Letter to the Editor

The inconvenient dissenter

In the same week as the Associated Press subpoena controversy broke, a Post reader expressed concern about pseudonyms but added that “In all other parts of the newspaper, reporters, I assume, are diligent about attributing the right quote to the right person, with the name spelled properly” [“Put real names to the comments,” Free for All, May 18]. Anonymity has always been a necessary lubricant for truth in an imperfect society. Did some guy named Publius write all those Federalist Papers? Was there actually a guy named Deep Throat?

Now we have an uproar because the government was snooping into the AP’s secret sources for inconvenient leaks. But there’s a steady stream in the media of “unauthorized” government leaks, revealing information the government wants to leak, ignoring rules to the contrary. No one’s chasing down these “unauthorized” but convenient leakers, are they?

The tendency of the public and government to retaliate against, rather than respect, the inconvenient dissenter is one reason why anonymity is not only common but also necessary. Without inconvenient leaks, we’d just have semi-official cheerleaders spouting convenient rumors, guesses, half-truths and outright lies.

We protect informants and whistleblowers because people die or are ruined as retaliation for telling inconvenient truths. Semi-official leakers telling convenient half-truths get promoted.

John W. Toothman, Great Falls

 
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