Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

May 18, 2009

Come Out Anonymous Cowards! This is Your Chance

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:10 pm

Your chance to explain what’s so scary to you that you have to hide your identities behind a mask while hurling oh-so-brave insults. (possible enshrinement of your cerebrally challenged remarks in google for all time?)

The New York Times super-smart web culture columnist Virginia Heffernan’s recent ruminations about the low standards, (e.g. the low I.Q.) of typical web commenters and their frequent self-congratulatory ignorance and stupidity, while capturing some truths about them, left out one aspect of the problem — the source, the cause of the domination by dimwits: anonymity.

I just can’t believe that the average human being is as creepily vicious as the average commenter. And the reason can be found in something a close reading of Virginia’s column discloses: all her examples of idiot commenters were anonymous and used screen names. Anonymity allows the the inner thug and thick-head to emerge with no fear of being shamed or embarrassed by their ugly deficiencies. They can be low brow creeps and not get caught. It’s why bank robbers wear masks. Of course not all the most moronic are anonymous; some are too stupid to know how stupid they appear and so proudly affix their real names to their lame remarks. But in general I think if you administered an IQ test the anonymous would score significantly lower. They’re the special ed class of blogging. Like monkeys in a cage they seem to be unaware that there are other ways of expressing their views than throwing feces.

And by the way, as I’ve said before, this goes for both liberal and conservative commenters who seem to try to outdo each other in their embarrassing display of intellectual impotence. They are what H.L*. Mencken called “the booboisie”.

Recently an editor at a well-known publishing house said he was putting together an anthology of what he described as new threats to liberty and asked if there was something I’d like to contribute.

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82 Comments »

  1. Feeling threatened because your readers can talk back?

    Whine some more. I’m here for the [i]schadenfreude[/i].

    Comment by Evil Pundit — May 18, 2009 @ 4:45 pm | Reply

  2. Mr. Rosenbaum: During your career in journalism, have you ever handled Letters to the Editor for a metropolitan editorial page? I ask because I wonder how blog comments compare with the LttE intake for, say, the LA Times.

    If you have previously addressed this point, please accept my apologies for overlooking this.

    Comment by W Krebs — May 18, 2009 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

  3. A lot of the problem with commentors is that people will “say” things from behind a keyboard they wouldn’t normally say face to face. Being anonymous only adds fuel to the fire. When I read something online, I usually pay scant attention to the commenters. Not much use for them. A little, but not much.

    Comment by Steve Goldsworth — May 18, 2009 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

  4. […] Read the entire piece here. […]

    Pingback by Pajamas Media » Come Out, Anonymous Coward Commenters! This is Your Chance — May 19, 2009 @ 1:43 am | Reply

  5. people who are identified as haters are either ignored or ridiculed.any commenters i know as idiots i simply do not read.this is democracy in acton,it has never been pretty……people who canot handle it,grow thicker skins or go home.

    Comment by shaui-jan — May 19, 2009 @ 1:57 am | Reply

  6. You’d have to be crazy-stupid to use your real name in an internet commentary, whether you were being vicious or not. You could say something as bland as “I don’t like Cheerios” and some nut out there would consider that to be throwing down the gauntlet. Next thing you know they’re Google-earthing you and filling a blog with the results. Or worse.

    Comment by Emma — May 19, 2009 @ 2:57 am | Reply

  7. Another thought on why people do not use their own names–they want to keep their jobs and/or have some identity away from work.

    The highest level of my organization is outspoken in their support for The One and to say anything other than “he is the truth, the light, and the way” would be career limiting.

    Comment by LeighB — May 19, 2009 @ 3:18 am | Reply

  8. Yes, I do use an alias when commenting (Thank you Sir Terry.) as I do want to try and avoid the “mob rule” style abuse that seems to be so common in internet discourse.

    Mr. Rosenbaum, what you are taking issue with is an integral part of nature.

    The pressure within any group to conform it’s members to it’s preferred pattern is not new. That natural pressure has existed since long before there were recognizable humans.

    Now this urge to enforce conformity manifests itself in the new communities that are a part of this new media.

    It’s nothing to get worked up about, no surprise, not really.

    Comment by Sneedle Flipsock — May 19, 2009 @ 3:26 am | Reply

  9. I’m a bit confused. Do you really believe that anonymity poses a threat to free speech? I’m curious to know if you believe the abusive ad hominem threatens free speech as well.

    Comment by Publius — May 19, 2009 @ 3:44 am | Reply

  10. I do occasionally write a comment, but I do so anonymously. I run a small business in the entertainment industry, and I don’t need people I need to work with Googling my name and finding conservative- (or at least not liberal-)leaning argumentation. I’d rather they find my writing on topics that are able to help me sustain my client base rather than deplete it.

    Comment by SLK — May 19, 2009 @ 4:11 am | Reply

  11. Given the threats by the Obama administration to sic the IRS on those who oppose it, anonymity on the ‘net seems to be basic prudence.

    Comment by Cato — May 19, 2009 @ 4:28 am | Reply

  12. anonymous is a signal to skip the post. At least most trolls have a silly name that serves the same purpose.

    Comment by Gary Ogletree — May 19, 2009 @ 4:29 am | Reply

  13. This is my real first name and MI, but I will not use my full name because I have many subordinates who do not know what my politics or other thoughts are. I want to keep it that way. However, I do not comment to be mean, although the temptation to respond to those who are is sometimes great. I also do not comment too often. It is infuriating to be reading some thoughtful comments and then see the idiots jump in and totally get off topic with their simple-minded comments.
    On an aside, I did come across one blog whose operator told the commentors up front if they were idiots she would publish their names and email addresses. I think that kept the responses civil.

    Comment by KenJ — May 19, 2009 @ 4:31 am | Reply

  14. The first half of this article parallels what I’ve written for years, that we are not psychologically constructed for anonymous socialization. I’ve cleaned up several times after the disintegration of something as innocuous as a finch forum, where presumably mature and cultured people were unable to manage their newfound powers of online speech. But I believe that anonymity is not the sole cause of blog rage.

