(Posted by Patrick Sullivan Jr.)
Dear Anonymous, get a name!
I just read Internet Anonymity is as Destructive as Internet Porn, by conservative writer, radio talk show host, and the voice of Jigsaw Magnesium, Dennis Prager.
Whenever people lament aspects of the Internet, they are most likely to lament the net's ubiquity of pornography. Only God knows, for example, how many kids, searching for some government information, typed in "whitehouse.com" only to be greeted by pornographic images (happily, the website changed hands in 2004). It is almost impossible to completely avoid such imagery even with filtering programs.
But there is something at least as awful -- and arguably more destructive -- that permeates the Internet: the lies, vitriol, obscenities and ad hominem attacks made by anonymous individuals on almost every website that deals with public issues.
Being identifiable breeds responsibility; anonymity breeds irresponsibility.
Some might argue that anonymity enables people to more freely express their thoughts. But this is not true. Anonymity only enables people to more freely express their feelings. Anonymity values feelings over thought, and immediate expression over thoughtful reflection.
[...] I doubt I am alone in reading fewer and fewer comments sections because of the low level of so many of the postings. Just as bad money chases away good money, moronic postings chase away intelligent ones.
[...] But there is an easy fix, and websites owe it to society to use it. Just ban anonymous postings.
I couldn't agree more with Dennis' take.
And I've remarked on numerous occasions during the ongoing mercury/autism war how odd it seemed to me that the vast majority of "mercury doesn't cause autism" crowd uses pseudonyms, while the vast majority of the "mercury does cause autism" crowd uses their real names.
There's no better example of this than my infamous run in with Orac (aka. Dr. David Gorski) and his many pseudonymed commenters back in September 2005, starting with this comment and ending 7 comments and a Herman Melvin novel later.
Eventually, the anonymity of the posters attacking me really began to drive me crazy. Ironically, Jana Marshall wrote this while signed in as Anonymous:
You know, I hate to say this, but the fact that "Orac" doesn't feel the need to share his real name with the public puts a shadow of doubt on anything he says. (Yeah, the same goes for you AutismDiva, prometheus, and all the rest of you nameless people!)
It seems that the Sullivans have nothing to hide. Patrick Jr. signs his posts with his full name. Dr. Buttar, David Kirby and others are in the public eye, not hiding behind some alternate ego.
Any claims you make are automatically suspect because you are witholding your identity.
I am Mom to a 6 year old boy with autism. My name is Jana Marshall. I have nothing to hide. What are you afraid of?
Yeah, everyone feels that way Jana. Dennis Prager just summed it up the best.
Now there are holes in the "don't allow anonymous posters" rule that are big enough to drive an elephant through. But I'll jump on the band-wagon. After all, context matters.