the leap from frying pan to fire. The hotter the better.
A previous career in firefighting doesn’t quite explain it, although my brand of firefighting had far less to do with cooling water than fighting fire with more fire. Even so, we were always the good guys, however we got the job done in the wildlands of the West.
I know I’m still a good guy. And so I take being criticized, mischaracterized, my aims falsified pretty much in stride.
Consider the source, always.
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When critics outfit me with a pronged spear as a soul in addition to castigating me for sharing the wrong opinions, I’m delighted, not bothered.
Why? Because on some level they are engaging in a public discussion, committing civics, albeit on a low level.
The lowest level, of course, happens in the comments section following every story on the Vail Daily Web site. You have to identify your real self to have a letter to the editor or Valley Voices column published.
Those hardy souls who accept accountability for their words are rewarded with credibility. The criticism, if that’s the point of their submission, tends to have more of what lawyers call the “true facts” and go a bit easier on the snarky stuff you find all too often in the Web comments.
The Web commenters have the option of standing behind their words with their true identities. I put my name on all my comments, for instance, although I seldom have the inclination to join these conversations. Nor should I, really. It’s the readers’ turn, after all. I’ve had my say.
But you almost never see anyone’s real name as author on the Web comments. These critics want to participate from behind a veil. This will upset some to say, but that fundamentally comes from cowardice. Whatever the reason, however nobly some phrase their reasoning, it boils down to fear of exposure.
And no wonder, with what some of these folks say. They understand on some level these are things they would be thought less of for expressing.
That raises the question of whether they should be allowed to express their viewpoint without being fully identified.
It’s a very good question.
The phone-in comment feature “Tipsline” died a quick death once we required callers to properly identify themselves a couple of years ago.
Funny thing, though. Even some of the feature’s biggest critics missed it after it was gone. They thought the commentary section lost a little spark with its loss, became bland for only publishing the higher-minded commentary from those with more backbone.
The Web comments receive similar criticism, mostly from civic leaders whose oxen have been gored. What I see as simply part of being in the public eye they view as abuse.
Well, neighbor, not everyone can be your friend. We all have our critics, some of them quite harsh.
And not everyone is nice or entirely honest in their rhetoric. They make assumptions. They exaggerate. Sometimes they even lie a little bit. This just is.
Myself, I deal in nonfiction. I want to understand what is real. One thing that’s real is this: I learn a lot from my critics, even the ones too chicken to back their words with their real names.
Yes, they are coarse in thought and word, and cowards too. I do wish they would stop being virtual vampires and step into the light.
Still, on some level they are contributing. I’ll take them over those poor souls who are too apathetic to even bother.
And sometimes, even the nameless ones make very good points.
You may disagree, but I believe they have their place. If blasting me personally — even completely unfairly — helps these folks make their point, I’m OK with that.
I really don’t care whether someone too chicken to show themselves likes me. Consider the source.
I’m that kid digging in the stable on Christmas morning, convinced there’s a pony in there somewhere, in their ideas.
Don Rogers is the editor and associate publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at 748-2920 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes your comments.