    First, blogger dialog is restricted through a narrow communication spectrum, asynchronous written text. We’re accustomed to (and perhaps hard wired for) real-time signals sent through voice inflection, dress, mannerism and facial expressions. Bogglers miss critical information that would enable us to better assess messages. This leads to misunderstandings and then to all kinds of absurdities.

    Second, the internet is a magnet for psychopaths, borderline kooks and all varieties of people who fail to integrate well into society. They’re frequently among the most vocal here, and therefore disproportionately contribute to tone.

    As for the second half of this article, I don’t know if it’s just a joke or something to provoke the readers to contribute. Either way, not much to be taken seriously.

    Regards,
    Bill Carson
    Key Largo
    305-452-0244

    Comment by Bill Carson — May 19, 2009 @ 4:33 am | Reply

  15. Anonymity is not necessarily a bad thing. My real name is shared by millions of people in many languages. So what difference does it make?

    Do you want to track me down? What for?

    What counts is the thoughts and beliefs.

    And, yes, you wouldn’t tell me some things in my face. Everyone is a hypocrite. But it keeps the peace . . .

    Comment by vivo — May 19, 2009 @ 4:38 am | Reply

  16. Political correctness being what it is these days, the age-old use of pseudonyms is quite understandable. On balance it’s probably better that people better speak freely. Ideas stand or fall on their own merits. Who pens them is quite irrelevant – to anyone besides thought police seeking retribution, of course.

    The author might benefit by growing thicker skin if he wants to be in the business of lecturing people about the way they ought to be. Or perhaps adopting more of a ‘live and let live’ attitude and a little less self-importance would ease the author’s fretting.

    Comment by RE — May 19, 2009 @ 4:41 am | Reply

  17. Mr. Rosenbaum:
    “So here’s your chance, anonymous commenters! Your chance to come out of the closet you’ve been quivering in. Identify yourself from now on (include home numbers so that random checks can be made in case you’re cowardice extends to fraudulence and impersonation of the innocent) and I wont be able to call you cowards anymore.”

    What’s this, Herr Rosenbaum?

    You’re standing on a corner of the internet and sinisterly demanding:

    “Your PAPERS! Please…”

    Didn’t expect this kind of thing from the guy who wrote “Explaining Hitler”, y’know.

    Certainly anonymity leads to a great deal of cyper-thuggery, (and that can be part of the fun of the internet), but it als leads to honesty. People can say what they REALLY think, and they are liberated from the stultifying tyranny of PC.

    You want my real name?

    I am Spartacus.

    Comment by Bilgeman — May 19, 2009 @ 4:47 am | Reply

  18. Mr. Rosenbaum: I missed your home phone number in your article – I was going to call you to share mine.

    Comment by Old Soldier — May 19, 2009 @ 4:53 am | Reply

  19. “Where once web-boosters, like the self aointed ety headed new-media-guru for hire Jeff Jarvis, ”

    Glass houses?

    Comment by Mike2 — May 19, 2009 @ 5:01 am | Reply

  20. Cyper-thuggery is fun…..you are spartacus…..whatever. Anyway anonymity usually mean a comment best passed over. Hurling insults usually does not mean the argument moves forward but backwards. Using insults couched within a cogent argument is a well know rhetorical concept and can move the argument forward. insults by themselves usually mean a undeveloped mind or, most likely the argument most employed by pre-teens: I don’t like what you say……so….THERE!! Usually accompanied by pouting and the lower lip stuck out. Yeah, can’t miss the resemblance of Rosenbaum to Crassus.

    Comment by Richard Cook — May 19, 2009 @ 5:04 am | Reply

  21. I am surrounded by several thousand blue collar workers every day, and you would likely be surprised by the extremely broad spectrum of political opinion that I hear openly discussed. Most of it is very poorly informed opinion, and quite a lot of it is simply absurd, but this is the way people think and speak in the real world. The anonymous blogger often represents very typical viewpoints, but viewpoints that are too often concealed from professional and academic circles. From this persepctive, perhaps the anonymous blogger can at least offer some insight into the political positions of the common American.

    Comment by Bruce Davis — May 19, 2009 @ 5:05 am | Reply

  22. Good article, unfortunately most of your comments to date only serve to prove your point. Comments could be useful to many posts, but on most sites the level of discourse rivals that of a middle school playground.

    Comment by Paul Gross — May 19, 2009 @ 5:12 am | Reply

  23. Somebody has to get “journalists” off their asses and out of their cubicles!
    I can see by your tan, Mr. Rosenbaum, you need to get out more; Did you know there are probably a half dozen tanning salons in your neighborhood? What with all the money you make with your astute “journalism”, you could buy a tanning lamp to attach to your laptop.
    Yea; Commenting on these articles and arguing with dunces is a dirty job, but some one’s got to do it!

    Comment by Cybergeezer — May 19, 2009 @ 5:26 am | Reply

  24. So the thought is anonymity frees up the half-witted to make stupider or more insulting commentary then usual? Another variation of GIFT.

    Personally, I think anonymity is certainly an enabler for these types of people, but it’s hardly the sole reason they act as they do. Rather, society as a whole has steadily become more and more infantile, so it stands to reason that there is a steadily increasing larger percentage of commentators who often engage their keyboards before turning on their brains – if they ever do at all.

    Comment by Colin — May 19, 2009 @ 5:34 am | Reply

  25. What’s wrong with anonymity? I find the discussions on these boards extremely enlightening. I don’t agree with many, and many are abusive, but it is the realm of complete thought and intellect, and if you get your feelings hurt when someone flames you, then you shouldn’t be here to begin with. The point of freedom of speech is to put it all out there and weigh the arguments and figure out where you stand. What would the author of this article have instead? Mindless drones watching the 6:00 polit-buro message?

    Frankly, with our current administration (and probably our last one as well), I worry about the “thought police” trolling these parts of the internet. We all need to be prepared for the coming crackdown of free speech. After all, free speech == hate speech.

