[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this instance, I encouraged I encouraged Chris Robbins to share the below statement he sent me as a Letter to the Editor on the blog.]*
To the Editor:
Over the last few years and recently, I have read messages on the web site, mysouthborough.com where individuals comment anonymously. At times, these comments are inaccurate, misleading, and create confusion about problems that are important for our community to resolve. One writer accused a committee “being scofflaws (criminals) colluding with developers and lining their own pockets.” This type of defamatory remark and others like it is harmful to people’s careers, discourages residents from volunteering and causes members to resign from committees and leadership roles. As a result, the town loses an invaluable asset: a wealth of volunteer expertise to address important Southborough issues. I know of no other organization dependent on volunteers where this kind of harmful vitriol occurs.
Certain negative and anonymous content is gradually destroying our Town’s heritage, our culture, our values, and our trust for one another. These pervasive comments diminish how we are perceived as a community by our residents, businesses, non-profit organizations and throughout the Metro-West. Regretfully, our children may observe and at times learn to mimic this kind of negative behavior.
When critical issues arise, we need to collaborate as a team on an equal playing field to ensure the well-being of our community We welcome civil discourse and disagreement. However, it should be done with mutual respect for our fellow residents. We need to talk with each other and not at each other. Let us be mindful that volunteerism is the cornerstone of how our community functions. It is important we remember to respect, to encourage, to nurture and to honor those who serve as volunteers or as town employees.
We have a great deal to be grateful for! Let’s continue the momentum of our accomplishments and celebrate as a community of one. To sustain our progress, I propose the Select Board and concerned citizens take three action steps.
1. Request Beth Melo, owner of mysouthborough.com, exclude from her web-site anonymous remarks, defamatory comments and require a writer’s name.
2. Form an Education and Training Committee. Training will optimize a committee’s ability to lead and interact collaboratively to achieve the goals of our Master Plan. Possible training subjects would include leadership, ethics, customer service, civility, teamwork, emotional intelligence, budgeting, collaboration, zoning, economic development, and planning, etc.
3. Honor and recognize volunteers and our town employees regularly for outstanding service to our community. Start immediately and send those thank you cards, place phone calls and extend your hand in appreciation. A thank you will improve morale and performance enabling us to be the very best!
39 Parkerville Road
*[Editor’s Note: Robbins shared the above statement as part of public comment to the Select Board on Tuesday night. (Chair Lisa Braccio replied that since the blog is a private website it was unlikely the Board would vote on the first request. She followed that individuals were free to reach out to me about how they feel.)
Robbins reached out to me (before and after) to talk about his statement. I think it is an issue worth public consideration and encouraged him to share the statement as a Letter to the Editor.]
I agree completely that people shouldn’t be allowed to publish comments anonymously on this website. If you don’t feel you can put your name on the comment then maybe it shouldn’t be said.
All of this assumes that attaching one’s name to a comment will increase the veracity of the statement. Well, let see how that’s worked out for us lately.
When not lying before Congress while in office, fifty-one former US intelligence Pooh-Bahs signed a letter saying the NY Post’s story on Hunter Biden’s laptop had all the earmarks of Russian disinformation, thereby creating their own disinformation campaign interfering with our democracy two weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
Spies who lie: 51 ‘intelligence’ experts refuse to apologize for discrediting true Hunter Biden story
Next, how about the letter appearing in the scientific journal Lancet signed by 27 prominent public health scientists condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin”?
Of course, emails would later show Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance (the cut-out used to fund Wuhan research with millions in US taxpayer money for risky manipulation of viruses) drafted the Lancet statement, and that he curated the list so as to “not be identifiable as coming from any one organization or person,” but rather to be seen as “simply a letter from leading scientists.” Daszak wrote that he wanted “to avoid the appearance of a political statement.”
Meanwhile, what about the people who come forward to tell the truth?
Reality bytes: Hunter Biden’s laptop repairman harassed, nearly bankrupt
Fact is, people do know very well what is going on. They’re afraid, and it isn’t worth the risk. Insiders at every level of government are hard at work using the newfound tools of information control to insulate themselves from criticism and accountability, under the guise of “civility.” Using it both as a shield and a weapon.
