At Orthodox Reflections, recently we have been getting emails, comments, and criticisms around two topics more than any others. First, why do we allow anonymous authorship? Second, are we Pro-Russian because we are funded / paid off by Putin? An example of comments along these lines are below from Nicholas Kalis, JD. (Name and picture provided with his express approval.)
I take you at your word that you are self-funded but your web site is troubling in what seems to be its reflex pro-Russian views – which you are all entitled to. Growing up in a Greek immigrant, we had a mantra – don’t let others dupe you. I tried to live by that rule. I respectfully submit that you are being duped by the Russians.
Quick anecdote – my Greek Orthodox priest once told me that any letters he received at his church office that were signed anonymous, instantly went into the trash unread. His point – I gathered – was that if you could not stand behind a missive with your name on it then it had no value and was likely gossip or lies. You might consider applying that to your policy of using pseudonyms.
Mr. Kalis is a serious man, and he deserves a serious answer to these concerns. As does everyone else who stops by our site. With that in mind, let’s start with anonymity first. With all due respect to the Greek priest in the anecdote, his attitude is just so much virtue signaling pomposity. Police begin investigations all the time on the basis of anonymous tips. Private companies have anonymous “whistle blower” hotlines to report violations of law and/or company policy. In my own company, just last year, an anonymous tip led company investigators to uncover a multi-million dollar case of fraud. If a priest got an anonymous tip that the treasurer was stealing from the parish, I would really hope he’d go over the books before tossing the letter in the trash.
On our site, we publish the names of many authors. Ironically enough, as I write this, the most recent two articles on our site have full authorship attribution, complete with links to the authors’ other works. We will withhold an author’s name by request. We’ll get into why in a moment. However, whether a piece is anonymous or fully attributed to an author, our requirements are the same. We expect authors to use credible, public sources of information to support their analyses. If you peruse articles on Orthodox Reflections, you will see they are full of quotes from, and links to, multiple sources. This is not an accident. This is by design. We want to publish informed opinion, not mere speculation. We want articles on Orthodox Reflections, and the ideas contained therein, to stand on their own merits.
If an author doesn’t use publicly available information to anchor an article, then we won’t run it anonymously. Let me give you an example. A reader reached out to us with details of a very disturbing conversation with an Archbishop. We asked for corroborating evidence. There was none. No one else was present. We knew the reader personally, and believed he was telling the truth. However, we would not run the story unless the author was willing to attach his name to it. Without evidence, all anyone would have is this man’s word. He was unwilling to put his name on the article, so it was never published.
Why are we willing to publish articles in which the authors’ full names are withheld? Because for many, the choice is either to speak out anonymously or be silent. This is true for many reasons:
Violence – Supreme Court Justices are getting around-the-clock protection after credible death threats. Politically motivated violence is a fact of life in this country. If you attract attention online, you could be risking your life, the lives of your family, and maybe even the lives of your fellow parishioners. We have run several articles from a contributor who once wrote a piece arguing against American involvement in Syria. This was years ago at the end of the Bush administration. Local activists got his name off the article, found out which Orthodox parish he attended, and staged a disruption of the Divine Liturgy. Punches were thrown, people were hurt. Holy objects were profaned. The parish priest asked the author to leave and never come back. Better safe than sorry. That was before Antifa was much of a thing. It was also before a full Summer of riots and the recent spate of mass shootings. If that incident happened today, the results could be much, much worse. You may think speaking out anonymously is cowardice. But is it, when being identified means you are not just risking your own life, but also the innocent lives around you?
Professional and Educational Persecution – Over a decade ago, a contributor to Orthodox Reflections wrote an article defending a traditionalist bishop who was being attacked for his commitment to Orthodox morality. Someone got his name, looked him up on Linked-in, found his company, and reported him to HR. This poor guy was investigated and threatened with dismissal. He had three young children at the time. He was able to save his job, but his prospects for advancement were ruined. He tried to get another job, but couldn’t. Everywhere he applied, HR would find his article and nix him from consideration. He is currently trying to launch his own business to finally escape the damage done to his career by standing up for an Orthodox bishop.
Medical professionals who have contributed to our site have been investigated by state medical boards. Thanks be to God, none of them lost their licenses, but the stress made one of them voluntarily leave nursing. Their only crime was providing their informed, medical opinions about COVID and the jabs. Another incident happened with a medical student who often helped us with background research. He never wrote an actual article for us, but he did frequently post Orthodox Reflections articles on Facebook. Two of his fellow med students were offended by his social media posts, and so reported him to the medical school. They claimed the articles made them feel “unsafe”. Of course the medical school opened an investigation. Eventually, he was allowed to keep his medical school slot, but had to post an apology on FB, delete all “offensive” posts, and endure a semester of probation. The administration told him that only the fact he was not the author of the material saved his bacon.
Stories like those above are legion. There is no guarantee of free speech in America. Corporations, professional boards, and educational institutions are more than willing to punish speech they don’t like. So we again find ourselves with the only choice many people have – speak out anonymously or be silent.