    Comment by rocketeer — May 19, 2009 @ 5:41 am | Reply

  26. Considering all the looney tunes commenters out there, you would have to have more courage than I have to use your real name.

    Comment by Offline ☎ Back Later — May 19, 2009 @ 5:44 am | Reply

  27. …While in fact commenter culture has turned into an endless war of digital lynch mobs, liberals and conservative gangs enforcing group think conformity on their respective mobs with febrile insults.

    It depends on the site. Here, I’ve grown to enjoy sharing ideas with other people over a digital back fence and to appreciate their thinking & worldly experience (lends depth to the thinking). Also, I’ve gotten some valuable insights into how some other minds work, or don’t 🙂

    It’s more fun, & informative, than reading much of what passes for published, name attached, journalism these days.

    A person’s real name in this kind of venue seems irrlevant.

    Comment by tanstaafl — May 19, 2009 @ 6:05 am | Reply

  28. We live in a rural area and would be very easy to find. We have already had our mailbox smashed by anonymous driveby baseball bat enthusiasts for reasons having to do with low-profile conservative life.

    Mr. Rosenbaum, is your home address published in your columns? (I didn’t notice it here–maybe I scanned too quickly) In practical effect, my full real name on this post would equal publishing my home address and home phone number.

    My literal and conscious purpose in posting comments is to “stand up for what I believe” and try to improve in how I do it. I had thought that was your intention as well.

    I think the individual effort to express opinions is in and of itself a worthy process in which to participate. And now you think it doesn’t count unless you know where to find me?

    Now if you want to backpedal and say you weren’t referring to such as myself (and Old Soldier and Bilgeman and Delia) then you might want to reword some of your article.

    Your use of the phrase “the average commenter” throws a pretty wide net.

    If you consider the nastier ones a serious impediment to profitable discourse, do you not have the number of this site’s webmaster?….who should be perfectly capable of deleting abusive, profane, vicious, pointless posts? You guys are in the driver’s seat here. Deal with it.

    Comment by Meryl — May 19, 2009 @ 6:07 am | Reply

  29. In the world of blogging who cares what is slung. The only place where I’ve seen the real sickness is the relentless commenting on local news stories. The comments section on local crime stories is the place to find the lowest common denominator. I’d predict the end to this in most papers soon.

    Comment by Scott E — May 19, 2009 @ 6:07 am | Reply

  30. I will be happy to announce my full name, address and phone number as soon as the New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times go a full month with out using any anonymous sources.

    Comment by G-man — May 19, 2009 @ 6:10 am | Reply

  31. Ron writes “I just can’t believe that the average human being is as creepily vicious as the average commenter.”

    Personally, I can believe it.

    The average person has a side of themselves they simply do not show to the public. For some it is a side of themselves that they do not let run their lives. For others the darker side of themselves is something they may not show to the public, but is exercised in their private lives. This is why you read about the abusive pedophile who is also a church deacon with a family that outsiders considered picture perfect.

    On line people feel anonymous enough to let this side of them out. It’s crude, rude, and vicious. People are often like that.

    Oh, I use the name Northern Light because my real name is Chris Martin. I don’t want legions of Coldplay fans bothering me asking if I am married to Gwyneth Paltrow. Nor do I want people bringing up my NFL career.

    Comment by Northern Light — May 19, 2009 @ 6:11 am | Reply

  32. They call me Mister Tibbs.

    Comment by sheesh — May 19, 2009 @ 6:20 am | Reply

  33. I agree Ron! Why people hide behind silly monikers is beyond me. I for one have never shied away from my true self. I’ve yet to understand why my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Person named me A but that’s just life and I’ll bear my cross bravely.

    You’ll have to put me down in the “doesn’t want creepy liberals using their ACORN resources to track me down and harass me in my personal space” column.

    Comment by AThinkingPerson — May 19, 2009 @ 6:26 am | Reply

  34. Question to Radio Eriwan: “Is it true that Comrade Brezhnev collects jokes about himself?”

    Answer: “Basically, yes. But he really collects people who make jokes about him.”

    Oh how we laughed…!

    Comment by RightwingHippyChick — May 19, 2009 @ 6:30 am | Reply

  35. Oh sir,

    I live in a state where the state police have been warned that people who post pro-life bumper stickers on their cars are likely to be dangerous right-wing militia types.

    It appears the only way I can state my views–no matter now innocuous they be nor how politely I express them–is with some degree of anonymity. I bravely continue to let my car proclaim which candidates I wanted to win last November–but live in some fear that the men in brown shirts may be coming for me.

    Some know me as Captain Obvious–and that’s all the ID yer gonna get.

    Comment by Very Anonymous — May 19, 2009 @ 6:36 am | Reply

  36. #15 athinkingperson. ROTFL! Nice work A.

    Comment by Northern Light — May 19, 2009 @ 6:37 am | Reply

  37. Anonymity? You’re kidding, right? Meryl might not know who Bilgeman is. Chuck Pelto might not know who vivo is. athinking person might not know anything. But “the man” knows all. You know the man, right? Mr. Patriot Act? Mr. Fiscally Conservative and Socially Paranoid? Yeah, you’re safe behind your nom de net. Don’t worry about a thing. Believe me, if somebody comes to your door, it ain’t gonna be ACORN.

    Comment by sheesh — May 19, 2009 @ 6:42 am | Reply

  38. I guess this dolt considers Silence Dogood to be a ‘coward’ eh?

    Unfortunately for Rosenbaum, his name is forever attached to this specimen of incoherence.

    Yes Ron, there are many cretinous clots out there in cyberspace, and still many more that have their own reasons for desiring anonymity (as fragile as that anonymity actually is).

    These clots exist in the real world too, and socialize within their ‘flocks’, and engage in the same groupthink and bigotry. I suggest that you should view the blogosphere as a rather remarkable technology that enables us to condense the inconceivably broad distribution of stupid humans into a more palatable, focused sampling.

    These people exist. And they breed. And they vote. Scared yet?

