Letter To The Editor: Thinking for Yourself Is a Wyoming Value

To the Editor: Were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay cowards? 

November 23, 20233 min read

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To the Editor:

 A recent letter to the editor recommends that anything written or published anonymously should be assumed to be “… lies, deception, and disinformation.”

That letter also maintains, “… if you don’t OWN your words by putting your name to that speech, it is cowardice.”

So, based on this assertion, Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty or give me death!”) who is alleged by at least one contemporary and by modern scholars to have written under the pen name Senex, was a coward?

Were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay cowards? 

Some of the most famous anonymous writings in U.S. history include the Federalist Papers as well as the writings of various Antifederalists.

These publications, from both sides, were profoundly important during the ratification process of our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Federalist Papers were published by “Publius," whose identity (Hamilton, Madison, and Jay) was leaked years after their publication upon the death of Alexander Hamilton. The Antifederalist essays were written under names such as Cato, Brutus, Centinel, Agrippa, and the Federal Farmer. 

Too many people use the fallacious “appeal to authority” argument when supporting a position, and flip to the other side of the coin to use the fallacious “ad hominem” attack when opposing a position.

Both of these approaches are deflections designed to prevent you from validating the information provided, analyzing the arguments, and thinking for yourself.

One might say, “So-and-so is an expert, you must therefore support his position!” or “So-and-so is a hack and has an axe to grind, you must therefore oppose his position!” One can only make these fallacious “arguments” if they know the person they are supporting or attacking. 

Publishing something anonymously can be one way to keep the focus on the information provided and prevent a fallacious argument of “appeal to authority” or an “ad hominem” attack in response.

I suggest considering the merits of thinking for yourself. If a publication contains false accusations and fabricated stories, identify it as such and, if possible, do something about it.

As a private citizen, I was a subject of a libelous political mailing sent anonymously by two elected officials. The Secretary of State found my complaints to be valid and the matter is under investigation by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office. 

If a publication contains factual information that can be verified, then verify it. If there is an argument made based upon that information, then evaluate it.

Do this regardless of who wrote it - whether it’s “your team," the “other team," or someone anonymous. This is the power of civil discourse, something much talked about but not often practiced these days.

Thinking for yourself is work. It takes time and effort. Do not let others think for you or blindly assume that an anonymous writing is nothing but, “… lies, deception, and disinformation."

If you choose to do that, you are just mindlessly identifying with one team or the other to the detriment of civil discourse.

Laurie Bratten

Sheridan

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