Anonymous = Coward?

This seems to be a good part of the reaction to the anonymous article in the NYT by a senior administration official who claims to be part of the internal resistance to Trump. I don’t agree that this follows.

It’s obvious that if this official were to publically express the sentiments in that article, they would be immediately terminated. (Unless it’s Pence who can’t be terminated - but he would immediately be frozen out of power.) Their replacement would either be someone who was likewise part of the anonymous resistance or would be someone who would not act to thwart Trump’s worst proclivities. What would be positively accomplished by that?

I don’t think this standard is applied to all sorts of secret agents - or MB posters, FTM - who are comfortable being anonymous because of real world negative consequences which necessitate anonymity. I don’t think it’s any different for politicians trying to mitigate the harm from a Trump-like president. Bottom line, as in all decisions: “what happens if I do X? what happens if I don’t do X?” Seems like a no-brainer in this instance.

In theory if there was a workable solution, that would be ideal. I suppose some may fault this official for not going the 25th Amendment route. But that’s a very risky gambit - it requires a high level of support that this official may (correctly) belief is not there, and also has never been done and may end up in a protracted legal fight or possibly a constitutional crisis.

Note: this leaves aside the propriety of administration officials acting to undermine the administration - IMHO this depends on the policy and method. But assuming that thwarting Trump is a positive, the question is whether the better alternative is to lie low and try to save the country or make an ineffective public protest about it, my choice is the former option, no matter how brave you might be.

“Coward” is hyperbole. He and everybody else knows he’s going to get found out.

I still can’t believe all the “on the other hand…” crap that’s in it. It gets less impressive with every reading.

Not a coward by being anonymous. However since the person has clearly stated their anti-Trump position, they’ve weakened their message. It would be better for a person to try to be unbiased, as much as possible, before claiming to (mis?)quote Kelly, Mattis, and others.

There’s a reason we expect journalists to protect their sources, and it isn’t because we want the cowardly to give information. We don’t want the cowardly to not give information, certainly, but protecting the cowards isn’t why we expect journalists to maintain source confidentiality.

Further, the interpretation of the laws of this country is partly founded on some very famous anonymous documents: The Federalist Papers. They’re not laws, but they’re occasionally persuasive in a way few other texts are. Are they the work of cowards?

Finally, attacking a source for remaining anonymous is non sequitur to the points the source raises. It’s utterly irrelevant, to use simpler language. The identity of the source has absolutely no bearing on whether facts are facts, or on whether good arguments are good arguments.

That and anger at your immediate impotence to retaliate. When we’re getting attacked, we want our opponent to stand around so we can punch them in the face. When they’re smarter than that, we use “coward” to try and console ourselves with some sort of moral victory.

Ninja’d. ETA to add Derleth‘s quote

But their position is clearly biased. So their points are tainted.

ISTM that many calling the guy a coward are themselves vehement anti-Trump people, who (ostensibly) want the guy to take some futile public action rather than anonymous editorials.

Senator Ben Sasse:

Your Republican-majority Congress, ladies and gentlemen!

All positions are biased to some extent, so analysis is always required. This really has very little to do with the anonymity of the source.

This is something I should have brought up in my post. I want to emphasize that anonymity can bring a lot of power to the disempowered, those who can be hurt badly by the people they’re speaking out against, which is a reason journalists are expected to protect their sources.

This seems like a silly position. How, exactly, do you say, “Holy shit the president is insane and needs to be stopped” (based on good evidence and reasonable statements) without seeming “biased”?

I would also point out that all non-anonymity is not created equal. I have a very unusual first name and a last name which, while not uncommon, isn’t all that common either. You google my first and last name, you get me, period. Not an actor or athlete or criminal with the same name, but me. On the net, I’m pretty much “E-DUB” everywhere, but otherwise I try to be circumspect with what I post in certain places.

I’m not sure “cowardice” enters into the equation - there’s a certain point when it’s simply practicality, not cowardice - no more than a pilot flying a stealth bomber to strike an enemy target rather than a non-stealthy aircraft.

It might be “braver” for the official to publicly out his identity and commit career suicide but again I don’t think it is a bravery-cowardice issue.

That being said, when 60-65% of the country opposes Trump, it doesn’t take much “courage” to join the ranks.

I find it difficult to equate anonymity in this case with cowardice. If this person has an important enough role in the Administration that his/her efforts to contain Trumpian misbehavior have value, then they should endeavor to stay on.

If on the other hand this person is misrepresenting his/her importance and the extent to which other officials are contributing to the same goal, then I might feel differently about it.