    Comment by Bob — May 19, 2009 @ 6:56 am | Reply

  39. That Mencken guy any relation to H.L.?

    Comment by maurice — May 19, 2009 @ 6:56 am | Reply

  40. I have written it before on Mr. Rosenbaum’s board but it should be noted again… I have not gotten jobs because I used to post my full name. I am never vile and always look for respectful discourse but I am a Republican and my posts tend to reflect that fact. I am also an actor in NYC and the norm these days is to google someone when looking to cast (or when I apply for a new restaurant or bar job)… anyway, long story short, when my name is googled the first three hits are past comments I left here on pajamas. None of them are bad and far from extreme… just basic conservative thought. This does not play in NYC in the restaurant or acting community. I have been asked about my political leanings on 3 different occasions and am convinced I did not get work because of previously posting my full name which was attached to non-liberal thought. its a shame.

    Comment by Bryan — May 19, 2009 @ 6:59 am | Reply

  41. Ron – I agree there is alot of vitriol on the internet, but I think the words speak volumes about their authors and everyone can judge the content of their messages accordingly.

    I am less concerned about a person who has no power venting on the internet than I am about a president and his “buds” in the Mainstream Media who descend upon and demonize anyone who dares to criticize anything the liberals do or say. They are the same ones who go after a Rush Limbaugh, a Sean Hannity or a Glenn Beck because they dare to dissent. They even viciously attacked poor “Joe the Plumber” because he dared to ask Candidate Obama a question when Obama and his fawning media marched into Joe’s front yard. Unfortunately for Joe, the candidate’s unscripted response actually revealed what Candidate Obama was all about (redistribution of wealth, i.e. socialism/communism), so the question asker, Joe, had to be discredited!!! Government files were searched by willing government workers in his state. The press have had a field day ever since, attacking the man at every opportunity.

    The internet users that seem to scare you have no power over us and can’t shut down your right to share you ideas and views. The government and the Mainstreem Meadia, however, have the power to squash all opposing speech. That is what you REALLY need to be afraid of!

    Comment by Paula Sweigert — May 19, 2009 @ 7:14 am | Reply

  42. A guy on a motorcycle was driving by the local zoo and noticed a lion had snagged a little girl and was about to tear her to shreds. He jumped off his bike and rescued the little girl by punching the lion, repeatedly, on the snout. A journalist questioned the man after this brave deed, and asked him for some personal information; Among other things, the man told the journalist he was a Marine and a Republican. Armed with this information, the journalist wrote this headline for the New York Times; “Crazed man assaults African immigrant and steals his lunch”.

    Comment by Cybergeezer — May 19, 2009 @ 7:25 am | Reply

  43. There is a lot of diversity in commenter netiquette. People have good days and bad days in real life and on the internetz.

    Michael S. Malone did A Commenter Bestiary that was loads of fun.

    Being ‘anon’ on the internet for me is self-preservation. When I was a n00b back in 1997-98 I naively made the mistake of purchasing a www-website without protecting my ‘whois’ information (I didn’t even know such a thing existed back then for ANYONE who wanted to look it up). My website covered everything from long hair-care to my art and poetry. Well, much to my horror, I ended up with some cyber-stalker types and I had to change my email, phone number and for quite a few years I lived in fear that one of those weirdos would show up at my door-step.

    I’m sure there are men with wives and children who wouldn’t care to ‘share’ their personal information either for that matter.

    There are a lot of funny/insightful/truthful/intelligent comments on PJM besides the trolling/abusive types. I’ve definitely seen much worse behavior on other websites than around here! -And, I’m not always on my ‘best’ behavior when my dander is up but I’m that way in REAL LIFE too. Ask my poor hubby. 😆

    Comment by Delia — May 19, 2009 @ 7:40 am | Reply

  44. “But in general I think if you administered an IQ test the anonymous would score significantly lower. They’re the special ed class of blogging. Like monkeys in a cage they seem to be unaware that there are other ways of expressing their views than throwing feces.”

    Feces by any other name is still Feces Mr. Rosenbaum. So let me correct your quote: “But in general I think if you administered an IQ test to all the college cohorts those who major in education and journalism would be the lowest cohorts while those who major in science and engineering would be the highest cohorts. ED and Journalist majors are the special ed classes of the University. Like Monkeys in a cage they seem to be unaware that there are other ways of thinking than their narrows parochial views.”

    Well Mr. Rosenbaum I’ll take my non-elitist state college degree(s) in Chemistry and Microbiology over your journalism background any day and I’ll even raise you a Graduate degree in Project Engineering.

    BTW: what were your SAT/ACT and GRE scores? It is easy to insult the IQ of someone else but I see you didn’t supply yours. Oh, that’s right you’re probably one of those pesky low IQ journalists who was embarrassed by all of us Geeks and Nerds from the real difficult college majors. So I would say it’s time for you to go back to the sandbox and play with the other monkey’s.

    Real Statistics: Earl Anderson, 183 County Road N5577, Concho, AZ.

    Comment by Chemman — May 19, 2009 @ 8:22 am | Reply

  45. I am less worried about people’s reactions to what I write on these blogs and OpEds than I am about the typical liberal coming after me and/or my family strictly for the fact of my military service to this (once) great nation.

    Comment by Peter the Bubblehead — May 19, 2009 @ 8:48 am | Reply

  46. As a few other commenters have said: safety first. My 27 year old daughter was horrified that I used my real name on myspace. She’s highly paranoid of internet bullies and stalkers. After her explanation, I removed my real name, adopted a suitable moniker, and made my site private.

    Sorry, but I’ll keep hiding behind my pseudonym. I don’t want some rabid discontent coming after me just because I disagreed with them.

    By the way, I think I’m fairly intelligent, somewhat literate, moderately well-read, and about as far from being a redneck as is possible.

    Here’s another by the way: test scores are not an indication of intelligence; they’re an indication of someone who can pass a test. Real intelligence is manifested in actions and behaviors, not numbers from a test score.