Obviously, a big part of that “civility” campaign is the implicit threat that you will be destroyed if you come forward, step out of line or cross paths, even with totally legitimate criticism.
I’d hate to see MySouthborough become another tool in that toolkit.
I totally agree with you Christopher regarding anonymous posting of comments. People hide behind the veil of anonymity far too often. Some here have said they worry about their comments being seen by employers or others years later which is why they prefer anonymity. But what about the people they are attacking? If someone searches for information on one of these public servants and feels there is even a kernel of truth in anonymous accusations, it could potentially hamper their livelihood. Why is that ok? We don’t even know if any of these people are truly town residents, and in reading these comments on this thread alone from anonymous posters makes the case 100% for no anonymous comments. I agree that Beth can’t validate commenters so perhaps she just turns off the ability to comment. If comments cannot be vetted, why allow them to be published at all? I’m not sure what anonymous comments offer at all–it doesn’t further civilized discussions, nor does it encourage people to volunteer for town positions when they know they can just be attacked by nameless, faceless people.
I agree that anonymous letters should not be published.
I think agreement – and disagreement – can be healthy, and more so when done respectfully. For example, if some pseudonym attacked me and my position, I’d likely get irritated. But if it were attached to a real name, and even a friend of mine’s name, I’m likely to engage in actual civil discourse about it. Anonymizing comments (not just here, but on the internet as a whole) often leads to false bravado/a, empowering people to spout off. The harsh tone often takes away from the efficacy of the point trying to be made. I like coming to My Southborough to see what’s posted, but I admittedly wince when I get to the comments section – I never know what I’m going to get. I support Chris and these statements and this point of view.
I disagree…and further, I believe that most public officials recognize that taking to heart things published anonymously in the blog is not something they should do.
I don’t recall any incident where false, anonymously-posted statements published in the blog caused members to resign from committees and leadership roles.
Additionally, I think requiring names places additional responsibility on Beth to verify names as valid. Pretty sure there are one or two posters who use what looks like real names when in reality the posted name is fictitious.
I agree. It’s one thing to make a public comment, but another to make a comment about local issues/politics that will be available to read FOREVER online. Not sure I want to apply for a job 15 years from now and have to answer for comments I made a few decades ago. I do appreciate the folks who are open with their names, but due to the permanence of the internet, the anonymous folks would like to still be able to comment.
*And if you think the internet isn’t permanent, long after this site shuts down (hopefully not for a LONG time) internet caching services will still have it saved.
One has to balance the issues raised by Mr. Robbins against the benefit we receive when knowledgeable residents can expose misleading, misleading or deliberately inaccurate public statements made by local elected officials. Let’s all attend the upcoming town meeting and vote against land transfer disaster with St Marks. That whole situation smells! Is it just incompetence that lead us into this mess?
Gee… Nice try there Chris Robbins. Let’s take your points in order:
1. mysouthborough is a privately run, mostly open to the public blog. Government control over such a private endeavor is neither justified nor warranted. A good friend of mine manages a privately owned, publicly accessible website. They have stated many times that the majority of people posting to that site do so anonymously.
2. Who will the Education and Training committee be educating? Town board and committee members? From what I’ve seen and heard, organizational, leadership and speaking skills are sorely lacking. Some of these boards seem more like the People’s Congress, a bunch of bobbleheads rubber stamping everything. Politically motivated appointments serve only those making the appointments – not the town, and perpetuate the problems currently plaguing town government.
3. Here’s both your honor and recognition for the outstanding work EDC has done bringing new businesses to Southborough as the office vacancies have multiplied over the recent decade. Congratulations! Not only have our real estate tax bills stayed constant, we continue to enjoy reductions in our invoices year after year! Nice going! Give yourselves a well deserved swift kick in the pants!
…and stop hanging around that CommCan store’s exhaust fan!
Where *do* you get these ideas?
I think points 2 and 3 are basically case in point for those arguing against anonymous commenters.
You could not have made a better case against anonymous posting….
The main reason I post anonymously is for protection against identity theft.
