If you wouldn’t say it to my face, don’t say it on­line

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - JOHN KELSO

One thing that frosts my pump­kin is these on­line ver­bal bomb throw­ers, who use the com­ment boxes un­der­neath my col­umns to hide be­hind their anonymity to call me a jerk.

Rule of thumb: It’s a lot safer to in­sult some­body’s mother if you’re iden­ti­fy­ing your­self as Song of the South, The Right Hand of God, Mis­ter Thinks He Knows Ev­ery­thing, or some other name you can’t track down in the prop­erty-tax records for an ad­dress.

So I was pleas­antly sur­prised and slightly stunned the other day to get a friendly email from “dr­putt,” his com­menter tag, who ac­tu­ally had the guts to use his real name in his e-mail.

This is the first time any com­menter who uses an alias to point out my com­mu­nist lean­ings has outed him­self.

Still, dr­putt doesn’t want me to use his real name here. “Only to the ex­tent that I work in cus­tomer ser­vice for an in­surance com­pany, so I have a lot of con­tacts that know my name, and I would not want them to as­so­ci­ate my com­ments to my com­pany,”

he said.

So why not just use a real name, and say your com­ments have noth­ing to do with the com­pany? Oh, well. Maybe I’m be­ing picky.

I sense a di­chotomy here. Dr­putt’s e-mail with his ac­tual birth cer­tifi­cate name on it was a ton more civil than his on­line com­ments. “How ya do­ing???” was the head­ing. I didn’t know he cared. Dr­putt and I share one thing in com­mon: We both un­der­went ra­di­a­tion at about the same time, so he was ask­ing about that.

But, in con­trast, here are some of dr­putt’s on­line ob­ser­va­tions: “Your head­line says it all, John Kelso, Com­men­tary. There is no hu­mor in what you write, just spite.”

Or, “JK, long ago on a planet far, far way, you used to write hu­mor. Now, you have be­come a po­lit­i­cal pup­pet for your bosses. Free­dom of press doesn’t ex­ist in your com­pany.” Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde. Let’s set some­thing straight: No one at my com­pany tells me what slant to take on a col­umn. Al­though the oc­ca­sional taste­less joke gets the ax.

So any­way, over lunch at Tres Ami­gos, I asked dr­putt if he thought the re­marks posted un­der the ar­ti­cles might be a lit­tle more ac­cept­able at af­ter­noon tea if the peo­ple send­ing them in had to iden­tify them­selves.

Would he, for ex­am­ple, re­fer to my col­umns as the “dic­ta­tion of the AAS fish­wrap bosses,” and sug­gest that I should have a golf course out­house named af­ter me, if he had to use his real name?

He agreed that, yes, that would change the tone.

“When peo­ple go to a cos­tume party, and they’re hid­den be­hind a mask, they do and say things they wouldn’t say with­out that mask,” he said. “But if you look real hard, you might find the real per­son in there.”

You could say the same thing about a man in a ski mask hold­ing up a liquor store.

But wouldn’t your ob­ser­va­tions be dif­fer­ent, dr­putt, if you used your real name? “I would not be able to be as hon­est; I’d have to think it out,” he said.

Dr­putt seems like a great guy. He has five grown kids, and he’s grate­ful they’re all em­ployed. He lives in Round Rock. He used to play a lot of golf (dr­putt, get it?). He once met Richard Nixon at a Lions Club meet­ing.

“You knew there was some­thing dif­fer­ent about him,” he said. Boy, I mean.

So any­way, dr­putt and I are now friends, I hope. “You have to re­mem­ber this doesn’t mean I’m go­ing to agree with ev­ery­thing you say now,” dr­putt said.

Yeah, but what about the other guy?

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