    Thank you,
    Ms. Chavis

    Comment by Moogie — May 19, 2009 @ 8:51 am | Reply

  47. Evil Pundit & others have a nice point:
    Why do you feel threatened by our comments?
    It is really no different as said above from the Letters to the Editor formats of papers & mags.
    Those of us who wish to remain unnamed do so not out of a lower IQ but bcs we have something important to say about what people like you are writing.
    Journalists need to be held accountable & they haven’t been.
    This is the public’s way of holding you accountable for what you write.
    It’s here to stay.
    Any attempt to strangle our voices would be a true Stalin-like approach.

    Comment by joecool — May 19, 2009 @ 8:56 am | Reply

  48. Ron, excellent comment on anonymity.

    Once upon a time, I gave my name on blog comments. Nothing I was ashamed of or nothing I don’t say under anonymity was written. However, there is another real person with my same name in my same state and in the same profession as the “fly swatter”.

    My body of work and his body of work is quite nice (mainly his) and doing a google search of “fly swatter” there is several pages of conferences, papers, etc by my namesake as well as several pages of my political and activist musings.

    So, at that time, every single post was ending up as a google search. While not ashamed of them, I felt the triviality of the comments took away from my namesakes and my body of work.

    If you want to name names, the e-mail address is good and we can compare notes, if you wish, in more detail.

    Comment by fly swatter — May 19, 2009 @ 9:09 am | Reply

  49. I’m with you, Moogie. My other comment is still in moderation limbo but I have a similar experience regarding cyber-stalkers and other unsavory people on the internet.

    Comment by Delia — May 19, 2009 @ 9:11 am | Reply

  50. Real name, Rosenbaum.

    “They are what H.R. Mencken called ‘the booboisie’.”

    Who the hell is H.R. Mencken? A relative of H.R. Pufnstuf?

    Let’s try H.L. Mencken, shall we?

    http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/archive/2002/12/05.html

    Comment by Scott Meyer — May 19, 2009 @ 9:21 am | Reply

  51. I don’t see how this:
    Jeff Jarvis, used to proclaim that the back and forth between bloggers and commenters would open up a broader array of of voices, previously unheard points of view, the voice of the people without mediation.
    contradicts this:

    While in fact commenter culture has turned into an endless war of digital lynch mobs, liberals and conservative gangs enforcing group think conformity on their respective mobs with febrile insults.

    given a few minutes of thought about it.

    Comment by Paul A'Barge — May 19, 2009 @ 9:33 am | Reply

  52. if you’re OK with your head and your feet, no problems of stalkers, or whatever, I can manage the lot of t’em, I don’t fear for my reputation since I am French, I have read all the possible offenses, so, I’d say, I’m “blindée”… and… I got the musketeers soul

    Comment by Marie Claude — May 19, 2009 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  53. some are too stupid to know how stupid they appear and so proudly affix their real names to their lame remarks

    Hey! Ahh…errrr…hmmm…

    I disagree with your post. Certainly, there is no shortage of trolls on political blogs in general, but there are plenty of bloggers, even political bloggers, who manage to run intelligent courteous comment sections.

    I’ve found that the tenor of the comment section usually matches the tenor of the blogger. Which always made the friendship between Roger Simon and Charles Johnson a bit of a surprise.

    Comment by tim maguire — May 19, 2009 @ 10:43 am | Reply

  54. Bryan, you could always deny it’s you. My name isn’t that exotic, but it’s not terribly common either and after reading your post I googled my name, including the obvious variations. None of the top hits were me.

    Comment by tim maguire — May 19, 2009 @ 10:51 am | Reply

  55. Oops. I may be smart, but that doesn’t make me a great typist. That salutation should read: “Thank you, M. Chavis.” Not Ms.

    Note to self: proofread before hitting “submit” button.

    Comment by Moogie — May 19, 2009 @ 11:24 am | Reply

  56. Two points:
    (1) The ultimate decision to publish anonymous comments with little or no regard for the content is made by those who run the web site. Feel free to take this issue up with “the powers that be” at Pajamas Media. Honestly, you sound like a parent blaming his child for repeatedly bad behavior even though he’s never been disciplined for it. I would grant that anonymity has its downsides, naturally. It’s just that these downsides could be minimized fairly easily. No one has the right to free speech in a private forum, anyhow.

    2. You overlook one big advantage to anonymity: often those with the most firsthand knowledge of a topic are the same men and women who have reason to be wary of their political views being widely publicized. Thus, information or insight which may have only traveled by word of mouth, one person at a time, can now be shared more freely at a much faster pace.

    Honestly, it’s at least a step above a large newspaper relying entirely on “unnamed sources” to tar and feather someone’s reputation on the front page.

    Comment by cackcon — May 19, 2009 @ 11:28 am | Reply

  57. Thanks Ron, but I’ll pass. And I can shatter your theory with two words:

    Andrew Sullivan

    Sullivan proudly affixes his name to all the irrational drivel he writes. Anonymity is hardly a reliable marque of the lowly.

    I’ve been the victim of confessed property vandalism committed by moral adolescents of the leftist persuasion in the past. I’m happy not to expose myself to that abuse again.

    Seeing as how the majority of commentage on this site is painstakingly moderated, why not just stop approving what you think are abusive, childish, insulting, infantile comments – whether they’re anonymous or not? Too much work?

    Comment by goy — May 19, 2009 @ 11:57 am | Reply

  58. An interesting topic, Personally, I learned a long time ago that there is no such thing as anonymity on AlGore’s intertubes. If you visit any website, any competent webmaster can find out who you are and where you live. That is, if they want to spend the time doing so.

    Subsequently, I stopped using my real world nicknames (‘Bones’ and ‘WRBones’) and have used my full name – and often my full contact info – ever since. Google me. (See also ‘Warren “Bones” Bonesteel.’)

    There is presently one exception, however. I’ve found that when I comment on one particular conservative blog – that by using the pseudonym of a fictional TV secret agent – that they read my comments without using ad homs. When I use my real name there, while saying the exact same things, they resort to verbal abuse. The funny thing is…I’m not a liberal progressive, so their ad homs are entirely uncalled for.