I do agree that there is a social problem in general with the disintegration of common manners. It’s so easy to fall into snarkiness. I have caught myself doing it and now try to phrase my comments with respect. The thing that made me think about it was when Beth once said that she has to vet all the comments. I got to thinking about how hard it must be to read through ugly comments and what that must do to a person’s disposition. I value this blog, so now I try use the good manners my mother taught me.
Southborough’s spirit has always been a friendly, neighborhoodly, caring one. We were always a town where people would smile and say hello to each other, even if we didn’t know one another. I have felt a shift in that spirit and I would love to see a return to it. I think genuine honesty plays a role here too. Spinning and twisting facts makes people untrusting and hard edged. I have seen people who do post under their name use these techniques to get what they want.
Let’s hold ourselves each other to a higher standard. Let’s say, hey I think you need to rephrase that. Could it possibly become a town wide mission? I think it’s a worthwhile one.
Here! Here! Great comment. Thank You.
I agree with removing anonymous comments.
Agree with Not So Fast and find Mr. Robbins remarks to lack balance and perspective. The St. Marks controversy is just one example of town management failures over DPW and others illuminated by many contributors here. Also, agree fully that we all should attend town meeting and vote against the land transfer disaster with St. Marks. This is the only way to stop the misspending of public taxpayer dollars on private landowners property and hold accountable those responsible.
As for Mr. Robbin and the EDC, voters need to look at past news articles to understand the direct connection with developers. Google the 2011 Metrowest Daily News article introducing the group led by Mr.Robbins as the Economic Development Team. The article is self explanatory. Fast forward to EDC taking over space occupied by ZBA, next to Planning Board, in town hall, and the ZBA moved to the basement of the senior center. Needless to say, Planning and ZBA should be located next to one another as they always have been here and in towns across the state, and this situation is a disservice to taxpayers by separating these boards.
Fast forward again: Importantly, EDC also has a current pending Open Meeting Law violation complaint before the Attorney General’s Office right now for allegedly violating state open meeting law.
This law was written to protect the rights of taxpayers. It is a requirement of all boards and committees to follow. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is the EDC has been restructured many times with new chair people after complaints about the way the committee conducts itself. It is a positive thing for the town, not a negative in any way, to follow Open Meeting Law, have a better awareness and training on same, and better improved functionality. IMHO, it’s great to have a balance of voices here on the blog and agree with others here. On the other hand, the biggest downside to the noisy namers is retaliation, retaliation that is real and destructive. It’s ironic that some of the complainers complain about negativity, while in the meantime, a 21 year volunteer is hounded out of service, Michael Weishan. He blew the whistle on the St. Marks triangle and it is an outright shame he is no longer running for BOS.
How about the person who posts under one name, then posts again under another name to agree with her first post? You and WE know who you are:) (Geez – you have the same typos in your multiple posts !!)
And even though you may have a screw or two ……nah – I’ll be kind and not say it. I’lll still be kind to you, even if you aren’t so kind to the people who volunteer for boards and who run for office in this town.
Suggestion – why not call one of the board volunteers or elected officials you frequently attack, and offer to buy then a cup of coffee so they can listen to you and you can listen to them? Heck – ask them to pay for the coffee!
Mark Twain once said: She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.
The above conspiracy theory post is one example of meaningless and strange commentary. It is “unkind” in its own right and plain just sad. Where is the focus on a town issue? I am in favor of anonymity due to retaliation (especially school related matters) fears mentioned in many of these posts. However, empty comments like Smile have no substance and add nothing to legitimate and healthy debate on town issues. Thanks.
Comment is snarky, snide, and actually googles a “brainy” quote. Is this a public official looking to reject public comment, but threaten (“know who you are”) comments offering critique? Not in favor of censorship. But Smile offers an argument for eliminating those comments that contain unkind comments and no contribution to the dialogue.
I respectfully disagree with Mr. Robbins on the basic premise. The problem with civility is all across the board on submissions. There are real names and fake names and anonymous ones such as my own. I
I have chosen to use my real name whenever I wanted to address the actions of a town official directly. I never us profanity or attack a submitter personally.
