You don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don’t give your name and home address out to fucking murderous nutbar fanatics.
once again WordPress refuses to format as I want -with apologies to Jim Croce
I’ve been in a bit of a flame war recently with a guy named Neil C. Reinhardt (proudly his real name, apparently) over at George W.’s blog, Misplaced Grace. The eloquent Mr. Reinhardt, who likes to post in all caps “JUST TO PISS OFF YOU RETARDS”, spammed a eulogy that George posted in honour of the recently deceased Canadian politician, Jack Layton. It was the equivalent of showing up in a plaid suit at a funeral and using the gathering of grieving mourners as an occasion to sell snake oil. George reacted accordingly and tore a strip off the troll, leading to 121 comments, so far, every second one by Mr. Reinhardt in all caps. This has forced George to develop a comments policy, which I think is excellent and which I am thinking of adopting. And it has caused me to think about my anonymity.
You see, one of Mr. Reinhardt’s big things is calling anybody who hides behind a screen name a coward. He uses his own name, and even posted his real address with an invitation to come and visit him and a promise that we’d be pushing up daisies (yes, he really talks like that) if we did. I explained to Mr. Reinhardt the reasons why I am anonymous. This only served to alert him to what he sees as a sore point he can poke at. He’s not interested in understanding anything. He’s only interested in inflicting pain on those he sees as his enemies. Of which I’m rather happy to be one. So he seems incapable of addressing me without appending the term “coward”, and this makes me more convinced than ever that he is an idiot.
Recently, Bruce Schneier of security fame posted a link to a Kee Hinkley article about pseudonyms. It’s long, but it’s really good and worth reading. It says everything I could want to say about the reason we should value anonymity on the Internet. It isn’t just a matter of keeping people civil. I don’t actually care all that much about civility. It’s because no matter who you are, there is somebody in this world who hates you and would like to plant your ass six feet deep. It’s fine to post on Facebook or Google+ using your real identity if all you are talking about is where you are having dinner, or your plans for the weekend. It’s an entirely different thing is you want to post about your religious convictions, your political position, your sexual orientation, or the blow job you gave in that interstate rest stop washroom. There should be some place on the net where a person can be real, and very few people can be real using their real name. Not without the potential for terrible, possibly lethal, consequences.The smug argument that we have no reason to hide if we aren’t doing anything to be ashamed of is specious in the extreme. I’m not the least bit ashamed of my opinions or experiences. But this doesn’t mean I want to invite the world to judge me, in person, possibly with violent intentions, endangering not just my life and livelihood but also those I love. Only a chest thumping fool like Neil C. Reinhardt would see it this as cowardice.