Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Anonymous Comments and Pornography: Equally Destructive?


Whenever people point out negative aspects of the Internet, they are most likely to talk about the availability of pornography. How many kids, searching for some government information, typed in “whitehouse.com” only to be greeted by pictures of naked women! (Don’t go there – the web site has changed hands.) But there is something as destructive that permeates the Internet - the lies, vitriol, and ad hominem attacks made by anonymous individuals on almost every website and blogsite that deals with public or religious issues. Sexual images are not new, but the ability of anyone in society to debase public discourse is new. Until the Internet came along, the public's only real venue for expression was the “letters to the editor” section published in newspapers and magazines. People either expressed themselves in a civilized manner or they were not published. Even those letters that were not published were written in a respectful way because the letter-writers had to reveal their real names and their addresses. Being identifiable breeds responsibility; anonymity breeds irresponsibility.

This is why people - even decent people - tend to act much less morally when in a crowd (the crowd renders them anonymous). This is why people tend to act more decently when they walk around with their names printed on a nametag. This is why people act more rudely when in their cars - they cannot be identified as they could outside of their car. There is no question that most people would write very different entries on blogsites if their names were printed alongside their comments. E-mail provides another example. It is very rare that a person sends a hate-filled, obscenity-laced e-mail that includes their name. It’s the same with regular mail. As a preacher, some of the most asinine things have been said to me in anonymous letters – which I throw in the trash immediately! The practice of giving everyone the ability to express themselves anonymously for millions to read has debased public discourse. Ad hominem attacks and the absence of logic characterize a large percentage of many websites' “comments” sections.

Some might argue that anonymity enables people to more freely express their thoughts. This is not true. Anonymity only enables people to more freely express their feelings. Anonymity values feelings over thought. Moronic comments chase away intelligent ones. The irresponsible, the angry, the obscene and the dumb have virtually taken over many Internet dialogues. This is why, as of today, anonymous posts will be banned from this blog. Some of the dumbest, most asinine things have been said on this blog by cowards. From now on you will have to register and identify yourself, otherwise just lurk in the shadows.

9 comments:

Ryan said...

right on.

Charles North said...

Thank's bro!

Bill Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Jordan said...

Thank you Charles.

I wanted you to do this a long time ago. But you've been patient and that's to your credit. I'm afraid your delay in taking this measure has contributed to an undercurrent of concern for your blog by several who are uncomfortable with today's interactive communication. That discomfort is understandable, but we all need to recognize the fact that this is the culture we live in today.

I have no way to prove this, but I doubt Thomas Jefferson would have ever delivered anything in writing without his signature attached. And in the spirit of Jefferson's desire to offer free speech as a solution to many of our past, present and future problems I hope your blog climbs to a new level of respect among those who participate in this forum every day.

You are a gifted writer and certainly able to encourage all of us to think, learn and grow. Even if you do have visitors on your blog in the future who do not agree with your own opinions I hope you will also take your own participation up to a higher level in the future. Don't forget, you are the "leader" and those of us who are your "visitors" will follow your lead.

Just keep up the good work...

jenn said...

I agree! That is why I have always encouraged people to talk to me face to face if they have a problem with me or anything I have done or said. I also want them to see me and my facial expressions. I will never hide my thoughts or feelings. Yes, sometimes I have said things that maybe should have been said more tactful, but no one has ever had to question me about who I am concerning something I said. I am honest. I will not hide who I am. This is me and I am not embarrassed or ashamed. No one else should be ashamed of what they say or think and I believe that when people do things "anonymously" they must have something to hide.

Charles North said...

I have thought about some of my own responses to comments on this blog - I have been pretty mean and nasty in response to anonymous comments. It just leads to bad behavior!

A.H. Jordan said...

Charles, I think I'd take more of a free market approach to this problem. Perhaps there is some way to place a small charge on anonymous comments while allowing named authors to post for free. After all, we tax all sorts of good things; why not tax bad things like cowardice and meanspiritedness. Worst case scenario, we take in a few bucks to repair water leaks with.

Charles North said...

Andrew - that is very clever! I wish there was a way.

Mark said...

Charles,

Good to know... now I've got to log in.