I stand up for my beliefs at Town Meeting. I educate myself on voting issues and ask friends and associations about the subjects where these people are more involved and have the knowledge and experience to address them. A citizen can actually do this in Southborough, IN PERSON.
I use the anonymous to express opinions related to ideas. You do not have to know my name to take issue with my ideas. But I do not want to personally have a battle with any of my friends and neighbors and associates over every possible topic that arises on this site.
Things are so contentious in every aspect of our lives now due to social media, politics, disinformation, and propaganda. I would like my daily interactions to be free of this stress. I would prefer to choose when and where to have a valuable conversation with a friend, and that is NOT in line at the Dunkin. A small town knows enough about us.
So, my recommendation is that we set a clear rule, perhaps one that would be easy for Beth to enforce, if she so chooses. If you submit a comment that mentions a person by name or job title, you must identify yourself. Otherwise it may not be published. Period.
Mr. Robbins I quote you, “volunteerism is the cornerstone of how our community functions. It is important we remember to respect, to encourage, to nurture and to honor those who serve as volunteers or as town employees”. Respect the same way Michael Weishan has been respected as a 21 year volunteer, who has given tirelessly of his time and expertise, yet now is being victimized by the BOS. What say you of “freedom of speech”. Quite frankly there are those who will not use their names for fear of reprisals in this town of deception, mendacity, self interest and witch hunts. Have a pleasant weekend
People use anonymity to say what they want. If they are forced to be identified they will not be open. Those who wish to use their name can. You can also add more money to your tax bill if you wish. Choice is the best way for our town site in my opinion.
Chris, as always you deliver your message with incredible class and respect for your community, and I agree with you completely. Anonymous posting undermines the important work that Beth does in keeping our community informed, and I applaud Chris for raising the issue in this forum.
For many Southborough residents, prospective residents, and businesses, this blog is the go-to source to keep abreast of what is happening in our community. It is so disheartening to see the vitriol, untruths, and often personal and mean-spirited attacks that occur here, and is so adverse to everything else I know about our community in the “real” world – a community of people who are consistently generous, collaborative, and respectful. I know many, myself included at times, who have stopped reading the blog due to the tenor of the comments. I am certain that eliminating anonymity would raise the bar of civility and encourage more respectful and truthful discourse, and I sincerely hope that Beth considers taking this step.
The lack of transparency and faceless/nameless toxic commentary is why this response is exactly my second or third comment in the almost three years of living here. (Beth can confirm since I always use the same email.)
It is absolutely Beth’s decision, but I feel the current situation actually allows the vitriol to flow more freely because there is zero accountability. It’s a shame honestly.
While I have a student in the school system I would not be comfortable posting anything critical of the schools using my name for fear of retaliation.
I feel the same way about any criticism of Town officials.
The current Open Meeting Law violation complaint that is currently in the hands of the Attorney General’s Office involves the EDC. This is public record. Also, per a commenter above, the 2011 MetroWest news article about Mr. Robbins and the Economic Development Team is worth a look, giving some historical perspective, and is also published public record.
As someone above has already observed, there are plenty of people on this blog that use their names, but twist the facts and town meeting to get their way. Regardless, violating Open Meeting Law simply is not permitted and like it or not, there is a process to follow in this state by all boards and committees.
The point is a focus on substance, not people, and is not about “class” or being “mean spirited.” These opinions are unnecessary distractions. It’s all about conducting public business in the open. It is about respecting correct process as dictated by law and the rights of town taxpayers.
Anonymous posting is like yelling at the TV…..
In general, I think that posting under your own name is to be preferred. Frankly, I discount the post of those without the courage of their convictions to post under their own names. In fact, I often don’t read their comments. I am, however, interested in what people who are willing to post under their own names have to say and give them much more credence.
As a general observation, many anonymous tend to by hyperbolic and/or rude. Hiding behind a sobriquet seems to license for incivility.
If Beth wants to require posters to make their identities known I think that would be a healthy thing for civilized debate.
