Anonymity and Cowardice

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Anonymity is commonly used in a cowardly way. I’m not talking about the political anonymity needed (and deserved) by a student protester in Iran, or the legitimate corporate whistle blower.  I’m talking about the run of the mill anonymity practiced on the inter-tubes.  This includes communities like Slashdot and Reddit; and blogs like Mini-Microsoft.

Now, I do not for a second suggest that anonymity should be banned or even outlawed.  Regular every day inter-tube anonymity is perfectly fine.  But it lets people act cowardly.

That’s a great word – ‘coward’.   Merriam-Webster defines it* simply:

one who shows disgraceful fear or timidity

When someone is being a coward they say things they would not ordinarily say.  They go beyond rude.  People will do and say things anonymously that they would never say if there was any kind of identity behind their posts at all.  The post things they would never post if people knew who they were.   They would never say those things of standing in front of their audience, or addressing their target in person.

This is the very definition of cowardice.

Now, if anonymity was only limited to people being rude, then I really wouldn’t care.  What exhibits true cowardice is when people anonymously say things that they wouldn’t say if they had any kind of real identity associated with their comments.   They often:

  • Say blatantly false things as if they were facts – simply making stuff up.  This is lying, plain and simple.
    They often claim that anonymity enables them to say ‘truth’.   Nope, it just lets them say things with no accountability.
  • Say truly hateful things
  • Deliberately disrupt the conversation (trolls).

Anonymity is a fixture on the internet.  It is not going away.   Its just fine if some sites allow it (like reddit and Slashdot), and some people want practice it.  There are lots of things people do that are crappy – we don’t outlaw these things.  But we can and should call them out.

So, I’ll ask you this Mr. Anonymous inter-tube dude,  does that sneering, arrogant, vulgar, dismissive, vague, rambling, incomplete, off-topic, condescending self righteous post really reflect you?  Do you really feel that strongly?  Are you really that passionate?   If so, then why are you so timid? Why won’tyou say that as yourself? I know it is because you are being cowardly.

Is being anonymous really the best you can bring?  Really?  Would you show that post to your wife or mom?  Would you print it out and pin it on your office wall?   Would you let your kids read it?

Or are you different in normal company – and also thus a hypocrite.

You voice is the most most common and base,  just one in an infinite crowd of random voices – neither adding or subtracting to anyone, not moving the average level of discourse one way or another.  Your posts merely makes the noise a tiny bit louder.  You are just one of the faceless rabble. You are not ‘standing out ’, ‘making a point’, or ‘telling the truth’.

You are just being a coward.



Written by foredecker

December 13, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Rants

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