By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – When is it appropriate for someone to act anonymously?

Giving money to a charity comes to mind. Also, voting. And blowing the whistle on illegal or unethical activity when to do so publicly would jeopardize the whistle blower.

But it seems we are increasingly confronted with ways in which remaining anonymous is a toxic act.

We’ve seen how anonymity has often turned online commenting into a cesspool of vitriol and slander, to the point where a growing number of media outlets no longer accept comments, or require commenters to make their identity known in advance.

And in recent years we’ve seen the rise of anonymity during street protests, by groups such as the far-left anti-fascist groups known as antifa.

Just this weekend, we once again saw what started as essentially peaceful demonstrations in Berkeley, California turn ugly as tempers flared and people who showed up spoiling for a fight started acting out. And leading the charge were bandana-clad members of antifa, a loose confederation of groups that confront right-wing protesters, sometimes peacefully, but sometimes with violence that extends to police and property.

antifa Keller @ Large: Hiding Your Identity Becoming A Toxic Act

Antifa members at rally on August 27, 2017 in Berkeley, California. (Photo credit AMY OSBORNE/AFP/Getty Images)

And pictures like this raise a question – what are you saying when show up in a tense situation with your face covered?

It says you may be intent on doing things you don’t want to be identified doing.

In other words, inciting or committing violence against others, or otherwise breaking the law.

And if you’re searching for a positive outcome from that kind of cowardly behavior, don’t bother – there is none.

Share your take with me – using your name, please – via email at, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

  1. Thank you. Jon, for taking an unqualified public stand on this type of deception.

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