The massacre was of British East Indies company agents, tortured to death by their Dutch rivals. A contemporary resonance being the method used to get the ‘confessions’ and ‘evidence’ against the accused.
The Dutch let a number of Englishmen go, and on their return to England they described their experience to the company’s directors, who ordered a written account of the torture and massacre to be prepared.
Miles described the way the directors attempted (and failed) to use the wrong done to their agents to meet the strategic aims of the company, and how they got on when this wasn’t in accord with government policy.
The Dutch company didn’t take this lying down and produced their own account, but they did so anonymously. Apparently just writing something without saying who you were was considered a libel and the British company spent quite a bit of time and effort trying to trace the pubishers and author of the Dutch effort.
And it was that element in the story I found fascinating.
I wonder if we can see the resonance in what Polly Toynbee had to say the other day:
“Letters used to be quite polite, emails were a bit ruder, but this [the internet] is of another dimension because you can’t answer back unless in public because they’re anonymous. I think that’s wrong — they should have to put their own names up there. It would make them stop and think twice if they thought their colleagues and families would see what they wrote. Anonymity brings out real mischief in us. It is a debased discourse.”
Or in what Tim Ireland complains about in relation to Iain Dale and Paul Staines and their commentators.
I don’t think that anonymous commentary needs to lead to debased discourse, and there different forms of anonymous commentators on this blog I’m more than happy to engage with.
But I’d like to understand the motivation to stay anonymous and whether any of you think that it gives you license to say things that you might not if you thought others reading could identify you?