    Personally, at this stage of my life, I think that anyone who adheres to any ideology is an enemy of freedom, whether of freedom of speech or though or of action. The personal attacks employed by all of them are solely designed to stifle any opposition to their own beliefs and ideologies, the facts and reason and maturity be damned.

    Comment by Warren Bonesteel — May 19, 2009 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

  59. Nobody has ever lost anything by failing to be politically correct. Well, except for that guy who was denied a degree by LeMoyne University for submitting a paper saying that their were circumstances that justified corporal punishment. And a whole cohort of others who believed academic freedom was real freedom, not the freedom to spout the party line.

    Seriously, this is a laugh out loud position to espouse. I don’t put bumper stickers on my car either, out of simple discretion. I am not rude, but there are plenty of people who are. Words don’t bother me, but I won’t have my family harassed or property destroyed because some coward disagrees with my politics. Feel free to disagree, but I’m not going to key your car if you do. Since that’s not true of everybody, I’ll let you print your name, address and phone number.

    Comment by MarkD — May 19, 2009 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

  60. well, I still believe that Ron should cheer up and not be so cranky. Also, it is a mistake to equate a high IQ with intelligent opinion.

    Comment by heathermc — May 19, 2009 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

  61. I post under my name. I’m not afraid of letting people know my name and I stand behind what I write. Like Warren, I’m not particularly afraid if people were to hunt me down and disparage me in person. In fact, because I lack a lot of friends and don’t have a lot of people calling me, I would welcome the harassment, just so long as you don’t become a nuisance, at which point I would be tempted to shoot you in the face. 😛

    Comment by Chris Bolts Sr. — May 19, 2009 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

  62. I don’t mind a bit emailing you my name, address, and phone number in a message properly encrypted. But you’re being (deliberately I think) nieve about the web if you think that posting a comment with your own name won’t open you up to all sorts of computer attacks, DSL flooding, hacking attempts, and even attempts to steal your identity and ruin your credit. I know this for a fact as I went through this very series of events in 1999 after making unpopular comments with my real name attached on a board dedicated to “all viewpoints from any political perspective”.

    I do agree that the ability to remain unknown has ruined the level of discussion on eht web, especially since the immature (i.e. the majority of those younger than 35 it seems) think they should interact in the real world the same hateful and obscene way they have learned to on the web. Before long, you’ll find that there’s no difference between the horrible level of comment and “discussion” on the web and that that takes place elwewhere. It’ll all sink to a new low.

    Usenet was for the most part moderated groups. Now that moderation is an unpopular term in that so many feel their rights are infirnged whenever they must abide by any set of standards or norms, there’s a race to the bottom and being anonymous is just allowing people to practice their art. Soon enough we can all be as cutting and mean as the crew now in charge in Washinggon. Why not call a woman a dog if you disagree with her? Why not wish for someone to have kidney failure? After all, everyone on the web laughed and commented when you behaved that way in your web based communication, why not do the same in person?

    I see your point, but you don’t see the consequences of using your own name some places, nor do you seem to see that “discussion” and “commentary” is all going to hell in a handbasket, not just that posted by anonymous parties on the web.

    Regards

    Comment by Rashputin — May 19, 2009 @ 4:51 pm | Reply

  63. I’m sorry my handle is just as good as my real name now a days. Why? Google Gozer the Carpathian, all you’ll get are tons of links to my old sites, profiles, work, etc. Not hard to find me. There’s only a few non-me links to my name to sift through. Heck you can even find dozens of photos of me so I’m perfectly fine going by my handle.

    Still cyber attacks turning into real attacks is an all too real threat for folks to be willy nilly tossing their real names around.

    Comment by Gozer the Carpathian — May 19, 2009 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

  64. Has Pajamas Media changed their server recently? My router can’t stay on the sight these days. I have no problem with the anonymity. It is a sacred tool of freedom of he press. The Federalist Papers were written anonymously. The Gospels were written, it is now agreed, under pseudonyms. Alan Smithee is the screenwriter’s cover for bad work. Stendhal was a pseudonym, as was Taki and O. Henry. I myself published under the pseudonym “Janet Preston” from 1992 to 1999, and my pals David Bowie and John Waters were furious when I killed “her” off. Ever heard of Mark Twain?

    Comment by charlie finch — May 19, 2009 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

  65. Ron,

    Good luck with the book, but this “using real names would be a good idea” piece you wrote reveals you to be a bit naive.

    Case in point.

    Two months ago, I used my real email address on PJM, and the next day caught the mother of all computer viruses. Makes the swine flu resemble an aspirin tablet.

    Now, I may be the exception.

    A Thinking Person might be able to use his real name and address till the cows come home, and never become infected by the evil that lurks out there.

    In Rachel’s humble opinion, though, the good that real names would do is outweighed by the risk of someone doing you dirt.

    Or my name isn’t Rachel Peepers.

    Comment by Rachel Peepers — May 19, 2009 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

  66. Mr. Rosenbaum, you ask what we’re so afraid of in using our real names, and although I think that was sarcasm, I will tell you my fear. Years ago, I was married to someone who started off as a wonderful husband. After six years of marriage, he suffered a head trauma and changed drastically. I had to divorce him to save myself from abuse, as he turned violent after the accident. At first, I had a number that was listed, and he would call me every day to ask me to go back home – to him – and perform my “wifely duties.” He also wrote me 30-40 page letters every day. When I could no longer deal with that, I moved and got an unpublished number. He then started writing to my family and friends. He finally stopped after being threatened with legal action. Every few years, my family still gets letters from him, looking for me. I divorced him 29 years ago. So, as you can see, the reason for not using my real name is that I am afraid – still – and I continue to have an unpublished number.

    When I post comments, I try to be respectful of everyone and write about the issue and not about the people who have expressed their opinions. I agree with the others, who have said that IQ scores don’t mean that much, but just so you know, my IQ scores have consistently been in the upper 150’s.

