Can we at least all agree that this is moronic?
The really burning questions are, Why would Mackey bother posting about his own company on Yahoo? And should people be allowed to be anonymous on the Internet at all?
As far back as the 1980s, the Internet has been an electronic masked ball, a place where people can play with new identities and get off on the frisson of being somebody else. MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle has argued that this kind of identity-play even has therapeutic value. You certainly can’t ascribe a plausible financial motive to Mackey–rahodeb’s postings weren’t moving stock prices around. This was about just being naughty: picture Mackey chortling as he played the regular rube, like Marie Antoinette dressing up as a peasant and milking cows on the fake farm she built near Versailles. (Mackey was even in drag, sort of–rahodeb is an anagram of his wife’s name, Deborah.)
But it’s all fun and games till somebody loses his head. As anybody who has even looked sideways at the Internet knows, anonymity has a disastrously disinhibiting effect on human behavior. Freed of any possibility that their words will be connected to their actual identities, anonymous Internet posters have charted historic new depths of verbal offensiveness. Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture, has called for posters to own up to their Internet alter egos, arguing that “if we are to save the Internet, we need to confront the curse of anonymity.”
Then again, anonymity can protect the innocent as well as the guilty. As privacy advocates will be ecstatically eager to remind you, Common Sense and The Federalist were both first published anonymously. In countries where governments don’t respect free speech, anonymity is a priceless resource. Right now the Chinese city of Xiamen is trying to ban anonymous Web postings after citizens used the Internet to organize a protest against a new chemical plant.
There are forums in which the need to exchange information anonymously is compelling. But there aren’t many, and in most cases it’s just a temptation. Look at Amazon, which since 2004 has urged anonymous reviewers to fess up to their real names, lest authors be tempted to review their own books. Viewed as a social experiment in good faith among anonymous equals, the Internet is not succeeding. The masked ball is in danger of becoming a hooded mob.
I think you, me, and Publius all agree that anonymity is sometimes a useful thing to have in the world of political debate. Some of us have jobs to protect, or bosses who wouldn’t necessarily be too pleased if they found out what you wrote online. Before you can even get an interview nowadays, nine times out of ten your prospective employer has Googled your name online. Dangerous stalkers and predators hunt the online jungle for ex-wives and jilted girlfriends. If they find them, the consequences may not be pleasant.
Why make this easier for them? As far as I’m concerned, the government can pierce our flimsy veil of anonymity if there is ever a valid reason for the government to do so. Subpoenas and IP addresses will lasso any online criminal. The rest is just protecting ourselves and our reputations, our jobs, and sometimes, our lives.
All of which could be counterbalanced by a legitimate concern or two. But did you see any in that article? I read it three times, and as far as I can tell, here’s why we should all be forced to sign our name to every post and comment:
But it’s all fun and games till somebody loses his head. As anybody who has even looked sideways at the Internet knows, anonymity has a disastrously disinhibiting effect on human behavior. Freed of any possibility that their words will be connected to their actual identities, anonymous Internet posters have charted historic new depths of verbal offensiveness.
Followed by a book plug for some Fascist friend of his. Apparently, these kooks have never been in a traffic accident or a tavern in their lives. You don’t need online anonymity to experience the thrill of total strangers calling you every name in the book. Get in a fender bender or tip over an alcoholic’s beer, and you can experience the same dubious pleasure in person. This argument is so stupid it barely constitutes an argument. Then, of course you have this:
Look at Amazon, which since 2004 has urged anonymous reviewers to fess up to their real names, lest authors be tempted to review their own books. Viewed as a social experiment in good faith among anonymous equals, the Internet is not succeeding. The masked ball is in danger of becoming a hooded mob.
We should all risk our jobs and/or getting shot by our stalkers (and/or the Chinese government) so that Noam Chomsky doesn’t get to cheat and up his reviews on amazon.com. That’s quite a tradeoff, Grossman, you loon.
Is this even a problem, or did Grossman just invent it as one? Who cares about this Markey guy? Are we all supposed to strip naked because of one idiot’s unethical business behavior? What if I revealed that I was actually Sam Brownback? Would that affect the validity of my ideas and my candidacy in any way, shape, or form? (I’m not him, by the way. If I were, I would’ve mentioned it by now.)
It seems to me that Grossman hysterically exaggerates a minor problem- like, say, halitosis or dandruff. He then advocates ridiculously extreme measures- like, say, drinking a pint of perfume every morning, or decapitation. Do you moonbats agree with me that this man is a nutcase? Does anyone agree with this guy? (I’m looking at you, Adam Nelson. If that is your real name, that is…)
Why does “Time” publish this garbage? I’m no Tom Clancy, but I’ve written essays on this blog far superior to Grossman’s spewings. So has Psycheout. So has Lyssie. So has Relee. So has T.D. Gaines-Crockett. So has Roman Pytel, in the comments. So have several dozen other people, including pretty much everyone who’s ever commented here. Why do Time subscribers have to pay to read this?