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.