No prizes for guessing the original line triggering my headline. Points for something from Shakespeare. More later, because the point I want to make is borrowed from Shakespeare, but more directly, it is the caution some correspondents show after I suggest I’d like to publish something from their message.
An example recently was from a politically active contact I will refer to in gender neutral terms as Sam, who wrote to me about the contest to replace Boris Johnson, with some blunt remarks about his likely replacements.
When I checked if Sam wanted to be quoted in my blogs or podcasts, he/she replied no, because that would lead Sam to censor communications, weakening their value,
Within days, another e-mailer agreed that I could publish, but only by avoiding anything which might reveal identity or any specific details of potential commercial value.
Earlier, another friend had confided in me that he has worked diligently at keeping his name completely out of the social media, so he didn’t want to be quoted.
A little more research, and I find three other friends for one reason or another have made deliberate decisions to keep away from social media generally, and Facebook and Twitter in particular.
So getting to the point (and not before time, I hear my journalistic conscience mutter), these are all individuals whose views I respect and would like to share.
I could invent a fictional persona for each of them. A nom de plume if you like, as I did above for my gender neuter friend Sam, not to be confused with a real life Sam.
What’s going on here?
I’m not sure I can see a general explanation. Shakespeare’s original observation is about a play within a play which sets a trap for the speaker of the line. Her words are often quoted as ‘methinks the lady doth protest too much’. In the play the comment has several levels of meaning. The one I have in mind is the interpretation that the speaker is trying to avoid the trap but in doing so reveals what she is trying to conceal.
Here’s my point. Publishing always reveals something of the author. The best an editor or reporter can do is to avoid deliberately setting up a trap.
It’s partly a matter of judgement, partly a matter of trust, whether an author or authority, decides to agree to make their thoughts public, and whether they are reported as being from the ‘source who wishes to remain anonymous’ or with the author identified.
Please let me know your thoughts, and whether you want to remain anonymous.
Note for students of Shakespeare
The story within a story is from Hamlet. The play within a play is about the murder of a his father, the crime of which Hamlet suspects his mother Gertrude. His mother tries to avoid the trap, by her remark ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’ (now usually referred to outside the play with the methinks starting the sentence. It is more generally used as a posh way of suspecting something suspicious in any argument, and not just for mariticide).