    I have a hard time understanding how, as a journalist, you could make generalizations about a group of people whom you know nothing about. Please explain that to me, because as there are people who verbally attack others with whom they disagree, you have done the same thing with your accusations. If you were to make the same statement about any other group of people, you could lose your job, but I guess we’re easy targets and nothing will happen to you, other than being offered a book deal. You probably won’t even read all the comments, but if you do, I would welcome your explanation and an apology. I would also ask that you publish your address and phone number, and if not, please tell us, what are you so afraid of?

    Comment by Confused in Virginia — May 19, 2009 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  67. Gah. I’m in moderation hades.

    Great post 38.

    Comment by Delia — May 19, 2009 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  68. How do you change hearts and minds? Ron’s piece is yet another reminder that very few people have an effective methodology for engaging in online conversations that have the potential for changing hearts and minds.

    I have been managing message boards, forums, and blogs since 1993. So I well understand the frustration that Ron is expressing about people hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. At one point, I was running a blog for a political candidate, and when I started, I was a flat-out First Amendment absolutist. How could I censor speech on a campaign blog?

    But I was also working with a wonderful team of volunteers who did most of the daily work of handling the thousands of comments that could come in on a busy day. I recruited them because they had showed in their own comments that they knew about the candidate and the issues, and more importantly, that they did not lose it when someone flamed them with rude or obscene remarks.

    The volunteers eventually brought me up short on my 1st amendment views. They told me they were trying to build a community to support the candidate and people working for the candidate, and they were sick and tired of being forced to deal with people who made clear, comment after comment, that their only purpose for participating was to disrupt this evolving community. They argued that the community was theirs, by virtue of the work they had put in, and that they had the right to speak for that community.

    I decided the volunteers were right, and that I was wrong. I embraced the notion of community building through conversation, and gave permission for the volunteers to cancel memberships of people who refused repeated efforts to engage in a more positive discussion. What was surprising was that when there were fewer true trolls around, it was much easier to have conversations with people who were not committed, but were willing to talk.

    I can’t prove it, but my impression is that there are far fewer really nasty people out there than one would think. It’s easy for blog authors to forget that not everyone who visits a blog is dying to make a comment. The ratio of lurkers to commentors is quite high, often 100-1 or more, so that people who make obnoxious comments appear over-represented. Many, many people who eventually started commenting have told me how intimidated they felt when they first started hanging out online; these are the people one would most like to talk with, but they are also the people who are most likely to leave and never come back if things appear too nasty.

    There is no perfect answer. Perhaps it is the either/or nature of our binary technology that makes us think that surely there must be some easy technical fix to all these loud-mouths. There are a variety of ways to hide or suppress postings. But in the end, every online discussion group ends up defining whether participants want to engage in discussions that could lead to changes of heart or mind. In this respect, the virtual world is not different than the world we live in; if people are unwilling to take a modicum of responsibility for the communities they live, bad things can happen.

    you don’t have to read or respond; you can choose to only engage with people who show at least a hint, now and then, of the flexibility of mind to change

    Comment by Richard Bell — May 19, 2009 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

  69. Dear Ron,

    ‘Road rage’ came long before the ‘internetz’.

    Comment by Delia — May 19, 2009 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

  70. Ron,

    If you want to see true crude, bomb-throwing on blog sites, go take a walk on the wild side over on the Leftist blogs (DailyKos, Huffpost, MoveOn, and Democratic Underground, for starters). Those people are really nasty. Not even on a bad day here at PJM are you going to find here what you will regularly find over there on the Wild Side.

    I use the first part of my first name, and that’s as far as I am going to go. Because I’m a conservative AND a former Marxist I would be putting a bulls’ eye on my back if I were to post not anonymously. Only occasionally will I slip into gutter language (and the milder words, at that)when referring to the opposition. I try to avoid being snarky, because the other side has mastered snark and I would be denigrating myself by flattering them when imitating their style.

    I try to be as close as I can be to who I really am. However, I am mostly surrounded by liberals/Leftists so I tend to stay under their radar when it comes to political discussions. They don’t discuss. They dictate the terms. I know these people like the back of my hand.

    Comment by fred — May 19, 2009 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

  71. Speaking of cowardice — Ron Rosenbaum never engages his commenters in reasoned argument.

    All he ever does is post meaningless sneers.

    If he had intellectual courage, he’d engage his opponents’ arguments, rather than casting slurs from his ivory tower.

    Comment by Evil Pundit — May 20, 2009 @ 1:32 am | Reply

  72. Ron R:

    Now you know why most people prefer anonymity. You’re starting to sound like Big Brother trying to make his job easier. Sites without anonymity are sedate, boring and unorganized. You don’t want that . . .

    Comment by vivo — May 20, 2009 @ 4:19 am | Reply

  73. Some of us like to express ourselves freely without facing the consequences that comes with speaking your mind. Especially in this age of extreme political correctness where you can be sued for saying something offensive. It’s the same reason Ben Franklin and countless other gifted intellectuals have used fake names. It also helps to force the reader to focus on what you wrote and to deal with it on its own merits rather than focus on the writer personally. Some of the things I write would make it impossible to have a career in certain fields. But ultimately I don’t really care if people know who I am. I only use a screenanem because it’s the norm. Not because I’m afraid of anything. And I could honestly care less if the people I’m conversing with online use their real name or not. What does it matter? I’m never going to meet “Rebecca Collins from NY” or “Jonathan Samuels from KY” so why does it matter? Most people commenting are just ordinary people from all walks of life. It’s not like their politicians or something that need to be held accountable for their opinions. I suggest not getting yourself worked up over people leaving snarky remarks in comment sections and blogs and getting angered over not knowing their real names. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the “e-thugs” and “trolls” as much as the next guy. But overly complaining about it comes off as a very pathetic attempt to feel superior to other people. I think it’s great that people can bypass the rampent leftist culture of political correctness and say whatever they want online. For example: I think reverse discrimination polies are racist bullcrap, islam is an evil barbaric religion, America is superior to Nepal, leftists have a facist control over our media, education system and popular culture and Obama is a socialist radical. See, wasn’t that fun?