As long as Beth weeds out the really bad comments, I think anonymity has its purpose. People will feel free to speak out on issues without fear of retribution or of being cancelled. That said, we should all try to be civil even when we disagree, but I feel like there will be less discussion and exchange of ideas if everyone has to use their real name. Plus, what’s to stop someone from making up a fake name? How would Beth verify that someone is who they say they are, and why should she spend her time doing that?
“As long as Beth weeds out…” Just remember, Beth is just a citizen and this is her blog, this is her business. She can remove what she does not agree with. So take that into consideration when reading this blog.
The problem here is less anonymous posters than it is kamikaze actors who post under multiple headings. The current system actually encourages this, by allowing people to post catchy titles instead of names. There is a way to preserve both sides of the argument and improve the integrity of the discussion, but it would require a retooling of the blog software.
1) Require that the name be a name or a nom de plume, and include a second line for post title. “Suggested Easy Fixes to Improve the Blog by Michael Weishan,” for example. (For the user worried about identity theft, create a secondary email address.)
2) Make all users register, whether under a real name or an alias, to a verifiable email address and unique IP address. WordPress, for example, requires this.
3) Enforce a strict no-name calling policy, with a moderated twice-you’re-out warning. Violate the rules two times, and your IP is banned. (I realize dedicated individuals could thwart this if they tried, but I doubt most are that determined.)
4) Make this a secure site. Frankly that is the greatest danger here, and it is a very simple fix. Additionally, many potential users are scared off when they see a warning that the site is not secure.
5) Include a rating mechanism “Was this useful to you?” for each post that readers can interact with, and perhaps arrange posts not chronologically but based on this rating system. Short snide comments with no real value to the public would slide down the list, while thoughtful commentary, whether under an alias or real name, would rise to the fore.
5) Restore the recent comment section on the front page. Very useful.
I agree, people who leave anonymous comments sometimes feel that they can say whatever they want.
I’ve seen a lot of anonymous commenters express fear that their speech here will bring consequences. When has that ever happened, what was the consequence, and who inflicted it?
Kelly, I’ve witnessed in person a parent attacked for making a statement on this site on her views of the covid mandates. I did not see eye to eye with her comment at the time. Turns out she was spot on.
So the consequence of using your name here is that you might hear a rebuttal? Wow.
Kelly, One needn’t insert an arm in a tiger cage to prove the risks and consequences of doing so.
Universally, among humans anyway, espousing views that challenge the establishment are known to trigger vicious blow-back from the people whose power is being challenged. Are you arguing otherwise?
That brand of ruthlessness sure sounds like what happened to Michael Weishan, to the point he may have suffered abuse of process at the hands of his political opponents.
Which all the more makes requiring people to identify themselves in comments on a blog seem like a very odd, essentially backwards response to the problem of political retribution.
Moreover, recent experience demonstrates how little a signature below a letter assures the veracity or good will of what comes before it. And without that added credibility, putting name to comment looks more and more like a trap or a muzzle for the reticent, rather than a solution to abuse.
Further distorting debate, the degree to which one toes the establishment line seems to determine the consequences one suffers in the end, even if you’ve practiced to deceive or abuse.
Over the weekend I did try to provide readers of this thread with specific examples of signed letters that underscore this dichotomy of treatment and of consequences, but unfortunately MySouthborough censored MyComment.
That “censorship” wasn’t on purpose. When people have an issue with a comment that doesn’t post, they should reach out to find out if there was an issue.
Will do. I appreciate that. Thanks.
Very well said, Dean Dairy!
“an arm in the tiger cage” – exaggerate much?
A recent interaction with a very sweet senior citizen and friend has led me to this website discussion. She is fearful and I can understand it.
I have known you for decades and always appreciated your hard work and dedication and extensive knowledge. But on this issue, I have to disagree. There are consequences, and they happen in public and private. And to ask someone on this site to reveal the personal instances of inflicted harm from their posts just makes the very point for the anonymous. You don’t get it.
Maybe it is somewhat analogous to Elections, a topic very familiar to us both. Some voters help with the campaigns in person or via financial support. Some voters speak only in private in the ballot box. Some are well informed before they vote. Others are loud and disruptive of the process. There is even a push for Town Meeting votes to be private instead of raising our hands or standing, for FEAR of retribution. In the end, elections would be better served if all debate was civil, but sadly it is not.
