Rutgers scholar Craig R. Scott is available to discuss the use of anonymity in recent whistleblowing cases as well as the upcoming book A Warning by Anonymous. Scott, along with Brian Richardson at University of North Texas, analyzed last year’s New York Times op-ed written by the same anonymous author, and publishes extensively on issues related to anonymous communication.
“Anonymity represents a type of uncertainty that many don’t like, so it is not surprising that people often want to know the identity of an ‘anonymous source’,” Scott said. “We see this with the current anonymous whistleblower in the case of Trump’s phone call to Ukraine, as well as the upcoming publication of A Warning by the same anonymous author who published The New York Times op-ed about the Trump administration last year. The book promises to re-ignite efforts to identify this person.
“In our analysis of the op-ed, we found that the ‘anonymous’ nature of the source became such a heavy focus in the media that the actual message itself got lost,” Scott said. “Given the prominence of Anonymous in the title of the forthcoming book, the same could happen here. We also found questions surrounding the credibility of the source because they were anonymous. Those same concerns seem likely to persist, though are mitigated somewhat when a credible publisher is used.
“It is worth noting the short op-ed and the confidentiality arrangement with just a handful of New York Times editors helped conceal the identity of the author previously,” he said.” “However, with more details in the book and a slightly larger set of people who presumably now know the author’s identity, the possibility of the author becoming discovered is much greater. This has significant ramifications for the ability of this person to maintain any inside presence and to work against the problems they are warning the public about.”
Scott is a professor and chair of the Department of Communication in the Rutgers School of Communication and Information.
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