Here at The Agitator find ourselves immersed in a real and very heated debate. Tom says that, in the interest of “transparency” and “accountability” anyone's contributions should be public and readily available online. Roger says, “it's no one's damn business and this sort of mindset is a real and present danger to civil liberties.”

Of course there are two sides to the issue of transparency. On the one hand, the public deserves to know who's behind this or that movement. Conversely, don't donors –especially donors who are supporting controversial and ultra-unpopular causes — deserve the protection of privacy?

In our lifetimes (Tom's is considerably shorter than Roger's) there are both pros and cons on this point. On the one hand all of us really want to know just who's behind a particular movement or issue. Example: When the tobacco industry sets up a front group called “Americans for Clean Air,” don't we deserve to know they're pouring millions into this pro-smoking initiative?

On the other hand, when “America Free” advocates the non-violent overthrow of the US government, don't we want to protect the donors from being called before some modern day version of the House Un-American Activities Committee?

In our see-all-tell-all-you-tube-democracy there's certainly much to recommend transparency and the listing of who's supporting what.

Paradoxically, history clearly demonstrates that this sort of information can have a very, very chilling effect on the support for controversial movements and political activity. Remember Senator Joseph McCarthy?

At any rate our current internal debate was sparked by a post in Don't Tell The Donor which raised the question, among others, of 'donor poaching' should all this information be made available.

Tom went for the “sunlight is the best disinfectant” line. Stuffy old Roger stuck to his guns of “it's none of your damned business. and especially not when we make this online, easy-to-find information readily available to the government.”

What do you think? Take the Privacy Survey on The Agitator's Home Page. We'll report the results in two weeks.

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