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Old 05-24-2014, 08:20 AM   #5
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Next we were startled to learn that we had been drawn into partisan politics,this time for the benefit of a single individual. Running for public office, a member splashed his political advertising with the fact that he was an AA and, by inference, sober as a judge! AA being popular in his state, he thought it would help him win on election day.

Probably the best story in this class tells how the AA name was used to back up a libel lawsuit. A member whose name and professional attainments are known on three continents got hold of a letter which she thought damaged her professional reputation. She felt something should be done about this and so did her lawyer, also an AA. They assumed that both the public and AA would be rightfully angry if the facts were known. Soon several newspapers headlined how Alcoholics Anonymous was rooting for one of its lady members, named in full, of course, to win her suit for libel. Shortly after this a noted radio commentator told a listening audience, estimated at twelve million people, the same thing. This again proved that the AA name could be used for purely personal purposes, this time on a nation-wide scale.
The old files at AA Headquarters reveal many scores of such experiences with broken anonymity. Most of them point up the same lessons.

They tell us that we alcoholics are the biggest rationalizers in the world, and that, fortified with the excuse that we are doing great things for AA, we can through broken anonymity, resume our old and disastrous pursuit of personal power and prestige, public honors, and money—the same implacable urges that when frustrated once caused us to drink, the same forces that are today ripping the globe apart at it seams. These lessons make clear, moreover, that enough spectacular anonymity breakers could someday carry our whole society down into that ruinous dead end with them.

So we are certain that if such forces ever rule our Fellowship we will perish too, just as other societies have perished throught human history. Let us not suppose for a moment that we recovered alcoholics are so much better or stronger than other folks, or that because in twenty years nothing has ever happened to AA nothing ever can.

Our really great hope lies in the fact that our total experience, as alcoholics and as AA members has at last taught us the immense power of these forces for self-destruction. These hard-won lessons have made us entirely willing to undertake every personal sacrifice necessary for the preservation of our treasured Fellowship.

This is why we see anonymity at the general public level as our chief protection against ourselves, the guardian of all our Traditions, and the greatest symbol of self-sacrifice that we know.

Of course no AA need be anonymous to family, friends, or neighbors. Disclosure there is usually right and good. Nor is there any special danger when we speak at group of semipublic AA meetings, provided press reports reveal first names only.

But before the general public—press, radio, films, television, books, and the like—the revelation of full names and pictures is not for us. Here the lid can and must stay down.

We now fully realize that 100 per cent personal anonymity before the public is just as vital to the life of AA as 100 per cent sobriety is to the life of each and every member. This is not the counsel of fear; it is the prudent voice of long experience. I am sure that we are going to listen and that we shall make every needed sacrifice. Indeed we have been listening. Today only a dwindling handful of anonymity breakers remain.

I say all this with what earnestness I can. I say this because I know what the temptation of fame and money really is. I can say this because I was once a breaker of anonymity myself. I thank God that years ago the voice of experience and the urging of wise friends took me away from that perilous path into which I might have led our entire society. Thus I learned that the temporary or seeming good can often be the deadly enemy of the permanent best. When it comes to survival for AA, nothing short of our very best will be good enough.

We want to maintain 100 per cent anonymity for still another potent reason, one often overlooked. Instead of securing us more publicity, repeated self-serving anonymity breaks could severely damage the wonderful relation we now enjoy with press and public alike. We could wind up with a poor press and very little public confidence.

For many years news channels all over the world have showered AA with enthusiastic publicity, a never ending stream of it. Editors tell us why this is. They give us extra space and time because their confidence in AA is firm. The very foundation of that high confidence is, they say, our continual insistence on personal anonymity at the press level.

Never before had news outlets and public relations people heard of a society that refused personally to advertise its leaders or members. To them this strange and refreshing novelty has always been proof positive that AA is on the square; that nobody has an angle. This, they tell us, is the prime reason for their great good will. This is why, in season and out, they continue to carry the AA message of recovery to the whole world.

If through enough anonymity lapses we finally caused the press, the public, and our alcoholic prospects themselves to wonder about our motives, we would surely lose this priceless asset, and along with it countless prospective members. Alcoholics Anonymous would not then be getting more good publicity; it would be getting less and worse. The handwriting on the wall is clear. Most of us can already see it, and I am fully confident that the rest of us soon will.

Copyright by the A.A. Grapvine, Inc.;
reprinted with permission
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