Ron Rosenbaum

Come Out Anonymous Cowards! This is Your Chance

Your chance to explain what’s so scary to you that you have to hide your identities behind a mask while hurling oh-so-brave insults. (possible enshrinement of your cerebrally challenged remarks in google for all time?)

The New York Times super-smart web culture columnist Virginia Heffernan’s recent ruminations about the low standards, (e.g. the low I.Q.) of typical web commenters and their frequent self-congratulatory ignorance and stupidity, while capturing some truths about them, left out one aspect of the problem — the source, the cause of the domination by dimwits: anonymity.

I just can’t believe that the average human being is as creepily vicious as the average commenter. And the reason can be found in something a close reading of Virginia’s column discloses: all her examples of idiot commenters were anonymous and used screen names. Anonymity allows the the inner thug and thick-head to emerge with no fear of being shamed or embarrassed by their ugly deficiencies. They can be low brow creeps and not get caught. It’s why bank robbers wear masks. Of course not all the most moronic are anonymous; some are too stupid to know how stupid they appear and so proudly affix their real names to their lame remarks. But in general I think if you administered an IQ test the anonymous would score significantly lower. They’re the special ed class of blogging. Like monkeys in a cage they seem to be unaware that there are other ways of expressing their views than throwing feces.

And by the way, as I’ve said before, this goes for both liberal and conservative commenters who seem to try to outdo each other in their embarrassing display of intellectual impotence. They are what H.L*. Mencken called “the booboisie”.

Recently an editor at a well-known publishing house said he was putting together an anthology of what he described as new threats to liberty and asked if there was something I’d like to contribute.

I told him about my continued fascination with the way anonymity has enabled a new race to the bottom of sub-human discourse on the web. Where once web-boosters, like the self anointed new-media-guru for hire Jeff Jarvis, used to proclaim that the back and forth between bloggers and commenters would open up a broader array of of voices, previously unheard points of view, the voice of the people without mediation.

While in fact commenter culture has turned into an endless war of digital lynch mobs, liberals and conservative gangs enforcing group think conformity on their respective mobs with febrile insults. Not a broader spectrum of opinion but a more narrow minded one that is incapable of little more than sub normal bozo-like displays of party line talking points for the most part. A threat to freedom in the sense that the vast tide of stupidity drowns out any attempt at intelligent discussion.

It–the venomous culture created by anonymity–threatens free speaking if not free speech itself, although one can see the hand of the Stalinist or fascist censor behind the mentality of many commenters: Punish those who disagree with me! People who disagree with them don’t deserve to live, or at least to be allowed to be heard without being covered in their vile verbal spittle.

I’m talking mainly about anonymous commenters and I should point out some of them may have genuine reasons for not using their real name. I accept that. Those who use the real names are generally too ashamed to sink to the depths in the race to the bottom of infantile insults that is the usual standard among political minded commenters on both sides.

So here’s your chance, anonymous commenters! Your chance to come out of the closet you’ve been quivering in. Identify yourself from now on (include home numbers so that random checks can be made in case you’re cowardice extends to fraudulence and impersonation of the innocent) and I wont be able to call you cowards anymore. You’ll have more self-respect! You won’t have to say ‘”I’m a person who’s afraid to put his name behind his opinions”.

Those who don’t will have proven my point about your cowardice and given me material for the book I am contributing to. (And justified my policy of not always “approving” anonymous abusive commenters.) So it’s win-win for all of us. You won’t have to skulk around knowing you’re too timid to stand up for what you believe in. And, if you persist in your combination of timidity and childish insults I’ll have more to bolster my thesis for the “threat to freedom” book. Deal?

*initial typo corrected. thank you.