There’s a trend at the moment for UK sign language interpreters to undertake daring vigilante missions under a pseudonym. We had just the one “anonymous interpreters” site for a while, set up by a director of a professional members’ association, who possibly thought they could keep their name a secret but didn’t know what a DNS record is – less The Dark Knight Rises, more Kick Ass 2. The site owner now names themselves but encourages others to vent their spleens anonymously on the site.
It has since spawned a few imitators – I won’t dignify them with links – and because blogs are so 2003, it is now compulsory to have social media warriors: pseudonymous Twitter activists in a flattering range of different shades of bile.
And then just recently, we had a petition about Access to Work funding, created anonymously and then promoted under the pseudonym “Emily Smith”, which championed Deaf people’s “rights” but is now alleged to be run by an interpreter, which (true or not) makes the whole exercise look somewhat self-serving and sabotages the authenticity of the wider campaign.
The reasons usually given for the necessity of anonymous web “activism” is that professionals bound by a Code of Conduct, such as registered sign language interpreters, may face some conflict between what they want to say and what they think they have to say as professionals. Unsurprisingly, individuals may come under direct fire if they put their names on a view which causes dissent or if they take online actions which are deemed unprofessional or anti-social. Don’t want to be encumbered by bothersome restrictions about bringing the profession into disrepute? Just take your name off.
Essentially, they don’t want their activities to have any negative personal consequences. They want the glory of activism, if we can call it that, and benefit from the fruits of success, but without the risk of taking any hits. They want to campaign for professionalism while being completely free to disregard it.
Unless you are an actual sociopath, writing honestly under an authentic identity serves the function of tempering what you say, encouraging you to refine your arguments and back up your assertions with genuine evidence. It allows genuine ownership of ideas. It also encourages collaborative working – other professionals and academics are more likely to reach out to you if they perceive you as a genuine authority and not as an unknown axe-grinding imposter.
There are a very few situations in which anonymous whistle-blowing is necessary and useful, but these tend to be actual life and death situations. I don’t think bickering about CSWs or moaning about how many camps a profession has been split into is comparable to living under real threat of torture in a regime.
Not persuaded? Perhaps Dr Bryan Vartabedian or Dr Tom Crick and Prof Alan Whitfield are more convincing. And if those professional views don’t sway you, it’s worth pointing out that you are nowhere near as anonymous as you think. The internet is complex but anything made by humans can be unravelled. If people really need to find you, they will.