Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Anonymity...

The internet is a marvelous thing, no doubt. It's changed the way we think, the way do business... it's changed the world by bringing us so much closer together and allowing us to interact in real time, even though we might be thousands of miles apart.

But's it not without its faults, and I think one of its biggest shortcomings is that it enables cowardice. Or, rather, it enables cowards to crawl out from their guano-lined caves and, behind a cloak of anonymity, spew vitriol without repercussion.

"Name withheld ... because I have something vitriolic to say."
I get the argument that, in many cases, anonymity online is important--the most recent best examples would be the social media networking and sharing of the horrific events coming out of the Middle East. The Arab Spring certainly benefitted from the protection the internet provided to those who organized protests in Egypt or contacted the media to inform the world of the latest bloodbath in Syria.

My blog, and, frankly, the folks who read it, have recently been targeted by an anonymous visitor who only finds the courage to engage me with his name kept secret. Here's the latest example, which appeared as a comment on an anecdotal post I did about the effects of climate change in my home state of Colorado. It appeared as an anonymous comment, and I've let it stand so my readers can compare and contrast--you know, weigh the anger of the comment vs. the tone of the actual post. Here goes:

You guys are all idiots. If any of you own internal combustion engines or use electricity in any way you are wretched hipocrits (sic). You complain about this shit and then walk or bike to where you fish? Losers. Brook trout!? Seriously!?

SAVE THE MASTADONS!
Let's ignore the misspellings and the egregious use of excessive punctuation and the caps-lock key and get straight to the essence of the post. This dude is angry. He's lashing out. He's clearly fed up with folks giving credence to the reality of a changing climate. Without speculating farther, I can't say much more, other than this person felt the need to vent and then did so.

Behind the shield of anonymity.

I would have honestly welcomed a post from an informed reader who disagreed with what I said in the post (although, I thought the politics of the post were pretty damn vanilla compared to some I've read lately). I'd be willing to have a courteous discussion on the issue--perhaps I could learn something useful that I don't know now.

In other words, in the thoughtful prose of former Republican senator from Wyoming, Alan Simpson, I would have been more than happy to "disagree without being disagreeable." But then, the comment would have had to have been made under an actual name for all to see.

Look, I'm fine with the fact that not everyone agrees with me on issues pertaining to conservation--and frankly, I lean to the left when it comes to environment (most of you have no idea where I stand on other issues, but feel free, under the cloak of secrecy or in forums of your own, to speculate all you want). I'm also willing to debate environmental issues in a forum that's both polite and educational--as I said, I might learn something (but you'd have to be open to perhaps learning something, too).

Oh, I suppose I could have avoided this issue altogether if I'd simply disallowed anonymous posts on my blog. But what's the point? Cowardice and anonymity go together. Anybody who read that comment likely understands that, and I think the comment loses any credibility because there's no name attached to it.

So feel free to crawl out from your cave and leave all the nameless, vitriolic comments you want--we may not know your name, but we do what kind of person you are.

22 comments:

  1. Tip of the iceberg, unfortunately. Any major newspaper online sees this with the comments section, with the notable exception of the NY Times. Gone are the days of Dorothy Parker's round table at the Algonquin. Imagine what our wonderful Senate and House floor would sound like it they had anonymity.

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    1. I completely agree, and I think it's unfortunate that we've stooped allow the lowest possible standards when it comes to interacting online. As with everything else, it's often a very vocal minority that employs the sleaziest of tactics when it comes to trying to get a point across. This comment--and all the political hatred I'm seeing and hearing lately from BOTH parties--have me vowing to try to rise above this lowly discourse and try to interact with folks online as if they were right in front of me.

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  2. Right on, Chris. That's exactly what it is...cowardice.

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  3. I suspect perhaps that the anonymous writer was more upset with the fact that he is running dangerously low on Prozac and can't get is prescription refilled. Thoughtful rebuttal Chris.

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    1. Indeed, Howard... you're probably more right than I would care to believe!

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  4. "disagree without being disagreeable."

    Our inability to do this is the hallmark of our time. Drama is king. So sad.

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    1. The language is what gets me... the license anonymity gives some folks allows them to be such assholes. And, yes, I, Chris Hunt, said that.

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  5. Quit whining you neo-commi bastard...if we can't hide behind a laptop thousands of miles away from one another, than a little piece of America has just died.

    Sincerely,
    Anonymous

    sorry about that! my twitter account must have gotten hacked...just not sure how they got my password.

    well said Howard, that was my first reaction as well...

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    1. Damn... I need that laugh in the worst way. Thanks!

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  6. Absolutely. When there's no one to take responsibility, anything goes. Great piece, Chris...and it certainly needed to be said!

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    1. Thanks Erin... I can handle 100 blows with a sharp stick. It's the 101st that pisses me off...

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  7. It's a sad day when you know someone that is reading your posts constantly and can't bring up valid, or at least conversational, points. It takes all points of view to make the world go round, but apparently some are so stuck on attacks rather than conversation.

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    1. That's the unfortunate world we live in today ... was listening to satellite radio today, and was alarmed at the partisanship (to the left, for the record) of a show that billed itself non-partisan. The attacks were similar to that above--based almost solely on name-calling rather than anything substantial. The difference, though, is that the radio host has his name on the program.

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  8. James PiotrowskiJuly 18, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    Chris, the world is full of "them" (I'm trying not to litter your blog with any of the expletives that could be substituted for "them"). Everyone of us has at least two jobs in life: (1) don't let "them" get you down; and, (2) don't be one of "them."

    All that said, it is not an "us versus them" situation, since the best way to eliminate "them" altogether is to make each of them one of us. Your reply above is a step in that direction.

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    1. Thanks James... I'm not sure there's a way to counter "them." I fear we've passed the tipping point of civility--but I'll keep trying, and, as I said, I've vowed to communicate online as if I were communicating in person. I think that's the key--then, at least, if you disagree, you'll have the chance to let me know "virtually" face to face.

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  9. Well said Chris. We now live in a world where the "TV news" is no longer reported by a single anchor, it's now argued by a panel of bitchers, whiners, and moaners.

    I often wonder if the online cowardice would stop if we could bring back good ole fashioned playground fights without consequence. Most of these internet tough guys never got the 5th-grade ass whoopin they deserved because a teacher intervened and told them to "use their words". A bloody nose comes with a big dose of perspective.

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    1. Thanks Tosh... I think you nailed it. It's not so much the lashing out I despise, it's the lack of any blowback.

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  10. Cowards is a very fitting term and I can't respect a person who employs a faceless, nameless cheapshot. Pretty sure that if they felt strongly in their position, they would do a better job of standing by their words. Blind hate. Too much of this in the world today.

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  11. Send this coward over my way. Good, bad or ugly...my blog could use more comments. ha ha

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  12. In my mind there a lot of negatives, but it has redeeming qualities, anonymity can give a voice to those who have something to say but enough to lose to keep them quiet.

    An example being democratic voting/elections. You may go along with co-workers at the cafeteria table for fear of rocking the boat or being outcast, but your true beliefs come out at the ballot box.

    Anonymity can take the worry of conformity out of the social equation.

    -Bob Diefenbacher

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  13. Interesting entry. I've frankly wondered if the Internet has contributed to a decline in civility. Such a decline has been underway for a long time, but the ability to lash out rudely without repercussions seems to me to potentially have had a cultural effect, together with the curtailment in speech that writing, tweeting, etc., generally encourage.

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  14. Easy to hide behind a computer screen spewing views and values that are rude or hateful. I've never understood the attraction to those that do that.

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