ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL
Once all creatures great and small demanded anonymity before speaking to the press. The great and powerful were used to remaining nameless whenever they wanted. Sometimes faceless as well. A degree of deniability for statements and actions became all the more important the larger one was and thus the larger the untoward consequences of what one said and did might turn out to be. Throwing your weight around in public wasn’t just a matter of making others believe you had substance and heft but of being able to dance nimbly out of sight as well whenever necessary. Yet the middling and the small also felt an increased need of the protection anonymity brings. Unable to intimidate reporters into cowed silence with threats of reduced access, they couldn’t count on the press to give them the usual VIP treatment of a wink and a nod and a looking away. With nowhere to go and nowhere to hide, what was to save them from being held without mercy to their own words and acts? For all this contrast in self-assurance, though, both the great and the small were united in placing one concern above all others in their demands for anonymity: the truth. Nothing had more value to them, they claimed, than the truth, the straight, unvarnished truth. But you couldn’t just lay the truth out there in broad daylight, could you, indifferent to all the unknown damage it might cause? You had to show a little responsibility. It was all very well to say, “The truth shall set thee free,” but what did “free” mean really? Too much freedom could be dangerous, couldn’t it? Suppose every creature great and small wanted the same amount of freedom. Was the public sphere large enough to accommodate so much freedom? For that matter, an excess of freedom might also lead, by a kind of wash-back effect, to an excess of truth. Since each creature’s freedom stemmed from its own view of the truth, one might be left to ask in the din of conflicting claims, “What is truth?” And once you’d reached that point, who knew what might happen next? No, the world must clearly be protected from too much truth on occasions. And the surest way to do this was by granting blanket anonymity to all who requested it. That way truth could be denied whenever required for the public good and, since no names were attached to it, even to the most potentially damaging of truths, no lasting harm would be done. It might be thought reporters would balk at granting anonymity on such a universal scale, but they scarcely hesitated. They had a duty to the public to fulfill, didn’t they? What more solemn commitment to that duty could they make than to protect one and all from too much truth by taking upon themselves the role of deciding what was safe for others to know, and when? If that meant withholding problem truths for long periods of time or even indefinitely, then withheld they must be. By comparison, holding back a mere name or two was nothing. Come to think of it, remaining nameless and faceless might be a wise idea for such reporters as well.
Copyright © 2007 by Geoffrey Grosshans