Well, it seems that I am outvoted on the issue of anonymity, so I shall withdraw my objections to the practice, and henceforth allow comments on this blog regardless of tone or content. But before I drop the subject completely, I would like to say a bit more about it by way of explanation. I think we may have here a generational conflict of the sort that often happens.
For much of my life, I was a tenured professor, protected both with regard to my job and my salary regardless of what views I might express. I was awarded tenure by Columbia University in 1964, and from then until I retired in 2008, I was tenured at one university or another. I enjoyed great freedom to teach what and as I wished, and was rewarded with steadily rising salaries. To be sure, there were occasions on which my political opinions cost me jobs. The Presidents of Hunter College, Brandeis University, and Boston University vetoed job offers that at the time I very much wanted to accept, because of my politics, but I still had a secure job with tenure, so it was easy for me to say that the loss was theirs rather than mine.
But I have not always been a tenured professor, though it may seem that way. In 1951, when I stood up and argued aggressively with a senior professor in a course on Hume's Treatise, I was a seventeen year old sophomore, aware that my pugnaciousness could affect my academic career. Later that year, I wrote a letter to the college newspaper calling on the President of the university to resign because of his stated unwillingness to hire members of the Communist Party as professors. As a very junior Instructor, I took unpopular political positions publically, earning me the enmity of powerful and important people in the Harvard community. Shortly thereafter, as an untenured Assistant Professor at Chicago, I joined with more senior colleagues in an attack on the University President over his support for discriminatory rental policies in college owned housing.
On these and many other occasions, my principal concern was that I be heard, and that it be known that it was I who was giving voice to the opinions. A suggestion to express those opinions anonymously would have struck me as incomprehensible. Indeed, that would have defeated the purpose of the expression.
These days, the public expression of one's opinions is virtually free and easily available to all. This blog exists courtesy of Google, which charges me nothing. Even box.net, where I post my essays, tutorials, and other materials, is free [although there is a deluxe version that costs something.] FaceBook and Twitter are also free, I gather, though I do not use either [limit myself to 140 characters? Please!]
And yet, the practice of anonymous public expression seems to have metastisized into a cultural norm. Now, I have read enough Anthropology to be aware of the great variety in cultural norms, so I think I must put this entire disagreement down to yet another old man grumpily complaining about the strange behavior of young folks.
So be it. Comment away!