"Today authorship and authority have become inextricably linked, and literature without a responsible agent identified is like an artifact that turns up in the saleroom lacking a decent provenance. Both anonymity and pseudonymity have become suspect behavior." - Pat Rogers, New Literary History 33.2 (2002)
"anonymous: not identified by name; of unknown name. (Oxford English Dictionary)"
In 1995, The U.S. Supreme Court issued a benchmark ruling on anonymous publishing. McIntrye v. Ohio Elections Commission held that an Ohio ban on anonymous campaign literature was unconstitutional. Justice Scalia and Justice Rehnquist dissented. Writing on the case, Scalia argued that anonymity and accountability are antithetical: that anonymity “facilitates wrong by eliminating accountability.” He also condemned what he saw as a departure from historical uses of anonymity. Scalia insisted: striking down the Ohio law “seems to me a distortion of the past that will lead to a coarsening of the future.”
What can we make of Scalia’s appeal to a bygone era when “anonymity” functioned differently?
This week, we start at square one: What do we mean when we call something “anonymous”?