Legal Issues – The trend towards criminalizing free speech is not new, but has recently accelerated. During the protests in Canada, Trudeau froze people’s bank accounts as punishment for supporting the Truckers. Lawyers representing the targeted citizens would only meet their clients in person, in secret, away from mobile phones for fear they would become targets themselves for doing their jobs.
America and Canada have similar legal systems, and a lot of influence on each other. Alarmingly, America already has a history, particularly during wars, of arresting and jailing government opponents. We are in a proxy war with Russia, and Washington is as serious about it as any previous war. When it is an inconvenience to the government during a “crisis”, the US Constitution is not nearly the protection many Americans think it is. The “Ministry of Truth” in the DHS may be “paused”, but it has not gone away as an idea. It will be back. The government has signaled a limitless commitment to enforcing adherence to the “Official Narrative”. No doubt some readers will dismiss all this as “conspiracy theories”. Two years ago, I would have as well. Then it all happened. Either you speak out anonymously, or you run the risk of being targeted as a source of “misinformation”.
Anonymity probably won’t last forever. Eventually, most of us will be forced to put our names to our beliefs. Many of us already have, since we filed religious exemptions for the COVID jabs. Our employers and various levels of government have been notified that we are pro-life, Orthodox Christians who believe the jabs are immoral and we refused to comply. Many of us, especially the medical staff, face daily discrimination as a result of taking this stand. Who knows what will happen to us all in the future?
It is quite possible that Orthodox Reflections will be shut down at some point, especially if the government outlaws online anonymity. For now, however, we will continue what we are doing – allowing authors the choice to speak up anonymously as long as their posts are well researched and of value to the Orthodox community.
Are We Paid Russian Assets? Are We Reflexively Pro-Russian?
Orthodox Reflections is self-financed. Blogs really aren’t particularly expensive to host. Several of us are in tech. Compared to our day jobs, keeping a blogging platform up and running is not difficult. So the short answer is, we don’t need money from anyone, least of all Putin. That is also why there is no donation option on the site. Orthodox Reflections has nothing to do with financial gain.
The site began publication in June 2020. COVID was the current thing back then, and that was what we spent much of our time on. We actively avoided the Ukrainian issue as much as possible. We much preferred to focus our efforts on North America where we all lived. It was not until February 2022 that we started publishing about the War in Ukraine.
We never intended Russia or Ukraine to be a focus of this site. Unfortunately, here we are.
So are we reflexively Pro-Russian? Are we duped by Russian propaganda? Well, no. To both.
All of us behind this site are anti-war. We have opposed US and Western intervention in Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Kosovo, Ukraine, Sudan, and everywhere else that we can think of. We do not believe NATO serves any purpose in the modern world, other than to provoke conflict and provide a platform for the US to pursue its unipolar ambitions. The War in Ukraine was provoked by the West for the purpose of bleeding and weakening Russia. We have published extensive evidence, from Western sources, to attest to everything just stated. NATO does not care about Ukrainian lives. The ghouls who run our foreign policy do not even bother to hide that fact. NATO is in it to “win it”, whatever that means, even if Ukraine is utterly annihilated in the process.
The Washington establishment doesn’t care about Americans either. Our economy is in tatters, our currency is being debased, our freedom of speech is imperiled, but save for a few Senators and Representatives, all Washington cares about is exploiting the war for MIC profits, pork barrel spending, and enriching themselves.
This war needs to end. Immediately. We are risking nuclear escalation. We are risking the entire economic future of the West. We are risking starvation. This is not our war. Average Americans are not gathering around the water cooler to talk about the war. Rather, they are gathering to complain about gas prices, their falling 401k values, and starving infants who need formula. To the extent average Americans talk about the war, it is to complain about all the money Congress is sending to Ukraine while our nation struggles. The news that Congress appropriated $240 million dollars specifically to provide food for Ukrainians, while hunger explodes at home, was particularly galling for many Americans. Revolutions have started over less.
There is no popular support for this war. There will be no popular support for this war. Americans know a complete scam when they see one.
In conclusion, let us address one final point. Quite a few readers insist on asking us – did Russia have a right to invade Ukraine? Russia believes it did. In mid February 2022, OSCE observers noted that the artillery bombardment of Donbas by the Ukrainians increased from a handful to over 2,000 explosions per day. Russia reacted to these attacks and Ukrainian mobilization in the area by recognizing the Donbas republics, signing defense agreements with them and by finally coming to their help.
But is that moral or right? It is simply Great Power politics. This the way of the world, fallen as it is. Even Pope Francis recognized the folly of NATO challenging Russia on its own border. The Ukrainians are paying the price in blood for our arrogance. NATO needs to stop prolonging this war, and instead let peace negotiations end the killing. Stay home America, tend to your own.
Nicholas – member of the Western Rite Vicariate, a part of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in America