    Comment by Blackwater — May 20, 2009 @ 7:31 am | Reply

  74. I couldn’t agree more. Reasoned arguments are undermined by people who are anonymous and can cause more damage to this country because of it. In fact when commenting on these sites and articles throughout the net, one gets the impression that there is a liberal (and probably a more subtle similar conservative) group out there that is outright lying to support their agenda.

    I am a physician who has been trying to correct the falsehoods about healthcare, global warming, government spending, and my understanding of foreign policy and have never hidden behind a pseudonym, often putting my name under my comments. This democratic congress (and the president) are, in my opinion, causing more damage to our country than any terrorist ever has and yet they are getting by without being challenged. The press is largely responsible for this and were it not for freedom of the press, they should be held accountable for it. Instead we hear of plans to restrict conservative talk and press sites.

    I feel that we are watching the death of America.

    John C. Tricou MD

    Comment by Doctor T — May 20, 2009 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  75. I used to use my full name commenting here but after a very short time reading the comments I realized that there seriously disturbed people who are certainly capable and likely celebrate violence (and I know that they have identical twins on the left). To the person who claimed that leftist blogs are worse, I invite you to go read comments on Free Republic, or is it ok there because you agree with them?

    Comment by Dave — May 20, 2009 @ 8:06 am | Reply

  76. Most bloggers and commentators I know do what they do for entertainment and some valuable social interaction with like-minded people.
    You, on the other hand, Mr. Rosenbaum, are paid to write and publish;
    Bloggers and commentators do get criticized, and some, with their own blogs, are open to comments and dissension, as are you, since you write for this site.
    The big difference is, people like you, Mr. Rosenbaum, get time, space, and funding to assail these “VOLUNTEERS” and CITIZENS.
    What are you going to do when these bloggers boycott your articles?

    Comment by Cybergeezer — May 20, 2009 @ 10:02 am | Reply

  77. Emma,#6 has it exactly right. Mr Rosenbaum may pride himself on both intelligence and courage but despite the self congratulation and that ferocious look, carefully posed, he seems unable to tell the difference between cowardice and caution.
    May I say, distinctly unbright, to coin a word.
    Sorry Ron. And do feel free to e mail me Ron, I am unafraid.

    Comment by johnt — May 20, 2009 @ 10:43 am | Reply

  78. I meant “Saki” not “Taki”, aka, H.H. Munro. Well, Ron, if they call you “Mr. Rosenbaum”, how can bad they can be? You could always adopt your own “nom de plume”, of course. May I suggest “Strat Humbert”?

    Comment by charlie finch — May 20, 2009 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  79. Richard Bell @67…appreciate your explanations and comments about the process from that side of things.

    I have often felt like there are assumptions about posters: in my case, I have freely acknowledged at various times that I am definitely new at the political expression, and the “confrontation” exercise.

    During the last 18 months of the 2008 campaign, as the butterflies in my stomach were flying in tighter and tighter formation (see what obama had planned), I became convinced that if ever I was going to learn how to express myself in the arena of political and heritage ideals, it had better be now. I made a conscious decision to begin to participate. It is intimidating, because of the profanity and namecalling, rudeness and generalizing (even on the part of the columnists sometimes).

    Many of the commenters exhibit characteristics and habits that would mean I would never invite them into my home. But in the arena of ideas, I think we all had better get at it.

    So I press on. I make mistakes. Some days I drive off the cliff and screw up. Sometimes I nail an analogy; other times I discover that something I was very sure of perhaps isn’t quite what I thought. Sometimes I notice that my fear and anger over what is happening to the United States makes it difficult to communicate appropriately and clearly.

    Nevertheless, we must continue to express ourselves, protest, explain, support, cheer, encourage, scream when we see a new building burning…and, as far as possible…try to ignore the trolls and the foul mouthed (paid and unpaid) who are just throwing rocks.

    I always remember as well that the word beside the box just says “comments”. So I don’t have to be brilliant. I don’t even always have to be the best or the most clever or the most persuasive. I am an American. It is my privilege to COMMENT.

    Our nation is under assault from threats both foreign and domestic, and I will damn well NOT be silent now.

    Comment by Meryl — May 20, 2009 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

  80. Meryl: I enjoyed your thoughts because it’s precisely how I still feel when I post, which is not often. I remember one of the very first letters I wrote which I spent a lot of time and thought on, and even asked the readers to actually take some time and think about before responding. The first response came through less than a minute later and began, “Dumb as*…” It was a long time after that before I wrote again. Not that I was hurt, but that this was the height of discourse that could be had on that site. As far as printing my last name, it is very rare and would definitely be shown several times on the first page. Secondly, I used to write on sites engaging in discussions about Islam and Jihad, and some of the commentors were from Iran. It may be one thing to have Joe Smith looking for me and quite another to have Mohammed Ashlam looking for me. I like KenJ just fine. It’s who I am.

    Comment by KenJ — May 21, 2009 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

  81. 79.meryl.my thoughts exactly.
    sheesh.if you think the goverment “knows all”..why not research who the”man”went running to for intel after 9/11…go ahead….i’ll wait…

    Comment by shaui-jan — May 22, 2009 @ 4:51 am | Reply

  82. G-man and Bryan sum up the debate for me; Ron, we give you our e-mail, and many of the screen named folk post websites which show the actual name and location of the poster if one is so inclined, for fair means or foul, to figure that out.

    My usual use of a screen name, “Knapsack,” is rooted in Bryan’s point, which is if my real name, on being Googled, gets the first screen of 10 being all comments on conservative sites and/or issues, it would kneecap me as a freelance writer and consultant. You can always find out in a couple of clicks who i am, but to post everything as “Jeff Gill, Granville, OH” means i am painting myself into a corner that, in a college town, means i’d be better off to go back to the old ways of only talking candidly to a few friends, my wife, and yelling at the TV when i’m too lazy to shut Chris Matthews off.

    Comment by Jeff — May 22, 2009 @ 5:13 am | Reply


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