The Thick End of the Wedge (June 5), refers. In the court of public opinion, when does a legitimate nom de plume become an illegitimate nom de guerre? When it crosses from Anon Y Mous to Per J Ury.
The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) writers faced honest choices. They could sign anonymous, with a pseudonym or use a nom de plume.
Any of these earns the shield the US Supreme Court gives to writers fearing tyranny.
But the DA’s writers went further. They used false names to avoid recognition and reprisal, yes, but also to represent (and publish) their point as the consensus view of the woman/man in the street.
By writing the letter, the DA showed its hope to seem correct in principle and popular in support. By signing falsely, the DA showed its fear that it seemed to be neither.
The real issue behind false names to letters is the DA’s response to pressure. Back then, faced with African National Congress (ANC) control of the public media, the DA responded pragmatically — it fictionalised support.
Now, faced with editorial pressure, its spin doctors respond pragmatically again — turning an issue of false advertising into a defence of free speech.
Too much pragmatism takes us to politicians who lie and take bribes. We have enough pragmatism already, why vote the DA in for more of the same? The DA’s leaders have honest choices today: between a low ground as a body of politicians, compromising with dirty reality; or a high ground as a party of statesmen, freeing us from the dirt.
SA has a rich political history before Jan Smuts until after Nelson Mandela, and is blessed with great examples of what and what not to do. We know why the DA did what it did — it’s tough being in opposition to the ANC. We’d just like to hope it can and hear it will do better.