So Mountain Grove was in the national spotlight last week.

Not because Aunt Bessie’s sweet potato casserole was voted best in a national contest, not because Cousin Bob took first in a major turkey call making competition, and not because the city council invented the first-ever 100-percent tax free government funding system.

No, Mountain Grove was in the news because of a ridiculous thing called Topix.

For those of you unaware, I apologize for making you now aware that Topix is a web site that allows anyone to post pretty much any comment, statement or opinion they want – anonymously.

On the surface, it sounds like a great way for someone to recommend a fish house, share their views on a voting issue, or brag about their second-grader’s fourth-place finish in the class spelling bee. But, of course, people aren’t going to stop there. Not today. Not where we’re at now.

Not surprisingly, rather than a source of interesting information, humorous anecdotes and verbal family snapshots, Topix is often utilized as a means of punching below the belt without repercussion.

At times, the primary topic on Topix is mean-spirited gossip – as has apparently been the case lately in the 65711. An opportunity to bring someone else down without the threat of repercussion is just too good to pass up for some folks, and here’s your result.

Personally, I don’t get it.

Not the part about people succumbing to the temptation to slander their neighbors. I completely understand that angle, considering that ever-deteriorating state of society in general.

I just don’t comprehend the very existence of such a web site.

I mean, freedom of speech is fine, but anyone with a lick of common sense would have to agree that anonymous free speech is just plain dumb. Of course, too many people don’t have a lick of common sense – as is evidenced by the popularity of waste dumps like Topix – and it too often ends up taking a back seat to blatant stupidity (sometimes in the name of ridiculous ideals like political correctness).

And what about accountability? I thought that was supposed to be a concern these days.

Everyone wants more accountability from government, big business, the military and pretty much everyone else. Accountability is becoming necessary everywhere – except Topix, I guess.

Besides, a real man or a conscientious woman would never have a problem “owning up” to something they say, right? It’s simple: You say it, you own it.

This is not rocket science.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that some of the juiciest junk spewed onto the pages of Topix is probably true, or at least laced with truth. But I’m pretty sure a lot of it isn’t, and whether it is or not, the source should be known.

Topix CEO Chris Tolles tries to explain the situation by saying people should be able to voice their opinion “without being punished.”

What the heck does that even mean? How is it punishment to have to reveal your identity when you say something nasty about someone else?

And what about the victims of the slander that’s so routinely vomited onto Tolles’ web site by clandestine sources? It’s OK for them to be punished without any recourse whatsoever?

Give me a break. As if this man really cared about protecting anyone’s rights; seems to me he’s just found a way to make some money and that’s what he’s interested in protecting.

What a shame that we’ve come to this; not only allowed a forum to take potshots at someone else’s life, but the ability to do it behind the veil of secrecy.

Like I said, though, while being disappointed or even disgusted by this kind of behavior is understandable, nobody should be surprised.

The Bible told us this kind of stuff would happen, and as is written, we’re seeing right being viewed as wrong and wrong being considered right everywhere we turn.

But having that understanding doesn’t make me feel any less sorry knowing there are many people out there who won’t stand behind their own words – and that there’s this crazy online realm where they don’t have to.

The bottom line is, the whole concept of Topix is flawed, and anyone who abuses it ought to consider having a talk with that person in the mirror.

And I’ll put my name on that.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

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