“Mencken1951…” “campstblue…” “legacyusa…” and “dramatis personae…” Will the real Sal Perricone please stand up?
We’ve all been riveted by the unfolding drama surrounding federal prosecutor Sal Perricone, who resigned this week from his post with the U.S. Attorney’s office. Perricone has publicly admitted that he is Mencken195, notorious and lofty commenter who has regularly blasted landfill owner Fred Heebe and a host of federal judges, prosecutors, police and other public figures on nola.com’s comments section.
Now stories abound that he might have been using several other handles, including “campstblue” who said back in 2009: ” “For all of you who have a penchant for firearms and how they work, Ray Nagin lives on Park Island.”
Sordid stuff, and a terrible blow for the integrity of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office. The worst of it — besides Perricone’s arrogance (he was making many of these comments during work hours) — is that this is going to cause huge quagmires in the courts. Perricone was using his alter egos to post inflammatory remarks on widespread issues, including pending federal probes. Investigations will show whether or not he leaked grand jury material or other confidential information.
So I have to ask the question: is it time for NOLA.com to do away with accommodating anonymous comments?
Not just because of Sal Perricone’s irresponsible and inflammatory posting, but because of all of the venom-spewing flamethrowers who populate the nola.com forums, hiding behind secret aliases. The nola.com comments section is a breeding ground for racist and bigoted hate speech — I don’t think anyone could deny that. Yet, none of these crazy posters are held accountable for what they say. (Except maybe, soon, one federal prosecutor?)
Earlier this year, WWL switched its comments format to one that requires users to login using their Facebook accounts. In the announcement, they said, “”Many news websites, including the Los Angeles Times and the 41 Business Journal newspapers nationwide, have switched to using Facebook Comments in an effort to address complaints about bad commenting behavior resulting from the previous policy of permitting anonymous comments on stories.”
There are many places on the web where people can gather and can post anonymously, using alter egos. But maybe NOLA.com, the online arm of our venerable Times Picayune newspaper, should no longer be such a place. NOLA.com should be reporting the news, not starring in it.
NOLA.com would be taking a big step in promoting a more civil culture in our local online community by making the change to Facebook-associated user profiles a requirement (they already have the functionality set as an option). What do you think? Would you feel comfortable speaking your mind if your good name was on the line?