Feel free to disagree with me here. I know you and thus can anticipate a thoughtful discussion. This cannot be said of every single person with whom I might disagree in town or on this site.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Maria.
I’ve been trying to think of times when anonymous or pseudonymous commentary was clearly valuable. So far, I’ve only come up with the Federalist Papers, although I’m sure there are others. I guess Mrs. Silence Dogood was valuable as entertainment (and entertainment can be valuable, so I guess the Victorian writers who had to use male pseudonyms to overcome the gender censorship of their day should make the list, although not necessarily the political list).
Growing up in the South and holding many unpopular opinions definitely informs my views on this. My parents always urged me to have the courage of my convictions, so I was openly in favor of civil rights and desegregation even when those stands were very unpopular, at least among white people. It was also a common refrain that words would never hurt me. (That could go both ways in this discussion.)
There are a couple of things I want to make clear: 1) Public officials should never retaliate for their constituents’ opinions. That’s not public service. To get down to local issues: The Select Board can fire Michael Weishan for his opinions, but their allegations about old, old reimbursements look really, really bad. 2) If the consequence of one’s speech is that people disagree with what you said, that’s the other side of your free speech, even if they drop you as a friend.
Trying to be constructive…
Kelly – You have no idea what that rebuttal entails. The attacks that have taken place on parents that have “opposing views” are disgusting. Don’t you dare try to trivialize what is happening. You have absolutely no idea.
I’m looking for an idea, and you haven’t given me one. I’m still interested.
My daughter attempted to take her own life a little over a year ago. While I did not post about the incident itself, I attempted to speak out on the harms of the lockdowns and masks to our children and was shamed for it with emails and text messages.
How awful! Even as a parent, I can only imagine the pain you feel.
The other side of the mask and lockdown question, of course, is those of us who’ve had immune-compromised loved ones whose survival depended upon transmission reduction, including among potential healthy carriers.
But that’s clearly the tone the discussion should have, not nasty shouting and name-calling.
It’s Beth’s blog, let her operate it as she sees fit. After all, the rest of us are just guests here.
Anonymity. What’s important is the message, not the messenger. Great points are being made, and issues raised and you ignore the important points. That’s the real problem. I will continue to speak my mind. I’ll use daffy duck, or minnie mouse, or how about Joe Biden
I totally agree with you. Message, not the messenger. Millenials seem to not understand that. Hothouse generation.
This is hilarious! “Message, not the messenger.” And then he blames millennials as the messengers, when nothing could be farther from the truth.
I’m old enough to remember when newspapers wouldn’t publish a letter to the editor without verifying who sent it.
My calling out how hilarious and off-point a comment is most likely a grave insult to someone who really wants a hothouse as his safe space.
How many people now tend to totalitarianism. Names, addresses, doxxing. Maybe you want me to show my ID to be able to post my opinion? I don’t believe in people anymore. Harassing is their second nature. To be able to harass for the opinion which is dirrenent from yours – this is your purpose of doxxing. Never will you see my real name on the Internet. Never.
Agree strongly with John Kendall, Roxanne, and me commenters above. This is Beths blog and the commenters are guests. She can run her blog anyway she wants.
I’ve asked an attorney about the curious topic of names versus no names on a blog. The response was clear. The only reason some reader would want a name is retaliation and or harassment.
For one, I am tired of Kelly’s smart ass, know it all dissing and was saddened by the response of Suffering Mom. Fully agree with those above on the importance of the message. That is what’s important. It would be very tough and unnecessary for Suffering Mom to share without her pen name. Thanks to Suffering Mom for sharing. And thank you Beth. Appreciate it.
While I understand your distaste for anonymous posts, your solutions are misguided and impractical. First, Southborough’s Select Board has absolutely no authority over this blog, nor should it under the US Constitution. Second, it is unreasonable and pointless to ask Beth to verify the identity of everyone who posts a comment. Anyone could create a pseudonym and fake Gmail address.
There is already a perfect solution in place if you are that offended by anonymous posts: don’t read them.