There’s an interesting struggle currently between the users of the internet and the providers of it. The faceless populace wants to remain not only anonymous but empowered to say whatever it wants, even if what it wants to say is offensive. The higher ups want there to be some limits on how nasty, and how anonymous, a person can be.
After all, it could be troublesome to sell ad space to a major corporation if that ad space might be next to a drawing of a smiling penis with a smaller penis sprouting from its butt.
Is anyone anonymous?
It seems to me that online anonymity is a joke anyway. The very first thing that happens when you run afoul of the internet horde is that they figure out who you are, where you work, and how best to frighten you. That means death threats for you and your kids, not to mention your face plastered over swastikas, porn, or even swastika porn.
I recommend anyone interested in this topic read Jon Ronson’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.”
As I write this, Reddit’s CEO Ellen Pao is getting this treatment for banning a subsection (/r/fatpeoplehate) which was dedicated to shaming overweight people. The subsection is gone, but dozens, possibly hundreds, have sprung up in its place.
I ran afoul a while back of a group of Atlanta people who wanted to save a radio station that wasn’t in any danger of going away. As punishment for posting some jokes about the situation, members of that movement flooded my inbox, facebook, and web site with every homophobic slur they could think of, which wasn’t that many.
For all that talk about my homosexuality, not one asked me out for dinner or drinks. Some dedication.
But that’s where we’re at with public discourse right now. There is no reasoning with anyone. For all the internet’s bemoaning of Fox News pundits shouting down anyone they disagree with, it’s exactly what the internet will do if it decides you’re wrong.
Things cannot go on as they are. It shouldn’t be okay to publicly shame anyone. But it also shouldn’t be okay to, for instance, throttle Netflix traffic to hold them hostage for more money.
So, as usual with humans, everyone’s kind of rightish wrong. And there are no clicks for the reasonable.