Sunday, March 6, 2011

Internet Anonymity

Progressives grasp at any opportunity to quash free speech.  The internet and the anonymity it provides is a fat target for them.  How can internet speech be "managed," they ask?

Stanley Fish explores this subject in his NY Times piece, Anonymity and the Dark Side of the Internet.  He employs the work of liberal thinkers who claim to be for free speech but then start throwing around concepts like "managing free speech" and coining terms like "low-value speech."  When you hear Sunsteinian progressives talk like this, watch out! 
"What is remarkable about this volume is that the legal academics who make the arguments I have rehearsed are by and large strong free-speech advocates.
Yet faced with the problems posed by the Internet, they start talking about “low value” speech (a concept strong first-amendment doctrine rejects) and saying things like “autonomy resides not in free choice per se but in choosing wisely” and “society needs not an absence of ‘chill,’ but an optimal level.”(In short, let’s figure out which forms of speech we should discourage.)"
How does "society" establish an "optimal level" of "chill?"  Who decides just what that optimal level is, and how do you impose it?  I am chilled just reading these clawing control freaks.

This issue, like all progressive baloney, springs from a manufactured dilemma built upon a false premise.  Here's what it's really all about:  Stopping those accursed rightwing bloggers!
The practice of withholding the identity of the speaker is strategic, and one purpose of the strategy (this is the second problem with anonymity) is to avoid responsibility and accountability for what one is saying.

Anonymity, Martha Nussbaum, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago observes, allows Internet bloggers “to create for themselves a shame-free zone in which they can inflict shame on others.” The power of the bloggers, she continues, “depends on their ability to insulate their Internet selves from responsibility in the real world, while ensuring real-world consequences” for those they injure.
There are a few problems with this...

First, Silverfiddle's blog does not carry the same weight as the NY Times.  I can level the most outrageous of charges and barely cause a ripple.  The New York Times can end careers with a single sentence.   

Second, the author can produce no instance where bloggers in this "shame free zone" injured anyone.  Why not?  Because it's never happened!  The few attempts I remember fell pretty flat.  Palin rumors, Obama cocaine and gay sex stories, Christine O'Donnell's halloween sex adventure, Nikki Haley adultery...  It's all been thrown out there, and there was no "there" there.  None of these people were destroyed by anonymous, unsubstantiated claims.

Anonymity is Overblown
Not all of us are so stupid as to ingest and regurgitate whatever someone pukes out.  Responsible people do some homework and demand evidence.  A scandalous broadside may garner attention, but the accuser must eventually put up or shut up.  Failure of the accuser to pop his head up and provide proof discredits him.

Anonymity is overblown anyway.  A skeptical Daniel Solove at Concurring Opinions ask, Is Anonymous Blogging Possible?  The answer is no, it is not.  If they want you, they can come and get you.

An anonymous person simply does not have the power the hysterical progressives claim he does.  This is a crisis invented by big government statists as a pretext for them to take even more power and control over our lives.


Christopher - Conservative Perspective said...

Free speech to a socialist = Free speeech for me and none for thee.

Absolutely nothing that is of opposing thought no matter the size of the bullhorn to the socialist agenda is to be tolerated be it blogs, AM talk radio, Fox News or the WSJ and alike.

Here is another angle to this internet control that I have been thinking on but not heard much concern over as of yet,,,

Being book stores are disappearing at alarming rates being books are either sold over the internet or their content downloaded electronically onto Kindles, Conservative and Libertarian authors can and will be banned forthwith.

LASunsett said...

Good essay.

I have often said to people that when one blogs about a given subject, any subject, it is his/her responsibility to be responsible. That said and like you state, once someone who chooses anonymity decides to blog about a topic, he/she must back up the claims with support or it will fall by the wayside as just another weak and faulty claim with no merit. It will be dismissed as the rantings of a mad person with no life, no purpose, and a bitter spirit.

I suspect as you do, this is just an attempt to reign in free speech, which sometimes is often unpopular with those who have the power to guide public opinions and influence those who are in a position to make decisions with far reaching repercussions. This is driven primarily by the "so-called" journalism lobby because it is one thing that can keep them honest and expose their failures, inaccuracies, and their outright lies faster than anything else.

The principle we all know and quote well can be best modified by this:

First they came for the anonymous bloggers and shut them down. Then, when that didn't stop dissent, they came for the rest of the bloggers who put their names on their writings. And then there were only those who were "approved" by some fake council designed to censor....and only then, after the material was approved.

The loss of freedom comes in increments. It comes so subtly and so gradually, very few notice it. And those who do and dare speak out are labeled, as paranoid and unreasonable.

Proof said...

It's "Card Check" for the Internet.
You can say whatever you want, so long as we have the means to intimidate you to say what we want you to and no more.

Shane Atwell said...

This also has strong parallels with the various authoritarian measures throughout history to distinguish its enemies from the general population. Look up 'badge of shame' in wikipedia. The Yellow band worn by Jews in Nazi germany and the middle ages. Earlier muslim communities required the same of dhimmis (just came across this is Why I am not a Muslim).

Internet anonymity is a bit different, but 'outing' pro-capitalist bloggers achieves the same goal. It makes them more vulnerable to attacks in the media, from their employers, from law enforcement, from regulatory agencies and from their neighbors.

The Koch brothers have so far been able to withstand these assaults but smaller time bloggers don't have the resources to do so. Who was that lawyer in washington that had to stop blogging after media pressure applied to his employer?

Finntann said...

Yes, what good ever came from anonimity?

Silence Dogood

Well I guess you need to ask Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, James Wintrop, and Benjamin Rush

WomanHonorThyself said...

and make no mistake Silver..they will control us....maddening isnt it!

Trestin said...

I've seen several excellent posts by blogger ignored. Yet, if the national media were to cover the same story it would have shock the public. Are we truly a threat, or are they so addicted to control that they can not help themselves?

Always On Watch said...

Anonymous writers played a significant role in America's War for Independence.

In my view, bloggers are not journalists; rather, we are pamphleteers.

Silverfiddle said...

Trestin, you and other are correct I think, to believe this is a gatekeeper thing. The msm is losing their grip, but they are trying to slam the door in our faces with their dying gasps.

AOW: I like that. I think you are right, we are the pamphleteers of the 21st century! I may have to steal that at some point...

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