Anonymity among “whistleblowers” can indeed be cowardly. Example: the person who recently got a paper published in a medical journal linking use of the HPV vaccine to an increase in cervical cancer cases in Sweden. The individual claimed to be a “Lars Andersson” from the respected Karolinska Institute. It turned out that the Karolinska Institute knew of no such person. He/she was not affiliated with them, and used a pseudonym on the alleged grounds that (s)he feared retaliation (from pro-vaccine meanies, doncha know), and the journal (incredibly) at first defended him/her, before ultimately retracting the paper. In the scientific world, when you make a controversial claim*, you have responsibility for standing up to defend it. Otherwise you’re a coward.

*in this instance, a poorly justified one as well.

The problem is if this person is, indeed, quietly mitigating the various disasters that Trump keeps getting into, then what’s the value of this Op-Ed?

The Op-Ed defeats the purpose of quiet mitigation. It makes that mitigation harder, not easier. If they really needed to stay inside to mitigate Trump’s mistakes, they would have kept their mouth shut.

So the real purpose of the Op-Ed is to confirm to the public that, yep, all the shit that Woodward and Omarosa and everyone have been saying, it’s all true. Trump is a disaster, like everyone knows, and I’m confirming it.

Except if your purpose is to confirm that Trump is a disaster, you don’t write an anonymous Op-Ed about the moles and saboteurs in the White House. You resign, and write a public letter with your name attached saying that it’s all true and that Trump is a disaster. Because you can’t really expect this to remain secret, can you? Your name is going to come out, right? And then what?

Resigning and putting your name on your statement would mean something. Trying to confirm that Trump is a disaster while staying onboard the Titanic doesn’t. Staying on the Titanic and helping the women and children onto the lifeboats while you go down with the ship is one thing. If that’s what you’re doing, you keep loading the lifeboats and saving the country and shut up about it. Pick one or the other.

That’s a good point.

But I think the main point of the op-ed would be to encourage other potential resisters, both within and without the administration. It’s easy for senior guys who know each other well and have private chats to share their experiences and sentiments with each other, but there might be many others beyond their personal reach who would be encouraged by the notion that many senior leaders are privately of the same view.

The same could also be true of other potential allies - mostly Republicans - in government positions in the legislative branch who might be encouraged by this.

Not to mention the public at large.

It’s sort of like an attempt at an “emperor has no clothes” moment, when it becomes evident that more people than is readily apparent realize the truth about the emperor.

And if enough public support builds for it, then perhaps it becomes more feasible to remove Trump from office, whether by impeachment or by 25th Amendment.

As much as I loath the current Turd in the Punchbowl, I’m not exactly overjoyed to have it confirmed that a shadowy cabal can quietly circumvent the democratic process. I’m mean, I’ve kinda known it all along, but don’t like it shoved in my face.

Very good points. Either impeach the fucker or do you goddamn job. To paraphrase Little Bill,* “I don’t like men of low character”. * These people are in positions of trust, and to slink around in secret pulling shit, even if it’s in the best interest of the people, is conduct unbecoming.

I also really fear this will lend some shred of legitimacy when Donny starts yapping, “See, they are all against me! It’s not my fault! Disloyal staff. Sad!”.

Sure, but the way to build that public support is to stand up in public and sign your name and take your lumps.

The identity of the author can’t stay secret for very long. So since their identity is destined to go public why are they trying to keep their anonymity? It won’t work. If you want to stay at work on the Titanic, stay at work on the Titanic. If you want to build public support for getting rid of Trump, you gotta do that shit in public, because that’s how “public” works.

To play Devil’s Advocate for a moment I think we need to wonder at the purpose of the OpEd, what the writer hoped to achieve and if this was the best means to go about it.

Certainly the OpEd serves to undermine the president and the writer had to know it would have that effect. Does the writer hope this will lead to 25th amendment proceedings? Does the writer hope this will embolden others within the administration (more than already claimed) to thwart the president’s agenda? Just wants to embarrass the president? Something else?

With those answers in mind we can then debate whether this was a cowardly act. Is the writer skulking in the shadows trying to manipulate the administration? Or should the writer have taken a bold stance, spoken publicly and resigned in the hopes such a strong action would convince others of the seriousness of what is happening?

I do not know. I am not sure we can know yet.

I will say, as much as I despise Trump, it bothers me that there is an un-elected shadow government trying to do things their own way. I have to temper that with thinking what would happen if Trump were allowed to run amok with no restraint. Frankly both are unsettling and a sign of how deeply dysfunctional our government has become.

That’s not how it works.

You get up in public and sign your name and you make a minor splash for a day. Any number of people have harshly criticized Trump, with little effect and this guy would just be joining the crowd. And after the guy gets fired and people talk about him for a day, then he blends into the large group of minor celebrity former officials who have little impact. How many people care these days about what Reince Priebus or Sean Spicer think about anything?

Standing up in public and signing your name is an empty gesture that feels good for a day but has much less positive impact than remaining in position and providing a counterweight for Trump.

Depend’s who it is I think.